In the Summer of 2021, together with my girlfriend Gabrielle, we sailed from Oslo and down the Norwegian “Sørlandskysten” Southern coast to Kristiansand. Along the way we discovered some really nice coastal towns. I’m going to cover four of them here on the blog: Nevlunghavn, Risør, Kragerø, and in this article I’ll write about Grimstad.
Hot dogs, Henrik Ibsen, good beer and delicious skolebrød (Norwegian pastry) – Grimstad ticks off a lot of my boxes. With the idyllic charm of the southern coast and a laid back vibe, this is definitely a place I’d like to sail back to.
How to get to Grimstad
Driving from Oslo it takes about 3,5 hours on the road E18 to get to Grimstad, and it’s only a quick 35 minute drive from Kristiansand in the south. As a day trip from Oslo I’d say it’s too far, and I would recommend spending a night and also combine it with a visit to Risør or Kristiansand. There are several hotels in town, and you can pick and choose between a guesthouse, bed and breakfast or a more modern 3 star hotel. If you are looking for a place a bit out of town and next to a beach, I can recommend Fevik Strand Hotel (Beach Hotel)
Grimstad is a town as well as a municipality. The name derives from “Grømstad” which was a name from when Norway belonged to Denmark. It is said that the name was misunderstood during the registration of Norwegian cities and small places, and therefor became Grimstad. The coat of arms with its blue background and yellow Brig (ship), shows how important shipping and fishing has been to the town.
Grimstad has been mentioned as far back as in the 16th century as a harbor, and by 1747, Grimstad was a well known sailing community and a recognized haunt for smugglers.
Like many of the coastal towns along Sørlandskysten (the southern coast) of Norway, Grimstad is surrounded by a skjærgård (many small islands). It has the characteristic white wooden houses, and many small streets and alleyways connect the town together. Perfect for strolling around and smelling the flowers..
Things to do in Grimstad
Grimstad has a lot to offer and it’s easy to spend a day or two here. Some of the main attractions are the City Museum and the Maritime Museum. The biggest attraction of them all is perhaps the Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen, and the legacy he has left in the town. Ibsen lived in Grimstad in his younger years when he was studying to become a pharmacist.
Henrik Ibsen – Photo: Daniel Georg Nyblinn
Today you can see visible clues of Henrik Ibsen all over town. He has his own Ibsen Museum in the old pharmacy, where he worked and wrote his first play (Catilina). And at the house of Grimstad Art Association you can see where he worked as an apprentice. But, Ibsen never ended up as a pharmacist, and instead worked as a writer, playwright and theatre director. Ibsen lived in Grimstad from 1843 to 1850.
Far in the North a great oak-tree soared,
The heathen days saw its dawning;
Deep down in the soil its root explored,
Full noble its heaven-bent awning;
The massive great branches, lush growth from the bole
Spread out from the Eider and north to the Pole,
It flaunted its shade over Svea’s reaches
And wreathed the Atlantic’s rock-bound beaches!
The Giant Oak by Henrik Ibsen (written in Grimstad)
Hot dogs, beer & skolebrød
Down by the harbor in Grimstad you find the legendary Nottos Hot Dog kiosk which has been serving hot dogs for more than 80 years. A favorite among both locals and visitors. The hot dogs are tasty, and quite nicely priced as well. 27 Kroner (3 USD) for a hot dog in a bread with fried onion on top. I never pass on a good hot dog deal, and ordered two…
Grimstad is home to the biggest craft beer brewery in Norway, Nøgne Ø (the naked island). They are also the first producer of Sake in Europe. At their brewery they got regular events and tours. You can find tickets and more information on their website. Two of my favorite beers from Nøgne Ø are their double IPA and Robust Porter. You can find their beers in many of the local bars and restaurants in Grimstad.
Another treat that Grimstad is well known for are their freshly baked skolebrød (school bread). Also known as “porke” on the local dialect. I was looking forward to trying them out, and they did not disappoint. Fresh from the baker and with a big dash of egg cream in the middle. Yum!
Go for a stroll in Grimstad
Like many of the small coastal towns in southern Norway, Grimstad is a very pedestrian friendly place. The harbor promenade stretches along the waterfront, and makes for a nice stroll to look at wooden boats and pop by the local seafood store. The town itself is full of small and narrow streets, with beautiful buildings and interesting little shops around every corner. On top of the town you find the Grimstad Church, where you also get a nice view of the town and the archipelago behind.
We spent a night and a full day in Grimstad, and are already planning our next visit to explore more of this idyllic town.
I hope you enjoyed this introduction to Grimstad! Tusen takk for reading!