The beautiful fjords of Norway are perhaps the biggest attraction, but aside from them, visitors will find some chilled out towns and cities, friendly people and delicious salmon.
The city of Oslo is an interesting and attractive place to spend a few days, with the being one of the highlights; with a bit of luck, The Scream will not have been stolen again when you visit.
Medieval Bergen is well worth a visit with its impressive old harbor and narrow streets, and to really escape from it all, head as far north as you can.
Why You Should Go
What’s Cool: Spectacular fjords, midnight sun (Northern Lights and midday darkness in winter), glaciers, friendly people, great outdoors activities, beautiful Bergen and relaxed Oslo, rich history, lots of fish, Svalbard’s natural beauty.
What’s Not: It’s expensive (especially alcohol), getting too close to polar bears in Svalbard, slightly uninspiring cuisine, reindeer blocking your car, midges around the lakes in summer, winter darkness.
When to Go
Norway enjoys a varied climate with differences inland and on the coast, and is generally milder than people expect. Inland areas have warm summers and cold winters.
Summer is a popular time to visit, when you can witness the remarkable midnight sun in the north. During June and July, there is no darkness at all in the far north, a bizarre spectacle.
Of course, the inverse is true in the winter, when you will experience nothing but darkness, although the Northern Lights are quite a spectacle.
Getting There & Away
It’s not difficult to get to Norway; the country has three relatively major airports in Oslo, Bergen and Stavanger, and there are plenty of flights from around Europe to and from these airports. Many people chose to take a cruise ship to Norway, especially from the UK. Fjord Line and DFDS Seaways operate services from Newcastle that take between 20 and 25 hours. There are also ferry connections to Iceland and Denmark, and daily trains to Oslo from Copenhagen, Stockholm and Malmo. The rail network, like the road network, is generally of a high standard and services are very efficient.
Health & Safety
In terms of rare and unusual diseases, you’re pretty safe in Norway. However, if you’re by the beautiful lakes on a balmy summer evening with hundreds of mosquitoes, midges, flies (you won’t care what they’re called) buzzing around your head, the fact that they won’t give you malaria will be little consolation; insect repellent is very useful.
Drive carefully in the north of the country, reindeer are considered to be pretty stupid at times and can act rather erratically when faced with speeding cars.
Norwegian cities and towns are generally safe, especially compared to other big European cities, but visitors should still use common sense; don’t wander around after dark in deserted places.
Food & Hospitality
‘Norway is famed for its superb cuisine’ is not something you will read in many guide books, but there is some good food to be found, especially seafood, and if you’ve just spent some time in neighboring Finland, it will seem like a culinary festival. Fish and seafood is very good, especially salmon; fresh, smoked or cured. They eat plenty of game here like reindeer and moose, both which have a distinct and strong flavour; some people like them more when covered with copious amounts of wild berry sauce.
Eating out is pretty expensive in Norwegian cities and towns, but the good news is that Norwegians are generally very friendly towards visitors, especially if you’re spending lots of money in their restaurant!
Two weeks is a good length of time to spend in Norway, allowing you to explore some of Norway’s main towns and also to escape up to the north of the country.
Four or five days in Oslo, a city known more for woods and lakes than tall buildings.
Three to four days on the coast in Bergen, Norway’s medieval capital.
Four days exploring the southwest, Norway’s most popular tourist area with the country’s most beautiful fjords.
Three to five days in Tromso and the far north marvelling at the midnight sun, in summer.
Three or four days off the mainland in the beautiful northern islands of Svalbard.
Fjorland/: the most popular tourist region in the country with its stunning scenery and the most famous of Norway’s fjords.
Oslo: although Oslo is Norway’s most populous city, it doesn’t have a big city feel. Instead there are plenty of lakes and wooded areas complemented by interesting museums and galleries.
Bergen: the beautiful medieval capital is most known for Bryggen harbor district, and excellent seafood.
North: most people head to the north and Tromso to observe the bizarre midnight sun and the effects it has on the local people; you’ll see some real characters here.
Svalbard: the island archipelago has some outstanding natural beauty and wildlife; keep well away from polar bears though.
Skiing: the Norwegians like to claim that skiing here rivals the Alps. That might be wishful thinking, but with guaranteed snow for much of the year, it’s certainly a good place to ski.
Cruise: many visitors work their way along the coast on cruise ships and this is a pleasant way to see some of the country.
Glacier walking: there’s plenty of ice in Norway, so you may as well make the most of it. Jostedalsbreen is the biggest glacier in Europe and there are options for guided walks in summer.
Witnessing the Northern Lights: or the midnight sun, depending on what time of year you go; either way it’s an experience. Just keep heading north.
Screaming: not literally of course, but the iconic painting was completed by Norway’s Edward Munch in 1893. A version of the paining sits in Oslo’s Munch Museum; that is if thieves haven’t strolled in and taken it again.
Festivals & Events
There are a number of interesting festivals in Norway, ranging from cultural events like the Ibsen Festival to the International Guitar Festival which showcases the good and not so good of European music.
April/May: Ibsen Festival celebrates Norway’s most, perhaps only, famous playwright with a number of performances in Oslo.
June: Norwegian Wood Festival is in fact a music festival attracting a range of international and local artists. A clever play on a Beatles song title, it’s got nothing to do with trees.
June: International Guitar Festival in Bergen has some quality acts, but also offers the opportunity to ‘enjoy’ the worst of Euro pop with musicians from around Europe.
August: Oslo Chamber Music Festival is a popular event at the end of summer.