With icy fjords surrounded by impossibly steep cliffs, majestic glaciers that snake down from ice fields, and rugged coastal islands where people enjoy a simpler way of life, Norway is one of the most beautiful and captivating countries in the world.
A remarkably fascinating place, Norway stands out from the crowd for a number of reasons. It’s where ancient and modern skiing was invented, it’s home to the largest herd of wild reindeer in Europe, and it even has its own active volcano, which is safely tucked away on Jan Mayen island in the Norwegian Sea.
If you’re a fan of winter sports, you can fill your days with skiing, snowboarding, tobogganing, dog sledding, and loads more. Visit during summer, and you can spend your time exploring sculpture parks, swimming in glistening lakes, and digging into sun-dappled picnics.
If you prefer to spend your time indoors, you’ll discover all kinds of intriguing museums, galleries, spas, and restaurants where you can relax and stay cozy. Whichever time of year you visit, you’ll never be stuck for what to do in Norway.
With so many fun things to see and do, it can be tricky to know where to begin. To give you a helping hand, we’ve put together a list of the best things to do in Norway. Add these activities and attractions to your Norway bucket list, and you’re guaranteed to have an incredible time exploring the Land of the Midnight Sun.
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25 Fun and Unique Things to Do In Norway
1. Marvel at the Northern Lights
One of the most unique things to do in Norway is to watch the phenomenal natural light show that is the Northern Lights. Because of its fantastic location (some of the country is actually in and above the Arctic Circle), Norway is an incredible place to see the Aurora Borealis.
To have the best chance of seeing the natural show, plan your trip for winter and spend some time in Tromsø, Kirkenes, the Lofoten Islands, North Cape (Nordkapp), or Svalbard. You’ll get the best view in complete darkness with zero light pollution and totally clear skies.
You can download a Northern Lights app to try and spot the show yourself or sign up for an Aurora Borealis safari and let your guide take you to the places where you’ll have the best chance.
Even if you visit at the best time of year under optimum conditions, you’re still not guaranteed to see the Northern Lights. Because of this, we recommend you spend 3-4 nights in your chosen location to boost your chances!
2. See bizarre statues at Vigeland Park
Oslo is home to loads of parks, and Vigeland Park is one of our favorites. This park is always open, and entry is completely free, making it a great choice if you’ve got a budget to stick to. Not only is it a top place to get away from the hustle and bustle of Norway’s capital, but it’s also where you can see some of the most unusual sculptures you’ll ever come across in your life.
Vigeland Park is home to over 200 statues made by the 20th-century sculptor Gustav Vigeland. These one-of-a-kind bronze and granite creations depict all kinds of curious and bizarre situations you could only dream of!
Some of the most unusual statues include one of a man struggling to fight off four angry toddlers, a woman on all fours being ridden like a horse by a baby, a huge baby throwing a tantrum, and a man trying to toss a woman into a lake.
The most striking piece in the park is the giant totem pole. It rises 14 meters into the air and is made up of 121 naked bodies. The standout artwork took 14 years to carve from a single piece of granite.
3. Hit the slopes in the Lyngen Alps
If you’re a fan of winter sports, going skiing is one of the must-do things in Norway. There are loads of incredible ski destinations in the country, but the amazing Lyngen Alps has got to be one of the best.
This popular ski resort is located in the Arctic Circle and spans a colossal mountain range that stretches for around 90 kilometers along the border of Sweden. Here you’ll be surrounded by plunging fjords, colossal glaciers, sparkling rivers, scenic gorges, and towering peaks.
The stunning scenery makes skiing a delight here – even if you’re totally new to the sport.
If you don’t want to hit the slopes on a pair of skis, there are plenty of other things you can do in the Lyngen Alps, too. Rock climbing is hugely popular in this area, and you can also go on a snow safari or dog sledding tour. During winter, you may even see the Northern Lights!
4. Have your photo taken at iconic spots
While you’re exploring the best sights in Norway, create plenty of content for your Instagram account by visiting some of the most photogenic spots in the country.
Trolltunga is one place you’ve absolutely got to visit. The name translates into English as “Troll Tongue,” and that’s pretty much what it looks like. Here you can sit on a piece of rock that extends off a mountain and dangle your feet high above the glistening ocean down below.
Kjerag is another amazing place to have your picture taken. Here you’ll find the Kjeragbolten boulder, which is solidly wedged in between two cliffs above a one-kilometer plunge into the water far below. You can sit, stand, or even jump on the rock to get a superb picture. The rock isn’t going anywhere!
The historic harbor in Bryggen is another place that looks stunning in photos. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site that’s best known for its colorful houses, which line the water.
5. Indulge your taste buds with smoked salmon
When you’re in Norway, you’ve absolutely got to try smoked salmon at least once. No matter how many times you’ve had it before or how incredible the quality was, you’ve never had smoked salmon like the kind you get in Norway.
Norwegian smoked salmon is given an extra-long time to mature. This creates its addictive melt-in-your-mouth texture, wonderful butteriness, rich flavor, and deep color. While it’s fabulous when served on a freshly toasted bagel with oodles of cream cheese, Norwegian smoked salmon is so good that you can eat it on its own with a little drizzle of lemon juice.
Because it’s so popular and accessible, you can find smoked salmon all over the place in Norway – from simple grocery stores and small cafes to Michelin-starred restaurants.
One of our favorite places to savor Norwegian smoked salmon is Fiskeriet Youngstorget. This traditional fish shop serves it beautifully chilled with a fresh fennel salad, pickled seaweed, toasted breadcrumbs, and mustard-mayonnaise.
For something more budget-friendly, you can buy your own smoked salmon. Ultra and Meny grocery stores serve a brand called Jackob’s that is fantastic.
6. Ride the Fjellheisen Cable Car
For one of the best Norway sightseeing opportunities, ride the Fjellheisen Cable Car to the top of Mount Storsteinen. The super-speedy journey takes just four minutes to whisk you to the peak, which stands 420 meters above sea level.
When you reach the summit of the mountain, you’ll be treated to breathtaking views that seem to go on forever. You can see all across Tromsø and its tiny houses, as well as many surrounding islands, fjords, and mountains. If you visit at sunset, you’ll even get to watch the sun gracefully dip behind the mountains.
If you’re in the mood for something to eat, we definitely recommend you grab a table at Fjellstua. This fabulous cafe is open for lunch and dinner and dishes up a casual Norwegian menu with a number of vegetarian and vegan options. While the food is superb, the best part is the view you get to savor while eating.
7. Go surfing in the Arctic
One of the most unusual things you can do in Norway is to catch a wave in the Arctic Sea! Whichever time of year you visit, there’s guaranteed to be somewhere with great surf where you can practice the popular water sport.
Lofoten has consistently excellent surfing conditions, even in chilly January. If you’re new to surfing but you’d like to give it a try, you can sign up for lessons at Unstad Beach. The staff there are very experienced with complete newbies who want to tick this bizarre item off their Norway bucket list.
Even if you’ve got absolutely no intention of getting in the water, it’s still worth making a trip to Unstad Beach. It’s great fun watching the surfers take to the icy waters and show off their impressive skills.
The surroundings are absolutely stunning, too. In summer, Unstad Beach boasts aquamarine waters and a beautiful backdrop with mountains covered in lush grass. In winter, the mountains are usually covered in a thick blanket of snow, making the place look even more mesmerizing.
8. Warm up in a floating sauna
One of the most fun Norway activities in winter is to visit a floating sauna. You’ll find a number of floating saunas throughout the country, but our favorite is KOK, which is located opposite the Oslo Opera House.
Because of its unique location, this sauna allows you to stay warm and cozy inside the wooden hut for as long as you like. If you ever get too hot, you can step onto the sauna’s balcony and freshen up in the cool Norwegian air. If you’re still too hot, you can even go for a swim in the icy sea!
There’s nothing for sale inside the sauna. So if you think you’ll need any snacks or drinks (it does get very hot inside), make sure you take them with you. Up to two units of alcohol per person are allowed, but nothing that may stain the wood, such as red wine.
9. Explore the Arctic-Alpine Botanical Garden
One of the most beautiful gardens in Norway actually sits above the Arctic Circle. The Arctic-Alpine Botanic Garden is in Tromsø, a charming little village located 349 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle.
The stunning gardens span almost two hectares and boast thousands of plant species that have been collected from all over the world. Because of the garden’s unique location, plants and flowers need to be considerably resilient to survive. This is why many of the species you can see here are Arctic varieties that can stand up to the freezing conditions.
Some of the most interesting species in the garden include Siberian lilies, Arctic poppies, and a host of herbs and mosses that live happily in between the rocks throughout the garden.
While the plants and flowers are certainly the highlights of the Arctic-Alpine Botanic Garden, there are plenty of other things to see, too. You’ll find thundering waterfalls, bubbling fish ponds, and picturesque pathways to explore here.
10. Check out Oya Festival
One of the coolest things to do in Norway is to party at Oya Festival. Held each year in Tøyen Park in Oslo, this dynamic music festival is one of the best summer events and attracts an incredible lineup of bands and artists from all over the world.
Oya Festival began modestly way back in 1999. Over the decades, it transformed into one of the capital’s largest outdoor music events. The spellbinding festival takes place over four days each August and is known for its consistently excellent lineup.
Some of the biggest artists who have taken to the stage in the past include Morrissey, the Arctic Monkeys, and Sonic Youth. Every year around 60,000 people attend Oya Festival to be entranced by the live music shows performed across three stages.
To help you get in the mood, Oslo organizes a Club Night the evening before the festival begins. This smaller event is held throughout several clubs in the city and gives you an idea of what you can expect from the actual festival with a range of live performances.
11. Enjoy a scenic rail journey
Norway is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. While you may not be able to take in all its spectacular scenery in one visit, you can see a lot of it by hopping on a scenic rail journey.
There are more than 3,000 kilometers of tracks across Norway. So no matter where you’re based or where you want to go, you’re bound to find a route that works for you. Unlike a road trip, a train ride allows you to see parts of the country you can’t see any other way, all while relaxing and enjoying the trip.
You’ll be spoiled for choice with different routes. If you don’t know which one to pick, we recommend the Bergen Railway trip. This journey takes you through the mountains to the dazzling fjords. It passes by a number of iconic Norwegian spots, such as the Hardangervidda National Park and the Hardangervidda plateau.
12. Spend some time in Lillehammer
Whichever time of year you visit, one of the best things to do in Norway is to explore Lillehammer. This gorgeous town is nestled close to Lake Mjosa and is home to a huge number of activities and attractions that everyone will enjoy.
Here you can wander around the open-air museum of Maihaugen Park, home to almost 200 traditional buildings that give you an idea of what it was like to live in Norway centuries ago. The town is also home to Peer Gynt Cottage, which is thought to have inspired Ibsen’s play, as well as the Lysgardsbakkene Ski Jumping Arena, which is open throughout the year.
If you visit Lillehammer in winter, you can try out some winter sports, too. The town has amazing facilities for ice skating, skiing, and curling. You’ll also find a number of Nordic trails which are just as beautiful to walk along in winter as they are in summer.
13. Explore the Norwegian Folk Museum
If you think you don’t like museums, the Norwegian Folk Museum will surely change your mind. Totally different from the image that pops into your head when you think of a museum, the Norwegian Folk Museum invites you to step back in time and find out what life was like for locals hundreds of years ago.
The open-air museum is like a small village that you can wander through as you wish. During your visit, you’ll discover all kinds of rural and urban Norwegian buildings that were popular during the Middle Ages up to the 20th century.
There are more than 150 fascinating buildings to explore here. Although there are many highlights, one of the most spectacular is the original Gol Stave Church, which dates back to the 12th century.
While the Norwegian Folk Museum is fun to visit at any time of year, it’s even better in summer. During the warmer months, you can hand-feed the museum’s animal residents, enjoy a romantic horse and carriage ride, and find out how to make traditional lefse flatbread.
14. Get back to nature in the Geirangerfjord region
Due to its unparalleled beauty and serenity, Geirangerfjord is one of the most popular Norway attractions. A protected UNESCO World Heritage Site, Geirangerfjord forms a section of the gigantic Fjord Norway Network and stretches on for more miles than you’ll be able to count.
The remarkable fjord is a staggering 259 meters deep and is surrounded by dominating mountains that are up to 1,676 meters high. The shimmering blue water and rugged mountain faces will truly take your breath away.
Close to the deserted farm Knivsflå, you can spot seven spectacular waterfalls. These falls tumble an average of 259 meters into the water below. The best time to see them is between May and July, when the melting snow makes the waterfalls incredibly powerful and enchanting.
These waterfalls are known as the Seven Sisters Waterfalls because they’re said to resemble the hair of seven women. On the opposite side, you can see a single waterfall in the shape of a bottle called the Suitor.
15. Learn a thing or two at the Polar Museum
Visit the Polar Museum in Tromsø for the chance to learn everything there is to know about the Arctic expeditions that left from Norway. The museum also features a number of interesting exhibitions which take a look at sea mammal hunting and the dangers of Arctic trapping.
The Polar Museum is set inside a former warehouse from 1837 and boasts several permanent galleries that tell the stories of ancient Sami people. Here you can discover how they used to hunt for animals such as whales, polar bears, seals, and walruses.
One of the most interesting parts of the museum is the replica trapper’s cabin. It’s designed to look like one of the cabins from 1900 that would have been used as a temporary residence for two men to survive in for a full Arctic winter with no supplies or contact with the outside world. It’s so cramped that it’s almost impossible to believe anyone could stay in there for months without going mad!
16. Fill up with a giant plate of meatballs
When you need some energy to help you plow through your list of Norway activities, find a restaurant that serves traditional Norwegian food and order yourself a plate of meatballs. While Sweden or Italy may be the first country you think of when it comes to meatballs, Norway makes a mean one, too!
Norwegian meatballs are pretty similar to Swedish meatballs. They’re served with a generous helping of a rich brown sauce and are a classic comfort food you’ll find in almost every traditional restaurant across the country.
In Norway, meatballs are served with steamed carrots, boiled potatoes, and a tart cranberry sauce. Although, it’s pretty common to find restaurants adding their own spin and serving them up in different ways.
Kaffistova is one of our favorite places for meatballs. This restaurant has been serving them since 1901 and specializes in classic Norwegian food. If you visit the Norwegian Folk Museum, you’ll find some of the restaurant’s original furniture on display!
17. Celebrate a Norwegian playwright at the Peer Gynt Festival
Henrik Ibsen is one of Norway’s most famous playwrights, and at the Peer Gynt Festival in the Gudbrandsdalen Valley, you can celebrate one of his best and most highly acclaimed pieces.
The festival is held over nine days each August and offers an incredible program packed with things to see and do. There are around 35 events, exhibitions, concerts, and lectures to check out!
Each year the highlight of the Peer Gynt Festival is the theatrical production of the eponymous play, which is held by Lake Gålåvatnet. The play has been performed as part of the festival since 1989 and sees some of the very best Norwegian actors and musicians take to the stage to be a part of it.
More than 80 professionals and amateurs come together to put on the show. Although the main play is in Norwegian, the introduction is also done in German and English.
Other interesting parts of the festival include a mountain music concert that overlooks the Rondane National Park and an art exhibition that’s open throughout the festival.
18. Be amazed by the Arctic Cathedral
The Arctic Cathedral is one of the best things to see in Norway. Tucked away in the quaint city of Tromsø, the cathedral looks absolutely spectacular, especially when it’s dark.
The standout cathedral was designed by architect Jan Inge Hovig. Because it was created in 1965, it’s much more modern than most cathedrals. In fact, if you didn’t know any better, you could walk past it and think it was an art gallery!
The cathedral features a dramatic style and was designed to look like a collection of large blocks of ice. The front is decorated with giant glass panels and a towering white crucifix. But step through the entrance, and you’ll find the inside of the cathedral is even more captivating than the outside.
Inside you’ll discover sparkling mosaics which make up a simple yet beautiful stained glass window. When it’s dark, the front and the sides of the cathedral are illuminated with warm, glowing lights. It looks incredible and is definitely worth going out of your way to see.
19. Take a stroll around Aker Brygge
There are countless interesting places to walk around in Norway. If you’ve got some free time in Oslo, we definitely recommend exploring Aker Brygge. This cool and chic neighborhood is one of the trendiest parts of the city, with a vibrant, sophisticated atmosphere.
Aker Brygge lies along the waterside, where you’ll find a huge choice of high-end restaurants, elegant cocktail bars, and stylish cafes. If you’re in the mood for shopping, you’ll be glad to hear that there are also a handful of stunning boutiques and designer fashion stores in this area.
Before 1928, Aker Brygge was nothing more than a shipyard surrounded by factory buildings and brick warehouses. Over the decades, it was transformed into a glamorous part of town that people would actually want to visit and spend time in. Today, Aker Brygge is one of the best places in Norway to eat, drink, shop, and simply explore.
20. Go whale watching
If you love watching wildlife in its natural habitat, one of the best things to do in Norway is to go whale watching. There are loads of fantastic places to spot whales (and sometimes even dolphins!) in the waters around Norway, but Vesterålen is our definite favorite.
You can spot orcas and humpback whales around Norway’s coast in spring and winter. But in Vesterålen, you can see huge sperm whales all year long. If you’ve never seen a real sperm whale before, you’re guaranteed to be shocked when you do. They’re absolutely giant and the experience is nothing short of surreal.
We recommend signing up for a tour on a small RIB boat to go whale watching in Norway. Sometimes the large boats can scare off marine life and make it difficult to spot anything. RIB boats allow you to get super close and see all kinds of incredible animals.
21. Visit Scandinavia’s biggest water park
Hitting a water park might not be an obvious thing to do while you’re in Norway. But if you visit during the mild summer months, a trip to Scandinavia’s biggest water park is a must!
Known as Bø Sommarland, this water park provides you with a great way to shake things up when you need a break from your Norway sightseeing itinerary. It’s built into the mountainside, so you can still enjoy the gorgeous Norwegian scenery while splashing in pools and zooming down waterslides.
There’s a train you can catch from Oslo and a bus that takes you straight from the station to Bø Sommarland, so you don’t need to worry about hiring a car. But take into account the temperature before you make the journey.
In the height of summer, temperatures reach around 20°C (68°F), which you may find a little too cold for swimming. But if you are up for the challenge, you’ll find plenty to do here.
Bø Sommarland boasts all kinds of waterslides, from extreme slides that really test your limits to family-friendly slides everyone can enjoy. There’s also an artificial surf pool, lazy river, artificial beach, and plenty of kids’ zones.
22. Fall in love with brunost
The first time you eat in a typical Norwegian restaurant, look for sourdough bread topped with brunost cheese and order it without hesitation. This appetizer is very popular throughout Norway and tastes so much better than the cheese sandwich that it sounds like.
Brunost is a special type of cheese made by boiling goat milk whey until it caramelizes and turns brown. Its tan-like color makes it look a little unusual. You may not even recognize it as cheese if you’ve never seen it before. But after your first bite, you’ll be so glad you ordered it.
This unique Norwegian cheese is somehow sweet and savory at the same time. It’s got a smooth texture, like cream cheese, but tastes almost like a savory version of salted caramel. It’s pretty difficult to describe, but after you’ve had it, you’ll want to order it again and again.
You can find brunost in almost every grocery store, cafe, and restaurant in Norway. If you’re in Oslo, we recommend ordering it from Sentralen Restaurant. Here you can find it as an appetizer served with freshly-baked bread.
23. Dance under the Northern Lights at the Nordlysfestivalen
Taking part in the Nordlysfestivalen (Northern Lights Festival) is one of the top things to do in Norway in winter. This stellar festival is held in Tromsø at the end of every January and is like one giant music festival to rival all music festivals.
For over 30 years, Nordlysfestivalen has been a huge celebration of all kinds of music, from classic to modern, jazz to opera, and symphonic orchestras to chamber music. Top artists from Norway and all over the world attend to celebrate the festival and share their talents with the thousands of people who show up looking for a great time.
There are plenty of other things going on in addition to the music concerts. Other events include exhibitions, lectures, music masterclasses, pub parties, and Northern Lights cruises. As the festival is held in northern Norway in the middle of winter, you’ve got a great chance of seeing the Northern Lights during the celebrations!
24. Tour the ice caves in Svalbard
Find out what the inside of an ancient ice cave looks like by exploring them in Svalbard. The glaciers in this part of Norway are home to many hidden passages which were created by water melting and running through the glaciers. If you’re feeling brave enough, you can wrap up warm, put on a hard hat, and trek through them.
With temperatures below freezing, the ice caves in Svalbard are remarkably cold. But they’re also incredibly peaceful and serene. From inside them, you can’t hear a single sound from the rest of the world. All you can see are sparkling snow crystals, glistening icicles, and mesmerizing blue ice walls.
For an even better experience, think about how you’re going to arrive at the ice caves. You can organize a sled led by eager huskies to whisk you there. Or alternatively, climb onto the back of a snowmobile and zoom to the caves in no time at all. For something more tranquil, you can hike there with skies or snowshoes.
25. Get into the Christmas spirit
If you’re looking for things to do in Norway in December, take part in all the activities and events held throughout the country in the run-up to Christmas. While almost every city and town in Norway celebrates the holidays, the best place for a festive atmosphere is Oslo.
There’s absolutely loads going on at this time of year in the capital city, from temporary ice-skating rinks to traditional Christmas markets.
The Norwegian Folk Museum’s Christmas market is definitely one of the best. The museum is already a magical place to visit. But cover it in a thick layer of snow and festive decorations, and it transforms into a real winter wonderland.
Frogner and Grünerløkka are where you’ll find all kinds of stores to pick up Christmas gifts for friends and family back home. Or, if you’re looking for something more exciting to do, visit SNØ – Norway’s only indoor ski resort. Here you can be sure of the perfect conditions for skiing, no matter what the weather’s like outside.
There you have it! The 25 best things to do in Norway. What’s your favorite thing to do in Norway?
Planning a trip to Norway? Check out our favorite books and travel guides!