125km (78 miles) S of Oslo; 24km (15 miles) S of T√łnsberg

Although a modern town today, Sandefjord was one of the most famous stamping grounds of the Vikings in the Middle Ages. Its natural harbor along a 9.8km (6-mile) fjord made it the whaling capital of the world at one time. A monument remains at the harbor to the once prosperous whaling industry, which made Sandefjord the richest city in Norway. Today it has built up the third-largest merchant fleet in Norway.

This old port still has a bit of 19th-century charm and character. Considering its rich history, it should have more. But much of the old was torn down to make way for modern developments.

You can afford to skip most of the town and concentrate on the waterfront, a breezy section of green parks and beautifully maintained gardens. If the day is sunny, what we like to do is rent a bike (inquire at the tourist office), make a picnic basket with some seafood from the "fishtraders" who hang out by the harbor, and set off along the coast for an adventure. You might also poke about in the little stores and shops, ducking into one of the cozy harborfront cafes for a warming coffee, and stroll along, admiring the many sculptures that dot the waterfront.

Sandefjord attracts summer visitors seeking boating fun in its archipelago and on its many beaches. The archipelago is studded with 115 so-called "islands," but most of these are mere rocky outcroppings -- not real islands at all. We asked a longtime local boatman which island was his favorite among dozens of possibilities. "The one that gets the most sun on any given day," he said. "After a long cold winter, we in Norway want sun. So we stop our boats off at the hottest rock and take a little sunbath, often in just our underwear, if that."

Locals call the town "Bathing City" (Badebyen in Norwegian). Yachties from Oslo also fill up the harbor in summer after having sailed through the skerries, or rocky islets.

On a summer day, we always like to stroll along its waterfront, enjoying the fresh salt air and the beautiful parks and gardens. You'll see a magnificent compound of buildings constructed in 1899 in the dragon motif so popular in Norway. The baths were closed in 1940, at the beginning of the Nazi occupation, and the site today is the civic center.