Visit Roros, Norway: UNESCO World Heritage town

by | Norway

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.

Visit Roros Sleggveienhit historic houses.

Roros Sleggveien – 17th-Century timber homes on “Slag Way”

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 historic mining town streets

Visit Roros for its quaint, historic nature

Visit Roros historic and quaint UNESCO villageWith 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.)

Visit Roros catching the sunlight

Roros Church rises above “Malmpassen” square

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.

Visit Roros church.

Roros Church looking down on Roros town

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.
Slag mountain in Roros ... visit Roros.

Therese atop the Slegghaugan or “Slag heaps”

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!

Read our story “Norway in a Nutshell DIY” to find a little advice on maneuvering the Norwegian train system.

HITT Tip: There are some highly rated, lovely inns and bed & breakfasts in Roros since it tends to be a long weekend getaway for the “big city” folks from Oslo or Trondheim. They sounded lovely, of course. But we found a casual, very inexpensive hostel-like accommodation called “Idrettsparken”  (literally “sports park”) that we had nearly to ourselves for our off-season visit. Rooms are small and quite basic, but they serve tea and cookies all day in addition to breakfast, and there is a huge and comfortable living room and other lounge areas to hang out. Plus, great wifi. And no traffic noise. Per its name, this inn is next to the sport fields so be forewarned it can fill with teams and groups.
Visit Roros children walking the streets

School kids on a walk through downtown Roros

HITT Tip: Roros tourist folks work hard to create a destination in the middle of Norway, emphasizing sustainability. In fact, the town was the only Norwegian finalist for the National Geographic World Legacy Awards in 2015. You’ll find all kinds of special events if you visit Roros, such as the popular Roros Winter fair (Rorosmartnan) in late February — a tradition that dates back to 1854 that transforms the town into one giant marketplace. There is a also a Christmas Fair in early December, as well as other non-winter events including theater events, arts shows, athletic happenings, and crafts fairs.
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There are so many things to do in Norway!

If Roros looks like an amazing village to visit, you are right. But be sure to check out other fantastic cities in Norway to, like Trondheim, Alesund, Bergen, and Kirkenes. Be sure to read Eight reasons to visit Trondheim, Beautiful Alesund inspires artists and photographers, Kirkenes Travel Tips: An Arctic frontier at road’s end, and Bergen travel essentials – what to do in Bergen.

Thinking about a Hurtigruten cruise up the coast of Norway for a spectacular adventure? Then be sure to read our entire Hurtigruten cruise advice series: Hurtigruten Cruises: Travel booking tipsPlanning Your Hurtigruten Cruise Excursions; Hurtigruten Cabins: Differences, Details; Food and Drink on Hurtigruten Cruises in Norway;and Hurtigruten Video Tour – Planning Your Next Trip.

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Heads up! This information on Visit Roros was accurate when we published it on HI Travel Tales, but, as we know, traveling is all about changes (and inflation, sadly). It is your sole responsibility to confirm prices, transportation schedules, hours of operation, safety and health considerations, and any other important details before your adventure.

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Therese Iknoian

Co-Conspirator at HI Travel Tales
Little did her parents know that a short trip to Europe in high school would launch a lifetime love of travel, languages and cultures. Trained as a news journalist, Therese Iknoian now focuses her writing and photography talents on travel. Fluent in German, Therese also runs a translation business (ThereseTranslates.com) working primarily with companies in the outdoor/sports/retail industry. She's a French speaker, and loves to learn a bit of the language wherever she goes -- gdje je kupaonica? Мне нужна помощь! -- often embarrassing herself in the quest for cross-cultural communication. Therese is an award-winning member of the North American Travel Journalists Association.
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