An old settlement emerging as a trading post in the late Middle Ages. Formal trading rights were introduced in 1614, and the city was incorporated through a royal charter in 1742. Molde was established as a municipality 1 January 1838 (see here), and Bolsøy and parts of Veøy were merged with Molde on 1 January 1964.
The city is the administrative center of Møre og Romsdal, the commercial hub of Romsdal, and the host of the bishop of Møre. Molde continued to grow throughout the 18th and 19th Centuries, becoming a center for Norwegian textile and garment industry, as well as the administrative center for the region, and a major tourist destination.
After World War II, Molde has experienced much growth, becoming a center for not only administrative and public services, but also academic resources and industrial output.
The medieval township on Veøya, an island outside present day Molde, was first mentioned by the historian Snorri Sturluson as the location of the Battle of Sekken in 1162, where king Håkon the Broad-shouldered was killed fighting the aristocrat Erling Skakke, during the Norwegian civil wars.
However, settlement in the area can be traced much further back in time - evidence given by two rock slabs carved with petroglyphs found at Bjørset, west of the city centre.
At the eve of the 15th century, Veøy had lost most of its influence, and the island was eventually deserted. However, commercial life in the region was not dead, and originating from the two settlements at Reknes and Molde (later Moldegård), a minor port called Molde Fjære (Molde Landing) emerged, based on trade with timber and herring to foreign merchants. The town gained formal trading rights in 1614. During the Swedish occupation of Middle Norway, 1658-1660, after Denmark-Norway's devastating defeat in the Northern Wars, the town became a hub of resistance to the Swedes. After the rebellion and liberation in 1660, Molde became the administrative headquarter of Romsdalen Amt and was incorporated through a royal charter in 1742. Molde continued to grow throughout the 18th and 19th Centuries, becoming a center for Norwegian textile and garment industry. Tourism became a major industry: Molde saw notabilities such as the German emperor Wilhelm II of Germany and the Prince of Wales as regular summer visitors. Molde consisted of luxurious hotels surrounding an idyllic township with quaint, wooden houses, lush gardens and parks, esplanades and pavilions, earning it the nickname the Town of Roses. This was interrupted when one third of the city was destroyed in a fire on 21 January 1916. However, Molde recovered and continued to grow in the economically difficult interbellum period.
A second fire, or series of fires, struck from the German air-raids in April and May 1940, and destroyed about two thirds of the town. The king, cabinet, parliament and national gold reserves evacuated from Oslo following the attack on Norway on 9 April 1940, arriving in Molde en-route to the United Kingdom. The King, Crown Prince and government was evacuated on the British cruiser HMS Glasgow, and brought to safety.
Since World War II, Molde has experienced a tremendous growth. As the modernization of the Norwegian society accelerated in the post-reconstruction years, Molde became a center for not only administrative and public services, but also academic resources and industrial output. After the consolidation of the town itself and its adjacent communities in 1964, Molde became a modern town, encompassing most branches of employment, from farming and fisheries, through industrial production, to banking, tourism, commerce, health care and civil administration.
Pronunciation varies between the standard Molde, and the rural Molle. A person from Molde will refer to him/herself as a Moldenser.
The panoramic view of some 220 partly snow-clad peaks, often called the Molde panorama, is famous, having been one of the attractions drawing tourists to the town in the 19th century. In addition to being regional capital of Møre og Romsdal, and the commercial hub of Romsdal, the town hosts the bishop of Møre. Molde is nicknamed the Town of Roses, a name which originated during the time Molde was a tourist destination of international fame in the late 19th century.
A natural phenomenon occurring in Molde and the adjacent district, are frequent winter days with temperatures above 10 °C, sometimes even above 15 °C. This is due to foehn wind from south and south-east. Combined with a steady influx of warm, moist south-westerly winds from the Atlantic Ocean, warmed by the Gulf stream, it gives Molde a climate much warmer than its latitude would indicate. The sheltered location of the city, facing south with hills to the north, mountains to the east and mountainous islands to the west, contributes to Molde's climate and unusually rich plant life, especially among species naturally growing on far lower latitudes, like maple, chestnut, oak, tilia (lime or linden), beech, yew, and others.
There is salmon, sea trout and sea char in the rivers of the area, especially the Rauma, Driva, and Eira, already legendary among the British gentry in the mid-1800s. Trout is abundant in most lakes. Cod, pollock, saithe, mackerel and other species of saltwater fish are commonly caught in the Romsdalsfjord, both from land and from boat. Skiing is a popular activity among the inhabitants of Molde in the winter, both on groomed tracks, in resorts or by own trail. There are several popular rock climbing, ice climbing, bouldering, glacier and basejumping areas in the immediate surroundings of Molde.
The Atlantic road was voted the Norwegian Construction of the Century in 2005. It is built on bridges and landfills across small islands and skerries, and spans from the small communities of Vikan and Vevang to Averøy, an island with several historic landmarks, such as the Bremsnes cave with Mesolithic findings from the Fosna culture, the medieval Kvernes stave church, and Langøysund, now a remote fishing community, but once a bustling port along the main coastal route. Langøysund was the site of the compromise between King Magnus I and the farmers along the coast in 1040. The compromise is regarded as Norway's Magna Carta, and is commemorated by the Pilespisser (English: Arrowheads) monument.
Trollkirka (English: lit. Troll Church) is a marble grotto leading up to an underground waterfall. The grotto is situated 30 minutes outside Molde, followed by a 1 hour hike up a steep trail. Trollveggen is Europe’s tallest vertical, overhanging mountain face, with several very difficult climbing routes. Trollstigen is the most visited tourist road in Norway. The road twists and turns its way up an almost vertical mountainside through 11 hairpin bends to an altitude of 858 m. Mardalsfossen is the highest waterfall in Northern Europe and the fourth highest waterfall in the world, cascading 297 metres down into the valley. The total height of the waterfall is 655 m.
Bud is a fishing village on the very tip of the Romsdal peninsula. It gained importance during the Middle Ages as a trading post, and hosted the last free Privy Council of Norway in 1533, a desperate attempt to save the country's independence and stave off the Protestant Reformation, led by Olav Engelbrektsson, archbishop of Nidaros (today Trondheim). The massive Ergan coastal defences, a restored German coastal fort from World War II, and a part of the Atlantic Wall, is situated in Bud. The fishing communities of Ona, Bjørnsund and Håholmen are located on remote islands off the coast, only accessible by boat or ferry.
The city's airport at Årø has several daily flights to Oslo, Bergen, and Trondheim, as well as weekly flights to other domestic and international destinations.
Three of the four great Norwegian authors spent time, stayed or lived in Molde. Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson spent his childhood years at Nesset outside Molde, and attended school in the city. Henrik Ibsen frequently spent his vacations at the mansion Moldegård, visiting the family Møller, and Alexander Kielland resided in the city as the governor of Romsdals amt. Ibsen's play Rosmersholm is inspired by the life at Moldegård, and The Lady from the Sea is also set in the city of Molde, although never being mentioned by name. Other authors from or with ties to Molde include Edvard Hoem, Jo Nesbø, Knut Ødegård, and Nini Roll Anker, a friend of Sigrid Undset.
The Romsdal Museum, one of Norway's largest folk museums, was established in 1912. Old buildings originating from all over the region have been moved here to form a typical cluster of farm buildings including "open hearth" houses, sheds, outhouses, smokehouses and a small chapel. The "town street" with Mali's Café shows typical Molde town houses from the pre-World War I period. The Museum of the Fisheries is an open air museum located on the island of Hjertøya, 10 minutes from the center of Molde. A small fishing village with authentic buildings, boats and fishing equipment, the museum shows local coastal culture from 1850 onwards.
The local newspaper is Romsdals Budstikke.
Also the singer/songwriter Ane Brun was born in Molde.
Every August, Molde and Nesset are hosts to the Bjørnson Festival, an international literature festival. Established by the poet Knut Ødegård in connection with the 250-year anniversary of Molde, the festival is named in honour of the Nobel Prize in Literature laureate Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson (1832-1910). It is the oldest and the most internationally acclaimed literature festival in Norway.
In addition to the two major events, a number of minor festivals are held annually. Byfest, the city's celebration of itself, is an arrangement by local artists, coinciding with the anniversary of the royal charter of 29 June 1742.
Molde University College is also one of the country's leading institutions in international student exchange and programs conducted in English.
In addition to a number of international players, the city has also produced several skijumpers, cross-country and alpine skiers of international merit.