“Behind the clouds, the sky is always blue.”

~Norwegian Proverb

Distant red buildings were peeking through a fog-shrouded sky as the Seabourn Ovation made its way toward Norway’s Lofoten Islands. Our ship would be anchoring off the shores of Svolvaer, Lofoten’s largest town, and tenders would be needed to take us ashore. The misty morning was a sharp contrast to our sun-filled day in Ålesund, but it was not unexpected.

We were above the Arctic Circle, after all.

Lofoten – pronounced Lō’-fo-ten – is an archipelago of six principal islands and a host of smaller, isolated islands west of mainland Norway, about 150 km, or 93 miles, in length. A popular destination for mountain and beach activities, Lofoten is also known for its thriving arts community. In the winter months, the Northern Lights are often visible; from May 28th through July 14th, the “midnight sun” remains above the horizon all day and night.

Sailing into Svolvaer, Lofoten.

The Road to Henningsvaer

Herb and I had signed on to visit two art galleries in the town of Henningsvaer, a fishing village about a half-hour drive southwest of Svolvaer. At the tender dock, we met our guide Lisa, a friendly, soft-spoken woman who talked about life above the Arctic Circle as we rode along the coast, offering insight into how artists were attracted to these remote islands, accessible to one another by bridges and ferries.

“The light here is interesting to painters,” she explained. “We have polar nights from mid-December to mid-January, where the sun doesn’t rise above the horizon ­– 2 hours of twilight and 22 hours of darkness. And then we have the midnight sun we are experiencing now, where the sun never goes down below the horizon.”

The road to Henningsvaer weaves along the water, past deep green hills and forests and through a stone tunnel. Except for a yellow timber-framed church and an occasional house or fishing cottage, it’s a scene of quiet landscapes.

Views from my window – the road from Svolvaer to Henningsvaer…

Vågen Church in the village of Kabelvåg, built in 1898.

Galleri Lofoten

Our first stop in Henningsvaer was Galleri Lofoten which houses Norway’s largest collection of northern Norwegian paintings from the turn of the last century as well as works by contemporary artists. The gallery’s exterior is painted the traditional deep red color found on Norwegian fishing cottages. The interior galleries are surprisingly engaging, warm and inviting, with an immediate Scandinavian feel – light wooden plank floors, a blue wooden staircase and a third floor with beam ceilings and a nautical theme.

Lofoton Islands Red Wooden Buildings in Henningsvaer - the modern postcard
View outside Galleri Lofoten.
The second floor with its blue staircase and contemporary paintings.
Paintings are displayed in the cozy attic-like third floor amid nautical displays.

I loved the art here, especially the paintings by Lars Lerin, known as one of Scandinavia’s greatest watercolorists. Originally from Sweden, Lerin lived in Lofoten in the 1990s, painting fishing villages and coastal landscapes as well as writing and illustrating books, including the award-winning Naturlära.

“The artist has developed his own way of applying colours. Grey, blue and ocher can dominate in changing shades. The tones can be deep dark or ethereally bright where the picture space is lit up from within in a magical way… The common denominator for all of them is that they touch something deep in us with their beautiful, distinctive motifs.”

~Lars Lerin Exhibition: All Year Round, galleri-lofoton.no

Lars Lerin, “Mäsflock” (Flock of Seagulls).
Lars Lerin, “Fasade I og II” (Facade 1 and 2)…
…with a detail of his writing imbedded below the artwork.
Lars Lerin, “Fiskebruk II” (Fishing Farm 2).

A Walk Around Henningsvaer

For anyone who was interested, Lisa had suggested walking around Henningsvaer before heading to the next gallery. It’s a small town, with a little over 500 residents living on two islands, and she recommended a route that would lead to the best photo stop for viewing the waterfront.

What struck me most about Henningsvaer were the colors. This was a town that had painted outside the traditional red or white lines, choosing a rainbow of shades for their homes and shops, sometimes using more than one tone to define their spaces. There was definitely an artistic vibe here, and I would have loved to have met some of the residents. With colors like this, they just had to have interesting stories to tell!

A mustard-color café and commercial building with a white porch and window trim.
It appears that this café couldn’t decide on a color and opted for everything in the paint store!
For my trollspotting project…hmm…this guy looks suspiciously like the camera-toting troll we saw in Ålesund.
I loved this charming display outside a home furnishings shop.
If you look closely, you’ll notice that the window trim and roof detail on this pink house are painted a pale lilac shade.
A distinctive green color with black trim makes this home stand out.
No unusual color here, but it just oozes charm!
Finally…our walk’s ultimate destination.


We rejoined Lisa “by the mustard colored house” as she had instructed and headed to KaviarFactory, a contemporary art gallery housed – as its name implies – in a former caviar factory. Art collectors Venke and Rolf Hoff purchased the old industrial facility and began renovations in 2009. Four years later, they had transformed the space and opened their gallery to the public.

Venke greeted us at the entrance, told us a bit about the gallery’s history and offered our group an informal tour. I was struck by how these two collectors had turned their vision into a serious contemporary art destination in such a remote, albeit beautiful, spot in Norway. It’s the kind of place I would have expected to find in a large metropolitan area rather than in a town of 500!

The current exhibition is called Inside Out and showcases fifty-one works by nineteen artists from Norway and around the world. “What the works have in common,” the exhibition’s brochure explains, “is that they all depict heads – portraits and self-portraits, honest and authentic – that clearly show the inside on the outside – Inside Out. An exploration of fragility and loneliness…the full range of human emotions.” Most of the artists’ names were new to me, but I did spot Edvard Munch and Andy Warhol on the list.

On our way to KaviarFactory, Lisa stops to talk about Henningsvaer’s cod fishing industry.
It took me a minute to figure out that the missing letters on the KaviarFactory building spell “art.”
KaviarFactory owner and collector Venke Hoff in the light-filled gallery.
A few pieces in the exhibition…

I loved these chairs outside KaviarFactory. Art installation or a place to sit? No one was quite sure, but I’m going with art.

A Treat Before Leaving

Before leaving Henningsvaer, Herb and I made a quick dash to pick up coffees and a pastry at Kafé Lysstøperiet, a cute spot with – what else? – a colorful interior. I smiled when I saw the cinnamon rolls – they looked just as I had remembered from our time in Stockholm, with bits of sugar decorating the sides and top. I would have loved to stay awhile, but there was no time to linger, and we asked for our coffees “to go.”

Tapered candles in colorful patterns decorate the walls at Kafé Lysstøperiet.
My Norwegian cinnamon roll.

Magic Ice

Back in Svolvaer, our tour ended at an ice bar called Magic Ice, a tourist attraction in this northern part of the world, but also great fun. The experience began in the gift shop, where we were given gloves and hooded cape-like ponchos before entering the sub-zero ice-sculpted world. A bartender handed us drinks in glasses made out of ice, and we wandered around the space as various sculptures changed from blue to pink or orange in an instant, with some help from clever LED lighting.

Before the cold finally got the best of us, Herb and I took turns holding each other’s drinks and sitting for a photo on the ice throne. It just seemed like the thing to do when you’re north of the Arctic Circle.

Our grainy Magic Ice selfie.
The Magic Ice bartender pours our drinks.
An ice sculpture turns orange.


  • What art! What charm–both in your photos and in your words describing this adventure. Thank you for taking us along!

    • I’m so happy to know you enjoyed this, Susan! The fabulous art was a huge surprise in a town of 500 people! I easily could have spent more time in Lofoten, exploring other towns and taking in that gorgeous scenery.

  • Have never been to the Lofotens … so thank you for showing me what I’ve been missing. I love the high-North European towns and villages with their colorful buildings. I’ve missed that in the high-North/Arctic towns on North America. Love the Lars Lerin art photos … and the cozy attic setting. I can see myself sitting up there for a while.

    • Erin, I’m happy to have given you a little peek at the Lofoten Islands. It’s such a stunning place and worthy of much more time than we had. I will be joining you on the third floor of Gallerie Lofoten!

  • Cheers, Mary! Not one but two stories to catch up on today which is a real treat! I have a friend who travels to the Lofoten Islands regularly to visit a school pen-pal. She speaks so warmly of the islands, which can be a challenge to reach but which are, she reassures me, always worth the effort, regardless of the time of year. I sense that you would agree? I certainly feel sure we would have loved both art galleries and I really enjoyed your visit. Thank you!

    • Gill, I thought of you when we were at those art galleries! I loved our brief time in the Lofoten towns, and I agree that it’s a challenging place to reach. In an ideal world, I would have enjoyed an overnight there with the the chance to explore other islands or a second stop at another port. But all dreaming aside, it was a pretty great day! 🙂

    • Great to hear from you, Elyse! It really was wonderful and quite a change from traveling in the early post-pandemic times. I look forward to seeing where your travels take you next!

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