A passion for Risør’s rich maritime history, antiques and interiors became the starting point for a new story – that of SjømannsSuitene Det Lille Hotel in Risør.

Text: Edda Espeland / Translation: Linda Vikaune / Photo: The hotel

The story starts when the Risør born Oddvar Halvorsen went to Gothenborg to study dentistry. One of his fellow students, Barbro Printzell, shared Oddvar’s interest in history and antiques. The couple married, and after a few years in Sweden they moved to Oddvar’s home town to start a dental practice. Not satisfied to just fix teeth, they also started fixing up old, listed Risør-houses. They started with a house from 1863 which would in time become the first suite of the hotel, then the house next door, where they set up a joint dental practice, and then another one … They feel a real love for what they consider to be diamonds in the rough; derelict houses with soul and character.

The Sailing Ship Suite welcomed its first guests in 1993, furnished amongst other things with items from Oddvar’s collection of maritime artefacts. Det Lille Hotel has grown from this very humble beginning as “the world’s smallest hotel” with only one suite, and today offers a choice of 15 suites with a total of more than 50 beds. 11 of the suites are located in Risør city centre, 150 metre from the main square and the inner marina, and four are situated about four kilometres outside the city centre in a beautiful 18th century house called The Vatican. After a long and varied history it was bought by Oddvar and Barbro, who with the support of the Directorate for Cultural Heritage created four unique suites in the listed building.

The owners aim for the different parts of the hotel to fit into Risør’s historical city centre. Most of the suites are furnished with old furniture and antiques, and each has its own unique atmosphere depending on the chosen theme. In the N.A.L. Suite, for instance, there are a series of items from the Norwegian America Line’s ships, while the Colin Archer Suite is created around the famous shipbuilder’s life and work.

All the suites have a fully equipped kitchen, dining table, good beds, a small collection of books, sound system, broadband and outside space. Most have one bedroom, but there are also four family suites with two bedrooms and up to five beds. In the biggest family suite, Sagafjord, there is a dining table for 16 diners, so guests can throw a dinner party. The hotel will happily set and decorate the table for you and offer catering if you wish. The facilities in Sagafjord are also suitable for meetings and conferences for smaller groups and has complete AV equipment and more.

Barbro and Oddvar are never quite finished furnishing the suites, they are still evolving. “For instance, we keep adding new and old books so that every suite can have its own little library,” says Oddvar.

The intimate hotel café Seilet – the Sail – is open for normal service during the summer season, and offers lunch and dinner group bookings all year round. Thanks to Risør’s location next to Skagerrak and a well run fish and seafood industry the hotel has access to first class fresh seafood. The chef is never happier than when he can create a sumptuous sea food feast, but he also enjoys getting meat, game and vegetables from Hjembu farm in Sørfjorden.

Many of the guests describe Det Lille Hotel as “a unique hotel experience”, picturesque and atmospheric, with exceptional hospitality and service. It has received awards like Olavsrosa, the Norsk Kulturarv seal of quality for restoration and use of beautiful and listed buildings.

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