In the 1880s, a small group of Norwegian immigrants led by Jorgen Eliason happened upon a piece of Washington land so rich and beautiful, it reminded them of their own homeland in Norway. It was a verdant valley nestled between two snow-capped mountain ranges, the Olympics and the Cascades, with water lapping at its shores from a bay that on calm mornings reflected the blue sky like an exquisite looking glass. The immigrants, who missed the fjords of Norway with heartbreaking intensity, immediately claimed the land as their own and eventually founded a small town.
This town, Poulsbo, or “Little Norway” I as it is known around the world, was molded in the image of the immigrants’ mother-country. Through the years, its residents have remained proud of their heritage and Poulsbo has become a regional tourist destination where old-world charm meets Scandinavian sophistication. Although Poulsbo is a fascinating place to visit, the nearly 10,000 residents of the town all agree: it is an even better place to live.
Although Poulsbo is surrounded by gorgeous natural beauty, the town itself is also a beautiful sight to behold. This is apparent in the picturesque downtown core most of all, where rosemaled storefronts mix with historic murals and blooming flowers. A walk down the main streets of Poulsbo showcases the best of what the town has to offer, from Scandinavian-themed shops and restaurants, to heritage exhibits, to calming green space tucked here and there among the buildings. It is a town filled with interesting gift shops and delicious bakeries. The scent of baked goods permeates the streets.
The beauty and small-town feel of Poulsbo have made it a great local destination, but its focus on Norwegian culture has made it famous world-wide. Indeed, Poulsbo is to Norway as Leavenworth, Washington, is to Germany. Norwegian culture is served up everywhere in town, from local restaurants to annual events like the Sons of Norway Lutefisk Dinner and Viking Fest.
Although the old-world town is proud of its Norwegian heritage, it is also a hotbed of Scandinavian and European sophistication. Sprinkled among its charming shops are trendy restaurants serving delicious food from around Europe, lovely wine stops, beautiful cafes, and several pubs featuring award-winning local micro-brews. Poulsbo is a place where even the pickiest foodies are satisfied with steaming hot spaetzle, Swedish meatballs, and Norwegian lefse.
The diversity of food available in Poulsbo is mirrored by the diversity of its residents. The town is a mixture of blue-collar and white-collar residents, many of whom enjoy an 18-mile ferry boat commute to work in Seattle and other surrounding eastern cities. Many Poulsbo residents also commute to nearby Bremerton for work at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, or to Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor.
Poulsbo is a popular place to live for many military families because of its small-town feel, low crime rate, great schools, and full line-up of year-around events. It’s also regarded as an excellent stepping-off point for adventures around the Kitsap Peninsula. Many residents enjoy weekend trips to Bainbridge Island and Vashon Island. Poulsbo is also a gateway for trips to the coast, including Victoria, B.C., and the Olympic National Park. For urban adventures, Bellevue and Seattle are just a short ferry ride away.