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There’s something to be said about small towns. Usually overlooked by travelers who veer towards more prominent destinations, small towns can be true hidden gems – if you just know where to look. And if you look in the heart of Oppland, right next to the calm waters of Norway’s largest lake, you’ll find one such hidden gem. The small town of Gjøvik will give you plenty of reasons to take the two-hour train trip from Oslo – perhaps more than once.
Oslo’s central train station is your gateway to many exciting destinations – and Gjøvik is one of them. The railway line will take you through the beautiful landscapes of Nordmarka and Hadeland, before you arrive at Gjøvik in approximately two hours. The charming little town is situated right by lake Mjøsa, the largest lake in Norway and one of the deepest lakes in Europe. Gjøvik’s history has been tightly knit with that of the glass factory in the area, Hadeland glassworks.
Operating since 1807, Hadeland caused a big wave of immigration to the Gjøvik area from Valdres and Western Norway, establishing Gjøvik into a town in 1861. As the country’s oldest handicraft business, Hadeland glassworks holds a big cultural significance; today, it is also a museum and the area around it has been developed into a small village a little outside Gjøvik. Here, you can get a guided tour and visit the glassblowers’ studio to see them practicing their traditional art. How would you feel about trying your hand at glassblowing or glass designing?
Gjøvik, and the Hadeland region in general, offers many more attractions with big cultural significance like the Glassworks village. Here you can find the world’s largest spectators hall to have ever been built inside a mountain called Fjellhallen. Constructed to accommodate the ice hockey matches of the Winter Olympics of 1994 in nearby Lillehammer, this massive hall is built directly under the center of the town. It accommodates up to 6,000 people and sports one of the world’s first underground swimming pools.
If you prefer spending your time above ground however, fret not. The Gjøvik region is perfect for cross-country skiing, with 1,500 kilometers of prepared tracks in all kinds of terrain, from forests to mountains. On the cultural side there’s Kauffeldtgården, which is a preserved empire building in the middle of the city center. There are quite a few medieval and gothic churches of note in the area as well as galleries and museums. At Kistefos museum, you can see Scandinavia’s only intact pulp mill and take a walk around its adjoining sculpture park. Unlike single-artist sculpture parks like Vigeland, here you’ll find sculptures from all over the world.
Probably no connection to Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky‘s classical oeuvre – but impressive in its own right. See, the coat of arms for the town of Gjøvik is a white swan, which has resulted to its famous paddle steamer, Skibladner, being called “Lake Mjøsa’s white swan”. The white swan in question is the world’s oldest preserved paddle steamer that’s still in timetabled service. It has been sailing for over 160 years! Departing from Gjøvik every summer (usually between June-August), getting on board the Skibladner is like taking a day trip to 1856. Think live steam engines and paddle wheels. You can enjoy a luxurious meal on board, while sailing northbound to Lillehammer or southbound to Eidsvoll. By the time you get back to Gjøvik, you’ll be glad you’ve chosen to visit and get to know this small town.