A trip to Eidsvoll manor house, the place where Norway's constitution was agreed and signed more than 200 years ago.
After more than 10 years of living in Norway, it seemed about time I took the trip to Eidsvoll. Viewed as the birthplace of modern Norway, Eidsvoll holds a special role in the history of Norway.
Norway has a long history of course, stretching way back before 1814. But in 1814, the constitution of Norway was created that very much set the Norway of today in motion.
Representatives from all over Norway travelled to Eidsvoll for what would become one of the most important moments in Norwegian history. The manor house is now a museum known as Eidsvoll 1814.
What happened in 1814?
A constituent assembly was called to Eidsvoll, made up of 112 representatives from across Norway. They gathered at Eidsvoll from 10 April to 20 May, 1814.
Although Norway reluctantly entered into a union with Sweden soon afterwards, the constitution remained in place and 17 May is still celebrated to this day as Norway's national day.
From manor house to museum
Back in 1814, the manor house was a private home belonging to the owner of Eidsvoll Ironworks, located next to the nearby river. Today the area is home to a small hydropower plant and well-kept parkland.
The building itself has become a museum. Great efforts have been put into preserving the interior, so much so that you can only visit the building on a tour, no bags are allowed and you have to put on slippers over your shoes as you enter!
The manor house is an unrivalled example in Norway of neoclassical architecture. Inside, many of the rooms have been kept as they were in the 1800s, with some restorations taken place of course.
Of course, the highlight of the building is the assembly room where the constitution was debated and signed. On a tour you can see the room and sit on the benches while hearing about what happened from the guide.
But the manor house is about far more than the assembly room. The library, some of the bedchambers, the kitchens and an incredible narrow staircase were all interesting from an architecture and interior design point of view.
An exhibition of democracy
A neighbouring, more modern building hosts a small museum dedicated to the 1814 assembly and the development of democracy in general.
The museum tells the story of the constitution through the lens of others that came before and developments afterwards. It says that “despite its faults, the constitution provided a good foundation for the further development of democracy and the rule of law.”
The museum looks at grassroots reform movements and in particular, how the Age of Enlightenment led to massive upheavals the world over. The constitution of the United States is highlighted as a critical moment for influencing what would come next, including Nroway's constitution.
Visiting Eidsvoll 1814 museum
The museum is located at the village of Eidsvoll Verk, a few miles north of Oslo Airport and south of Eidsvoll itself. It's easy to get to Eidsvoll Verk on the train from Oslo S with several trains running every hour.
From Eidsvoll Verk, the manor house is a 15-20 minute walk or you can take a Ruter bus towards Eidsvoll that takes just a few minutes to reach the museum. The bus stop is right outside the train station and the bus journey is included in your four-zone ticket from Oslo.
You can buy tickets from the cafe and museum building before entering the manor house. Just be aware that you may have to wait a short while for a tour, perhaps longer if you want an English tour.
If you do want an English tour, it's worth checking in advance what time they run. For example, I arrived at 11.20. I was able to join a Norwegian tour starting at 11.30, but would have had to have waited until 12.30 to join an English language tour.
You can of course see the museum exhibits in the meantime, but still, it's wroth a little planning in advance to make the most of your visit.