Gamle Fredrikstad: The Charming Old Town of Fredrikstad

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Welcome to Gamle Fredrikstad. An easy day trip from Oslo, Fredrikstad's old town is a great family-friendly way to spend a summer's day.

This is the charming old town of Fredrikstad in the southeast of Norway. The cobbled streets, old houses and star-shaped defensive walls and moat just drip with history, yet people live and work here.

Town square in old Fredrikstad, Norway.

In fact, on a sunny day the area bustles with life. People go about their daily business, side-by-side with camera-wielding tourists.

Where is Gamle Fredrikstad?

Fredrikstad is located approximately 100 km (62 miles) south of Oslo, on the eastern side of the Oslofjord. It's close to Sarpsborg, Halden and the Swedish border.

The old town is southeast of the modern city centre. It's a longer walk than you might expect, but free city ferries make the journey much more comfortable. It is however much closer to the train station, making a day trip from Oslo very easy.

Watch a walking tour

If you prefer to watch rather than read, check out this walking video through the heart of the old town. You can watch it below, or click over to YouTube if you prefer.

The walk starts at the port for the free city ferries and ends at the old Fredrikstad drawbridge. Enjoy the walk.

The history of Fredrikstad

Founded in 1567 by Frederik II, King of Denmark-Norway, the city served as a trading post between the European mainland and western Scandinavia. Fredrikstad was fortified to protect itself from the risk of Swedish invasion.

That's because the city's foundation was due to Sweden's destruction of Sarpsborg, upstream from Fredrikstad. Some people stayed behind to rebuild Sarpsborg and it would eventually regain its city status.

Burned to the ground twice, the fortifications of Fredrikstad were strengthened with a distinctive jagged moat. At the time, Fredrikstad became the best protected city in Norway.

Old Fredrikstad drawbridge
Old Fredrikstad drawbridge

A suburb grew up on the west side of the river around 1735. Because more land was available, the suburb grew quickly and eventually would become the city centre of the modern Fredrikstad.

The city achieved success during the 1800s as timber exports grew. In 1879 the railway arrived in Fredrikstad, leading to further growth for the city.

Because the modern city grew up on the other side of the river, the Old Town has been left largely intact and its historic character preserved. That being said, the area suffered greatly during a fire in the 18th century, requiring much rebuilding work.

Highlights of Gamle Fredrikstad

Simply wandering the streets and river around the old town is enough to absorb much of the atmosphere. But there are also a couple of specific attractions to watch out for.

Shop and bench in Gamle Fredrikstad.

Fredrikstad Museum: Head to the southern end of the district (turn right from the ferry) to see the skeletons found buried under the city hospital and now on display at Fredrikstad Museum.

The small museum won’t take up too much of your time, but make sure to ask about some of the area’s best-preserved buildings, such as the convict prison and stone storehouse.

Kongsten Fort: Continue your tour of Fredrikstad’s history at the well-preserved embankments, turrets, and stone walls of Kongsten Fort, standing guard on a hill behind the Old Town.

Pick up a map to follow a self-guided tour, or just explore the pleasant grounds by yourself and let your mind wander to a time long forgotten. Alternatively, do as the locals do—bring a picnic and just relax.

Kongsten Fort in Fredrikstad, Norway.
Kongsten Fort in Fredrikstad.

Østre Fredrikstad Church: Built in 1779, this striking church is made of stone and has space for 425 people. Surrounded by a small park, the church stands on the location of other churches that were destroyed by fire.

Model Railway Centre: A curious addition to the Old Town’s attractions, the Model Railway Centre is a must for kids, as well as adults with even a passing interest in trains.

Model trains run between different rooms, each with its own landscape. The attention to detail in the scenes is stunning, from people arguing in the streets to an almost-hidden couple sunbathing in the forest.

Kids can control a small track themselves, while adults may feel inspired to dig out their dusty old train sets when they hear the entire center was the vision of just one man.

Street in Gamle Fredrikstad.
Street in Gamle Fredrikstad.

The streets of Gamle Fredrikstad are now packed with galleries, cozy shops, cafes and places to eat. There's a busy calendar of concerts and other events, while the weekend markets in the run-up to Christmas are always popular.

How to get to Fredrikstad

From Oslo, it's super easy to get to Fredrikstad. Vy trains leave Oslo S hourly towards Halden, and take about one hour to reach Fredrikstad. The typical cost is around NOK 250 one-way.

From the train station, walk straight ahead down Jernbanegata then turn left towards the river. It takes just a few minutes to reach the city ferry port, from where regular ferries make the two-minute crossing.

There are other ferries that call at other ports in the city. All are free, but just make sure you are getting the right one to avoid frustration!

Regular buses are also available from Oslo Bus Terminal. The price is similar, although they take about 20 minutes longer.

Have you been to Gamle Fredrikstad? What's your favourite thing to do in the area?

About David Nikel

Originally from the UK, David now lives in Trondheim and was the original founder of Life in Norway back in 2011. He now works as a professional writer on all things Scandinavia.

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