The Old Town of Fredrikstad - The Fortified Town

All photography provided by Dahl Media

 

 

The Old Town (Gamlebyen)

The Old Town is very close to downtown Fredrikstad - just two minutes away with the town ferry across Glomma, and you'll find yourself in one of the world's best preserved fortress cities. The Old Town has an almost magnetic atrraction for visitors. Here you walk on cobblestone streets, soaking in impressions from exciting views of the empire-inspired blocks of brick buildings and colorful wooden houses. Here are a number of personal and unique shops in a cozy 1700s environment where small shops and second-hand stores lie side by side with all the galleries and cafés.

In the Old Town you can visit the Fredrikstad Museum, the Glass Hut, the Jorunn Bråthen Pottery, art galleries, the Art Center Bastion 5, the Whaling Museum, the Model Railway Center and the Santa Night House, where Christmas products are sold all year long.

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The Fortress Path (festningsløypa) is a walk that takes you to places and buildings where you can learn a lot about the everyday life in a fortress and national military historical events. Along the way are numbered signs to follow while reading the self-guiding map. The length of the walk is approximately 2 kilometres and the time to finish the trip is calculated to about an hour and a half at strolling pace.

You may feed the ducks, study the birdlife in the moat, take a ferry ride to Gressvik and back, bring a guidebook and study the city and visit the free market on Saturdays. There is a playgound for children, several restaurants and daily guided tours in the summertime. We highly recommend that you catch a guided tour in historical surroundings once you've made it to the Old Town of Fredrikstad.

 

The History

The Old Town is the oldest part of Fredrikstad. It was founded on the 12th of September 1567 on the east side of Glomma, where the river splits into two courses. King Frederick II signed the city founding letter and Fredrikstad became the first Norwegian city founded since the Middle Ages, and the first to be named after the king by the king's permission. It is a fun oddity that King Fredrik himself never visited the city he lent his name to, but he sits proudly on his pedestal in the town square, nonetheless.

The background for the founding of Fredrikstad in 1567, was a Swedish attack and torching of the city of Sarpsborg the same year during the Nordcic Seven Years War. Sarpsborg's exposed location led the citizens to ask King Frederick's permission to rebuild the city closer to Glomma's outlet. They felt that it would be easier to defend the city here and at the same time provide good living conditions for the citizens.

Night in the Old Town

When Norway lost the Bohuslen area with the Bohuslen fortress to Sweden in 1658,  Fredrikstad was an important border town. The construction of a brand new fortress commenced in 1663, based on blueprints by the dutch engineering officer Willem Coucheron. Fredrikstad became the army's main supply base and training center in the South of Norway.


Star-Shaped Fortress System

Fredrikstad is one of three Norwegian cities that have been fortified, and the only one where the fortifications are still intact. Fredrikstad Fortress was built according to the old-Dutch system, with wide water-filled moats and deep earth walls. The fortress has three full and two half bastions on its land side and protruding star spikes with room for cannon.

The ravelins lie in the moats, and outside the fortress are advanced fortifications like the Kongsten Fortress. Towards the river the fortifications consist of a solid stone wall reinforced with earth walls. The entrance to the fortress was across the Vinde bridge and through the Voll gate, or through one of the gates towards the docks on the Glomma waterfront.

 

 

200 Years Without Attacks

We should be grateful that it's been 200 years since the Old Town was subject to shelling from an alien invading force. That one of the best preserved fortress cities is so idyllic today, is because Fredrikstad Fortress has avoided actions of war for the past 200 years.

In contrast to the Fredriksten Fortress in Halden, Fredrikstad Fortress has a less glorious war history. The fortress was attacked only once, in August 1814. The fortress was old, in poor condition and weakly manned. It took Crown Prince Karl Johan Bernadotte just a few hours of bombardment before the fortress surrendered.

It should be mentioned in this context that the Fredrikstad Fortress was not attacked for 150 years after it was built. It is therefore fair to assume that it had a deterring effect on the neighboring country in the east. Not even King Carl XII dared to attack the city, despite the fact that he had troops nearby and also despite the fact that the fortress restrained the river and its importance as a communication point between Norway and Denmark.