Norway Travel Guide – Everything You Need to Know

Norway, a land of breathtaking natural beauty and rich cultural heritage, beckons travelers with its stunning fjords, snow-capped mountains, and picturesque villages. Nestled in Northern Europe, Norway offers a diverse range of experiences for tourists, from exploring vibrant cities like Oslo and Bergen to embarking on epic outdoor adventures in its pristine wilderness. Join us as we embark on a journey through this Nordic gem, where the Northern Lights dance across the Arctic skies and the midnight sun bathes the landscapes in a golden glow. Discover the magic of Norwegian tourism and all it has to offer.

What’s the Best Time to Visit? 📅

The best time to visit Norway as a tourist depends on your interests and what you want to experience in this Nordic country. Norway offers unique attractions and activities year-round, so here’s a breakdown of the seasons to help you plan your visit:

  1. Summer (June to August):
  • Best for: Exploring cities, outdoor activities, and the midnight sun.
  • Summer is the high tourist season in Norway when the weather is generally mild, and the days are long. You can enjoy hiking, fishing, kayaking, and other outdoor activities in the fjords and mountains. The coastal cities, such as Oslo, Bergen, and Tromsø, come alive with festivals and events. This is also the time to witness the midnight sun phenomenon in the Arctic Circle.
  1. Autumn (September to November):
  • Best for: Foliage, fewer crowds, and Northern Lights.
  • Autumn in Norway is a beautiful time to visit if you enjoy colorful foliage. The weather is still relatively mild in September, making it a good month to explore. As the season progresses, the crowds thin out, providing a quieter experience. In the northern regions, such as Tromsø and Alta, you can catch the early Northern Lights displays.
  1. Winter (December to February):
  • Best for: Northern Lights, winter sports, and Sami culture.
  • Winter is perfect for experiencing Norway’s winter wonderland. You can go skiing, snowboarding, and dog sledding in the Norwegian mountains. Tromsø, in the Arctic, offers excellent opportunities to witness the Northern Lights, while the southern cities like Oslo and Bergen are beautifully decorated for Christmas.
  1. Late Winter/Early Spring (March to May):
  • Best for: Late-season skiing, longer days, and fewer crowds.
  • Late winter and early spring are ideal for winter sports enthusiasts who want to enjoy the snow while avoiding the peak-season crowds. The days start getting longer, and you can still witness the Northern Lights in the northern regions. As the season progresses, the country blooms with spring flowers, especially in the south.
  1. Off-Peak Season (November to March):
  • Best for: Budget travelers and serene landscapes.
  • If you’re looking to save money and don’t mind colder temperatures, visiting during the off-peak season can be rewarding. Norway’s landscapes are serene and covered in snow, creating a peaceful atmosphere. Just be prepared for shorter daylight hours.

Remember that the Arctic region experiences extreme variations in daylight hours, with polar nights in winter and midnight sun in summer. The best time to visit Norway ultimately depends on your interests, whether you want to witness the Northern Lights, experience the midnight sun, enjoy outdoor adventures, or explore the cities and cultural attractions.

What’s the Best Way to Get Around? 🚌

Getting around Norway as a tourist is relatively easy, thanks to the country’s efficient transportation network and well-maintained infrastructure. Here are the best ways to explore Norway:

  1. Train: Norway’s extensive train system offers one of the most scenic rail journeys in the world. The Bergen Line, Flåm Railway, and Nordland Line provide breathtaking views of the Norwegian countryside, fjords, and mountains. The Oslo-Bergen and Oslo-Trondheim routes are popular choices. Consider purchasing the Norway in a Nutshell tour package for a comprehensive rail experience.
  2. Ferry and Coastal Cruises: Norway’s coastline is dotted with fjords and islands, making ferries and coastal cruises a fantastic way to explore. The Hurtigruten coastal ferry route takes you along the stunning Norwegian coast, stopping at picturesque ports along the way.
  3. Car Rental: Renting a car allows for flexibility and access to remote areas. Norway’s roads are well-maintained, and driving is on the right side of the road. However, be prepared for toll roads and expensive gasoline. In winter, ensure your car is equipped for snowy conditions.
  4. Domestic Flights: If you’re traveling long distances or to remote regions like Northern Norway, consider domestic flights. Airlines like SAS and Norwegian operate domestic routes that can save time and offer aerial views of Norway’s landscapes.
  5. Bus: Buses are an affordable way to travel within cities and between regions. Long-distance buses are comfortable and connect major cities. Companies like Vy and Nettbuss operate intercity routes.
  6. Tram and Metro: In cities like Oslo and Bergen, trams and metros provide efficient public transportation within the urban areas. Transportation cards or tickets can be purchased for easy access.
  7. Bicycles: Many cities in Norway are bike-friendly, with dedicated lanes and bike-sharing programs. Renting a bike is a great way to explore cities and scenic areas.
  8. Walking: Norway’s cities and towns are pedestrian-friendly, and walking is an excellent way to explore local neighborhoods and attractions. Guided walking tours are available in many cities.
  9. Taxi and Ridesharing: Taxis are available in urban areas, and ridesharing services like Uber operate in some cities. Taxis can be expensive, so check fares in advance.
  10. Cruise Ships: If you’re exploring the Norwegian fjords, consider taking a cruise ship. Many cruise lines offer itineraries that include ports of call in Norway, allowing you to experience the stunning coastal scenery.
  11. Snowmobiles and Dog Sledding: In winter, snowmobiles and dog sledding tours are available in certain regions, providing unique ways to explore the snowy landscapes.
  12. Cable Cars and Funiculars: In mountainous regions, cable cars and funiculars transport visitors to high viewpoints for hiking, skiing, and stunning views. Examples include the Fløibanen funicular in Bergen and the Loen Skylift in Nordfjord.

When traveling in Norway, consider purchasing transportation passes or cards, such as the Norway Pass or city-specific cards that offer unlimited travel on public transportation and discounts on attractions. Norway’s transportation options make it convenient to explore the country’s diverse landscapes, whether you’re interested in urban culture, outdoor adventures, or scenic journeys through the fjords and mountains.

What’s the Official Language?

The official language of Norway is Norwegian (Norsk). Norwegian is a Germanic language, and there are two written forms of it:

  1. Bokmål: Bokmål, meaning “book language,” is the most widely used written form of Norwegian. It’s based on the Danish-influenced Norwegian that developed during the union with Denmark. Bokmål is used in most written materials, including newspapers, books, and government documents.
  2. Nynorsk: Nynorsk, meaning “New Norwegian,” is the other written form and is based on various dialects from different regions of Norway. It’s used less frequently in official documents but is important for preserving regional dialects and cultural diversity.

While many Norwegians speak English fluently, especially in urban areas and tourist destinations, it’s always appreciated when tourists make an effort to learn a few basic Norwegian phrases. Here are some useful words and phrases for tourists:

  1. Hello: Hei (pronounced like “hay”)
  2. Good morning: God morgen
  3. Good day/afternoon: God dag
  4. Good evening: God kveld
  5. Goodbye: Ha det (informal) or Ha det bra (formal)
  6. Yes: Ja
  7. No: Nei
  8. Please: Vær så snill
  9. Thank you: Takk
  10. You’re welcome: Vær så god
  11. Excuse me: Unnskyld
  12. I don’t understand: Jeg forstår ikke
  13. Do you speak English?: Snakker du engelsk?
  14. How much does this cost?: Hvor mye koster dette?
  15. Where is the bathroom?: Hvor er badet?
  16. I need help: Jeg trenger hjelp
  17. Water: Vann
  18. Food: Mat
  19. Beer: Øl
  20. Coffee: Kaffe
  21. Menu: Meny
  22. Hotel: Hotell
  23. Hospital: Sykehus
  24. Police: Politi
  25. Airport: Flyplass
  26. Bus station: Busstasjon
  27. Train station: Togstasjon
  28. Taxi: Taxi
  29. Emergency: Nød

Remember that Norwegians appreciate when tourists try to speak the local language, even if it’s just a few basic words and phrases. Most Norwegians are fluent in English and are happy to help if you have questions or need assistance during your visit.

Where to Stay? 🏨

Norway offers a wide range of accommodation options to suit various preferences and budgets. Where you choose to stay depends on your travel itinerary and interests. Here are some popular types of accommodation for tourists in Norway:

  1. Hotels: Norway has a selection of hotels ranging from luxury to budget options. Major cities like Oslo, Bergen, and Trondheim offer a variety of well-known international hotel chains, boutique hotels, and budget-friendly choices. Coastal towns and tourist destinations also have charming seaside hotels.
  2. Fjord Hotels: If you plan to explore Norway’s stunning fjords, consider staying in fjord-side accommodations. These include hotels and lodges with breathtaking views of the fjords, allowing you to wake up to serene landscapes.
  3. Cottages and Cabins: Renting a cottage or cabin is a popular way to experience Norway’s beautiful countryside. These accommodations range from rustic cabins to well-equipped holiday homes. They’re ideal for travelers who want to be close to nature.
  4. Hostels: Norway has a network of hostels in major cities and popular tourist areas. Hostels offer budget-friendly accommodation options with shared dormitories and private rooms. They are excellent choices for backpackers and budget-conscious travelers.
  5. Guesthouses and Bed and Breakfasts: Guesthouses and B&Bs provide a cozy and homey atmosphere. These accommodations often include breakfast and may offer a more personalized experience.
  6. Rorbu and Sjøhus: In coastal fishing villages, you can stay in traditional Norwegian fishermen’s cabins called rorbu (singular: rorbu) or sjøhus (singular: sjøhus). These rustic but comfortable lodgings offer a unique coastal experience.
  7. Huts and Mountain Lodges: If you’re planning to explore Norway’s mountainous regions, consider staying in huts and mountain lodges operated by the Norwegian Trekking Association (DNT). These accommodations are popular among hikers and outdoor enthusiasts.
  8. Sami Lavvu and Sami Experiences: In Northern Norway, especially in Sami communities, you can find accommodations like Sami tents (lavvu) and Sami experiences that offer insight into indigenous Sami culture and traditions.
  9. Treehouses and Unique Accommodations: Norway offers some unique lodging options, including treehouses, Arctic domes, and ice hotels. These experiences are perfect for those seeking something out of the ordinary.
  10. Cruise Ships: Along the Norwegian coast, cruise ships and expedition vessels offer a unique way to explore the country’s stunning coastline and fjords. These ships often include onboard accommodations, meals, and guided excursions.

When choosing accommodation in Norway, consider factors such as location, budget, and the type of experience you want to have. Booking in advance, especially during the peak tourist season in summer, is advisable to secure the best options. Whether you prefer the comforts of a city hotel, the tranquility of a fjord-side cabin, or an adventure in the wilderness, Norway offers a wide range of places to stay that cater to every traveler’s needs.

What to Eat? 🍽️

Norwegian cuisine is influenced by its natural surroundings, with an emphasis on seafood, game, and traditional ingredients. When visiting Norway as a tourist, be sure to try these must-try Norwegian foods:

  1. Gravlaks: Gravlaks is a Norwegian specialty, similar to gravlax or smoked salmon. It’s typically served with mustard sauce, flatbread, and dill. Don’t miss this delicious and fresh seafood dish.
  2. Lutefisk: Lutefisk is a traditional Norwegian dish made from dried fish, usually cod, that has been soaked in a lye solution and rehydrated. It’s often served with white sauce, bacon, and peas. It’s an acquired taste, but many visitors are curious to try it.
  3. Rakfisk: Rakfisk is fermented fish, usually trout or char. It has a strong aroma and flavor and is often served on flatbread with sour cream, onions, and potatoes. It’s a delicacy, especially in the winter months.
  4. Koldtbord: Koldtbord is a traditional Norwegian buffet, often featuring a variety of cold dishes, including herring, cured meats, cheeses, and salads. It’s a great way to sample a range of Norwegian flavors in one meal.
  5. Fårikål: Fårikål is Norway’s national dish, consisting of slow-cooked mutton or lamb stewed with cabbage and black peppercorns. It’s hearty and perfect for colder weather.
  6. Rømmegrøt: Rømmegrøt is a creamy porridge made from sour cream, flour, and butter. It’s typically served with sugar, cinnamon, and butter, and it’s a comforting and traditional Norwegian dessert.
  7. Kjøttkaker: Kjøttkaker are Norwegian meatballs made from a mixture of ground meat, often a combination of beef and pork. They’re served with a rich gravy, potatoes, and lingonberry sauce.
  8. Brunost: Brunost, or “brown cheese,” is a sweet and slightly tangy cheese made from caramelized whey. It’s typically sliced thinly and eaten on bread. Try it with Norwegian waffles (vafler) and jam.
  9. Raspeballer: Raspeballer, also known as komle or klubb, are potato dumplings often served with a savory sauce, typically made from butter and bacon.
  10. Cloudberries: Cloudberries are a seasonal delicacy in Norway. They are usually served with whipped cream or incorporated into desserts like cloudberry cream (multekrem).
  11. Krumkake: Krumkake are delicate, cone-shaped cookies made from a sweet, waffle-like batter. They are often filled with whipped cream and enjoyed as a dessert.
  12. Smørbrød: Smørbrød, or open-faced sandwiches, are a popular lunch option in Norway. They come in various combinations, featuring ingredients like cold cuts, seafood, cheese, and vegetables.
  13. Solskinnsboller: Solskinnsboller are sweet buns filled with vanilla cream and often topped with coconut flakes. They’re a delightful treat and can be found in bakeries.
  14. Aquavit: While not a food, aquavit is a traditional Scandinavian spirit often enjoyed as an aperitif. It has a unique taste and is sometimes flavored with herbs and spices.

Norway’s culinary scene reflects its natural bounty, and trying these dishes can be a delicious way to immerse yourself in Norwegian culture and flavors during your visit.

What to See? 🔍

Norway is a land of breathtaking natural beauty and rich cultural heritage. As a tourist, you’ll find a wide range of must-see places to explore. Here are some of the top attractions and destinations in Norway:

  1. The Norwegian Fjords: Norway is renowned for its stunning fjords, including the Geirangerfjord, Nærøyfjord, and Sognefjord. Take a fjord cruise, go kayaking, or simply soak in the breathtaking scenery.
  2. Northern Lights: Head to Northern Norway, especially Tromsø, to witness the magical Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) during the winter months.
  3. Lofoten Islands: These picturesque islands are known for their dramatic landscapes, fishing villages, and opportunities for hiking, fishing, and wildlife viewing.
  4. Bergen: Explore the charming city of Bergen, known for its colorful Hanseatic buildings at Bryggen Wharf, the Fish Market, and the funicular ride to Mount Fløyen for panoramic views.
  5. Oslo: Norway’s capital offers a mix of modern and historical attractions. Visit the Viking Ship Museum, the Munch Museum, and the Royal Palace. Stroll along the Aker Brygge waterfront.
  6. The Arctic Circle: Cross the Arctic Circle and experience the unique culture and landscapes of Northern Norway. Consider a visit to the North Cape for a midnight sun or Northern Lights experience.
  7. Trolltunga: Hike to the famous Troll’s Tongue, a dramatic rock formation overlooking a stunning valley and lake. The hike is challenging but rewarding.
  8. Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock): Hike to this iconic cliff with a flat plateau that offers breathtaking views over Lysefjord.
  9. The Arctic Cathedral: Located in Tromsø, this modern cathedral is known for its striking architecture and beautiful glass mosaic.
  10. The Atlantic Ocean Road: Drive along this scenic coastal road, known for its dramatic bridges and views of the Atlantic Ocean.
  11. Vigeland Park: In Oslo, explore this unique sculpture park featuring the works of Gustav Vigeland, including the iconic Monolith and the Wheel of Life.
  12. Akershus Fortress: Visit this historic fortress in Oslo, which has played a significant role in Norway’s history.
  13. Jotunheimen National Park: Explore Norway’s largest national park, known for its high mountains, glaciers, and hiking trails, including the Besseggen Ridge.
  14. Bryggen: In Bergen, stroll through the historic wharf area of Bryggen, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, known for its well-preserved wooden buildings.
  15. The Arctic Wildlife: Take wildlife safaris to spot Arctic creatures like reindeer, polar bears, whales, and seabirds in their natural habitats.
  16. The Stave Churches: Norway is home to several well-preserved stave churches, including the Urnes Stave Church, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  17. Roros: Explore the charming mining town of Roros, known for its well-preserved wooden buildings and rich cultural history.
  18. The Flåm Railway: Experience one of the world’s most scenic train journeys on the Flåm Railway, which takes you through breathtaking landscapes.
  19. Nidaros Cathedral: Visit the impressive Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim, one of Norway’s most important religious landmarks.
  20. The Telemark Canal: Cruise along this historic canal, often called the “eighth wonder of the world,” and explore the charming towns along the way.

These are just a few of the must-see places in Norway. Whether you’re drawn to the natural wonders, historical sites, or cultural experiences, Norway offers a wealth of attractions that will leave you in awe of its beauty and heritage.

What to Do? 📸

Norway offers a wide range of activities and experiences for tourists. Here are some must-do things to make the most of your visit to Norway:

  1. Hike the Norwegian Fjords: Explore the breathtaking fjords of Norway by hiking some of the world’s most beautiful trails. Consider hikes like Trolltunga, Preikestolen, and the Besseggen Ridge.
  2. Fjord Cruises: Take a fjord cruise to get up close to the stunning scenery of Norway’s fjords. The Geirangerfjord and Nærøyfjord are particularly popular choices.
  3. See the Northern Lights: If you visit in winter, head north to Tromsø or other Arctic locations for a chance to witness the mesmerizing Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis).
  4. Midnight Sun: In summer, experience the midnight sun in Northern Norway, where the sun doesn’t set for weeks. It’s a unique natural phenomenon.
  5. Explore Oslo: Spend time in Norway’s capital, Oslo. Visit the Viking Ship Museum, the Munch Museum, and the Royal Palace. Walk along the beautiful waterfront area of Aker Brygge.
  6. Visit Bergen: Discover the charming city of Bergen with its historic Bryggen Wharf, the Fish Market, and the funicular ride to Mount Fløyen for panoramic views.
  7. Eat Norwegian Cuisine: Try traditional Norwegian dishes like gravlaks, lutefisk, and fårikål. Enjoy fresh seafood, including salmon and shrimp.
  8. Go Wildlife Watching: Take wildlife safaris to spot reindeer, moose, puffins, whales, and other Arctic and Nordic animals in their natural habitats.
  9. Explore Coastal Villages: Explore picturesque coastal villages like Ålesund, Reine, and Henningsvær. Immerse yourself in local culture and enjoy fresh seafood.
  10. Stay in a Stave Church: Visit Norway’s historic stave churches, some of which are over 800 years old. The Urnes Stave Church is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  11. Experience Sami Culture: In Northern Norway, learn about the indigenous Sami culture through experiences like reindeer sledding and Sami festivals.
  12. Ride the Flam Railway: Take the scenic Flam Railway, one of the world’s steepest railways, for breathtaking mountain views and waterfalls.
  13. See the Atlantic Ocean Road: Drive along this dramatic coastal road with its unique bridges and panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean.
  14. Visit Tromsø: Explore the vibrant Arctic city of Tromsø. Visit the Arctic Cathedral, Polaria, and take a dog sledding tour.
  15. Cruise the Hurtigruten: Experience the coastal culture of Norway by taking a cruise along the Hurtigruten route. Visit ports, fjords, and islands along the way.
  16. Stay in a Rorbu: Enjoy the unique experience of staying in a traditional Norwegian fishermen’s cabin, known as a rorbu, in coastal villages.
  17. Discover Viking History: Learn about Norway’s Viking heritage by visiting historical sites and museums dedicated to this fascinating period of history.
  18. Ski or Snowboard: If you visit in winter, Norway offers excellent opportunities for skiing and snowboarding in world-class resorts like Trysil and Hemsedal.
  19. Try Winter Sports: Try activities like cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and ice fishing in the winter wonderland of Norway.
  20. Relax in the Sauna: Enjoy the Scandinavian tradition of sauna bathing, often followed by a dip in a cold lake or fjord for a refreshing experience.

Norway’s diverse landscapes and cultural offerings ensure that there’s something for every type of traveler. Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast, a history buff, or a foodie, Norway has plenty of exciting and memorable experiences to offer.

Culture and Safety 🦺

Traveling to Norway offers a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in a rich and welcoming culture while enjoying a high level of safety. Here are some cultural insights and safety tips for your trip to Norway:

Culture:

  1. Respect Personal Space: Norwegians value personal space and privacy. It’s customary to maintain a comfortable distance when speaking with someone, especially with strangers.
  2. Punctuality: Norwegians are known for their punctuality. Whether it’s for a meeting or a social event, arriving on time is expected.
  3. Tipping: Tipping is common in Norway but not as generous as in some other countries. A service charge is often included in bills. You can round up the bill or leave a small tip if the service was exceptional.
  4. Quiet and Reserved: Norwegians are generally reserved and quiet in public spaces. Speaking loudly or causing a disturbance is considered impolite.
  5. Cultural Attractions: When visiting cultural attractions, such as museums and churches, dress modestly and show respect for the religious and historical significance of these places.
  6. Outdoor Etiquette: Norway’s natural beauty is a source of pride. When hiking or camping, follow Leave No Trace principles, which emphasize responsible outdoor behavior, including proper disposal of waste and respecting wildlife.
  7. Alcohol Regulations: The sale of alcohol is tightly regulated in Norway. You can purchase alcoholic beverages in state-run stores called Vinmonopolet. Bars and restaurants serve alcohol within specified hours, and the legal drinking age is 18.

Safety:

  1. Low Crime Rate: Norway has a low crime rate, and it’s generally safe for tourists. However, exercise standard precautions against petty theft, especially in crowded tourist areas.
  2. Healthcare: Norway has a high-quality healthcare system. European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) holders can access necessary medical care. Travel insurance is advisable for all travelers to cover unexpected expenses.
  3. Weather and Nature: Norway’s climate can be unpredictable, especially in the mountains and coastal regions. Check weather forecasts before outdoor activities and be prepared for changing conditions.
  4. Wildlife Safety: When exploring Norway’s wilderness, be aware of potential encounters with wildlife, including moose and reindeer. Maintain a safe distance and avoid feeding wild animals.
  5. Road Safety: If you plan to drive in Norway, follow traffic rules, and be cautious on winding mountain roads. In winter, use winter tires and drive carefully in snowy conditions.
  6. Emergency Numbers: Norway’s emergency number is 112. For non-emergency police assistance, call 02800.
  7. Natural Hazards: Norway is prone to natural hazards like avalanches and rockslides, particularly in mountainous regions. Follow safety advice and local warnings.
  8. Northern Lights Safety: If you plan to chase the Northern Lights, dress warmly, and be cautious when venturing into remote areas, especially in winter conditions.
  9. Water Safety: When engaging in water-based activities, such as kayaking or fishing, wear appropriate safety gear, including life jackets.
  10. Currency Safety: Be cautious with your belongings, including passports, wallets, and cameras, especially in crowded tourist areas.

Norway’s culture is characterized by a strong sense of community and respect for nature. It’s a safe and welcoming destination where travelers can enjoy the country’s stunning landscapes, cultural attractions, and outdoor adventures with confidence. By respecting local customs and following safety guidelines, you can make the most of your trip to Norway.

Conclusion

In conclusion, a visit to Norway is a journey into a land of natural wonder and cultural richness. From the stunning fjords and snow-capped peaks to the vibrant cities and charming coastal villages, Norway offers a diverse range of experiences for travelers. Whether you’re chasing the Northern Lights in the Arctic Circle, hiking in the pristine wilderness, or immersing yourself in the country’s deep-rooted traditions, Norway promises unforgettable memories at every turn. With a strong emphasis on sustainability, safety, and warm hospitality, Norway welcomes tourists with open arms, inviting them to explore the wonders of this Nordic paradise.