The country of Denmark has a provincial feel to it. Even amongst the nearly two million people of Copenhagen, there seems to be a quaint, small-town atmosphere that pervades the streets – and Roskilde, twenty two miles west from the capital, continues in this tradition. One of the oldest cities in Denmark, this former Viking outpost quickly became the royal residence during the Dark ages, and ascended to the religious epicenter of Northern Europe in the 12th century, when Bishop Absalon constructed the Roskilde cathedral on the remains of a former Viking church.
The Roskilde cathedral is still the defining landmark of the city. It took 300 years to complete, and it overshadows every other building in Roskilde from its foundation in the center of town. All thirty eight rulers of the kingdom of Denmark found their final resting place in the cathedral, each remembered in a different way – from gaudy and ornate to simple and restrained. The main chapel is reserved for the ever-popular Christian IV, with paintings and sculptures portraying the great king’s military victories, along with testaments to his numerous other influences on Danish culture.
Not far north of the Roskilde Cathedral is the Viking Ship Museum, featuring a handful of Viking ships that sunk in the nearby fjord over 1000 years ago. These ancient examples, ranging from merchant ships to warships, demonstrate the advanced nature of the Vikings’ impressive shipbuilding skills, if not their ability to navigate the fjords.
Roskilde is a definitely a city living in the past, but at least it keeps up with current music - and no time is that more evident than during the Danish Roskilde Festival. One of the seminal cultural events in all of Denmark, the Roskilde Festival is a weekend of continual concerts, a concept originating in 1971 as Europe’s answer to Woodstock. The largest bands - from international supergroups to local favorites – play the festival, attracting around 100,000 fans each year. The headliners are often bands of world renown, and hundreds of rock stars have appeared onstage at the Roskilde Festival.
Throughout the rest of the year, Roskilde still manages
to bring in lots of tourists, separating itself from Koge
and Legre as the most popular day trip out of Copenhagen.
Like Aarhus, Roskilde enjoys
somewhat of a bohemian reputation, and as a drinker’s
capital. The energetic nightlife spreads from the center
of town and into the winding alleys of the city, offering
a number of bars and cafes suitable for both young and
old. Roskilde"s close proximity to Copenhagen makes
it ideal for a day
trip when staying there, as trains between the two
locations depart from Copenhagen"s central
station at least twice an hour.