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Harstad is the administrative centre of Norway's municipality of the same name and located on the country's largest island, Hinnoya. Its beautiful surrounding coastal landscape and reputation as northern Norway's cultural capital make it a popular port for cruisers visiting the region. After Tromso, another often-featured port of call on Norwegian itineraries, Harstad is the largest town to be found within Troms County. At the start of 1904, it was granted town privileges and became known its own municipality too, at a time when it had only 1,246 residents. In 1964, it was merged with Trondenes to the north and Sandtorg to the south, creating the much larger Harstad municipality which exists today.
Harstad is a place with much history to its name, from the Bronze Age artefacts unearthed close to the city to the Viking legacies you can explore on the nearby Trondenes Peninsula. Probably the most popular architectural attraction however, is a little more recent, dating back to the late Middle Ages. Trondenes Church is the world's northernmost stone-built church and a beautiful building. Somewhat of a rarity in a country which is known for its wooden places of worship, it boasts a stunning interior, where traces of the original medieval frescoes can still be seen. An altogether more modern but nevertheless popular attraction is Harstad Church, which, when it was built in 1958, must have looked positively futuristic, with its white concrete exterior and striking spire. One completely different type of church which is also popular with visitors is The Troll's Church, which is in fact not a church at all but one of Norway's longest cave systems. There are plenty of interesting formations and caverns to behold, but the centrepiece has to be the ‘church hall' which can hold around 100 people comfortably.
Trondenes Historical Centre is located on the peninsula of the same name; an area synonymous with Viking history and legend and fittingly, it's the perfect place to step back in time and embark on your own historical Norse journey. The innovative multimedia exhibition well tell you everything about this most celebrated period of Norway's history but you can also find out about the area's role throughout the Middle Ages and also during the Second World War. Indeed, north of Trondenes Church you'll find one of the conflict's most imposing surviving relics, the colossal Adolf Gun. This enormous cannon has a barrel diameter of 16 inches and length of 21 meters and was originally intended to be mounted on one of the Third Reich's battleships. However, the plans for the ships never saw fruition and Hitler decided to place the cannon and its brothers ashore to help fortify his Atlantic Wall. Guided tours are available in the summer and there is a small museum at the base of the gun. If you have a little more time to spend in Harstad then be sure to take a trip to the Grottebadet Waterpark. As well as grottos, waterfalls, wave pools, waterslides and a diving tower, there are Jacuzzis and a therapy pool available for those who wish to take things a little easier.
Harstad's not a go-to destination for avid shoppers, but the rugged outdoor nature of the area means there's a good choice of outdoor pursuit stores to choose from, which could prove handy if you're thinking of booking an adventurous excursion or two whilst on your Norwegian cruise.
You'll certainly not be overwhelmed with dining choices in Harstad, but what restaurants there are in the town are generally enjoy a good reputation and are of good quality. Seafood is a common feature on most menus as well as other types of Scandivian cuisine.
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