Books on the pier, bookshelves at bus stops, book cafes, and even a book hotel! Not to mention all the second-hand shops full of books in different languages, and the exciting literature events and festivals. Book lovers should head to Fjærland and Tvedestrand this summer.
About book towns
A book town is a small town or a village that has a large number of second-hand and antiquarian bookshops.
The first book town was the village Hay-on-Wye in Wales, where Richard Booth in 1961 began selling trailer loads of used books from the abandoned fire station. Hay is now known by literature lovers all over the world and also hosts the world-renowned Hay Festival of Literature and the Arts.
The phenomenon has since spread to all corners of the world, although most book towns are located in Europe.
What does the small fjord village Fjærland, surrounded by dramatic glaciers and steep mountains on the western coast, have in common with the charming southern town Tvedestrand and its white-painted wooden houses and silky-smooth coastal rocks? Their shared attraction might actually be their reading material. On a hot summer day, few things are better than exploring their many cool first and second-hand bookstores looking for hidden treasures.
“The joy of books, in books, and for books. When we open them, they open us.”
– Lars Saabye Christensen
Fjærland in Fjord Norway
The first of Norway’s two book towns saw the light of day in 1995. Mundal, the centre of the small village Fjærland by the Sognefjord, is home to about four kilometres of books. Most are second-hand, and the dozens of outlets are also based on reutilization – here you’ll find books in ferry waiting rooms, stables, banks, an old post office, and a grocery shop. The giant Tusund og ei natt is the only shop built specifically to house books, while the small outdoor shelf Sjølvplukk (pick-your-own) calls itself “the country’s most honest bookstore” and trusts you to leave a small amount of money in a box for every book you take.
The Norwegian book town in Fjærland is open from May to September, but the online stores never close. Join a guided book tour through the town, or attend the annual book festival in June.
When you have searched through all of Fjærland’s bookshops, you can start exploring the area. Visit the Norwegian glacier museum, join a glacier walk on Bøyabreen or Supphellebreen, kayak on the Fjærlandsfjord with or without a guide, or drive the Norwegian Scenic Route Gaularfjellet and enjoy the magnificent view from the Utsikten viewpoint.
Tvedestrand in Southern Norway
If you are travelling through Southern Norway, you should definitely stop by Tvedestrand, which calls itself “a gold mine for bookworms”.
“The joy of books, in books, and for books. When we open them, they open us”, Norwegian best-selling author Lars Saabye Christensen said in his speech at the opening of The book town by the Skagerrak strait. And the town offers more than just bookshops. Throughout the year you can join a variety of events, festivals, and guided tours related to books and literature.
At the end of the day, you can check into Norway’s first book hotel. Bokhotellet Lyngørporten is idyllically located in Gjeving by the Lyngørfjord. Suzanne Brøgger describes it like this in her book Omelette Norvegienne: “We are accommodated at Bokhotellet, where I live on page 303 with a white-painted balcony and a view of the archipelago. Why do people say that Norway is more about nature than culture?”
In addition to books, Tvedestrand also offers white-painted wooden houses, an abundance of islands and islets, Norway’s largest outdoor aquapark in Tjenna, Norway’s narrowest house, and several galleries and museums. Close by you will find the car-free paradise Lyngør, where you can enjoy the atmosphere of a bygone era.
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