Borgund Stave Church in Norway

The remarkable Borgund Stave Church is a top tourist attraction in Norway. Built sometime between 1180 and 1250, this medieval Borgund stavkyrkje (Norwegian) is one of the best preserved stave churches in Norway. Some would say it’s a national treasure.

This simple, yet elegant, black wooden church is no longer used for church functions. It’s now a museum run by the Society for the Preservation of Ancient Norwegian Monuments.

When mapping our Norway road trip itinerary, visiting this unique piece of Norwegian history was high on our list. The Borgund Stave Church is not on the standard Norway in a Nutshell route, so it requires extra driving (unless it’s included as part of an organized tour of Norway). 

It rained during our visit to Borgund Stave Church, which was a theme during our Norway road trip. While I would have preferred sunny blue skies, there’s something about the misty mountains and damp atmosphere that adds to the experience. 

Norway Stave Churches

A stave church is a medieval wooden Christian church built with ‘staves’, or thick wooden posts. They are one of Norway’s oldest preserved timber buildings and its most important contribution to world architecture. Many of these structures were built using the same woodworking skills as the Vikings, with crafted joints and no nails or glue.

It’s said there were over 1,000 stave churches in Norway before the Black Death infected Norway in 1350. Some historians believe there may have been over 2,000 stave churches in Norway at its peak, before the Reformation in 1537.

Today, only 28 stave churches remain in Norway. The majority of these historical churches are located in the Fjords and southeast Norway. Here is a detailed map of Norway stave churches.

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The church has similar Nordic carvings as found on Viking ships. There are four dragon heads at the top of the steeple on the gable ridges. Borgund is one of the only stave churches to have preserved its crested ridge caps. The roof and siding looks as if could be dragon scales. 

The old Borgund Stave Church cemetery located directly beside the church.

The graveyard that surrounds Borgund Stave Church is still active today. We witnessed a few freshly buried grave sites with fresh flowers. Some of the tombstones date back hundreds of years.

Borgund stave church interior

The inside of the wooden church is simple. It’s not very big. I would imagine only 15-20 people can fit in there at one time. 

There is a person inside the church that points a flashlight for guests. Because there is no electricity inside the church, you need this flashlight to see the inside of Borgund stave church. 

The Borgund altar pictured above is interesting. Simple, like the rest of the building’s features. 

Borgund New Church

The Borgund Church, or Borgund kyrkje in Norwegian, is the big red church located beside the original black wooden stave church.

We were not able to enter this church during our visit. There was a ‘wet paint’ sign on the door, so I’m not sure if it’s normally open to the public? If you know, please leave us a comment below.  

Borgund Stave Church Visitors Centre

The Borgund Stave Church Visitors Center offers exhibitions about the history of stave churches in Norway and their role in the Middle Ages.

Important – you must purchase a ticket at the visitor centre before walking to the stave church. Technically you can drive past the church slowly on the road in front of the church, but that’s not why you travelled all the way to Norway, right? 

The visitor centre has a café, washrooms and public parking. It’s open daily from April to October. 

While you are here, if the weather is nice, combine a walk to nearby Vindhellavegen and The Filefjell Kongevegen (The King’s Road in English). More info here.

Exhibits inside the Borgund Stave Church Visitor Centre. It’s not very big. You only need 15-30 minutes. 

How to get to Borgund Stave Church

Borgund Stave Church Visitor Centre is located at Vindhellavegen 621, 6888 Borgund.

The easiest way to get to Borgund stave church is by vehicle. However, there is a bus that departs from Flam. The distance from Flam to the Visitor Centre is about 60 km. 

The main highway is E16. The exit is just before the Borgundstunnelen if you are driving west. Alternatively, if you are driving east from Lærdal, Aurlandsvangen or Flam, the exit is just after the tunnel. 

Once you exit the E16, drive south on 630. This road takes you to the visitor centre parking lot. 

We actually missed the turnoff and had to backtrack. Our vehicle GPS had trouble picking up the location. We came from Hemsedal via the 52 highway (driving west) and prematurely exited E16 when we saw signs for Borgund. This is not where the church is located. Continue driving east through the Laerdalsvegen Tuftastunnel for about 10 minutes.

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Related – Should you rent a car in Norway?

More Stave churches in Norway

There are 28 stave churches in Norway today. Some are easy to visit, while others are found in more remote areas. You might only have time to visit a few stave churches on you Norway road trip, so do your research.

The most popular stave churches in Norway are:

  • Heddal Stave Church (Heddal stavkirke) is Norway’s largest stave church. It’s located in in Vestfold og Telemark county.
  • Urnes Stave Church (Urnes stavkyrkje) is located along the Lustrafjorden in the municipality of Luster in Vestland county. In 1979, the Urnes Stave Church was listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
  • Fantoft Stave Church (Fantoft stavkyrkje) is a reconstructed stave church located south of the city of Bergen.
  • Gol Stave Church was originally built in Gol but has since been relocated to the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History at Bygdøy in Oslo.
  • Garmo Stave Church (Garmo stavkyrkje) is located inside the Maihaugen Museum in Lillehammer (host city of the 1994 Olympic Winter Games). It’s one of the most visited stave churches in Norway.
  • Lom Stave Church (Lomskyrkja) is one of the biggest and most beautiful stave churches in Norway (see photo above and below).

Check out this interactive map of Norway’s stave churches.

Above and below are different views of Lom Stave Church, located in the town of Lom. 

Above and below are photos of Gol Stave Church, also known as Oslo Stave Church. Originally from the traditional region of Hallingdal (Gol), this reconstructed church is now located in the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History at Bygdøy in Oslo, Norway.

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Above is a photo of Garmo Stave Church in Lillehammer, Norway. 

Read more posts from our Norway road trip:

  • 12 days in Norway: A Perfect Norway Road Trip Itinerary  
  • Should you rent a car in Norway? Tips for driving in Norway
  • Things to do in Stockholm this summer

Have you visited a Stave Church in Norway? 

If not, would you add Borgund Stave Church to your Norway travel itinerary? Leave us a comment below if you have questions about visiting this popular Norway tourist attraction. 

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