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Tønsberg is a town in Vestfold county. It is the oldest town in Norway. The town has about 56,000 inhabitants (2020). Tønsberg is also surrounded by some of the county's major tourist attractions, including old viking graves and museums. There are plenty of options for daytrips where both residents and visitors can enjoy a wide range of landscapes. In summer, Tønsberg are a popular retreat for people from Oslo, and other places in Norway. Tønsberg therefore has some of the most lively summertime day and nightlife in Norway.


The old name of this town was Tunsberg. The people are easy going and very friendly, and cultural life is rich.


Tønsberg was founded by Harald Fairhair in the 9th century and is one of six Norwegian cities that has existed since the middle ages. The first time the town was mentioned by a contemporary writer was in 1130. According to Snorri Sturluson, Tønsberg was founded before the Battle of Hafrsfjord, which, according to Snorri, took place in 871. What year the battle took place is disputed, however, and most current historians believe the battle took place closer to 900.

The king or his ombudsman resided in the old Royal Court at Sæheimr, today the Jarlsberg Manor (Jarlsberg Hovedgård), and on the farm Haugar, (from the Old Norse word haugr meaning hill or burial mound), which can be assumed to have been Tønsberg's birthplace. Haugar became the seat for the Haugating, the Thing for Vestfold and Norway's second most important place for the proclamation of kings.

Slottsfjellet (Castle Mountain), north of the city centre, made for a near impregnable natural fortress. During the civil war era of the 12th century, it was fortified by the Baglers. In the 13th century, King Haakon Haakonson set up a castle in Tønsberg, Tønsberg Fortress. The town was destroyed by fire in 1536, but Tønsberg remained one of the most important harbour towns in Norway.

The centre of the world's modern whaling industry was in Tønsberg and neighbouring Sandefjord. Tønsberg, Sandefjord and Larvik were dominant whaling towns in Norway. Whalers from Tønsberg initiated whaling in Iceland and the Hebrides.

During the 1850s, Tønsberg turned into a base of operation and source of expertise for whalers in the Arctic- and Antarctic Oceans. The first whaling ventures to Antarctica was led by engineer Henrik Henriksen of Tønsberg.

One of the city's most prominent residents, Svend Foyn, was a pioneer who embarked on an 1847 expedition to the Arctic, which led to a catch of 6,000 seals. Soon Tønsberg Harbour was home to a large fleet of sealing vessels, and the sealing industry grew further after the 1849 repeal of Britain's Navigation Acts. The hunters turned the seals to near extinction in the Arctic Ocean, and therefore turned to Bottle-nosed whales during the 1870s. Norway maintained a monopoly on European whaling until 1883, first and foremost due to Svend Foyn's patent rights to whaling techniques and inventions. Over-hunting in the Arctic eventually drove the whalers to Antarctica. By the beginning of the 20th century, Tønsberg had lost its preeminence in the whaling industry to the neighboring city of Sandefjord. Sandefjord, which lies just south of Tønsberg, later became known as the world's whaling capital.

During the German occupation of Norway in World War II, the Berg concentration camp was constructed near Tønsberg.

Get in[edit]

By plane[edit]


By boat[edit]

A catamaran route connects Tønberg with Fredrikstad. Seven departures daily , +47 33347200, . Adults kr 160, students kr 130, children kr 100.

By rail[edit]

Tønsberg is on the Oslo-Skien line (Vestfoldbanen). There are 22 trains daily between Oslo and Tønsberg.

Get around[edit]

Vestfold Kollektivtrafikk (Vestfold Public Transport) operates a decent bus network, time tables can be found online and in buses.

Taxi: Tønsberg Taxi, +47 33301111. Availability of taxis is generally fairly good, however, prices are rather high – as can be expected in Norway.


Castle Rock Tower.
  • Castle Rock (Slottsfjellet), +47 33311872. A hill in the middle of the town. On the top is the ruin of the old castle, and the Castle Rock Tower.
    • 1 Castle Rock Tower (Slottsfjelltårnet), +47 33348126. The 17 m (56 ft) high observation tower on top of Castle rock, is a landmark for Tønsberg. The tower was built in 1888. Adults kr 20, children kr 10. Slottsfjellstårnet (Q65236276) on Wikidata
  • 2 Royal Mound (Oseberghaugen), Slagendalen, +47 33057062. The grave of Viking Queen Alvhild. The viking ship Oseberg was found here, after archaeological excavations.
  • 3 Tønsberg Cathedral, Storgaten 52, +47 33374700. Built in 1858. Tønsberg Cathedral (Q2118647) on Wikidata Tønsberg Cathedral on Wikipedia
  • 4 Castle Rock Museum, part of The Vestfold Museums (Slottsfjellsmuseet, del av Vestfoldsmuseene), Farmannsveien 30 (a few minutes walk from town centre. Car parking, bus stop.), +47 33312919, . Tu W F-Su 11:00-16:00, Th 11:00-19:00, M closed. Contains among other thing: viking ships, model of Tunsberg Castle, local art, history, whaling, walk inside skeletons from a blue whale and other whales. Café open most days in summer season.
    The museum is wheelchair accessible; the mountain tower and recreated traditional farm area out back are not. Some paths up the mountain are supposed to be wheelchair accessible, but very steep.
    Discounted prices may require official card showing proof of status. Mountain, farm area, tower, and World War II bunker inside mountain are free. Tower open saturdays and sundays, and in summer same days as museum.
    Adults 100 kr, retirees/disabled/students/children 7-17 yr 70 kr, children below 6: free. Often free for everyone on tuesdays in winter half.
  • Haugar Art Museum (Haugar Vestfold Kunstmuseum) – located in the former Seamen's School in the middle of Tønsberg, the brick building was built 1918–21. It is in the parkland between the site of the ancient assembly of Haugating and the two Viking era mounds.
  • Foynegården – the city's best-preserved merchant's yard. Foynegården is the site of a patrician houses from the 1700s where Svend Foyn was born in 1809.
  • Ruins of St. Olav's Church (Olavskirken) – Former monastery founded in 1191, near the current Tønsberg Library.
  • Ruins of St Michael's Church (Mikaelskirken) are still visible on top of Castle Mountain by Tønsberg Fortress. The church was mentioned among the royal chapels. It is believed to have been destroyed in 1503 when Swedish soldiers razed fortifications.
  • 5 Sem Church (Sem kirke), Jarlsberggata 4. Vestfold's oldest stone church built before 1100 in the Romanesque style, near the Jarlsberg Estate. Sem Church (Q15621282) on Wikidata Sem Church on Wikipedia
  • Tønsberg Cathedral (Tønsberg domkirke) – Brick church from 1858 with pulpit from 1621 and an altarpiece from 1764.


  • Fjærholmen (10 km away from Tønsberg out on an island, reachable by bus or car). Swim in the Oslo-fjord. The temperature in the sea will normally be 18-22 °C (64-72 °F). The same place will also be the area where all have their private sailing boat and if you are lucky - maybe somebody will bring you along for a sailing tour. Just be brave and ask!
  • Slottsfjell festival, one of the biggest happenings in Tønsberg through the year. People all over the country come to Tønsberg to participate.
  • Tunsberg whiskyfestival. Annual festival dedicated to whisky.
  • Tønsberg middelalderfestival. Annual medieval fair.
  • Tønsberg Vikingfestival. Annual viking festival.
  • 1 Midgard Viking Centre (Midgard vikingsenter), Birkelyveien 9, 3184 Borre, +47 33071850.


  • Farmandstredet (Close to the central bus station). Shoppingmall
  • Roar i Bua, Honnørbrygga, +47 90654590, . A popular seafood shop. Buy some fresh shrimps and sit on the quay and eat them raw and throw the leftover to the seagulls.



  • Havariet, Nedre Langgate 30 E, +47 33358397. Good food at a fair price and in the summer you can enjoy the summer outside, at the seaside.


  • Pascal Brasserie, Nedre Langgate 49, +47 33359700, fax: +47 33359797. M-Sa 12:00-22:30. French cuisine.


  • Brygga restaurant, Nedre Langgate 32, +47 33311270. M-W Su 11:00-00:00, Th-Sa 11:00-03:00.
  • Apollon Tønsberg, Rådhusgaten 4. Craft beer and vinyl shop.



  • 1 Tønsberg Vandrerhjem (Tønsberg HI Hostel), Dronning Blancas gate 22 (just below Slottsfjellet, 5 minutes walk from the railway station), +47 333 12 175. A couple of computers in the reseption and free WLAN to keep you connected to the rest of the world. dorm from 350 kr.


Go next[edit]

Østre Bolærne. (Author: Chell Hill)

Bolærne: During the summer you can take a small ferry to this island in the Oslofjord, the journey cost kr 140 (roundtrip, adults), kr 70 (roundtrip, children). The journey takes 50 min, one-way. The island was a coastal artillery fortress, opened for the public in 2005. You can stroll along the island - or dive directly from the rocks or just sit in the small harbour looking on the traffic of private summer boats. On top of the island there will be a small viewpoint where you can see all the cruiseboats and ferries passing on the way to and from Oslo.

Routes through Tønsberg
KristiansandStokke  W  E  HortenOslo

This city travel guide to Tønsberg is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.