In the Disney movie Frozen, the kingdom of Arendelle is named after the Norwegian town of Arendal. The real Arendal stands out for its own reasons.
Arendal is a picturesque archipelago on the southern coast of Norway and although we’re sure it’s magical covered in winter snow, it’s breathtaking in the summer. Arendal provides easy access to a number of equally charming villages with no shortage of things to do and see during the long summer days.
Merdø is one of those villages. It’s where the locals holiday so you know it’s special. Forget Uber. You’ll take a ferry to get to this car-free island. Its history is recorded as far back as the 1300’s, but burial mounds from the iron age found on two locations on the island suggest its history goes back much farther. What’s striking are the old wooden houses and narrow paths running from the museum to sandy beaches, and to a boulder and rock beach on the southern side of the island. The island is bicycle friendly and it’s one of the best ways to roam around and find your favorite spot. There will be many IG moments on this island. The peaceful and beautiful surroundings offer a number of great places to picnic and the town café can help you fill your picnic basket. There is also a museum which is open during the summer holiday season. Tours are offered in Norwegian so if you’re a bit rusty, brush up before going.
Kløcker’s House was once a wealthy burgher’s house that has been converted into a local museum and has a range of historical activities. Centrally located in Arendal at Tyholmen, visitors can get an idea of how wealthy citizens of Arendal lived in the 1700-1800’s, during the city’s golden age when Arendal was one of Europe’s major shipping ports. There is an old general store and museum, and old style hard candy adds an air of sweet nostalgia. The museum houses the world’s largest display of model ships in bottles, all made by the talented Kjell Birkeland.
Raet National Park is the place for swimming, canoeing, boat trips, camping and exploring a unique natural setting. Cycling, fishing, diving, birdwatching, idyllic harbors and exploring cultural heritage are also among the experiences visitors can have. Raet National Park really does have something for everyone.
Arendal offers a number of excellent hiking and biking tours. Bicycles are available for rent and the local tourist office has a brochure with cycle trip suggestions. During the summer months the white ski trails are transformed and the wide-open spaces, bathed in summer green, make great hiking trails.
A 10-minute drive from Arendal, on the southern part of the island of Tromøy, is Hove. This beautiful recreation area is part of a protected moraine that lies along the southern coast. Full disclosure, we didn’t know what a moraine was and were fascinated to learn it’s the glacially formed accumulation of unconsolidated glacial debris! Messy glacier waste…who knew? The whole area has been modified for walking with spots along the shore to take a break and some one-of-a-kind pics. There’s a beach and kiosk for campers during the summer season, and the area is used for hiking in both summer and winter. Spornes beach is also on the south side of Tromøy, close to Hove. There is a stunning view towards the Skagerrak, so if you’re still looking for that perfect IG moment, this could be it.
If there are kiddos in your mix, a trip to Arendal could make you a superstar in their eyes. If it’s an adults only trip, you won’t be disappointed. Norway is a stunningly beautiful country with tons to do, see and experience and Arendal is a great place to start.
Photo credit: VISIT SØRLANDET