Counties of Norway

A geopolitical map of Norway, exhibiting its 19 first-order subnational divisions (fylker or "counties"), along with Svalbard and Jan Mayen
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Norway is divided into 19 administrative regions, called counties (singular Norwegian: fylke, plural Norwegian: fylker (Bokmål) / fylke (Nynorsk)); until 1918, they were known as amter. The counties form the first-level subdivisions of Norway and are further divided into 428 municipalities (kommune, pl. kommuner / kommunar). Svalbard and Jan Mayen are outside the county division and ruled directly on national level. The capital Oslo is considered both a county and a municipality.

In recent years, there has been some political debate as to whether counties are a practical, economical, or even necessary level of administration. See politics of Norway for more information.

List of counties

Below is a list of the Norwegian counties as they have been since 1919, 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 follows the coastline from the Swedish border in the southeast to the Russian border in the northeast. The number 13 was dropped from the system when the city of Bergen (county no. 13) was merged into Hordaland (county no. 12) in 1972. (There is no connection between the lack of a county number 13 and the belief that 13 is an unlucky number.)

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 Erling Lae 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
14  Sogn og Fjordane Leikanger Anne Karin Hamre 18,623.41 109,623
15  Møre og Romsdal Molde Lodve Solholm 15,101.39 265,181
16  Sør-Trøndelag Trondheim Kåre Gjønnes 18,839.38 314,048
17  Nord-Trøndelag Steinkjer Inge Ryan 22,414.91 136,448
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



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:[1]

Counties (first three fylke, last two bilandskap) under the Eidsivating, located in Oplandene with the seat at Eidsvoll:[1]

Counties under the Gulating, located in Vestlandet with the seat at Gulen:[2]

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 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.[3]


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[4]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.[5] 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.[6]

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.[7]


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.[8]

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:

Amt in 1760

In 1760 Norway had the following stiftamt and amt:[9]

  • 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 fylker) (county) and the amtmann was now titled fylkesmann (county governor).

  • Østfold fylke
  • Akershus fylke
  • Oslo fylke
  • Hedmark fylke
  • Oppland fylke
  • Buskerud fylke
  • Vestfold fylke
  • Telemark fylke
  • Aust-Agder fylke
  • Vest-Agder fylke
  • Rogaland fylke
  • Bergen fylke (Was merged to Hordaland fylke in 1972)
  • Hordaland fylke
  • Sogn og Fjordane fylke
  • Møre og Romsdal fylke
  • Sør-Trøndelag fylke (Merging to Trøndelag fylke in 2018)
  • Nord-Trøndelag fylke (Merging to Trøndelag fylke in 2018)
  • Trøndelag fylke (After merging Sør- and Nord-Trøndelag fylke in 2018)[10]
  • Nordland fylke
  • Troms fylke
  • Finnmark fylke


In 2016 the Norwegian government announced a proposal to merge the existing 19 fylker into approximately 10 regions by 2020. Each region (plural regioner) would be led by a regionleder (region leader), which would be equivalent to the current position of fylkesmann.[11]

Two potential new regions have already received support from leaders of the existing counties that would comprise those regions:

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.

See also



  1. 1 2 "Lagting og lagsogn frem til 1797". Borgarting lagmannsrett.
  2. "Frå lagting til allting". Gulatinget.
  3. Danielsen (et al.), 1991, p. 77
  4. Christian III, king of Denmark-Norway, carried out the Protestant Reformation in Norway in 1536.
  5. Kavli, Guthorm (1987). Norges festninger. Universitetsforlaget. ISBN 82-00-18430-7.
  6. Len on Norwegian Wiki site
  7. 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.
  8. Amt at Norwegian Wiki site
  9. Danielsen (et al.), 1991, p. 153


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