Denmark – The city's history told through street art (Helsingør / Elsinore)

in Pinmapple9 months ago


Helsingør / Elsinore is situated on the island of Zealand, not far from Copenhagen. Before I visited the city in August this year, I had absolutely no knowledge of it. One of the most famous castles in Denmark, Kronborg Castle is located in Elsinore and many who visit Copenhagen most often take a day trip to see the castle. I did too, but my main reason was a photo exhibition at the castle. But I discovered quite by chance that Elsinore has a rich history not only linked to Kronborg and the Danish royal family, but there was a time when it was one of the leading cities in Northern Europe.

Walking the streets in the historic center we discovered that the tourist information has an «Elsinore City Walk». We got the map and followed the route that took us to some significant historical attractions. This City Walk tells the history of the city at notable buildings and through street art. This started in 2012 when Helsingør municipality started the project that translated means something like "Elsinore's walls tells". The municipality invited artists to interpret the city's history. According to the brochure, there shall be 10 such works in the city. I have chosen to try to give you a picture of the city with focus on the murals as I think this was an amazing way of getting people interested in history.

Queen Anna Street from 1600s

Kronborg Castle

The streets in the historic part of town have plenty of old restored houses. The cobblestone street named Queen Anna street is one of the oldest in town, dateing back to the Middle Ages. 400 years ago the Oresund Customs made Elsinore one of the most important cities in Northern Europe. Because of it's strategic location it became an important city for shipping and trade. Elsinore also inspired William Shakespeare when he wrote his play Hamlet (Prince of Denmark) and made Kronborg Castle the scene of the play.


«The golden age of Elsinore and the Sound Dues» Artists: Lara Atzori and Piercario Carella (both Italians)

It was King Eric of Pommerania who in the 1420s introduced what was called «Oresund Custom / The Sound Dues». Elsinore is located where the strait between Denmark and Sweden is on its narrowest. All ships that had to sail through Oresund had to pay a toll, which meant income to the King and the state of Denmark. In this way he was able to built the castle that later became known as Kronborg. The ships would also stock up here. This benefited Elsinore and helped developing the city. All this commercial activity lastet for 400 years. Then the Sound Dues were abolished.

Looking at the mural you can easily imagine life in the Middle Ages. There are so many details to look at and so many different people - Merchants, craftsmen, sailors, musicians, women and children. The king himself is also represented in the painting. Also the construction of Kronborg Castle in the background. Look at the man with the skull on deck. That is Hamlet! The grey building used to be the old custom. The barrel of herrings indicates the good fishing grounds that lasted from 1100 to 14000. This painting certainly tells of Elsinore's heyday.


The first chuch in Elsinore was buildt around 1200 - Saint Olaf's Church and with it, a number of convents. All that is left today is the church building. At that time Elsinore was a fishing village, though it grew to become an important city. Eric of Pomerania was also involved in the founding of the Carmelite Order around 1430. St. Maria church is part of the monastery which is one of the best preserved medieval monasteries in Denmark. However, some of the buildings were destroyed by fire sometime in the 14th century. All these buildings and church are close together.

«The history of the churches» Artists: Lara Atzori and Piercario Carella (both Italians)

The mural painted near the St. Maria Church which is where the Carmalite monks used to live. They were the ones who cared for the sick people in town. The murals is divided into three sections or stories. The first one, to the left, shows a monk who is helping a sick man. The box is a transporting box that were used for sick and infectious people.

On the middle painting shows the period after the Reformation in 1517 when Catholicism was replaced by Protestantism. The church looks like it's now in use as stables and hospitals were established. My sister and I had a little dispuet about the man with the bird-like mask. When my sister and I were standing in front of it, I interpreted the man as " the death", but my sister thought he was a doctor wearing the mask as protection against getting infected. I do not know the correct answer.

Church life like the artist interpret this life after the Reformation and up until present day. Today we have female priests.


The location at Oresund has meant that shipping has had a significant importance for centuries. Many ships have payed their custums Elsinore has been a city of ships and shipsbuilders for centuries.

«The Maritime History» Artists: Oriol Caminal Martinez (Spain) and Piercarlo Carella (Italy)

This painting represents three different eras of Danish shipping. The boat with the sails was replaced by steamships. Later they were replaced by containerships. The mural shows in this way the last 300 years of how shipping has developed. The artist Carella:

«Time of the shipyard» Artist: Garin Baker (USA)

I read on the web site that the artist was inpired by old photographs of the shipyard. This means that some of the workers in the painting are recognizable. This industry had many employees. During the years 1883 - 1983 this shipyard has had approximately 3600 workes, building ships that would later travel the world. Many of the citizens must have worked here or known somebody who did. The intention of the artist, was to create a moment in time so that we can remember how these workers were using manuell labour to create these huge ships. The sound of hammering and the noise that was created here, must have been heard all over town. The artist:!/images/paintings

We did not complete the whole City Walk, but the buildings and murals we saw, did give a good insight into the city's history. Today Elsinore has a project called «culture-habour of Kronborg» that opened only a few years ago. UMESCO World Heritage Site – Kronborg Castle is one of the main attractions. The castle that became famous because of Hamlet, still is popular. Since 1937 there has been annuall Shakespeare performances in the courtyard of the castle, and its done in English! There is a lot more we should have done and seen which made us realize that we should have prepared ourself better.

Previous post about the photoexhibition on Kronborg:
Denmark - An amazing photo exhibition at Kronborg Castle


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All the photoes are mine, Ulla Jensen (flickr, Instagram and facebook)

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Wow, those murals are really something spectacular! What a great work! 🤗
Thanks for the article and all the great photos!

Yeah, I think they are awesome when it comes to richnes in details.

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