Gardens, Landscape History, Parks, Public Realm

The King’s Garden at Rosenborg Castle: Copenhagen

December 31, 2015


It’s ominously close to the end of the year and as I reflect on my travels I am compelled to revisit the places I experienced that I really enjoyed and did not have the time to write about. This includes The King’s Garden (Kongens Have) at Rosenborg Castle in Copenhagen, Denmark.


Located in the center of the city, The King’s Garden is an urban open space that effortlessly merges historic identity with contemporary uses, providing a green oasis for residents while accommodating tourists visiting Rosenborg Castle.


With meticulously tended formal gardens, tree-lined avenues, generous greenswards, cafes, and event spaces, it is both a park and garden; the very best type of civic amenity.


The oldest park in Copenhagen, The King’s Garden dates from 1606 when King Christian IV (1577 – 1648) created a Renaissance style pleasure garden on land outside of the city’s East Rampart.


Portrait of King Christian IV by Dutch painter Karl Van Mander from 1638 with Rosenborg Castle in the background.

Here kitchen and ornamental gardens were combined providing fruits, vegetables and flowers for the Royal household, a use that continued until the late 19th/early 20th century.  It is known (according to signage within the garden) that apples, pears, cherries, plums, quinces, figs, walnuts, vines, mulberries, peaches and almonds were cultivated and by 1624 there were as many as 1,400 different plants.

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The original gardens, compared to the Tuileries in Paris, were expanded as detailed in the 1649 plan (above) by Otto Heider. The image below, attributed to 1749, illustrates the formality of the plan.


Rosenborg Castle in 1749 – Showing the kitchen garden and orangery. (from Onsite Sightseeing – Copenhagen).

A small pavilion in the garden became the site of Rosenborg Castle. Today, the greensward in front of the castle is planted with crocuses, a highlight of the early spring.


The gardens were redesigned and expanded continuously incorporating features with Baroque influences. These included a maze and path system focused upon a central area with an octagonal summer-house at its center. By 1710, the Royal family had shifted their favor to other accommodations and the property was eventually opened for public use and enjoyment. The castle, repurposed as a museum, houses The Royal Jewels.


The plan below, dated 1784 details the garden’s evolution showing formal parterre gardens contiguous to the castle and the addition of tree-lined pathways and lawn areas.

København, Rosenborg og Kongens have %22Plan over Rosenborg Hauge opmaalt Aar 1784 af de kongelige Landcadeter og tegnet af C. Hauch%22

København, Rosenborg og Kongens have “Plan over Rosenborg Hauge opmaalt Aar 1784 af de kongelige Landcadeter og tegnet af C. Hauch”

While the gardens have changed over time they have retained key features and organizing elements, balancing intimate formal gardens that serve as outdoor rooms with graceful avenues framed by stately trees.  Although two hundred and fifty years separate the plans seen above and below and many of the formal gardens have been converted to other uses, much of the garden’s circulation framework remains intact.

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This includes the Knight’s Path (Kavalergangen) and the Lady’s Path (Damegangen).



The Hercules Pavilion, refurbished in 1999 as a cafe/cultural venue dates from the founding of the park in 1606.  Among other uses the pavilion, which in its current Neoclassical style showcases a statue of Hercules acquired in Italy by King Frederick IV, has served as a hermitage, ale house, concert venue, residence for the head gardener and a storeroom for a folk dancing club.


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An adventure playground, added to the park in 1998, is contiguous to the Hercules Pavilion. Inspired by the park’s history it includes dragons guarding their eggs, wooden poles depicting a forest and a sandpit with a suspension bridge.


Close by is a statue of Hans Christian Andersen by sculptor August Saabye added to the garden in 1880.   According to text in Insight Guides: Explore Copenhagen, while the statue was designed and cast during Andersen’s lifetime it was installed after his death and it was he who objected to having children included in the piece, remarking he “hated having anyone sitting or staying close to him when he read” and that his stories were intended as much for adults as for children.  The image below is from a print dated 1949.

1949 print

The formally planted Rose Garden is a popular feature guarded by a somewhat austere sculpture of Queen Caroline (1796-1881).  I was unable to locate any specific information as to her involvement with the garden to understand why this particular piece is placed in this location.



The plan below, of the rose garden, is dated 2007 and taken from the master planning document, Perspektivplan Kongens Have.  I have included a link to the plan at the end of this piece.

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The King’s Garden contains what is described as Northern Europe’s longest herbaceous border ( 240 meters or  787 feet) referred to as “The English Garden.”



In 2001, a symmetrical Renaissance style garden, with roses. espaliers and pavilion, named the Krumspringet (‘The Caper’) was completed.  A contemporary interpretation of the garden’s historical elements, the Krumspringet pays homage to a 17th century maze depicted in earlier plans.  Its name translates as “dodge” referring to the ability to avoid unwanted encounters when walking within its circuitous path system.



I haven’t focused on the garden’s sculptural elements although there are many, each with its own story.  As a vibrant urban open space, new and innovative features including temporary pavilion installations similar to those at The Serpentine Galleries in Kensington Park, are incorporated into the garden.  The lion below, one of a pair, guards the entrance to the castle.


At 40 acres in size, the King’s Garden is not an exceptionally large space (as an example Central Park covers 843 acres while Boston’s Common, a space founded approximately thirty years after The King’s Garden, contain 50 acres).  However, as one of Copenhagen’s most popular parks/gardens it balances a multiplicity of uses that combined embody a unique sense of place.

The King’s Garden is maintained by the Danish Agency for Palaces and Cultural Properties.

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As I was researching the history (specifically searching for a plan of the rose garden) I found a master plan, the Perspektivplan Kongens Have (seen below) from 2007.   Without any ability to read the text I am adding a link as it includes excellent photographs and plans which by themselves offer a compelling overview of this well-tended national treasure.

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Copyright © 2015 Patrice Todisco — All Rights Reserved









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  • Reply Maureen Bovet December 31, 2015 at 11:35 pm

    I love this garden. The castle is a very sweet place to visit also. I loved the English garden even in the late winter. I have visited twice but never in the summer. Another Danish castle garden to visit is Hilleroed, a train ride from Copenhagen. It was restored a few years ago and is huge and magnificent . It was almost empty when I was there.
    I love your posts and admire your skills with producing them. I hope 2016 brings you more wonderful public garden visits.
    Maureen Bovet

    • Reply Patrice Todisco January 1, 2016 at 11:13 am

      Thanks, Maureen. I do hope to revisit Copenhagen as I organize my travel schedule for the coming year.

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