Vadsø [ˈvɑdˈsøː] (Northern Sami: Čáhcesuolu; Kven: Vesisaari) is a municipality in Finnmark County, Norway. The administrative centre of the municipality is the town of Vadsø, which is also the administrative centre of Finnmark county. Other settlements in Vadsø include Ekkerøy, Kiby, Krampenes, Skallelv, Valen, and Vestre Jakobselv.
The village of Vadsø was granted town status in 1833. In 1838, the town of Vadsø and the entire rural district surrounding the Varangerfjorden were established as the new municipality of Vadsø (see formannskapsdistrikt). The law required that all towns should be separated from their rural districts, but because of a low population and very few voters, this was impossible to carry out for the municipality of Vadsø in 1838. (See also Hammerfest and Vardø.)
In 1839, the western district was separated to become the new municipality of Nesseby. In 1858, Nesseby was merged back into Vadsø, and on the same date, the southern district of Vadsø (south of the Varangerfjorden) was separated to form the new municipality of Sør-Varanger. In 1864, the western district of Nesseby was separated into a separate municipality once again. In 1894, the rest of the rural district surrounding the town of Vadsø was separated to form the new municipality of Nord-Varanger. This left just the town of Vadsø left in the municipality of Vadsø. This remained the case until 1 January 1964, when the municipality of Nord-Varanger was merged back together with the town of Vadsø to form the present-day Vadsø Municipality.
The municipality is named after the town of Vadsø. The name of the town comes from the island Vadsøya, since that was the original townsite. The Old Norse form of the name was Vatnsøy. The first element is the genitive case of vatn which means "water" and the last element is øy which means "island". Therefore, the meaning of the name is "the island with drinking water".
The coat-of-arms is from modern times. They were granted on 20 February 1976. The arms show the head of a reindeer stag in silver on a red background. The reindeer is the main domestic animal in the municipality and thus of great economic importance.
The Church of Norway has one parish (sokn) within the municipality of Vadsø. It is part of the Varanger deanery in the Diocese of Nord-Hålogaland.
In the 16th century, the settlement of Vadsø consisted of a fishing village and the old Vadsø Church, located on the island of Vadsøya. The settlement later moved to the mainland. Pomor trade led Vadsø to be a major trading centre in this part of Norway. Township privilege was granted in 1833, and soon settlers came from Finland and the northern part of Sweden, which suffered from famine.
Finnish was rapidly becoming the language of the majority, and this continued for decades. As of 2016, Finnish is still spoken in some households. During the occupation of Norway by Nazi Germany, Vadsø suffered several air raids from the Soviet Union, which bombed German troops. However, there are, unlike most places in Finnmark, a number of 19th century wooden houses preserved close to the city centre, notably the house of Esbensen, built by a Norwegian, and the house of Tuomainen, built by a Finn. On the island of Vadsøya is the airship mast used by Umberto Nobile and Roald Amundsen for their expedition over the North Pole with the airship Norge in 1926, and used again on Nobile's flight with the airship Italia in 1928.
All municipalities in Norway, including Vadsø, are responsible for primary education (through 10th grade), outpatient health services, senior citizen services, unemployment and other social services, zoning, economic development, and municipal roads. The municipality is governed by a municipal council of elected representatives, which in turn elect a mayor.
The municipal council (Kommunestyre) of Vadsø is made up of 25 representatives that are elected to every four years. Currently, the party breakdown is as follows:
The municipality of Vadsø forms the southern coast of the Varanger Peninsula, which is largely covered by birch forests on this more sheltered side (as opposed to the northern side). The Varangerfjorden flows along the southern coast of the municipality and the river Jakobselva runs along the western border of Vadsø. The small islands of Lille Ekkerøy and Vadsøya lie in the Varangerfjorden. The Varangerhalvøya National Park lies in a large part of the interior parts of the municipality.
Situated on the shores of the Varangerfjorden the municipality of Vadsø is known for its interesting birdlife. Many of its coastal localities like Store Ekkerøy are internationally known for its rich and interesting birdlife. The harbor at Vadsø can produce all three species of eider, including the small and stunning Steller's eider.
Fishing permits (for salmon fishing) are sold for use on specific rivers, including Komag-elva.
Vadsø Airport is located in Kiby, just to the east of the town. The town is also a port of call for the Hurtigruten coastal express boats. Vadsø is located along the European route E75 highway.Norwegian footballers Morten Gamst Pedersen and Sigurd Rushfeldt both grew up in Vadsø.
Lars Bohinen (Rushfeldt's cousin), who is also a former footballer, was born in the town, but his family moved south when he was a child.
Vadsø is twinned with the following cities: – Holstebro, Denmark
– Karkkila, Finland
– Kemijärvi, Finland
– Murmansk, Russia
– Oxelösund, Sweden