From ghost town to creative hub
Nyksund was once one of the most vibrant fishing villages in Vesterålen. A prosperous place with a bright future. Until ...
... it became a ghost town in the 1970s.
The village was pretty much left to be lost to the sea.
Today, more than fifty years later, Nyksund has been reborn as a hip, creative haven.
Come taste everything this surprising gem in Northern Norway has to offer.
“The City in the Sea”
The Nyksund experience starts before you even reach the village itself. A narrow road that winds between mountain walls on one side and the open sea on the other provides glimpses of what awaits you. At the end of what feels like a desolate stretch, the small village's colourful buildings suddenly appear, their colours really popping against the dramatic natural surroundings.
"It's really unique. It's this combination of an extremely dense urban location, but set in such raw and brutal nature."
Sven Erik Tøien, local architect
Each and every house has its own distinct character, and some are built up on the hillside due to a lack of space – after all, there are 30 people who live here permanently!
Rise and fall
Around a hundred years ago, Nyksund was one of the largest and most important fishing villages in Vesterålen. Located north of Lofoten, at the outer edge of the wild and beautiful Vesterålen archipelago, Nyksund's proximity to fishing grounds made it an attractive fishing village.
During the skrei (Atlantic cod) season in winter, the population of Nyksund increased by several hundred people. The busy life along the quay led to a need for more space for processing the fish as Nyksund is concentrated on two small islands, Nyksundøya and Ungsmaløya, connected by a narrow breakwater.
"There was little space available on these islands for buildings. When the activities required more space, the operations were simply jammed inside the existing space," says Tøien.
Today, you can still see remnants of how the docks were built up to two and three floors high for loading and unloading fish – proof that Nyksund once had a booming economy.
But things went downhill in the 20th century. New technology was adopted in the form of engines and bigger vessels, and the harbour in Nyksund became too small. The fishing village of Myre took over as the most important harbour in the area, and the village was abandoned entirely in the early 1970s. Nyksund became a ghost town.
A new start
The old fishing village in many ways remains a living museum, much thanks to a a group of German enthusiasts who came to Nyksund in the 1980s. One of them, Karl Heinz Nickel, fell in love with the place so much that he started projects to rebuild it. He created lots of new activity in the place through a variety of projects.
Nyksund has been through several construction phases over the years. Around 2000, Ssemjon Gerlitz from Düsseldorf became a 'Nyksunder' by choice, when he joined the building project. The group spent a lot of time salvaging materials from the old fishing era, and started restoring the guesthouse Holmvik Brygge on the dock. Today, it's like a small living museum where you can experience 100 years of fishing history.
"It took several years before people realised that it was not rubbish we were collecting, but culture," says Ssemjon.
Original antique doors are now being reused at his guesthouse at Holmvik Brygge, environmentally certified accommodation which offers rooms in a historical guest house, separate studio apartments, and even an entire house (ideal for groups).
“The biggest resource the place has is actually its energy, which can give you so much support if you want to work creatively.”
Ssemjon Gerlitz, guide and owner of Holmvik Brygge
A paradise for digital nomads
Fifty years after the fishing village became a ghost town, Nyksund today appears hip and even urban.
The small and quirky community has a rare, very creative vibe and offers several co-working spaces, good restaurants, art galleries and even a recording studio. So if you're ever dreamed of taking a workation in Northern Norway, Nyksund is a safe bet!
Anders Megafon Frantzen is the owner of Arthur-Brygga, the village's legendary intimate live music venue and pub. His dream was to create a place to bring people together, where artists could come and stay for longer periods to work creatively.
Hear him talk about life in Nyksund below:
Need a quiet place? This wooden shelter, beautifully integrated into the landscape, is not just an architectural gem. Bring your laptop here, and you will most likely feel the inspiration flow like never before. Or just come enjoy the splendid view with a coffee.
Things to do
You'll be surprised how much is going on in this small village. Here, you can attend everything from concerts to a meditative walks.
Stop by one of the art galleries – yes, they do exist here as well! Or dive into Northern Norwegian literature and admire the original furnishings at the book café and antique shop Delpen Bokcafe.
Note that some places and events are only available in the summer season or on request.
The seafood in Northern Norway is among the very best in the world, and Nyksund has several restaurants and small cafés serving delicious meals – with a view!
At Holmvik Brygge, Ssemjon and his team serves heart-warming traditional Norwegian dishes like bacalao, cod fillet, meat stews, and local delicacies like Arctic char from Sigerfjord and reindeer meat from the area. If you want a more festive evening, you can head to Nyksund Ekspedisjonen on the other side of the dock. People travel from far and wide to dine at this place, which is managed by a German couple, of course. On the menu, you'll find everything from homemade cakes and coffees, to more complex modern dishes, including fresh seafood from the local area.
Do you want to catch your own meal? You’ll still see plenty of fishing boats and trawlers heading out to the rich fishing grounds. Feel free to join a fishing trip!
Witness the powerful forces of nature
Many visit Nyksund for pure relaxation in beautiful nature. Here, you can sit for hours watching the waves, snuggle up in the sofa watching a storm through the window, or stay up just a little longer to watch the starry sky (or long midnight sun nights). Will the northern lights dance for you in winter?
The few residents of Nyksund have decided to turn off the street lights on clear nights, so locals and visitors can see the northern lights better!
The Queen's Route from Nyksund to Stø
Vesterålen is a hiking paradise where sky and sea meet in almost every direction. Nyksund is no exception.
The most famous hiking trail in this area is Dronningruta (The Queen's Route) – and yes, it's named after Her Majesty Queen Sonja, the Queen of Norway who inaugurated the trail in 1994.
Follow in her footsteps on a round trip from Nyksund to Stø, another charming fishing village in Vesterålen. The marked trail is about 15 km long and winds its way along the coastline, over mountaintops and marshland, and past a white sand beach.
At Stø, you can join a whale safari on a catamaran, or a bird and seal safari by RIB boat.
Don't miss these fishing villages
Nyksund is one of many fishing villages and trading posts in Vesterålen, Northern Norway. In addition to Stø, you have the tiny gems Skipsnes and Tinden, which are both lovely to visit during summer, and Myre, a more modern fishing port. Don't miss Bleik, with its beautiful white beach. From here, you can join a boat trip out to one of Norway's most famous bird colonies on Bleiksøya.
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