The home of the Vikings, Norway is a Scandinavian country whose boundaries encompass swathes of frozen tundra, trendy cities, and an extensive coastline. From its majestic mountains and famous fjords to its spectacular islands, Norway is simply one of the most beautiful countries in the world.
Whether taking in the breathtaking wonder of the northern lights or the summer sun glistening on a massive glacier, Norway is a great adventure in any season. You could go whale watching in Tromsø, spot polar bears and walruses in Svalbard, or even try out the country’s top hiking, cycling and skiing destinations.
While daylight may be limited during the winter months, Norway’s cities are alive with sophisticated style and an energetic vibrancy. The Viking capital of Trondheim encompasses the country’s historical side, Bergen is where to go to glimpse colorful wooden houses, and the chic capital Oslo is home to laid-back living, city parks, and a lively dining scene.
Consistently ranked as one of the best countries to live in, it’s time to discover for yourself Norway’s warm and friendly heart and its breathtakingly wonderful natural delights. Here’s a look at the best places to visit in Norway:
Lying in the north of Norway in the Arctic Circle, Alta is one of the northernmost cities in the world. Set on the shores of a scenic fjord, it is mostly known for being one of the best places to see the Aurora Borealis. The polar lights frequently paint the night sky a mesmerizing mix of colorful swirls.
While this natural light display is one of the main reasons people visit Alta, the small city has a number of other interesting sights that are worth checking out. These include its magnificent museum, home to prehistoric rock carvings, and the Northern Lights Cathedral, which features a daring and distinctive design.
In addition, lovely landscapes and spectacular scenery lie around Alta; these look particularly stunning coated in snow. Due to the natural beauty, cross country skiing, canoeing, and mountain biking are all popular, and no trip to Alta is complete without catching a glimpse of the beautiful Aurora Borealis.
Lying on Norway’s scenic southeast coastline, Arendal is a picturesque place that is pleasant to visit in summer. This is when lots of holidaymakers descend upon the city to see its sights and enjoy the packed calendar of festivals and concerts.
The city center is set around its charming waterfront and wharf, which are home to beautiful old buildings and centuries-old churches. There is a very charming look and feel to the place, as cozy cottages and wooden houses lie next to harborside cafes and outdoor restaurants and bars.
Besides the two historic areas of Tyholmen and Pollen, Arendal has a fantastic fish market for visitors to check out, as well as an interesting museum on the city’s history. From its wharf, you can also easily take a ferry ride to visit Hisoy, Merdo, and Tromoy – three nearby islands that are all home to lovely natural scenery.
Rising high above the Arctic Ocean, Nordkapp has long been one of Norway’s most popular tourist attractions. Marketing itself as the northernmost point of mainland Europe, the towering coastal cliff is set on the island of Mageroya and is nearer to the North Pole than it is Oslo.
For centuries, visitors have been attracted to the lofty plateau’s wild and remote setting that offers breathtaking views over the ocean. Everyone from the King of Norway and Sweden to Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany visited, while the Sami once used the prominent point as a sacrificial site. Nowadays, it is busloads of tourists who come to gawk at the North Cape and bask in its amazing views. While it can get a bit crowded, particularly in the summer months, the cliff’s natural beauty still makes it well worth visiting.
Nordkapp is also the name of the local municipality. In the town of Honningsvag, you can book tours to the cliff or arrange hiking and birdwatching trips to the island’s scenic landscapes.
Set on a high plateau with endless forests surrounding it, the historic mining town of Røros lies in the east of Norway in Trondelag County. A very charming place, it is home to beautiful old wooden buildings as well as relics and reminders of its mining past.
With many colorful and well-preserved buildings dotted about, exploring the town is a delight. The exquisite architecture of Røros Church is one of the highlights. Cozy cafes and traditional restaurants also abound, as do small shops selling local arts and handicrafts. Many people enjoy delving into Olva’s Mine, which proudly exhibits Røros’ mining heritage.
One of the coldest places in Norway, Røros is particularly delightful to visit during winter, when it hosts a magical Christmas market. The scenic snow-coated landscapes surrounding the town are also lovely to explore, with dog sledging, skiing, and sleigh rides all popular.
Set in a stunning spot with majestic mountains rising in the distance, Bodø lies on a prominent peninsula jutting out into the Norwegian Sea. Located at the end of the breathtaking Kystriksveien Coastal Route, it is one of the northernmost cities in the country and acts as a gateway to the Arctic.
As it was almost destroyed in WWII, the city itself doesn’t have all that much going for it besides a couple of churches and museums. Consequently, most people visit for the spectacular landscapes and nature that lie nearby and the ample outdoor recreation opportunities on offer.
At Keiservarden, for instance, you can enjoy some fantastic hiking, while Svarthammarhola is home to the largest cave in Scandinavia. Fishing, cycling, and glacier climbing are also popular pastimes, while the lovely Lofoten Islands are only a few hours ferry ride away. In addition, many visitors push further on to explore the wild and remote snow-covered regions of the Arctic.
12. Jostedalsbreen National Park
Home to spectacular scenery, Jostedalsbreen National Park is located in the west of Norway and is named after the enormous glacier that lies within. Established in 1991, the park protects diverse landscapes, with majestic mountains, valleys and glaciers all on show.
Dominating its confines is Jostedalsbreen, the largest glacier on the mainland of Europe. This glistening glacier sprawls over a vast area and is over six hundred meters thick in some places. Over the millennia, it has scarred the land around it, so the national park features plenty of rugged terrain, sweeping valleys, and bare mountains.
These landscapes are fantastic to hike around and can be accessed from any one of the park’s three entrance points, which also have interesting exhibits on the region’s fauna and flora. You can arrange to go glacier trekking or whitewater rafting and kayaking along one of the many rivers here too.
Located on Norway’s west coast, Ålesund is the gateway to the iconic northwestern fjords and surrounding alpine mountains. The city of Ålesund owes its present-day picturesque appearance to a city-wide reconstruction after a fire in 1904 destroyed most of the town. The city was rebuilt with stone and brick in the architectural style of the time, and stands today as a perfect example of Jugendstil design, Northern Europe’s version of Art Nouveau.
Visitors can learn more about the style at the Jugendstilsenteret, or Art Nouveau Center. A hike up the 400 steps to the viewpoint Fjellstua is worthwhile as well. The mountain peak offers stunning views of Ålesund and the surrounding islands.
The largest city in Northern Norway, Tromsø is renowned both for its large number of 18th-century wooden houses and for the beauty of its natural surroundings. Most of the city is situated on the island of Tromsoya where visitors can explore several fine museums and stroll through stunning birch tree forests. Trips up Storsteinen Mountain in the Fjellheisen Cable Car offer visitors amazing views of the surrounding fjords and mountains.
The arctic aquarium Polaria and the Polar Museum are popular attractions in this city located 350 km (217 miles) north of the Arctic Circle. Tromsø is one of the best places in the world to view the Northern Lights.
There’s something for everyone in the northern city of Trondheim. Founded in 997, Norway’s third largest city was the country’s capital during the Viking Age and the nation’s religious center during the Middle Ages, making it the ideal destination for those who want to explore Norway’s history. From Sverresborg, a restored 12th century castle, to the Nidaros Cathedral, the northernmost Medieval cathedral in the world, the city abounds with remnants of the past.
Trondheim is also a major cultural center for music in Norway. The country’s national museum of music, Ringve Museum, houses both traditional instruments and exhibitions featuring modern sound technology. Opened in 2010, the Rockheim museum showcases modern music, including exhibitions and live concerts.
Surrounded by green hills and mountains, Norway’s capital Oslo is set in a scenic spot at the end of Oslofjord, with an abundance of lakes and islands nearby. A major economic, cultural, and political centre, the city has a long history that dates back more than a thousand years.
While most of the capital is now home to creative and contemporary architecture, pockets of old wooden buildings are still found here and there. As well as its thriving performing arts scene and packed festival schedule, the city boasts excellent museums and art galleries; the Viking Ship Museum is particularly fascinating to explore.
Other attractions in Oslo include the Munch Museum, which features “The Scream” and other works by Edvard Munch, to the Folkemuseet, an outdoor museum that includes more than 150 historic buildings from all over Norway, including a Stave Church. Due to its many green spaces and forests, Oslo also has several hiking and cycling spots, with the islands of the Inner Oslofjord home to stunning scenery.
Nicknamed the ‘King of the Fjords,’ Sognefjord in Vestland County is the largest and deepest fjord in the whole of Norway. Stretching over 200 kilometers in length, it cuts through the west of the country, all the way from the North Sea to the alpine peaks of Jotunheimen.
In total, the fjord system boasts more coastline than the French and Italian rivieras combined. As such, it is home to everything from dramatic cliff faces and sweeping valleys to sparkling waterfalls, picturesque pastures, and secluded towns and villages. At its deepest point, the fjord plunges to 1308 meters, while some branches are much shallower and narrower. Each section has its own unique look, feel and attractions.
While the scenery is spectacular wherever you go, Naeroyfjord is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful parts of the fjord system. The small village of Gudvangen is also popular due to its scenic setting, while Europe’s largest glacier, Jostedalsbreen, attracts a lot of visitors. The centuries-old stave churches of Borgund, Unres and Hopperstad are also worth checking out, as are Sognefjord’s many mountain passes and breathtaking viewpoints.
The fourth-largest city in Norway, Stavanger lies along its southwest coastline and is the oil capital of the country. Thanks to all the wealth the booming industry has brought in, it’s now one of the most expensive cities to live in and visit in the world.
While the city and its suburbs are sprawling ever larger, Stavanger has been an important centre since Viking times. The Gamle Stavanger district transports visitors back in time to 18th-century Scandinavia, while many beautiful wooden buildings can be found along the city’s scenic waterfront. Here you can also find the centuries-old Stavanger Cathedral and several museums on everything from art and archaeology to the city’s maritime past and petroleum present.
In recent years, Stavanger has become a popular port of call for cruise ships. In summer, its bars and restaurants are full of holidaymakers. The region surrounding the city is also great to visit, with fantastic hiking, climbing and surfing at the nearby beaches and mountains.
Svalbard is a group of islands located between the Arctic Ocean, Barents Sea, Greenland Sea, and the Norwegian Sea. The islands are under Norwegian rule since 1920. Its settlements are the northernmost permanently inhabited spots on the planet, far more northerly than any part of Alaska and all but a few of Canada’s Arctic islands.
The combined permanent population is less than 3000, nearly all of which is concentrated in the main settlements of Longyearbyen and Barentsburg on Spitsbergen. Svalbard’s visitors come mostly to experience Arctic nature at its rawest and most powerful. The islands feature untouched glaciers and craggy mountains, but also amazing wildlife such as polar bears, caribou, reindeer, polar foxes, whales, seals and walruses.
4. Jotunheimen National Park
Covering a huge swathe of central Norway, Jotunheimen National Park boasts some of the most awe-inspiring scenery and landscapes in the country. Fittingly known as the ‘Home of the Giants,’ it is home to several mountain ranges, with countless valleys, glaciers, and lakes dotted between them. The park is also home to Vettisfossen, which at 275 meters (900 feet) is the highest waterfall in Norway.
One of the most famous alpine areas in Scandinavia, Jotunheimen is very popular among hikers and mountaineers, due to its outstanding natural beauty and plethora of peaks. Of these, Galdhoppigen and Glittertind are the two tallest in Northern Europe; both stand at more than 2,450 meters, with many more of the park’s mounts reaching 2,000 meters or more.
Mountain lodges and well-marked trails in the area offer visitors easy access to glacier hikes, summit tours, mountain climbing and skiing. Sparkling emerald lakes and glittering glaciers lie amid its sweeping valleys while reindeer, elk, and the occasional wolverine can be spotted from time to time.
Set in a stunning spot on the west coast of Norway, Bergen is surrounded by the spectacular Seven Mountains, with several fjords and forests surrounding it. Once part of the Hanseatic League, it has long been an important trading hub and seaport and is now the second-largest city in the country.
The best place to explore its seafaring history and heritage is at the beautifully preserved Bryggen, which lies on the eastern side of Vagen harbor. You’ll find colorfully painted wooden merchants’ homes and warehouses, as well as a couple of great museums, restaurants and bars. In addition to its famous, photogenic waterfront, the city has an interesting fortress for you to check out, as well as some marvelous medieval churches.
Bergen has a vivacious and youthful feel thanks to its large student population. While its bar and nightlife scene is certainly worth delving into, the gorgeous scenery surrounding the city is also lovely to hike around. A quick trip up Bergen’s popular funicular is a good way to get oriented in the place known as the Gateway to the Fjords.
2. Lofoten Islands
Lying just off Norway’s northwest coastline, the Lofoten Islands are famed for their dramatic and distinctive scenery, which sees its rugged mountains rise impressively above the sea. Interspersed among its awe-inspiring peaks are secluded beaches, bays and sleepy little fishing villages.
Connected to the mainland by a series of bridges and tunnels, the archipelago is home to picturesque pastures and sheltered inlets, with epic fjords dotted here and there. As the surrounding waters are rich with life, fishing has long been one of the Lofoten Islands’ primary industries. In its small villages and towns, you can find traditional fishermen’s cabins as well as a couple of tourist sights, such as the Viking Museum and War Memorial Museum.
Although the archipelago is located well above the Arctic Circle, at about the same latitude as Greenland it enjoys a relatively mild climate due to the circulation of the Gulf Stream. Temperatures up to 23°C in the summer are not uncommon although it remains a subarctic destination and the weather changes fast.
Besides gazing in awe at the scenery, the islands are also a great place to view the Aurora Borealis. In addition, hiking, cycling and rock climbing around its diverse landscapes are all popular pastimes as are taking scenic boat trips and whale watching tours.
One of the most famous and photographed fjords in the whole of Norway, Geirangerfjord lies in the west of the country in the Sunnmore region. A very popular tourist sight, it boasts breathtaking scenery with gigantic cliffs, sparkling waterfalls, and dazzling blue waters all on show.
Part of the sprawling Storfjorden system, it stretches over 15 kilometers, with steep mountains and jagged peaks lying to either side of it. Plunging down its cliff faces are a number of lovely waterfalls, of which Suitor and Seven Sisters Falls are the picks of the bunch. At either end of the fjord lie the scenic and secluded villages of Geiranger and Hellesylt.
Due to its awe-inspiring beauty, many cruise ships and sightseeing tours pass through the fjord, particularly during the sunny summer months. While basking in the scenery from aboard deck is a fantastic experience, it is well worth hiking up some of the prominent peaks and plateaus – such as Dalsnibba and Ornesvingen – for the incredible views.