Counties of Norway

Norway is divided into 18 administrative regions, called counties (singular Norwegian: fylke, plural Norwegian: fylker (Bokmål) / fylke (Nynorsk) from Old Norse: fylki from the word "folk"); until 1918, they were known as amter. The counties form the first-level subdivisions of Norway and are further divided into 422 municipalities (kommune, pl. kommuner / kommunar). The island territories of Svalbard and Jan Mayen are outside the county division and ruled directly at the national level. The capital Oslo is considered both a county and a municipality.

In 2017 the government decided to abolish the current counties and to replace them with fewer, larger administrative regions (regioner).[1]

Map Norway political-geo
A geopolitical map of Norway, exhibiting its 18 first-order subnational divisions (fylker or "counties"), along with Svalbard and Jan Mayen

List of counties

Below is a list of the Norwegian counties, with their current administrative centres. Note that the counties are administered both by appointees of the national government and to a lesser extent by their own elected bodies. The county numbers are from the official numbering system ISO 3166-2:NO, which originally was set up to follow the coastline from the Swedish border in the southeast to the Russian border in the northeast, but with the numbering has changed with county mergers. The number 13, 16 and 17 were dropped, and the number 50 was added to account for changes over the years. The lack of a county number 13 is due to the city of Bergen no longer being its own county, and is unrelated to fear of the number 13.

ISO-code County (Fylke) Administrative centre Governor Area (km2) Population (2016)
01  Østfold Sarpsborg Anne Enger 4,180.69 290,412
02  Akershus Oslo Nils Aage Jegstad 4,917.94 596,704
03  Oslo City of Oslo Marianne Borgen (Mayor) 454.07 660,987
04  Hedmark Hamar Sigbjørn Johnsen 27,397.76 195,443
05  Oppland Lillehammer Kristin Hille Valla 25,192.10 188,945
06  Buskerud Drammen Kirsti Kolle Grøndahl 14,910.94 278,028
07  Vestfold Tønsberg Per Arne Olsen 2,225.08 245,160
08  Telemark Skien Kari Nordheim-Larsen 15,296.34 172,527
09  Aust-Agder Arendal Øystein Djupedal 9,157.77 115,873
10  Vest-Agder Kristiansand Ann-Kristin Olsen 7,276.91 182,922
11  Rogaland Stavanger Magnhild Meltveit Kleppa 9,375.97 470,907
12  Hordaland Bergen Lars Sponheim 15,438.06 517,601
13 No longer used[a]
14  Sogn og Fjordane Hermansverk Anne Karin Hamre 18,623.41 109,623
15  Møre og Romsdal Molde Lodve Solholm 15,101.39 265,181
16 No longer used[b]
17 No longer used[b]
18  Nordland Bodø Odd Eriksen 38,482.39 241,948
19  Troms Tromsø Bård Magne Pedersen 25,862.91 164,613
20  Finnmark Vadsø Gunnar Kjønnøy 48,631.04 75,886
50  Trøndelag Steinkjer[c] Frank Jenssen 41,254.29 450,496
  1. ^ Formerly used for Bergen county, merged into Hordaland on 1 January 1972
  2. ^ a b Formerly used for Nord-Trøndelag (#17) and Sør-Trøndelag (#16) counties, merged as Trøndelag on 1 January 2018
  3. ^ Steinkjer is the administrative centre, but the county mayor is seated in Trondheim. Steinkjer and Trondheim are sometimes named as co-capitals

Map

Norway counties

Norway counties

Responsibilities and significance

Every county has two main organisations, both with underlying organisations.

  1. The county municipality (no: Fylkeskommune) has a county council (Norwegian: Fylkesting), whose members are elected by the inhabitants. The county municipality is responsible mainly for some medium level schools, public transport organisation, regional road planning, culture and some more areas.
  2. The county governor (no: Fylkesmannen) is an authority directly overseen by the Norwegian government. It surveills the municipalities and receive complaints from people over their actions. It also controls areas where the government needs local direct ruling outside the municipalities.

History

Fylke (1st period)

From the consolidation to a single kingdom, Norway was divided into a number of geographic regions that had its own legislative assembly or Thing, such as Gulating (Western Norway) and Frostating (Trøndelag). The second-order subdivision of these regions was into fylker, such as Egdafylke and Hordafylke. In 1914, the historical term fylke was brought into use again to replace the term amt introduced during the union with Denmark. Current day counties (fylker) often, but not necessarily, correspond to the historical areas.

Fylke in the 10th-13th centuries

Counties (folkland) under the Borgarting, located in Viken with the seat at Sarpsborg:[2]

Counties (first three fylke, last two bilandskap) under the Eidsivating, located in Oplandene with the seat at Eidsvoll:[2]

Counties under the Gulating, located in Vestlandet with the seat at Gulen:[3]

Counties under the Frostating, located in Trøndelag with the seat at Frosta:

Counties not attached to a thing:

Finnmark (including northern Troms), the Faroe Islands, the Orkney Islands, Shetland, the Hebrides, Isle of Man, Iceland and Greenland were Norwegian skattland ("tax countries"), and did not belong to any known counties or assembly areas.

Syssel

Syssel in 1300

From the end of the 12th century, Norway was divided into several syssel. The head of the various syssel was the syslemann, who represented the king locally. The following shows a reconstruction of the different syssel in Norway c. 1300, including sub-syssel where these seem established.[4]

Len

From 1308, the term len (plural len) in Norway signified an administrative region roughly equivalent to today's counties. The historic len was an important administrative entity during the period of Dano-Norwegian unification after their amalgamation as one state, which lasted for the period 1536[5]–1814.

At the beginning of the 16th century the political divisions were variable, but consistently included four main len and approximately 30 smaller sub-regions with varying connections to a main len. Up to 1660 the four principal len were headquartered at the major fortresses Bohus Fortress, Akershus Fortress, Bergenhus Fortress and the fortified city of Trondheim.[6] The sub-regions corresponded to the church districts for the Lutheran church in Norway.

Len in 1536

These four principal len were in the 1530s divided into approximately 30 smaller regions. From that point forward through the beginning of the 17th century the number of subsidiary len was reduced, while the composition of the principal len became more stable.[7]

Len in 1660

From 1660 Norway had nine principal len comprising 17 subsidiary len:

  • Akershus len
  • Tunsberg len
  • Bratsberg len
  • Agdesiden len
  • Stavanger len

Len written as län continues to be used as the administrative equivalent of county in Sweden to this day. Each len was governed by a lenman.[8]

Amt

With the royal decree of February 19, 1662, each len was designated an amt (plural amt) and the lenmann was titled amtmann, from German Amt (office), reflecting the bias of the Danish court of that period.[9]

Amt in 1671

After 1671 Norway was divided into four principal amt or stiftsamt and there were nine subordinate amt:

  • Akershus amt
    • Smålenene amt
    • Brunla amt
  • Agdesiden amt
    • Bratsberg amt
    • Stavanger amt

Amt in 1730

From 1730 Norway had the following amt:

  • Lister og Mandals amt
  • Nedenes amt
  • Bratsberg amt
  • Buskerud amt
  • Oplandenes amt
  • Hedemarkens amt
  • Akershus amt
  • Smaalenenes amt

At this time there were also two counties (grevskap) controlled by actual counts, together forming what is now Vestfold county:

  • Laurvigen county
  • Jarlsberg county

Amt in 1760

In 1760 Norway had the following stiftamt and amt:[10]

  • Akershus stiftamt
    • Opplands amt
    • Akershus amt
    • Smålenenes amt
    • Laurvigen county
    • Jarlsberg county
    • Bratsberg amt (eastern half)
  • Agdesiden stiftamt
    • Bratsberg amt (western half)
    • Nedenes amt
    • Lister and Mandal amt
    • Stavanger amt
  • Bergenhus stiftamt
    • Romsdal amt (southern half)
  • Trondheim stiftamt
    • Romsdal amt (northern half)
    • Nordlands amt
    • Vardøhus amt

Fylke (2nd period)

From 1919 each amt was renamed a fylke (plural fylke(r)) (county) and the amtmann was now titled fylkesmann (county governor).

Fylke (3rd period)

In 2017 the Norwegian government announced the merge of the existing 19 fylker into 11 fylkeskommuner (regions) by 2020. As a result, several government tasks will be transferred to the new regions.[12]

New fylkeskommuner (regions)
  • Troms og Finnmark (By merging Finnmark and Troms counties in 2020)
  • Nordland (No change, same as Nordland county)
  • Trøndelag (No change, same as Trøndelag county)
  • Møre og Romsdal (No change, same as Møre og Romsdal county)
  • Vestland (By merging Hordaland and Sogn og Fjordane counties in 2020)
  • Rogaland (No change, same as Rogaland county)
  • Agder (By merging Aust-Agder and Vest-Agder counties in 2020)
  • Telemark og Vestfold (By merging Vestfold and Telemark counties in 2020)
  • Innlandet (By merging Hedmark and Oppland counties in 2020)
  • Viken (By merging Akershus, Buskerud, and Østfold counties in 2020)
  • Oslo (No change, same as Oslo county)

See also

References

Footnotes

  1. ^ "Dette er Norges nye regioner". vg.no. Archived from the original on 9 March 2018. Retrieved 28 April 2018.
  2. ^ a b "Lagting og lagsogn frem til 1797". Borgarting lagmannsrett. Archived from the original on 2013-02-14.
  3. ^ "Frå lagting til allting". Gulatinget. Archived from the original on 2015-04-09.
  4. ^ Danielsen (et al.), 1991, p. 77
  5. ^ Christian III, king of Denmark-Norway, carried out the Protestant Reformation in Norway in 1536.
  6. ^ Kavli, Guthorm (1987). Norges festninger. Universitetsforlaget. ISBN 82-00-18430-7.
  7. ^ Len on Norwegian Wiki site
  8. ^ Jesperson, Leon (Ed.) (2000). A Revolution from Above? The Power State of 16th and 17th Century Scandinavia. Odense University Press. ISBN 87-7838-407-9.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  9. ^ Amt at Norwegian Wiki site
  10. ^ Danielsen (et al.), 1991, p. 153
  11. ^ "Fylkespolitikerne sier ja til Trøndelag fylke" (in Norwegian). NRK. Archived from the original on 2016-08-28.
  12. ^ moderniseringsdepartementet, Kommunal- og (7 July 2017). "Regionreform". Regjeringen.no. Archived from the original on 23 March 2018. Retrieved 28 April 2018.

Bibliography

  • Danielsen, Rolf; Dyrvik, Ståle; Grønlie, Tore; Helle, Knut; Hovland, Edgar (2007) [1991]. Grunntrekk i norsk historie (1 ed.). Oslo: Universitetsforlaget. ISBN 978-82-00-21273-7.
Akershus

Akershus [²ɑːkəʂˌhʉːs] (listen) is a county in Norway, bordering Hedmark, Oppland, Buskerud, Oslo, and Østfold; it also has a short border with Sweden (Värmland). Akershus, with a little over 614,000 inhabitants, is the second most populated county by population after Oslo. The county is named after Akershus Fortress. The county administration is in Oslo, which is not part of the county per se.

Aust-Agder

Aust-Agder ([²æʉstˌɑɡdər] (listen), English: East Agder) is one of 18 counties (fylker) in Norway, bordering Telemark, Rogaland, and Vest-Agder counties. In 2002, there were 102,945 inhabitants, which is 2.2% of the total population in Norway. Its area is 9,212 square kilometres (3,557 sq mi). The administrative center of the county is the town of Arendal.

The county, which is located at the Skagerrak coast, extends from Gjernestangen at Risør to the Kvåsefjorden in Lillesand. The inner parts of the area includes Setesdalsheiene and Austheiene. The majority of the population live near the coast; about 78% of the county's inhabitants live in the five coastal municipalities of Arendal, Grimstad, Lillesand, Tvedestrand, and Risør. The rest of the county is sparsely populated. Tourism is important, as Arendal and the other coastal towns are popular attractions.

The county includes the larger islands of Tromøya, Hisøya, Justøya, and Sandøya. The interior of the county encompasses the traditional district of Setesdal, through which the river Otra flows to the coast.

In 2017, the Parliament of Norway voted to merge Aust-Agder and Vest-Agder counties into one large region called Agder, effective 1 January 2020.The county is part of the Aust-Agder District Court and the Church of Norway Diocese of Agder og Telemark.

Buskerud

Buskerud (Urban East Norwegian pronunciation: [²bʉskərʉːd] (listen)) is a county in Norway, bordering Akershus, Oslo, Oppland, Sogn og Fjordane, Hordaland, Telemark and Vestfold. The county extends from the Oslofjord and Drammensfjorden in the southeast to Hardangervidda mountain range in the northwest. The county administration is located in Drammen. Together with Akershus and Østfold, Buskerud will form the new, larger county Viken, from 1 January 2020.

Finnmark

Finnmark [ˈfɪnmɑrk] (listen) or Finnmárku (Northern Sami) (Finnish: Finnmarkin lääni, Russian: Фи́ннмарк, Fínnmark) is a county ("fylke") in the extreme northeastern part of Norway. By land, it borders Troms county to the west, Finland (Lapland region) to the south, and Russia (Murmansk Oblast) to the east, and by water, the Norwegian Sea (Atlantic Ocean) to the northwest, and the Barents Sea (Arctic Ocean) to the north and northeast.

The county was formerly known as Finmarkens amt or Vardøhus amt. Since 2002, it has had two official names: Finnmark (Norwegian) and Finnmárku (Northern Sami). It is part of the Sápmi region, which spans four countries, as well as the Barents Region, and is the largest and least populated county of Norway.

Situated at the northernmost part of continental Europe, where the Norwegian coastline swings eastward, Finnmark is an area "where East meets West," in culture as well as in nature and geography. Vardø, the easternmost municipality in Norway, is located farther east than the cities of St. Petersburg and Istanbul.

Hedmark

Hedmark [²heːdmɑrk] (listen) is a county in Norway, bordering Trøndelag to the north, Oppland to the west and Akershus to the south. The county administration is in Hamar.

Hedmark makes up the northeastern part of Østlandet, the southeastern part of the country. It has a long border with Sweden, Dalarna County and Värmland County. The largest lakes are Femunden and Mjøsa, the largest lake in Norway. Parts of Glomma, Norway's longest river, flow through Hedmark. Geographically, Hedmark is traditionally divided into: Hedemarken, east of Mjøsa, Østerdalen, north of Elverum, and Glåmdalen, south of Elverum. Hedmark and Oppland are the only Norwegian counties with no coastline. Hedmark also hosted some events of the 1994 Winter Olympic Games.

Hamar, Kongsvinger, Elverum and Tynset are cities in the county. Hedmark is one of the less urbanized areas in Norway; about half of the inhabitants live on rural land. The population is mainly concentrated in the rich agricultural district adjoining Mjøsa to the southeast. The county's extensive forests supply much of Norway's timber; at one time, logs were floated down Glomma to the coast but are now transported by truck and train.

The Hedmark municipality of Engerdal has the distinction of marking the current southernmost border in Norway of Sápmi, the traditional region of the Sami people.

The county is divided into three traditional districts. These are Hedmarken, Østerdalen and Solør (with Odalen and Vinger).

Hedmark was originally a part of the large Akershus amt, but in 1757 Oplandenes amt was separated from it. Some years later, in 1781, this was divided into Kristians amt (now Oppland) and Hedemarkens amt. Until 1919, the county was called Hedemarkens amt.

Hordaland

Hordaland (Urban East Norwegian: [²hɔrdɑlɑn] (listen)) is a county in Norway, bordering Sogn og Fjordane, Buskerud, Telemark, and Rogaland counties. Hordaland is the third largest county after Akershus and Oslo by population. The county government is the Hordaland County Municipality which is located in Bergen. Before 1972, the city of Bergen was its own separate county apart from Hordaland.

List of Norwegian counties by GDP

This is a list of Norwegian Counties by GDP and GDP per capita. The equivalent countries which are comparable to the Norwegian Counties in GDP per capita are chosen by Worldbank data for the same year.

Møre og Romsdal

Møre og Romsdal Urban East Norwegian: [²møːrə ɔ ˈrʊmsdɑːl] (listen) (Møre and Romsdal) is a county in the northernmost part of Western Norway. It borders the counties of Trøndelag, Oppland and Sogn og Fjordane. The county administration is located in the town of Molde, while Ålesund is the largest town. The county is governed by the Møre og Romsdal County Municipality which includes an elected county council and a county mayor. The national government is represented by the county governor (currently Lodve Solholm).

Oppland

Oppland [²ɔplɑn] (listen) is a county in Norway, bordering Trøndelag, Møre og Romsdal, Sogn og Fjordane, Buskerud, Akershus, Oslo and Hedmark. The county administration is in Lillehammer. Oppland is, together with Hedmark, one of the only two landlocked counties of Norway.

Innlandet is one of several names proposed for a future administrative region consisting of Hedmark and Oppland. The two counties are slated to be re-merged after having been split in 1781 (then called Hedemarkens amt and Kristians amt, respectively). Historically, the region was commonly known as "Opplandene".

Regions of Norway

Norway is commonly divided into five major geographical regions (landsdeler). These regions are purely geographical, and have no administrative purpose. However, in 2017 the government decided to abolish the current counties of Norway (fylker) and to replace them with fewer, larger administrative regions (regioner). The first of these new areas came into existence on 01 January 2018, when Nord-Trøndelag and Sør-Trøndelag merged to form Trøndelag.

According to most definitions, the counties of Norway are divided into the following regions (these groupings are approximate):

Northern Norway (Nord-Norge/Nord-Noreg)

Finnmark

Troms

Nordland

Trøndelag (alt. Midt-Norge/Midt-Noreg)

Trøndelag

Western Norway (Vestlandet)

Møre og Romsdal

Sogn og Fjordane

Hordaland

Rogaland

Southern Norway (Sørlandet or Agder)

Vest-Agder

Aust-Agder

Eastern Norway (Østlandet/Austlandet)

Telemark

Buskerud

Hedmark

Oppland

Akershus

Oslo

Vestfold

ØstfoldThe division into regions is, by convention, based on geographical and also dialectical differences, but it also follows the county borders approximately. Other regions exist for various purposes of government. Administratively, the traditional regions as listed above play less of a role – the major administrative units are at county level.

The region Midt-Norge/Midt-Noreg (Central Norway) is often used as a synonym to Trøndelag, but also includes Møre og Romsdal (according to some definitions only Nordmøre and parts of Romsdal). The southernmost part of Nordland (Helgeland) is also sometimes considered to be part of Central Norway. Similarly, Rogaland, or parts of Rogaland, is sometimes grouped with Southern Norway instead of Western Norway.

Svalbard is not a county and is not usually considered part of Northern Norway. The governor of Svalbard (sysselmannen) reports to the Department of Justice, whereas the county governors (fylkesmenn) report to the Department of Administration. Also Jan Mayen is an integrated geographical body of Norway. Since 1995 it has been administered by the county governor (fylkesmann) of Nordland.

Bouvet Island in the south Atlantic Ocean, Queen Maud Land and Peter I Island in Antarctica are Norwegian dependencies.

Rogaland

Rogaland [²ruːɡɑlɑn] (listen) is a county in Western Norway, bordering Hordaland, Telemark, Aust-Agder, and Vest-Agder counties. Rogaland is the center of the Norwegian petroleum industry. In 2016, Rogaland had an unemployment rate of 4.9%, one of the highest in Norway. In 2015, Rogaland had a fertility rate of 1.78 children per woman, which is the highest in the country.The Diocese of Stavanger for the Church of Norway includes all of Rogaland county.

Sogn og Fjordane

Sogn og Fjordane (Urban East Norwegian: [ˈsɔŋn ɔ ²fjuːɾɑnə] (listen), English: Sogn and Fjordane) is a county in western Norway, bordering Møre og Romsdal, Oppland, Buskerud, and Hordaland. The county administration is in the village of Hermansverk in Leikanger municipality. The largest town in the county is Førde.

Although Sogn og Fjordane has some industry, predominantly hydroelectricity and aluminium, it is predominantly an agricultural area. Sogn og Fjordane is also home to the Urnes Stave Church and the Nærøyfjord, which are both listed by UNESCO as world heritage sites.

The Western Norway University of Applied Sciences has campuses in Sogndal and Førde.

Telemark

Telemark [²teːləmɑrk] (listen) is a traditional region and county in Norway, bordering Vestfold, Buskerud, Hordaland, Rogaland and Aust-Agder. The name means the "mark of the thelir", the ancient North Germanic tribe that inhabited what is now known as Upper Telemark in the Migration Period and the Viking Age. Historically the name Telemark only referred to Upper Telemark, while the coastal areas of the modern county were considered separate regions. The modern county was established as the fief Bratsberg in the late Middle Ages, during Norway's union with Denmark. With the introduction of absolute monarchy in 1662 it became a county, and it was renamed Telemark in 1919. The county administration is in the port town Skien, which was in the early modern period Norway's most important city, ahead of Christiania.

Upper Telemark or Telemark proper has a varied and often scenic landscape, with many hills, mountains, valleys and lakes. It traditionally lacked cities and is marked by its distinct cultural traditions in regards to language, music, clothing, handcrafts, food, architecture and its traditionally egalitarian farmer society dating back to the Viking Age. It retained Norse culture and linguistic heritage to a larger degree than other regions in Norway, and was historically regarded as the most violent society in Norway. The region resisted both Christianization and later the Reformation longer than other Norwegian regions. It has more buildings from medieval times than any other Norwegian region, and is known as the birthplace of skiing and the Bunad movement.

Grenland, the flatter coastal areas of the modern county, is traditionally characterized by its wealthy cities and its involvement in seafaring and trade with the Low Countries, northern Germany and the British isles, with a more urban and continental culture, also influenced by its closer contact with Denmark. It was also Norway's most important industrial region since the 16th century, with its ironworks and sawmills.

Telemark county will merge with neighboring Vestfold on January 1, 2020 as part of a nationwide regional reform, to become part of the combined Telemark og Vestfold county.

Tour des Fjords

Tour des Fjords (earlier known as Rogaland Grand Prix until 2012) is a road bicycle race held annually between Stavanger and Bergen, in the region of western Norway, Norway.

From the 2019 season the race will merge with Tour of Norway to form a new six day stage race that will cover all of the southern counties of Norway. The first edition will be held from May 28th until June 2nd 2019.

Troms

Troms (pronounced [trʊms] (listen) or Romsa (Northern Sami) or (unofficially) Tromssa (Kven) is a county in northern Norway. It borders Finnmark county to the northeast and Nordland county in the southwest. Norrbotten Län in Sweden is located to the south and further southeast is a shorter border with Lapland Province in Finland. To the west is the Norwegian Sea (Atlantic Ocean).

The entire county, which was established in 1866, is located north of the Arctic Circle. The Troms County Municipality is the governing body for the county, elected by the people of Troms, while the Troms county governor is a representative of the King and Government of Norway. The county had a population of 161,771 in 2014.

Trøndelag

Trøndelag (Urban East Norwegian: [²trœndəlɑːɡ]) is a county in the central part of Norway. It was created on 1 January 2018 with the merger of the former counties of Nord-Trøndelag and Sør-Trøndelag, which had been separated into two counties in 1804. Trøndelag county and the neighboring Møre og Romsdal county together form what is known as Central Norway.

A person from Trøndelag is called a trønder. The largest city in Trøndelag is the city of Trondheim. The administrative centre of the county is Steinkjer, but Trondheim functions as a secondary administrative centre. This is to make the county more efficient and not too centralized, as Trøndelag is the second largest county in Norway.

The old Trondhjems amt county was divided into two administrative counties in 1804 by the King of Denmark-Norway. In 2016, the two county councils voted to merge into a single county in 2018.The dialect spoken in the area, trøndersk, is characterized by dropping out most vowel endings; see apocope.

Trøndelag is one of the most fertile regions of Norway, with large agricultural output. The majority of the production ends up in the Norwegian cooperative system for meat and milk, but farm produce is a steadily growing business.

Vest-Agder

Vest-Agder [²vɛstˌɑɡdər] (listen) (West Agder) is a county in Norway, bordering Rogaland to the West and Aust-Agder to the East. In 2016, there were 182,701 inhabitants, which is about 3.5% of the total population of Norway. Its area is about 7,277 square kilometres (2,810 sq mi). The county administration is located in its largest city, Kristiansand.

Shipping, commerce, and recreation are the main industries here. Compared to other counties of Norway, Vest-Agder is noted for having the highest level of foreign exports. Another international dimension linked to the county is the large-scale emigration to North America that took place from the 1850s and onwards, which resulted in many Americans returning to the county after Norway became prosperous. This feature is particularly predominant in Kvinesdal and Farsund, which maintains strong cultural links with the United States.

Østfold

Østfold [²œstfɔl] (listen) is a county in southeastern Norway, bordering Akershus and southwestern Sweden (Västra Götaland County and Värmland), while Buskerud and Vestfold are on the other side of Oslofjord. The county's administrative seat is Sarpsborg.

Many manufacturing facilities are situated here, such as the world's most advanced biorefinery, Borregaard in Sarpsborg. Fredrikstad has shipyards. There are granite mines in Østfold and stone from these were used by Gustav Vigeland.

The county slogan is "The heartland of Scandinavia". The local dialect is characterized by its geographical proximity to Sweden.

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