Norway is home to towering mountains, expansive glaciers, deep coastal fjords, and every landscape in between. You’ll find both real history—such as preserved Viking ships and medieval architecture—and local legends involving trolls, magic, and all sorts of mystery.
Whichever path you take, adventure awaits. Hike to Pulpit Rock in Stavanger, cave walk in Trollkirka, or step aboard the Flåm Railway to travel along a branch of Norway’s longest and deepest fjord.
Many of Norway’s most noteworthy attractions are easy to access from Oslo, Bergen, Alesund, and Molde, making it easy to combine a morning museum visit with a hike or a stroll as well as a break to sample the local specialties of seafood, game, and berries.
Here are some of the best things to do in Norway.
Feel Like a Royal in Oslo
On your unofficial royal tour of Oslo, consider the Royal Palace your first stop. It was the French-born King Charles III who first ordered that the palace be built and unfortunately for him, it wasn’t completed until about five years after his death.
While Charles never had the chance to reside within the Royal Palace, Oscar I and his wife, Josephine, did.
Today, the Neoclassical palace is the home of Norway’s King Harald V and Queen Sonja. If you’re just passing through, try to time your visit for 1:30 p.m. to see the changing of the guard. Otherwise, book a more comprehensive tour that is offered during the summer season.
Alternatively, take in the views from Akershus Fortress, a medieval castle in Oslo that was built to protect and provide for the city. The castle dates back to 1299, when it served as a royal residence.
However, it transformed into a fortress in 1592 and was later rebuilt into a castle in Renaissance architectural style between 1637 and 1648.
Visit the Art Nouveau District in Ålesund
The Norwegian port town of Ålesund had a tough winter in 1904, when a massive fire burned down 850 houses and rendered 10,000 inhabitants homeless, all in the span of about 16 hours.
Despite such a devastating setback, locals and workers from all over Europe successfully rebuilt the city. The architects designing the homes for the rebuild were greatly influenced by Art Nouveau, a style that was very popular at the time.
Today, you can see colorful buildings decorated with towers, turrets and other design ornamentations. Ålesund is an extremely walkable town, not to mention a very photogenic one, and is one of the most important Norway attractions.
The famous viewpoint, called Fjellstua, is just 418 steps uphill from the city park. From there, you can see the vibrant-colored Art Nouveau buildings reflected on the water below, creating a rainbow effect even on gray days.
For a crash course on the port town’s history, visit the Ålesund Museum. You’ll leave with a deeper understanding and appreciation of Ålesund and the people who live here.
Not in a museum mood? No problem. As Ålesund is one of Norway’s most important fishing harbors, you can soak up local Norwegian culture through cuisine. Most restaurants serve hot bowls of fish soup and other seafood dishes including fresh crab and crayfish.
Follow the Path of the Trolls in Trollstigen
Trollstigen, also called “The Troll’s Road” in Norway’s Reinheimen National Park, is a fantastically twisty road that snakes its way up and along the mountainside. From a distance, it’s hard to believe that cars and buses can even navigate this route.
Of course, the real treasure of Trollstigen is the view from the top, which reaches 2,811 feet above sea level. Before reaching the top (or coming back down), you need to pass 11 sharp hairpin turns, at an almost impossible-seeming gradient.
Known as Norway’s “Golden Route”, the journey offers some of the most magnificent views of the landscape below— deep fjords, valleys, lush greenery, and Stigfossen Waterfall once you reach the top.
Wondering what the deal is with Norwegians and their fondness for trolls? According to Norwegian folk legend, the trolls wander through the mountains of Trollstigen every night—but come daylight, they turn into stones.
Chase Waterfalls in Geirangerfjord
No trip to Norway is complete without a visit to Geirangerfjord. Geiranger is a sleepy village in the western part of Norway, nestled at the head of what is probably the most famous and beautiful of Norway’s fjords. Spending a day here is one of the most popular things to do in Norway.
There are a few waterfalls to keep an eye out for. The Seven Sisters Falls, as its name suggests, consists of seven separate streams. Just offside the Seven Sisters Falls is “The Suitor” waterfall. According to legend, the suitor is trying to impress the sisters.
If you’re up for an adventure, there’s an easily accessible hike to Storsæterfossen waterfall. There are two options here: one hike is longer but easier and the other is shorter but steeper. When you reach the falls, you’ll stand right underneath it, so be prepared to get wet.
If you don’t want to hike but have a head for heights, the Geiranger Skywalk platform offers the highest view of the fjord. At 4,900 feet above sea level, the platform juts out from a cliff, with a sheer drop below.
Marvel at Colorful Bryggen in Bergen
Beautiful Bergen is a former Viking stronghold guarded by deep fjords, towering mountains and sweeping glaciers. Bryggen—the historic harbor district of Bergen—is one of Norway’s top attractions, and for good reason.
Bergen has, however, suffered several fires throughout the years, during the period when most houses were built of wood. The most devastating was the great fire of 1702, which turned the city to ashes and required a complete rebuild.
After the fire, locals chose to rebuild the city just as it was before. So the Bryggen you see today, a parade of warehouses in shades of ochre, dusky pink, white, and rust looks very similar to the original foundations dating back to the 12th century.
As such, it is included on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, and visiting is one of the best things to do in Bergen.
Take a walk to the famous Fish Market, stopping for fish soup, cured salmon, herring and shrimp dishes, or snap a photo at the Bergenhus Fortress.
On the hunt for authentic souvenirs? Hidden behind the facades of Bryggen are a selection of small shops, art galleries and artists’ studios.
Sail Along Nærøyfjord
Nærøyfjord is one of Western Norway’s most impressive fjords—for context, there are more than 1,000 fjords around the country—and is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Nærøyfjord, as the name suggests, includes passages that are very narrow, surrounded by steep mountains on either side, waterfalls cascading in ribbons over the towering cliffs. The best way to admire the scenery is from a small boat.
Amid this dramatic landscape, you’ll find traditional farms and small villages built into the hillsides along the fjord. If you tour the area by boat, as many travelers choose to do, you might even see goats grazing on the farms and seals basking on the rocks.
Museum Hop in Oslo
Some of Norway’s most noteworthy museums are located in Oslo. The Vigeland Museum is a sculpture museum and a great example of neo-classical architecture in Norway.
The collection includes sculptor Gustav Vigeland’s early works that include portraits and monuments, plus plaster sculptures in Vigeland Park.
Then there’s the Norwegian Maritime Museum which highlights Norwegian maritime history as well as the shipbuilding techniques and underwater technology needed to operate these large vessels.
As for art museums, The National Museum houses a range of artistic styles, while the Munch Museum focuses on the famed artist’s life and work.
Board the Flåm Railway
The town of Flåm is nestled in Aurlandsfjord, an arm of the mighty Sognefjord. The Flåm Railway, which starts here, is known as one of the most scenic train journeys in the world.
The train runs from the end of Aurlandsfjord to Myrdal station on the Oslo-Bergen line and takes you 2,800 feet up into the wilds of the mountains of Norway.
Along the way, you’ll pass through western Norway’s vast and varied landscape, all from the comfort of a charming, vintage train car. In about one hour, you cover a lot of ground, climbing 2,833 feet.
The train runs through the old Flåm village center and past the old church, as well as mountains, rivers and small farms. There’s a short stop at the Kjosfossen waterfall, giving you just enough time to disembark and snap a photo or two of the waterfall.
The railway itself is quite an engineering feat. Construction began in 1923 and ended in 1940. Covering a distance of 12.5 miles, the railway line is one of the steepest in the world, with 80 percent of the journey running on a gradient of 5.5 percent.
The train clatters through 20 tunnels, most of which were built entirely by hand. The most impressive tunnel actually takes a 180-degree turn inside the mountain.
Hike to a Glacier in Jostedalsbreen National Park
Jostedalsbreen glacier is the largest in continental Europe and it takes up almost half of the Jostedalsbreen National Park. This landscape combines lush vegetation with the blue-white ice and tumbled rocks of the glacier and its various arms.
From the port of Olden, you can easily reach Briksdalsbreen, one of these arms, hanging off a cliff and feeding a milky-blue lake.
There are various hiking trails here, the easiest being a mile-and-a-half walk from Briksdal’s Mountain Lodge to the glacier lake. If you prefer not to walk, an electric “troll car” can whisk you to the Norwegian lake.
Learn About Vikings in Avaldsnes
Avaldsnes is a former Viking settlement on the island of Bukkøy, near Haugesund. Setting foot here feels as if you’ve traveled back in time.
The farm once served as the home of King Harald Fairhair, and the reconstructed buildings help recreate what life was like in the pre-Christian era.
For a deep dive into Viking history, take a guided tour around the settlement’s medieval church and monuments. At the Norway History Centre, kids can even try on Viking costumes for fun.
Explore the Trollkirka Caves
As scenic as Norway is on land and by sea, don’t underestimate the beauty that lies beneath. Cave walking in Trollkirka, near Molde, is a challenge but arguably one of the more unusual things to do in Norway, as you’ll splash along underground rivers and see waterfalls tumbling down the rock faces.
There are two entry points in Trollkirka, one of which has a larger opening and a river running through it. Once inside the marble and limestone cave, your guide will lead you to the “Kirka”, which is an area with high rock ceilings where you can relax before continuing deeper into the caves.
Keep in mind that as exciting as this experience is, it’s not for everyone, particularly those who are claustrophobic and uncomfortable in small spaces. Wear sturdy shoes – and prepare to get damp.
Hike to Pulpit Rock, near Stavanger
History buffs and outdoor adventurers will find common ground in Stavanger, a city in southwestern Norway that mixes old and new.
Gamle Stavanger, the 18th-century old town, is a cluster of more than 250 whitewashed clapboard cottages, their gardens vibrant with flowers. After a stroll here, visit Stavanger Cathedral, the oldest in Norway, built between 1100 and 1125.
The real prize for walkers, though, is Pulpit Rock, one of the best hikes in Norway, with its extraordinary block towering 1,800 feet above the Lysefjord.
It’s a challenging walk from the start point, 45 minutes’ drive from Stavanger, and around four hours round-trip, with steep sections. But the views, photo opportunities, and kudos for getting there are unrivaled.
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