The hill lies west of Sognsvann and southeast of Voksenåsen and Holmenkollen, and measures 419 metres above mean sea level. The built-up residential area south of the hill is served by the Oslo Metro station Vettakollen.
The name stems from the beacon hill's former use as the site of a beacon (Norwegian: varde). Before modern times, such beacons were set alight on a series of hills to constitute an alarm system. The naming is found in other hills, such as Vardåsen, Varingskollen and probably Brannfjell.
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