One of the most popular Hurtigruten port is Hammerfest on the southbound journey, and rightly so. With Hurtigruten, you get a couple hours to go exploring. Follow my self-guided walk to make the most of your stay.
Hurtigruten Ports: Hammerfest
The southbound Hurtigruten is in Hammerfest at around 10:45am, allowing you just under two hours to make the most of this town.
As soon as you leave the ship, you’ll have the tourist information centre in front of you to the right. This is also home to the Royal & Ancient Polar Bear Society, one of the top attractions in town.
But what is it?
The Royal & Ancient Polar Bear Society
The Royal & Ancient Polar Bear Society is not royal and ancient at all, but it still highlight Hammerfest’s history as a polar capital. Founded in 1963 by two local businessmen, it’s more of a joke amenity for tourists. Visitors are encouraged to join the society and are invited to the annual meeting every January. You have to be in person to sign up, so when Elvis Presley wrote to them in 1973 asking to join, they rejected him.
Sure, it’s touristy. But still – the money goes to the tourist information centre, the museum, as well as various initiatives to protect the environment. For example, earlier this year they were helping fund the care of Hvaldimir, the Russian spy whale that made Hammerfest harbour home.
I recommend coming back to the Royal and Ancient Polar Bear Society – it’s got the best souvenir shop in town as well as a free exhibition about polar life and Arctic hunting. And since it’s so close to the ship, you can use your leftover time here.
Continue past the Royal & Ancient Polar Bear Society along the main road (Sjøgata) and towards the city hall. Note – in 2019 there was a lot of construction on the streets here. You’ll see the city hall on the left.
Hammerfest City Hall
The Hammerfest City Hall is another popular stop for Hurtigruten passengers. Here you can clearly see Hammerfest’s coat of arms: the polar bear. It’s designed to represent the town’s importance as an Arctic hunting and trading port. There aren’t actually any polar bears in Hammerfest, though. There are, however, reindeers! The grass around the city hall is popular for the migrating reindeer, and every year up to 3,000 reindeer pass through, eating grass and gardens. They tried to build a fence around Hammerfest to stop them coming in, but it was ineffective. If you’re in the area in early summer watch out for reindeer!
Around the City Hall you can see the main town square and harbour. This is a popular spot to come back to after the walk.
Walk back to the street you were on – Sjøgata – and take a right. This next part involves a slight incline and may not be suited for everyone.
As you make your way up Kirkegata – the main road in and out of Hammerfest – look at all the typical shops and houses found in Northern Norway. I particularly like the high number of hairdressers (frisør in Norwegian) and kebab shops!
Museum of Reconstruction
Eventually you’ll get to the Museum of Reconstruction, a museum dedicated to the rebuilding effort after the Germans’ scorched earth policy destroyed the town. Before the Germans forced the public out, the locals buried their most prized possessions underground. This museum displays many of those items, such as a barber chair. It’s a small museum and something you can certainly fit into your Hammerfest visit. If you are interested in World War II history or just cool old objects, this is a worthy museum. The shop has some cute unique items, but sadly the books are in Norwegian.
Opening Hours: Monday-Friday 10am – 3pm (to 4pm in summer) / Sat-Sun 11am-2pm (10am – 4pm in summer)
Admission: Adult 80 NOK / Pensioner 50 NOK / Groups 10+ 50 NOK pp
Across the street you’ll see one of my most favourite artworks – young people breakdancing under the northern lights. I think it’s such a great depiction of how Hammerfest proudly boasts itself as a multicultural city – 75 different nationalities live here today and account for 17% of the population. In 2013, Hammerfest was awarded the prize for the exceptional effort it made to settle refugees over the years.
Straight ahead you’ll see the church, but first head over to the graveyard, where you’ll find the only pre-war building left.
Hammerfest’s chapel would not be that interesting if it wasn’t the only building left after the Germans’ retreat. But here it is, and it’s definitely worth seeing. The funeral chapel was built in 1937 and was only saved because it stands in the middle of the cemetery and the German’s believed it would be bad luck to burn down a cemetery.
Across the street is the Hammerfest Church. On most days you can enter the church for free (donations encouraged)
It’s believed the first church was built in Hammerfest around 1620, but the church you see today is at least the sixth church on the site. The previous church (from the mid-19th century) was destroyed by the Germans. The current church was built in the 1950s and seats 525. Its strange shape is designed to represent fish drying racks.
If you manage to get inside, be sure to look at the stained glass windows, which illustrate the basics of Christian faith. The three mosaics under the stained glass are made in Norwegian stone and show Christ entering Jerusalem, the Last Supper and the betrayal of Christ. There are some historical elements in the church – the triptych is from the first church in Hammerfest and the two brass chandeliers are from 1750. Don’t miss the wooden carvings in front of the organ that show six of the earlier churches in Hammerfest.
Heading back outside the church, head to the other side of it to get a spectacular view to the harbour and the town.
This walk should take you around 30 minutes without entering buildings. From here, it’s possible to head back to the Museum of Reconstruction, the harbour area, or the Royal & Ancient Polar Bear Society.
If walking to any of the last two, be sure not to miss the blue pavilion. Continue downhill on Kirkegata until you reach it on your right (around a five-minute walk).
Blue Music Pavilion
The blue music pavilion was gifted to Hammerfest during the town’s 200th jubilee in 1989, and it represents the Russian architecture that used to characterise the town. Behind the pavilion you’ll find the hiking path entrance – you probably won’t have enough time to do this including my walk. If you only want to do the hike, go straight there or join the Hurtigruten excursion.
From here, continue downhill past the Mother and Child Statue and you’ll see the waterfront where city hall is.
Mother and Child Statue
The Mother and Child Statue is worth seeing – it’s a typical symbol you’ll see on the Norwegian coast to represent the difficult fishing industry. It symbolise a family on land that waits for their husband and father to come home from sea. It was the gift to an American ambassador to Norway, whose mother was from Hammerfest.
This is the total walk in Hammerfest – as you can see, it’s a small, compact town that’s easy to do within two hours. It is possible to walk much more – either the hike or the Meridian Monument. These are both offered as ship excursions but can also be done on their own.
Hammerfest is one of the better ports on the southbound journey to get your shopping done. Lets start with the practical & everyday shops. Keep in mind most shops are closed on Sundays. Most of these shops are located around the harbour – many are inside the shopping mall. Refer to the map at the top of the page (or click here)
- Grocery stores: There is a large Coop Extra located just off the harbour. Here you can buy snacks, baked goods, salads, drinks (non-alcoholic, beer, cider), and toiletries.
- Pharmacy: Next to Coop Extra is the pharmacy Apotek 1. Here you can pick up medicines (keep in mind a lot of medicine is prescription in Norway) and typical pharmaceutical goods.
- Electronics: Missing an iPhone cable or your camera isn’t working? Head to Coop Elektro – an everyday electronics store. It’s next to Coop Extra
- Sporting Goods: Perhaps you are missing some thermal layers, a coat, some shoes or some walking sticks. If you need sporting goods you can head to either Intersport Hammerfest (located behind Coop Extra towards the hill) or Sport1 Hammerfest (located on Sjøgata close to the Polar Bear Society)
- Alcohol: Keep in mind that you are not allowed to bring alcohol on board the Hurtigruten. That said, if you are after some you can go to the Vinmonopolet located inside the shopping mall off the harbour.
- Clothing: Ladies, head to Cubus inside the shopping mall (similar to H&M), while men can go to Dressman (probably a little upscale, though)
- Sunday Shopping: If you are in Hammerfest on a Sunday, you can visit Narvesen to get snacks & toiletries.
Now for souvenir shopping.
- Royal & Ancient Polar Bear Society: This is hands down the best place to buy Hammerfest souvenirs. Not only can you get Hammerfest-themed souvenirs (magnets, shirts, postcards, etc), but there is also an excellent range of Arctic-themed souvenirs (stuffed animals, books, even a compass!). The shop also has local food (berries, cured meats, sweets). Check out the free museum while you’re there
- Museum of Reconstruction: This museum has a small shop – sadly its books are in Norwegian. There is a small table with some high quality locally made goods that’s worth looking at.
There is one ATM within easy walking distance of the ship: The Sparebank ATM.
Since the ship leaves Hammerfest around lunch time, I’d recommend eating on board. However, if you are after something a little different there are plenty of places to get food around the harbour. First see if there are any food trucks in town – even in the far north you can find Thai and Kebab food trucks! They are often parked close to the city hall. Otherwise, hot dogs & pizza can be bought from Narvesen. There are some restaurants around but I wouldn’t recommend due to the short time.
- When the ship leaves at 12:45pm, everyone flocks to the lunch buffet, often causing queues. Avoid the lines by trying to be back on the ship at around 12:15pm
- If you do the Breakfast at North Cape excursion, you get to Hammerfest at around 11:30am. This gives you enough time to either walk around or go shopping.
Before walking through the Hurtigruten port of Hammerfest, be sure to read up on the history. Click here to read the history of Hammerfest.