Swap the gaudy Christmas lights and British gloom for a Nordic winter wonderland, says Jennifer Stuart-Smith
This bustling town of timber buildings, entrepreneurial locals and unspoilt vistas over the snowy Trøndelag landscape is far more than just historic. As well as being a UNESCO World Heritage Site – thanks to its ancient wooden houses and copper-mining origins – it is also a vibrant community famed for its local produce, hospitality and proximity to rivers, lakes and mountain plateaux. In winter, there can be few places that offer such a romantic, cosy existence, where a few hours on cross-country skis or dog-sledding through the woods, can be paired with time by a log fire with a coffee and pastry.
Although its pronunciation takes time to master, you will feel instantly at home in the super-friendly Erzscheidergården hotel. This boutique-style hotel was run, until recently, by the Norvik family, before being taken over by a local entrepreneur, who has retained the family feel, assisted ably by the hotel manager, Boris Darphin. As well as a choice of modern, Scandi-style rooms featuring snug woollen blankets and sheep skins, or traditional rooms reflecting the building’s 17th-century origins – one of the main attractions is the hotel’s incredible breakfast. Don’t rush the classic fare of eggs in every form, pickled herring, smoked salmon and brunost – or ‘brown cheese’. Consider it essential preparation for playing in the snow.
Vertshuset is known for its superb menu of traditional foods, made using local produce, and would be the restaurant of choice for a special treat. In the centre of town, this ‘restaurant with rooms’ may be traditional but it is also moving with the times – with the addition of a gastropub, the Berkel og bar, next door and a microbrewery in the basement. The Norge sharing board in the Berkel og bar is the one to go for, and includes home-cured ham from nearby Tynset, aïoli made with wild garlic, reindeer sausage, homemade bread warm from the oven and local cheeses. Groups of ten or more can book a beer-tasting session in the basement – a former bank vault – under the expert guidance of Andreas Ulstein Søvik, a young Norwegian with a passion for brewing.
Cross-country skiing around the local trails and fells. Røros recently hosted the cross-country skiing world cup – so there’s a huge choice of terrain. Our Røros guide, Stein Kverneng took us out to the Kongens Gruve (King’s Mine) area of Røros, across the snow-blown peaks to a cosy mountain hut. We warmed up with lamb stew, tea and sips of akvavit before venturing out on to a mountain lake for some ice-fishing. Those who like a thrill should go dog-sledding with Alaskan Husky Tours and the world-class dog-sledder, Ketil Reitan. Hold on to your hats – and wits – as you release the brake of your dog sled and begin a high-speed dash through woods, past lakes and snow-covered meadows. A sleigh ride through the town centre may be more appropriate for the faint-hearted – or the more romantic visitor.
The small, characterful town is an attraction in itself – and an easy stroll in winter boots – with boutiques, galleries and cafés at every turn. However, the Rørosmuseet, in a magnificent wooden building on the edge of the town, puts this formerly isolated community in context. The vast smelting area, with its lofty cathedral-like roof and tall brick chimneys, gives a sense of the heat and grafting that went on inside, over the centuries, away from the bitter temperatures outside. If living history is more your thing, then a visit to Rørosrein – a business based on the local Sami people’s tradition of rearing reindeer – which is a short walk from the town centre. Here you can ride in a sleigh pulled by a reindeer Frozen-style and warm up inside a Sami dwelling, or stock up on reindeer goodies.
It is possible to simply enjoy the culture of Roros, but the shopping temptations are hard to resist. For those with a thing for wool, Røros tweed makes gorgeous blanket cloth that you will find in the form of throws, cushions and other soft furnishings in many of the homeware shops in town and at its own store nearby. With Røros’ reputation for being the second coldest town in Norway, you can rest assured that the blankets will keep you warm. Ceramics are also a big thing – whether you want traditional or quirky and modern. Potteriet Røros offers a range of ‘slipware’ based on a mid-19th century design. At Kjerkgata 5 – one of the two main streets – Per Lysgaard creates stunning, bright and unusual ceramics.
Whatever you do…
Walk around the town after dark and enjoy the simple yet beautiful Nordic style of Christmas lights.
Don’t miss a quiet moment of contemplation in the impressive parish church, built in 1784, during the golden age of mining.
Take warm, outdoor clothing, either down-filled or woollen as temperatures here rarely rise above zero in the winter months – and once dropped to minus 50ºc.
Live like a local…
Buy your groceries and treats in Røros Delikatesser, at Kjerkgata 8.
Travel around town by kick-sled. Some hotels will let you borrow theirs, or hire one from the tourist office for 50 Norwegian krone per day.
Enjoy a coffee and a home-made pastry by the fire in Kaffestuggu, between the two main streets.
B&B doubles at Erzscheidergården hotel from £130 per night. There are regular flights to both Oslo (five hours by train to Røros) and Trondheim (2.5 hours by train) with Norwegian, for between £100 and £120 return.