In the Viking sagas wintertime is often summed up as “that winter he stayed at home at the farm”. It was a time to stay indoors and rest up and spend time with the family, but in this day and age, you might as well spend your winter days enjoying the snow under your feet and the northern lights overhead.
In winter much of Norway is usually transformed into a snow-clad paradise, but harsh winters can be both dark and cold in places, especially in areas higher up or farther north.
Not all of Norway gets covered in snow, however. In the lower areas along the coast, the temperature only rarely sinks below freezing, and winter might seem like an extension of the autumn rather than a season of its own.
Winter nights are long and dark in all of Norway, and in midwinter even well south of the Arctic Circle, the sun may not rise high enough to clear the surrounding mountains.
However, from the middle of November until the end of January, the sun does not rise at all in parts of Northern Norway, north of the Arctic Circle. October, February and March are the best months for seeing the northern lights.
The northern lights are most commonly seen in the north, but may on rare occasions be seen in all of Norway – even at the country’s southernmost point.
Most people prefer to think of seafood such as prawns, langoustines, blue mussels, scallops and lobsters as summer delicacies, but the fact is that the season is really in the wintertime, when quality and flavour is at its highest.
Fresh fish is also at its best in the winter, and many restaurants in Norway will offer cod, halibut, salmon and trout of the highest quality at this time.
Dishes based on fish, mutton, pork or venison will also be popular christmas food, and can be found at many restaurants in the run-up to the holiday season. Some traditional Norwegian dishes you should try are the “smalahove” (sheep’s head), the “lutefisk” (cod soaked in lye) and the pinnekjøtt (dried, salted and steamed sheep ribs).
Winters in Norway can be bitterly cold, even if they aren’t always. How to dress for outdoor activities thus depends on what you are doing and where you are doing it.
If you are heading high up or far north – or both, for that matter – dress warmly and in layers. Use wool rather than cotton or polyester, and make sure you can protect yourself from getting wet, and getting caught in the wind. Wind chill factor will make you feel much colder than it actually is, and its effects will get worse the stronger the wind. And if you’re wet, to boot, hypothermia and frostbite may not be far away unless you are well prepared and dressed.
In May flowers are blooming, and so are we Norwegians. You can feel nature virtually exploding into life all around you. There are several public holidays in May, and the Norwegians make full use of them to celebrate springtime after a long winter.
Summer in Norway means long days, short nights, and often quite stable and pleasant temperatures on both land and sea. Skinny dipping at night or soaking up the rays in the day, this is the time for it.
Autumn is summer’s wetter and colder younger brother, and sees the arrival of a palette of bright red, yellow and orange, and berries and mushrooms are plentiful in the mountains and forests. If you can’t take the summer sun, this is the time to go hiking.
Christmas in Norway lasts more than a few days: it’s a whole season with specific rituals and preparations. The snow that covers most of the country and the dark nights add a magical touch to the holiday spirit.
Planning your trip well helps you get what you want and find the experiences you wish for, without risking your hard-earned days off. And if you don't know what you want, we're happy to help you find some ideas.
According to ancient legend, the name Norway comes from the old norse word Norðrvegr, which means “the way north”, a name given to this long and craggy coast because it was largely ice-free in the wintertime.