Skien – The canal city and birthplace of Henrik Ibsen

Skien is the county capital of Telemark County in Norway. The city has around 50,000 inhabitants, and is beautifully situated between the two water reservoirs of Bryggevannet and Hjellevannet. The waterfront is an important part of the cityscape, which is a mixture of pedestrian streets, green areas and monumental buildings. Skien’s beautiful church with its two 223 feet high spires is very visible in the urban landscape.

Skien has a rich culture life, and is the host of many different events throughout the year. Skien’s concert hall, The Ibsen House, offers a variety of shows, concerts, literature events, and debates all year round. Theater Ibsen has theatrical performances for both children and adults, and is developing new plays of smaller and larger formats. Skien also has a very diverse music scene.

World-renowned playwright, Henrik Ibsen, was born in Skien on March 20, 1828, and spent his entire childhood in Skien before he moved to Grimstad at 15 to work as a pharmacy apprentice. The foundation for his world famous literary work was laid in Skien. He was born in the city center, but due to financial strife, the family had to move to their summerhouse at Venstøp when Henrik was seven years of age. This beautiful property, which today houses the Henrik Ibsen Museum, is situated three miles north of Skien. Here you can explore Ibsen’s childhood home, and hear about the early years of the man who later grew up to be one of the world’s most frequently read and performed playwrights. The house at Venstøp is the pride and joy of Telemark Museum, and through a text exhibit, visitors are introduced to some of Ibsen’s texts. Visitors also get to see Ibsen’s christening robe and one of his famous top hats. The barn has been transformed into a movie theater, where visitors can watch the film “Ibsen’s Top Hat”.

Skien is the location of the two first lock chambers in the Telemark Canal, one of the world’s most beautiful canals, which was carved into the mountain well over a hundred years ago. The 65 mile long canal with its eight lock chambers connect the coast with inner Telemark, from Skien to Dalen. During summer, the ferries MS Henrik Ibsen and MS Victoria run daily from Hjellebrygga in Skien. Visitors may also travel on the Telemark Canal by private boats or kayaks, or by bike on cycleways along the canal. Skien and Løveid lock chambers are both situated in Skien, which is the only Norwegian city with locks in its city center.

The old district Snipetorp is Skien’s oldest living quarter, which distinguished wooden houses survived the city fires of 1854 and 1886. There used to be a great deal of activity in the many workshops and taverns here, as this was one of the main roads into Skien.

Skien city center offers a variety of cute cafés and backyard restaurants that are worth a visit. The city has several art museums, and visitors can enjoy contemporary art both outdoors and indoors all year round.

Skien also houses Telemark Museum Brekkeparken. The park with the main building and the beautiful garden with the gazebo and duck pond was constructed in English landscaping style back in 1815. Telemark Museum owns a unique collection of folk art from all of Telemark, and a large selection of furniture and artifacts from Søndre Brekke Farm and other upper class homes from the 18th and 19th century. The museum is surrounded by a beautiful park, and in spring and early summer, tulips of all colors flood the Brekke Park. It’s a wonderful sight! The park is an open-air museum, and here you find a large selection of old farmer’s cottages, hay barns and storehouses on pillars from all over Telemark County.

Skien has large forested areas with fantastic hiking trails, which start near the city center and continue deep into the woods north of Skien. The terrain is varied, and hikers may choose to hike in the woods, in flat terrain or up the hills to fantastic viewpoints.

Visitors may also fish for salmon in the river that runs through Skien city center. There is also a salmon ladder up the river, and every year, 500-600 salmons jump up the ladder.

Visitors who love to kayak may paddle up the Falkum River and straight into the wilderness. The river is 3.2 miles long, with a lush landscape and abundant wildlife along the riverbanks.

Every year at the end of August, the city hosts the food festival Mersmak. The two day long festival draws great crowds, and offers new flavors, a variety of exciting products, activities and surprises, cooking competitions and more.

Skien also has several sports arenas, the largest being Skien Fritidspark and Odd Stadion.

Welcome to Skien!