The Old Town of Fredrikstad is located 100 km south of Oslo. The nearest airport is Moss Lufthavn Rygge (30 km). Fredrikstad has a population of 74,000 inhabitants and 300 of them live in The Old Town.
The history of The Old Town dates back to 1567. Sarpsborg, a little further upstream, was totally destroyed by our arch enemy, Sweden. When it was decided to rebuild the town, the Danish-Norwegian King Fredrik II listened to the pleas of the people. They insisted that their town should be easy to defend and relocated to a place where they could more easily earn money to support themselves. The eastern side of the Glomma estuary seemed the ideal choice. For the first time in Norwegian history a town was named after a person (town of Fredrik). And even though those annoying Swedes were always looking for a quarrel, the secure fortress town was worthy of its royal name. Today The Old Town is regarded as one of Europe´s most distinctive historical attractions – bringing visitors face to face with 450 years of history.
Built at the Glomma estuary, Fredrikstad’s outlook to develop as a market town was good. But despite royal privileges granted to it, development was slow and unsure. One reason for the stagnation was a string of fires that destroyed the town several times. In 1658 Norway had to cede Bohuslen and Bohus Fortress to Sweden. Suddenly Fredrikstad assumed great strategic importance and permanent defensive walls were built around it. The plan for the town’s defence were drawn up by Willem Coucheron and approved by King Frederik III in 1663. Fredrikstad Fortress was regarded as one of the country’s most important defences, and housed the magazines of both the naval fleet and the southern regiments of the army. In the shadow of the cannon on the fortress, Peter Wessel Tordenskiold had his naval base for operations along the Bohuslen coast. In its heyday the fortress had 200 cannon and would be defended in times of war by up to 2000 soldiers.
In August 1814 Swedish troops approached the fortress by sea from Strömstad, attacking it at a vulnerable time. After two days the fortress capitulated and the town surrendered to the Swedish. The fortress was decommissioned in 1903, but the Old Town and its military fortifications are a heritage site, which has no equal in Scandinavia. Many similar fortress towns have been demolished in the name of progress, but Fredrikstad’s Old Town has been preserved for posterity. From 1990-1994 the fortifications underwent extensive restoration work costing 20 million kroner, a project led by the Ministry of Defence in cooperation with the Department of the Environment and Fredrikstad Municipality. In 2002 the Østfold Regiment was disbanded; 350 years of military presence in the fortress town came to an end. In December 2008 the Directorate for Cultural Heritage listed Fredrikstad’s military buildings, which are now used for civilian activities.