We decided to visit Roros, Norway while looking for a short couple of nights somewhere on our way from Trondheim back to Oslo for a flight home. Our reading seemed to indicated that the tiny mining town, which also happened to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site, could offer a fun, off-the-beaten-path retreat.
It didn’t hurt that Roros was on the north-south train line so a stopover was easy sans automobile. And, since it’s on a mountain plateau, the relatively treeless area meant cold and snow. Dog sledding was thus also on the agenda (which turned into a great adventure, too, with Alaskan Husky Tours! Click here to read about our dog sledding adventure.)
Visit Roros for its quaint, historic nature
With snowflakes falling, the 17th and 18th century buildings that make up most of the itty-bitty downtown were picture-postcard pretty. They are all from the town’s heyday as a copper mining mecca in the 1600s. The streets, old mine buildings, church, shops, craftsmen’s workshops and farms are so quaint you wonder if Walt Disney had a hand in the 1.27-square-mile town with a population of only a few thousand. Apparently the cold wind whipping across the treeless plains chases a lot of folks away. Not HI Travel Tales!
Our short winter stay gave us a taste of the possibilities of this expansive mountain wilderness area as a home base for outdoor adventures or just plain relaxing. There are two national parks and the country’s third-largest lake too. And walks among the old buildings – some nearly 300 years old – are a photographer’s (or historian’s or sight-seer’s…) dream. Historic Roros managed to escape most of the fires that devastated many of Norway’s old timber buildings, which helped it achieve UNESCO status. And makes it all the more fascinating.
What to do in Roros, Norway
Really, this is a town where you want to wander, enjoy the history, talk to very friendly locals, shop if that’s your thing, and be a kid exploring the narrow streets. If you don’t speak Norwegian (and thus can’t read historic signs), your best bet is to pop into the Roros tourist office at Peder Hiorts Gate 2, a tiny and low-slung nondescript building practically next to the tiny train station. (“Tiny” is a word you’ll use a lot in Roros.)
At the tourist office, you can arrange a walking tour in English, and the super nice folks will bend over backward to take care of you. You can even email them at [email protected]. We received very prompt and helpful answers.
What to see when you visit Roros?
- The Roros Church (Kirke) in the center of town is a given. It looms high above the tiny (there I go again) town on a small hill.
- The “Sleggveien” (Slag Way), just below the church, is the historic part of town with cottages, workshops and smelter’s huts feeling like an outdoor museum – until you realize people also live there. You can also trek over and around the “Slegghaugan”, or “slag heaps,” that some municipalities would call eyesores but here they take on an historic air. Doesn’t hurt when they are covered in powdery snow.
- You can tour the “Smelthytta”, the building that used to house the main smelting works, to learn about production.
- Poke around the “Malmplassen” in front of the smeltery building – the large open square where ore was delivered and where the smelter’s bell still hangs that would ring at the start of shifts.
- You can also tour the Olafsgruva copper mine, but it’s not open in the winter so HI Travel Tales missed out on that.
Click here to download a PDF version of the tourist guide to Roros in English. And for such a small town, the tourist information website is very thorough and well done – and in good English!
And click here to find a little advice on maneuvering the Norwegian train system.