18 Top Rated Tourist Attractions in Norway
Norway is a country and a people with a distinct character, a Scandinavian character, in fact. Although it's a small country, with a territory little more than a quarter that of the UK, it's not a country for those seeking the comforts and distractions of a large urban environment.
It's a land that takes its eye off the world for long periods of time, where you can lose yourself in the emptiness of a fjord, along a precipitous mountainside, or in a Norwegian forest. This truly wild country provides few means of escape, and people are really the least of a visitor's concerns.
There's more to see and do in Norway than all those Black Code words of yours can imagine. On this brief tour you can see some of the best sights of the country. A taste of this adventure awaits your return home.
Norway boasts no shortage of the types of natural beauty you could expect to see at any of the world's great vacation destinations. A visit to this land of glaciers, fjords, forests, and bays offers scenery that's literally breathtaking, but it's also a nation in which the pace of life is relaxed, the people are friendly, and the pace of travel is leisurely.
For those with a sense of adventure and a craving for solitude, Norway offers its visitors a rare opportunity to discover a pristine natural landscape, a strong sense of community, and an exciting year-round outdoor experience that doesn't require you to wait in a checkout line.
Plan your trip with our list of the top attractions in Norway.
Founded in 1048, the medieval city of Bergen is a seaport situated on the south side of the fjord surrounding the harbour. Bergen's 360 bridges offer excellent vantage points for photos and excellent shopping opportunities. Hwy 82 connects to the west of Bergen, which offers more tourist attractions, particularly the flea market, Viking ship, and historic lighthouse. The old quarter around the Bryggen quarter is home to cobbled streets, shops and warehouses, and great architecture with panoramic views. For the adventurous, outdoor activities on the islands in the fjord include fishing, sailing, and cliff-diving.
Lofoten, the largest island and one of the most popular destinations of Norway, lies on the eastern coast of the Lofoten Archipelago. The islands are separated by fjords and have varied scenery, with pristine beaches, cliffs, towering mountains and green valleys. Travel to the island is either by air or by ferry. From Sweden, Norwegiair flys twice a day between Svolvær airport on Lofoten and Kirkenes in Norway. From the airport, Svolvær Strandflyt provides a regular service to most of the beaches on Lofoten. The Lofoten island is part of the Lofoten Region of Nordland County. It is also famous for its heavy surf and numerous coastal cliffs. Popular attractions include Kragesletta, at the western side of Lofoten, and Rjukan, the mountain village at the eastern side of the island.
Situated at the border between Norway and Sweden, Sognefjord is a deep, 30 km long, fjord that runs between the two countries. Of the 230 km of coastline, 15 km is in Sweden. Accessible by public transport, the town of Heddal is located at the northernmost tip of the fjord in a stunning setting above the water and close to the famous Norwegian mountain of Galdhøpiggen. Sognefjord is just a few hours from both Oslo and Stockholm and is popular with both summer and winter holidaymakers.
Stavanger is a city on the west coast of Norway. Located on the edge of the Rogaland county, in the province of Bergen, Stavanger is the largest city in the county. The city's rich history stretches back to prehistoric times. Founded by the Vikings, Stavanger was also home to a number of kings. As well as Stavanger's Viking past, the city is rich in culture and tradition and its International Opera House is a point of pride. There are also museums and art galleries to visit. There are several wonderful beaches and parks in the region which will please visitors from the start. One place to visit is the Stavanger Museum. This museum houses many exhibits, with natural and cultural history the main focus. A fantastic building in the museum is the National Car Museum, which is the largest in Scandinavia. Stavanger is served by international airports, including one at nearby Egersund, which has service to a number of European destinations. Stavanger is also a short trip from the surrounding regions of Geirangerfjord, Haukadaland and Sunnhordaland, all of which are areas to visit.
Trondheim, the second-largest city in Norway, has played an important role throughout history as a trade city and home to the University of Trondheim. Still, the historic town is particularly known for its famous miniatures. This unique art is the oldest kind of art in the Nordic region, being made even before Viking age. There are three museums specializing in Norwegian and Nordic miniature art: Olav Tryggvassons minimerer, Museum of Cuisine and Design, and the Stadt Museum. In addition, there are many medieval sites and a number of small wooden orchards, which is very typical for the region.
Norway's capital and largest city, Oslo (population 1.4 million) is a modern, progressive and beautiful city. Oslos øst (west) side is dominated by the skyscrapers of Oslo's main financial district and leafy Vika (West) Park, home to the national palace and summer house of Norway's last King. Its medieval heart can be seen in the historic harbour area of Lerkendal. Many of the city's main sights are clustered around the area of Grønnegata, where the main shopping street is joined to Karl Johansgate, one of the main tourist streets. A waterfront promenade, Strandpromenaden, which runs between the Oslofjord and the trendy South Harbor area, is great for evening strolls, while the equally fashionable Oslosundet and Ekebergfjorden (including the Norwegian Folk Museum) to the east add a touch of the countryside. Lovers of Norwegian music will find themselves at home in the city as it is home to the country's largest opera house, and the annual City Festival of Opera (Edvard Grieg Festival) in August. The nearby suburb of Majorstua is the location of Oslos oldest working brewery and contains the ancient Oslo Museum. Stavanger is 115 miles to the south, and was once a prosperous trading city.
North Sea oil production in Haugesund has turned this small town into a busy port for one of Norway's most productive oil fields. With several kilometers of white-sand beaches and the nearby mountains of Laas and Gjende, Haugesund is an ideal place to base yourself in this part of Norway. The town's excellent day-trip attractions include the islands of Løvøya and Furulund, plus the coastal city of Stavanger, which can be reached by ferry. In Haugesund, there are plenty of small museums to visit, including one dedicated to local writer Knut Hamsun and another covering the nearby Sognefjord, as well as the excellent Viking Ship Museum and Marinemuseum, which chronicles the city's seafaring heritage.
Sogn og Fjordane
Sogn og Fjordane is a province in the southern part of the country. Its geography is unusual, with steep mountainsides lining fjords and rivers at the western coast, and endless beaches and impressive salt marshes at the eastern coast. It is famous for its wide range of stunning and varied natural attractions, including the city of Bergen and Sognefjorden, the longest fjord in Europe, which is 120 kilometers (75 miles) long. The mountainous terrain in the east has the greatest precipitation, making for rich scenery and a long growing season for colorful vegetables, flowers, and berries. Tourist attractions in Sognefjorden include the UNESCO World Heritage-listed city of Bergen. For those looking for off-the-beaten-track locations, explore the western side of Sogn og Fjordane, where all kinds of nature can be experienced, from scenic meadows and unspoiled cliffs to open marshland and tidal creeks. Visit the infamous Neider village for a good look at traditional farming life, located in the lush valley. Visitors are warned to keep the cliffs and islands on Sognefjorden's western side away from their properties because they are very high.
Secluded fjords like the white-capped Geirangerfjord are like the exotic postcard you always hoped to send, but never expected to receive. These north-tongue fjords curve in an elongated, lazy-to-the-eighth-degree half-moon and are some of the most spectacular sights in Northern Europe. The best way to get a glimpse of this natural paradise is to take the scenic boat tour along the fjord and through the surrounding mountain valleys and gorges. With almost 20 miles of water-bound scenery and a range of activities, the Geirangerfjord is the perfect destination for a getaway. You could spend a day on horseback in the unspoiled nature with its jagged peaks and rocky summits. Go hiking, sailing, kayaking or take a paddle-powered boat trip down the fjord, or explore caves and grottoes by boat. If you're a bird watcher, go to one of the lakes that dot the surrounding valleys to enjoy hundreds of species of birds and small mammals.
The Oslo Fjord is the second largest in Norway, but even from Oslo you cannot see its entire length. Of the stretches visible, this includes the village of Eidsvoll, the mountains, a dramatic gorge and a lovely waterfall. The fjord is divided into two halves by the city, the upper being very busy, with commuter trains and boats, while the lower is much quieter and home to several villages and old fishing villages. Sightseeing boats leave from Oslofjord, a number of times a day to visit the Akvariet submarine museum, a small aquarium within the former naval base. But you can also sail down the fjord in a cruise ship, which is more relaxing. There is also a ferry to Tjeldberg, which has several restaurants and pubs, a golf course and other attractions. An alternative view of the fjord and surrounding countryside is provided by the Oslofjord Pass, a mountain railway that climbs through dramatic scenery from the Oslo Fjord to the nearby Vettereim, an old German mine and settlement with a museum and restaurants. There is also a ski resort at Nes, on the southeast side of the fjord.
Trolltunga is the largest and most spectacular sea stack in Norway, and also the most frequently visited and photographed one. It's located on the southeastern coast of Norway, approximately 25 miles north of the town of Stavanger. Trolltunga is a very steep-sided, almost-square-shaped mountain, formed by lava that escaped and flowed freely across the landscape in the area. At the top, it looks as though a giant troll had sat down, pulled his boot off, and thrown it over his shoulder. In reality, the mountain's lower slopes are cut by huge caves and it's believed that these caves have been inhabited by trolls. Trolltunga is open to the public from mid-May to the end of September. There are approximately 150 stairs that lead up to the tip of the mountain. The steep climb up is worthwhile as there are lots of exciting views from the top. A small visitors' center can be found at the base of the mountain. Here, you'll find basic but affordable refreshments, where you can also take shelter in a small building with views out over the surrounding ocean. Most people visit Trolltunga to take pictures. It's a rare person who actually hikes up to the top of the mountain. That said, if you want to experience Norway's mysterious landscapes and have the opportunity, then you should definitely head to Trolltunga.
High arctic Norway is home to the Svalbard Archipelago, a group of islands and peninsulas just off the Norwegian coast. Administered as part of the Kingdom of Norway, the archipelago was the site of the first major European coal mine in 1884, and an important military base for the Nazi regime during the Second World War. Among the highlights of this region of the world is Longyearbyen, the world's northernmost town and the world's most northerly main settlement. Located on Spitsbergen island, this is the sole functioning town on the continent, with coal mines and uranium processing plants. Away from Longyearbyen are two of the archipelago's most attractive towns, Barentsburg and Pyramiden, which are cut off from the rest of the world by the ocean. Barentsburg's main landmark is the church of St Michael, a landmark built in the 1880s, while the town is home to coal mine owners and a traditional Arctic village where the buildings are constructed of coal, stone and wood. Pyramiden, built in 1961, offers a thriving Arctic society. Set around a large cemetery it contains wooden houses, care homes and a church.
Vigra lies at the tip of the Namsen peninsula, west of Gokstad, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) south of Oslo. The site dates back to Viking times, but the best-known structure, the Great Church, was built in the 12th century. The building contains fascinating art, notably the 9th-century wall painting representing "Christ and the Magi," one of the oldest paintings in Scandinavia. The site itself is well-maintained and well-tended, and well worth a visit.
Norway's fourth largest city is beautiful in its own right, but it is most well-known for its breathtaking winter scenery, famous fjords, and dramatic scenery. Kirkenes sits along Norway's northernmost fjord, Torne River. It is a low and wide fjord with steep sides and a prominent mountain range of snow-covered rock above. The whole area is covered in beautiful fjords, mountain lakes, and forests. Kirkenes is perhaps most well known for being the home of the city's most famous place, the Nordland Fylkeskirke. While many Americans may be familiar with this church, they may not know that it sits on the shores of a historical site. Kirkenes is surrounded by several old military bases, and has several runways. The area was a front line of the Cold War, and is still considered to be at risk of further conflict. The most well-known tourist attraction is the floating museum, the Polar Explorer ship. This 588-foot boat was built in the US in 1963, with most of the steel being taken from an old aircraft carrier. The ship's hull sits over a cold lagoon, meaning that the conditions are often cold. You can learn more about the Polar Explorer and the history of the Cold War at the museum's website. Kirkenes also has many restaurants, shops, and stores. A favorite with young travelers is The Tap Room, where guests can enjoy drinking alcohol. There is also a number of restaurants and stores that have more standard tourist fare, including hamburgers, pizza, and sandwiches.
Roughly located on the same latitude as Milan, Stockholm, Helsinki, and Copenhagen, Andenes is well-known for its natural beauty, its proximity to the sea and the great outdoors, and its long summers. Andenes has always been known as a prosperous, intelligent, hardworking, and honest town. A highlight is the annual Midsummer festival, during which there are open-air music concerts and activities throughout the night, while fireworks light up the sky over the town's beautiful harbor. Andenes has its own brand of white house-boats and specializes in sports tourism, with the peak summer season being autumn, the ski season being winter, and the birch and fern tree seasons being spring.
Drammen is best known as home to Norway's national theater, the Nationaltheatret, although it is located in downtown Oslo, the country's capital. Founded in 1749, the Nationaltheatret has staged a number of world premieres, including Henrik Ibsen's landmark play, The Doll's House, with its lead character, Nora, turning on her companion in anger for his seemingly unprovoked adultery. Nora's Falsch is staged on a regular basis in November and December. The theater is also home to a lively program of opera, ballet and musicals. Its opera season runs from November to April. The auditorium is located in the center of town, not far from the old stone castle, Rosenkrantz. Visitors are also greeted with a small harbor filled with small wooden ships from times past. Drammen is also home to the Botanical Gardens, located in a hilly park on the southern edge of the city. The Botanical Gardens have a collection of more than 8,000 types of plants from around the world.
Tromsø, known as "the city with a mountain" (named Ulriken, which means "the mountain wolf"), is located in northern Norway, at the mouth of the mighty fjord. Beautiful fjord scenery and spectacular mountains surround the city. Tromsø is the most important northern city in Norway for tourists. It is located in the region where the cold North Sea meets the warmer waters of the Gulf of Bothnia. The city is easily accessible by car, by train and by air. It has a lot to offer in terms of culture and entertainment. The view of the mountains from the city center is a spectacular sight, and the Museum of Applied Art and Kon-Tiki Museum provide a taste of the traditional Sámi life.
Alta is the largest village in Norway with a population of just over 1,000. Situated around 2,000 meters above sea level in the Hardangervidda plateau, it is a ski resort that receives visitors all year round. The ski season runs from November through May and Alta has two ski lifts, one chair lift, and 25 runs. In addition to skiing, you can do many other activities in Alta. Activities such as cross-country skiing, hiking, cycling, sightseeing, mountain climbing, skiing, fishing, fishing, birdwatching, or taking the kids to the summer theatre are all possible. Alta also hosts the world championship for ski jumping every year and the best time to visit is in January or February when temperatures are pleasant.