History tells us that the first fisherman's cabins in Lofoten were built by King Øystein in the 1120s. Many of the old fisherman's cabins have been taken care of and modernized for rent to tourists.
Rorbu in Lofoten was used by visiting fishermen
We know that fishing (Lofoten fishing) has been practiced since the Stone Age in Lofoten. Up through the centuries hunters have had periodic settlements in caves before the first fisherman's cabins were built. As the boats developed, more visitors came to participate in the Lofoten fishing. Consequently, housing was needed for all the visiting fishermen.
History tells us that the first fisherman's cabins, or "rorbu", in Lofoten were built by King Øystein in the 1120s. This confirms that fishing was very important for the region (and it still is). The rorbu cabins were once built right on the shore, preferably on poles in the sea with natural access for the rowing boat straight to the cabin. It could stay up to 16 persons together in one rorbu cabin.
Today, visiting fishermen live in their boats. Many of the old rorbu cabins have been taken care of and modernized for rent to tourists. New cabins are also being built which are exclusively built to receive tourists. The rorbu cabins that are rented out to tourists today generally have a high standard and good comfort.
The most common color of the rorbu cabins was red or ocher
These were home-made natural colors that were the cheapest colors to mix. Today, the red-painted rorbu cabins in Lofoten are a fantastic contrast to the blue sea and the rest of nature through the seasons. The iconic red cabins are popular photo motifs and you will hardly find a photograph from Lofoten where there is no rorbu cabin in the picture. In a fishing village, there was always a Manor house, this was always white, which was the most expensive paint to mix. It should shine the power and wealth of the Manor house.
What does the word "Rorbu" come from?
The word rorbu is composed of two words; ror and bu."Bu" denotes a small house and has to do with the verb "bo", to live. In other words, a smaller house to live in. The first part "ror" comes from the Norwegian word "ro", to row. In all the centuries, the fishermen came in their rowboats, and it was not until the beginning of the last century that the fishing boats had an engine. Even after three generations of motorboats, the term "row fishing" is still used in the everyday speech about participating in fishing. "Rorbu" is the house the fishermen lived in while rowing fishing.
Fishing villages in Lofoten
In addition to dramatic nature and the traditional Lofoten fishing, Lofoten is widely known for the many picturesque fishing villages on the shoreline of the Lofoten. From ancient times the fishing villages were the lifeblood. The fishing village was often managed by a landowner who had received permission from the king to establish trading activities on the site. The landowner controlled almost every business on the site and was a powerful person. A fishing village often consisted of a fish factory, a trading house with a shop, fish drying racks and rorbu cabins that could house visiting fishermen. In addition, there were often other necessary functions such as bakery, smith, carpentry workshop, and telegraph. There was always more to come as society modernized.
The fishing villages in Lofoten were often year-round settlements where agriculture was practiced in combination with fishing and trade. Common to all the fishing villages is that they are located by good, natural harbors and are close to the fishing spots.
Svinøya in Svolvær
On Svinøya in Svolvær harbor, you will find a real, living, and well-preserved fishing village where history is well taken care of. Here you can stay in restored original rorbu cabins or newly built modern rorbusuites. In the old trading pier from 1828, you will find our restaurant, Børsen Spiseri, and our reception located in Krambua, Svolvær's first shop. The Manor house from the same year has also been restored. Here you can stay like a real "island king". We have also restored, taken care of, and rented out a number of buildings worthy of preservation from the heyday of Svinøya.
Read more about why you should choose Svinøya Rorbuer as your base in Lofoten.