While in Oslo on a research trip for Moon Norway, I took the train from Oslo S to Fredrikstad to check out the town's appeal as a day trip for visitors to Oslo. My verdict: It's worth the trip for the remarkable old town.
The fortified Gamle Fredrikstad (Old Town) drips character from every corner and even though many of the old buildings now house boutiques and cafes, it’s all been done with a sense of respect for the area's history and traditions.
Exploring the Old Town
There’s precious little to see in the modern downtown district of Fredrikstad. Instead, visitors should head straight for the ferry terminal.
Assuming you arrive by train, exit the station using the main entrance and follow the road (Jernbanegata) around the left of the small park you see in front of you. When you reach a T-junction, turn left onto Ferjestedsveien and follow the road down to the water to the small pier in front of you.
The boat across to the old town is free and fairly regular throughout the day, as it's an important transport link for residents and workers, not just tourists. Most of the time the boat will be waiting and you can board immediately.
The old town is ideal to just potter around, although there's plenty worth seeking out too. Resist the temptation to dive straight in and stroll the perimeter to take in the fortifications and views across the water to the other parts of Fredrikstad. At the southerly end you'll find the Bastion 5 art gallery and adjacent Café Magenta, one of many lovely cafes on the island. Other sights include East Fredrikstad Church, the Glass Factory, and Fredrikstad Museum, sadly only open during the summer months.
Open on weekends, Gamlebyen Miniature Railroad is worth the small 40kr entrance fee:
Behind the Old Town on the rocky outcrop of Galgeberget is Kongsten Fort, built around 1680. As you'll see from the photos elsewhere on this page, I made my trip in January during one of the coldest days of the year, but in the summer the Old Town and fortress grounds are a much more appealing prospect. Look!
Although no one ever died in battle at Kongsten, many died of disease. So much so, that it's said soldiers used to drink several litres of beer a day in place of the unsafe water. Hic!
The modern city centre has everything you would expect – library, cinema, cafes, restaurants and shopping centres – but there's not a great deal to interest the day-tripper beyond lunch. The promenade is worth a stroll in the summer months, or take the passenger ferry (next to the Old Town express service) that zips around the many waterways for an alternative perspective of Fredrikstad.
Summer boat trips
This corner of Østfold really shines during the summer months. Boat trips are available to the attractive Hvaler archipelago. Popular spots include the fishing village Utgårdskilen on Vesterøy, an island with three nature reserves, and the sheltered Akerøy complete with lovingly-restored fort.
How to get there
The easiest way to travel is by train from Oslo S. The hourly service costs 215kr and takes just over an hour. It can get quite busy during commuter hours but is pleasantly quiet at other times, so plan accordingly.
Alternatively, with some advance planning the TIMEkspressen bus service can be as cheap as 95 kroner, with the journey taking just under an hour and a half.
Where to stay
As the title of this post suggests, I think the town can comfortably be explored with just a day trip from Oslo. But if you're the type who enjoys taking your time, I have one recommendation of where to spend the night.
Easily the most unique hotel in all of Fredrikstad, Gamlebyen Hotell is the only accommodation located within the walls of the Old Town. White wood dominates the interior and each of the 15 bright rooms are individually decorated. No breakfast is included but a discounted deal is available with the adjacent café.