Why You Should Visit Oslo's Medieval Festival

A performance during Oslo's Medieval Festival
A performance during Oslo's Medieval Festival | © Hanne Nordskag, Courtesy of Oslo Middelalderfestival
Oslo has the look and feel of a very young and modern city. Sometimes, it’s easy to forget that this city has its roots in the Middle Ages – and that’s where Oslo’s Medieval Festival comes in. Every year, the magnificent Akershus Fortress becomes a portal to ages past, where valiant knights are jousting, royals are scheming, and pedlars are selling their fare. Here’s why you shouldn’t miss the chance to join them.

A festival that’s become a staple

It all started almost 25 years ago. Back in 1994, Oslo Medieval Festival Foundation was founded in order to help people learn more about the city’s medieval history in a fun and interactive way. The festival was held annually at the Medieval Park in Sørenga, an area where development is not allowed because of the many ruins and cultural remains under the ground (like the ruins of St. Clement’s Church, St. Mary’s Church, and the former royal estate to name a few). It was the perfect location for a weekend of medieval history, concerts, theatre performances, and era-appropriate activities like jousting and longbow contests. It’s truly a medieval atmosphere complete with a market where artisans could showcase their craftsmanship and visitors could participate in workshops and buy unique items.

Of course, word started spreading fast, with more and more people coming each year (nowadays, festivalgoers can go up to about 7,000). As such, the need for a bigger and more diverse venue slowly arose and, in 2014, Oslo’s Medieval Festival moved to Akershus Fortress.

In character during Oslo's Medieval Festival Courtesy of Oslo Middelalderfestival

A chance to explore Oslo’s glorious past

Oslo’s Medieval Festival time-travels to the 1300s – in particular 1314, when Oslo officially became the Norwegian capital. Back then, the city itself mostly consisted of what is Bjørvika today, with the Akershus Fortress casting its imposing shadow. The festival commemorates the city’s medieval-era grandeur with re-enactors, musicians, and performers (think jugglers, fire jugglers, and jesters) that bring you scenes from the royal court as well as a taste of the everyday life back then. There are sports events, like jousting and archery, contests for the best medieval costume, as well as enough food and drink for you to feast like a medieval knight.

One of the festival’s focal points is the historically accurate marketplace, where craftsmen and sellers from all over Europe are exhibiting (and selling) anything from textiles and medieval-era accessories, reproductions of weaponry, and household items. There are also talks, exhibitions, and a separate schedule to keep the little ones engaged throughout the weekend. It’s like a mashup of Game of Thrones, The Tudors, and Vikings – only in real life and appropriate for the whole family.

Medieval tunes Courtesy of Oslo Middelalderfestival

An awe-inducing venue

The medieval castle, whose construction started in the late 1290s, has been through a lot over the ages, having withstood both sieges and natural disasters. Akershus Fortress is actually the only part of “old Oslo” that has survived the devastating fire of 1624, which led king Christian IV to rebuild the whole city. Nowadays, it’s an unmissable destination for any traveller; free to enter and offering fantastic views of the fjord and the city, as well as access to several museums and World War II monuments. Within its walls, Oslo’s Medieval Festival has truly become an affair to remember.

The Akershus fortress is the perfect venue Courtesy of Oslo Middelalderfestival

This year, Oslo’s Medieval Festival is taking place between May 25-27 at the Akershus Fortress. Get your tickets here.