Bernstorff Castle

The story

Explore the exciting history of Bernstorff Castle. 

Bernstorff Castle

Dive into history

A neoclassical icon

Bernstorff Castle is one of the earliest buildings in neoclassical style

The castle has an almost iconic status in the history of architecture, not just in Denmark, but throughout Europe.

The architect, Nicolas-Henri Jardin, had learned about the theoretical principles of neoclassicism at the French Academy of Fine Arts in Paris, but he gave the style physical form with the construction of Bernstorff Castle in Denmark.

The neoclassical style is characterized by a simple and symmetrical design. The semi-oval projection on the castle's garden facade marks the axis that divides the castle into two identical parts. Each part of the building is adorned with a few, well-chosen decorative elements that together emphasize the castle's simple expression.

The simple exterior of the castle corresponds in many ways to the informal existence that the builder, J. H. E. Bernstorff, wanted with the construction of Bernstorff Castle; above the entrance he placed a plaque with the following inscription:

"Honesto inter labores otio sacrum"

"Sanctified well-deserved rest between working hours"

From holiday home to conference hotel

The founder of Bernstorff Castle

Bernstorff Castle was built in the years 1759-65 by Frederik V's foreign minister, Johan Hartwig Ernst von Bernstorff.

J. H. E. Bernstorff had the castle built as a so-called maison de plaisance, surrounded by beautiful nature. Inside, the palace's halls and salons were tastefully decorated by leading artists and craftsmen of the time.

In 1770, J. H. E. Bernstorff's life in Denmark came to an end when J. F. Struensee had him dismissed from his post as Foreign Minister. J. H. E. Bernstorff then traveled to his native Hannover, where he died in February 1772. J. F. Struensee's life ended barely three months later when he was executed for lese majeste on Øster Fælled on April 28, 1772.

Bernstorff Castle was inherited after J. H. E. Bernstorff's death to his nephew, Andreas Peter Bernstorff. He used the castle every summer until his death in 1797.

Bernstorff Castle left the Bernstorff family when A. P. Bernstorff's son, Magnus Bernstorff, sold the castle to Justice Christian Borch in 1812. However, he sold the castle the very next year. Over the next thirty years, Bernstorff Castle changed hands several times as the main building fell into disrepair. In 1842, Christian VIII bought Bernstorff Castle for renovation and future use.

After the death of Christian VIII, Bernstorff Castle was handed over to the successor to the throne, Prince Christian (IX), in 1854 as a summer residence and then experienced its heyday.

You can also read about Bernstorff Castle Gardens, Dr. Louise's Rose Garden, the Tea House and the Parade House at the Royal Palaces.

From Europe's father-in-law to Harald Nyborg

Prince Christian (IX) became King of Denmark in 1863. In the following decades, Bernstorff Castle was often the setting for large family gatherings attended by the king's relatives from all over Europe, including the Russian Tsar, Alexander III. In the 1870s and 1880s, this made Christian IX known under the nickname "Europe's father-in-law".

In the King's Room you can still see the doorpost where the king's many children, grandchildren and children-in-law were measured.

When Christian IX died in 1906, the Danish Parliament approved the king's wish that Bernstorff Castle be made available to the youngest son, Prince Valdemar. Prince Valdemar used the castle until his death in 1939.

None of Prince Valdemar's children wanted to live in Bernstorff Castle, which was instead converted into a command school for the National Civil Air Force, later the Civil Defense.

The last chapter in the castle's history was written when the Danish Agency for Palaces and Properties decided to lease the castle in February 2009.

Today, Director Kirsten Daell is responsible for running Bernstorff Castle and Kavalergården as a hotel and conference center. The operating company Bernstorff Slot ApS is a subsidiary of the Harald Nyborg Group and the castle has recently acquired a sister hotel in Austria, Hotel Dienstl Gut, located in Carinthia.

Historical intro & guided tour

Every year we keep the castle open on a few Sundays, where everyone has the opportunity to gain insight into its exciting history, which is conveyed vividly and cheerfully by skilled and knowledgeable art historians. The dates for these scheduled public tours can be found under Events.

In connection with Gentofte Culture and Festival Days in early summer and Gentofte Culture Night in the fall, Gentofte Local History Archive organizes exciting tours where the public can meet Count Bernstorff, the Maid, and sometimes "The White Lady". Stay informed on the municipality's websites:

It is possible to arrange separate, individual tours for private or corporate events. Send us an email at and we will be happy to help you get in touch with the guides.

Kirsten Nersting

Teacher. Studied Classical Archaeology and Art History at the University of Copenhagen.

Cultural communication at Christiansborg Palace, Amalienborg, the Hermitage and the National Museum.

Specialization: Christian the 9th and family, history of the Royal Family, Dutch Renaissance, Impressionism and Art Nouveau, and Greek archaeology.

Christian Claudio Apostoli

Art Historian, University of Copenhagen

Tour guide at Fredensborg Castle since 2008

Specialty areas: ancient art and architecture

Birgitte Christensen

Art historian and guide at Fredensborg Castle, Christiansborg, Kronborg and expert in French.

A look inside the castle

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