Roskilde – Denmark

A Stroll Back Through Danish History in a Former Royal Capital

A onetime ecclesiastical seat and the royal capital of Denmark until 1455, fjord-side Roskilde recently marked its 1,000th anniversary, and some of the jubilee air lingers on. The city’s hallmark edifice is its 13th-century Gothic cathedral, a kind of Westminster Abbey of Denmark.

It is the burial place for thirty-eight Danish kings, whose royal marble and alabaster tombs reflect the changing styles of the times. Enjoying centuries of commercial prominence as a trading center, Roskilde has never lost its identity as that handsome and pleasant town long favored by royalty. It has a lively student population, and a large colorful market still transforms the town every Wed­nesday and Saturday.

The nation’s best Viking ship museum, the Vikingeskibshallen, displays five perfectly pre­served longships discovered and reconstructed in 1957. Dating from approximately 1000, they were presumably sunk in the Roskilde Fjord to stop the passage of enemy ships.

It’s worth jumping on the old wooden steamer that sails out of Roskilde to cruise this lovely fjord. For four days in late June or early July, an international twenty-something crowd descends upon Ros­kilde for northern Europe’s largest rock music festival, during which more than 100 bands play at seven venues around the ancient town.

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