The picturesque harbour of Svolvær overlooks the Vestfjord. Enjoy visiting a fishing village where age-old seagoing traditions are still preserved. The surrounding islands, steep mountains, beautiful beaches and sheltered bays offer opportunities to take part in a number of exciting activities. Shops, galleries, cafes and restaurants are scattered throughout the city. The locals usually go out for lunch, and on weekends the town is teeming with life.
The world’s largest catches of cod are made on the Lofoten banks between January and April every year. This was the reason for the development of this small coastal town. The average catch used to be 40-50 million kilos. Now the catch varies from year to year, ranging between 25-50 million kilos. Today, there are less than 3,000 fishermen compared to 20,000 in 1947, much due to larger and more efficient fishing vessels. The rich array of industries is all linked to fish processing, fishing itself and boat traffic.
Svolvær is not just a centre for fishing. In the winter, streets are full of skiers on their way to the winter sports centre, as well as artists who flock here for the local scenery, the colourful street life and, perhaps more than anything else, the light. Lofoten’s outstanding nature has inspired and attracted artists for years, leaving Vågan with the highest number of established artists and one of Northern Norway’s most important art communities, with galleries and museums almost everywhere you walk. The most famous symbol of Lofoten and Svolvær, Svolværgeita, is a favourite spot for mountain climbers in summer. Climbers from all over the world come here to jump between the two horns of the peak. One of the highlights during the winter is the annual cod fishing festival.
The first town establishment is known in Northern Norway, Vågar, was situated around the narrow, natural harbour just west of Svolvær. Vågar is mentioned in the book Heimskringla by Snorri Sturlason and might have been established as early as the year 800. One of the first churches in North Norway was most likely built here, approximately 900 years ago. Svolvær is first mentioned in 1567 ("Suoluer"), but it is probably much older. The Old Norse form of the name is assumed to be Svolver. The first element is probably derived from svalr, which means ‘cool’, or 'chilly', and the last element is ver, which means 'fishing village'. The great cod fisheries in winter have always been the most important economical foundation. Svolvær was an important fishing village for a long time and was the basis for the town status granted in 1918.