A stone hall worthy of a king
Håkonshallen is more than seven hundred and fifty years old, and was built by King Håkon Håkonsson between 1247 and 1261 as a royal residence and feasting hall. When the king’s son Magnus Håkonsson Lagabøte married the Danish Princess Ingeborg in 1261, 2000 guests were hosted in three buildings. "Kings held court in the stone hall", as the sagas say.
At that time Bergen was Norway’s largest and most important city, and Håkonshallen was the site of major national events, including the promulgation of Norway's first complete set of laws. Within the thick stone walls you can still hear the echoes of the medieval court’s solemn ceremonies and riotous feasts. As a site of national heritage, Håkonshallen is still in use for royal dinners and other official occasions.
It was not a given that Håkonshallen should remain an impressive building and the largest standing building from the Middle Ages in Norway until today. The hall lost its role as the king’s seat when the royal family moved out of the country in the late Middle Ages. It served later as storeroom, and was eventually turned into an ammunition store for the Bergenhus fortress. For a time it was even without a roof. In 1916 Håkonshallen was restored for the first time, and its interior was decorated. In 1944 the building was, however, dangerously close to a second collapse, when the Dutch ammunition ship the Voorbode exploded while at anchor in the harbour directly below. Only the walls where left standing. In the 1950s the Hall was again restored, resulting in what we see today both concerning interior and exterior. The hall has three floors, with the large festive room located on the top floor. Originally the middle floor was for administration and the King’s council and the first floor, or basement, most likely was used as storage room.
Håkonshallen is open most days of the year, even in the winter. On Sundays and all through the summer season one can take part in tours which include both Håkonshallen and the Rosenkrantz Tower.