Akershus Castle during evening.
Akershus Castle during evening. Photo: Lauritzen, Eivind

Visitor Guide Akershus Castle

Welcome to Akershus Castle! The castle was first built ca 1300 and was later expanded during the reign of King Christian IV in the 1600s. Today the castle serves as the Norwegian Government’s primary representation rooms. This article is a brief guide to the history and the inventory of the castle and is most suitable for our visitors prior or during the visit. The article follows the same route as the visitors to the castle.

Enjoy your visit!

Information regarding our opening times and ticket prices can be found on our website.

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1. Akershus Castle

Akershus Castle was originally built as a medieval fortified castle around 1300. Its primary function was to defend Oslo, Norway’s capital from 1299. During the reign of the Danish-Norwegian King Christian IV in the first half of the 17th century, the castle was rebuilt in renaissance style and surrounded by a modern bastion fortress.

There are still signs on the castle walls from the time of Christian IV. The cast iron anchor plates on the Eastern wall read 1638 and are original from that time. The King’s monogram can be spotted on one of the two towers.

The castle fell into disrepair in the 18th and 19th centuries, but has later been restored. Its primary function today is to house the representation rooms of the Norwegian Government.

Akershus Castle during evening Photo: Lauritzen, Eivind
The castle courtyard, Akershus. Kristiania. ukjent person / Oslo Museum CC CC0
The airship Norge over Akershus Fortress Wilse, Anders Beer / Oslo Museum CC CC0

Listen to the ghost story from the courtyard!

2. The West Wing

A) Originally the royal kitchen in the renaissance castle of King Christian IV. Today one can still observe the remains of bakery ovens and fireplaces.

B) The chamber of the court bailiff: the office which administrated the collecting of taxes from all Eastern Norway during the union with Denmark. Located in the corner of the room is a chest used by the bailiff to collect toll from passing ships in Drøbak, just south of Oslo. On the top of the chest are two slots for coins. Half of the coins collected would go to the bailiff and the other half would go to the king.

C) The secret passage: part of an inner passage from the medieval castle, which gave easy access between the south and north wings.

D) The school chamber: in the 17th century the children of the Danish governor, who lived and worked in the castle, would get their lessons here. The green tiles are original from the 1600s.

The chamber of the court bailiff Photo: Akershus Castle
Toll chest from Drøbak Photo: Akershus Castle

3. The Dungeon

The dungeon Forsvaret / Torbjørn Kjosvold

This part of the castle was made into four prison cells early in the 17th century. From the written sources we learn that one of the cells was known as the witch’s pit. The inner prison cell floor is sloped due to the angle of the corridor going underneath the cell.

These cells were used up until the 1700s, after which the prisoners were moved to the main fortress prison.

4. The Royal Mausoleum

The final resting place of members of the present royal family was built in 1948. It was designed by the Norwegian architect Arnstein Arneberg and his firm. The Mausoleum is decorated with Norwegian marble stone and a painting by the Norwegian painter Henrik Sørensen.

Resting in the white marble sarcophagus: King Haakon VII (1872–1957) and Queen Maud (1869-1938)

Resting in the green bronze sarcophagus: King Olav V (1903–1991) and Crown Princess Märtha (1901-1954)

King Haakon 7., Queen Maud and Prince Olav Unknown / Oslo Museum CC CC0
Crown Prince Olav and Crown Princess Märtha. Ca 1929 Photo: G. Hård / Nasjonalbiblioteket

On the opposite side of the crypt, three members of the medieval royal family are laid to rest. They were originally buried in two of the churches of Old Oslo which are today ruins.

On the left, the founder of Akershus Castle, King Håkon V and his wife, Queen Eufemia of Rügen. On the right, King Sigurd the Crusader.

5. The Castle Church

This part of the castle has been used for religious purposes since the early 16th century. The church has been on the brink of demolition a couple of times, and then restored and refurnished. The altar piece, baptismal font and pulpit are in the nordic baroque style, from around 1750. The rest of the interior is a result of the restorations during the 20th century. The castle church functions as royal burial church, and also as the main church of the Norwegian military. It is in continuous use.

The altar piece, one of the most decorated items in the church, was designed by Elias David Häusser, who also designed the first Christiansborg castle in Copenhagen. At the very top of the altar piece is a blue circle with golden writing. It reads “Jahve” in Hebrew, meaning God. Just beneath the blue circle are two mirrored monograms belonging to the Danish-Norwegian royal couple during the 1700s: King Christian VI and Queen Sophie Magdalene. The close proximity of the circle with God and the two monograms show how the King and Queen were considered almighty and above all others in society apart from God. This is proof of the Danish-Norwegian autocracy which lasted from 1660 until 1814 in Norway.

The Castle Church Forsvaret / Torbjørn Kjosvold
Akershus Castle Church 1863-1883 Photo: Olsen, Ole Tobias / Oslo Museum CC CC0
Confirmation in the Church 1908 Photo: Wilse, Anders Beer / Oslo Museum CC CC0
The Church 1930 Photo: ukjent person / Oslo Museum CC CC0
Queen Mauds funeral. November 1938 Photo: Wilse, Anders Beer / Oslo Museum CC CC0

6. The Daredevil

The walls of grey stone in this room are the remains of the central tower of the medieval castle, the keep, known as the Daredevil tower. The walls were included in the new east wing building from the 1930s.

On the walls to the south and north are 17th century Norwegian bridal tapestries, originally made to decorate the bed on the wedding night.

The crown on the east wall: During the construction of this room in 1937, Prince Harald, now King Harald, was born. This was a grand event as Harald was the first Norwegian prince to be born in Norway since the 1300s. The prince was born on a Sunday, and when the carpenters came back to work on Monday, they decided to celebrate the birth of the new prince by building a crown out of bricks. The chief architect, Arnstein Arneberg, had not planned for the crown, but luckily he allowed for it to stay.

Listen to the history of the medieval castle at Akershus!

Listen to the story about the ghost horse!

The Daredevil Forsvaret / Torbjørn Kjosvold
The reconstruction on the old medieval castle. Photo: Akershus Castle

7. The East Wing

The East Wing Forsvaret / Torbjørn Kjosvold

The present east wing was built in the 1930s, including remains of older walls. Here you find the main entrance to the representation rooms of the castle.

The pennants that decorate the wall belong to the Norwegian dragoon companies during the Great Nordic War (1700-1721). Copies from 1971-1974.

8. The Hall of Christian IV

In the 1600s, this floor was divided into several smaller rooms, which functioned as the private apartments of the Danish-Norwegian kings and queens. It is named after the most famous of these, King Christian IV. This king was particularly interested in Norway, and often visited this part of his kingdom. He founded several new cities, reorganised various areas of government and initiated important mining industries. This floor was later made into one large hall in the Nordic baroque style.

The portrait of King Christian IV is located in the middle on the southern wall. The painting is a contemporary copy by the Danish court painter, Pieter Isaacsz, from 1614. Christian IV was the king of Denmark-Norway for 60 years, making him Norway’s longest reigning monarch. It was under his reign that the old Akershus Castle was transformed into his own, modern Renaissance-style castle, and it is mostly his castle that we can see today. Following the city fire in Oslo in 1624, he decided to rebuild the city by moving it further west and under the fortress. This was primarily done for strategical reasons, but also to modernise the city. He named the new city after himself: Christiania.

The three tapestries on the north wall are among the most valuable items of the castle interiors. They were woven in Brussels in the mid 17th century and depict motifs from the Spanish Riding School in Vienna.

The four full figure paintings on the south wall were acquired with funding from friends of Akershus Castle and private donors.

  1. King Christian VI (1699-1746)

  2. Queen Sophie Magdalene (1700-1770)

  3. King Fredrik V (1723-1766)

  4. Queen Louise (1724-1751)

Do you wish to read more about the tapestries? Click here for more information

Listen to the story about the King, Princess and the Witches

The Hall of Christian IV Photo: Lauritzen, Eivind
The Hall of Christian IV 1923 Wilse, Anders Beer / Oslo Museum CC CC0
The hall decorated for Christmas Photo: Akershus Castle

9. The Prince’s Chamber & The Green Chamber

These two rooms were originally part of the royal apartments. Today the castle is furnished to suit its primary function as Government representation rooms. Because of this, no attempts have been made to recreate historical interiors, and you will for instance not find any beds here. The furniture and other decorative items in the castle date mostly from the 16th and 17th century. They are not original to the castle, but have been acquired after the restoration.

The Prince's Chamber Photo: Lauritzen, Eivind

10. The Romerike Hall

The name derives from peasants of the Romerike area north of Oslo who repaired this wing after a fire in 1527. According to ghost stories, the Romerike peasants still haunt the place.

In the 17th century the Governor of Norway, who governed the country on behalf of the Danish kings, had his offices here. Today the Romerike hall functions as the dining hall, and can seat 180 people for official banquets.

Ghost story:

In the 1500s, a lightning strike hit the West Wing of Akershus Castle. Parts of the castle were destroyed in the following fire, and it was decided that it should be rebuilt. The government ordered the Romerike peasants to rebuild the castle. These peasants had not paid their taxes for three years, simply because they did not have the funds as their crops had failed for several years. While the rebuild was underway, a plague broke out and all the Romerike peasants died shortly after. It is said that the peasants never really left the castle. During dark autumn evenings it is still possible to hear the ghosts of the Romerike peasants as they cry and moan over their terrible fate.

The Romerike Hall Photo: Lauritzen, Eivind
The Romerike Hall decorated for a banquet Photo: Akershus Castle
The Romerike Hall 1923 Photo: Wilse, Anders Beer / Oslo Museum CC CC0

11. The Margrethe Hall

This hall is in the north wing, the oldest part of the castle. In the Middle Ages, it was the primary living room for members of the court. It is named after the Danish born Queen Margrethe I (1353-1412), who used to live at the castle as a young queen in the mid 1300s. She married King Håkon VI of Norway, but later became regent of both Norway, Denmark and Sweden. She took part in the creation of the Kalmar union, which in 1397 united the Nordic countries under one king. The hall has later been used as a court room and for state dinners.

Ghost story:

When Queen Margrethe lived at Akershus Castle, the Black Plague was spreading rapidly throughout the country. Even at the castle, conditions were poor. It is said that one of Queen Margrethe’s chamber maids starved to death. And the maid has shown herself at the castle many times after. She appears in the corner of the room before she glides across the floor. She is said to be very scary as she is dressed in a long, grey robe – giving her the name The Mantelgeist, a caped ghost. The scariest feature of the maid is that she does not have a face. Where her face should be, there is only an oval parchment-coloured flat surface.

Click here to read more about the tapestry in the Margrethe Hall

The Margrethe Hall 1929 Photo: Wilse, Anders Beer / Oslo Museum CC CC0
The Margrethe Hall Photo: Akershus Castle

12. The Hall of Olav V

The Hall of Olav V Photo: Lauritzen, Eivind. ©Mathias Andersson, Kyndill

This was presumably the location of the great hall of the medieval castle. The present room is a result of the restoration during the 1900s, with interior elements inspired by English and Norwegian originals from the 1300s. The decorations are painted directly on the walls with whitewash paint without the use of a template. They were painted by Kåre Limseth by hand, and he spent two years painting both walls.

The hall is used occasionally for concerts, theatre performances and state dinners.

The Rose Window

The Rose Window, Akershus Castle's stained glass window, was created by Emanuel Vigeland in 1919/1920. As a result of the explosion at Filipstadkaia in 1943, the original Rose Window was destroyed and it was believed that the glass pieces were lost or completely broken. In 1999, however, some parts of the missing window were found and they were restored in 2001. In 2023, the whole window was restored and the missing pieces were reconstructed.

The window depicts two biblical stories, while the remaining paintings depict Nordic saints. The center window shows Agnus Dei, The Lamb of God. The remaining motifs show:

  • The Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus (original 1920)
  • The death of St. Olav (reconstructed)
  • St. Halvard, the patron saint of Oslo (original 1920)
  • St. Svithun, the patron saint of Stavanger (reconstructed)
  • St. Sunniva who is seeking refuge in a cave (original 1920)
  • The death of St. Magnus (reconstructed)
  • St. Tor who sings for sick animals (original 1920)
  • St. John who washes the feet of the poor (reconstructed)

Listen to the ghost story!

The Rose Window after the reconstruction in 2023. Photo: Akershus Castle
The Hall of Olav V Photo: Lauritzen, Eivind. ©Mathias Andersson, Kyndill
The Rose Window by Emanuel Vigeland Photo: Wilse, Anders Beer / Oslo Museum CC CC0
The Hall of Olav V 1923 Photo: Wilse, Anders Beer / Oslo Museum CC CC0

13. The Office of Henrik Wergeland

The Office of Henrik Wergeland Photo: Akershus Castle

After Norway gained its independence from Denmark in 1814, the National Archives were established at Akershus Castle. Henrik Wergeland became the the first Head of State Archives and used this room as his office. He is most famous for writing poems and for contributing to make the 17th of May, Norway's National Day, into the grand celebration it is today.

This room was reconstructed in 1971 using inventory lists and other accounts to resemble the office of Wergeland .

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