When standing in the downtown harbor of Svolvaer (the biggest city and the “capital” of Lofoten), you will notice a tiny island with red traditional wooden fishermen’s cabins (called “rorbu” in Norwegian). This small island is Svinøya or Svinoya, directly translated to English it means “Pig Island“.
At the end of 1800, Svinøya was Svolvær’s downtown, owned by Lars Thodal Walnum Berg (1830 – 1903). The island had a bakery, a grocery shop/ “krambua” (the only place that sold liquor where the payment was one fish per shot), a barrel fabric, a cod liver oil factory, about 80 fisherman cabins, and a big fish landing station.
The downtown of Svolvær has since been moved, and Svinøya has kept much of its original houses and fishermen’s cabins/ rorbuer. Today Svinøya is the only place left to experience the old fishing village that Svolvær once was.
You can find about fifty rorbu cabins on Svinøya, Børsen Restaurant, Gunnar Berg Gallery, a Yoga center, a fish landing station, and lots of fish flakes used for stockfish production. All of these are still owned and run by the Berg family.
Going for a walk around Svinoya is a great way to spend an evening when visiting Svolvær. It feels a little like stepping back to the 1800s when Svolvær was a thriving fishing village community packed with thousands of fishermen during the “Lofot Fiske”/ cod season (January – April).
This walking route (1-2 hours) takes you from downtown Svolvaer, across the Svinoya Bridge, and shows you the Svinoya attractions and sights.
The Ultimate Guide To Svinøya
This Svinoya travel guide gives you the best things to do and see on the small island Svinøya in Svolvær, organized into a detailed step-by-step DIY Svinoya walking tour (1-2 hours). Svinoya’s top attractions and sights are listed and highlighted on a map. Have a great time exploring Svinoya! ♥
Table of Contents:
What To See On Svinoya, Svolvaer
Fishermans Cabins/ Rorbu, Gunnar Berg Art Gallery & Fisherman’s Wife Statue
Walk across the Svinoya bridge, and you will suddenly be transported back to how Svolvær looked in the 1800s before the city planners ruined what was once a mini Venetia with six small islands connected by bridges and filled with low wooden buildings and fisherman cabins.
The canals between the small islands that once made up Svolvær were filled and blocked so that the area could be constructed into a modern city with tall buildings, parking spaces, shopping malls, gas stations, and houses.
Svinoya is the only place in Svolvaer where you can still experience the old fishing village vibe.
DIY Svinoya Walking Tour
- Estimated time: 1-2 hours
The map above: DIY Walking Tour of Svinøya in Solvær, Lofoten (1-2 hours tour)
This whole walking tour of Svinøya takes about 1 hour in total (back and forth). The walking distance is about 3 km one way from Svolvær square/ downtown. It is an easy walk that everybody can do, even small children, or with a baby carriage, as you walk on a road. And it is a great walk the whole year-round.
Start at the main square in downtown Svolvær (A), walk down the street “Vestfjordgata” until you get to the bridge “Svinøybrua.” Walk across the 350 meters long Svinøya Bridge, and you will reach Svinøya. Walking time: 10-15 min.
A. Svolvær Main Square – Svinoy Bridge
On top of Svinoya Bridge is a fantastic place to take those beautiful Instagram-friendly photos of Svolvær, the red fisherman cabins, the mountains, and the fjords.
As you cross the bridge, have a stop at the top of the bridge, turn around, and look at the spectacular mountains encircling Svolvær. You can see the famous mountains Fløya (590 m tall) and Svolværgeita (569 m tall) with its two iconic “goat” horns. Svolværgeita means “the Svolvaer Goat” in English.
Once across the bridge, you will see the red building housing the Gunnar Berg Art Gallery (B) right before you.
B. Gunnar Berg Art Gallery
Just across the road from Børsen Restaurant, you will also find the Gunnar Berg art gallery, located in a big red wooden building.
Sadly, taking photos inside the Gunnar Berg Gallery is prohibited. So the photo above of the house from the outside is the only photo we’ve got of the gallery. 🙁
There is also a Yoga center inside the same building as the art gallery.
Who Was Gunnar Berg?
Gunnar Berg was born in Svolvær on the 21st of May 1863, the oldest of twelve children of the landlord and merchant Lars Thodal Walnum Berg (1830 – 1903) and Lovise Johnsen (1842 – 1921). His dad owned half of Svolvær, including Svinøya.
Gunnar grew up in a big and beautiful wooden house on the Svinøya island (see point C on this walking tour) with his parents and siblings.
Being the oldest, Gunnar was supposed to take over the whole family business when he grew up, but he soon showed a different and more artistic talent. After studying at the trade school in Bergen, he worked for a short while as a merchant. But he soon found out that this was not his path in life.
Gunnar later moved to central Europe, where he studied painting and drawing in Düsseldorf, Berlin, and Paris. But he often came home to Svolvær during the fishing season in winter to paint. With his beautiful and dramatic landscape paintings, he quickly became a popular and famous painter in Norway and central Europe.
Tragically, Gunnar Berg got cancer in his right leg, which he had to amputate. Shortly after the amputation, he caught the flu and pneumonia and died in Berlin on the day before Christmas Eve in 1893, only 30 years old. His father and brother had traveled from Svolvær to Berlin to be with Gunnar and say goodbye, but sadly they arrived only a few hours too late.
Gunnar is buried at the family burial site at Gunnarholmen on Svinøya (point D on this walking tour).
Gunnar Berg Art Gallery – The Battle Of Trollfjord (1890)
At the Gunnar Berg art gallery, you can enjoy an exhibition of around 70 oil paintings and pencil sketches made by Gunnar Berg.
He was a master of capturing the fishing industry and nature of Lofoten. His pictures show the old wooden fishing boats Nordland Boat (Nordlandsbåt), the fishermen’s culture, everyday life out here, and the majestic Lofoten landscape with steep mountains and narrow fjords.
Gunnar Berg’s most famous painting is “Trollfjordslaget or “The Battle of Trollfjord” from 1890.
That particular year something extraordinary happened in Trollfjord close to Svolvær. The arctic cod that we Norwegians call “skrei” migrated into the narrow Trollfjord and filled the fjord with fish, which rarely happens.
This was also around when the new invention steamboats came to Lofoten and started fishing with nets. This upset the fishermen with more traditional gear and open rowboats/ Nordland boats. The conflict accumulated on the 6th of March 1890 when steamboats tried to block Trollfjord and demanded payment from the traditional rowboats to enter the fjord.
The traditional fishermen did not accept this, and it came to fistfight between the two sides. It got pretty bad, and the steamboats flushed the rowboats and their fishermen with boiling water from their steam boilers.
Eventually, the rowboats won the battle and were able to access the Trollfjord to do their fishing. As many as 1400 Norland boats were fishing in the narrow fjord simultaneously, a total of about 5 000 fishermen! That year almost 1,5 million cod were caught in Trollfjord, with an average weight per fish of 6,5 kg! That’s pretty crazy.
Gunnar Berg was present at the battle, and with his sketchbook, he documented the whole thing from his father’s steamboat D/S Svolvær. The sketches later became the famous painting “Trollfjordslaget“/ Battle of Trollfjord that you can see at the art gallery on Svinøya. It is a magnificent painting, so lively that you almost feel present at the battle yourself.
The battle of Trollfjord raised important questions about how to manage the fishing industry in Northern Norway best, and it went political. The Norwegian Parliament took action, and on March 1891, the new Lofoten Act was in place. The Lofoten Act prohibited the use of nets.
- Opening Hours: 12:00 – 15:00 during summer
- Gunnar Berg Art Gallery’s Official Webpage
From the Gunnar Berg Art Gallery (B), continue on the road “Bernt Salvesens vei” until you reach the red fishermen’s cabins/ rorbuer (C).
C. Svinøya Rorbuer
At Svinoyas heydays, there were as many as 81 fishermen’s cabins on the small island (in 1860), which could accommodate up to 1200 fishermen.
Today there are about forty rorbu cabins left on Svinøya, which can accommodate up to 220 people. These are owned and run by Svinøya Rorbuer. More about the Svinøya Rorbu further down under “Where To Stay In Svinøya.”
Walk around the old cozy “classic” red wooden fisherman cabins (rorbu) and take some Instagram-friendly photos. 🙂
Walk back to where you came from, back to the junction where you stepped off the bridge. Turn left and continue walking on the road “Gunnar Bergsvei.” On your right-hand side, you will see the reception building of Svinøya Rorbu Accommodation and the Børsen Restaurant (located in the same building, D).
D. Børsen Restaurant
Børsen Restaurant is one of Lofoten’s most famous and renowned restaurants and Svolværs best restaurant. They serve excellent food with fresh and local ingredients. Børsen is particularly renowned for its stockfish, but they do serve meat as well.
The interior is stunning, housed in an old warehouse from 1828, and beautifully preserved.
If you want to eat at Børsen Restaurant, make sure to book a table as it is extremely popular.
In addition to the Børsen Restaurant, you will find the small shop “Krambua,” which also doubles as the reception area for Svinøya Rorbuer and still looks much like it did a hundred years ago.
During summer you can enjoy a guided tour of the Svinøya Rorbuer and its old houses. A knowledgeable tour guide will tell dramatic stories from the Lofoten fisheries and the old fishing village Svolvaer. The tour is on every day from 17:00/ 5 pm until 18:30/ 6:30 pm from 25th of June until 10th of August.
Manor House – The Old Berg Family House
Make sure to look over at the Gunnar Berg family’s stunning old mansion/ residence, called “Væreier Gården” or Manor House in English. It is located just across the road from the Børsen Restaurant.
The house was constructed in 1828 and is a stunning example of the architecture of the time.
If you want to feel how it was to be a “værier”/ the owner of the fishing industry in Svolvær, you can even stay the night at the Manor House. The house has nine bedrooms, while the neighboring Storehouse/ “Stabburet” in Norwegian has two bedrooms.
In total, 20 people can sleep here. However, the Manor House can only be booked as an entire house/ accommodation for a big family/ group. They don’t rent out separate rooms.
- Opening hours Børsen Restaurant: 18:00 – 21:00
- Børsen Restaurant’s Official Webpage
Continue walking south on the road “Gunnar Bergsvei.” After about 75 m, the road will turn left and continue on to the tiny islet Gunnarholmen. After about 300 m, you will see a statue of the painter Gunnar Berg (E).
E. Gunnar Berg Statue & Grave
Just next to the road, you will see the statue of the famous Svolvær painter Gunnar Berg.
Take the path to the left, and you will reach family Berg’s private grave chamber where the painter is buried.
Continue walking and follow the path onwards, and you will reach the small Kjeøya. Walk past the storage buildings and the WWI Bunker (F).
F. WWII Bunker
As you walk on, you will notice an old rusty WWII bunker called “Kjeøya Kystbatteri.” The bunker was in use during World War II, and you can walk inside the bunker, although there is not that much to see.
From the bunker, you have an excellent view over the sea and the rest of the island.
Continue walking, and you will soon see lots of fish flakes (G), although you will probably smell them before you spot them. 🙂
G. Fish Flakes With Stockfish
The fish flakes are a great photo spot and very Instagram-friendly. However, be aware of the smell, which can be a bit overwhelming to tell you the truth. The locals, however, refer to this smell as “the smell of money.”
Did you know that cod in the Barents Sea (called “Skrei” in Norwegian, which means “to migrate”) is the world’s most extensive cod stock? Its most important breeding places are in Lofoten and Vesterålen in the North of Norway. Thousands, maybe millions, of cod enter the sea outside Loften every year from January until April.
Each cod/ skrei can become 170 cm long and weigh up to 55 kg! That is like a grown-up human being! Crazy! But most cod is, however, between 10 and 15 kg.
Almost everything from the fish comes into use. We Norwegians boil and eat the fish meat, liver, and roe (cooked in separate casseroles) – a dish we call “mølje.” It is considered a real delicacy! If you happen to be in Northern Norway in January – April, you should try the Molje dish (some restaurants also serve it).
The cod/ skrei is also put out to dry and become stockfish or clipfish. Later on, some of the stockfish is pickled in lye and becomes the famous Norwegian dish “Lutefisk,” which we eat every Christmas. I love Lutefisjk, but Espen hates it. 🙂
Since the primary cod fishing season is during the cold winter of January – April, the fish flakes will be packed with stockfish around this time of year.
However, the stockfish is harvested in spring when they are dry, and the fish flakes will then be filled with thousands of cod heads during the summer months.
In the old days, the cod heads were considered waste and just thrown away as garbage. Nowadays, however, dried cod heads are a million-dollar industry. The dried cod heads are turned into powder used in the food industry (especially in Asia) and used for nutrition in developing countries that struggle with hunger as it is high on protein.
Continue walking out on the breakwater/ pier made of concrete. Here you get to feel the sea, especially if the weather is a bit rough. Soon you will reach Svolvær’s famous Fisherman’s Wife statue (H).
H. Fisherman’s Wife/ Fiskerkona Statue
The famous statue of Svolver is the “Fiskerkona,” which means “Fisherman’s wife” in English. The locals call her “Feskarkjerringa,” though. But I hate the word “kjerring,” which is a bit similar to the word “bitch” in English where I’m from (Tromso). 🙂
The Fisherman’s Wife is 4,5 m tall and stands at the entrance to Svolvær harbor, waving her hand out towards the sea. It seems like she is waving goodbye to her fisherman husband, hoping that he will return.
The statue is to honor all the fisherman’s wives and children who stay at home waiting for their husbands and fathers to return home safely.
The bronze statue was made by the artist Per Ung in 1999. It is an excellent photo spot, with the beautiful Vestfjord as a background. You also have a fantastic view of Svolvær city and its harbor from the Svinøya breakwater pier.
The Fiskarkona/ Fisherman’s Wife statue at the outer side of the island concludes this walking tour of Svinoya. I hope you had a fantastic walk!
Make sure to read our ultimate guide to Svolvaer with all of the city’s sights and activities as well as tips on where to eat and the best places to stay in Svolvaer.
Another super cozy fishing village is Henningsvaer, a 25-min drive from Svolvaer and Svinoya. I highly recommend that you visit Henningsvaer as well, it is my favorite place in Lofoten with its cozy cafes, shops, and restaurants.
How To Get To Svinøya
You can easily walk to Svinøya from Svolvær in about 10-15 minutes (across the 350 m long Svinøya Bridge). Or you can drive there or use a bicycle.
Where To Stay On Svinøya
Svinøya Rorbuer/ Fisherman’s Cabins Accommodation
Svinøya Rorbuer is one of the best places to stay in Svolvær. Here you can sleep like the fishermen that went on cod fishing in Lofoten in the old days did (although in quite a bit more comfort….). The view is outstanding, with a fantastic view of the fjord and the mountains surrounding Svolvær.
All of the rorbu cabins are of a high and modern standard. Each cabin has one to three double bedrooms, a well-equipped kitchen, a cozy and comfortable lounge area, and a modern bathroom with a shower and toilet. The cabins are insulated and have electric heating, so they are warm and comfy all year round, even on the coldest winter days.
You can choose between different sized rorbu/ cabins, which can house from 2 to 6 people. If you are more than six people, you can opt for a Rorbusuites, accommodating up to 8 people (four bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a sauna). You can easily walk to the Svolvær Harbor and Hurtigruten Terminal in 15-20 min. If you are driving you can park for free in front of your cabin.
Click here to check availability and the latest prices
Svolvær Havn Rorbuer
Svolvær Havn Rorbuer is Svinoya’s newest accommodation provider (opened in 2016). The lovely bright white cabins sit along the shore and house modern and fresh apartments with a well-equipped kitchen and private bathroom.
You have a fantastic view of Svolvær harbor, the mountains, and the fjord from your balcony or patio. Free parking is included. You have to book at least two nights to stay here. Each apartment can house up to 8 people (four bedrooms).
Click here to check availability and the latest prices
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