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Norway Travel Guide: expert picks for your trip

Feb 08, 2021 by The Go Ahead Tours Team

,One visit to the fjord region, and you’ll understand why it’s one of Norway’s top attractions. While the spectacular fjords are what Norway is known for, there’s still so much more to discover while on tour in Norway. You might fall in love with the epic natural beauty, make new friends with the welcoming locals, or dive into the fascinating Viking history and rich cultural heritage. Whatever it is that draws you in, you’re bound to leave a piece of your heart in Norway.

Follow our Norway Travel Guide and make sure you don’t miss a thing. Learn all the things to know before traveling to Norway, discover all the best Norway travel tips, and read about the best places to visit in Norway.

Currency: Norwegian krone (NOK). The coins are called “øre” and 100 øre equals 1 NOK (the same way 100 pennies in the U.S. equals $1).

Language: There are two official languages in Norway: Norwegian, which is most commonly spoken, and Sami, which is used more in the north of the country.

Getting around: The best ways to navigate Norway’s vast landscape is by train or car—or by private motor coach while on tour! If you’re traveling greater distances during free time, take advantage of popular domestic flight options.

Phrases to know: English is commonly spoken in Norway, but it’s always worthwhile to learn a few words. Hallo is used for “hello” and god morgen means “good morning.” Vaer sa snilltakk, and tusen takk are always well received (“please,” “thank you,” and “thank you very much”). When it’s time to say goodbye, you can say ha det. And don’t forget to call out Skål! (pronounced like “skoal”) before clinking glasses!


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WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO VISIT NORWAY?

When is the best time to visit Norway? Depending on your bucket list, there’s something to love about traveling to Norway in every season. While summer is all about ample sunlight and seemingly never-ending days, the winter months transform the terrain with sparkling snow cover. The shoulder seasons of spring and fall have their perks, too. Check out our breakdown of each season below.

  • Spring is a beautiful time to visit Norway to witness the snow melt away to reveal vibrant, green landscapes and fill the lakes, rivers, and waterfalls with new life.
  • Summer is the high season for visitors. Not only are the temperatures at their mildest, it’s a magical time in Norway thanks to the long daylight hours from the legendary midnight sun. Staffer Alicja says, “It never really gets dark in Scandinavia during summer months—longer days mean more time to explore! It’s the best time to visit, as August has some of the region’s most pleasant temperatures.” Check out more insider tips for visiting Europe in August.
  • Fall boasts colorful foliage, fewer tourists, and reasonable temperatures—three excellent reasons to visit Norway in Autumn.
  • Winter may usher in the cold temperatures, but one look at the soft, snowy terrain and glistening, iced-covered fjords, and you’ll forget all about the chilly climate.

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WHAT TO PACK FOR A TRIP TO NORWAY

Our Norway Travel Guide wouldn’t be complete without a packing list! Regardless of when you travel to Norway, warm clothes are always necessary. From cruises and hikes to dinners and shopping, activities in Norway run the gamut, so it’s important to pack versatile clothing. Follow our list for what to pack for Norway and arrive perfectly prepared for your trip.

  • Warm, layer-able clothing. Even in summer, the temperatures hover in the 60s during the day, so bring plenty of sweaters and long sleeves that you can layer.
  • A beanie. Bring a beanie or thin wool hat to keep your head warm in the early mornings and evenings. Thin gloves and a scarf aren’t a bad idea either.
  • Hiking or comfortable walking shoes. Come prepared with a solid pair of shoes that can handle any expedition and are still comfortable for walking about in the cities. “You get plenty of exercise because it’s easy to explore by walking,” said traveler Kimberly after her tour of Scandinavia. See what other travelers say about their trip highlights in Scandinavia.
  • Travel entertainment. Whether that’s a good book, crosswords and puzzles, or your favorite TV series downloaded to your tablet, bring along something to pass time on the bus and train rides.
  • A sleep mask. There are so many things to do in Norway, but there will come a time to sleep—even if the midnight sun suggests otherwise. A sleep mask is essential to block out the sunlight when you need to get some shut eye.

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THINGS TO DO IN NORWAY

Natural beauty, history, and culture are a winning trifecta that make for countless can’t-miss attractions in Norway. From the spectacular fjords, UNESCO World Heritage sites, and Viking heritage, this Norway Travel Guide is chock-full of tips and recommendations on what to do in Norway on tour.

  • Cruise through the fjords. A boat cruise through Norway’s fjords is undoubtedly one of the top things to do on a tour of Norway. As you stand on the deck of the boat and gaze up at the steep-sided cliffs on either side, you can’t help but marvel at nature’s ability to create such otherworldly beauty. While on tour in Norway, our traveler Penney said, “The trip through the fjords of Norway was a dream come true. Every minute was thrilling.” Check out other traveler highlights from our Scandinavia tours as well as the best fjords to visit in Norway in our Fjord Travel Guide.

    Norway travel tip: What’s the best way to prep for a day on the fjords? Our staffer Katie says “Dress appropriately! Multiple layers and water-resistant options are best.” Check out more helpful tips on what to know before you go to Scandinavia.

  • Ride the Flåm Railway. One of the best things to do in Norway is to take a ride on one of the steepest railways in the world. The bonus? It’s also hailed by many as one of the most scenic. While reminiscing about dreamy scenes from Northern Europe, traveler Cheryl said, “I think everyone should cruise through the fjords and take the train to Flåm. Simply amazing. It was the most amazing scenery I’d ever seen.”

    The Flåm Railway starts at sea level from Sognefjord, the longest fjord in Norway (check out the Norway Fjord Guide for more insider tips on the best fjords to see in Norway). The train climbs 20 kilometers to the mountain-top station, Myrdal. Keep your camera ready as the train coasts through the spectacular Flåm Valley, past cascading waterfalls, and through steep mountainsides via multiple tunnels. An hour isn’t nearly enough time to absorb all that natural beauty, and we wouldn’t blame you if you want to take the ride twice!

    Norway travel tip: One of our best travel tips for Norway is to sit back and enjoy the journey. Traveling through Norway means adventure-filled days, and it’s all worthwhile once you see Norway’s top attractions.

  • Admire the colorful Bryggen wharf in Bergen. The brightly-colored 17th century houses that line the old Hanseatic wharf—once the region’s most successful international trading port—are one of the top things to see on our Norway tours. The area’s attractiveness and cultural significance secured its UNESCO World Heritage status. However, Bryggen is more than just a pretty face. Push past the colorful facade to find small shops tucked between the historic buildings. This is a great place to stock up on locally made art, jewelry, and textiles. Traveler Cheryl said, “Bergen is, by far, one of the most beautiful, serene places I have ever been. Describing this place would be a disservice, it was so spectacular." No wonder it was one of her favorite scenes from Northern Europe!

  • Soak up Bergen’s mountain top views. Bergen isn’t known as The City of Seven Mountains for nothing! A cluster of seven peaks surround the city and make a spectacular backdrop. The most accessible of these is Mount Fløyen, and the summit is just an 8-minute ride from the city center via the Fløibanen funicular. Once at the top, look out on the gorgeous panoramas of Bergen and the historic harbor below. If you’re into amazing vistas, this is one of Norway’s top attractions on tour. “There’s no way my camera captured the beauty of this mountainous land,” said traveler Cheryl about the dreamy scenes in Northern Europe. “The waterfalls... aaah, a magical dream come true.”

  • Visit the Viking Ship Museum. If you visit Norway, you must travel to the nation’s capital to see the world’s best-preserved Viking ships, housed in the Viking Ship Museum. Gokstad, Tune, and Oseberg—once functional longships—were later used as tombs in funeral rituals for their owners. Archeologists excavated the ships and discovered skeletal remains, wooden carvings, textiles, and tools (all displayed in the museum) that help shape our knowledge of Viking history. Our travel experts picked this museum as one of their favorites! Check out more of the top things we love about Scandinavia.

    After her visit to the museum, our staffer Katie said, “The Vikings have this history of being ruthless and violent, and I personally enjoyed learning about the myths and actually debunking many of them.” Find out what else Katie highlights as must-know info before you go on tour in Scandinavia.


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BEST FREE TIME ACTIVITIES IN NORWAY

Free time in Norway means opportunities to discover local hangouts and landmarks for a more in-depth experience of Nordic culture. Check out these suggestions on what to do in Norway in your free time from our Go Ahead Tours travel experts.

  • Stroll through Frogner Park. With more than 100 acres of green space and the world’s largest sculpture park designed by a single artist, Oslo’s Frogner Park is one of the best things to see in Norway. Wander the crisscross paths, admire Norway’s biggest collection of roses (around 14,000!), and check out Vigelandsparken, Gustav Vigeland’s Sculpture Park.

    Norway travel tip: For a quintessential Norwegian experience, our travel experts suggest maximizing the midnight sun with an evening stroll through the park, followed by a late-night picnic in broad daylight. That’s something you definitely can’t pull off at home! Check out the best things to do in Scandinavia in the summer for more ways to take advantage of the long daylight hours.

  • Visit the Oslo Opera House. Oslo’s opera house not only claims a prime position at the head of the Oslofjord, it’s also one of the best sites to visit in Norway’s capital. The building’s unique design allows you to climb the sweeping staircase to the roof of the building for panoramic views of the capital. Even if you don’t stay for a show, the architecture and vistas alone make the Opera House a must-see while visiting Norway.

  • Hike Mount Ulriken. The highest peak over Bergen offers a challenging hike, if you’re up for a physical afternoon. Mount Ulriken reaches 2,110 feet, and you can reach the summit via the 1,300 man-made stairs that start behind the cable car station. The climb takes roughly 1.5 hours, but your reward is a spectacular view over Bergen. Refuel at Sky:Skraperen before you descend back to Bergen. You can hike back down, take the cable car, or extend the adventure with a turn on Norway’s fastest zipline.

    Norway travel tip: Want to make a day of it outdoors? Consider the trek from Mount Ulriken along Vidden trail to Mount Floyen. This 8-mile trail traverses the plateau between the two mountains with sprawling views over Bergen. Once you reach Floyen, you can walk down or take the Fløibanen funicular back down. The entire trip takes most of the day, but it’s considered a must-do activity in Bergen for fitness fanatics and nature lovers.

  • Chat up the locals. Did you know that Norway was #2 on the World’s Happiness Report in 2018? Norway is known for its friendly locals and laid-back lifestyle. If you’re looking for things to do in Norway in your free time, head to a cafe and experience the welcoming vibes that make Norway such a pleasant country to visit. Strike up a conversation with the locals, and you’ll probably end up with a few new friends by the end of the day!


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WHAT TO EAT IN NORWAY

Norway is known for its hearty meals of meat, potatoes, and sweet treats to balance it out. Every day in Norway is an adventure, and you’ll need to refuel often. Luckily, there are plenty of choices when it comes to traditional food. One of our tips for visiting Norway is to keep an open mind and empty stomach. Norway returns the favor and keeps you full and satisfied.

  • Smorbrod. The open-face sandwich style is famous throughout Scandinavia, and Norway’s version is simple and fulfilling. A Norwegian smorbrod generally consists of a piece of bread as a vessel for several scrumptious toppings like cheese, smoked salmon, fish, or roast beef.

  • Hot dogs. A polse (Norwegian hot dog) is one of the tastiest and cheapest snacks you can try in Norway, but it’s a bit different than the hot dog you’d eat at home. A polse comes wrapped in flatbread, and while ketchup and mustard are still standards, there are some alternative topping options too. Some favorites include crispy onions, potato or shrimp salad, and cheese. Our staffer Katie said, “It was fun to try hot dogs in each Scandinavian country because they all had different topping options.” Check out the other tips Katie says you should know before you go on tour to Scandinavia.

    Norway travel tip: Polse are served in almost every convenient store around Norway, but we recommend seeking out a hot dog street stall for the real deal. Syverkiosken in Oslo is not only a city staple, it’s a top Norway attraction in itself!

  • Rakfisk. Traditionally and culturally significant, Rakfisk is the result of a preservation process discovered centuries ago in Norway. Fermented for weeks or months (sometimes up to a year!), Rakfisk (usually trout) is a local favorite and a must-try when you travel to Norway. The strong smell might deter you at first, but when served with flatbread (lefse), sour cream, potatoes, and onions, the fermented fish makes for a savory meal. Would you try it?

  • Raspeballer. This is Norway’s version of comfort food and the perfect dish to feast on after a long day of exploration. Best described as a dumpling, potatoes are boiled in pork or sheep stock before being grated and combined with flour to form dense, doughy balls. Order with “dotte” if you want some bacon bits inside your raspeballer!

    Norway travel tip: Many restaurants serve raspeballer as a special meal on Thursdays (a tradition dating back to when groceries stores lured in shoppers with the tempting food once a week). Come hungry!

  • Reindeer. Whether served in a stew (finnbiff) or as a steak, reindeer is a popular meat that pops up all over Norway. It’s described as rich, gamey, and similar to beef. Reindeer is often served with lingonberry jam, Norway’s signature spread for everything from meat to pancakes. Follow this lingonberry jam recipe and bring a little piece of Norway home with you. And don’t worry if you can’t find lingonberries—cranberries are a great substitute.

  • Lefse. This long-standing grab-and-go Norwegian treat is made from sweetened flatbread spread with butter, sugar, and cinnamon. Lefse is then folded and rolled for easy transport. It won’t take you long to encounter this sweet treat—lefse is common in ferry terminals, grocery stores, and restaurants.



WHAT TO DRINK IN NORWAY

You have to wash down all that food with something! These are two of the most popular Norwegian adult beverages to sip on tour in Norway. Skål!

  • Aquavit. Also known as akvavit or snapps, this is a liquor that’s kept Norwegians warm for centuries and a must-try when you travel to Norway. This spirit is infused with a variety of herbs like caraway, fennel, coriander, and anise and then aged in oak cases. Aquavit is typically gulped from a shot glass, but be warned—it packs a serious punch!
  • Glogg. There’s another way to warm up in Norway if aquavit tastes a bit on the strong side. Warm and spiced, glogg is comparable to mulled red wine. It’s the perfect companion to curl up with at the end of a chilly day.

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SOUVENIRS TO BUY IN NORWAY

Your pictures from Norway will be worth a thousand (and many more) words. If that’s all you bring back, it will be more than enough, but it’s always nice to remember your trip with a souvenir. Here are the top three things to bring back from your trip to Norway.

  • Lusekofte. The traditional Norwegian sweater is fashionable, practical, and makes a great souvenir. Woven from warm and cozy sheep’s wool, the sweater’s name, meaning “lice jacket,” comes from the characteristic dotted pattern. The small V-shaped spots were originally only stitched with black wool and worn mostly by men. However, now both men and women sport the sweaters in many different colors and patterns.
  • Kjenge. Bring back an authentic piece of Norwegian history. A kjenge is a carved out wooden bowl with a handle on either side, traditionally used to drink ale in Norwegian farm societies. One of our insider travel tips for Norway is to shop at Oslo’s many antique shops to find an authentic kjenge—and other cool vintage finds!
  • A troll. These small creatures stem from Norwegian folklore. You can spot figurines and statues of trolls all over Norway, from clothing shops and restaurants to parks and roadsides. Although ugly, a troll doll is a great way to look back on your Norwegian adventure.

Have you traveled on one of our Norway tours? Did you have an unforgettable experience traveling in Norway? Share your best Norway travel tips on our Facebook page!


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About the author | The Go Ahead Tours Team
We’re a team of passionate travel experts, dedicated to helping people explore the world. From inspiring stories to tips for an amazing trip, the topics we cover are all about getting you out there and making discoveries.

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