Many of the present- day towns and villages along the coastline were founded as a direct result of the shipping trade. A typical place is the island of Lyngør in Tvedestrand municipality, famous today for being awarded the title of «Best kept village in Europe» in 1991. In addition, all of the coastal towns and villages display wonderful examples of traditional architecture, dating back to the 18`h and 19`h centuries.
Aust-Agder County Museum in Arendal, and the local museum on the island of Merdø (originally a maritime captain´s home, built in 1736) describe how world- wide shipping activities affected this area, and what this still means in the form of cultural impact. In the literary field, local authors like Gabriel Scott and Wilhelm Krag are well known for their novels and poems depicting local customs and the natural environment to be found in coastal areas.
Agriculture and forestry, which are the economic backbone and primary activity for those settling in the inland areas, have helped shape a characteristic landscape with numerous fields, meadows and farms. The valley of Setesdal deserves special mention due to its well maintained traditions of house-building and folklore. The local museum in the valley is situated in Rysstad, in the municipality of Valle and has displays showing the unique architecture of the valley. Special presentations of folklore, poetry, music and dance are often arranged.
Mining and metal industries were also important aspects of daily life for many of the inhabitants ofAust - Agder, both in coastal areas and inland. The area around Arendal was widely known for its mines and iron ore products. This segment of industry can be studied when visiting Næs museum, situated close to Tvedestrand. A nickel plant, once situated in Evje in the lower part of Setesdal, was cornerstone industry in the area rich with mineral deposits.
Visitors to Aust-Agder can visit museums or attend the many summer festivals that are arranged annually. Most well-known are the Wooden Boat Festival and the Chamber Music Festival in Risør, the Inter-Nordic Skagerrak Festival in Arendal and the Ibseniana, presenting famous works of Henrik Ibsen, in Grimstad.