Amalienborg Palace is the Copenhagen residence of the Danish royal family. The palaces and changing of the guard ceremonies are top free sights to see.
Amalienborg Palace in the heart of Copenhagen is the official residence of the Danish monarch and crown prince. The palace complex is not fenced off and visitors may walk up to almost the front door of the queen’s home. The palace and royal palace guards with bearskin hats are among the top sights to see in Copenhagen with the changing of the guard at noon particularly popular. One of the four palaces has a museum on the royal family as constitutional monarchs while some of the representation rooms may occasionally also be seen.
The Amalienborg Royal Palace in Copenhagen
The Amalienborg palace complex in the heart of Copenhagen consists mainly of four baroque palaces on a huge central square. It became the Danish official royal residence by accident rather than design but fits the easy-going and approachability of the modern constitutional Danish monarchs perfectly.
The four rococo palaces of Amalienborg that surround a large square were erected in the mid-18th century to house the Danish high nobility in the newly developed Frederiksstaden neighborhood of Copenhagen.
The Amalienborg was at the center of the new elite neighborhood with an equestrian statue of Frederik V, which according to some sources cost more than one of the palaces, placed in the middle of a large open square. The symbolism was clear: the king, who ruled by the grace of God, faces the Frederikskirke (Marble Church) while surrounded by the palaces of the highest nobles in the land. Through faith, the king gets his inspiration and right to rule from God and similarly the people trust in the wisdom of the absolute monarch.
However, after the Christiansborg palace burnt down in 1794, the Danish royal family temporarily took over all four Amalienborg palaces. Temporary became permanent when at the end of the absolute monarchy (1849) the rebuilt Christiansborg became the home of the Danish parliament – great free views from tower.
The custom soon followed of the monarch living in the grandest palace with the crown prince (or princess) living in a second palace with the others used for royal offices, reception rooms, and other official uses. All four palaces had the same façade, but the original owners could design the interiors at will.
The Royal Palaces of Amalienborg
The four palaces of Amalienborg when facing the church in clockwise order starting with the palace to the front right of the statue:
- Christian VIII Palace – open to the public as a museum on the constitutional monarchs (mid-19th century to the present).
- Frederick VIII Palace – Official Copenhagen residence of Crown Prince Frederik.
- Christian IX Palace – Copenhagen residence of Queen Margrethe II.
- Christian VII Palace – used for royal receptions, occasionally open for guided tours, reservations essential.
As the area is not fenced off, visitors may freely walk around on the square but stay at least 2 m (6 ft) from the buildings and the palace guards.
See the Inside of Amalienborg Palace
The palace of Christian VIII is the only part of the Amalienborg royal residence complex that is freely open to visitors without reservations (or invitations). This palace is furnished as a museum on the Danish constitutional monarchy that came into being in 1849.
The museum shows mostly the reconstructed studies of various kings while the representations rooms on the upper floor are restored to the neo-classical designs used when the royals moved into Amalienborg in the late 18th century. In the attic is the royal storage room with a variety of items ranging from royal gifts to toys and surplus household items.
The adjacent palace of Christian VII is used for royal receptions but the representation rooms may be seen on guided tours. Reservations are essential.
See Visit the Amalienborg Palace Museum for more details on visiting these two palaces.
The Changing of the Guard Ceremony at Amalienborg
The Life Guards are a popular feature of the Amalienborg complex (and other royal residences in Denmark). These guards, resplendent with bearskin hats, red jackets and blue trousers, march mostly in front of the palaces and rarely stand still for long. The uniforms evolved over the course of three centuries but the guards claim to have used bearskin hats long before the British.
It is acceptable to take photos with the guards but stay around 2 m (6 ft) away from the guards. Also don’t block the guard’s line of vision, even when a few meters away. The guards usually shout a warning first but frequently push tourist physically away. Posing inside the red guard box – here as well as elsewhere in Copenhagen – is not allowed.
The changing of the guard takes place daily at noon on the square but the relief leaves the barracks at Rosenborg Castle around half an hour earlier to march through town. The extent of the ceremony on the square depends on whether the queen, or other royals, is in residence. When the royal standard flies above the Christian IX palace, expect the full royal guard with music.
Getting to the Amalienborg Palace in Copenhagen
The Amalienborg Palace complex is in central Copenhagen just a few blocks from the popular Nyhavn area. A pleasant approach is via the harbor front promenade – from here the equestrian statue, Frederikskirke and Opera House are perfectly in line.
The Amalienborg Palace is free and thus not surprisingly an almost compulsory stop on any sightseeing tour of the Danish capital. The square at the heart of the palace complex is a pedestrian zone but cycling is allowed when the area is not too busy.
The Renaissance Rosenborg Castle is arguably the more impressive royal palace in Copenhagen – it looks the part and with its museum and treasury that includes the crown jewels among the most popular sights in Copenhagen.
See also Visiting the Amalienborg Palace Museum for information on seeing the interiors of the palaces of Christian VII and VIII.