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Hotel and Art Project

Sortland Hotel is a never-ending art project.

A world-class literary figure once spent time in this hotel while he wrote the novel The Last Joy. The year was 1911, and Sortland Hotel was brand new.

– One might say that Knut Hamsun lives in the walls here, hotel owner Harald Mikal Jakobsen says.

Opening of the Hamsun foyer. Actor Bjørn Sundquist reads the prologue written for the occasion by Lars Saabye Christensen Photo: Alf Oxem

Sortland Hotel is a place imbued with art and intriguing collaboration, brought to attainment by a hotel owner with many visions. An entrepreneur who has blind faith in the value of creating distinctiveness.

– Our melody for the future is to continue to expand the hotel along with art, Jakobsen goes on to say.

Sortland Hotel is situated in beautiful natural surroundings. Photo: FotoKnoff

At Sortland Hotel, you will find works of art by Håkon Bleken, Trym Ivar Bergsmo, Queen Sonja of Norway, Magne Furuholmen and many other great, national artists, represented in ways you have never before experienced.

The most recent art project features 16 doors in the hotel’s newly opened wing. On each door, poetry written by Lars Saabye Christensen and illustrations by Nico Widerberg combine to make a unique artistic decor – an unparalleled project found nowhere else in the world.

Saabye’s Library. Photo: FotoKnoff

“Never forget, doors work from both sides. Thus you must also remember to knock before you go out”

Below are four of the doors to rooms at Sortland Hotel that are decorated with works of art.

Saabye’s works

Sortland, the Blue City, was Lars Saabye Christensen’s home for many years, and at the city’s hotel, you can find a unique tribute to the author.

The restaurant Saabye’s Library houses all of Saabye’s works and their translations into 36 languages, ranging from his début novel Bly and his tour de force Beatles, to theatre and film scripts, music, poetry collections and pure, literary gold.

The restaurant Saabye’s Library houses all of Saabye’s works and their translations into 36 languages. Photo: FotoKnoff

The hotel was also the crucible for a unique collaborative project between the author and Nico Widerberg – the sculptor who initiated Norway’s 22 July memorial sculpture project.

The result of this partnership can be found throughout the hotel, from the sculpture in the lobby to the unique paintings melting visual art and poetry in a shared idiom. Visual artist Tove Hov Jacobsen is also represented by original paintings adorning the walls of 50 hotel rooms.

A sculpture by artist Nico Widerberg that was unveiled by author Lars Saabye Christensen. Photo: FotoKnoff

– I have blind faith in the value of creating distinctiveness. This will be our melody for the future, come what may. Guests want something new, something more than merely four walls and a bed. They want experiences and replenishment, hotel owner Jakobsen says.

– And the fact that we have these two great artists is a divine gift.

– What kinds of guests make up your clientèle?

– Hotels are usually a reflection of the business community, so many of our guests are representatives for public and private business and industry, in addition to an increasing number of tourists.

We are fortunate to have a large number of returning guests who come to stay with us. They have ensured the existence of the hotel for 50 years. We also have a healthy financial status and a continually increasing turnover.

Sortland Hotell. Photo: FotoKnoff

The hotel has been in operation for 112 years. Profits have been re-invested in development over several generations, with extensive renovation and expansion. The most recent addition is the brand new wing of rooms, and even more expansion is on the agenda. The kitchen has also been revitalized with a chef who can boast a lengthy career as a specialist in Italian cuisine.

One of Sortland Hotel’s new, first-rate rooms. Photo: FotoKnoff

– The most gratifying thing is that we actually have the ability to continue developing this fantastic place. We want to develop a hotel with quality and culture, Jakobsen says.

Culture is a great many things. We are now going to incorporate coastal culture, as befits a hotel that is the most prominent and popular overnight accommodation in the fishing region.

Tribute to fishermen-farmers through two original old buildings representing coastal culture.
From the outside of Sortland Hotel. Photo: FotoKnoff

– I call Hamsun, Saabye Christensen and Widerberg our “treasures”. Now we are adding our fourth treasure, Harald Mikal says.

We are paying tribute to the traditional fisherman-farmer in the form of two original buildings that are representative of coastal culture and have been preserved and made a part of Sortland Hotel. 

– These treasures are going to be thoroughly restored, and we are looking forward to displaying this important facet of our cultural history.

The food is an important aspect of our culture. Photo: FotoKnoff

Another important aspect of North-Norwegian culture is food, and Sortland Hotel was one of the very first to feature short-travelled cuisine. Arctic char, boknafisk (semi-dried fish) and the exalted Vesterålen lamb have been on the hotel’s menu for years. Already in the late 1990s, the hotel began to commit to local products.

– We serve local foods. Local, local, local. We procure as many local ingredients and other services as possible, the hotel owner explains.


Some facts…

  • Sortlandhotellene AS – private limited company for Sortland Hotel and Strand Hotel  
  • Turnover for 2018 NOK 26,441,000).
  • 20 man-labour years – of which 17 are year-round positions held by motivated and skilled employees
  • Number of rooms 103 – (66 + 37)
  • 4 conference rooms
  • Assembly hall for 80 persons, with group rooms
  • Sortland Hotel – expanded and renovated in the period 2015–2019 
  • Distinctive features: Short-travelled food, Saabye’s Library, Hamsun’s Foyer, art, literature and history from 1908 to the present day
  • Saabye’s Library serves as a restaurant featuring local foods. Boknafisk (semi-dried cod) is our most popular dish.


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