Vestfold [²vestfɔl] is a county in Norway, bordering Buskerud and Telemark. The county administration is in Tønsberg, and the largest city is Sandefjord. With the exception of Oslo county, Vestfold is the smallest county in Norway by area.
Vestfold is located west of the Oslofjord, as the name indicates. It includes many smaller, but well-known towns in Norway, such as Larvik, Sandefjord, Tønsberg and Horten, these towns run from Oslo in an almost constant belt of urban areas along the coast, ending in Grenland in neighbouring region Telemark. The river Numedalslågen runs through the county. Many islands are located at the coast. Vestfold is mostly dominated by lowland and is among the best agricultural areas of Norway. Winters last about three months, while pleasant summer temperatures last from May to September, with a July average high of 17 °C (63 °F).
Vestfold is traditionally known for shipping and sailing. Sandefjord was formerly a headquarters for the Norwegian whaling fleet, and Horten used to be an important naval port. The coastal towns of Vestfold now engage in fishing and shipbuilding. Some lumbering is carried on in the interior. The area also includes some of the best farmland in Norway. Vestfold is the only county in which all municipalities have declared Bokmål to be their sole official written form of the Norwegian language.
Vestfold is the old name of the region which was revived in modern times. Fold was the old name of the Oslofjord, and the meaning of the name Vestfold is the region west of the Fold (see also Østfold). Before 1919, the county was called Jarlsberg og Larvik Amt. The amt was created in 1821, consisting of the two old counties of Jarlsberg and Larvik. In the Viking age, Vestfold also referred to Eiker, Drammen, Kongsberg, Lier, now in Buskerud.
Vestfold is mentioned for the first time in a written source in 813, when Danish kings were in Vestfold to quell an uprising amongst the Fürsts. There may have been as many as six political centers in Vestfold. At that time Kaupang, which was located in Tjølling near Larvik, had been functioning for decades and had a chieftain. Kaupang, which dates from the Viking Era, is believed to be the first town in Norway, although Tønsberg (which dates from ca. 900) is the oldest town in Norway still in existence. At Borre, there was a site for another chieftain. That site held chieftains for more than one hundred years prior to 813.
The stone mounds at Mølen have been dated to the Viking Age. The mounds at Haugar in present-day Tønsberg's town centre have been dated to the Viking period. At Farmannshaugen in Sem there seems to have been activity at the time, while activity at Oseberghaugen and Gokstadhaugen dates from a few decades later.
An English source from around 890 retells the voyage of Ottar (Ottar fra Hålogaland) "from the farthest North, along Norvegr via Kaupang and Hedeby to England", where Ottar places Kaupang in the land of the Dane - danenes land. Bjørn Brandlien says that "To the degree that Harald Hårfagre gathered a kingdom after the Battle of Hafrsfjord at the end of the 9th century - that especially is connected to Avaldsnes - it does not seem to have made such a great impression on Ottar". Kaupang is mentioned under the name of Skiringssal (Kaupangen i Skiringssal) in Ottar's tales.
By the 10th century, the local kings had established themselves. The king or his ombudsman resided in the old Royal Court at Sæheim i Sem, today the Jarlsberg Estate (Jarlsberg Hovedgård) in Tønsberg. The farm Haugar (from Old Norse haugr meaning hill or mound) became the seat for Haugating, the Thing for Vestfold and one of Norway's most important place for the proclamation of kings. The family of Harald Fairhair, who was most likely the first king of Norway, is said to have come from this area.
The Danish kings seem to have been weak in Vestfold from around the middle of the 9th century until the middle of the 10th century, but their rule was strengthened there at the end of the 10th century. The Danish kings seem to have tried to control the region until the 13th century.Erik Agnarsson
Halfdan Hvitbeinn (part of Vestfold)
Halfdan the Mild
Gudrød the Hunter
Halfdan the Black, together with his brother, Olaf Gudrødsson
Ragnvald the Mountain-High, Cousin of Harold Fairhair
Olaf Haraldsson Geirstadalf, brother of Bjørn
Harald Gudrødsson Grenske, 976–987
The Vestfold Line is a railway line that runs from Drammen, through a number of towns in Vestfold and ending in the town of Skien in Telemark. European route E18 runs through the county roughly parallel to the railway.
There are two international ferry connections, both operated by Color Line. Larvik is connected to the Danish town Hirtshals, the other route is between Sandefjord and Strømstad in Sweden. Fjord Line is also a ferry operator between Sandefjord and Strømstad. In addition there is a domestic route connecting Horten and Moss.
Sandefjord Airport Torp serves both domestic and international destinations. It is regional hub for low-cost carrier Norwegian, as well as low-cost carriers Ryanair and WizzAir also operate from the airport.
As of 1 January 2017 the number of municipalities in Vestfold County was reduced from 14 to 12:
- Andebu (Merged into Sandefjord on 1 January 2017)
- Sandefjord (Added Andebu and Stokke on 1 January 2017)
- Stokke (Merged into Sandefjord on 1 January 2017)
Saltstein is part of a protected habitat for birds. From 2014 surfing was permitted off Saltstein.
At Borrehaugene near Borrre there are 9 large mounds and around 30 smaller ones.
Gulli, outside Tønsberg, was the site of an archaeological excavation during the period from 2003 to 2004, prior to asphalt being laid for constructing the new E18 (road). There were 60 graves - 20 of those were preserved to a degree that [authorities decided] permitted examinations. "Perhaps the most spectacular [item] was a høvre" - used with a horse's harness. "There are few of those in Norway - one in Trøndelag and a gilded one found in Borre". The artifacts are on display at the Midgard Historical Centre in Borre.