Roskilde used to be the capital of Denmark. Despite losing that title to Copenhagen, it is still a city highly worth visiting, since there are many nice attractions in Roskilde – and it has developed into a city with many events and activities, particularly for young people.
Most people visit Roskilde as a day trip from Copenhagen; something we highly recommend. However, you can also stay a few days in Roskilde and get the full impression of the city. No matter what option you’re going for, be sure to check this Roskilde travel guide before going!
Facts about Roskilde
Roskilde is one of the oldest cities in Denmark. Already in the 10th century, it was an important port city, and with the establishment of Roskilde Cathedral in 1175 it only went in one direction.
It was the main Danish city for culture, trading and politics in the 12th and 13th centuries. It used to be the capital of Denmark, but after Copenhagen took over that role, most institutions also moved to Copenhagen.
Diseases and fires almost ruined Roskilde in the 17th and 18th centuries. By the end of the 1700s, Roskilde only had a few thousand inhabitants left. However, the population grew in the mid-19th century since a direct rail line opened between Roskilde and Copenhagen, only the second of its kind in Denmark.
Roskilde finally grew to its current size in the 20th century. Despite the location being completely ideal as a capital city, Roskilde is no longer an important city in regard to politics, and it is not a cultural center either – but it is a highly interesting city because of its history, architecture and the many entertaining opportunities, being a student city and being near Copenhagen.
Things to see in Roskilde
The main thing to see in the city is the Roskilde Cathedral. It is arguably one of the most important constructions in Denmark and by far the most interesting cathedral/church in the country.
Roskilde Cathedral is gigantic, and it is one of the earliest examples of the Nordic Brick Gothic style. Through almost a thousand years, it has been the resting place for the Danish royal family: 21 kings and 19 queens are buried here. Paintings and art inside the cathedral illustrate the history of Denmark. In 1995, Roskilde Cathedral was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site – ever since it has been a highly popular tourist attraction.
Another important attraction in Roskilde is Vikingeskibmuseet (The Viking Ship Museum) where you can learn more about the Vikings and their culture. Ships and other items are up for an exhibition, and it is an exciting place for adults as well as children.
Other nice museums in the city are the Roskilde Museum, which shows the history of the city itself, and Ragnarock, a modern and innovative musical museum.
You should also consider a visit to the Roskilde Monastery, one of the oldest and most meaningful monasteries in the country.
Best activities in Roskilde
If you wish to do some more active things in Roskilde, you have a few options too.
Roskilde Festival is the absolute highlight. This rock music festival is the largest in Northern Europe and it attracts big names every year. Some previous performers are Bob Dylan, Jackson Browne, Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton, Metallica, Guns N’Roses and several others. It takes place in the summer, usually around the last week of June / first week of July. Buy your ticket in advance, and bring a tent, a lot of money and some supplies since it lasts a full week.
But since Roskilde Festival is just once per year, there is a high chance you will arrive at some other point. If so, you can still get a nice, but more local experience, by visiting Gimle. It is the regional concert hall, and it is popular among young people. There are many local musicians performing here, and there is also a bar and a nightclub at the venue.
If you’re into ships, head to the port and eat out in some of the nearby restaurants. There are lots of activities here, and many local boat owners will be happy to show you their boats.
And of course, the central part of Roskilde is home to many stores where you can easily spend a few hours shopping. Prices can be a bit expensive, just like you would expect, but you can find many great things, such as typical Nordic items.
How to get there
Roskilde has a train station with connections to all the major cities in Denmark. Therefore, it is always easy to get in and out. You can reach Copenhagen (and Copenhagen Airport) in less than an hour. Roskilde itself doesn’t have an international airport, so most passengers will fly to Copenhagen first.
Of course, there are also roads leading to Roskilde: 21, 14 and 6 being the main ones. You can easily drive there from any location in Denmark. With a central bus terminal, you can also take a bus to Roskilde from most cities and towns in Sealand.
Where to stay in Roskilde
In the central part of Roskilde, there is a limited amount of hotels but fortunately, the standard is quite high.
Zleep Hotel is the most central hotel in Roskilde, and we consider it the best place to stay since the prices are also very reasonable. The average price is 67€ per night. Officially, it is only a 3-star hotel, but it is very charming: Zleep Hotel is located in an elegant building from 1695, and it is just 300 meters away from Roskilde Cathedral. In other words, you can expect an authentic experience in Roskilde, and you will be right in the center.
An alternative is Scandic Roskilde Park. This hotel offers more facilities than Zleep Hotel, but it is located a bit south of the center, so public transport might be needed when getting around. The average price for a room is slightly higher, averaging 105€ per night.
Roskilde generally has more holiday apartments than it has hotels, so you might have luck finding a great deal on Airbnb or another site for short term holiday rentals.
Day trips from Roskilde
Roskilde itself is often visited as a day trip from Copenhagen.
But if we flip things around, Copenhagen is also an excellent day trip from Copenhagen. So if you happen to be in Roskilde for a vacation, it is obvious to visit the capital. To the many exchange students living in Roskilde, we recommend the same thing.
Other nice destinations near Roskilde are Helsingør (head to the northeast), Holbæk (northwest), Kalundborg (west) and the island of Lolland to the south.
If you don’t mind going a bit further, you can also consider a visit to Odense or even Aarhus. The trip will be a couple of hours, but it is absolutely doable as a day trip. There is a direct train connection to both of these cities from Roskilde, so it is quite easy to do.
Due to its rich history and interesting architecture, Roskilde is highly worth a visit. We recommend you to go, even if it is just for one day. Feel free to print out this article and bring it with you on your trip – and write a question below if you want to know anything specific about traveling to Roskilde!