The present-day Vardøhus Fortress is both the world’s northernmost and at the same time Norway’s easternmost fortress. It is located in Vardø, which is Western Europe's only town in the arctic climatic zone, in the county of Finnmark.
Except for a few minor changes, it appears today as it did when it was built in 1738. It is shaped as a perfect eight-pointed star, with low, stone-clad earth-walls, based on Central European principles. Inside the walls, there are nine characteristic buildings grouped around a courtyard. With its shape, Vardøhus Fortress is a unique example of cultural and military history.
Sights and attractions
The Royal Beam
In 1599, Christian IV wrote his initials on a beam from the "Castle" (fortress number two). Since then, all royalty visiting Vardøhus Fortress have written their name on the beam – which has been named The Royal Beam. The Royal Beam is on exhibit in the museum at the fortress.
The King’s Gate and The Queen’s Gate
The two main gates into the fortress - The King’s Gate and The Queen’s Gate – were erected in connection with the visit of King Haakon VII and Queen Maud to Vardø on their coronation tour in 1907. Unfortunately, the original gates have been destroyed. What you see today are copies of the gates.
The Cannon Carriage
The cannon carriage which is displayed in its own building is the only complete one of its kind.
The Rowan Tree
Vardø and Vardøhus Fortress are located in an arctic climate zone. The average temperature in summertime is only 10 degrees Celsius. For that reason, trees do not grow in this area. The "only" tree in town is the "Rowan" growing by the commandant’s residence. The tree is covered up every winter, not only because of the cold, but also to protect it against the sea salt which comes with the wind.
At the opening of the summer season in June, the rowan tree is unpacked by school children in an official ceremony. There is a museum on the fortress grounds.
A series of fortresses
The present-day structure is the third in a series of fortresses in Vardø. The first was built around the year 1300 by the Norwegian king Haakon V Magnusson. The fortress was buildt to mark Norwegian dominion and to ensure that tax income from the citizens of the county of Finnmark went to the Norwegian king.
Around the year 1450, a new castle and grounds were built. Today, there are no visible remains left of these first two fortresses above ground.
Today, Vardøhus Fortress is primarily a flag/salute fortress. The Fortress is open to the public and houses a unique museum.
The flag flies over Vardøhus every day, and as the only division in Northern Norway with salute duty, salutes are fired on Constitution Day on the 17 May, on the 7 June, as well as on all royal birthdays. In addition, the fortress fires a salute to the sun when its entire disc becomes visible over the horizon after the darkness of winter.
During World War II, Vardøhus Fortress was the Norwegian military facility which flew the Norwegian flag longest. As the first military facility during the liberation of Norway, the flag was flown again in the autumn of 1944 when the Germans left Finnmark.