Esrum Sø not only is the second-largest lake in Denmark, but also is exceptionally deep: 22m (72 ft.) in some places. Since 1949, the land around the lake has been protected by the government. It is a winter feeding ground for large numbers of waterfowl. You can enjoy a trip on the lake if for no other reason than to admire the flocks of noble swans -- there's not an "Ugly Duckling" among them.

If the weather is good enough and there's enough business to warrant its departure, a local outfitter, Færgefart Bådudlejning på Esrum Sø, Skipperhuset, in the village of Sørup (tel. 48-48-01-07), leads tours in an open boat through the lake's shallow waters. The emphasis is on ecology, and the tour is conducted in Danish with halting English and German explanations added afterward. The duration of the tour is around 45 minutes, and the cost is DKK60 ($10/£6).

Esrum Kloster, Klostergade 11, Esrum (tel. 48-36-04-00), was founded in 1151 and has a long and ancient history, especially when it was the most powerful Cistercian monastery in Scandinavia. Eleven monks arrived to lay the foundation stone of what later became the abbey, surrounded by forest, meadows, lake, and fields. The Middle Ages come alive here as you view the second-floor exhibit of the monastic period.

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The mounted exhibition gives you an idea of the layout of the monastery and the everyday life of the monks. The exhibition on the main floor deals with Esrum Abbey after the Reformation. The cloisters underwent many changes, becoming a royal hunting lodge, a base for a regiment of dragoons, a stud farm for horses, and even a post office and district tax office. As a result of King Frederik II's horse-breeding interests, the fabled Frederiksborg horse was produced, highly prized for its skill and stamina.

In addition to the exhibitions, regular concerts and theatrical performances are staged here, both inside and outside the monastery.

The abbey is open January 5 to May 8 Thursday to Sunday 10am to 4pm; May 9 to June 30 and August 1 to October 23 Tuesday to Sunday 10am to 4pm; July Tuesday to Sunday 10am to 5pm (Thurs until 9pm); October 24 to December 18 Thursday to Sunday 10am to 4pm. It's closed December 19 to January 4. Admission is DKK45 ($7.70/£4.50), DKK20 ($3.40/£2) for children 5 to 15, free for children 4 and under.

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From Fredensborg, you can get to Esrum by bus (marked ESRUM), getting off at Hovedgaden. From here, walk for less than half a kilometer (1/4 mile) along the Klostergade, which leads you to the entrance of the abbey. Motorists can take Route 205 north from Fredensborg.

From Hillerød to Esrum, you can catch bus nos. 305, 306, or 331, a 25-minute ride, for around DKK35 ($6/£3.50).

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.