If you are looking for the perfect spot to experience the infamous Northern Lights or the midnight sun north of the Arctic Circle, there can only be one country that comes to mind – Norway. It is the epitome of breathtaking beauty and with so many things to see in Norway, it’s understandably a country that should be on everyone’s upcoming travel plans.
Despite the plethora of attractions in this country, we have yet to explore this iconic nation aside from spending a solitary night at Oslo Airport. After reading so many amazing stories and seeing spectacular images of the landscapes around Norway, we are ready to head back and experience everything ‘The Land of the Midnight Sun’ has to offer.
Why Visit Norway?
Let’s start with a pretty simple question. What do you consider to be the top reasons to visit Norway? Given the recent British exit from the European Union, Norway has become one of the hot-topic countries given their independence from the EU.
As part of Scandinavia, Norway has always been an attractive country for many visitors but let’s take a look at what makes Norway such an amazing place. I can quickly summarize three key areas that make Norway so popular before you even think about specific cities or landmarks.
- Urban vs Rural – Whether you want to spend time exploring a city like Oslo or perhaps head out on a glacial expedition in the fjords, Norway has it all!
- Epic Natural Experiences – There are not many places on this earth that have better opportunities to see natural phenomena like the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) and Midnight Sun than Norway!
- Norway is Energy Efficient – The Norwegians certainly know all about renewable energy (perhaps other nations could take a leaf from their book) as hydropower is the largest provider of electricity production in the nation. It’s no surprise to see the UK collaborating with the Norwegians to import the use of this hydropower.
In our opinion, here are the 5 of the top places and things to see in Norway.
Is there any better place to start than the beautiful capital city of Oslo? Whether you want to experience fine architecture at the Oslo Opera House or perhaps just people watch and partake in a little retail therapy along the Karl Johans Gate, also known as the heart of the city.
Oslo is home to a variety of Nordic inspired museums, so if you are an avid historian or enthusiastic art critic, there are a number of options available to you. The Munch Museum is home to the world’s largest collection of works by Edvard Munch, while the Kon-Tiki Museum offers visitors the opportunity to learn all about the historic voyage that later became a well-renowned movie.
Take some time to head over to another of Oslo’s historic landmarks, the Holmenkollen Ski Jump Tower and Museum. Here you can learn all about the history of skiing while a visit to the observation deck at the summit of the jump tower offers panoramic views around Oslo.
After exploring the capital, you may be ready to head to the west coast and experience the underrated city of Bergen, the second most populous metropolis in Norway. Bergen’s historic quarter runs along the eastern shore and is known as Bryggen. This old wharf is characterized by colorful, vibrant architecture that is a representation of the trading empire that once thrived here.
Although Bryggen is a reflection of the rich cultural heritage in Bergen, a trip to the Bergenhus Fortress will give you a look back at life in the 13th century. The King Haakon’s Hall is the only surviving building of the royal palace that once stood on these grounds and along with the Rosenkrantz Tower, this is definitely an intriguing place to visit.
If you are thinking about experiencing the midnight sun effect, Tromsø is definitely a city you will want to visit. Located 217 miles north of the Arctic Circle, Tromsø is not only the largest city in Northern Norway and allows visitors the opportunity to have unlimited daylight for two months of the year, it is also a popular spot for those seeking out the Northern Lights.
From 20 May to 20 July the infamous midnight sun shines, so be prepared to get some rest before heading to Tromsø because during this timeframe it is well and truly a 24-hour city!
A lively nightlife scene makes Tromsø a popular spot for weekend getaways but it’s perhaps the delicious Arctic seafood that makes this such an intriguing destination for foodies and other cuisine connoisseurs. Meanwhile, a trip to see the epic sights of the Northern Lights is a popular excursion for folks visiting this city.
I am an avid golfer so when I heard that Tromsø is home to the world’s most northernmost golf course (Tromsø Golf Park), I was immediately sold and need to plan a trip where I can take my golf clubs along. Imagine playing golf at midnight and then heading to the 19th hole in the early hours of the morning!
Tromsø is home to a number of quirky yet brilliantly designed architectural structures. The Polaria is an aquarium designed in a shape that is supposed to represent ice flowing. The Arctic Cathedral is another gorgeous building that is in fact, a parish church rather than a cathedral as it is named.
Fjords of Western Norway
When thinking about stereotypical Norwegian landscapes, there is nothing quite like the breathtaking scenery created by the fjords that are scattered along the western coast of Norway. Norway fjords are unlike anywhere else in the world and it’s one of those unique experiences that you have to see in order to fully appreciate it.
The development of the Western Norwegian fjords dates back to the ice age but the iconography of these natural features today is such that they were granted World Heritage status by UNESCO in 2005. Although there are thousands of fjords throughout Norway, the iconic ones like the Nærøyfjord, Geirangerfjord, and the Sognefjord are located on the west coast.
Many of these fjords offer a perfect blend of incredible scenery, rich history and culture in the local towns that can be found along the banks and of course, a myriad of activities that visitors and locals alike can enjoy. If you are seeking a moment of pure relaxation, there are few places better than the Norwegian fjords to just get away and enjoy the intimate surroundings of these stunning natural landscapes.
Interesting in taking a coastal voyage from Tromsø to appreciate some of Norway’s finest scenery from a boat? Head down to the Lofoten Islands, an archipelago characterized by gorgeous peaks, sheltered inlets, and largely untouched landscapes.
The beauty of this place is simply staggering (Lonely Planet)
Lofoten has a strong connection with the Viking age, so be sure to check out the Lofotr Viking Museum which offers a reflection of how life was like in the Viking years.
If you are arriving in Lofoten by boat, consider renting a car on arrival to fully explore the Lofoten Islands. Or perhaps you want to start exploring on foot and then go rafting in the Trollfjord to appreciate the panoramic bliss around you.
Henningsvær is a quaint fishing village with a population just over 400. However, this is not necessarily a place for people watching rather take a moment to appreciate the natural beauty both surrounding and within this small town.
We have briefly touched on a few reasons why Norway is such an attractive country that we should all consider visiting. When you start thinking about the best places to see in Norway, I’m sure you will have different opinions but the eye-catching geography of this nation means that there is something beautiful wherever you visit.
We are hoping to visit Norway in the near future to fully appreciate everything that we have covered in this post but I’m sure there will be one or two other hidden surprises waiting for us in the perfectly named Land of the Midnight Sun!
Have you visited Norway? What are your top reasons for visiting?