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, Kragerø, Grimstad and in this article I’ll write about Risør.
When visiting the towns along Sørlandskysten, it can be hard to find a favorite. They all have their own special charm and ambience. But, if there is one town I like to go back to over and over again it’s Risør. This town is nick named “The White Town of Skagerrak” (Skagerrak is the sea area outside). Entering Risør and seeing many of its white wooden houses lined up by the waterfront you understand why it has this name. Risør is actually considered being one of the best preserved wooden towns in Europe. Also there is a long ship building tradition here, and the town hosts the annual Risør Trebåtfestival (wooden boat festival).
How to get to Risør
You can get to Risør from Oslo in a car in about 3 hours, and there are also frequent bus departures from the Oslo bus terminal. It can be done as a long day trip, but I would recommend spending the night so you can enjoy an evening stroll among the old houses. And perhaps hike to up to one of the many viewpoints and experience an amazing view of the town and the archipelago. There are also some nice historical hotels that are well worth spending a night or two at, such as The Small Hotel (det lille hotell)
Risør is one of the oldest towns in southern Norway. It got “shipping privileges” in 1630, and from 1723 it was registered as a merchant town. The White City has many of the characteristics of the towns in this part of the Norwegian coast line. Such as the large white villas down by the waterfront, and winding narrow roads leading in between small wooden houses where many of the locals live or have their small shops. Most of the city center of Risør got its shape after a big fire in 1861, which burned down more than 240 houses. Luckily the church was saved from the fire, and is standing as one of Norway’s most typical baroque churches, dating back to 1647.
I find Risør incredibly romantic. There are flowers everywhere, small benches to sit on and you can find some small paths leading you on a fairytale walk basically straight through some “private” gardens. The locals are very welcoming, and they want you to feel their hospitality when you visit. Here and there you can follow the small roads and paths to viewpoints that give you a stunning view over the town and the archipelago.
Strolling around presents many great views of the town and the harbor
Every year in early August, Risør hosts the famous “Wooden boat festival”. During the long weekend that the festival lasts more than 15.000 people come to visit to see some of the world’s most beautiful boats. This is a great event with not just boats, but also many concerts, art exhibitions and both modern and traditional events.
Masts of wooden boats with Risør waterfront in the back
If you are up for a nice hike while in Risør, I would recommend to head up on Risørflekken, the Risør Spot. From the hill behind the houses on the west side of town you can find a little forest, and many paths to hike on. At the very edge is this scenic viewpoint with an amazing view over the entire harbor and the archipelago. Definitely a place to be when the sun is setting and you need a quiet moment at the end of the day.
A panoramic view over Risør
With its long maritime history, Risør is oozing of martime culture and history. I especially like the many figureheads from ships hanging around in town. You can actually buy them in some places, and I think this would be the ultimate souvenir to bring home (if it can fit in your suitcase).
Gallionsfigur (figurehead) in Risør
In addition to all I’ve mentioned in this post there are many things to do in Risør. Enjoy some fresh shrimp down on the docks. Go for a small cruise in the archipelago. Go out to an old lighthouse (Stangholmen fyr) to have dinner, rent kayaks, join a fishing trip or jump into the sea for a nice refreshing swim. The possibilities are endless!
I hope you enjoyed this little introduction to Risør! Make sure to pay this gem of a place a visit next time you are in Norway. I’ll post some more photos below.
Tusen takk for reading!