The Urban Waterfall of Øvre-Foss and Aamodt Bru Bridge, Oslo

Øvre-Foss at its fullest glory

photography by: Omri Westmark

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We typically associate waterfalls with nature, after all, this is where most of the world’s formidable and impressive cascading behemoths are located. It might then come as a surprise that Oslo is home to a series of urban waterfalls, one of which is Øvre-Foss, a pristine cascade that lies directly beneath the significantly historic bridge of Aamodt Bru.

Running directly across the Norwegian capital, the Akerselva River starts at Maridalsvannet Lake, from where it traverses trough a couple of Oslo’s central boroughs before flowing into Oslofjord, around the neighborhood of Bjørvika. The river’s total length is a mere 8 kilometers while its average width is about 15 meters, a far cry from some of Europe’s most notable rivers which happen to cross capital cities. Nonetheless, what it lacks in size, it surely makes up for in a series of more than 20 waterfalls, the result of a 150-meter-high elevation gap between its mouth and source.


Perhaps one of Oslo’s most impressive and largest waterfalls, Øvre Foss (the Upper Fall), aka Seilduksfossen, is located in the city’s borough of Grünerløkka. Interestingly, the 8-meter-tall waterfall was formerly utilized for power generation, providing electricity for the nearby industrial complex.


Øvre Foss’ single largest consumer of electricity was Christiania Seildugsfabrik, a massive factory for fishing equipment and sails, which during its heyday employed almost one thousand people. Upon its completion in 1856, the factory was Oslo’s second largest building, surpassed only by the Norwegian Royal Palace. By the 1960’s, the factory along with all the other manufacturers ceased their operations and moved out of the area. Designed by architect Peter Høier Holtermann, the iconic brick building is currently home to the Oslo Academy of Arts, whose diligent students apparently have a direct breathtaking vista of the waterfall.


As Øvre Foss is partly obscured by the former factory as well as a luxuriant row of trees, most visitors have their first glimpse of the hidden waterfall from the adjacent Aamodt Bru Bridge. This old suspension bridge was originally constructed during the early 1850’s in the town of Åmot west of Oslo, across the Drammen River. A century later, due to its poor condition and lack of capacity to handle the ever-growing traffic, it was dismantled and replaced by a brand-new bridge.


Surprisingly, its castoff parts were then reassembled over the Akerselva River a couple of meters upstream of the waterfall. Today, the iconic bridge is solely designated for pedestrians and cyclists, all of whom can marvel at Øvre Foss’ cascading waters and its surrounding brick edifices.