Kongsvinger Fortress: Experience a truly unique hotel stay
The Kongsvinger Fortress joined our family of hotels just at the same time that we became Strawberry in May 2023. We have now done some groundwork to check out what this place has going for it! Our findings? Majestic hotel rooms, a wonderful ambiance oozing history and a dose of ghostly excitement! If you like what you hear, then read our article providing lots of inspiration and tips on how to make the most of your trip to this adventurous destination.
Who actually visits Kongsvinger? And what is the attraction of coming to this little town in the county of Innlandet, just about an hour’s drive from Oslo, surrounded by forests, lakes and fields?
This probably doesn't spark your wanderlust, right?
Well, here’s reason number one – Kongsvinger is a surprisingly charming town with lovely squares, little cafés, unique shops and one of the most beautiful forest golf courses in the Nordics! The second reason is the hotel itself, the Kongsvinger Fortress.
A hotel you say? In a fortress dating back to the 17th century? That doesn’t sound very comfortable. Will I be sleeping on a thin mattress on a cold floor surrounded by ghosts?
Well, other than the thing about ghosts (TBC...), it’s quite the opposite! Join two moderately knowledgeable and discerning ladies (yes, that’s us) as we explore this historical monument that we are ashamed to say we know very little about before!
It’s actually quite embarrassing – the main thing we knew about this place was that it was the place where the Norwegian reality show The Traitors (Forræder) was filmed.
Defibrillators, weddings & fun facts
Little did we know just how crucial this fortress was for Norway's independence back in the day! It protected Norway by locking the border with the help of Norway's longest river, the Glomma, which appeared like a gigantic moat. We also learned that some guests have literally turned at the door due to ghosts, that the hotel was barely allowed to mount a defibrillator, and that many people have got married in this historic setting.
Two of our dear colleagues preparing to enjoy a majestic stay for a few hours! Well, at least we hope so!
We realise we need some history – a dose of fun facts – and we need to be assured that Strawberry is not offering accommodation with 17th century standards… And rumour has it that this place has given rise to a number of good ghost stories…
Get divorced to make your wedding dreams come true?
It's easy to spot the fortress as we approach Kongsvinger, looming majestically above the town. Helene Skjenneberg, Manager of Festningshotellene, Dénise Kocaman, Manager of Bookings & Inside Sales of Festningshotellene, and Tone Strøm, Hotel Manager of the Kongsvinger Fortress, proudly welcome us as we reach the top. We gather in the large open space surrounded by numerous beautiful buildings oozing history and bygone days!
Helene Skjenneberg and Dénise Kocaman have big plans for the Kongsvinger Fortress.
“There have been several weddings right where you’re standing, as well as several wedding parties in that building over there. After all, this is an ideal wedding venue and we’re more than happy to arrange them. Sometimes people stay all weekend and we all chip in to make it happen!” Tone says.
* Tone Strøm, Hotel Manager of the Kongsvinger Fortress, shows us around the fortress and tells us that there have been several weddings in the middle of this open space that links the various buildings together.*
* All the buildings at the Kongsvinger Fortress have different styles and different heights.*
We dream ourselves away into the world of weddings. One of us – who is married – considers, for a split second, whether it might be a good idea to get divorced in order to be able to get married here (to the same person). The sunshine warms our faces, there are fabulous views everywhere we look, and we feel like royalty in this fabulous setting – it truly doesn’t get more romantic than this. In fact, a long line of Norwegian monarchs, from Harald V to Fredrik II, have eaten at the tables of this fortress.
* It’s not every day that you get the chance to sleep in a hotel that is more than 300 years old.*
* The Norwegian Harald V has visited Kongsvinger Fortress on numerous occasions to enjoy a good meal, just like the kings that preceded him.*
An excellent place for children to explore
We join the three ladies in the “Slaveriet” hall where it is easy to imagine bridal waltzes and wedding toasts taking place! This is also an ideal venue for confirmations, conferences, work meetings and Christmas parties. The building also has numerous rooms for private dinners and seminars, as well as spaces to hear ghost stories! Numerous companies return every year for corporate events. ‘
“There’s something very special about being so close to history."
We understand why! These historic yet comfortable surroundings provide a more intimate and cosy setting than most other hotels can offer. Tone adds that conferences can be tailored to suit your specific needs, and can even include a variety of activities, tours and whatever else you might like to add!
Lamps from the Second World War, made by the Germans, hang over one of the spaces that are suitable for everything from conferences to Christmas parties.
* The views are incredible, even from the smaller windows.*
She points to the ceiling lamps and tells us they date back to the Second World War – they were made by the Germans. There’s something very special about being so close to history. It’s completely different than just looking at pictures or watching Forræder on the TV. And we can’t not ask about the rumours – have guests been spooked by ghosts here at the fortress?
“This place is really child-friendly – you can just run around and explore.”
“No, not here. It’s in the building that we're going to soon. It's actually pretty crazy what happened over there...,” Tone says slyly, not revealing any more.
We want to run straight over! We want to embrace all the superstitions and we also know that many scenes from Forræder were filmed in that building. Then suddenly the eager General Manager Helene wants to share her plans for the hotel:
“I know it's sunny and warm right now, but imagine snow, darkness, cosy lights and a real Christmas market out here! Wouldn’t that be lovely? I really want us to have that every Christmas. Then we’ll attract more families here too. This place is really child-friendly – you can just run around and explore,” Helene says enthusiastically.
We like Helene – and we like the idea of a Christmas market! As we stroll across the square and over to the main building, where hotel guests can enjoy a buffet breakfast, afternoon tea, lunch, dinner and formal dinners, she reveals something else:
“You can also enjoy a delicious lunch here, with white tablecloths and everything. And we serve a 3-course fortress dinner on Fridays and Saturdays for those who want a taste of the royal life without emptying their bank accounts.”
“BUT! We now also have a café with fabulous local produce – there are no standard brands to be seen here!”
“We want to lower the threshold, so that people just drop in during a day trip with their family or with a group of friends. It’s a place to enjoy a simple bite to eat or a nice cup of coffee.”
“Yes, maybe we’ll get more young people to come here,” Dénise agrees. After the Forræder TV series, we have noticed a marked increase in both the number of bookings and visitors who come here for the day, just to have a look.”
“…but we want even more young people to come here to experience an important and exciting part of history, either as part of an overnight stay or a day visit. People are generally more interested in history now.” Tone nods in agreement and adds:
“We actually have a lot of people who come here and spend the night only because of this hotel and the historical experience it provides – and we think that's great.”
No expense is spared on style, art & wine
We finally make our way over to the main building, which is both impressive and beautiful. You can feel the history with elegant furnishings and art works adorning the walls. We also learn that the artist Erik Werenskiold grew up here at the fortress, as the son of commander Fredrik Werenskiold. Many of his works of art are on display in the museum at the Kongsvinger Fortress, comprising three exhibitions on three floors.”
The living room in the main building is elegantly furnished. You might be familiar with the surroundings if you’ve watched the Norwegian TV series Forræder!
* The cellar is full of wines, and we also host wine tastings here. This is the "shield room" shown in the Forræder TV series.*
We go down to the cellar and see multiple shelves stacked full of wine bottles. Wine tastings are regularly hosted down here. It does seem a little eerie here in the dark, cold cellar. And that’s perhaps not surprising. At last, Tone confirms the rumours we’ve heard:
“People have come here – guests who were supposed to stay overnight – and they have had a strong and immediate sense of special ‘energies’ and a bad aura, and they turned on their heels and left. I can neither confirm nor deny any of this, but these are old buildings of course,” Tone says.
Renovating old buildings is no walk in the park
We giggle like children, and suddenly feel an urge to spend the night ghost hunting when darkness falls. Yet this is not something for the faint-hearted of course. And speaking of hearts, it seems that managing an old building is no walk in the park. Even hanging up a defibrillator is no easy feat…
“When we wanted to hang a defibrillator on the wall, we had to apply for permission to drill into the wall from Forsvarsbygg, which owns the building. We then had to wait until they were able to come here to assess whether it was indeed alright to insert the screw in said place. It was all fine in the end – the defibrillator was mounted on the wall, but it must be said that any changes made to such old buildings is tightly controlled. We can’t even just use whichever paint we want. There are strict colour codes to follow and special paint must be used. It’s definitely nothing like renovating your own home in other words!” Tone says and laughs.
We sit down on the hotel's outdoor terrace to round off a long and eventful day, and immediately feel a wonderful peace of mind. It’s obvious that Helene feels it too.
”Imagine sitting out here on the terrace in the spring with year’s first warm rays of sunshine on your face as you enjoy a nice beverages and a salad. It doesn’t get much better than that,” she says with a (sunny) glow on her face.
We can certainly imagine it, but first we want to see the hotel rooms. We discover that the rooms once housed German soldiers during the war, although there are hardly any reminders of the old barracks now.
We are shown a single room, providing compact yet luxurious accommodation with a beautifully made bed, a lovely armchair, a coffee machine and wonderful views of the Glomma river.
The hotel rooms beautiful intertwine modern and historic details, each room providing some information about a commander who once stayed there.
“Sometimes people call and say things like ‘My great-grandfather served as a commander here and I’d like to stay in his old room!’ – and then of course we do our best to accommodate their requests,” Tone says with a smile.
Peace of mind, luxury & big beds
We head over to the flagpole to have a good look over Kongsvinger. Suddenly we receive a message from our friend Miriam Nordhagen, who has enjoyed the idyllic snaps we have been sending her throughout the day.
Miriam Nordhagen was impressed by the Kongsvinger Fortress when she came here a few years ago.
As look out over Kongsvinger from up here, we certainly agree. It’s a wonderful place to take some time out and reflect. Dénise adds:
“We have received a lot of feedback from people telling us they experience a special peace of mind here. It’s easy to unwind in these luxurious and relaxing surroundings that are stylish, modern and historic at the same time. We hope that everyone will come to experience this unique historical gem,” Dénise concludes.
We bid farewell to Dénise, Helene, Tone, the fortress and the ghosts – and we all agree that we must come back! Not least for the fabulous food.