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Located in the Norwegian Municipality of the same name, Hammerfest is one of the world’s northernmost towns and a key port of call on a number of Norwegian fjord cruises. Owing to its latitude, the sun never sets in Hammerfest between May 17 and July 28, one of the reasons why this part of the world is known as the land of the midnight sun. In contrast, it never rises between November 21 and January 23, making it a unique town to explore. As a settlement, Hammerfest dates back to the 1600s and in 1684 its first church was completed at a time when it only had around 60 inhabitants. It became a town in 1789, after which it continued to expand both in buildings and population, until a catastrophic fire in 1890 destroyed two-thirds of it. Surprisingly, considering its rather remote location, it was the first town in Northern Europe to be lit by electric street-lighting, generated by water. In 1945, it suffered destruction again, this time by occupying German forces. Only a chapel was left standing, which today is the town’s oldest surviving building.
Hammerfest’s turbulent history is understandably very prominent in a number of the attractions to be found in the town itself. The Museum of the Reconstruction of Finmark and Northern Troms is a great place to visit if you want to find out more and it tells the story of Nazi occupation of the town during the Second World War and the subsequent burning of Hammerfest by the Nazis, along with many other towns in the Finnmark region. Moving and informative, it’s a great place to visit and you can also find out more about the history of the area’s indigenous Sami peoples, too. Elsewhere in the town itself, you’ll find the Market Square, where the town hall can be found and the eye-catching Lutherian church, which is a great example of modern architecture and certainly worth a visit.
The Polar Bear is the town’s proud symbol, so a visit to the Royal and Ancient Polar Bear Society is a natural thing to do while in the town. Here, you can become a member of the club yourself and take home your own polar bear badge and certificate, to prove you visited the town and joined the club while there. As well as taking home an appropriate souvenir, be sure to spend time in the society’s informative museum, where you’ll be able to find out more about the town’s history.
As you would imagine, seafood is popular in Hammerfest, thanks to the Norwegian coast’s rich fishing history and it’s possible to enjoy a range of seafood dishes in a number of the town’s restaurants. Perhaps surprisingly, Hammerfest has a good choice of pizza restaurants too, if fast food is more to your liking. As well as offering panoramic views of the icy Norwegian landscape all around, Salen Mountain is home to Mikkelgammen, a small cabin where’s it’s possible to sample traditional Sami cuisine and enjoy a welcome warming drink.
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