It was originally called the Venice of Scandinavia because the town is built on seven islands, with a network of canals surrounding it. Most of these have later been filled in, but plans are afoot to reopen some again.
The most glorious period of the town history was during the sailing ships era, in the 18th and 19th century. It was at one time one of the largest and most important towns in Norway. Its wealth was based on shipping, with the surrounding iron ore mining, iron works and timber providing the most important trade. It had connections to all important trading centres of the world, and had better contact with Europe than with the country's capital of Christiania (or Oslo, as it was later to be called).
The introduction of steam ships gradually reduced the town's importance, but the old traditions have been retained, for example in the atmosphere of the Tyholmen area, where the collection of wooden buildings is reckoned to be among the most picturesque and best preserved of its kind, and in 1992 was awarded the much coveted Europa-Nostra prize.
The town has a number of tourist attractions to offer. Apart from the town itself, which is well worth a leisurely guided walk, the main attraction in summer is the sea and the skerries landscape. The harbour area "Pollen" teems with boats and life in the summer, and idyllic swimming beaches or skerry rocks are within easy access.
For a picture of "Pollen", click here (67 Kb). Tyholmen is the area to the left. If you would rather look at sea and summer, here is an inviting picture from Hisøy (64 Kb), one of Arendal's many islands.
The inland area with forests, mountains, rivers and lakes offers its own attractions.
There are museums, art galleries, historical buildings and landmarks, metal and mineral mines, old iron works and a number of other attractions to visit. There is even a golf course only about 20 km (13 miles) away, for those who are thus inclined. Sailing, riding, canoeing, fishing and other sports are also available. The famous Norwegian writers Ibsen and Hamsun both had strong connections to the nearby area.
There is a car ferry from Hirtshals in Denmark to Kristiansand, which is about 70 km (45 miles) southwest of Arendal. This runs several times a day during summer. Another daily car ferry runs from Fredrikshavn in Denmark to Larvik, which is about midway between Oslo and Arendal.
During summer a car ferry runs between Amsterdam in Netherlands and Kristiansand. This runs once a week, Monday from Amsterdam and Tuesday from Kristiansand.
There is also a car ferry from Newcastle, England to Stavanger on the west coast of Norway, about 316 km (200 miles) away. This runs thrice weekly during summer: Monday, Wednesday and Saturday from Newcastle, Tuesday, Friday and Sunday from Stavanger.
Between Stavanger and Arendal there are four daily trains, also taking about 4 1/2 hours. From Kristiansand there are six connections daily.
There are numerous daily bus services between Arendal and Kristiansand.
Oslo has direct connections to most of the major airports in Europe, and via Copenhagen to the world, and Stavanger has direct connections to Copenhagen, London, Amsterdam and others.
There are direct bus services between Kjevik and Arendal for all airplane arrivals and departures.
- InterNor Tyholmen Hotel, situated in town right on the quay, with direct view of the harbour. - Phoenix Hotel, central in the town in the middle of Tyholmen.
- Arendal Hotel, located centrally in town. - Ting Hai Hotel, located centrally in town, chinese atmosphere. - E 18 Hotel, located near E 18 about 2 km from the town centre.
- Breidablikk Guesthouse, located at the Tromøy Island, about 15 minutes away by bus. One of the few remaining old style holiday hotels. All rooms with en suite bathrooms. Swimming pool. Short distance to beach. - Sjøverstø Holiday Guest House, located by the seaside in a sheltered bay, about 30 minutes drive from the town centre. Bathing jetty, boats, swimming pool.
- Hove Family Camping, located in a recreational area at Tromøy Island, one room cabins available. - Nidelv Camping, located on the Nidelv river about 15 minutes by bus from the town centre. Cabins with WC and showers available. - Vippa Camping, located on the Nidelv river. Cabins available.
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