Founded on the site of a monastery in the 12th century, Skien is one of the oldest towns in Norway. It lies at one end of the heritage-listed Telemark Canal, with the twin spires of the Neo-Gothic Skien Church dominating its skyline. It has a rich lumber and mining history and is the birthplace of the renowned Norwegian playwright, Henrik Ibsen.
Things to do in Skien
Board the MS Henrik Ibsen or MS Victoria to cruise the Telemark Canal, which is the only canal system in Norway that’s connected to the sea. Admire the old lock-keepers’ cottages, sawmills and warehouses as you negotiate its 18 locks, which lift vessels 72 metres above sea level to the picturesque lake of Flåvatn.
In Skien’s hilltop Brekkeparken stands the Telemark Museum, which exhibits 14 farmhouse cottages from across the region. See the historic residence of Niels Aall, who played an important role in drafting Norway’s 1814 constitution, then soak up the views across Skien and the Telemark Canal from Brekkeparken Cafe. The park is renowned for its colourful flower beds, which ignite with tulips in mid-May.
A short drive north of Skien will take you to the Henrik Ibsen Museum where the playwright lived between the ages of 7 and 15. As you explore the beautifully preserved farmhouse, learn how his childhood and education influenced his writing, then see the orchard bowling alley where his parents entertained guests two centuries ago.
Getting around Skien
Skien is around two hours’ drive from the centre of Oslo and 2.5 hours from Oslo Airport, with regular trains connecting from the Norwegian capital to the Skien railway station. Buses travel throughout Skien and to surrounding towns and villages. The centre of Skien is compact enough to explore on foot.