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Ancient Tonsberg

According to old historical sources Tonsberg city was founded in year 871 AD, and had a prominent position during the viking age.

The development of a town
From the 800 to 1300 AD, buildings and market places was developed in Tunsberg (old name for Tonsberg). The king handed out properties near the coast to his most entrusted men.  The medieval city with the town centre, the town fields and later churches and street plans, was built from 1130 AD to 1536 AD. The eldest town and the royal estate was north in todays town. At the mountain (Slottsfjellet), the castle Tunsberghus (Tonsberghouse) was built during 1300s. In the south part of the city there was the Olavsklosteret (monastery).

Recession and boom
The big town fire of 1536 changed the livelihood of the city. All the time until the end of 16. century was characterized with recession. But from 1750 AD, a dawning expansion started with shipping and rope turn industry. New economic growth followed after the start of seal and whale hunting, and there was great changes in the city structure. Tonsberg became a centre for trade, and developed rapidly from 1950. Many old buildings were demolished to give space for new and modern ones.

Preserving old parts
In the 1970ties, there occured a great wish to preserve parts of the old city. Traffic solutions, building of great shopping centres, expansion of trade areas, preserving open areas and the old street plan from the medieval age is on the agenda for local politicians. Still, Tonsberg has managed to keep it’s character as small, and compact town, with a mixture of buildings from modern and ancient times.

You can take a guided walk in ancient Tonsberg, led by ten information signs, telling about monastery life, whaling, city fires and medieval ages.

Please find more information at the Tønsberg Tourist office!

Take a trip to Slottsfjellsmuseet in Tønsberg and learn more about the viking ages and the whaling history.


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