About Østfold county - Østfold fylkeskommune internettportal

About Østfold county

About Østfold county

In the south of the country – east of Folden
(Folden = is the old name for the Oslo Fjord)

Østfold has 265.000 inhabitants. This is around 5.6% of the country’s population. Østfold is a small, close-knit, compact county with a flourishing population – as confirmed by surveys.

Number of inhabitants per km²: 66
GDP per inhabitant : 77 ( Norway = 100)

Distribution of main industries: 
Raw materials 4.3 %
Industry 32.6 %
Services 63.1 %

There are 18 municipalities in Østfold.

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Until the mid 1990s there were four cities in Østfold. There are now six since Askim and Mysen were granted city status in 1996 and 1997 respectively. Mysen is therefore the county’s newest city, while Sarpsborg is its oldest. The city by the waterfall, Olav’s city, was founded by Olav the Holy in 1016.

The six cities are:

  • Fredrikstad:  72 000 inhabitants 
  • Sarpsborg:   51 000 inhabitants
  • Halden:        28 000 inhabitants
  • Moss:           29 000 inhabitants
  • Askim:          14 500 inhabitants
  • Mysen:           7 000 inhabitants

The cities are traffic nodes and busy, traditional centres of commerce. All of Østfold’s cities have railway links with Oslo via the western and eastern lines. Østfold’s modest geographical circumference means that nowhere is more than an hour’s travel away.

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Østfold is Norway’s second smallest county with an area of 4,186 km². The county lies to the southeast of Oslo with the Oslo Fjord to the west and Sweden to the east.

Østfold is Norway’s gateway to Europe, and both the E6 and E18 roads pass through the county on their way to Sweden.

Norway’s longest river, the Glomma, flows through the county and out into the Oslo Fjord in Fredrikstad.

It probably does not occur to many people, but the Idde Fjord and Svinesund are actually a tourist's first meeting with fjord Norway when they arrive in Østfold via the E6 road.

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Østfold's countryside is diverse and rich in experiences. The westwards facing skerries with their round, bare rocks and multitude of sandy beaches provide a myriad of opportunities for sunbathing and swimming in the summer. The many lakes and waterways provide unique opportunities for fishing and canoeing. You can go for walks in the forests and meadows. All the cities have their own local forests with well-maintained ski tracks in the winter and hiking footpaths in the summer.

The mouth of the Idde Fjord is a good starting point for a trip through what many people regard as typical Østfold – the skerries! The water and gentle lines of the bare rocks, small islands and skerries are a paradise for thousands of holidaymakers in boats and on land every summer.

Other people find their paradise when they arrive in Østfold via the border crossing near Ørje. Inner Østfold is home to the least developed countryside in the county. This is the realm of deep forests and quiet lakes, large and small. It was here that Trygve Gulbranssen's famous book about rural life in a forest community in the 1700s was written, "Og bakom synger skogene". In this part of the county there are still places which remain untouched by modern land management, so there are many opportunities for quiet, bewitching moments. It is a true wilderness!

Østfold is one of the few counties in Norway without real mountains. Large parts of the county are covered by coniferous forests with a multitude of small lakes. There are some hills and mountain ridges, the highest of which is Slavasshøgda at 336 metres above sea level.

At only 100 kilometres long and 80 kilometres wide, Østfold truly offers a compact wealth of opportunities to experience nature.

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Farming and forestry remain important sectors, though industry is perhaps even more important. The most important business sectors are agriculture, forestry and industry.

Østfold’s industrial output accounts for around 6.6% of the country’s total industrial activity. The most important industry at the moment is timber converting. The three main players are Borregaard in Sarpsborg, the Peterson Group in Moss, and Saugbruksforeningen in Halden (part of the Norske Skog Group). Several industrial companies export billions of NOK worth of goods each year and are also major players from a global point of view.

Halden is emerging as one of the country’s major IT cities. This has been ensured by the Institute for Energy Technology (IFE), Østfold University College and various other IT companies which have set up business here. Several larger data production companies in the county are also doing very well.
Fredrikstad is home to many major food companies, the largest being Stabburet, Denofa, Borgar and Brynhildsens Fabrikker.

One factor has obviously been of major significance for the county’s industrial traditions: geographical location. Østfold is the perfect location for operating in two important markets: the Nordic regions in particular and also the rest of Europe.

Some people claim that culture can be found everywhere in Østfold, and there is a lot of truth in this. There are a huge number of tourist attractions, so we recommend you spread your experiences over several visits.

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Cultural monuments and attractions
Ancient monuments left by people who came here many thousands of years ago can be studied in many places in Østfold. The Ancient Road (Oldtidsveien) between Fredrikstad and Skjeberg passes through many sites of historical interest. As the saying goes “20 kilometres further on and you are 3,000 years back in time”. The burial mounds and rock carvings form a sort of prehistoric park. Østfold is absolutely full of traces left by the people who have lived here over the last 10,000 years.

Naturally enough you are more likely to notice the more recent monuments such as Fredriksten Fortress in Halden where King Carl XII of Sweden died in 1718. The Nordic region’s best preserved fortress town, Gamlebyen, which was founded in 1567, is located in Fredrikstad. It is still just as intact – and inhabited- and is visited by thousands of people every year.

If Fredrikstad can be called "revue city" then Moss can safely be called a "gallery city second to none" – thanks largely to Galleri F15 on Jeløy. Historically speaking the city is inextricably linked to the events of 1814 when peace negotiations between Denmark-Norway and Sweden were held in Moss Jernverk’s main building (Konventionsgården). These negotiations resulted in Norway being able to keep its constitution and the Storting (the Norwegian parliament).

In Sarpsborg you will find the Borgarsyssel Museum. This outdoor museum is home to a fantastic collection of old buildings from Østfold. If you also like jazz, try out the "Ælvejazz’en" concerts in the summer.

Inner Østfold also has its more recent cultural monuments and attractions. One of the finest technological cultural monuments is the canal system. Work was started on the canals in 1852 by Engebret Soot, and most of the waterway with its three locks can be experienced on both veteran and more modern craft.

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Østfold borders Västra Götaland and Värmland in Sweden. Our geographical location makes the county an important thoroughfare for traffic between Oslo/Eastern Norway and Sweden/the Continent. Our geographical location also means it is only natural that we are interested in international networks and cooperation.

The county council has been actively involved internationally for many years, based on action plans which it has adopted. The council has just approved an international plan for the 2004-2007 period, which takes as its starting point the links between international work and the county council’s responsibility for regional development.

Østfold County Council participates in European organisations such as AER and CPMR, in partnerships in the North Sea and Baltic Sea regions (NSC and BSSSC), and in an extensive partnership with Swedish, and some Danish, regions (including the county twinning programme, two border committees, the GO Cooperation, and the Scandinavian Arena). We have worked closely with the Cesis region in Latvia for some years, and are interested in coordinating various activities with what some Østfold municipalities do with respect to their twin municipalities in Cesis. During the last six months we have, together with our partners in Latvia, focused heavily on modifying projects that could be funded with the help of new EEA instruments. We have been interested in the concept behind the “northern dimension” for a long time, and in creating links between the Baltic Sea and Barents Sea partnerships. Given this, we have initiated a collaboration with Finnmark County Council, the Barents Sea Secretariat, and Murmansk.

Close contacts with Brussels have been prioritised, and the county’s upper secondary schools have set up exchange programmes with schools in a number of European countries as part of their internationalisation work.

Østfold has always been heavily involved in the INTERREG programmes. In terms of finance, numbers of projects and breadth of topics, the Norwegian-Swedish INTERREG IIIA programmes are by far the largest. Østfold participates in two sub-programmes: “Borderless cooperation” together with Västra Götaland and “Inner Scandinavia” together with Hedmark, Akershus, Värmland and Dalarna.

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Last updated: 12.08.2008