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The area around Mjøsa lake is renowned for its cultural landscapes and incredible manor farms. Each farm has a fascinating history to explore, along with unique culinary and nature experiences. Plan your cosy farm holiday with our tips on what to see, eat, and experience.

Start exploring

If you're heading north from Oslo in the direction of Trondheim, you're most likely travelling on the E6 motorway. The E6 is a popular route through Norway, but what most visitors don't know is that they are passing a countryside paradise on their way.

So, when you reach Ringsaker municipality, an hour and half outside Oslo, do make a very rewarding detour to the idyllic Nes peninsula and Helgøya island. Listen to the bumblebees buzzing among the fields of barley, feel the hectic pace of urban life subside, and breathe in the fresh country air. 

The landscape is open, with large farmland areas, only interrupted by the shimmering blue lake. Surrounding the lake are numerous traditional farms, some of which have been here for generations. At one farm, you might find a farm shop offering a taste of local specialities, another makes the most incredible home-cooked meals, while some welcome you to a rural overnight stay. What do you want to explore first?

One of the really great things about the farmland around Mjøsa lake and at Nes and Helgøya, is that it's excellent to explore by bike, car, boat, or on foot. And what a place to go on an adventure! Small country lanes take you from one highlight to another.

Whether you're travelling as a couple, a group of friends, or solo, you will definitely find a place and activity that's perfect for you.

Let's take a round trip of the area!

Hovelsrud's historic garden

Hovelsrud's garden has not always been as spectacular as it is today. Between the 19th century and when Marianne became the owner in 2009, the property was very different from how it had been in her great-great-grandfather's day. But once Marianne took charge, the work to bring both the house and the garden back to their original state began in earnest. It was a massive undertaking, with an even more impressive result.

"For me, it was important to return the garden to how it used to look like in the 1840s. There's so much history here. It's been fun doing it as well," says Marianne.

One thing Marianne really likes about her garden, is that almost everything grown in it is edible. Here, you can stroll among gooseberry and blackcurrant bushes, and pick apples, pears, plums, and more.

"I did a lot of research to make sure we planted the right varieties, so the garden could be as authentic as possible. Luckily, we found several documents describing the different plants that used to be in the garden. And of course, I had a lot of help from experts in the field," says Marianne.

In 2012, Marianne was awarded the National Cultural Landscape Award for her amazing garden, and in 2014 she also won the Europa Nostra Award.

Want to go for a stroll? As a visitor, you can book a tour of the beautiful garden complex, and have a taste of its abundance as well! You'll find juices and jams made from berries and fruit from the garden in the farm shop.

Rural accommodation

Marianne and her family did not only restore the garden, they also restored a small barn, an idyllic cottage, and an old farmhouse on their property. During summer, you can spend the night in one of their houses! Perfect for those who want more time to experience idyllic Helgøya.

Sommerfjøset (the summer barn) is truly unique, and is situated right by the lake. This was once the place where cows were milked in the summer. Now it's a relaxing place between the lake and the cornfields. When you wake up in the morning, a breakfast made from local ingredients will be delivered to your door.

Villa Leonore is a holiday home built in 1908 for the tramway director's wife, Leonore. Here, you'll even have a small kitchen garden from which to supply yourself!

Havrebakken is an old farmhouse, which was restored with the help of a local fund to support selected cultural landscapes that have a rich agricultural history. The farmhouse is located right next to the forest and offers views of Lake Mjøsa.

Where do you want to stay?

Organic chicken from the farm

Hovelsrud is much more than its garden and idyllic surroundings, it's also a fully operating farm! In 2016, Marianne started farming chicken. She had no doubts about how she wanted to do it.

"It had to be organic. As a lawyer, I have worked a lot with animal welfare, so for me personally, it was a goal to make sure that the chicken had a good life. That's why we only have certified organic chicken. The chickens have a large outdoor area where they can play and explore and they grow more slowly than most chickens that are industrially farmed. As a result, the flavour of the meat is just next level," says Marianne.

Hovelsrud was the first chicken farm in Norway to be granted the Animal Protection Label, Dyrevernmerket, which guarantees that the animals have better space and are healthier and more active than non-labelled, industrially farmed chickens.

The manorial Hoel farm

"It's sort of a cliché to say it, but this place is truly unique. When you arrive at the farm, you get an immediate feeling of stress-relief. And that's what we want our guest to feel as well," says Christian Fredrik Sandberg Hoel, owner of Hoel farm.

Christian Fredrik, together with his wife Sabine, is the fourth generation of his family to run the farm. The oldest part of today's main building dates from 1719, but artefacts found on the property indicate that there has been a settlement there since the 6th century. Over the years, the farm has been both the property of the church and the crown at various times, but has been privately held since the end of the 17th century.

The farm is idyllically situated in a lush green landscape, and it's easy to spot with its bright red colour and characteristic clocktowers. It's an area that many associate with more southerly climes.

"Some call this area 'Norway's Tuscany'," says Christian Fredrik.

Fresh from the soil

At Hoel farm they take farm food to a whole new level. Hoel's head chef, Truls Evensen, has 15 years of experience. Together with his creative chef Robert Petersen, whose resume includes a stint at the incredible Noma restaurant in Copenhagen, they serve up magical dishes made with local flavours.

"Everything we cook is either locally produced or farmed right here at Hoel. We have a herb garden in the back, our own potatoes, barley, rhubarb, and grapes. Mjøsa lake provides us with fresh fish, while we buy meat and grain from farms in the area. We also farm our own chicken at Hoel," says Christian Fredrik, adding that they farm a total of 190,000 chickens a year!

If you dine at Hoel, expect quality and luxury. And of course, a menu dictated by fresh local and seasonal ingredients.

Norwegian design

The Nes peninsula and Helgøya island is not only a place for rural overnight stays and farming. It's also a place full of people who dare to follow their dreams and who are not afraid to make unconventional choices. One of them is Edel Urstad, the woman behind Edel Designa design gallery at the farm Alhaug Gard.

At Edel Design, you'll find clothes made from natural materials only, designed by Edel herself. Each piece is unique, and specially tailored for the buyer. This is not a place for fast fashion, it's a place for luxury and quality. One of Edel's specialities is year-round wool, which keeps you cool during hot summer days, and warm in the cold winters. Linen is another material you will find a lot of in her shop.

"The idea is to make practical, long-lasting clothes that can be worn on any occasion," says Edel.

Edel's boutique and design gallery is located in the old barn at Alhaug Gard, and the fitting room is in the farm's former silo. It's a place that's always filled with laughter and warmth, where people love to spend time. The clothes are made by hand in the attic workshop, directly above the boutique.

Alhaug is also a living farm that grows organic blackcurrant, which is supplied to both the Royal Palace and the Michelin-starred restaurant Maaemo in Oslo, as well as several eateries in Trondheim.

Dress like Michelle Obama

People seem to have fallen in love with Edel's clothes, and her way of running a clothing shop. In 2009, Edel was awarded Bedriftsutviklingsprisen – a prestigious Norwegian award given to those who have established a successful business based on rural and agricultural resources.

The prize also led to a special guest finding the design gallery. When Barack Obama came to collect his Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo the same year, First Lady Michelle purchased several items from Edel Design.

Are you a size 'sweet', 'right in the middle', 'lovable', 'xtra lovable' or 'xtraxtra lovable'? Edel Design was an early adopter of body positivity. Edel think it's important that everyone can celebrate their looks in her clothes, regardless of which size they're wearing.

"We even have a compliment guarantee. It says that if you don't get a compliment while wearing my design, you can return the piece," says Edel.

Farm adventures

Find more places to stay and things to do by Mjøsa lake.

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