Lying snugly along the banks of the river that shares its name, Drammen resides within the Buskerud County, a mere half-hour drive from Oslo. A city in the midst of transformation, Drammen has breathed new life into its riverside area, casting a fresh aura over its landscape. Modern glass-block residences, cozy eateries, inviting cafes, boutique stores, and cultural venues now line the riverside, unveiling a revitalized charm. While ranking as the country’s fifth-largest city, with its population hovering around 100.000, Drammen is not exactly a tourist hotspot, often slipping under the radar for many travelers. Even among Norwegians, the city is often reduced to being an industrial outpost southwest of Oslo, recognized primarily for its Aass Brewery.
In its essence, Drammen remains an industrial nucleus, a magnet for businessmen rather than sightseers. Its sprawling port machinery and factories dominate the landscape, hinting at its utilitarian nature. Yet, within this facade, a couple of intriguing facets beckon explorers. Drammen boasts its historical role as the starting point of the Royal Road to Bergen, an element intertwined with its past. Additionally, it claims the distinction of producing the first alcoholic brandy distilled from potatoes.
The Ypsilon Bridge, a distinctive landmark of contemporary architecture, stands proudly as a symbol of the city’s rejuvenation. Also, the Spiralen, a peculiar helix-shaped tunnel forged in the 1960s, guides adventurers to an elevated vantage point, offering panoramic views of the city. Nearby, a historical mine that once yielded cobalt pigment for the Royal Copenhagen Manufactory present further layers to Drammen’s story.
What you will find in this guide to Drammen:
Things to Do in Drammen
Blaafarveværket and Cobalt mines
Blaafarveværket, also known as the Blue Colour Works, holds a unique place in Norway’s industrial history. Located in Åmot within the Modum Municipality, this cobalt mine and industrial complex operated from 1776 to 1898, leaving an indelible mark on the nation’s trade and economy. While it might have faded into obscurity with time, the legacy of Blaafarveværket lives on as a remarkable open-air industrial museum and art gallery that offers a captivating glimpse into its storied past.
At its heart, Blaafarveværket was intimately intertwined with the Royal Porcelain Factory in Copenhagen. The venture was born out of the necessity for cobalt ore, a crucial component for the exquisite blue pigment that adorned porcelain decorations. King Christian VII‘s establishment of the Royal Blue Colour Works in 1776 represented a significant investment, becoming a pivotal player in Norwegian trade with Denmark, the Netherlands, and even distant lands of the Far East. The company’s impact on the Norwegian economy around 1814 cannot be overstated.
From 1822 to 1849, Blaafarveværket experienced its heyday. This period marked the peak of its influence, transforming it into the largest industrial company in the country. With over 2,000 workers and a stranglehold on 80% of the global cobalt pigment market, the company held tremendous power. However, by 1849, the winds of change were blowing. The economic turmoil triggered by the revolutions of 1848, coupled with the advent of synthetic ultramarine as a cheaper alternative, dealt a severe blow to Blaafarveværket’s fortunes. The company succumbed to bankruptcy, eventually fading into a reduced state of activity until its dissolution in 1898.
Today, Blaafarveværket stands as a remarkable testament to both its mining heritage and the arts. As one of the largest open-air mining museum in Europe, its sprawling complex offers visitors the chance to delve into the past. Wander through the mines, explore the mineshafts spanning eight kilometers, and observe the exhibits that showcase the technological evolution from the 18th to the 19th centuries. Above ground, Blaafarveværket is more than just a museum; it’s an art destination. The site hosts three new temporary exhibitions each year, featuring works by renowned Norwegian and international artists.
No visit to Blaafarveværket would be complete without encountering the breathtaking Haugsfossen waterfall. Cascading down with a majestic 39-meter drop, it stands as a natural wonder, providing a serene backdrop to the industrial remnants that define the site. The Historical Mining Tour offers a chance to relive the footsteps of those who forged this legacy, with adult tickets priced at NOK 249 and children’s tickets at NOK 160.
Spiralen – drammen spiral
Nestled north of Drammen lies a unique architectural marvel – the Spiralen. This corkscrew tunnel defies convention as it winds its way for 1,650 meters up to a panoramic lookout on Skansen Ridge. The tunnel’s structure is akin to a multi-story parking lot, with six circles ascending 22 meters with each twist. Reaching the summit rewards you with a bird’s-eye view, 200 meters above sea level. Here, you can park your vehicle and embark on one of the walking trails that snake through the dramatic landscape, or indulge in a treat at the cafe.
The Spiraltoppen also houses an outdoor museum curated by the Drammens Museum, featuring historic houses relocated from across Buskerud County. A testament to human ingenuity, the tunnel’s construction commenced in 1953, born from the mind of Eivind Olsen. The original purpose was to extract gravel without disfiguring the local landscape, ultimately evolving into a charming tourist attraction. The tunnel’s inauguration in 1961, presided over by King Olav V, marked its transformation from an engineering feat to a cultural landmark.
From the summit, the enchanting Drammensmarka forest area beckons, inviting tourists to explore its trails. The tunnel’s use incurs a road toll, with NOK 35 as the car parking fee. Vehicle height restrictions at 3.65 meters are in place, while pedestrians can ascend the hillside via a gravel zigzag track adorned with seats and viewpoints, ensuring an unforgettable journey to the Spiralen’s lofty zenith.
Kjøsterudjuvet is a natural wonder situated in the untamed northern countryside of Drammen. This 1,300-meter-long gorge showcases towering walls that soar up to 60 meters and constrict to a mere four meters at its narrowest point. During the summer months, when the river’s water level recedes, an exceptional opportunity arises to traverse the gorge along the riverbed, culminating in an ascent to the stunning Gamledammen lake.
Embarking on this adventure demands little more than sturdy walking shoes and waterproof attire. Over the course of a 90-minute hike, you’ll encounter a thriving landscape adorned with lush vegetation. The journey involves ascending waterfalls via ladders and navigating from stone to stone. Each twist and turn reveals breathtaking scenery that’s certain to captivate.
Drammen’s urban landscape was shaped by a transformative event in 1866 – the Great Fire. The city planners, driven by the desire to prevent such a disaster in the future, crafted a city center with ample space between structures, yielding a remarkable sense of openness and scale. This strategic planning gifted Drammen with Bragernes Torg, the largest city square in Norway and among the most sizable in Scandinavia.
Perched along the northern bank of the Drammen River, Bragernes Torg offers uninterrupted vistas across the valley, allowing gazes to effortlessly traverse both sides of the landscape. At this bustling square, the air is often adorned with the fragrances of flowers and vegetables, emanating from the regular stalls. Spring and summer usher in the farmers’ market, a vibrant celebration of local produce.
As the seasons turn, so does the square’s character. In winter, an expansive ice rink takes over, offering a place for skaters to twirl and glide. With the arrival of summer, the stage shifts to street theater and concerts, filling the air with lively performances and harmonious melodies. Bragernes envelops the iconic Bragernes Church, the dramatic town hall, the architectural gem that is Drammen Theater, and a plethora of shopping and nightlife options. The Bragernes Hill stands proudly to the north, beckoning nature enthusiasts with its scenic trails and panoramic perspectives of central Drammen.
Bragernes Kirke stands as a prominent architectural gem in the heart of Drammen. Constructed in 1871, the church’s brick-built façade showcases the prevailing neo-Gothic style of its era. Unlike the customary east-facing orientation of choirs, Bragernes Kirke deviates by positioning its choir towards the north. Dominating the skyline, the tower soars to an impressive height of 64 meters, complemented by the scenic backdrop of Skansen ridge.
Inside, a remarkable sight awaits visitors: the altarpiece adorned with Adolph Tidemand’s masterful depiction of the Resurrection. This awe-inspiring artwork holds significance beyond Bragernes Kirke, as it has been replicated in churches across Norway. Ernst Norgrenn, the creative mind behind the church’s design, infused it with Neo-Gothic elements, emphasizing the enduring charm of brick construction. The church interior is further adorned with the elegant pulpit by Norgrenn himself and a captivating baptismal font crafted by Christian Borch.
The city’s central cultural hub, Drammens Theatre, boasts a unique heritage. Constructed in 1870, its neo-Renaissance design draws inspiration from the renowned Porte St. Martin and Châtelet theaters in Paris. Following a devastating fire in 1993, architect Hans-Gabriel Finne led the remarkable rebuilding effort, preserving only the external walls. The theater’s interior now showcases exuberant stuccowork, featuring a captivating 45.3-meter stucco rosette on its ceiling, crafted by an Oslo workshop. The diverse program includes pop, jazz, and rock concerts, as well as ballet, comedy, lectures, and classical performances.
MUSEUMS IN DRAMMEN
Drammens Museum stands as the epitome of the city’s cultural heritage. Housed within Marienlyst Gård, a venerable manor house dating back to 1770, it also extends its influence across Austad Gård and Gulskogen Gård, not to mention the captivating outdoor museum at Spiraltoppen. Found along the tranquil south bank of the Drammen River, Marienlyst Gård beckons with a curated assortment of decorative art collected from the breadth of Buskerud County. Traditional Norwegian Rosemåling, replete with delicate flower patterns, graces cabinets and chests from Numedal and Hallingdal, while the museum boasts a diverse collection, featuring not only glassware but also traditional costumes, religious art, paintings, handicrafts, and the enduring tools of agriculture.
Gulskogen Gård, a remnant of the 19th-century manor house landscape that once adorned the Drammen River, furnished in the Louis XVI style, tells the story of its lineage under the auspices of Drammen’s merchant elite, the Arbo family. Set amidst an English landscape park, its charms have endured over two centuries, witnessed by its long-standing 265-meter lime alley, maze, and the graceful struts of free-roaming peacocks.
With roots dating back to the 14th century, Austad Gård‘s storied history radiates through its very foundation. Reconstructed in neoclassical splendor between 1808 and 1813, this estate once housed Swedish prisoners of war, its transformation a testament to the craftsmanship of that era. The charming art nouveau extension added in 1918 enhances the manor’s original features, inviting visitors to explore silk wallpapers, period furniture, paintings, and the enchanting grounds adorned with an orchard and a picturesque stream.
Grønland‘s rejuvenated factories and glass structures on the southern banks of the Drammen River unveil Galleri Athene, one of Norway’s premier private art galleries. Spanning five floors, it showcases a diverse array of exhibitions, encompassing paintings, sculptures, graphic art, and installations. The gallery serves as a platform for emerging talents and established artists alike, as it fosters a creative dialogue through live music, book launches, and art seminars.
Venturing further afield to Øvre Eiker, Fossesholm Manor emerges as a resplendent historical treasure. Rooted in the 16th century, it underwent a Rococo transformation in the 1760s, leaving an indelible mark that resonates today. Visitors are welcomed to explore the opulent interiors adorned with vibrant murals by the Swedish artist Eric Gustaf Tunmarck. Set against a Baroque bell tower and embraced by the serenity of its courtyard, Fossesholm Manor offers a journey through time, enriched by diverse exhibitions that span art, Second World War resistance, and the enchanting world of dolls.
The charming Krøderbanen, the longest heritage train line in Norway, on the southern shores of Tyrifjorden, offer a nostalgic journey from Vikersund to Krøderen along a historic 26-kilometer route that dates back to 1872. After its closure in 1985, the Krøderbanen reemerged as a captivating visitor attraction in 2011, now operational only from May to October.
As you board the vintage carriages hauled by a steam locomotive, you’ll be transported back in time to the late 19th century. The stations have retained their authentic character, offering a glimpse into the past, evoking nostalgia for a bygone era. The Krøderen Station is a picturesque embodiment of heritage. Inside, exhibitions provide insight into the railway’s history, complemented by a souvenir shop and a café exuding the ambiance of the 1920s.
Operated jointly by the Krøderen Line Foundation and the Norwegian Railway Club, this seasonal service offers an enchanting journey, with intermediate stations at Snarum, Sysle, and Kløftefoss. Ticket prices range from 124 NOK for children to 224 NOK for adults, with return options available. For an even more immersive experience, Krøderbanen offers the “Boat and Train” round trip on select days: this captivating itinerary includes a voyage on the M/S Kryllingen II boat, a steam train ride, and a vintage bus journey.
Aass Brewery stands as an unmistakable landmark adjacent to Drammen’s train station, its historic white façade offering a captivating greeting across the fjord. Established in Drammen in 1834, Aass Brewery proudly holds the title of Norway’s oldest operational brewery. In 2020, the brewery’s output reached an impressive 30 million liters of beer, and remains rooted in tradition and independence. Originally involved in a diverse range of businesses from timber to baking, it was acquired by Poul Lauritz Aass, a farmer’s son, in the 1860s. The Aass family’s continued ownership maintains the brewery’s reputation as one of Norway’s few remaining independent brewers.
The brewery’s offerings span a wide spectrum, from the seasonal Juleøl (Christmas beer) to the classic Pilsner, Fatøl, and the amber-hued Classic. Their portfolio also features the distinctive Pale Ale, Bock Beer, Gull, and the rich Aass Bayer, a Munich-style dark lager. Some occasional (by reservation) brewery tours provide the opportunity for tastings and guided explorations into the brewing process, but they are primarily designed for larger groups. Unfortunately, at the moment, they do not offer brewery tours for individuals.
However, you can still taste this famous beer by purchasing it directly on-site or at local bars and restaurants in Drammen. The brand’s presence is palpable across the city, with numerous establishments serving Aass on tap. Cans of Aass beer are equally accessible in supermarkets, not only in Drammen but also in the southeast of Norway.
Best Hotels in Drammen
In Drammen the choice of hotels is rather limited, however there are some good quality options. Quality Hotel River Station stands out, strategically positioned near the train station and city center, granting stunning vistas of the city. The hotel boasts modern rooms furnished with a touch of classic elegance. An appetizing buffet breakfast greets guests each morning, while the on-site Brasserie X serves delectable à la carte dishes.
Clarion Collection Hotel Tollboden, a mere 5-minute stroll from Drammen Station, promises a restful night’s sleep along with a delightful evening buffet and a great breakfast, including a generous selection of organic choices. Notably, guests are treated to complimentary afternoon waffles and a constant supply of hot beverages and fruits. The Comfort Hotel Union Brygge shines is a modern hotel that offers organic breakfast as part of the room package, ensuring a wholesome start to the day.
Moreover, Scandic Ambassadeur Drammen, located just a brief 2-minute walk from Drammen Train Station, offers a combined restaurant and bar serving a diverse selection of contemporary international dishes. The hotel’s excellent breakfast, included in the room rate, sets the tone for a satisfying stay.
How to Get to Drammen
Drammen is situated in Viken county, Norway’s populous southeastern region, 44km southwest of Oslo, on the western side of the Oslofjord. For travelers journeying from Oslo to Drammen, a couple of standout options are available. Both the train (35 minutes, with one train departing every 15 minutes, tickets starting at 82 NOK) and bus routes (40 minutes, with one bus per hour, tickets starting from 200 NOK) present viable choices.
Alternatively, if you wish to explore the splendid surroundings of Oslo, you can consider renting a car and driving to Drammen. For those arriving at Oslo Airport, the choice can be made between the Airport Express Train (flytoget) or the more budget-friendly Vy commuter train.