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5 unusual cultural festivals

An insider’s guide to five fun festivals
In Norway you have more 900 festivals to choose from, and around 300 of these are art and cultural festivals. Whether you fancy music, performing arts or traditional events, here are five Norwegian cultural festivals out of the ordinary.
Parade of people holding balloons in Førde
Førde Traditional and World Music Festival.
Photo: Arve Ullebø

“In Norway, there is about one festival per 5-6000 capita. The offer is fairly distributed between the country’s regions. About two-thirds of the festivals take place in cities, the rest in the countryside or smaller towns”, says Anders Rykkja, CEO of Norway Festivals.

In a survey from 2014 conducted by Norway Festivals, in cooperation with Norwegian Live Music Association, FolkOrg and the Norwegian jazz forum, one of the findings was that festivals in Norway in total have around 2.2 million spectators. In a country with approximately 5 million inhabitants, this is nothing short of impressive.

To Anders Rykkja, who is a dedicated “festivalgoer” himself, it makes perfect sense why so many people choose to go to festivals.

“Festivals provide wonderful opportunities for people to immerse themselves intensely in artistic and cultural experiences in a limited period of time. People get the chance to meet artists, watch performances, productions, and concerts they otherwise would not have experienced”, he says.

Read about his five recommendations on unusual cultural festivals.

Anders Rykkja’s recommendations

  • 1. Førde Traditional and World Music Festival

    “The festival has been voted one of the best festivals in the world within its genre by Songlines Magazine.”

    This is the largest festival in Scandinavia for music and dance from all over the world. The festival was established in 1990 and takes place every year.

  • 2. The Peer Gynt Festival, Vinstra

    “A celebration of Henrik Ibsens’s masterpiece staged by Erik Ulfsby by lake Gålåvatnet.”

    Every year since 1967, the Peer Gynt festival is held every year in the Gudbrandsdalen valley to celebrate the local legend that inspired Henrik Ibsen’s dramatic poem “Peer Gynt”.

  • 3. Riddu Riđđu, Manndalen

    “A unique Sami music and cultural festival.”

    The mission of the Riddu Riđđu festival, which was established in 1991, is to promote and develop the Sami coastal culture.

  • 4. Nordland Music Festival, Bodø

    “Quality music, magnificent scenery, and numerous outdoor stages.”

    The festival makes use of every corner of Bodø and invites you to sample classical music, jazz, folk music and pop, indoors and outdoors. The festival takes place in March each year.

  • 5. Mela Festival, Oslo

    “A gathering place for world-class performing arts and cultural expression right in the heart of Oslo.”

    This festival will challenge your senses with international rhythms, music, dance, and food. Mela was held for the first time in 2001 and the festival attracts around 300,000 people every year.

Anders Rykkja
Anders Rykkja.
Photo: Anders Rykkja
About Anders Rykkja

Rykkja holds a Master of Arts (MA) in Music Business Management from the University of Westminster (UK).

He has worked in the cultural sector for 20 years as project manager, artist manager, and concert organizer.

He is Managing Director at Norway Festivals, a network comprising 75 arts and culture festivals, in addition to working as a researcher at Kunnskapsverket.

He is particularly concerned with funding of arts and culture projects, especially alternative funding sources like Crowdfunding.

See the festivals in the map

Rykkja’s top 5 festivals
The Peer Gynt festival, Vinstra
The Peer Gynt festival, Vinstra
The Peer Gynt festival, Vinstra
Music festivals
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Other fairs and festivals
Karmøygeddon Metal Festival May 6th to May 8th 2021 Read more
Karmøygeddon Metal Festival 2021
The Nordic Media Festival is the most prominent and largest media conference in the Nordic region: 1700+ delegates attend, representing the full… Read more
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Daniel Herskedal with a dream team of musicians. The versatile and innovative composer and tuba player Daniel Herskedal takes us on a completely new… Read more
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Night Jazz
The Norwegian Festival of Literature is the largest of its kind in the Nordic countries, and the most important literary meeting place during… Read more
The Norwegian Festival of Literature
The Bergen International Festival (Festspillene i Bergen) presents art in all its guises: music, theatre, dance, opera and visual art. Read more
Bergen International Festival
Every year in the end of May, the Folk Music Week gathers national and international Folk musicians to a week of concerts, competitions, courses… Read more
Folkmusic Week, Ål in Hallingdal
Global Nights 26-30 May - annual festival by the art network Global Oslo Music The audience can experience events over four days on various… Read more
Global Nights festival: Unganisha
For a full program visit www.viseoglyrikk.no Read more
VISE- OG LYRIKKFESTIVALEN
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Målbar - Torsdag
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Klimakomplikasjonar
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Farmers Marked in Risør
Get to know the festival poet Sigmund Løvåsen in this conversation with poet and author Anna Kleiva. Festival poet in 2021 is Sigmund… Read more
Festspeldiktaren - Sigmund Løvåsen
Arnfinn Kolerud reads and tell about his last book in his trilogy about Bendik Uføre and Vassbygda in his battle for Nynorsken. Read more
Gamle menn i syningom
11-13 June, Tøyenparken: Children's festival featuring great performers, art, dance and theatre Read more
Miniøya children's festival
Conversation with Inger Bråtveit, Meerke Krihke Leine Bientie, Per Halse and Anders Aschim. What does it mean to have a Bible in your own… Read more
Fyrebelsbibelen 100 år
Stemnetalar: Kjartan Fløgstad Stemneprogram: 9 Grader Nord Read more
Ivar Aasen-stemnet 2021
This Sunday we invite you to a concert at Høgetua for families with children with musician and songwriter Annlaug Børsheim from Ulvik,… Read more
Konsert for barnefamiliar - Annlaug Børsheim
Bergenfest is a four-day open-air festival held in the city centre of Bergen. The festival takes place on the grounds of a medieval fortress and… Read more
Bergenfest - live music festival
Large music festival on the island of Isegran with artists Aurora, Broiler, deLillos, Julie Bergan, Erik og Kriss, Raga Rockers, OnklP, Matoma,… Read more
IDYLL Festival
Silent electric boat festival in Arendal Silent or Lydløs in norwegian is the festival for the boating life of the future. We want to create… Read more
Lydløs - silent electric boat festival in Arendal
Norway's largest LGBT festival with concerts, exhibitions, shows, films, parties and debates Read more
Oslo Pride 2021
The Festival will be arranged at Karljohansvern in Horten. Follow the website vervenfestivalen.no or facebook for more info about the… Read more
Verven Festival 2021
The International Cultural Festival's main purpose is to create a better cultural understanding in our city. Read more
Kristiansand International Festival of Culture
The Risør Chamber Music Festival is widely recognized nationally and internationally for its variety and quality of programs. Read more
Risør Kammermusikkfest - Chamber music festival
Downhill- and terrain cycling festival in Ål Ski Resort! Activities all weekend with competitions and lots of fun!… Read more
Hillbilly Huckfest
All stores open until 11pm in Grimstad Read more
All night shopping
Halvøya is a small and intimate electronica festival that is arranged for the first time June 25. - 26. 2021 at Odderøya island, Kristiansand. Read more
Halvøya festival
Experience the locks in Ørje, marked and lots of fun. Read more
Cancelled - Lockfestival, Ørje
In the Gudbrandsdalen valley, one hour north of Lillehammer, Henrik Ibsen's drama "Peer Gynt" is celebrated in one of Norway's leading cultural… Read more
Peer Gynt Festival
Ravnedans is Southern Norway's biggest festival of contemporary dance. Read more
Ravnedans Dance Festival in Kristiansand
«In the Heights» is the title of Lin Manuel Miranda's first big musical hit about life in one of New York's latin… Read more
Asbjørnsen & Gonzalez - In the Heights
Karpedammen festival - Welcome to four days of beautiful music in unique, historic surroundings Brunch & live concert with internationally… Read more
Classical brunch with Søberg, Hoen Tjore and Aghamir
Fjord Classics 2021 June 29 - July 2 Fjord Classics in Sandefjord with 12 concerts in 4 days in  Sandefjord church. Read more about the… Read more
Fjord Classics 2020
Karpedammen festival - Welcome to four days of beautiful music in unique, historic surroundings A world class trumpet player + songwriter and singer!… Read more
Classical Brunch with Tine Thing Helseth
About Gladmat 2021 In the new year, we plan events we can hold ourselves with infection control restrictions, but we are ready to open more if the… Read more
Gladmat 2021
About Gladmat 2021 In the new year, we plan events we can hold ourselves with infection control restrictions, but we are ready to open more if the… Read more
Gladmat 2021
The Glomma Festival a city festival for the whole family situated along the river Glomma in Fredrikstad. The Glomma Festival offers top entertainment… Read more
Glomma Festival
Egersund Song Festival is Norway's oldest song festival, and is held the first weekend in July every year. Welcome to a weekend with a great… Read more
Egersund Visefestival 2021 - Torsdagspass
Karpedammen festival - Welcome to four days of beautiful music in unique, historic surroundings Three of Norway's top opera singers, soprano… Read more
OPERA HIGHLIGHTS: Wettergreen/Søberg/Nilsen
VISIT THE SKUDE FESTIVAL - AND YOU WILL RETURN EVERY YEAR! The Skude Festival is the largest gathering of coastal culture in Western Norway with boats… Read more
SKUDEFESTIVALEN
Karpedammen festival - Welcome to four days of beautiful music in unique, historic surroundings Open air concert with Norwegian singer Heine Totland… Read more
SUNSET IN THE PARK: Heine Totland & Mimmi Tamba
Karpedammen festival - Welcome to four days of beautiful music in unique, historic surroundings Open air concert at Karpedammen, Akershus fortress… Read more
A New York, New York Summer
Egersund Song Festival is Norway's oldest song festival, and is held the first weekend in July every year. Welcome to a weekend with a great… Read more
Egersund Visefestival 2021 - Fredagspass
Palmesus at Kristiansand city beach is Scandinavia's biggest beach party. Read more
Palmesus 2021 Scandinavias biggest beach party
Karpedammen festival - Welcome to four days of beautiful music in unique, historic surroundings Outdoor concert with the two masters Håkon… Read more
Two masters meet: Håkon Kornstad and Reza Aghamir
Egersund Song Festival is Norway's oldest song festival, and is held the first weekend in July every year. Welcome to a weekend with a great… Read more
Egersund Visefestival 2021 - Lørdagspass
Enjoy some Sunday shopping in our cozy little summer town! Read more
Sunday open in Grimstad town centre
Skjærgårds Music and Mission Festival 2020 in Tvedestrand, southern Norway. Read more
Skjærgårds Music and Mission Festival 2021
Southern Norway's most cozy music festival. Read more
Skral Festival
Norway Rock Festival in Kvinesdal, Southern Norway is one of Norway's largest rock/metal festival. The festival is located between Stavanger… Read more
Norway Rock Festival 2021
Racetrack for street and race cars Gatebil is first and foremost about the racetrack. Freeriding with all sorts of street and race cars. Read more on… Read more
Streetcar, Rudskogen
The Villvin Market is the largest and most exciting exhibition of high quality handicrafts and arts. Read more
Villvin art and handcraft marked in Risør
A music festival at Spornes Studio on the isle of Tromøy, not far from the middle age church Tromøy kirke. Read more
Spornesfestivalen
Paradis Live is an out-door festival at Farsund Resort. Farsund Motorbåtforening is the organizer of the concert. Read more
Paradis Live 2020 Farsund
Concert at Odderøya island in Kristiansand. Read more
Bendiksbukta live 2021
Coastal culture week in Tvedestrand. Events for young and old: concerts, walking tours, exhibitions and much more. Read more
Coastal culture week in Tvedestrand
Join the garden party at Groos! Read more
Heilt Propell
Beach party at Sjøsanden! Read more
Sydli 2021
Crab festival on the charming island of Atløy Read more
Crab festival on Atløy
By a lake, between forests and steep mountains in the Gudbrandsdalen valley, you can experience Norways most famous folk tale in a spectacular outdoor… Read more
The outdoor theater Peer Gynt by Ibsen
Canal Street, Arendal's fabulous music festival, offers an event where place, culture and history form the musical meet between artist and audience. Read more
Canal Street - Arendal music festival
Månefestivalen (The Moon Festival) is a charming and colorful music festival in the Old Town (Gamlebyen) in Fredrikstad. The main stage is… Read more
Månefestivalen
Local business fair with activities and entertainment for young and old, food and drinks and plenty of special offers! Traditional lunch 'vassgraut'… Read more
Ål fair
4 Days of Darkness in the Heart of Bergen! Welcome to four magic days in Bergen with exciting dark concerts. Concert will be at USF Verftet, in… Read more
Beyond The Gates
Whether you are a wooden boat owner or one of the many who love the coastal life, Risør Trebåtfestival is one event that you cannot miss. Read more
Risør Trebåtfestival - Wooden boat festival
The region of Halsa, Surnadal and Rindal organises the Norwegian Walking Festival - a festival for the whole family; children, youth and adults fond… Read more
Norwegian Walking Festival
Sildajazz in Haugesund has become one of the two biggest jazz festivals in the country. The Tradjazz profile is clear, but most other styles are also… Read more
SILDAJAZZ
Pat Metheny trio opens Silda Jazz 2021! Few, if any, jazz artists can compare with guitarist and songwriter Pat Metheny in popularity and recognition.… Read more
SILDAJAZZ 2021//PAT METHENY TRIO
The annual Shellfish Festival in Mandal, Norway's most southern town, is well worth a visit. Read more
Shellfishfestival in Mandal
BE MAKING PUBLIC FESTIVAL! Ladies Tour of Norway comes to Indre Østfold, and we welcome everyone to join the party! Meet up the trail and hello… Read more
Ladies Tour of Norway
13–22 August: Music from Medieval times to the present day at some of Oslo's best concert venues Read more
Oslo Chamber Music Festival
Staysman & Lazz - a tradition at the Shellfish festival in Mandal. Read more
Staysman & Lazz - Skalldyrfestivalen 2021
13–15 August: Free, multicultural festival for the whole family at Oslo's City Hall Square Read more
The Mela Festival
Arendalsuka is where national politicians, businesses and organisations meet to discuss topics that concern us all. All events are open for all and… Read more
Arendalsuka 2021
MIDGARDSBLOT METALFESTIVAL 2020 Midgardsblot metal festival is a 3 day outdoor festival with metal music and real Vikings on historical grounds!… Read more
Midgardsblot Metalfestival 2021
Havnedagene in Haugesund is a meeting point of the coast toilers on land and sea. Here you can meet all kinds of boats and vessels. All with one thing… Read more
HAVNEDAGENE
A tribute to the Haugesund region. Western Norway's happiest music festival. 21. - 22. August.       Read more
DEN FESTIVALEN I VANGEN
20 and 21 August, Bislett Stadion: Two days of EDM, pop and electronica Read more
Findings Festival
Haugesund again welcomes more than a thousand people to a 7-day-long film festival. In addition to watching films our visitors can attend concerts,… Read more
THE NORWEGIAN INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL
Members of the Cooks' Guild of Haugesund lay the longest herring table in the world. It stretches for two blocks down Haugesund's main street and over… Read more
The worlds longest Herring table
Outdoor concert with two of Norway's biggest and most critically acclaimed bands and artists working today, Dumdum Boys and Oslo Ess.… Read more
Vulkan Open Air: Dumdum Boys / Oslo Ess
New festival at SALT in Oslo! Oslo Fringe Festival is a brand new theatre festival which will fill the entire SALT arena in the Oslo harbour… Read more
Oslo Fringe Festival
Farsund Folk Festival - Where People meet Folk! Read more
Farsund Folk Festival
Craft beer festival with a fantastic line up with some of the best breweries in Europe. Read more
The 2021 Invitational Beer Fest By DGB
Viking marked at Næs Jernverksmuseum in Tvedestrand. Read more
Lunden Vikingmarked 2021
Siradagane at Utsira is an annual festival. The festival gathers locals and others who are concerned about coastal culture, good food, concerts and… Read more
SIRADAGANE
We invite you to take part in sixth edition of Vill Vill Vest streaming from Bergen, Norway. 60 artists will perform at Bergens best venues over 3… Read more
Vill Vill Vest
13–22 September: Renowned festival for contemporary music and related art forms Read more
ULTIMA Oslo Contemporary Music Festival
Welcome to this food and agriculture festival in Hamar. A festival for the whole family with exhibitors that offers food, drink and activities for the… Read more
Midt i matfatet
30 Sep - 2 Oct: Discover the stars of tomorrow Read more
by:Larm
An exiting book festival for children in Grimstad! Read more
Children's Book Festival 2021
2-7 November: Music from all corners of the globe Read more
Oslo World
SILK, Norway's greatest small town literature festival,wishes to spread knowledge about literature. Quotes from some of our guests: "The best Green… Read more
SILK - Skudeneshavn International Literature- and Culture Festival
5-7 November, The Harbour Promenade: Light up dark November with a light festival. Read more
Fjord Oslo Festival of Light Art
LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN – 250TH ANNIVERSARY!   Ludwig van Beethoven was born in Bonn in 1770, and in 2020 the whole musical world is looking… Read more
TO BEethoven - or not TO BEethoven: Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra
Welcom to the food and cultural festival 2022 Once a year a miracle happens; the lovesick cod (skrei) returns from the Barents Sea to the islands… Read more
The Arctic cod festival
14-17 April 2022: Norway's premier metal festival comes to town. Read more
Inferno Metal Festival
15-18 June 2022, Grefsenkollen: Popular summer festival 377 metres above the city Read more
OverOslo music festival
23–25 June 2022, Ekebergsletta: Tons of Rock is taking place in Oslo for the second time. Read more
Tons of Rock 2022
A great success already from the launch in summer 2015 - now a tradition! Read more
SOOTspelet, Ørje
Welcome to this year's SOOT market! Open to everyone. Both for you with and without ticket to the game. Read more
SOOTspelet, Ørje
9 - 13 August 2022, Tøyenparken: One of Oslo's largest music festivals Read more
Øya Festival
The concert with Lars Winnerbäck has been moved from August 2021 to 2022. Purchased tickets are still valid. Vulkan Open Air takes place on… Read more
Vulkan Open Air: Lars Winnerbäck
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