Typical Danish: The Royal Guards (Den Kongelige Livgarde)

When I get family and friends visiting, or when someone asks me for things to do and see in Copenhagen, I always suggest to catch the changing of the guards at Amalienborg Castle. I’m a fan of these kinds of things, royalty, pomp, ceremony, tradition. But I also think they are a landmark of Denmark and Copenhagen. Okay, I might be slightly biased because my Danish boyfriend used to be a “garder” himself! Boy, did he look handsome in that uniform…


Changing of the guards at Amalienborg

The Royal Guard, or “Den Kongelige Livgarde” in Danish, looks back on a rich history. The guard was founded in 1658 by King Frederik III., who didn’t think the peace treaty of Roskilde with the Swedish would last, and thus felt in need of a guard. The Royal Guard today serves two purposes: it is an infantery combat unit, which regularly sends soldiers to international operations, such as Afghanistan. And it is a ceremonial unit that guards the royal family and their castles, providing permanent guard at Amalienborg Castle, Kastellet, Rosenborg Castle, and Fredensborg Castle, among others.


It used to be possible to get drafted into the guard during the standard military draft in Denmark. But with the ever-increasing number of volunteers (such as my boyfriend, that old patriot!), now the Royal Guard is mainly made up of soldiers who volunteered for the role. The service in the Royal Guard takes eight months. The training consists of three months of basic military training (complete with sleeping in the woods and all), followed by a month of learning the elaborate marching routines, before the guards are put on a rotation schedule for the remaining four months of their service. During the guard rotation, they have 24-hour shifts, during which they will stand guard for two hours and rest for four hours.


Garder waiting to commence the ceremonial march at Blå Fest

The four months of basic and marching training culminate in a big event called “Blå Fest” (blue fest), during which the garder are allowed to ditch their camouflage and wear the blue ceremonial uniforms for the first time. It is traditionally held in the town of Horsens, and it soldiers can bring their girlfriends to the event - and it’s a big deal to be invited! Some guards, who don’t have girlfriends, will invite more or less random girls, or those they have a crush on, to spend a romantic weekend with a big gala dinner in uniform and evening gown. The guys are also taught some rules of etiquette, like pulling back the lady’s chair and accompanying her to the restroom. Now, my boyfriend was already past his bachelor studies when he entered the guard, but the standard is to do the military service right after school, so those boys are all about 18 years old and it’s adorable to see them “play grown-ups”. One guy even proposed to his girlfriend during the dinner!

Now, in a very rare moment, I will share with you the portrait we took at Blå Fest (the official one is less grainy, this was taken with my iPhone). Isn’t there just something about a guy in a uniform? Swoon!


Finally, here are some more facts about the Livgarde, which you might not know:

  • The last time shots were fired at Amalienborg was during the German invasion in World War II., where two garder were killed.
  • After every four month service rotation, the guard that has been the “best comrade” to his fellow guards receives a golden watch from the Queen herself, which is engraved with her seal (since my boyfriend had an office job scheduling the shifts, he was once actually in the same room as the Queen - I’m soooo starstruck by proxy!)
  • Guards are told that in the event that they have to fire a warning shot in the air (which never actually happens), they should point their gun towards Sweden - this might be due to the century-long sibling-like rivalry, or maybe just because that way, the bullet will most likely end in the water.
  • Each bearskin is made from the fur of an entire bear, and they are super heavy.
  • The Royal Guard’s motto is “Pro Rege et Grege” - for the king and the people.
  • The uniforms include sabres, some of which were acquired as spoils of war from the Napoleonic Wars, but today, most of them are replicas.

Now you want to catch one of those changing of the guards ceremonies, don’t you? They are free and they are super popular, especially with tourists and kids. When members of the Royal Family are home at Amalienborg Castle, the Royal Guard will march from their quarters at Rosenborg Slot around 11:30 every day, accompanied by the music corps. They march up Købmagergade and Strøget and pass Kongens Nytorv, before arriving at Amalienborg a few minutes before 12. What follows is an elaborate choreography in which every single guard around the four palaces is replaced. There are three different types of changing ceremonies: the small Palævagt (only 12 guards and no music corps), Løjtnantvagt, and the largest, Kongevagt, when the Queen is home. The schedule can be found here.

A sunny Sunday in Copenhagen

So, just in time for the beginning of the week, the weather in Denmark decided to take a turn for the worse - it feels a good 10 degrees colder than yesterday, plus, it started snowing today. But not the nice kind of big, soft flakes, but the annoying, almost-rain kind, paired with strong winds that blow the stuff right in your face and the cold right through all the layers of clothes. So the best thing to do really is this:

I’m not coming out again

However, yesterday was a very pleasant day. Yes, it was cold and yes, it was windy, but there was some sun, too, and that makes everything better.

I was meeting a friend in the city, and as I was a little early, I took a little trip into Magasin - I swear, just to take a look! - and whoops! found an awesome Filippa K dress on sale. Score!

As we walked out of the store, we saw the Royal Guard on their way to Amalienborg for the daily changing of the guards. So we decided to follow them and watch it a little bit (not that I haven’t seen it about a dozen times, with the viking boyfriend having been a “garder”, but I still really enjoy it!).

Changing of the guards at Amalienborg castle

Changing of the guards at Amalienborg castle

As I said, it was cold, so we decided not to watch the entire ceremony, where they walk around the courtyard and change every single guard separately, but instead head to nearby café Mormors (Grandma’s) on Bredgade. I’ve been here before and I really like this place - it’s an adorable mix between a café and a souvenir/ decoration/ toy store, complete with some cool antique interiors. I can only recommend their coffee and sandwiches, and be sure to try one of the freshly made juices or smoothies. And if you’re in the mood for something sweet, they have a great selection of pastries, cupcakes, cookies etc. Definitely a great place for a Sunday afternoon coffee!

Interior at Mormors

I feel very understood here!

Amazing cupcake for the chocolate princess (me!)

Cool old coffee and tea boxes

BIG cup of chai latte and a healthy smoothie - in a Tuborg glass, because after all, this is still Denmark!

BIG cup of chai latte and a healthy smoothie - in a Tuborg glass, because after all, this is still Denmark!


Funny little gift (I think there’s toffees inside)


Love this sign: “Kids that aren’t supervised by their parents will be given free espresso and a kitten to take home!”

All in all, a very enjoyable Sunday! And now please excuse me, I have to get back to wrapping myself in seventeen blankets, putting on wool socks, and drinking obscene amounts of hot chocolate!

But don’t despair, I’m leaving you with this message seen at Kongens Nytorv:


“Don’t worry, the summer will be back!”