Kongsvinger region: Winter experiences to remember
BY MARIA VOLE
Tucked away in Innlandet county, the historic town of Kongsvinger hasn’t received as much attention from foreign visitors as it deserves. A true hidden gem, the Kongsvinger region is a fantastic tourist destination with plenty to offer for those interested in history, cultural experiences and natural adventures alike.
Kongsvinger is a great destination for travellers no matter the season, but winter is an especially fantastic time to visit the region, due to the varied experiences that await visitors.
A vibrant history
The region comprises six municipalities: Kongsvinger, Eidskog, Grue, Åsnes, Nord-Odal and Sør-Odal. Across the region, a high value is placed on preserving cultural history and paying homage to the traditional way of life, and there’s plenty for visitors to do and see.
As a historic city, Kongsvinger has plenty to offer history buffs and families with kids who would love to learn about the past. Øvrebyen is Kongsvinger’s well-preserved, protected old town, full of colourful wooden houses, charming cafes and independent shops. Overlooking the town is Kongsvinger Festning, a well-preserved fortress from the 1600s. The fortress is one of the town’s key tourist attractions, and its grounds are open 24/7 all year round.
Øvrebyen is the oldest district in Kongsvinger and plays host to several interesting museums. Kvinnemuseet, Norway’s only women’s museum, can be found at Rolighed, and Kongsvinger Fortress Museum is located within the fortress. Kongsvinger Museum is situated just below the fortress, offering exhibitions and guided tours.
For visitors from the hustle and bustle of Oslo, the village charm and stunning natural surroundings represent a welcome change and a chance to reconnect with nature. There are plenty of opportunities for camping outside or spending a few days living on a farm or rural guesthouse.
“For those of us from this region, it may not seem that exotic – but for people who have grown up in Oslo and other big cities, it’s actually a pretty unique experience,” says Ane Ingeborg Sandnæs of Visit Kongsvingerregionen. Quite a lot of people feel the pull to get out of the city and enjoy a taste of slow living in rural villages, with farm stays being a popular option. Ingelsrud Gård is a popular accommodation option for those looking to try out off-grid living with an idyllic farm stay. The family farm Skarstad Gartneri, meanwhile, has been in operation for several generations, serving up home-cooked food to visitors.
For those who value modern comforts and a great Wi-Fi connection, staying in one of the local hotels might be a better option. Finnskogtoppen Hotel and Spa is a popular choice for visitors to the area – according to Sandnæs, it’s “Norway’s most peaceful spa”. This exclusive spa and wellbeing hotel is nestled deep within Finnskogen forest, among the trees and birds.
Another great option is to stay in the award-winning Festningen Hotel & Resort, located inside Kongsvinger Fortress. This unique hotel was crowned Europe’s best fortress hotel, winning the Historic Hotel Castle Award in 2017, and it offers fantastic views of the river Glomma.
Reconnect with nature
There’s plenty to attract nature enthusiasts to the Kongsvinger region. With the huge expanse of the legendary Finnskogen forest before you, there are a lot of opportunities for outdoor activities. “At the gates of Finnskogen, there’s a world of quiet and solitude. The nature, the forest, the starry skies above in the night – it’s a fantastic place to enjoy unique experiences in the local area,” Sandnæs says.
No matter what you’re into, you’re likely to find it here. Ice fishing, walks in the mystical Finnskogen, cross-country skiing, guided fishing trips, canoe tours, hikes, scenic bike rides and much more await visitors to Kongsvinger.
Located very close to the Oslo region, Kongsvinger is just an hour’s scenic train ride away. While Kongsvinger has been a bit of a hidden gem traditionally, Sandnæs points out how easy it would be for those visiting Oslo to enjoy a detour to the Kongsvinger region. “For tourists travelling to or from Oslo, why not take a few days in Kongsvinger to experience something out of the ordinary?” she says.
Unique cultural experiences
Kongsvinger has played a big role in Norway’s cultural history, and there are plenty of chances to learn more about this while you’re in the area. The well-known painter Erik Werenskiold was born and raised here, and there’s a new exhibition on him at Kongsvinger Museum. Werenskiold was a key figure in Norwegian art and culture, forming the Lysaker circle with high-profile contemporaries like Henrik Ibsen and Edvard Grieg.
Magnor Glassverk is also well worth a visit during your time in Kongsvinger. This 120-year-old company is one of Norway’s biggest and most well-known glassworks. Beyond selling their handcrafted wares in their factory outlet, they also showcase glassblowing in action and put on a range of exciting events.
Pan Treetop Cabins in Åsnes is another big attraction for the area. These modern purpose-built cabins are set within traditional surroundings in the depth of the forest. With fantastic views of the forest, it’s a beautiful spot for finding peace and serenity.
There are also fantastic opportunities for learning about the history of the Forest Finns in the area. In fact, Explore Finnskogen is a company committed to facilitating great experiences in the mystical forest – fishing, guided tours and great insight into the unique cultural heritage of the Forest Finns in Norway.
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