Young town in an old region
We know that the Arvika region was populated, if only sparsely, as early as the stone age. There are many relics from ancient times. The most northerly stone cists to be found in Sweden are in this region and in Skramle in Gunnarskog there is a rune stone dating from 500 AD - one of only a few from that period to be found in Sweden. The Glafsfjorden region is classed as an area of national cultural significance. A trace of the Viking expeditions along Glafsfjorden also survives in the name of the waterway between Säffle and Arvika - "Vikingaleden" (the Viking way).
The original Swedish meaning of the name Arvika has been interpreted as "river coves" or "river bends". The saga of Håkon Håkonsson relates that in 1225 the Norwegian king visited "a district that is called Arvika" in Värmland, and in the year 1362 the name "parish of Aruika" appears in a medieval letter. The settlement of Arvika first appeared on a map in the sixteenth century, but only as a small village.
In the eighteenth century there were repeated proposals to build a larger community in western Värmland. It was to be a centre of commerce that would avoid the frustrations of customs and border trade.
The choice fell to "Kyrkeby in Arvika parish", a site suggested by the local people and the county governor. The conditions for building a town were good, thanks to the excellent location on Kyrkviken bank - an offshoot of Glafsfjorden.
For a long period during the 19th century the maritime trade, and hence the port, had a major influence on freight and industry in the region. This was especially true when the Säffle canal was completed in 1837. Arvika is actually the most inland port in Sweden providing a link to the seven seas, although nowadays the beautiful waterway is mostly used by sailing tourists.
Even more important for Arvika was the arrival of the north-west main line and railway in 1871, which transformed Arvika from an unremarkable centre of trade and craftsmanship into a flourishing industrial town.
The strategic location on the main line between Stockholm and Oslo still has great importance today. It provides rapid public transport and carries goods from Arvika out into the world. The first town plan of Arvika was drawn up in 1811, although it was known as Oscarstad until 1821 in honour of the new crown prince's son Oscar (later King Oscar I). At that time the community was not yet recognised as a town, and the people of Arvika had to be satisfied with living in a market town for exactly 100 years before Arvika was "officially" made a town in 1911.