What are some of the things that are unique to Norway, even among the other Nordic countries? Read on to find out, and start planning your next trip to this beautiful country full of history and culture. From pop culture to exciting sports to wild foods, they have something that everybody will be able to remember.
There's Gold in Them Hills
There are tons of places to hike, ski, and more when you're in Norway, but what if you want something a little more low-key? Spend some time foraging some mushrooms and berries during the warmer seasons and do what so many Norwegians have done over the centuries.
If you want something that is unique to the country, however, stay on the lookout for cloudberries. They're hard to miss – they have a vibrant orange color and possess a flavor similar to wine. They have the nickname “highland gold,” but you'll have to be lucky if you want to find some – Norwegians keep their cloudberry locations secret.
Take the Atlantic Road
The Atlantic Road, or Atlanterhavsveien, has been called one of the most scenic roads in the world. It follows the Norwegian Sea, connecting an archipelago to the mainland. The sea and the road are constantly at odds, with a total of twelve hurricanes during its construction alone.
There are seven bridges, as well as four scenic viewpoints, and one of the bridges is even specially designed for fishing. It's a Cultural Heritage Site and was also recognized as the Norwegian Construction of the Century. Whether you're just driving down it to your next step or you wanted to see it in particular, it's a glorious sight.
Burgers and Pizza Together at Last
Norway has a lot of its own unique foods, but there are plenty of familiar tastes to eat if you just want something to fill your belly. They of course have nature's most perfect food, burgers, and they also have pizza. But what if you combine the tastes of the two? You can do so using something the Norwegians call “burger dressing.”
It's made of tomato puree, egg yolk, paprika, vinegar, mustard seeds, and lots more. Norway takes this sauce and pours it onto their pizza. We haven't tried it, and we don't really want to try it, but Norway seems to love it. Well, go ahead, then.
Go Grocery Shopping in Sweden
If you aren't up for some of the Norwegian food that you can find, just take a trip over the border and grab some goods from Norway's neighbor Sweden. It seems as if the prices are a little lower in Sweden, and you're going to have more options for your meals as well as your restaurants.
You can certainly find plenty of good things to eat in Norway, this is just a way to increase your options. Plus, how often do you get to just walk across the border and visit another country?
Visit the Man Who Changed Theater
You can't actually visit him, since he passed more than a hundred years ago, but you can see his home. Henrik Ibsen lived right across from Oslo's Royal Palace in a rather nondescript building, and it's now a beautiful museum.
He's the most performed playwright in the world after Shakespeare and is considered the founder of modern drama. If you're a theater fan, you can step inside the very same room where he wrote his last two plays and spent the last eleven years of his life. The room has been completely restored to its original state, and you can feel the words around you if you concentrate.
A Botanical Garden in the Arctic
Known as Botaniske Hage, three hundred and fifty kilometers inside the Arctic Circle, this botanical garden takes up almost two hectares. Despite the freezing temperatures and lack of sunlight (or too much sunlight), there are lots of arctic and alpine plants that thrive in such conditions.
There are highlights like Arctic poppies and Siberian lilies, as well as plenty of mosses and herbs that tend to grow between rocks in the garden. There are ponds and waterfalls to visit, and plenty of meandering pathways for you to explore. How many botanical gardens are there inside the Arctic Circle? We'd have to guess only one.
Drink Northern Whiskey
For whiskey drinkers, there isn't much that can beat a nice Scottish single malt whiskey. But has it matured under the Northern Lights? If you're in Norway and you want to get a real taste of what they can come up with, find a place to taste something called Myken.
It's Norway's first single malt made in the world's northernmost whiskey distillery – found on an island in the Arctic Circle of the same name. If you have a chance to visit, you can take a sip of this unique and noteworthy drink. We haven't tried it, but even the taste is just a part of the experience.
Worship at the Arctic Cathedral
Oslo has a cathedral that is almost a thousand years old, but there are newer ones as well. Constructed in 1965, the Arctic Cathedral was the work of architect Jan Inge Hovig and features a dramatic and eye-catching style. It was designed to look like large blocks of ice from the outside, and inside beautiful mosaics are revealed with an iconic facade made of mostly glass that features a large crucifix.
During winter, the cathedral is lit from the inside with warm light to make it even more attractive. The huge A-frame resists heavy snow and is one of the most memorable buildings in the area.
Enjoy the Midnight Sun
Yeah, it sounds a lot like a certain vampire novel, but it's a real thing – as long as you're far enough north at a certain time. If you're in Norway, above the Arctic Circle, during May, June, or July, the sun will be shining for twenty-four hours a day.
You'll be able to experience a day that lasts for entire weeks as the sun dances back and forth with the horizon. There are a couple of well-populated areas such as Bodø, Tromsø, and Kirkenes, and they're all great places to feel sunlight during what are normally the darkest parts of the day.
On Dasher, on Dancer!
Norway is one of the birthplaces of the Santa myth, being so far north and so close to the North Pole (relatively), and there's another reason why you should visit if you can. Reindeer herding is a traditional practice in Norway, and after four years of training, they are let loose. However, once winter hits, the reindeers know to return to work with humans. Work means food, and that keeps them alive, you see.
If you happen to visit one of these farms or tourist areas, you can go sledding with reindeers at the helm. You can feed them, pet them, and see the winter wonderland of Norway the way it is meant to be seen.
Visit the Marble Castle
Unfortunately, this is not a real castle, but you're still going to be in awe if you get a chance to see it. Marmorslottet (or “Marble Castle”) is a cliff, or cave, or rock feature that looks as if an expert sculptor has applied every single skill learned after a lifetime of artistic work.
A rapid stream runs through the middle of it, which has carved amazing curves into the rock. It's bound to be one of the most unique places you'll have the opportunity to visit, whether in Norway or elsewhere. It's an easy hike, so it's great for kids, too.
Stand in Midair
Well, almost. In a crevice between two cliffs in the Lysefjord near Stavanger lies “Kjeragbolten,” a boulder wedged and immobile. If you have the guts, you can clamber down onto it, which is about as close as you can get to naturally standing in thin air.
While the hike doesn't require any special equipment, it's still a long and difficult hike that requires good boots, sunscreen, and plenty of water. Conquer it, however, and you can stand almost a full kilometer over the ground. Talk about a memorable photo. American metal band Dream Theater has even used an image of the boulder as an album cover.
Party at a “Nach”
Alcohol is pretty pricey in Norway and at bars even more so. As such, most Norwegians consume most of their alcohol intake away from bars. They've actually adopted a couple of German words; Vorspiel and Nachspiel, usually shortened to Fors/Vors, and Nach.
If you're in a bar in Norway, you are assured that someone is going to head to a nach afterward. If you end up making some friends, you might find yourself invited to one, which seems like the perfect way to get some fun stories. We can't guarantee you'll have a ton of fun, but you might!
Go See Big Moose
On the trip from Oslo to Trondheim, you'll have a chance to see one of the largest moose statues in the world. You'd think that it would be pretty easy for something to hold this accolade, but it seems that this statue (which is known as The Big Elk, somewhat strangely) and a similar structure in Canada have gotten into one of the strangest feuds we've ever heard about.
However, the one in Norway is shimmering, shining metal, so even if it isn't actually the biggest, we think we know which one we like the most. It's also more than ten meters high.
Live Like a Real Norwegian
If you want the real, authentic Norway experience, there's only one way to do it. You have to try living in a cabin for a few days. Even better, pick one that has an authentic outhouse.
In Norway, they're known as "hytte," and while there are plenty of them that have modern amenities like TVs, internet, and hot tubs, try to find one that is totally authentic – no internet, no electricity, and no running water. Airbnb has made it far easier to find private cabins to spend a few nights or a weekend in even if you are a tourist. Expand your boundaries, even if it's only for a day or two.
Take in the Fjords
If you're in Norway, you aren't going to be able to get away from the fjords, so why not make the most of it? Plan a road trip through southern Norway and you'll be driving alongside fjords, driving over fjords, and staying near them, too.
Take on a few hikes for breathtaking views and pictures you're going to be showing all of your friends for years to come. You can even find a number of cruises that will take you through a number of fjords for a more laid-back approach to seeing the natural beauty of Norway. You're going to be seeing a lot of them, so lean in and enjoy yourselves.
Warm Yourself Up at the World's Largest Bonfire
You can only do this during one day of the year, but if you happen to be in Norway on June twenty-third, you can't keep away from Ålesund, which boasts the world's largest bonfire.
June twenty-third is midsummer, and plenty of people celebrate with some drinks and a casual bonfire, but not Ålesund. It's so big that they show the bonfire on television every year. It's so big it looks like a lighthouse that has been made to guide vessels into port. It has to have constant attention from the fire department and is set up on an island to make sure there's no danger.
Do a Via-Ferrata Tour in Bergen
What is a Via-Ferrata? Well, it's a little hard to explain. There are ziplines, net climbs, and other options. If you have a fear of heights and don't want to hang over rushing water with just your hands and feet, then this might be the kind of thing you want to skip.
But, if you're interested in showing off your grit or beating your fear of heights, sign up. They're climbing routes (Italian for “iron path”) that use steel cables, rungs, or ladders that are fixed to rocks. The most popular route is in Bergen, and some of the pictures are...well, they're thrilling, let's put it that way.
Visit the Town That has Harnessed the Sun
The people of Rjukan have a complicated relationship with the sun. The town is stuck between two tall mountains, so starting in the summer, the sun inches up the mountains, far away from the townspeople until spring.
Sunlight is extremely important to one's overall health, so the town built a number of mirrors on the mountains to reflect winter sunlight down into specific points of the city. It doesn't take the place of the sun, but it gives people a chance to soak up some Vitamin D and natural warmth even during the dark months.
Next, Try a Rorbu
Now, what could a Rorbu be? It translates, more or less, to “fisherman's cabin.” You'll find plenty of these on Lofoten and on the Helgeland coast. These traditional structures hold an important place in Norway's history and culture. They're bound to be essential to getting the real Norway feeling than staying in a hotel.
If you're an angler yourself, you should definitely try out. They're right on the water as a natural fact. Even if you don't like fishing, you're going to get some wonderful morning views over the lake. They're the perfect place for a weekend getaway that lets you forget about your worries for a bit.
Witness the World's Most Powerful Whirlpool
Whirlpools are magnificent creations of nature, and the Saltstraumen Maelstrom is the planet's most powerful example. It's found in Nordland, thirty kilometers east of the city of Bodø. It's stuck in the middle of a narrow channel that connects the outer Salfjord with the larger Skjerstadfjord. It's the strongest tidal current in the world, reaching thirty-seven kph, or twenty-three mph.
The whirlpool has existed for over two thousand years and is one of the most unique things you could see. Huge vortices and foamy waves are formed at the strongest tides, making for unforgettable experiences.
Tour a Silver Mine
You might be able to do this in other countries, but it's a special Norwegian experience nonetheless. If you're in the area of Kongsberg, visit the silver mines. It's just an hour's train ride from Oslo.
It's a great trip for kids to take too since there are displays of Norwegian culture, routes to take through the silver mine, and even some fun scientific lessons to learn about geology. You're sure to love pictures of your family in hard hats no matter how long you're there. You might even learn something yourself.
Spend Time in a Viking Village
If you love history or have a couple of favorite Netflix shows about Vikings, Norway is the place to be. Live out your fantasies of Scandinavia by visiting a Viking village. It's not a museum – it's where people actually live like Vikings, or as close as they can get.
There are guided tours operating from June to September, and you'll have the chance to talk to people who live like real Vikings. The village is in Gudvangen, next to a beautiful fjord. Thankfully, there's not much pillaging being done, but it's still a way to see how people used to live.
Keep an Eye Out for Selma
The United States has Bigfoot, Scotland has the Loch Ness Monster, and Norway has Selma. If you're on your way to Telemark, you can take the bus to Selfjord and try to catch a glimpse of Selma the sea monster. (Possibly related to Nessie.) In Norway folklore, the creature is said to live in the eight-mile-long Lake Selfjord.
The oldest written account comes from 1750 when it was said to have rounded a rowboat belonging to someone traveling across the water. Ever since then there have been more sightings, and usually on hot, quiet summers, when the waters are still and glassy. Selma is even on the coat of arms for Selfjord.
Visit an Ice Cave in a Glacier
Norway has lots of ice and glaciers, that's for sure. One of the glaciers, Jostedal, developed an interesting phenomenon: a huge, pristine ice cave beneath the Nigardsbreen region inside the Jostedal Glacier National Park. It's been called an ice cathedral by scientists, and the pictures are proof. The dome inside the cave is eight meters high, thirty meters deep, and twenty meters wide.
While the ice cave is easy to reach, it should not be attempted without a guide, especially during the summer, during which the risk of collapse and falling ice is higher. But, if you can make it, you're sure to be awed by the natural beauty.
Tropical and Arctic?
If there's one thing that people know about the Arctic circle, it's that it's cold. And yet, the Lofoten islands are quite warm being so far north. The islands in particular, and Norway in general, actually get quite a lot of warm air and water thanks to a pair of underwater currents, the North Atlantic Current and the Norwegian Current.
Compared to other places at similar latitudes, their weather is quite temperate. It's not all good – they've got their number of hurricanes, but there are plenty of advantages. A pair of towns in Lofoten, Røst, and Værøy, boast temperatures that are above freezing, even during the winter.
Scale a Frozen Waterfall
Rjukan is a cool place, and that is very, very literal. Found in southern Norway, it gets plenty of cold weather, but it also has lots and lots of waterfalls – a total of one hundred and ninety-two. Come winter, they're all frozen solid.
You'll have to be careful, and this isn't the kind of thing for amateurs, but if you have the training and the skills behind you, grab your tools and start scaling that ice. Watch yourself – the water might be frozen but there's still tons of power just waiting to strike someone who isn't paying attention.
A Place of Royalty
If you're spending a few days in Oslo, one of the places you should check out is certainly the Oslo Cathedral, originally built in the eleventh century. Now presenting a beautiful baroque style, it's said to be the first church to have been established in Norway. It's seen plenty of history, including royal processions.
If you happen to go inside, be sure to check out the huge organ, as well as the ornate pulpit and the colorful murals. Any fan of classic architecture, or old churches in general, should make the trek to witness a building that is almost a thousand years old.
Enjoy the Edge of the Earth
No, you won't fall off a cliff into space, but there's still a place in Norway that counts itself as Norway's northernmost point. It's in Nordkapp (North Cape) in Western Finnmark. There's a plateau that rises a thousand feet above sea level offering a spectacular place to see where the waters of the Atlantic Ocean meet the Arctic Ocean.
There's also a pretty good chance for you to see the Northern Lights as long as you're there at night. There's an amazing globe sculpture that Norway has placed at the northernmost point, so you can be sure you're in the right spot.
See Real Viking Artifacts
If you're a fan of longships, we have good news – you can see them and much more at the Viking Ship Museum in the capital city of Oslo. The most famous thing to see in this collection of history is the Oseberg boat – a real Viking longship that was said to be used as a burial vessel for Viking nobility.
There are a few other examples of Viking boats that are incredibly well-preserved thanks to the kind of soil they were buried in. You can also see a number of other items that have been found at those same graves.
Climb the World's Longest Staircase
Next to a building that used to be a power plant and is now a hostel (unique in its own right) is a set of wooden stairs that total four thousand, four hundred, and forty-four steps. Better warm up those quads, because they're going to be burning by the time you reach the top.
The town it's in, Lysefjord, has no roads (it's also been called a hamlet), and it's right next to a huge mountain that is a popular hiking spot. Still, to get up to the start of the trail you'll have to brave THE STAIRCASE. We wonder if it was an inspiration for a certain Led Zeppelin song.
Take the Corkscrew to a Train
Just outside of Oslo lies Korketrekkeren, or “The Corkscrew.” It's gonna be one of the craziest sledding hills you'll ever have the chance to ride. It was originally made as part of an Olympic venue, and it's now a popular trip for tourists and locals alike.
It's near two different stops on Oslo's metro, which means you can sled all the way down and then take the train right back to the top. If you're visiting Norway with your kids, this is something you absolutely have to try. As long as you check the conditions of the snow beforehand.
Zipline Across a City
You can zipline in a lot of places, but how many of us have been able to do it in an urban environment, or at least close to one? If this is an interesting idea, head to Oslo and visit the Holmenkollen Jump Tower. It's a zipline that is three hundred and sixty-one meters long (over a fifth of a mile) and will drop you more than a hundred meters.
You'll be able to feel the rush of wind, watch the ground speed by under your feet, and get a wonderful view of the capital of Norway, all at the same time.
Try Some Really, Really Weird Foods
One of the best parts about traveling abroad is sampling the local diet. Norway is no exception, but some of their offerings go beyond weird. For instance, how about some salty licorice? Liking licorice is still a relatively rare thing (we're talking about real licorice here, not the cherry-flavored stuff) but salty? If you do like it, there's a good chance your family hails from one of the Scandinavian countries.
Brown cheese divides people, but it's still cheese, so some still enjoy it. Then there's sour cream porridge, which doesn't sound so bad, honestly. In fact, before they know what it is, most people really enjoy it.
Visit Hell for a Little While
Has hell finally frozen over? No, you're just in Norway. Hell is a somewhat small village in Trøndelag that has become famous due to its name. If you visit in the winter you could take a picture of piles of snow and ice around a sign saying “Welcome to Hell” (in Norwegian, of course).
Hell is on the train line right outside of Trondheim Airport, making it pretty easy to visit if you're in the area. If you're interested, the name comes from the Old Norse word “hellir,” which means “overhang” or “cliff cave.” It also has a more used homonym in modern Norwegian that means luck.
It's Christmas All Year Long
Plenty of places in Northern Europe claim to be Santa's hometown or have North Pole workshops for tourists to visit, but only Drobak, a half-hour outside Oslo, commits year-round.
You can buy Christmas presents and have them wrapped, you (or your children) can write letters to Santa, you can pick up a tree and decorations, and you might even see the jolly old elf while you're out and about. There are even special road signs to remind drivers to keep an eye out for crossing Santas. Return to a childhood of waiting for Christmas morning no matter when you visit.
Chill Out in the World's Northernmost City
Norway has tons to offer, but sometimes you just want to relax a little bit. In that case, visit Longyearbyen, which is the home to just more than twenty-one hundred people. The residents are from over fifty different countries. It holds the title of the city that is the farthest north.
It's so cold that you have to wear coats year-round. It's so cold that it's not allowed to bury a body in the ground – a buried corpse would never decompose properly. If you're after the Northern Lights and want to check something off your bucket list, visit this utterly unique town.
The World's Longest Road Tunnel
If you like driving underground – and let's be real, who doesn't – you should make a trip to Norway just to see the Laerdal tunnel. It stretches between its namesake city and the neighboring Aurland and was built to make the transport of goods between Oslo and Bergen easier and faster.
It stretches almost twenty-five kilometers, and with all the fjords, lakes, and mountains in the way, it was necessary. It's brightly lit by multicolored floodlights, has CCTV surveillance, and is a wonder for locals and tourists alike.
Scare Off Polar Bears
If you're hiking around the settlements of Svalbard, you'll get to enjoy some beautiful vistas, but you'll also have to be careful about the local wildlife. Polar bears are white and fluffy and cute, but if you happen to come across one in the wild, you could be in a lot of danger.
There are lots of signs posted to look out for the big beasts, but you are also required to carry devices that are specially made to scare polar bears away. This might not be the thing you want to do when you're in Norway, but it's going to be a memorable experience.
Enjoy Scandinavia's Largest Water Park
Now, we know what you're thinking: A water park? In Scandinavia? It's too cold up there! Well, most of the year, maybe, but there's still enough of a demand for splashy fun in Norway to give us Bø Sommarland, the biggest water park in Scandinavia.
It's built into a mountainside so you can enjoy the beautiful Norway landscape as you enjoy the sun. Even if the cold is coming, you might notice that none of the native Norwegians are shivering – just the sort of thing that you get used to. You won't even need a car to get there, since public transportation can get you there right from Oslo.
Witness Gustav Vigeland's Best
Famous Norwegian sculptor Gustav Vigeland did tons and tons of work while he was alive. He came up with so many pieces that he has his own sculpture garden in Oslo. You'll find over two hundred pieces made of bronze and granite – it's that largest park of its kind that shows off an individual artist.
There are multiple noteworthy areas, such as the Main Gate, the Children's Playground, the Wheel of Life, and the Bridge. You'll see sculptors that display complex human emotions and lots of eeriness, such as skeletons nestled in tree branches. If you're a fan of art or history, this is one place you should visit.
Party All Month Long
If you've ever heard about a “russ,” then that's what this is. If not, listen up. The best way to describe it is a month-long party for students who are doing the equivalent of graduating high school.
Not all seniors choose to participate, since they are quite pricey, but those that do go through with it will go all out. They'll have long themes, wear special overalls based on what they studied or mean to study at college, and generally have a good time for an entire month. You'll get special music, tons of food and drink, and more. Lots more. A month more.
It's Like a Whole New Planet
It might be hard to believe, but the planet Hoth from “Star Wars: Episode V” was actually shot on Earth. It's a glacier (Hardangerjøkulen) in Norway, and it isn't even the biggest one – in fact, it's only the sixth-largest. Even better, it's pretty easy to get to. You can access it from the village of Finse, which is on the train line to Bergen.
It was the primary location for the first third of the film, but most of the shots with the AT-AT walkers and other vehicles were taken using miniatures and sets. You'll have to do a bit of skiing, but that's not so bad, is it?
Beautiful Inside and Out
Combining Norse and Christian mythology and design elements, the Urnes Stave Church near Lustrafjord has stood tall and proud since at least the twelfth century. It's a perfect example of a stave church, one of thirty that remain in Norway, and each and everyone is a worthwhile visit.
Incorporating tall steeples and deeply-sloped roofs (to keep snow from gathering,) the churches are wonders of classic architecture and history. This example is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and if you're going anywhere near it, be sure to stop by and take a look at the delicate Viking carvings.
Discover the Woods Like a Real Rabbit
It isn't exactly a five-star hotel, but the Rabbit Hole is still an option for sleeping peacefully in the Norway wilderness. Local architecture students created this small structure in order to allow children, in particular, to explore the wilderness. You have to crawl inside, but you'll be rewarded with a view of the city of Bergen.
It's been deliberately hidden in the woods, but you can rent it on a nightly basis. Hopefully, you've got some little ones with you, since priority is given to families. The whole point was kids, remember? If you get the chance, let us know how it goes.
Witness Europe's Tallest Waterfall
Norway is filled with waterfalls, some three hundred, and with so many around, they have a chance for waterfall fame. The tallest waterfall in Norway, and indeed all of Europe, is Kjelfossen, which falls a total of eight hundred and forty meters – that's more than twenty-seven hundred feet. Nearly half a mile!
The view from either the top of the waterfall or the bottom is breathtaking, sure to relieve some stress and let you experience the natural beauty of Norway. Even if you don't get to see it that close, just glimpsing it from the nearby highway is sure to be special.
Listen to Some Cold, Cold Music
Musician Terje Isungset and his team wanted to do something different. Being in Norway, they decided to use what they had around them: ice. The idea was simple, but nobody could call it easy: make instruments out of ice in an environment that is as cold as possible.
They used an ice cave and built woodwind-style instruments out of ice. The Ice Music Festival takes place every year during the cold, and while the locations change, the wonder of listening to music that is made out of ice instruments does not. You'll have to go at the right time, but if you have the opportunity it's a can't-miss event.
Take a Picture on the Troll Tongue
The Trolltunga, or “Troll Tongue” is a ledge of rock that spits out from a mountain ledge high over the mountains of Vestland county. The cliff juts out from the mountain seven hundred meters above lake Ringedalsvatnet.
The hike is a long one, almost a seventeen-mile round trip from the village of Skjeggedal. There are no shelters and no places to buy supplies, so you have to make sure that you're ready for everything. You'll be spending ten hours on tough terrain, so if you want a memorable picture, you'd better be able to work for it. They are looking to build a lodge halfway through for a chance to rest, however.
Give a Speech on Pulpit Rock
Also known as Preikestolen, Pulpit Rock is a unique mountain that towers more than six hundred meters over Lysefjord. You might have seen it in “Mission: Impossible – Fallout,” and there's a good chance you've spotted this piece of natural beauty on your social media at least once.
It's a popular hike, being relatively easy, close to the town of Stavanger, and has plenty of space for all of the picture-takers and hikers. You don't even have to have a speech prepared, but you might have to raise your voice over all the other people who are present.
Amusement Parks for All
If you really want to understand the people of a foreign nation, there are no better places to do it than at an amusement park. You'll rub shoulders with plenty of people of all types, and you'll get to have lots of fun doing it, too.
Hunderfossen Amusement Park is like a real-life fairytale, and you can expect lots of trolls as part of the authentic Norway experience. The place isn't open all year round, but it has a summer park and a winter park, so you can visit more than once to get totally different kinds of fun.