Lærdalsøyri is the administrative centre of the municipality of Lærdal in Sogn og Fjordane county, Norway. The village is located along the Lærdalselvi river where it empties into the Lærdalsfjorden, a branch off of the main Sognefjorden.
The village is located about 4 kilometres (2.5 mi) north of the village of Tønjum at the east end of the Lærdal Tunnel which is part of the European route E16 highway. It sits about 25 kilometres (16 mi) northwest of the village of Borgund and about 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) across the fjord from the village of Kaupanger in Sogndal Municipality. The 1.03-square-kilometre (250-acre) village has a population (2013) of 1,120; giving the village a population density of 1,087 inhabitants per square kilometre (2,820/sq mi). Hauge Church is located in the village, and serves as the main church for the parish.
The name Lærdalsøyri is derived from the local river which flows through the village. The first element is the genitive case of the old name of the river Lærr (now the river is called Lærdalselvi) and the last element is dalr which means „valley“ or „dale.“ The meaning of the old river name is unknown. The last element -øyri is the finite form of øyr which means „sandbank“; it is similar to the word ayre which is used in Scotland and Orkney.
The village center is listed as a national „heritage village“ and tourists come to see the old city center with its 161 wooden houses that date from 1700-1800. Old Lærdalsøyri used to be a trading port between east and west in Norway. It is located near the head of Sognefjord, one of the longest fjords in Norway, which meant sea-going ships could carry goods deep inland before landing them at the village for the over-land journey into eastern Norway.
Historically, several of the County Governors of Nordre Bergenhus lived in Lærdalsøyri while in office including Christian Ulrik Kastrup, Michael Conrad Sophus Emil Aubert, and Johan Collett Falsen.
At 22:56 on 18 January 2014, local fire departments were alerted to a fire in a residence on the Kyrkjegata road. Winds fanned the flames towards the town center, and the fire spread to a nearby forest, threatening the Old Lærdalsøyri heritage area. The town was evacuated at 00:30, with residents evacuated to a hotel in Aurland. By 04:00, over thirty houses were in flames. More than 100 firefighters from various regional fire departments were involved in attempts to control the fire, with firefighters and equipment from Haukåsen airport in Sogndal being called out to assist. A Westland Sea King brought firefighters from the town of Florø, and 60 personnel from the Norwegian Civil Defence participated. Two Bell 412 from the Royal Norwegian Air Force arrived to assist, and soldiers from the Norwegian Home Guard secured the perimeter.