Roskilde: city of kings, Vikings and music fans

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People used to come to Roskilde to pay their respect to the Danish king, but today it is mainly music fans who make the pilgrimage to the cosy town on the Baltic Sea island of Zealand in summer. Roskilde is therefore a city of contrasts – there are few other places where you can learn so much about Denmark’s early history and culture, but at the same time the city also thrives on its modern and lively cityscape. Here you can find out everything you need to know about travelling to the former Danish capital.

Why go on holiday to Roskilde?

Roskilde: Holidays
A holiday in Roskilde is a journey to times long past.

The name Roskilde is well known to music fans in particular – one of Europe’s most famous festivals takes place in the town on the Roskildefjord every summer. But the city has even more to offer – in addition to beautiful nature that invites you to hike and explore, it also has an impressive history. Roskilde is one of the oldest cities in the country, dating back to 998, and was the capital of Denmark and seat of kings until the Middle Ages in 1443 – a fact that is also reflected in the cityscape, as the early Danish cultures and traditions can still be felt, whether in the impressive Roskilde Cathedral or in one of the city’s interesting museums.

Where is Roskilde?

Roskilde is located on the island of Sjælland (Zealand), only about 30 kilometres west of the Danish capital Copenhagen. Sjælland is the largest island in Denmark and lies to the east of Funen and north of Lolland, Falster and Møn. It is also not far to Sweden, the harbour city of Malmö is about 70 kilometres away from Roskilde via the Öresund.

Roskilde: weather

Roskilde has a very pleasant ocean climate with warm summers and mild winters. The best time to visit is from May to September, as it is particularly warm at this time and there is less rain. The warmest month is July, when temperatures reach an average of 21° Celsius. The water temperatures in the Baltic Sea reach up to 14° Celsius. The lowest temperatures are in January and February, when they average 3° Celsius. The rainiest month is August.

Roskilde: activities and sights

Roskilde Festival

The annual Roskilde Festival is probably one of the city’s most famous events. Every year, thousands of music fans gather at the Roskilde Fjord for eight days from the end of June to the beginning of August to celebrate and enjoy life with a wide range of artists. Roskilde Festival is not only the largest music and art festival in Northern Europe, but also one of the oldest – the first edition of the festival took place in 1971.

Accordingly, it is not only highly regarded by fans, but also by the musicians themselves – numerous well-known artists and bands have been headliners, from Nirvana, Metallica, the Rolling Stones and David Bowie to Björk, Rihanna and Cardi B. The special thing about the festival is that all the profits go to the “Foreningen Roskildefonden”, which donates the money to charitable organisations, both Danish and international.

Roskilde Viking Ship Museum

The Roskilde Viking Ship Museum is a highlight and must-visit not only for history and culture fans, as it is one of the most important exhibition centres for original finds from the Viking Age. The museum was established in 1969 after five Viking ships were excavated in the Roskilde Fjord six years earlier, which were sunk around 1070 to protect and control the main navigation channel of the fjord. The five recovered ships are the museum’s main exhibits, but there are also many other exhibits and replicas of boats on display in the museum.

There is also a shipyard where new ships are built – in the summer months you can also try your hand at Viking crafts or take part in a sailing trip including rowing on the fjord, and you can also build and craft your own small Viking ship in a workshop. The museum offers audio guides and guided tours, and you can sample traditional Viking cuisine in the museum café. The Viking Ship Museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the summer season and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the winter season.

Roskilde: Viking Ship
Five original Viking ships can be marvelled at in the Roskilde Viking Ship Museum.

Roskilde Cathedral

Roskilde: Cathedral
Roskilde Cathedral serves as the burial site of the Danish kings.

Denmark’s most important church is not located in Copenhagen, but a little further east of the capital in Roskilde. As early as 985, Harald Bluetooth, the first king to unite Denmark completely under one crown, is said to have founded Roskilde, built a church and chosen it as his burial site, but there are no longer any remains. Instead, a new church was consecrated around 1080, which was diligently extended and expanded over the centuries, making today’s cathedral a reflection of the ever-changing history of European architecture.

Although the seat of the royal family has moved to Copenhagen, Roskilde Cathedral is still the traditional burial site of the Danish monarchs. The sarcophagus of the current Queen Margarethe II has also taken its place. For a small fee, you can visit the interior of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, and there is a small museum on the upper floor of the cathedral that shows the history of the cathedral’s development and expansion. Also worth seeing are the golden altar and the wooden organ, which is one of the most important organs in Denmark.

Accommodation in Roskilde

Camping in Roskilde

Camping in Denmark is one of the most popular types of holiday, especially in the warmer months. It is often close to nature and many campsites are located on or near the water. In addition, accommodation on campsites is often inexpensive. However, many campsites nowadays also offer a wide range of accommodation, from pitches and tents to glamping, as well as additional services. Camping in Roskilde is particularly attractive for festival visitors. There are several campsites around Roskilde and the rest of the island of Sjælland that are a good base for a trip to the city.

Holiday homes in Roskilde

Holiday homes are also a popular type of accommodation in Denmark and are therefore offered in large numbers. They have the advantage of offering plenty of space and independence, as well as cooking facilities. They are therefore particularly attractive for families and larger groups, and many holiday homes also allow pets.

Hotels in Roskilde

If you want to spend a comfortable holiday in a hotel, you can of course also do so in Roskilde. The city offers a wide selection of hotels for everyone – from star hotels to simple motels or hostels.

Travelling to Roskilde

Travelling by car and ferry

Travelling to Roskilde
Roskilde is easily accessible via car

Roskilde is very easy to get to by car from Central Europe. The city on the island of Sjælland is very well connected to the Danish and European road network. You can either travel via the Danish mainland and the bridge connections, or by ferry between Germany and Denmark, the best known of which is probably the ferry between Puttgarden and Rødby on the island of Lolland.

Travelling by plane

Due to its proximity to the Danish capital, Roskilde is easy and uncomplicated to reach by plane, as Copenhagen-Kastrup Airport is served by flights from all over Europe and the UK. Once there, you can either rent a car or use public transport – the train journey from Copenhagen takes 25-30 minutes – to get to Roskilde or your accommodation.

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