Amalienborg is a picturesque complex of palaces which are being or have been used by the Danish royal family. It was built
between 1750 and 1760 by King Frederick V on the site of two earlier palaces. The first of these palaces burned down in
1689 during a presentation at a temporary theater that had been built on the grounds (apparently a stage decoration caught
fire). The second was removed to make room for Frederick V’s development.
Amalienborg is laid out as a large octagonal square, with an equestrian statue of Frederick V in the middle and four nearly
identical palaces surrounding it. The palaces were not originally built as royal palaces, but rather as mansions to be
occupied by four families of the Danish nobility (the Moltke, Levetzau, Brockdorff and Schack families). But in 1794 there
was a problem with the royal family’s residence (Christiansborg Palace, which also burned down), and the newly-unsheltered
royals purchased two of the mansions from the Moltke and Schack families, who weren’t using them much anyway.
Over time, royal family ownership of the palaces became complete, and different factions of the family have occupied
different palaces at different times, continuing to the present day (Queen Margrethe and Prince Consort Henrik sometimes
reside in the Schack palace, and Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary and their children are sometimes to be found
in the Brockdorff palace). Also over time, the palaces have acquired official names from some of their royal inhabitants,
though they are sometimes still referred to by their original names (the Moltke palace has become Christian VII’s palace,
Levetzau is now named after Christian VIII, Brockdorff after Frederick VIII and Schack after Christian IX).
We got off our bus near Amelienborg and took the short walk to the square. We had a good look at the four palaces and
noticed that they weren’t quite exactly identical. The Brockdorff/Frederick VIII palace was the only one with a clock,
for instance, and there are probably other differences as well. We didn’t get quite as good a look at the equestrian
statue in the center, as it was surrounded by scaffolding.
Christian VIII's (Levetzau's) Palace
Frederik VIII's (Brockdorff's) Palace
Imaginary axes passing through the center of the square become streets as they leave the square’s boundaries
between the palaces. A southwest-northeast axis becomes the street Amaliegade, and the northwest-southeast axis
becomes Frederiksgade. Or at least it does to the northwest, where it ends at the nearby Frederik’s Church. To
the southeast the axis passes through a fountain, submerges itself into the harbor’s main channel, and then comes
up on the other side at the ultramodern Copenhagen Opera House, on the island of Holmen.
Connie with Fountain
The Opera House
Nella and Opera House
Returning to the square, we noticed there were elaborately uniformed guards here and there. These were members
of the Royal Life Guards, who keep an eye on the monarchy and date back to 1658 (not these particular guards – they
looked rather young – but their predecessors). Apparently there is a daily changing of the guard at noon, when a
group of guards who have marched over from nearby Rosenborg Castle show up to relieve their brethren. Sometimes
they bring a band with them. We’d arrived too late to enjoy this spectacle, but it was still interesting to watch
the Guards go through their procedures.
Royal Life Guards on Patrol
A Royal Life Guard
Connie with Guard
In the Levetzau/Christian VIII palace there is an
Amalienborg Museum which displays some
artifacts from earlier years of the monarchy, and reconstructs some living and working areas. We found the
museum somewhat interesting, but overpriced for what was displayed. Fortunately our Copenhagen Cards
helped. Connie accidentally took some pictures.
Room with Piano
Many Books, Many Pictures
Sitting Room with Portraits
Table with Books and Polar Bear
From the museum we walked up Frederiksgade to the domed Frederik’s Church, also known as the Marble Church. The
Marble Church, which is actually mainly made from limestone (there was a change in plans), is an Evangelical Lutheran
church whose construction began in 1749, under Frederick V. Due to a number of problems (mostly money problems), the
church sat uncompleted for nearly 150 years, and wasn’t finished until 1894. It seemed to be undergoing some
restoration work during our visit. The church has the largest dome in Scandinavia, with a span exceeding 100 feet,
and we found the bulk of the church to consist of the area immediately under the dome. During the summer there are
tours of the dome twice a day on weekends, but they are expensive.
Lantern of Dome
Organ, Main Altar and Dome
Nella and Connie
From the Marble Church we boarded a bus to take us closer to our next point of interest, the famous Little
Mermaid statue of Copenhagen.