One of the oldest cities in Norway has excellent galleries, museum and parks and is the eastern starting point for the Telemark Canal.
Skien combines activities in the Telemark countryside with attractions that celebrate industrial and cultural history. Once the site of a monastery, Skien traces its roots back to the 9th century. Its location on the shores of Hjellevannet lake and Skienselva river made it an important staging post for ferrying timber to the hinterland. The city was a favored destination among patricians from the 1500s, was twice destroyed by fire and rebuilt for the last time in the late 1800s.
Architectural masterpieces decorate the city, including Skien Church and the Italian Renaissance-style Frogner Hovedgård. Discover major events in Norwegian history at Brekke Museum, set in the beautiful wooded parkland of Brekkeparken. Get acquainted with contemporary national artists at the Telemark Art Center. Ibsenhuset is a cultural center with a year-round schedule of art exhibitions, concerts and theatrical performances.
The city is the birthplace of the acclaimed playwright Henrik Ibsen, whose childhood home is a few miles from the center. It has since been turned into the Ibsen Museum and has exhibits about his early years. There’s a statue dedicated to the playwright in Ibsenparken square while Teater Ibsen hosts productions of his works.
A visit to Skien isn’t complete without taking a trip on the Telemark Canal. Travel on a boat or rent a kayak to admire wilderness landscapes as you cruise this 65-mile (105-kilometer) long waterway. Keep watch for lockkeepers’ houses, sawmills and timber warehouses. The canal ends at Dalen, in the heart of Telemark county.
Come into contact with more natural beauty by walking the Skotfosstien trail. A collection of 15 interpretive signs provide historical facts. The Bakkestranda-Bryggevannet Trail follows the shores of Hjellevannet lake and the Skienselva river. Go to Fritidsparken for family-friendly sports entertainment such as curling, Frisbee golf, ice skating and miniature golf.
Skien is a 2-hour drive from Oslo. With bus and boat links to Dalen, Notodden and Rjukan, it’s a great place to start your Telemark adventure.