Destination Harstad official travel guide
Official touristinformation for: Harstad, Kvæfjord, Bjarkøy, Tjeldsund, Skånland.
Harstad and the surrounding area are multicultural areas with both Sami and Norwegian populations. The interest and pride in traditional music, handcrafts, building tradition, food and clothes traditions is increasing throughout this area.
In 2004 Harstad celebrated its centennial as a city. The city contains a mix of old and new architecture which, together with the many cafés and restaurants, provide a good atmosphere. In the last week of June every year, Harstad hosts the Festival of Northern Norway, a fantastic festival featuring a mix of amateur and professional artists.
In the region around Harstad (South Troms and Northern Nordland), we find the largest interior Sami villages. A characteristic feature is that they are established a reasonable distance from the coast in outlying fields that had not previously been exploited for agriculture.
These Sami settlement areas have their background in domesticated reindeer husbandry which started in the 16th and 17th centuries. The Norwegian coastal areas were summer grazing areas, while the winter residential sites were in the Swedish interior. For most Sami, this meant the Jukkasjãrvi parish in Northern Sweden.
The regular summer residential sites were in time developed into more permanent settlements with agriculture and livestock breeding. Those who had reindeer left the animals with other flocks in the winter grazing areas while they remained in the summer areas year-round.
The cultural fellowship in the Jukkasjãrvi Sami area still remains strong today in the interior villages. The Sami dialects and traditional clothes are the same, as well as many other important traditions.
Teaching is provided in the Sami language at the municipality’s primary, junior secondary and upper secondary schools.
The coastal population in Northern Norway are known for fishing traditions and boat building and have a coastal sense of humour. They lived with one foot in the boat and one on the shore. Up to the mid 19th century, most Norwegians lived along the coast and the typical way of making a living was combining agricultural with one form or another of coastal occupation.
Boats were the main transport link for coastal communities as there was no road network. Uses for the boats included transporting people to school, church or the shopkeeper. The people built their boats themselves, and the boats were first and foremost used for fishing. The local boat building traditions have been developed over several centuries. Boats were built and designed according to function, both when it comes to size and carrying capacity.
The life of women living along the coast was in many ways quite different to that of women living in inland Norway. Coastal women often served as ground crew for their husbands who set off on long seasonal fishing trips or worked as sailors. These women often took on seasonal jobs at production plants salting or drying fish. As well as being in charge of the household, they were also responsible for most of the farming work when their husbands were away. They carried out tasks that in inland areas were considered to be a man's job.
Today there are many interest groups and organisations for the protection of Norwegian coastal heritage.
The 1860s brought an unexpected change in Northern Norway. Large quantities of large herring suddenly appeared. From the early days, the Lofoten, spring and smelt fisheries in Finnmark, and partly herring fishing, had been an important contribution to the North Norwegian household.
In the early 19th century, it was first and foremost Southern Norway that had profited from the herring, but the herring fisheries had come to the north. This development created economic growth and modernisation in Northern Norway.
Harstad - under its own steam!
Harstad celebrated its centennial in 1995. The starting point when Rikard Kaarbø 100 years ago built a slipway to serve the steam ship traffic in Northern Norway. In the period from 1906 to 1919, the Harstad Mekaniske Verksted was accompanied in Harstad by many smaller engineering workshops.
In addition to the diversity in the city’s engineering industry, the engineering history is also marked by great versatility in each company. The shipping yards produced everything from ships to winches, lanterns to snow ploughs, the bodies of buses to steam engines and steam boilers to tanks. However, the focus remained on the repair and maintenance of ships, which overall was the main priority.
If you want to learn more about this important part of Harstad’s history, we recommend a visit to the Museum of Harstad’s shipyard history in Samasjøen.