25 Best Places to Visit in Norway – An Overview With Top Tips
From remote, frozen shores and soaring mountain peaks, to Scandinavian architecture, esoteric music festivals, and nautical history – planning a Norway trip can be a big task. But Norweigans love nature, and they’re never far away from it. So even if you’re only there for a short city break, there’s plenty of adventure to be found. We’ve rounded up 25 of the best places to visit in Norway to help you find yours.
Situated in the Arctic circle, Svalbard is a haven for rare wildlife and has miles and miles of pristine wilderness to marvel at. Despite its remote feel, it’s relatively accessible as the largest settlement of Longyearbyen is home to the most northerly commercial airport in the world.
The landscape changes from huge, domineering glaciers and mountains to snow-covered plains and sheltered coastal coves. Wildlife you can expect to see there includes polar bears, walruses, beluga whales and an array of birdlife – including puffins and Arctic skuas. If you are interested in visiting Svalbard please don’t forget to take a look at Secret Atlas’s Expedition Micro Cruises. With only 12 Guests onboard our ships, we provide an intimate, authentic and sustainable way to explore this remote and untamed region.
One of the largest northern cities on mainland Norway, Tromso is situated within the Arctic Circle and the Northern Lights oval – making it a prime location to witness this majestic natural phenomenon. The Aurora Borealis as they’re also known cast incredible colourful patterns over the night sky and are particularly prominent in the winter months (September-April).
Tromso itself has some great museums, restaurants and events.
A true gem in the Norwegian crown, Lofoten is home to a group of islands on the north-west coast of Norway as well as impressive mountains, deep fjords and no shortage of wildlife – including some big colonies for migrating birds. Situated in the Arctic Circle, there’s a good chance of seeing the Northern Lights from here in winter. But it’s not as cold as you might imagine thanks to the warming Gulf Stream.
It’s worth taking a bit of time to properly explore the Lofotens and the surrounding area like Trolljfjord. The narrow fjord It’s actually situated between Lofoten and the Vesterålen archipelago and is surrounded by rugged mountain peaks that are particularly stunning in the winter. If you look up towards the spiky peaks, you might even catch sight of the white-tailed sea eagle flying overhead.
Lofoten is also a great spot for fishing, including the picturesque village Reine lined where fisherman’s huts line the shore. But visitors come for a combination of beautiful scenery and outdoor activities. It has some of the Lofoten Islands best hiking trails, including Reinebringen, and it’s also a great destination for cycling, kayaking, and skiing. The archipelago is also home Nusfjord, another historic fishing village with colourful buildings and spectacular mountain views.
4 . Bergen + Westfjords
Norway is renowned for its fjords. The Western Fjords are a UNESCO World Heritage site and as such is a protected area, but it welcomes hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. Most start their journey in the city of Bergen – the gateway to the fjords.
A fjord is a sea-drowned valley carved out by glaciers moving and leading to sheer cliffs, thunderous waterfalls and calm turquoise bodies of water to sail through.
Norway’s most popular and loved fjord, Geirangerfjord is 260 metres deep with the surrounding mountains towering overhead at up to 1700 metres tall.
This contrast makes for some epic waterfalls, including the Seven Sisters Falls. There are abandoned farms dotted around the lower edges and sustainable settlements, including the quaint village of Geiranger with just 250 inhabitants.
6. Pulpit Rock
Situated within the Lysefjord, this is one of the most photographed spots in Norway, but not everyone has the stomach for it; a flat-topped viewing platform (25 metres by 25 metres) leading out over a sheer 600+ metre drop into the fjord below, a natural formation – rather than man-made intervention.
Pulpit Rock, known locally as Preikestolen, makes for a rewarding 10km hike. You’ll need to allow a good 4-5 hours and pack plenty of snacks!
7. The Atlantic Road
Without a doubt, one of the most picturesque drives in the world. A five-mile-long stretch that winds and weaves its way over the Atlantic Ocean (hence the name!) connecting the island of Averøy with the mainland at Eide.
The Atlantic Road, or Atlanterhavsvegen as it’s also known, was initially going to be a railway line but was completed as a road and opened in 1989.
It’s a little out of the way of the usual tourist spots but is well worth a detour for the spectacular views alone.
8. Bear Island
For true Arctic adventure and escapism, it’s hard to bear Bear island. Getting there is an adventure in itself. Sitting in the Barents Sea, it’s the southernmost island in the Svalbard archipelago which doesn’t have the fjords and bays of other islands so landing is more challenging.
Bear Island is remote and rarely explored (although Secret Atlas runs a trip there!), and people make the trip for the island’s untamed scenery with sheer bird cliffs. The island is home to huge numbers of birds like black-legged kittiwakes, puffins, and little auks.
Sitting at the edge of the Arctic Circle, and about 33 nautical miles from the mainland lies Traena. The beautiful municipality of islands, islets and reefs dates back 9000 year (to the Stone Age) and it’s one of the first settlements in Norway. Only four of the islands are inhabited, and you can visit for hiking and historical remnants, with Husøy as the main hub for accommodation.
On Sanna also known as “the mountain island”, you can visit a mountain cave that has been used for ancient rituals for over a thousand years. For a more contemporary sonic experience, visit in summer to experience Trænafestivalen – one of the more remote and unique music festivals in Europe.
Norway is full of fjords, but one of the most beautiful and dramatic is Nærøyfjord. It’s actually a branch of The Sognefjord – Norway’s longest fjord and is on UNESCO’s World Heritage list. It’s one of the narrowest fjords in Europe and is surrounded by soaring mountains.
Taking a trip down the Nærøyfjord by boat or kayak, you’ll get up close to stunning nature including waterfalls and look up to see tiny mountain farms above you. It’s also a great place for wildlife watching where you might get to see eagles, dolphins, seals and otters.
Known as “The King of the fjords” – Sognefjord on the west coast, is the longest, and deepest fjord in Norway. It was formed in the last Ice Age which created the high mountain peaks and deep valleys that make up its landscape.
Visitors come to get up close to nature, to explore the different fjords that branch off Sognefjord as well as verdant valleys, mountain ranges and glaciers. For some of the best views, hop on the Flåm Railway – for a twisty ride through the mountains and sweeping views over the peaks, valleys and waterfalls. Grab a window seat for one of the most memorable train journeys in the world.
12. Oslo (with Fram Museum)
Although it’s Norway’s natural wonder that captivates travellers, it’s capital city Oslo has a good mix of urban life and nature to satisfy the need to explore. It was named European Green City 2019 thanks to its dedication to conservation and reducing pollution.
Oslo is a pretty compact city, so you can easily stroll around or hop on a bike to its blend of new and old Scandinavian architecture. Many of its central areas are traffic-free these days, so walking and cycling is a more relaxed experience than in other European cities.
Stop off at Fram museum to take a deep-dive into the city’s rich history including The Fram – the first ship built in Norway for polar research and used on an Arctic expedition by Fridtjof Nansen. Oslo is nestled between the Oslofjord inlet and the lush greenery of the Oslomarka forest – so you can take a short metro ride for a big dose of nature, which according to Norwegians is the best medicine. We’re certainly not going to disagree.
The small west coast city is the gateway to exploring Norway’s vast fjords and mountain landscapes. Take a wander through Ålesund’s downtown Art Nouveau district to explore colourful buildings, then head over to the Fjellstua viewpoint to take in the surrounding scenery.
If it’s raining, you can take shelter by crate-digging at one of the city’s record shops like Serie Antivariet and Jukebox, and warm up with a bowl of local fish soup.
As well as its proximity to famous fjords like the spectacular Geirangerfjord, people come to Ålesund for outdoor activities like hiking and alpine skiing, cross country skiing, and a bit of fishing too. Take a short trip out of the city to visit Alnes Lighthouse or do a challenging mountain hike up Slogen.
Norway’s third-largest city is another great place to explore by bike. And like other Norweigan cities, nature is on its doorstep. Start with a cycle around Bakklandet, the city’s old quarter which has paved sections for bikes so it’s easier to navigate the cobbled streets and enjoy the colourful wooden buildings – and even a lift to take you up to a view point.
Then back down again to check out the local food scene, including Mat Fra Hagen vegan restaturant.
Trondheim is also home to international music conference Trondheim Calling, which is like a Nordic South by SouthWest which is on in the winter. To get away from the city, visit nearby Monk’s island for some solitude and reflection, or explore the islets at Trondheimsfjord.
15. Jotunheimen National Park
Exploring the great outdoors is part of any trip to Norway, but there’s a whole lot of nature to explore in the “home of the giants” in the east. Jotunheimen is the most famous of Norway’s national parks, and home to over 250 mountains, including the tallest Galdhøpiggen – the highest in northern Europe.
It’s a haven for hikers, with tens of thousands of people coming to Besseggen Ridge each year, including famous Norweigan playwright Henrik Ibsen, who wrote about it in his play Peer Gynt. There are many more hiking trails to take on too, as well as plenty of places to camp either wild camping, or rest up in a cosy wooden hut or cabin.
But it’s not just a great place to hike, people visit Jotunheimen to see glaciers, beautiful lakes, cycling routes, rafting, and horse riding.
The port city on Norway’s south west coast is surrounded by mountains (including Pulpit Rock) and beaches. Take a wander around the historic Gamle Stavanger (Old Stavanger), to explore lots of little museums where you can learn about things like viking history, as well 18th and 19th century wooden houses.
The port is beautiful, and comes into its own in the summer months. There is lots of street art to appreciate too, and it even has its own dedicated street art festival called Nuart which takes place in later summer. Stavanger is also a gateway to more mountain hikes and natural wonders like Sverd i fjell and Kjeragbolten.
Translating as Troll Tongue, Trolltunga is a spectacular rock formation in the Vestland region. It’s also a pretty strenuous hike, so guided group hikes are recommended (although experienced hikers can go from early June to the end of September only) and it will take around 10 -12 hours.
It was formed during the ice age, the name refers to the famous jutting cliff edge, which stands about 700 metres above lake Ringedalsvatnet. The nearest village is Odda but it’s also about a three hour drive from Bergen.
If you’re going to go, make sure you’ve got the right gear you’re feeling fit enough, mountain rescue volunteers have to pick up inexperienced (and ill equipped) hikers at Trolltunga every year.
18. North Cape
Visitors from across the continent have been drawn to the Nordkapp (North Cape) since the 19th century, to see what lies at the most northerly point in Europe. With two months of midnight sun, the summer (mid May until late July ) is a perfect time to explore that for yourself. And what can you expect to find?
Some pretty amazing views over the Barents sea for a start. But you can also wander around pretty fishing villages, learn about viking history, witness rugged landscapes and see an abundance of birdlife – including puffins and cormorants at the Gjesværstappan cliffs.
For quaint, scenic small town charm with a nautical vibe, visit Skudeneshavn on the southern tip of the island of Karmøy, western Norway. You can step back in time via the Time Travel app where local characters guide you through the town’s heritage trail filled with pristine, old white buildings with red roofs.
Follow the scent of fresh waffles in the air, in the old town until you get to Majorstuen Kafe for waffles and curiosities. Then take a stroll to The City Park to visit one of Skudeneshavn’s most famous residents, an old ship’s figurehead called The Lady in the Park. The park is also home to another local treasure, the moonstone which is a remnant of rock, originally believed to have been a meteorite, and thought to date back a whopping 800 million years.
The whole Karmøy region is a bit of hidden gem within Norway too – full of beautiful unspoilt beaches, view points, and hiking trails.
One of Norway’s three fortress cities, Friedrikstad is where the river Glomma meets the Skagerrak, close to the Swedish border. You can visit the old fortress walls, which date back to the 15th century, and find out more about it’s history in the small museum there. The Old Town is filled with charming cobbled streets, small galleries and cosy cafés and bakeries.
The New Town is lively in the summer, where people gather on terraces, particularly if local football team Fredrikstad FK are playing. There are plenty of swimming spots close by too, including Maerappanna, a beautiful nature reserve at a peninsula with rock formations overlooking the Oslofjord. The area is also a gateway to the Hvaler archipelago of over 800 islands and inlets.
21. Mjelle beach, Bodø
The white and red coloured sand of Mjelle beach near the northern town of Bodø is a spectacular place to wander and capture stunning photographs. The sand gets its unusual colour due to tiny gemstone particles (garnet minerals).
It’s also a fairly easy and relaxed hike, perfect for a midsummer trip, where you can wander across the rock walled trails, pack a picnic and swim in the turquoise waters below.
But don’t let the tropical colours fool you – the water is pretty bracing, at around 11-12°C . Wandering around the coastal trails, you’ll also find pretty red huts and probably a few sheep along the way. Although it’s a fairly popular spot, it’s not really crowded so perfect for a day of laid back exploring.
22. Rondane National Park
Between Oslo and Trondheim, lies Norway’s oldest National Park. Rondane was established in 1962, and is home to reindeer, very high mountain peaks, rolling hills, old farming villages and Lake Rondvatnet at its centre. There are lots of hiking trails,and easier walks that still deliver on the views front like the Langglupdalen valley.
You can also go horse riding through the mountain forests of Høvringen and Heidal, and go rafting in the river Sjoa – which is also where Olympians train. The landscapes are beautiful during every season, but visit in the winter for cross country skiing, mountain skiing and stunning light for photography.
Get up close to one of the most accessible glaciers in Norway. Nigardsbreen in western Norway (between Bergen and Alesund) is actually an arm of Jostedalsbreen – the largest glacier in Europe. The ice reaches almost to the shore, and you can go on guided glacier hikes, exploring the ice in detail and witnessing a stunning Arctic landscape as you go.
Walking down to the blue glacier’s tongue is an incredible sight to behold, especially where rapids crash around it. And you can even walk within the frozen walls of the glacier’s ice tunnels for a pretty unforgettable experience.
Although Tromso is famous (rightly so) for witnessing the Northern Lights and Whale watching, there are less well known spots in Norway for remote nature appreciation. Skjervøy in the north is an island and fishing community close to mountains which is great for whale watching and other outdoor activities like skiing.
It’s also a significant location in maritime history – Skjervøy was also the first port of call made by the Arctic explorer Fridtjof Nansen’s Fram ship on its return from an expedition to the North Pole in 1896. These days, people come to see Orcas and humpback whales in the wintertime, stay in cosy cabins (and you can rent saunas) and even rent boats to go fishing too.
The adventurous railway isn’t the only reason to visit this beautiful village, it’s worth exploring at ground level too – particularly for cycling and hiking. You can also take a boat ride down the UNESCO World Heritage site Nærøyfjord for dramatic landscapes and an abundance of waterfalls.
You can also meet some modern day Vikings at the Viking Valley in Guvagen – they’re so into that era of history they live the same way (well, not all aspects of their lifestyle, obvs!).