NORWAY: A day trip to Tønsberg, the oldest Norwegian town (Things to See and Do)

Tønsberg is a beautiful harbour town located in the Vestfold county, the second smallest of the 19 Norwegian counties (fylke). Tønsberg got its name from the Old Norse form of the name Tunsberg, meaning “fenced area or garden”(tun) and “mountain” (berg). This might refer to its most famous landmark, the Slottsfjellet, a fortified hill. My husband and I took a day tour to the oldest town in Norway last February, as part of our first wedding monthsary celebration. 😉

Good morning, Tønsberg!

We took the train from Drammen early, excited to see what the little town has to offer. As it was mid-winter, we were welcomed by the snow-covered scenery! After 36 minutes, more or less, on board, we finally arrived at Tønsberg stasjon and started our little escapade around the city.

Off to Tønsberg!
Waiting for our train

The town has existed since the Viking Era. It was written that the town was founded “before” the Battle of Hafrsfjord which occurred in 871, making Tønsberg the oldest town in Norway. The Oseberghaugen Viking burial mound was also discovered there in 1904, along with the Oseberg Viking ship which is now displayed at the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo. All these historical accounts convinced my husband and I to make Tønsberg our next travel destination!

We decided to go to the Tourist Information office first, but as it was winter, the office was closed. So, we just moved on and tried to do the exploration with some help from TripAdvisor and a GPS. 😉 Right across the Tourist Information Office was the Stoltenbergpark. It’s a very small, rectangular park named after Carl Stoltenberg (1770-1830), a grocer turned shipowner who was also the town’s representative during the signing of the Constitution of Norway in Eidsvoll in 1814.  A monument of Stoltenberg was erected in the park in 1926. In 1971,  a monument for his artist son was also put up in the same park! How cool is that? Both monuments were made by the same person, Carl Edvard Paulsen. Also found in the park is a music pavilion and a little sculpture, the Satyren, both placed there in the early 1900s.

The music pavilion in Stoltenbergparken
Carl Stoltenberg’s son’s memorial monument

During the first leg of our trip, we roamed around the city and admired the old houses and interesting buildings in the little village. Aside from being an administrative center for the Vestfold county, Tønsberg is primarily a shopping town, with silverware as its main product.

Frelsesarmeen, a Christian volunteering foundation
A fest lokale (party place) built in the 1700s which can be rented out today
Just me in Tønsberg
Graffiti in Tønsberg
Residential area in Tønsberg

There are several worship places and churches in the town, and one of the most impressive is the Tønsberg Domkirke (cathedral). The brick Lutheran church was built over an ancient church in the mid-1800s. Unfortunately, it was closed when we visited, so we failed to get a glimpse of the interior.

A model of the church
Tønsberg Cathedral
Tønsberg Cathedral
Tønsberg Cathedral

And of course, it was delightful to see a bit of the harbour! It was freezing cold to be by the water, so we did not spend much time there. But to be honest, Tønsberg was not very different from Drammen. 😉

A statue of a family in front of Kiwi, a grocery store
Hello, Mr Swan!

It was easy to see that the coasts were the “modernized” parts of the town, with modern establishments and apartment buildings. After roaming around the city proper, we headed towards the famous landmark of Tønsberg — the Slottsfjellet, a fortified hill. Today, ruins of the said fortifications are scattered on top of the hill, along with the tower built in 1888 to commemorate the original one which was burnt down in 1874. More about it in the next entry! Cheers to old towns that withstand the tests of time! 😉



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