Now that you decided to visit Norway, you need to create a bucket list with all the fun activities you need to do in Norway. I'm so excited for you because Norway is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. You are going to have so much fun because of its pristine nature, quaint towns, surreal glaciers and stunning aurora borealis.
With so many touristic activities, you will always find something spectacular to do in Norway, irrespective of the season to visit. We visited twice, first doing a road trip around Norway and the second time as an adventure hiking trip.
Norway is naturally blessed with a seemingly infinite number of fantastic fjords, which are long and narrow inlets of the ocean that lie between towering cliffs. Two of Norway’s fjords, Geirangerfjord and the Nærøyfjord, are so stunning that they are UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and can be explored by boat.
With its majestic mountains, skyscraping fjord cliffs, rolling hills and dramatic coastline, Norway is a hiker’s and mountain biker’s paradise. Your bucket list Norway must include the magnificent mountain peaks of the Lofoten Islands, the colossal cliffs of any of the country’s fjords, revered Kjeragbolton where you can stand on a large boulder wedged between two cliffs with nothing but sky below and perhaps the most popular hike in the country, Pulpit Rock, beloved for its commanding panoramic views.
Outdoor enthusiasts will be glad to know that there is a law in Norway called “allemannsretten,” meaning “everyman’s right,” or right to roam. This law allows anyone to roam free on uncultivated land in Norway, which includes hiking and camping in the mountains, forests and coastal areas, as long as you show respect for the property. One thing though, make sure you pack for Norway properly!
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View the Northern Lights
Seeing the aurora borealis is definitely the must-do while in Norway! Late September through March is the best time to see the northern lights. We saw them at the beginning of October and it was incredible. This is the sort of travel experience that will stay with you forever.
The farther north in Norway you go, the better to see nature’s light show. And according to National Geographic, Tromsø, the largest urban area in northern Norway, is one of the most magical places on Earth to view the northern lights.
If you want to avoid the crowds and not freeze, March is not only the advent of spring, but one of the best months to visit Norway and see the northern lights, as they tend to intensify around this equinox month. If visiting Norway in March specifically to witness the northern lights, as mentioned before, head for Tromsø, or Kirkenes, Nordkapp, Svalbard or the Lofoten Islands, which are also great places to experience this natural wonder. You are going to love it!
Observe Polar Bears and Other Wildlife
Heading to Norway means experiencing a lot of artic activities. And with that in mind, you will definitely want to see polar bears in Norway. Spitsbergen, the largest and only permanently populated island of the Svalbard archipelago. Spitsbergen, renowned for its rugged beauty, is one of the world’s northernmost inhabited areas, and its population includes polar bears, which can be seen year-round.
Visitors can book a safe and educational polar bear adventure and get up close and personal to these noble creatures. Spitsbergen and Svalbard, the “Wildlife Capital of the Arctic,” is also home to whales, walruses, seabirds, reindeer and more, which live in this wondrous world’s snow-covered mountains, fantastic fjords, rocky shores and towering cliffs.
Know that summer is the best time to visit Svalbard to see polar bears.
Explore the Fjords
According to Visit Norway, there are more than 1,000 fjords in the country, most of which can be explored by boat or on foot. This shouldn’t pose a problem, as you will find fjords almost anywhere you go in Norway. The country’s most famous fjord is Geirangerfjord, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Some of Norway’s other must-see fjords include UNESCO World Heritage Site Nærøyfjord, Aurlandsfjord, Lysefjord and Trollfjord.
During our first itinerary around Norway, we tried to see as many fjords as possible. You are going to need a lot of photo cards, as you won't want to stop taking photos. There are so many places to see and outdoors activities to enjoy.
Viking Ship Museum
Want to experience something really cool? Go visit the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo, which is one of the best and most-visited museums in Norway. No visit to the capital is complete without seeing the Viking Ship Museum, which is part of the Museum of Cultural History of the University of Oslo.
This renowned museum is home to three Viking-era burial ships, the most famous of which is the completely whole Oseberg ship, considered one of the best-preserved Viking ships in the world. The Oseberg ship was built in south-west Norway around the year 820.
The Viking Ship Museum displays discoveries from the Oseberg, Gokstad and Tune ships, as well as small boats, sledges, tools, textiles and household utensils. Here you can also view finds from Viking tombs around the Oslo Fjord and watch the adventure film “The Vikings Alive,” which is screened throughout the day on the ceilings and wall inside the museum.
Karl Johans Gate
Are after shopping and city-like experiences? I've got you: check out Karl Johans Gate.
This is Oslo’s main thoroughfare, and the place to people-watch, see and be seen and shop, whether literally or through the window. The street is named after King Charles III John, and is still regal to this day and leads to the Norwegian Royal Palace. Here you will also find the Oslo Cathedral, Norwegian Parliament building, Oslo Central Station, the National Theatre and many other historic structures, as well as a plethora of restaurants, cafes, trees, grassy areas and fountains.
Fancy a little bit of shopping? Of course, you do, you'll want several souvenirs from Norway. There are many popular shops along Karl Johans Gate including the high-street brands you are already accustomed too.
No excursion on Karl Johans Gate is complete without stopping in at the venerated Theatre Café, or Theatercaféen, located in the Hotel Continental. The Theatre Café, which lies across the street from the National Theatre, has been an Oslo institution since 1900. It has also been the preferred hangout of well-known Norwegian artists, writers, composers, musicians and actors since its inception, and many of their portraits still grace the walls of Theatercaféen. Today, it is still one of the most popular and trendy places to eat in Oslo. The Theatre Café also serves afternoon tea.
VilVite - Bergen Science Center
If you’re travelling with children, or just love science, you won’t want to miss the VilVite -- Bergen Science Center. It features interactive exhibits, workshops and 3D film shows, including water experiments, robots and expeditions above and below water. VilVite’s newest exhibition, “The Brain and the Gut,” explores the interaction between the two. The VilVite -- Bergen Science Center is a place where children and adults can learn and explore science and technology together.
This activity is for the tourist that is also a lover of the arts! Take in a performance at the National Theatre across the street. Since 1899, it has been one of the country’s biggest and most prominent venues for the dramatic arts. It is also revered as the home of plays by world-class playwright and Norway native Henrik Ibsen, many of which have been performed here throughout the years. In fact, the theatre still mounts productions of Ibsen classics, such as “A Doll’s House.” The National Theatre also offers children’s tours, guided tours for all ages and Ibsen tours.
Edvard Munch Museum
A classic visitor experience awaits at the Edvard Munch Museum. This activity is for art lovers, especially if you love expressionism.
Edvard Munch was a world-renowned artist from Oslo whose most iconic work is “The Scream,” which will hang in the National Museum, opening in 2021. For all things, Edvard, check out the Munch Museum in Oslo, which houses the largest collection of the expressionism pioneer’s works in the world, including paintings, graphical prints and drawings. Museum audio tours are available in Norwegian and English, and a film about Munch’s life is shown throughout the day.
Did you know that The Scream was stolen twice? Knowing this should make the visit even more interesting!
Bryggen Hanseatic Wharf
Visiting this UNESCO World Heritage Site in Bergen is like stepping back in time. The string of brightly painted historic wooden structures is one of Bergen’s most-visited attractions. Bryggen was the site of the German Hanseatic League’s import and export offices, which were first established in 1360. (Due to numerous fires over the years, the houses have been rebuilt in the characteristic Bryggen fashion.) Today, the wharf is home to numerous cafes, restaurants and shops that sell traditional crafts. Bryggen is also home to the Hanseatic Museum, which depicts how the Hanseatic merchants lived and traded for 400 years. Visitors can tour an authentic trading room replete with a merchant’s office, sleeping quarters and guest room.
Another top museum in Bergen is dedicated to world-class composer Edvard Grieg. In fact, it is located in the maestro’s former house, Troldhaugen. Here you will also find the graves of Grieg and his wife, a composer’s cabin, modern museum, gift shop, cafe and the Troldsalen concert hall, which hosts lunchtime and evening concerts.
Hike to Kjeregbolten
Calling all outdoors lovers with one of my favourite things to do in Norway: hike! You start on the picture-perfect shores of Lysefjorden and ascend hundreds of breathtaking meters to the large stone wedged between two rocks, while the Kjeragfossen waterfall, one of the world’s tallest waterfalls, cascades nearby to the fjord below.
Be aware, however, that this hike can be challenging, but is at the top of many experienced hikers’ bucket list Norway. This is also a popular spot for BASE jumping and taking pictures while standing on the rock. Fear not, despite there being nothing but air below you and the rock, it is solidly wedged in the mountain crevice and will not go anywhere, despite one’s weight.
Fantoft Stave Church
Chances are you’ve seen pictures of this iconic and innovative church but didn’t even know where it was located, which is outside Bergen, Norway. The Fantoft Stave Church is one of the most unique on Earth, and is made of wood and decorated in the Viking tradition, with stylized dragon heads on the exterior, as it was believed in Viking times that dragons keep evil spirits away. Today, it is one of the most visited churches in Norway.
Pulpit Rock is another extremely popular hike in Norway, and once you reach the top it’s almost impossible to find a more inspiring view on this Earth. From the top, you have a bird’s-eye view of mountains for miles and Lysefjorden far below from a large and flat perch. Pulpit Rock, like Kjeregbolten, is also a preferred spot for BASE jumping, but is an easier hike and less timely, at about 2 hours each way. Pulpit Rock, or Preikestolen, can get rather crowded, so hike early in the day or later and arrive on time to see an unforgettable sunset.
Marvel at the Arctic Cathedral
From certain angles, the modern Arctic Cathedral in Tromsdalen might look like a giant iceberg, as it was inspired by ice and snow, but is in fact one of the most architecturally stunning churches in Norway. This iconic landmark is so big it can be seen from Tromsø Sound, all over town and when landing at the airport, and serves as a spiritual beacon. The cathedral is formed by 11 aluminium-coated concrete panels on either side of the roof. The wall behind its altar is decorated with one of the largest stained-glass mosaics in Europe. Due to its outstanding acoustics, the Arctic Cathedral also hosts numerous concerts, including Midnight Sun concerts.
Polaria and the Polar Museum
Tromsø’s Arctic museums help visitors better understand this unique part of the world. Before or after viewing the northern lights, educate yourself about the aurora borealis via exhibits at Polaria. Here you can also learn about the effects of climate change on Arctic ecosystems and the region’s wildlife. This Arctic experience centre for the whole family is one of the best things to do in Norway, and one of only two places in Europe where you can see the bearded seal up close.
Can’t get enough of all things Arctic? Further your education at the Polar Museum where you can learn about Arctic expeditions. One of its most popular exhibits focuses on Roald Amundsen, the famed Norwegian explorer of the polar regions who led the first expedition proven to have reached the North Pole in a dirigible, or airship.