Imagine what they would think, the first Norwegian fish exporters of the 12th century, if they were told how the industry would grow in the years to come. The fishermen of yore started modestly by selling a few dried cod and herring to the English, and had no idea that they had just begun a business adventure that would eventually transform the whole country.
Today, Norway is the second largest seafood exporter in the world, and the equivalent of 37 million meals fetched from Norwegian waters are consumed worldwide each day. So you might have tasted Norwegian seafood already, without knowing it.
However, to experience our seafood at its finest and freshest, you should visit a Norwegian fish market or a restaurant in one of the coastal towns. At the larger fish markets, you’ll find mussels and scallops, crayfish and crabs in addition to different types of fish.
Further north, you can taste local specialities such as king crab or smoked Arctic char. Or even better – catch your own meal. The “skrei” (spawning cod), for instance, tastes best during winter, when many travellers go to the north to experience the northern lights. Travel to Lofoten in March, and you can experience the World Championship in cod fishing. A massively popular event that is open to all, despite its formal-sounding name.
Ninety percent of all Norwegians live along the coastline, which, if you could stretch it out, would be longer than the equator. The clear and cold waters allow fish, mussels and shellfish to grow more slowly, and the cold air preserves the freshness of the catch.
Traditional seafood meals include the famous smoked salmon, smoked trout, and gravlax. “Tørrfisk” (stockfish) was Norway’s largest export article for many years, and is still a source of pride in the northern areas, especially Lofoten. “Rakfisk” (fermented trout) is another traditional dish for the brave, as is “mølje” – cod served with liver and roe – in Northern Norway. Other kinds of seafood are more closely associated with the south of Norway, such as shrimp, crab, and mussels.
These tips for top places to eat seafood are freshly served by editor-in-chief Hilde Gulbrandsen of the respected food magazine “Appetitt”.
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The “skrei” (spawning cod) is a unique type of seasonal Norwegian cod that migrates from the Barents Sea to its spawning grounds off Norway’s northern coast.
Only the very best specimens meet the strict criteria to be graded skrei. They must be fully grown (about five years old), and can only be line-caught by small local fishing boats.
The skrei can be landed between January and April, when the seas are ferocious and temperatures freezing. This is an incredibly exciting time for fishermen and fish lovers alike. The skrei’s meaty flesh is bright white, lean, flaky and tender, and like all of Norway’s cod, skrei is sustainably managed and MSC certified. The Norwegian fishing authorities are intent on protecting the species, so regulation is particularly tight.
Unfortunately there’s not an abundance of good specialized fish stores in Norway. However, many supermarkets and stores have an excellent offering of fresh fish and seafood, and the last few years Norwegians have consumed more fresh than frozen fish and semi-finished products.
The absolute best and freshest seafood, however, can be found in the fish markets. At Ravnkloa Fish market in Trondheim you can buy fresh marinated or smoked fish and eat a hearty lunch at Kroa. In Bergen, fish has been traded since 1276. Today, fresh shellfish and local farm produce is available in abundance at the Bergen fish market. At the fish market in Stavanger, you can get breakfast and dinner made with fresh local ingredients based on the catch of the day.
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The seafood industry is the backbone of coastal Norway, and is absolutely vital to a lot of local communities.
Norway has through many decades tried to be on the forefront when it comes to developing a good fisheries and aquaculture management, and are working continuously to preserve a sustainable sea life through regulations and incentives in cooperation with the scientific communities.
In the eighties, Norway faced rapidly diminishing fish stocks in the Barents Sea, and had to take action to ensure future generations could enjoy seafood from the cold, clear waters of Norway. Norwegian authorities decided to ban discards, and as a result the stocks recovered.
The Barents Sea, where Norway captures about 93 percent of all its cod, now has the largest growing cod stock in the world.
Arctic cod – skrei
Coalfish – sei
Cod – torsk
Crayfish – sjøkreps
Cusk – brosme
Flounder – flyndre
Haddock – hyse
Halibut – kveite
Herring – sild
Lobster – hummer
Mackerel – makrell
Mussels – blåskjell
Octopus – blekksprut
Oyster – østers
Plaice – rødspette
Redfish – uer
Salmon – laks
Scallops – kamskjell
Seabass – havabbor
Sea trout – sjøørret
Shellfish – skalldyr
Shrimp – reker
Tuna – tunfisk
Wolffish – steinbit
Be at the pier early, when the fishermen arrive with the catch of the day – or night, rather. Some sell coked shrimp right off the boat.
Many hotels renew their concept with the help of a trendy restaurant section with fresh seafood on their menu.
The funky eatery
Fish is served in inventive ways in many new low-key cool places where the price is just right.
Norway has several internationally top ranked restaurant that will give the seafood lover an experience of a lifetime.
Catching your own freshwater fish and cooking it over a campfire by the river is no problem if you have a local fishing license in your pocket.
The numerous lakes of Norway are waiting for you to catch your own meal.
The new style fishmonger
Brand new indoor seafood markets dedicated to selling the freshest products are popping up, and old ones are renewed by young enthusiastic entrepreneurs.
The appetite for organic food comes naturally in Norway. A sustainable seafood industry is the result of strict regulations by Norwegian authorities and a constant discussion about the balance between environmental, economic, and social conditions.
Norway’s long and strong fishing traditions give an advantage to the understanding of new challenges due to a higher production and consumption, and the country is considered an international example of how to make fish farming and other exploits of the ocean sustainable.
To go fishing as a serious leisure activity, or just to throw out the fishing line to catch your dinner of the day, has always been and still is popular amongst both Norwegians and visitors. The eagerness to further strengthen the respect for the environment on all levels is a precondition for a continued appreciation of Norway’s natural resources.
All around the country, in everything from eateries to food blogs, there are new takes on how to prepare and serve fish and other seafood.
Fish & chips
A very British tradition is adopted by the Norwegians. Freshly caught and perfectly cooked cod served at the right moment – with chips, of course.
Go beyond the usual tuna salad and sit down for green varieties, as the one with a tasty, energy boosting mix of avocado, apples, honey, olive oil, lemon juice – and thin slices of salmon.
Slow-grown Norwegian seafood from cold waters is internationally sought-after for sushi and sashimi, and Asian-inspired eateries are popping up all over Norway.
Salmon and other types of fish in a wrap-around meal stuffed with the season’s sauce and vegetables.
Fish is a healthy and somewhat trendy alternative to the sometimes more heavy, traditional main ingredients of taco.
Be ready for white fish with a topping of basilica based pesto and pea stuffing on the side.
Cod, potatoes and melting butter
The classic meal many Norwegians grew up with.