The Krone is the primary currency of the country of Norway, however some of the most popular tourist destinations and shops may accept Euros. Visa, Mastercard and American Express credit cards are widely used and accepted, and many spots in Scandinavia take cards more commonly than cash. It is recommended to have krone on hand to use at smaller shops, restaurants and roadside souvenir stands. Krone can be obtained at currency exchanges in major cities or airports upon arrival, or from ‘minibanks’ (ATMs) locally in Norway.
Norwegian is the official language spoken and written in Norway, but the locals are quite fluent in English (especially in larger towns and tourist destinations). German, French and Spanish are also commonly spoken, but travellers will have no trouble being understood in major Norwegian destinations. Learning a few simple Norwegian phrases will go a long way in endearing yourself to locals.
Best Time To Go
Norway is almost completely composed of coastline, the length of which is about equal to the entire western coast of the United States. In summertime, the southern areas like Oslo are a warm paradise of islands perfect for boating, suntanning and relaxed touring. The coastal mountain areas like Bergen, Trondheim and Sojnefjord are milder in temperature than the more frigid inland, even in the winter, so are wonderful locations for skiing and hiking.
The Gulf Stream keeps Norway’s temperatures more moderate than many expect. The capital city of Oslo, along the south coast of Norway, has a mild ocean climate with the warmest weather from June to August (averaging 17C / 62F) and the coldest months from December to February (around 3C / 37F).
In Bergen, the rainiest part of Norway, the temperature from June to August rarely goes higher than 27C / 80F, while the winter sees temperatures around 2C / 36F. Tromso in the north has very short summers (with only July climbing above 12C / 55F), but the months of February and March are best for experiencing the Northern Lights.
The ideal traveller to Norway is an active adventurer, as their summers and winters are full of outdoor activities, especially outside of major cities. Families and shutterbugs will love the scenic railways, nature and wildlife experiences, and friendly people. Cultural explorers and foodies will find many things to love in the cities and small villages alike.
Getting There From North America
The largest airport in Norway is Oslo Airport, with many international direct flights into and out of the country, as well as connecting flights to more than 50 smaller airports in the country. Bergen and Trondheim are popular for reaching fjord country, whereas Tromso Airport welcomes travellers looking for the Northern Lights.
Recommended flight route from the United States
To get to Norway from the United States, major airports like New York (Newark) operate direct flights with SAS (Scandinavian Airline System, flag carrier of Norway, Sweden and Denmark). There are also frequent flights from other major gateways like Chicago (ORD), Washington, Boston, Detroit, and LAX with KLM, via Amsterdam or through Frankfurt with Lufthansa.
Recommended flight route from Canada
From major cities like Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal, Delta and KLM operate flights regularly between spring and fall with stops in Amsterdam. Air Canada operates flights that connect through London and Zurich, while Lufthansa offers easy stopovers in Frankfurt en route. SAS (Scandinavian Airline System, flag carrier of Norway/Sweden/Denmark) also offers less frequent codeshares with Air Canada from most major Canadian airports.
Essential Sights of Norway
Over 900 years old yet full of funky and modern architecture with close ties with nature, Norway’s capital Oslo will charm visitors to Norway. The Norwegians celebrate their ancient Viking roots with monuments and museums, while being culturally very progressive. Oslo’s city hall is renowned for hosting the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony every December 10.
Pedestrian-friendly Karl Johans Gate is a long shopping and dining avenue that leads from the train station to the Royal Palace where one can watch the daily changing of the guard. The Oslo Opera House is a marble engineering masterpiece with perfect indoor acoustics and an outdoor grandstand where concert-goers can walk and sit along the sloped roof when the weather is pleasant.
Bergen is known as the gateway to the country’s most famous and breathtaking fjords. The city’s colourful historic quarter, Bryggen Harbour, has been preserved from fires that have destroyed some of Norway’s more ancient historic areas. You can take in museums that honour the city’s history as a major former trading port of the Hanseatic League. But this is still a very active port town, andthe fish and flower market at the harbour is a wonderful place to get yourself a deliciously fresh seafood dish. King Haakon’s Hall makes a good rainy day activity, and you’ll want to keep a few in mind in Bergen!
North of mainland Norway, Spitsbergen is the gateway to the Svalbard archipelago. A cruise here lets you take in the rugged arctic terrain and the huge variety of wildlife, from Svalbard reindeer to whales, Arctic foxes, puffins, and most special of all, polar bears. Itineraries are based on what wildlife is most active and the natural conditions. Sea kayaking and tours by Zodiac bring you in touch with nature as you float alongside cliffs and blue-white glaciers.
One of the most famous of Norway’s scenic fjords is Hardangerfjord, a goldmine of activity year-round. In winter, the water is glassy smooth, reflecting the cliffs rising out of the water. Snowshoe hikes with a professional guide are abundant, and the waterfalls resemble ice castles in their partially-frozen state. In summer, travellers can enjoy rock climbing, endless days of hiking to majestic waterfalls like Voringfossen, summertime skiing, and wildlife viewing.
Other Highlights of Norway Off the Beaten Path
The 1994 Winter Olympics took place in Lillehammer, Norway. Today, Olympic dreamers can visit many themed attractions such as Europe’s only Olympics Museum, ride a chair lift to the top of the ski jump for beautiful views and the chance to see a professional ski jumper in summer or winter, and can even take a ride down the bobsled and luge track at Hunderfossen.
Jotunheimen, The Land of Thor
Comic book fans will recognize the name Jotunheim from the stories of Thor, the god of thunder. The name Jotunheim translates to ‘home of the giants,’ and while not truly populated by Frost and Rock Giants, it does possess the tallest mountains in all of Norway. Jotunheimen National Park is one of the country’s best fishing and hiking destinations, due to its remote location, clear air and water, and over 250 mountain peaks. Travellers can find an abundance of wildlife such as reindeer, elk, wild wolverine, and lynx with waterways full of trout.
When Christianity came to Norway in the 12th century, many Viking shipbuilders traded in their worship of the Norse gods and their world-conquering seafaring ways to build tall oak stave churches. Named for the solid vertical pillars these churches are built around, few stave churches remain due to their all-wood construction and therefore susceptibility to fires. One of the oldest and most beautiful is located in the remote town of Burglund, and now functions as a museum where you can learn about the unique construction. A bit more easily accessible to Oslo, you can find a reconstructed stave church in the Norsk Folkemuseum.
For very ambitious active travellers, hiking up Trolltunga (Troll’s Tonge) mountain and the views it affords will be worth the 10-12 hour round trip. Over 1000 meters above sea level, the apex of this hike sits atop the promontory that juts out horizontally from the side of the mountain (where Trolltunga got its name) to overlook the valley below.
Top Activities and Experiences in Norway
Viking Ship Museum
A quick ferry ride from the city of Oslo, you will find fully preserved examples of Viking strength and prowess, including a full 30-man oak ship with impressive bows, at the Viking Ship Museum, arguably the best of its kind in the world. Mighty seafarers voyaged across the seas because of harsh conditions in their home land and used their superior power and impressive knowledge of the sea to conquer other lands. Norwegians settled Normandy in the north of France, Iceland, and even travelled as far as Newfoundland in Canada. Chiefs were buried in their ships with their possessions which has preserved them very well.
Northern Lights in Tromso
Due to Norway’s northern location, travellers here get to enjoy the wonders of the skies in both summer and winter. The best place to see the dazzling Northern Lights (August to April) is the town of Tromso, located above the Arctic Circle. In summertime (from May to late July) you will experience the Midnight Sun, where the sun never sets fully beyond the horizon!
Hallingdal Valley and Geilo
The broad Hallingdal Valley is full of charming villages and tons of active adventures. Downhill cycling and mountain biking, horseback riding and an intense tobogganing course in winter are just a few of the activities you can enjoy on your visit. As in other park areas of Norway, fishing is also a great activity in the deep, clean waters. Charming ski resorts and winter fun make the centrally-located town of Geilo a great place to stay, and you can experience the fun of dog-sledding with a pack of huskies or snowshoeing the crisp white snow here.
Norway In A Nutshell Rail Journey
Travelling between Bergen and Oslo is prettiest by rail with a stop in the beautiful village of Flam. Included here is a ride on the Bergen Railway and Flam Railway, which is noted as one of the steepest in the world. The village of Flam charms visitors with its quiet streets, lovely greenery and waterfalls. Add a fjord cruise to see the valleys from the ground up, gliding over the often calm waters with cliffs and mountains rising above you. This journey can be done in any direction between Oslo and Bergen year-round, and is available as a day trip or a multi-day adventure.
Essential Norwegian Foods to Try
Owing to Norway’s extensive green pastures with clear air and nutrient-rich soil and vegetation, lamb here is extremely tender, juicy and delicious. You can find several lamb dishes prepared expertly throughout the country, from the cabbage and lamb dish called Farakal to the traditionally salted and dried leg of lamb known as Fenalar. Fenelar is typically served around Christmas time along with other cured products, and is so iconically Norwegian that it’s considered a geographically protected name.
The wild and farmed game in Norway (including afore-mentioned lamb) are instrumental for not only feeding the citizens and visitors to the country but also for maintaining a great bio-diversity throughout the land by keeping vegetation in check. Moose and wild grouse are very popular delicacies, whereas reindeer, abundant in the far north of the country are a very lean and healthy meat. The Sami people, indiginous to the northern areas of Norway, Sweden and Finland are famous for their reindeer herding and making use of every part of the animal.
Over 150 cheesemakers from across Norway specialize in some great varieties of savoury cheeses renowned throughout the world. Gamelost and Pultost are two traditional types of Norwegian cheese, and the regional family of ‘brunost’ brown cheese has a soft, almost fudgy texture. Made of cow’s or goat’s milk, it is typically sliced and served over homemade bread or waffles. It’s certainly worth a try as the taste is strong and unique. Norway is also famous for inventing a well-known type of cheese-cutting utensil, the ostehovel slicer.
The western fjord region of Hardangerfjord is also known for its delicious, award-winning ciders made from ‘the world’s best apples,’ grown on tens of thousands of apple trees. There is even an historic hotel here devoted to the love of cider - the family-owned Utne Hotel. The “champagne of Norway” has won many international CiderWorld Awards for its high quality, crispness, and delicious flavour.
Most Popular Itineraries for Norway
For a short stay in Norway or a stopover on the way to another destination, check out the Highlights of Norway: Oslo to Bergen which includes stays in both cities and the Norway In A Nutshell train journey. If you’re able to spend a bit longer in Scandinavia and want to be thoroughly enveloped in the region and culture, consider a 12-day coach tour with professional guides. This tour includes visits to Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Finland and includes accommodation and tour escort throughout. Because Norway is such a large and expansive country, driving across it is a wonderful way to see all the land has to offer. The Grand Norway Self-Drive is a 12-day journey that will take you to some of the best sites of the cities and fjord country, from Oslo to Trondheim, Hardangerfjord and Bergen. For a unique arctic experience, take a polar bear safari through the group of Svalbard islands north of mainland Norway. You are guaranteed to see these beautiful creatures during your sailing.
Tips for Sustainable Travel
Norway is famous for being one of the most eco-friendly places you can travel in Europe. It was declared the European Green Capital 2019, and steps are being made constantly to preserve the natural environment and protect the beautiful terrain. Within Oslo, tunnels have been built under main areas of town to reduce noise pollution and congestion and take back the harbourfront areas, while tolls to enter town help pay for public transit. Electric trams in Oslo arrive approximately every 10 minutes, which makes using public transportation a simple and environmentally friendly way to get around. As with any destination, leave Norway as beautiful as you found it by reducing the use of single-use plastics where possible, leaving only footprints behind and taking only photos, memories, and local goods home with you.
Where to Go Next
Once you’ve experienced Norway, other countries in Scandinavia are the next logical stops. Sweden and Finland share some aspects of their scenery and culture with Norway, including beautiful mountains and valleys, plus the indiginous Sami people. Ferries run frequently across the North Sea back and forth from Denmark, making that journey easy. You may also find interesting cultural and culinary crossovers with places like Normandy in the north of France and the Netherlands due to Viking conquests.