NORWAY: The Slottsfjell Museum and the history of Tønsberg

When in the oldest Norwegian town of Tønsberg, it is a must to go and visit the Slottsfjell Museum located right at the foot of Mount Slottsfjell to gain a better understanding of the history of the ruins site and the old town, which all dates back to the Viking Era. The museum welcomes its visitors daily, from 11am to 4pm, with changes in opening times during holidays and peak seasons. Carl & I enjoyed the visit during our Tønsberg escapade, specially in the “Hvalhallen” (Whale section) which offers exhibitions of real whale skeletons, preserved whale babies and methods of whaling.

Slottsfjell Museum
Just me at the Slottsfjell Museum
Welcome to Slottsfjell Museum in Tønsberg

Perhaps it is safe to say that the whole Slottsfjell area is an entire historical and cultural complex. From the largest ruins site in Scandinavia to the Open Air Museum to the old town and the Slottsfjell Museum, the whole of Tønsberg is indeed a treasure and key to Norwegian history and identity.

AT the museum’s entrance is a monument of Norwegian king Håkon VII, who was also a Danish prince. He married his cousin, the British princess Maud Charlotte Mary Victoria, and these two were parents to Norway’s beloved King of the People (Folkekongen), King Olav V.

A monument of King Håkon VII
A blueprint of a Viking ship, located at the museum’s lobby

So, what to expect inside the museum? Well, there’s the Viking Hall (Vikinghallen) with the remnants of the fourth Norwegian viking ship found from Klåstad. It was already discovered in the late 1800’s, but the excavation began decades later. It is also the only Viking ship placed outside Oslo. Another Viking ship was found in Tønsberg, the Oseberg ship, but it was transported and displayed at the Viking Ship Museum (Vikingskipmuseet) in Oslo.

Klåstad ship 

A few sections of the museum were dedicated to the history of the Vestfold county and of Norway as a whole. For instance, there was a hall with profiles of Norwegian rulers.

Slottsfjell museum
Slottsfjell museum
Slottsfjell museum

A huge part of the museum features the Norwegian history and culture of whaling. Whaling was an important livelihood in the 1800s, and Svend Foyn played a major role in the development of the whaling industry in Norway. He modernized and perfected the harpoon cannon used to catch whales.

A harpoon cannon
Slottsfjell museum, Arctic stuff
Slottsfjell museum, a travelling luggage convertible
Slottsfjell museum, A door from the world wars
Slottsfjell museum, after the wars
Slottsfjell museum, A dollhouse
Slottsfjell museum, old baby carriage and attire

As I have mentioned above, we were really impressed by the Hvalhallen (Whale Hall) of the museum, where skeletons of common whale species are displayed. It smelled really weird down the hall, like.. mixed rotten meat and formaldehyde? I am not very sure. Although the same intense smell was also present at the Hvalfangstmuseet ( Whaling Museum) in Sandefjord, which we visited a couple of weeks ago. Anyway, it was a thrilling experience to see and scale the huge whale by their skeletons! I could easily fit in it!

Hvalhallen, the intense smell!

And if you go with your family and want to spend more time with the children, there’s the activity area. There’s also a guide on how to write using the Norwegian runic alphabet!

Activity room
Our names in runic alphabet

Also, there was a small exhibition about photography when we visited. I’m just not quite sure if it’s temporary or permanent.


Entrance fee to the museum is at 70 kroner per adult, 50 for students and pensionists, and free for children. For more visiting information, click here.

There you have it — Tønsberg at its finest! The Slottsfjellmuseum, the old town, the open air museum and the ruins site. Cheers to well-preserved old towns!


Slottsfjell Museum
Hvalhallen, Slottsfjellmuseum

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