The name conjures images of icy fjords, Viking longboats, and trolls. But these icons of Norway tell only part of the story. While the landscape is still largely dominated by a long, snowy winter, Norway’s northern climate is moderated greatly by a wealthy society placing a heavy premium on convenience, beauty, and accessibility for all. Yesteryear’s marauding Vikings are today’s well-mannered hydroelectric engineers, so the nation has the intellectual know-how to make theirs not merely a highly desirable nation in which to live but a great year-round destination for travelers. From art, culture, and history to the world’s best hiking, biking and skiing, Norway has much to offer.


Photo by Michelle Heimerman


When’s the best time to go to Norway?

Summer’s warm weather and long days are perfect for hiking, cycling, or making the most of a 72-hour Oslo stopover (about 58 of which will be spent in broad daylight in mid-June). Winter, though dark (with long nights down south and endless nights up north), is the best time to visit for cold-weather activities like skiing, snowboarding, and ice-climbing—all pursuits either invented by Norwegians or perfected by them. Visitors to Norway’s far northern city of Tromsø can experience 24 hours of sunlight for much of the summer, and perpetual and near-perpetual darkness, with a good chance of witnessing the spectacular northern lights, during much of the winter.

How to get around Norway

Oslo International is the usual gateway for most visitors entering the country, though many visitors from Sweden enter by train, bus, or car. There are also car and passenger ferries from Denmark, Germany, and Belgium.

Norway is a big country and—outside the cities—best explored by vehicle. Buses are plentiful, clean, and well-regulated, though travelers looking to explore outside major towns may wish to rent their own cars. Many chose to visit the country’s famously beautiful fjord-laced coast by boat, and even if you chose to drive, you’ll find car ferries an integral part of your journey. Norwegians heading for more remote communities often do so either by plane or boat. Train travel is also an option, with Norway’s passenger train service running as far north as the town of Bodø.

Food and drink to try in Norway

Cold climes breed hearty eaters, so it’s no surprise that Norwegian cuisine packs in the calorie. A typical hotel buffet breakfast paints a pretty clear picture: In addition to eggs, ham, and bacon, expect to see several varieties of cheese (including rich and flavorful Norwegian favorite gjetost), several types of bread, smoked and fresh salmon, reindeer or elk sausage, and a tube of “KAVIAR,” a spread made from fish eggs that’s as ubiquitous as ketchup. Though dishes like lutefisk are traditional, they tend to be something you’ll need to go out of your way to find, except during holidays. Norwegians love their coffee, and they drink more of it than almost any nation in Europe outside Finland.

Culture in Norway

Norway’s rich cultural tapestry is on display in the capital city of Oslo, where you’ll find museums dedicated to such famous Norwegians as the founder of the Nobel Prize, Alfred Nobel (actually a Swede), and playwright Henrik Ibsen and artist Edvard Munch (whose ghosts are said to sometimes meet for celestial high tea at the Grand Hotel). The city also has one of Europe’s most intriguing sculpture parks.

Aside from obvious festivals like Christmas (a big deal in Santa’s home country), Norway is home to celebrations ranging from unsurprising to downright quirky. People flock to the far northern city of Tromsø for the Northern Lights Festival, January 26–Feb 2, while Bergen holds a summer music festival called Bergenfest, June 21–24. On the quirky end, you can watch musicians play instruments made of ice during the month of February at Lillehammer’s Frozen Waterfall Festival, and facial hair aficionados (and those who love them) won’t want to miss the World Beard and Mustache Championship in Trondheim (usually held in May).

Local travel tips for Norway

Norway is among the world’s most expensive countries—a difficult place to travel on a budget. While hotel prices are comparable to other destinations in Europe, everything else is more expensive. Booking train, bus, and plane tickets in advance can help save on transportation costs. While eating out in Oslo is famously expensive, many cafés offer all-inclusive and quite affordable lunch specials.

Guide Editor

Joshua Samuel Brown has authored or co-authored thirteen travel guides for Lonely Planet and is a regular contributor to their website and “Best in Travel” series.

Read Before You Go
Lace up your hiking boots: These vacation rentals are perfectly situated for adventurers who love to explore on foot.
Resources to help plan your trip
Looking for a Norwegian stay that’s out of the ordinary? From luxurious Oslo palaces to humble farm stays (light on luxury but heavy on bucolic charm) to cabins with views of windswept fjords, let us point the way.
Acclimatize for two days, visiting Oslo’s museums, spas, and the city ski resort—before heading to Lillehammer for two days of serious ski action. From there, a 15-hour train ride to Bodø brings you into perpetual night. Spend two days hiking, snowshoeing, fishing, and skiing before going by bus, plane, or boat to Tromsø, a surprisingly happening city in Norway’s far north. Watch for the northern lights until it’s time to fly back to Oslo.
After a night in Oslo, rent a car and head west to Bergen, spending a day and riding the funicular. Continue onward to Aurland, where spectacular fjords and hikes await. From there, it’s a beautiful, winding 250-mile drive (including ferries) across fjords and north to the mid-Atlantic coastal town of Alesund. Complete the loop through spectacularly forested countryside back to Oslo, stopping in picturesque towns and villages along the inland fjord Mjøsa, including Lillehammer, Gjøvik, or Lena.
Explore the woods and fjords, quirky shops, and strange things you won’t find in any other country.
Stay in a timber lodge. Visit the Munch Museum and the Nobel Peace Center. Marvel at Norwegian Viking ships and the legendary Kon-Tiki...
Oslo radiates Scandinavian cool. Radisson Blu Scandinavia puts visitors in the heart of the city, close to main attractions such as the Ibsen museum and National Gallery while the Hotel Continental places guests directly across from the National Theater. For a taste of European grandeur book a stay at the Grand Hotel Oslo. Art lovers will want to check in to First Hotel Grims Grenka or the culture-filled Thief, which is located on its own island.
Oslo is amazing year-round. Summertime offers extra hours for daylight exploration of outdoor sights: ancient fortresses, quirky parks filled with statues, and lively public squares and pedestrian streets. Winter draws you into the art galleries, excellent restaurants, and the Nobel Peace Center. Yes, the capital city is definitely the place for time-crunched travelers to experience the most of Norway in a short visit.
A collection of must-sees, including cultural spots like Thief Island and the Norsk Folkemuseum, and engineering marvels such as Viking ships, medieval fortresses, the Kon-Tiki raft, and the Holmenkollen Ski Jump...
An old Bohemian artist hangout, a place to eat Norwegian reindeer sausage, and a European-style food market... These eateries offer an extra special touch.
From budget to gobsmackingly gourmet, this list covers the world—Mexican tacos, Caribbean island cuisine, Indian, Thai, Chinese, and Japanese.
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