In the heart of Vestfold, you’ll find Tønsberg, the charming town that grows each and every summer. Tønsberg offers everything from fantastic beaches to shopping and visiting the wharf – in addition to cultural activities such as summer shows, art exhibitions, and music festivals.
From hibernation to vibrant life
Tønsberg is like a bear that hibernates every winter. Not before the ice melts and a horse hoof trots along the grass, Vestfold’s main city comes back to life. But in turn keeps the city as vibrant and full of desire until the autumn darkness once again arrives.
Tønsberg folk who have been wearing black throughout winter sitting down on the wet asphalt and taking a taxi to get away from the cold and other people, now get to use their spring clothes, hop on a bike, and buy rosé at one of the wharf’s outdoor seating areas. Suddenly, you’ll understand the joke of the locals.
Bustling Summer Life
Summer is finally here and glistens from dawn till dusk from the canal which runs through Norway’s oldest town. We celebrate the joy of winter’s bitter winds by traveling out to the nearby archipelagos. Here we can relax, enjoy the warmth of the tide pools, bathe in crystal-clear lakes, maybe even fish. Hum along with Tønsberg-born Jahn Teigens old melody. Breathe. After a refreshing swim and boat ride, we look for the exciting and historically interesting town with festivals, theater, revues, and concerts. Or simply wander the streets with an ice cream cone in hand. We are able to get our shopping “scavenger hunt” done in the beautiful market and the surrounding cozy quarters of the town's alleyways and historic surroundings.
The wharf in Tønsberg has become the town’s outdoor venue, a magnet for visitors. Could you think of something more pleasant than a summer evening along the wharfs of Tønsberg? The countless restaurants on the wharf offer a wonderful view of the canal and pier. Here we sit and enjoy a long evening dinner with good drinks. From the restaurant table we admire the boats of varieties and sizes that sit anchored one after another along the entire pier.
There is a crowded and relaxing atmosphere on the pier now being covered in the warm orange color of the evening sunshine. From the crowds of vacationers on the pier sums of the voices that both have their origin in Europe and other continents, plus a great mix of Norway's many dialects. It is cheerful mood here now. Some come from cinema, some are on the way home at a leisurely pace, some hurry to arrive before the last food serving, and others have just started the evening and will participate in the festivities until dawn. Ignore the worries of tomorrow; everything seems at least carefree now.
When we leave the restaurant, the sun is at peace having disappeared behind the Stokkes hills to the west. Tønsberg will apparently have gone by the name “The party town Tønsberg” by the numerous events in the town. The locals are known to be in a good mood and go clubbing in the summer nights. On the Tønsberg Wharf and on Nedre Langgata Street you’ll find nightlife lined up in a row.
Tønsberg is the summer town with the liveliest nightlife and it can get very impetuous and hot. Even under the under the darkest hours of the night, we jump into the water to wash the sweat off from the dancing at a packed nightclub off of Nedre Langgate street.
Archipelago life and island hopping
The islands outside of Tønsberg are abundant and diverse. The seaplanes navigate Vestvold’s archipelago well and know where the treasures amongst the island lay. The seaplanes based in Husvik take you island hopping out amongst the archipelago and is one of the great experiences in the area. Also, the seaplanes take route over the fjords in Oslo to Østfold.
Art and culture
Tønsberg has a vibrant arts and cultural life that is worth seeing it. We'll treat you to a weekend in Tønsberg and check out a real Viking ship, the largest Blue Whale, and Vestfold's whaling history at the Slottsfjell Museum which sits in a beautiful setting at the foot of Castle Rock. The museum and surrounding area is a part of the cultural heritage of the city's long history, and close by the Slottsfjell plateau shows the remains of one of the largest medieval castles. On Tallak, the plateau between Slottsfjellet and the main museum by Farmannsveien, is the museum's air department. Vestfold courtyard house contains several transferred homes, including Vestfold's oldest: a medieval loft dated 1407.
Art is displayed in the impressing brick building that houses the Hauger Vestfold Kustmuseum. The museum is located by the early Seaman’s school in the middle of Tønsberg town center. The location is beautiful and historic, with the museum sitting in a park between the antique Haugating and a few even older burial mounds.
Known artists from all over the world visit the popular Slottsfjell festival every summer. In addition to the festival, you can pick and choose among small and large music events in all genres. The Tønsberg medieval festival on the first weekend of June is the largest of Norge. It is an enormous celebration of Tønsberg’s rich middle age history that attracts craftsmen and artists from all over Europe.
Tønsberg is among Norway’s most important show-towns and has proud traditions from the 60s with Dizzie Tunes, Wesenlund, and many others. Today, the Slottsfjell festival, the Thespian Theater in Thaulowhullet, and the celebrity show on the wharf are some of the many annual events that are worth making a trip to in the summer.
Tønsberg is Norway’s oldest town, founded in the time of the Vikings. The biggest piece of evidence from the time is the world-famous Osebergskip that was found just north of the center of Tønsberg. In the middle ages, Tønsberg was a power center. The houses, churches, monasteries, and graveyards of Tønsberg have characterized the town. Up until 1671 it was the only town of Vestfold. As well as being a trade and maritime town since the Vikings, Tønsberg is known as a whaling and hanseatic town.
According to Snorre, Tønsberg city had already existed when Harald Fairhair was passing through on the way to his decisive blow upon Hafrsfjord. The year of the battle has been stated to be in 872, but evidence for such an advanced age is not yet available. What’s for certain is that, in 1871, the city celebrated its grand anniversary in 1000 and a hundred years later, celebrated a no less magnificent 1,100-year anniversary.
Historical source criticism of the Snorre is necessary because he wrote his records of history several hundred years after the Battle of Hafrsfjord. Perhaps it will be necessary to revise the city's founding story, as Oslo has had to do.
It has been suggested that around the year 1100 could be the correct year in which Tønsberg was founded. Tønsberg must have been nonetheless founded before 1130 because in that year, Tønsberg was first mentioned in resources of the same time. It will continuously be discussed whether Tønsberg has connections back to the time before Christ, but the town’s old age is still solidly documented. The Oseberg ship that was found in Tønsberg in 1903 was first built in the south west of Norway as early as 820.
Slottsfjell is a little mountain in Tønsberg in Vestfold with an elevation of 63 meters (about 206 feet). There you’ll find the ruins of a church and the Tønsberg fortress of the Middle Ages, as well as the Slottsfjell tower, the town’s landmark.
In the 1300s, Tønsberg was the most central place in the country. Many historical events took place on Slottsfjell which is why it is the largest group of ruins in the North. The heyday came to an end once Norway and Denmark created the union, and Copenhagen became the power’s center.
The castle atop Slottsfjell. The Tønsberg fortress (Castrum Tunsbergis) on top of the mountain has most likely dominated the town and the surrounding land area before the 1100s when the Baglers (a faction participating in the Norwegian Civil Wars) fortified themselves there under siege of King Sverre and the Birkebeiners. The fortress went through a large-scale development under Håkan Håkansson’s and Magnus Lagabøte’s reign in the 1200s. Up until 1503, the fortress was occupied, but then it was burnt down and never built back up. Today the foundation ruins still stand on the mountain.
The Slottsfjell tower was erected in 1888 on a private initiative as a memorial of the thousand year anniversary of Tønsberg. The 17 meter high tower is built of stone and a simple, round-arched new renaissance style that relates back to the Donjon of the Middle Ages. The façade is decorated with a quote from Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson, inscription “871-1871 Maa Byen som paa Tunet staar, faa blomstre nye Tusind-aar” (The town standing in the yard, the flowers will live another thousand years) and the signatures of Kings “Haakon R August 1st, 1906,” “Olav R July 1st, 1958,”and “Harald R. March 9th, 1992.” The stone tower replaced a tower of three that stood on the on the mountain from 1856 to 1874, then it burned down. The Slottsfjell tower was in use as the Tønsberg museum from 1894 to 1930.
Maritime History. Tønsberg is a historic seafaring town. Maritime has always characterized Tønsberg since Viking times. In the old, newly restored customs house on the Tønsberg pier, you’ll find Tønsberg Maritime History Center, a center crammed with maritime history from the time Tønsberg was one of the greatest seafaring towns up to today.
One of the people who put the greatest impact on Norway's whaling history was Svend Foyn. The modern industrial whaling was developed by Svend Foyn of Tønsberg in 1860. He had lots of experience of seal hunting in northern waters and in 1864, he ran experimental whaling in Finnmark in northern Norway. He combined three factors: a harpoon and grenade were combined into a modern grenade harpoon and placed in a steamboat. In 1863 he developed the world's first grenade harpoon which in 1864 was installed at the world's first steam-powered whaling ship, "Spes & Fides". Foyn helped greatly with the financial support of the local population in Tønsberg in the form of houses of worship, schools and orphanages.