Kabelvåg is situated in the borough of Vågan and is the oldest fishing village in Lofoten. It was here the commercial side of the Lofoten fishery began 1,000 years ago.
Fishermen from all over northern Norway came to the bays around Kabelvåg, the old Vågan, to harvest their share of the annual cod migration. Consequently, Vågan emerged as the centre of mediaeval Hålogaland. In the grounds of the Lofoten Museum in Storvågan, 1 km west of Kabelvåg, we find the remains of this old centre of Vågar.
After the Black Death, Vågan entered into a period of decline. When the Bailiff of Lofoten and Vesterålen, Erik Hansen Schønnebøl, was here in 1591, he wrote that Vågan, which had been a market town, was now no more than an impoverished fishing station where a mere “10-12 wretched beggars” lived.
Later on, however, a new centre emerged in Kabelvåg, and towards the end of the 1800s it had developed an urban style of architecture and had without doubt become the “capital of Lofoten”, with a police force, a sheriff, a district magistrate and a senior rector. And above all, the place had become a centre of trade and commerce. Another sign of Kabelvåg’s central position in Lofoten was the newspapers. No less than four newspapers were published here at different times, and in 1895 three of them came out simultaneously.
Kabelvåg was also one of the well-known market places along the coast. As previously mentioned, this market had traditions from way back in time, and when the market was opened in 1882, it was in actual fact the reopening of the old, mediaeval fair, the Vågastevnet. During the Vågastevnet, the buying and selling of stockfish was the cornerstone of activities, whereas the more recent Kabelvåg Market Fair was based more on recreation. People came here to buy, sell, entertain or be entertained. The last of the Kabelvåg Market Fairs was held in 1939.
Today, Kabelvåg is first and foremost a centre of education and culture.
There is a college of further education there, an art and film school and a folk high school. Vågan Church, christened Lofoten Cathedral by Bishop Berggrav in 1929, seats 1200 people and is as such the biggest wooden church north of Trondheim.
In Storvågan, 1 km west of Kabelvåg and within the borders of the old mediaeval township, we now find a centre of culture and tourism, which includes Lofoten Museum, the region’s main museum. Also located there is Gallery Espolin, where the majority of the works of Kaare Espolin Jonson are on display. The collection was a gift from the artist to Vågan Municipal Council. The Lofoten Aquarium also contributes towards making the area unique.