Roskilde is a popular day trip destination from Copenhagen to see historic Viking ships and visit the most-impressive Gothic cathedral in Denmark.
The best sights in Roskilde to visit on a day trip from Copenhagen are the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage-listed Roskilde Cathedral and the Viking Ship Museum. Transportation from Copenhagen to Roskilde is easy by car, train, or on day-trip excursion tours and is easily combined with other popular sights such as Frederiksborg Castle and Helsingør with Hamlet’s Kronborg Castle. Roskilde is a great family-friendly destination with free admission for under 18-year olds to the top sights and many opportunities for fun activities for children. Transportation from Copenhagen and admission tickets are mostly covered by the Copenhagen Card.
Visit the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde
The Viking Ship Museum (Vikingeskibs Museet) in Roskilde is one of the most popular museums with foreign tourists in Denmark. The main exhibition here is the remains of five Viking ships that were discovered in the 1960s in Roskilde Fjord. These historic ships are beautifully presented in a modern light-filled hall with panoramic windows facing the fjord.
A further very interesting part of the museum complex is a ship-building boatyard and a collection of reconstructed ships. Here visitors may not only see what the original boats looked like but sometimes may even sail on these Viking ships. The boatyard also has many activities where visitors of all ages may try various boat-building activities and see how Viking boats are constructed using traditional techniques and tools.
Visit the UNESCO-Listed Roskilde Cathedral
Roskilde Cathedral (Domkirke) is the greatest church in Denmark and arguably all of Scandinavia. This twelfth-century building was the first brick Gothic church in Scandinavia and the inspiration for hundreds that followed.
Roskilde Cathedral is the traditional mausoleum of the Danish royal family and has the graves of 39 kings and queens. For a Danish Lutheran church, the cathedral is filled with art in quantity and quality unrivaled by any other church in Denmark.
Admission is charged but visitors receive a comprehensive full-color brochure and may explore almost all parts of the church including upper levels with wonderful views down into the nave.
Other Sights in Roskilde
Roskilde has a pleasant old town but the cathedral and the Viking ships are by far the most interesting sights – don’t rush through a visit here just to fit other lesser sights into a busy schedule. Other sights in Roskilde include:
- The Museum of Contemporary Art (Museet for Samtidskunst) exhibits modern art by local and international artists.
- The Roskilde Museum is the local history museum but claims to have the largest collection in Denmark of objects and art from the Middle Ages – a period during which Roskilde was one of the most important cities in Scandinavia.
- The Gothic St Laurence’s Church Ruins and Tower (Skt Laurentii Kirkeruin & Tårn) are incorporated into the neo-Gothic town hall from the late 19th century.
- The Danish Rock Museum opened in 2016 near the site of the Roskilde Festival, one of Europe’s largest open-air rock festivals held every year in early July.
- The small Lejre Museum a few kilometer outside Roskilde.
Transportation to Roskilde from Copenhagen
Roskilde is to the west of Copenhagen and is easily reached in half an hour by car, public transportation, or group tour.
It is a simple 30 km drive from Copenhagen to Roskilde. Once outside Copenhagen, follow highway 21 to Roskilde. Free parking is available at the Viking Ship Museum but is mostly charged for in the old town area.
Getting to Roskilde by train from Copenhagen is even faster. Frequent trains – up to nine per hour – connect Copenhagen Main Station (København H) and Roskilde station in just over 20 minutes. From the station, it is a ten-minute walk to Roskilde Cathedral and a further ten minutes via a pleasant park to the Viking Ships Museum. Alternatively, use bus 203 from the station to the ship museum (stop Vikingeskibsmuseet) – the bus fare is usually already covered by the train ticket.
Transportation is included in the Copenhagen Card and admission tickets mostly too – the Viking Ships Museum sometimes only gives 25% discount.
It is possible to travel from Roskilde to Hillerød (Frederiksborg Slot Castle) by direct bus (or by train via Copenhagen) in around an hour and a half. Sightseeing tours, e.g. Get Your Guide, sometimes combine Roskilde, Frederiksborg, and Helsingør (Hamlet’s Castle) in a busy single day-trip tour.