The Norwegian Riviera in Pictures

Arendal & Hisøy island in Southern Norway

The southern coastline of Norway is blessed with picturesque towns and fishing villages around every corner.

Southern Norway is almost unknown by international visitors, bar the odd cruise ship that docks at Kristiansand on its way to the fjords.

But Norwegians know southern Norway as one of the country's best-kept secrets. In the summer, the climate is the best in the country and locals love nothing more than tootling around the idyllic islands and rocky coastlines in their small boats.

Much of Norway's epic coastline is dotted with picturesque towns and villages, but the stretch I'm talking about today is from the beginning of the Oslofjord at Sandefjord, all the down to the coast to Kristiansand and up towards Flekkefjord.

You'll often hear this region referred to as the Skagerrak coastline, named after the strait that runs between the southeast coast of Norway, the southwest coast of Sweden, and the Jutland peninsula of Denmark. Come my friends, for a journey around the Norwegian riviera!

Sandefjord

Sandefjord boat harbour
Sandefjord. Photo by Guimo (CC 2.0)

A former centre of the Norwegian whaling industry, the Sandefjord of today is a modern coastal city with interesting entertainment and cultural options.

The trail around the Vesterøya peninsular to the south of the city is a popular destination for walkers of all ages. The city is also the boarding point for the Color Line ferry to Strømstad, Sweden.

Risør

Risør harbour in Norway
Risør harbour in Norway. Photo: tourist at home (CC 2.0)

Despite its small size, Risør has a proud history of sailing ships and lumber export. Today's visitors wander around the white wooden houses that the village is known for.

The seafaring culture remains strong, with hundreds of wooden boats moored in the harbour. If you get the chance, visit the town's annual wooden boat festival, Trebåtfestivalen.

Tvedestrand

Tvedestrand coastline
Tvedestrand. Photo: sokiara (CC 2.0)

While also home to many gorgeous white wooden houses like Risør, Tvedestrand is best-known for its range of new and antique bookstores.

Once you've finished admiring the dusty tomes, don't miss Strykejernet, said to be Norway's narrowest house!

Meanwhile, the city centre is also home to a family-friendly outdoor waterpark, perfect on a warm summer day.

Arendal

Kolbjørnsvik at night
Kolbjørnsvik at night. Photo: Birgit Fostervold

Once you've finished wandering around Tyholmen, the old 17th-century part of Arendal, head to the harbour to experience the fish market, and your choice of several pubs and restaurants.

The picture above shows Kolbjørnsvik on Hisøy island, across the water from Arendal.

Grimstad

Boats in Grimstad harbour

The town of Grimstad has a claim to fame that should see the tourists flooding in: It gets more sun than any other town in Norway!

Make the most of the good weather by taking a stroll through the pedestrian-friendly town, which has a young vibe thanks to the University of Agder campus.

The region is also home to Nøgne Ø, one of Norway's best-loved craft breweries.

Lillesand

The Lillesand coastline

A charming alternative to the much bigger Kristiansand just 20 minutes away, Lillesand is a top location for domestic holidays and camping along the coastline.

The Norwegian author Knut Hamsun stayed in the charming Lillesand Hotel regularly in the 1930s, and won't take you long to understand why. A sightseeing trip around the Blindleia islands is highly recommended.

Kristiansand

The city beach of Kristiansand

The regional capital of southern Norway, Kristiansand offers a terrific combination of a relaxed coastal holiday and all the comforts of a modern city.

It's also easy and cheap (if you book in advance) to reach Kristiansand on the train from Oslo or Stavanger. Express buses are also available.

Kristiansand Fiskebrygga

Head to the fiskebrygge wharf (pictured above) to grab some fresh shrimps and enjoy them while you watch the small boats come and go. At the heart of the city is bystranda, one of only five Blue Flag beaches in all of Norway.

Flekkefjord

Kayaking in Flekkefjord

Marking the transition between southern Norway and the western fjord region, Flekkefjord has a strong relationship with the water.

The old houses of Hollenderbyen are a reminder of the town's important relationship with the Netherlands in the 16th and 17th-centuries, which you can learn more about at the Vest Agder Museum.

For a fun alternative to the usual tourist activities, take a summer rail bike tour along the former railway line.

The Norwegian Riviera: The Best of Southern Norway

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About the Author: 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 freelance writer for technology companies in Scandinavia.

12 Comments

  1. Loved the photos, from places I never got to visit, when I lived in Norway. Keep them coming. I now live in Australia, but is still a Norwegian by heart.

  2. Hi David thanks for your wonderful reporting about the southern coastline of Norway. But have a look at the sout east part of Oslofjorden from Moss to the Swedish boarder wish is filled with places with rich history and beautiful islands and where you have Fredrikstad with it’s old fortified town which is the best preserved fortified town in northern Europe which just celebrated it’s 450 years anawersery this month.
    Above for your information.
    Thanks best reg L.R.E.

    1. Hi! Thanks, although I don’t count that area as Southern Norway 🙂 I’ve written articles about Fredrikstad and Drøbak before, both of which also feature in Moon Norway. I look forward to getting back there someday!

  3. Thank you for sharing about the southern coastline of Norway, as it expands our vision of this beautiful country that I now call home after many decades in India.

  4. I so love your pictures and stories.
    We plan on coming to Norway in 6-12 months and have decided to re new our wedding vows there as my grandfather and family came from Oslo. We are the Iverson’s. Do you have a link of where I could buy a traditional wedding dress like a bridal boutique? I would so much appreciate it.
    Keep up the wonderful pictures and knowledge you are sharing.
    Thank you very much.

  5. I love Southern Norway. I live in Australia but in 1997 my husband and I went to live in Arendal for two years because of my husband’s work. What a beautiful town it is and we lived in Kolbjornsvik on Hisoy with a beautiful view across to Arendal. I used to catch the ferry from Hisoy across to Arendal.
    Southern Norway is absolutely beautiful.

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