What do you get when you mix a steam train, Father Christmas, Helsingør, Kronborg Castle and a Christmas Market? A pretty magical Danish festive day out. In December, we decided to try the Juletog til “Jul på Kronborg.” This is Nordsjællands Veterantog (steam train), which ends its season of train journeys with a trip to Helsignør, where you can visit the Christmas Markets held inside Kronborg Castle. We were debating whether to go because the cheapest tickets are £25 per person. But for a one-off experience, I’d highly recommend it. We all went with my sister, her husband and one-year old son Finn and the little ones loved it.
This yearly event, which runs over two weekends in November and December, is popular. You have to buy your ticket in advance on the Veterantoget website, choosing the third carriage option or more expensive luxury carriage. The price includes entrance to the Christmas markets where you can jump the queue – which on the day we went, was long! The train sets off from its station near Hellerup in the morning and returns there at 4pm the same day. We had to be pretty organised with three little ones, to not miss the departure each way! The steam train is maintained by a group of volunteers and the staff on board were so helpful and friendly.
As we arrived, Sofia had fallen asleep in the pram. Perfect, I thought, she can sleep the whole journey there. Until I realised the pram carriage was not only separate to the seating carriage, but steam trains don’t have connector doors. I don’t think even Danes would go that far to let a baby sleep! So up woke Sofia and into our carriage we went. Then realising this was an hour journey, I thought I should take Lydia to the loo before we set off – which was in a separate carriage. Well, this turned into the highlight of Lydia’s trip. A loo that opened up to the ground. She’s never gone so willingly in all her life. On returning to our carriage, she bellowed out that she’d done a wee wee on the ground and so had mummy. She still talks about it now.
Halfway through the journey, who should appear in our carriage but Julemand a.k.a. Father Christmas! This was the first Christmas Lydia understood the concept of Julemand but this was now her third sighting of him and she was distinctly underwhelmed. The first reveal was at Tivoli, with its magical setting, and anticipation, as we queued to meet the traditional looking Father Christmas surrounded by lights and a huge tree. Lydia pulled a face and said she wanted Rasmus Klump (a cartoon character who lives at Tivoli and basically her BFF). Anyway, despite her aversion to the man himself, she happily took the biscuits he had on offer.
On arrival at Helsignør, we walked the 15-20 minutes to the castle. It really is a picturesque town and castle but at Christmas, even more so. Kronborg Castle is famous for being the setting of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. They hold outdoor performances of the play in the summer, which I’ve blogged about before. Another must-do experience.
The Christmas stalls are inside the castle itself and there are a lot. Too many for us to really appreciate with a 7-month-old, 16-month-old and 3-year-old. You also can’t take prams inside and of course, Sofia napped for much of our visit! Despite not actually seeing many of the Christmas market offerings, we did soak up the atmosphere. We listened to Christmas music and stumbled across a very sweet youth theatre festive performance, which ended with everyone dancing around the Christmas tree – a very Danish tradition. There were also pony rides on offer and book readings for the children, as well as all the castle grounds to explore. We could have easily spent a full day there but we had to get back for our 3.30pm steam train departure. Choo choo!
All-in-all, a wonderful Christmas day out. It made me realise how much more of Denmark we are yet to explore.