Norway's landscape is dotted with majestic castles and palaces, each telling a unique story of the nation's rich and diverse history. From medieval fortresses to royal residences, these architectural marvels offer a fascinating journey through time. In this article, we'll guide you through some of the best castles in Norway that you simply must visit.
So, buckle up and get ready to step into a world of historical grandeur and architectural splendor.
Akershus Castle, Oslo
Located in the heart of Oslo, Akershus Castle, or Akershus Slott, is a must-visit. This medieval castle, now a fortress, has stood the test of time since the 13th century. It offers a panoramic view of the Oslo Fjord, making it a perfect blend of natural beauty and architectural splendor.
The castle's rich history is palpable in its stone walls, with tales of sieges and royal events. Its strategic location made it a vital stronghold for Oslo, and today, it serves as a venue for state occasions and public events.
Bergenhus Fortress, Bergen
When in Bergen, the Bergenhus Fortress is a sight you can't miss. One of the oldest and best-preserved castles in Norway, it stands proudly at the entrance of the Bergen harbor. Its strategic location and historical significance make it a key highlight of Norwegian heritage.
The fortress houses two of the most important buildings in Norwegian history: Håkon's Hall and Rosenkrantz Tower. Both offer a glimpse into the country's medieval past and are a testament to the architectural prowess of the era.
Royal Palace, Oslo
The Royal Palace in Oslo, one of the most iconic palaces in Norway, is a symbol of Norwegian monarchy and a testament to neoclassical architecture. Open to the public during summer, it offers guided tours that take you through its grandeur.
The palace is not just a historical monument but also a working institution where the daily work of the monarchy is conducted. The changing of the guard is a popular event that attracts tourists from all over the world.
Steinvikholm Castle, Skatval
Steinvikholm Castle, a 16th-century marvel, is located on a small island in the Trondheimsfjord. Once the residence of Norway's last Catholic archbishop, it's now a popular destination for history enthusiasts and those seeking the unique charm of Norwegian castles.
The castle is a significant site in Norway's transition from Catholicism to Protestantism during the Reformation. Today, it hosts an annual open-air opera that brings its history to life.
Gamlehaugen is a castle in Bergen that serves as the royal residence in the city. Its beautiful English-style gardens and the stunning view of the fjord make it a must-visit spot for nature and architecture lovers alike.
The castle, built in the early 20th century, is an example of the historicist style of architecture. It's open to the public, offering guided tours that showcase its rich interiors and historical artifacts.
Fredriksten Fortress, Halden
Fredriksten Fortress, perched atop a hill in Halden, is a star among Norway's castles. Its strategic location has played a significant role in many historical battles. Today, it offers visitors a chance to explore its vast grounds and enjoy the stunning views of the city below.
The fortress is also known for its open-air theatre and concerts during the summer, making it a cultural hub in addition to its historical significance.
Oscarshall, another gem among Oslo castles, is a royal palace located on the peninsula of Bygdøy. Known for its neo-Gothic style, it's open to the public and offers a glimpse into the royal lifestyle of the 19th century.
The palace is beautifully preserved, with its original furniture and artwork intact. The surrounding park, with its sculptures and picturesque views, adds to the charm of the place.
Vardøhus Fortress, Vardø
For those interested in Viking castles in Norway, Vardøhus Fortress in Vardø is a must-visit. This fortress, often referred to as the "Pomor Trade Museum," offers a deep dive into the history of trade between Norway and Russia.
The fortress, with its unique octagonal design, has served as a defensive structure for centuries. Today, it stands as a symbol of Norway's easternmost frontier, offering visitors a unique insight into the country's past.
Sverresborg or Sverre Sigurdsson's castle in Trondheim is a must-visit for history buffs. This castle was the stronghold of King Sverre during the civil war era of Norwegian history. Today, the ruins of this once-mighty castle offer a glimpse into the past.
The site is also home to the Trøndelag Folk Museum, where you can explore traditional Norwegian houses and historical exhibits.
Barony Rosendal, Kvinnherad
Barony Rosendal, located in Kvinnherad, is a unique gem among Norwegian castles. Built in the 17th century, it's known as Norway's smallest castle.
The castle is famous for its Renaissance garden and its romantic landscape garden, offering a serene retreat for visitors. The castle also hosts concerts, exhibitions, and other cultural events throughout the year.
Båhus Fortress, Østfold
Båhus Fortress, located near the Swedish border in Østfold, is a testament to the turbulent history between Norway and Sweden.
The fortress, which overlooks the Iddefjord, has been a strategic point of defense against Swedish invasions. Today, the ruins of the fortress, along with its museum, offer a deep dive into the region's history.
Austråttborgen, or Austrått Castle, in Ørland, is a fascinating site dating back to the 14th century. This manor house, turned fortress, is known for its intricate stone carvings and unique architecture. The castle's chapel is particularly noteworthy, with its beautifully preserved Renaissance art.
Håkon’s Hall, Bergen
Håkon’s Hall, part of the Bergenhus Fortress, is a royal ceremonial hall built in the 13th century. It's one of the most important medieval buildings in Norway. The hall has witnessed several significant historical events, including the coronation of Norwegian kings. Today, it's a popular venue for concerts and cultural events.
Munkeby Monastery, Levanger
While not a castle in the traditional sense, Munkeby Monastery in Levanger is a historical site worth visiting. The ruins of this Cistercian monastery, surrounded by scenic landscapes, offer a peaceful retreat. The site is also known for its local cheese-making tradition, adding a unique flavor to your visit.
Tønsberg Fortress, Tønsberg
Tønsberg Fortress, also known as Tunsberghus, is one of the most significant ruins in Norway. The fortress was a crucial defensive and administrative center during the Middle Ages. The site offers a panoramic view of Tønsberg, making it a popular spot for locals and tourists alike.
FAQs about castles in Norway
How many castles are there in Norway?
The exact number of castles in Norway is hard to determine as it depends on what one defines as a "castle". However, there are dozens of historical fortresses, manor houses, and royal residences that could be classified as castles spread across the country.
What are the best castles to visit in Norway?
Some of the best castles to visit in Norway include Akershus Castle in Oslo, Bergenhus Fortress in Bergen, the Royal Palace in Oslo, Steinvikholm Castle in Skatval, Gamlehaugen in Bergen, Fredriksten Fortress in Halden, Oscarshall in Oslo, and Vardøhus Fortress in Vardø. Each of these castles offers a unique glimpse into Norway's rich history and architectural grandeur.
What is the oldest castle in Norway?
The Akershus Castle in Oslo is considered one of the oldest castles in Norway. It was originally built as a medieval castle in the 13th century and has since been upgraded into a modern fortress.
Are there Viking castles in Norway?
While there are no "castles" in the traditional sense from the Viking Age in Norway, there are several historical sites and fortresses that date back to the Viking era. For instance, the Trondenes Historical Center in Harstad houses remains from the Viking Age and the Middle Ages.
Are there guided tours available for the castles in Norway?
Yes, many of the castles in Norway offer guided tours. These tours provide a wealth of information about the castle's history, architecture, and significance. For instance, the Royal Palace in Oslo offers guided tours during the summer months.
What is the best time of year to visit Norwegian castles?
The best time to visit Norwegian castles largely depends on the specific castle and its operating hours. However, generally, the summer months in Norway (June to August) are a good time to visit as the weather is pleasant, and most castles are open to the public. It's always a good idea to check the opening times and any seasonal events of the specific castle you plan to visit.
Discovering the best castles in Norway
Exploring the castles of Norway is like turning the pages of a living history book. Each castle, with its unique architecture and intriguing past, offers a glimpse into the country's historical tapestry.
So, on your next trip to Norway rent a campervan and make sure to include these castles in your itinerary. They're not just buildings; they're gateways to understanding Norway's past and appreciating its present. Happy exploring!