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Kalundborg - Medieval streets and a unique church - Denmark

Kalundborg - Medieval streets and a unique church - Denmark

  • Is it a castle? A castle? Or a church? In Denmark's best-preserved medieval city center in Kalundborg, you will find pinnacles, towers and ruins.
Church with five towers in Kalundborg

Already as we approach the city, we see Kalundborg's most famous building in the distance on the city's horizon. The brick church Vor Frue Kirke (Church of Our Lady) with its 5 towers rises above the rooftops like a medieval castle with pinnacles and turrets. A unique medieval brick church in one of Denmark's best preserved medieval towns.

The small harbor town of Kalundborg is located on Zealand's west coast, surrounded by sea, beaches and prosperous vineyards. The city was mentioned for the first time in literature as early as the 12th century, but the city is probably even older. During the Middle Ages, however, Kalundborg grew and became an important trading place and port in the Baltic Sea area. Today, Kalundborg is known for Denmark's best-preserved medieval architecture and the unique church in the Højbyen quarter.

Medieval street with colorful houses in Kalundborg
Medieval street with colorful houses in Kalundborg

The church Vor Frue Kirke began to be built by Esbern Snare in 1170, but was not completed until after his death in 1220. Esbern Snare was a Danish nobleman who was also a knight and adviser to King Valdemar the Great of Denmark. Through his relationship with King Valdemar, Snare and his family became a power factor in Denmark.

Snare was an army leader in the Danish Crusaders and is believed to have brought inspiration to Vor Frue Kirke from his journey to the Holy Land. Looking at the church from above, it looks like a Greek cross with four arms of equal length with a tower in each arm and a tower in the middle of the cross. A unique appearance that makes Vor Frue Kirke look like no other church in the world. Rather, the church looks like a fairytale castle, more fitting in a Brothers Grimm fairy tale.

Church with five towers in Kalundborg
Church with five towers in Kalundborg

Another unique detail about Kalundborg's church is that it is built of brick. Bricks were a relatively modern phenomenon in the 12th century, after monks brought the knowledge of brickmaking to Denmark from Germany. Today, Kalundborg's church is Denmark's oldest preserved brick building.

The church is often open to visitors and it is an interesting experience to step inside its gates. I probably expected the inside to be as exciting as the outside, but the inside of the church is relatively bare and the surface is experienced rather less than expected.

Medieval street with colorful houses in Kalundborg

The cobbled streets around Kalundborg are lined with houses mainly built between the 15th and 17th centuries. Plastered facades in yellow and pink are mixed with classic brick and half-timbering, and in summer the hollyhocks bloom by the gates. Idyllic and charming and unexpectedly untouched. On an April day like this when we visit the neighborhood it is also incredibly quiet and the only people we meet are dog owners and garbage collectors.

Some of the most famous houses in Højbyen are the brick tower St. Gertruds Gård (Prestegade 23), Lindegården with Kalundborg's museum and the Chapel's house (with the beautiful blue-red door).

The Chaplain's House

We are getting close to the end of our visit to Kalundborg, but we still have one more place to visit. If you continue Adelgatan past the church and museum, you will come to the ruins of Vestborgen – a castle that was also built by Esbern Snare. During the 15th century, the dilapidated castle and the city's ring wall were taken down and the material was reused for other buildings. The place where the castle was located came to be forgotten over the years. Not until the beginning of the 20th century was the ruin discovered again and excavations are still ongoing.

Read more
Dyrehøj Vineyard

Yellow medieval house in Denmark
The bishopric
Church with five towers in Kalundborg

How do I get to Kalundborg?

Kalundborg is located on the coast 1,5 hours west of Copenhagen and is a cozy stop on your trip around Zealand.

Read more about Kalundborg's buildings and history on the nice page Kalundborg Hojby.

Another nearby attraction is Denmark's largest vineyard - Dyrehøj Vineyard.

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