A legal victory for Norway’s roaming freedom. Nordkapp will now be cheaper to visit because a court ruling forces the removal of expensive parking fees.
The high parking fees in Norway’s North Cape (Nordkapp) have been controversial for many years. Now a Norwegian court has ruled that Scandic Hotels, which operates the facilities on the set, cannot charge an entrance fee just to get to the set.
The local municipality called the decision a “victory for public access to Norwegian nature”, adding that it is an “important verdict for all those who want to have exceptional experiences in Norway”.
A popular Nordic destination
I will always remember my visits to the North Cape in Norway. Known as Nordkapp in Norwegian, the North Cape is a north-facing cliff at the very top of Norway.
Despite the marketing, Nordkapp is not the northernmost point in Europe. But that doesn’t bother most tourists, as Cape Town offers stunning views to the north and a great place to soak up the midnight sun.
I really enjoyed the trip north, meeting people and discovering the small remote communities along the way. I was also surprised at how much I enjoyed Nordkapp itself. It really looked like the ‘end of the world’.
Unfortunately, not all the memories were so positive. The 200 NOK ($ 22) parking fee was frustrating, given Norway’s free access to nature laws. Fees were payable whether you used the facilities or just wanted to walk around.
Previously, the fee was NOK 285 at peak times ($ 31.50) and considerably more for motorhomes.
I was delighted to learn that last year the local municipality of Nordkapp ordered Scandic Hotels, the operator of the Nordkapp visitor center, to waive the parking fee.
Scandic sued Nordkapp
However, Scandic was not impressed, launching legal action against the municipality. I wasn’t really surprised. If 500 people are driving on the set, then it’s 100,000 NOK ($ 11,000) in their coffers.
Scandic argued that he had invested heavily in his visitor center and therefore needed the income from tourist parking.
Last week the West Finnmark court ruled in favor of the municipality of Nordkapp. Following the 11-day trial, the court said Scandic was not allowed to charge parking fees on what is essentially public land.
A victory for a small town
At the start of 2021, only 3,075 people lived in the municipality of Nordkapp. Although the numbers have been lower recently for obvious reasons, the North Cape itself receives up to 250,000 visitors in a typical year. It is one of the main attractions in northern Norway.
The municipality’s Stig Aspås Kjærvik was satisfied with the decision. He said they were confident about the outcome following state and civil mediator assessments.
Kjærvik said Scandic’s entry fee was “an attack on friluftsloven“, The Norwegian Law on Public Access to Public Land. He also told NRK that Scandic should have sued the state for the law, not the municipality for its implementation.
The mayor of Nordkapp, Jan Olsen, told NRK that “it is not easy for a small municipality to take sole responsibility for the state’s public access laws”.
There were local concerns about the potential for job losses if Scandic was forced to accept the drop in income. What Scandic will do next remains to be seen, but a spokesperson said they would consider an appeal.