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Farsund goes by many names – the ‘pirate town’, the ‘town of steps’, the ‘ship owners’ town’ and ‘Norway’s answer to Denmark’s Skagen’.
The history of this town in southern Norway embraces everything from state-approved piracy to more conventional forms of shipping. In the heart of Farsund you’ll find Art Nouveau buildings, Swiss chalet-style houses, ‘big’ apartment buildings, narrow alleys and stepped streets of all lengths, with and without flat areas in between. The oldest dates from as far back as 1785. It goes without saying that the Tourist Information Office has a dedicated ‘step map’.
During the Napoleonic wars, the local population was issued with letters of marque enabling them to legally attack and capture enemy vessels, usually British-owned. The handsome houses in Loshavn and Eikvåg outside Farsund suggest that this was a lucrative activity. This period is commemorated each summer with a re-enactment of the story of pirate captain Tønnes Jansen, who in 1808 seized the British merchant vessel ‘Waterman’.
Letters of marque notwithstanding, shipping has always played a key role in Farsund. In 1837, 115 vessels were registered in the town, with 470 men serving in their crews. In 1914, this town of barely 1500 people had Norway’s fifth largest fleet of sailing ships.
The unique collection of attractive art nouveau houses along the wharf is the result of the town fire in 1901. A stroll here is known locally as taking the wharf walk, in Norwegian ‘ta bryggeslengen’. In fact, the expression is not unique to Farsund – but don’t tell anyone!