It all began in 1567 when the king of Denmark-Norway decreed that the town of Sarpsborg, burned to the ground by arch enemy Sweden, should be rebuilt. The king bent his ear to a popular appeal to have the town resituated at a place that was easier to defend and had better living conditions.
The east bank of the Glomma estuary was the obvious choice, and for the first time in Norway a king let a town take its name from a person. That person was the king himself; and Fredrikstad would prove itself a town worthy of a king. The inhabitants didn´t even complain that the man who christened the town never stopped there, but merely sailed past a couple of times. Then again, during his lifetime the place was more a building site than an arena in which this most social of kings could enjoy himself. He should have been around a century or two later, by which time he would have no difficulty getting his glass filled for a toast to a well-proportioned and attractive town. And a fortress that deterred the enemy.
The old Fortress Town is a part of our European heritage, and many regard it as an obvious candidate for a place on UNESCO´s World Heritage list. Why isn´t the Old Town on the list? There are several reasons, not least of all Fredrikstad´s desire to keep it an integrated part of the city´s life. The Old Town has existed and continues to exist without the aid of any "tourist attraction"-label with all the dangers of commercialisation that brings with it.