A magical stay at the Oscarsborg Fortress in Drøbak
“Here at Oscarsborg, you can enjoy everything from fine dining with crisp white tablecloths to burgers to go while you’re on a treasure hunt,” says Erika Damperud-Wright, General Manager at Oscarsborg Hotel & Resort. Join us as we check in to this historic fortress hotel that has welcomed all the country's kings, CIA chiefs, ghosts, corporate groups and couples on romantic dates. Prepare for a stay with plenty of emotion, free-roaming sheep and lasting memories…perhaps even of underground walks during the night!
We’re two moderately well-informed and discerning ladies in our thirties, and we’re standing at the pier in Drøbak waiting for the ferry over to the historic Oscarsborg Fortress, one of four fortress hotels that joined Strawberry in 2023.
We’ve already wandered through the charming narrow streets of Drøbak with its beautiful white wooden houses and little shops right by the the sea. And based on the pictures we've seen of Oscarsborg, we’ll be travelling from one idyllic location to another!
We’re so excited about what awaits us at Oscarsborg! We’ve heard that this is a place where everything is possible and anything can happen. Adventure beckons!
Sheep roam freely among the people, a company set off fireworks work 1 million NOK for a party, a family found a cheese that turned out to be explosives, and top-level CIA and MI6 personnel have held secret meetings here.
The island is also home to fabulous opera concerts every summer and there are numerous (all too believable) ghost stories to discover…
Fireworks for 1 million NOK did you say?
As we arrive on the island, we are a little blown away. Just half an hour’s drive from Oslo and a short ferry ride away, you can take in this spectacular, huge fortress that sank the German submarine “Blücher” on 9 April 1940 when the war in Norway began. This was a hugely important effort that temporarily halted the German advances on Oslo, giving the royal family, government and parliament time to get to safety. Guest harbour on the island looks lovely at night. This lush green island is home to several buildings, lovely open outdoor areas, hiking trails, plenty of cannons, underground passages and a great guest boat harbour for those arriving by boat. This is a great destination for a Sunday outing or a fabulous adventure for kids of all ages! * There is no shortage of green, lush areas around the fortress.*
The view from the restaurant. “This is an island full of opportunity! You can come here for a romantic hotel stay, a corporate event, a celebration with your local chess club, as well as really big events with a concert, entertainment and activities. There are no limitations here – we arrange whatever people want. We’ve even had a company here that spent 1 million NOK on fireworks for an event!” says Erika Damperud-Wright, General Manager at Oscarsborg Hotel & Resort, whom we meet at the relatively newly built reception and restaurant building “Forpleiningen”. By her side, the Head of Booking & Inhouse sales, Dénise Kocaman.
We’re two ladies from the “floor” at Strawberry, together with General Manager Erika Damperud-Wright (right).
Erika continues: ”Everyone is welcome here, regardless of whether you fancy a day trip to the island for a nice meal in our restaurant, or you need a place to sleep after a long day or meetings or a fabulous party. Next weekend, we’ll be welcoming 120 people sleeping in their own boats in our guest harbour that can accommodate up to 110 boats.” Fancy a stay at Oscarsborg Fortress? Book a room here!
A guided tour... or how about the "perfect jog"?
We join the two cheerful ladies along a charming footpath that supposedly goes around both islands, linked together a bridge. The sun is shining, the water is glittering and we pass a group of tourists on a guided tour – something we are told is a must for everyone who makes the trip here. This 90-minute tour around the islands provides lots of fascinating history, and can even be booked as part of a hotel stay.
Can you see the history on the walls?
Entrance to the Fortress.
Dénise starts jogging, and we take a tumble. It’s clear that Denise has spent a lot of time on this island. Maybe a little too much time? Judge for yourself:
“This island is absolutely perfect for a morning jog! You can cover a good 5.5 kilometers if you run across both islands....with 3.3 kilometers the island where the Fortress itself is located. Then you can have a refreshing morning dip in the summer. I can't even tell you how many mornings I've done this when I've been staying overnight here. I recommend you try it tomorrow,” Dénise says enthusiastically.
Without saying it out loud, we both know that the plan is certainly not to get up extra early in the morning to "enjoy a jog along the water with the best view in the world" as Dénise tells us repeatedly. But it's probably fantastic for the nutters who can take it!
The first things we notice when we leave our luggage in our hotel rooms that are situated in a separate building, are the stunning panoramic view of the Oslo Fjord and how surprisingly modern the accommodation is.
Not many people know that the rooms were originally used as accommodation for a military training school. We’ll be sleeping like Sleeping Beauty on valium here with think to ourselves, before joining Erika and Dénise to head over to the fortress.
Erika points to several holes on the outside wall of the fortress telling us that these are bullet holes from the wars. The moment we enter, we are overcome by a majestic feeling. That’s not surprising since all Norwegian kings have dined here.
“We’ll soon be starting to offer ‘dinners from the olden days’ as I like to call them. The menus will feature dishes that soldiers and royalty have feasted on throughout the ages, but of course with a modern twist!”
“To prepare, we have reviewed numerous old menus and dishes, such as 20th century party menus,” Erika says. She is confident that this will be a huge success!
It’s not just royalty who can enjoy a fabulous dining experience here! Here at Oscarsborg, you can even plan a wedding dinner in this historic and romantic setting. You can even have the ceremony here! We love delving into the wonderful world of weddings!
The food = YUMMY!
We enjoy a fabulous dinner inside the restaurant with stunning views through panoramic windows, while a couple are having a romantic dinner outside on the terrace. Restaurant Manager Sara Ahnlund provides incredible service, and a member of our group with food allergies even gets a special 3-course menu that is absolutely delicious!
The food at the restaurant tastes delicious.
...and it’s beautifully garnished too.
Secret meeting of top-level CIA & MI6 personnel
After dinner, we make our way over to the “Skolekasserna” that once served as classrooms and barracks for the military. Old photos from around 1936 to 2003 when the military ceased its operations here adorn the walls. These former classrooms can now host up to 11 meetings at the same time. It’s the ideal place to come when you need a change of scenery! Top secret meetings have also been held on the island – meetings that no one should know have taken place.
One of many rooms in the Fortress that can be rented for events, parties and other festivities! And can you guess how old the flag at the top is?
One of the meeting rooms in “Skolekasserna” once served as a classroom and barracks for the military.
“A couple of years ago, all the top-level personnel from the well-known global intelligence services gathered for a secret meeting here, including representatives from the American CIA and British MI6. At Oscarsborg, it is certainly possible to make important, top-secret decisions,” says Helene Skjenneberg, General Manager of the Fortress Hotels, who has also come to meet us on the island.
Explosives, cheese & night walks
"Have you heard the story about a family who found a found a bottle of wine and something that looked like a cheese in the water here?" Erika asks us after we’ve managed to get down the stairs of the restaurant, absolutely stuffed full of food! We do not recall any cheese stories from Oscarsborg…
"When this "cheese" was brought up on land, it started to smoke and it turned out to be a piece of TNT – explosives from the war!" Erika says enthusiastically.
We decide to take a tour of the island when darkness falls. We want to see the places that we were not shown earlier today, and we have heard rumors that there will be both underground passages and freely roaming sheep. Erika told us that there would be floodlights after dark, but we quickly realise that Erika must have rather a different definition of the word “floodlights”.
* The island offers lovely views during an evening walk. But don’t expect any floodlights...*
Suddenly we see them…the sheep we’ve heard so much about! They’re lying in the grass at the water’s edge, relaxing, without paying us the slightest bit attention. Perhaps they can’t see us? Then we spot the entrance to the underground passages…but do we dare enter?
An exciting tour through mysterious corridors
We carefully open the creaky old door and step inside. Big drops of water drip down onto the floor and splash up a few centimetres into the air. We pull ourselves together and head further in…
There are long narrow paths heading in several different directions. Some old lamps provide dim lighting. It’s like we’re transported back in time – the outside world does not exist in here. We're startled by a sound from the door. But where shall we go?
Eventually we find an exit at the other end and realise it’s time for bed! We’re delighted that there is a group of researchers from the military whom we saw at dinner stay here at the hotel as well…
It feels safe. We drift off and end up having the best night's sleep ever.
Oscarsborg, we'll be back!
We’re definitely coming back, either with a girlfriend, children, friends or alone. But not for a jog. We’ll let Dénise take care of that. And those underground passages are suitable for daytime strolls…
So long, Oscarsborg!
As we board the ferry that will take us back to the mainland, we get a message from Trond Jorfall, who has seen the snaps we have sent from here:
Trond Jorfall enjoys life both on the water and on the island…or Oscarsborg to be precise.