From the majestic fjords and colorful remote villages to the divine Arctic landscapes and majestic Northern Lights, there are a lot of good reasons to visit Norway and there’s no better time to start planning your trip to Norway than today. If the Scandinavian countries are one of the destinations in your wish list, here you’ll find the most interesting things to see and do in Norway for an unforgettable trip.
Located in the north of Europe, Norway offers visitors an incredible mix of natural and cultural wonders. From Oslo with its cosmopolitan vibe to Bergen or Tromso to its deep fjords and snow-capped mountains, interesting museums and captivating Viking heritage, the options for travelers are practically endless. As in almost every other European country, getting around is super easy thanks to its top-notch public transport system that includes buses, taxis, ferry boats, and trains.
Of course, renting a car is also a good option, especially if your plans include sightseeing Oslo and exploring other cities and areas of the country. While driving conditions in winter aren’t optimal, it’s still safe if you’re used to driving in snowy and icy roads. Driving in a foreign country can be challenging. In order to avoid any accidents or to make sure that you have a safe driving experience as a tourist, consider investing in a car rental insurance policy. American travelers can find the protection they need for their rental car here.
With that out of the way, we’re starting off this list of things to do in Norway at the capital…
Things to do in Oslo
Oslo is Norway’s capital and most populated city. Situated on the Oslofjord at the southern tip of Norway, it’s vibrant, cosmopolitan and modern with a laid-back atmosphere and a lot of interesting things to do. The city is surrounded by forests and there are plenty of parks and green spaces that make outdoor activities such as biking and hiking very popular.
Founded in the 11th century, Oslo has preserved its historic heritage, including Viking ships and historic buildings that can be admired in several museums. There are also plenty of restaurants, hip bars and cozy cafés where you can enjoy a delicious meal or take a break after exploring the city. With a cutting-edge food scene, new and funky neighborhoods and a varied cultural scene, Oslo will definitely surprise you. It’s ideal for those who love walking around as many of its most popular attractions are easily reached on foot from the city center.
While in Oslo, you should…
Visit the Norwegian National Ballet & Opera House
The Norwegian National Ballet & Opera House is a marvel of modern architecture. It’s definitely worth seeing and, needless to say, attend a ballet or classical concert music performance. With its sleek white roof and unique architecture, this beautifully-crafted cultural building resembles an iceberg. If you visit, use the chance to climb the roof and enjoy the panoramic views of the capital.
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Learn About the Vikings at the Viking Ships Museum
This impressive museum dedicated to the Medieval seafaring sailors features three IX- century Viking vessels, each of which had been laid to rest as burial chambers for prominent Vikings, but also sleds, horse carts, wood carving, and a lot of other artifacts related to the Viking heritage. The largest of the ships is the 70-foot Oseberg Ship, containing a chieftain’s wife and two other women as well as many items that provide an insightful idea of what Viking life was like. It’s a beautiful museum and a great place to learn more about Viking culture and their way of life.
Tour Akershus Fortress
Even though construction began in the late 1290s, Akershus Fortress wasn’t completed until the beginning of the XVII century. Since then, this fort has been protecting the city of Oslo and serving different purposes throughout the years, including being a prison and royal residence. Today, it’s home to the Norwegian Ministry of Defense and it’s open to the public all year round. You can visit its pretty rooms, banquet halls, and chapel and, of course, enjoy the views of the city.
This impressive structure is a must-see in Oslo. It consists of a castle, historic buildings, museums and defense installations.
Visit the Kon-Tiki Museum
The Kon-Tiki Museum was built to house and display the Kon-Tiki raft, which the famous Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl used to sail across the ocean from Peru to Polynesia in the late 1940s. Visitors can admire the pre-Columbian balsa wood raft and several of Thor’s original vessels as well as many interesting exhibits such as the papyrus boat Ra II and many archaeological findings.
Enjoy Vigeland Sculpture Park
Speaking of things to do in Norway, we can’t forget one of the capital’s top tourist attractions, Vigeland Sculpture Park. This park is home to 650 sculptures created by the Norwegian artist Gustav Vigeland. The sculptures are arranged in different groups and they are located in Frogner Park. Don’t forget to visit the Vigeland Museum where you can see the inside of the former studio of the artist and it’s located in the same area. The main attraction of Vigeland Sculpture Park is the soaring Monolith. It’s located on a stepped plinth and symbolizes the struggle of life.
See The Scream
Edvard Munch is Oslo’s most prominent artist and the Edvard Munch Museet is must-see for those interested in his paintings, especially for those willing to admire his renowned masterpiece The Scream. The Museum has been in operation since the early 1960s and is home to an impressive collection of paintings, prints, and drawings as well as memorabilia dedicated to the life of Munch and interesting lithographic stones.
Admire Art at the Norwegian National Gallery
The Norwegian National Gallery is home to the country’s leading collection of sculptures, paintings, and drawings. Highlights of the permanent collection include a version of Munch’s The Scream, Madonna and masterpieces by Manet and other French impressionists.
Visit the Museum of Cultural History
The Museum of Cultural History is another cultural highlight in Norway’s capital city. Throughout its four floors, visitors can appreciate Egyptian mummies, items from Arctic expeditions, a stunning collection of world coins and many interesting temporary exhibitions. The museum boasts a collection of 155 traditional buildings from towns all over the country, including a stave church from 1200. You can also admire traditional Norwegian customs, craft demonstrations, etc. It’s an excellent opportunity to appreciate the history of the country in a fun and interactive way.
Check Out the Royal Palace and Watch the Changing Guards
This XIX-century Neoclassical building is the primary residence of the Royal Family. The Royal Palace is open to the public on guided tours from the end of June to Mid-August. Amongst the rooms, you can visit in the tour is the Bird Room with its over 40 species of birds on display, the stunning Mirror Hall and the Great Hall with its shining crystal chandeliers.
The Changing of the Guard ceremony takes place every day at 1.30 pm.
Visit the Fram Museum
The Fram Museum is a fascinating tribute to polar exploration specially dedicated to the polar ship Fram, which has been magnificently restored. The museum highlights expeditions made by explorers Nansen and Amundsen to the Arctic and the Antarctic in interesting and captivating displays that include paintings, photographs, and paraphernalia. When visiting Oslo, you can’t miss this fascinating museum! Just having the chance to climb aboard this historic vessel and also envisage what it must have been like to steer it through the icy waters is an incredible experience.
And speaking of incredible experiences and things to do in Norway, how about…
Driving the Atlantic Ocean Road
The Atlantic Ocean Road in Norway is one of the most beautiful roads in the world an engineering feat of the century and one of the things you have to try when visiting Norway. The road stretches for 8.3km across the rugged Atlantic coast and not only is it fun to drive as it snakes up and down across the archipelago but the road also features amazing viewpoints perfect for taking amazing pictures and sightseeing experiences. The road also connects Averoy with the mainland via a number of small islands spanned by 8 bridges. So, get ready to enjoy the classic Viking scenery in every twist and turn!
In addition to this, you’d also get to explore quaint wooden churches and charming fishing villages along the way.
Explore the Beautiful Norwegian Fjords
No trip to Norway would be complete without a ferry trip among the stunningly beautiful fjords. There are plenty of different tour options to choose from and it’s an experience that you wouldn’t like to miss. It’s just you and nature in a quiet contemplative moment. Cruises normally start in Bergen and go as far as Cape North. Most take from two days to a week to complete them.
Of all the Norwegian fjords, Geirangerfjord is probably the most beautiful one. It’s located in the Western Fjord area and it’s surrounded by towering cliffs and deep blue waters. In addition to the scenic surroundings, the 15km-long fjord also features some of the most stunning waterfalls in Norway. You can also hike the area as there are many trails that offer unrivaled scenic views. One of its most fascinating features are the farms that cling to the steep hillsides. Many of them are abandoned now but you can still see them today if you go on a fjord cruise.
Strike a Pose at Kjeragbolten
The Kjeragbolten is a free-hanging five-cubic-meter rock incredibly wedged in a mountain crevice overlooking the beautiful Lysefjord. A 9km hike with a 600-meter climb can be challenging of course, but Kjerag is a beautiful hike and entirely worth the effort! We dare you to step out onto the Kjerag rock if you are brave enough!
Located in southern Norway, not far from Stavanger, the Kjeragbolten hike is not only full of adrenaline but a totally Norwegian experience and an Instagram worthy moment. The hike (medium/difficult) takes around 3.5 hours and it’s definitely one of the best things to do in Norway.
Hike to Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock)
Preikestolen is an iconic rock formation that juts out into the Lysefjord from where you can gaze down the sheer cliff face into the beautiful fjord below. After a relatively easy hike, you get to the top of the mountain. You can sit on the steep cliff that rises 1982 feet above the water and has a distinctive flat top of roughly 82 feet by 82 feet and take really beautiful pictures showing how courageous you are.
With its stunning vistas across the fjords, Preikestolen is one of Norway’s signature images and also one of the most spectacular things to do in Norway.
Stand on the Arctic Circle and see The Midnight Sun or Northern Lights
Since much of Norway is located in the Arctic Circle it’s probably the best place to experience two natural phenomena that are also very popular tourist attractions- the Midnight Sun and the Northern Lights.
During the summer months, surrounding the summer solstice, these latitudes enjoy endless days when the sun doesn’t set. Birds are chirping and people are outside enjoying a beer under the sunlight when in fact, it’s 3 AM!
However, the Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis steal the show in winter. Caused when electrically charged particles emitted by the sun are caught up in the earth’s magnetic field and produce striking light effects in the thin ionized upper atmosphere, the magnificent Aurora Borealis is one of the main reasons why so many people decide to visit Norway in the winter.
More Helpful Resources for visiting Norway
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Finally, don’t forget about travel insurance. My personal choice is always World Nomads. They might be more expensive than average but they have you covered no matter what happens, unlike some other travel insurance providers that offer cheap packages but don’t provide coverage for a lot of emergencies.
Did you like this list of things to do in Norway? What’s the first thing you would do if you get the chance to visit Norway? Let us know in the comments!
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