Cities in Six—Roskilde, Denmark

Roskilde, Denmark’s 10th-largest city, is about 30 kilometres west of the Danish capital city of Copenhagen.  One of Denmark’s oldest cities, Roskilde was once the capital of Denmark and still retains close ties to the Danish monarchy.  Since 1971 the city has hosted the annual Roskilde Festival, one of the largest music festivals in Europe.

We visited Roskilde in 2011 on a drizzly day as a side-trip from Copenhagen.  Our main destination was the Viking Ship Museum, but we found much to enjoy walking (with umbrellas) around Roskilde’s compact central core.


Roskilde Cathedral.  Constructed during the 12th and 13th centuries, Roskilde Cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  It is one of the earliest Gothic cathedrals constructed using brick.  Since the 15th century, the cathedral has served as the main burial side for Danish monarchs.




Roskilde Royal Mansion.  This complex of yellow buildings, also known as Roskilde Palace, sits snugly next to the cathedral.  The mansion is home to the Bishop of Roskilde, and also houses public art exhibits.

Viking Ship Museum.  The Vikingeskibsmuseet on the shores of the Roskilde Fjord houses the well-preserved remains of five Viking-age ships.  The ships had been scuttled in the fjord in the 11th century to protect the city from seaborne attack (from non-Danish Vikings, presumably.)

The Glendalough.  A modern replica of a ship on display in the Viking Ship Museum.  The original ship had been built near Dublin, Ireland around 1040.  Attempts to sail the replica from Denmark to Ireland and back in 2007 involved sea-sickness and hypothermia, plus an embarrassing tow from a support vessel.

Fuglekonge (The Bird King.)  One of the highlights of our visit to Roskilde was touring the delightful Roskilde Museum of local history.  We were intrigued by the multitude of these round portraits of “Bird Kings.”  These result from an annual competition of local gentlefolk, originally involving hunting, drinking and feasting, but nowadays no birds are harmed.

Roskilde Railway Station, and Roskilde Jars.  Built in 1847, Roskilde’s railway station is the oldest station in Denmark still in use.  The three enormous ceramic jars in front of the station are the work of Danish sculptor Peter Brandes, and were installed in 1998 to mark Roskilde’s 1000th anniversary.

Travel note:  Roskilde is linked to Copenhagen by both rail and a motorway.  The 2024 Roskilde Festival runs 8 days, from June 29 to July 6.