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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
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Welcom to the food and cultural festival 18. - 21. March 2021 Once a year a miracle happens; the lovesick cod (skrei) returns from the… Read more
The Arctic cod festival
Sur & Bitter 2020 - beer festival in Sandnes. Read more
Sur & Bitter 2020
DAVID HELBOCK'S RANDOM / CONTROL: TOUR D 'HORIZON - FROM BRUBECK TO ZAWINUL. More than 20 instruments on stage, but only three musicians: David… Read more
Maijazz 2020: David Helbock's Random/control: Tour D' Horizon – from Brubeck to Zawinul
Join us when Maijazz 2020 invites you to the celebration of one of jazz and popular music's great icons: Joni Mitchell. Read more
Maijazz 2020: En feiring av legenden Joni Mitchell
Bendik Hofseth Band - Trunks. In 2020, Bendik Hofseth will release four albums, which will eventually constitute the Forest box to be released on 9… Read more
Maijazz 2020: Bendik Hofseth Band - Trunks
Susanna - "Go Dig My Grave" feat. Giovanna Pessi, Ida Hidle & Tuva Syvertsen. Susanna has never been afraid to solve the big questions in her music. Read more
Maijazz 2020: Susanna - "Go Dig My Grave" feat. Giovanna Pessi, Ida Hidle & Tuva Syvertsen
Music Class at Stavanger Cathedral School, Bjergsted has according to the tradition its regular concert during Maijazz. Read more
Maijazz 2020: Musikklinja, Stavanger katedralskole
The Nordic Media Festival is the most prominent and largest media conference in the Nordic region: 1700+ delegates attend, representing the full… Read more
Nordic Media Festival
Karmøygeddon Metal Festival 2021 Thursday 6 May EMPEROR SKID ROW ROTTING CHRIST MGLA DAGOBA PARASITE INC IN THE WOODS SVARTIDAUDI MANIMAL… Read more
Karmøygeddon Metal Festival 2021
Ethiopia's superstar - Mulatu Astatke for Maijazz 2020 Ethiopian Mulatu Astatke is a favorite on stage in both Bergen (Nattjazz) and Oslo… Read more
Maijazz 2020: Mulatu Astatke – "The godfather of Ethio-jazz"
NTNU Jazzlinja in Trondheim celebrated 40 years in 2019, and in this connection bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten and drummer Paal Nilssen-Love were… Read more
Maijazz 2020: Håker Flaten & Nilssen Love Guts and Skins Octet
Bridges with Seamus Blake. Music is communication. Music is a community. And just that, Anders Thorén has taken the consequence of. Read more
Maijazz 2020: Bridges med Seamus Blake
Fergus McCreadie Trio. The Fergus McCreadie Trio is one of Scotland's most exciting bands. The band has performed at jazz festivals such as Edinburgh,… Read more
Maijazz 2020: Fergus McCreadie Trio
Maijazz celebrates Silje Nergaard 30 years as an artist and she has created an elegant and stripped down party performance. Silje has her own ability… Read more
Maijazz 2020: Silje Nergaard og Espen Berg
Young Talents Bjergsted's jazz department houses 11 musicians divided into two ensembles and is led by teacher Petru Popa. The ensemble's repertoire… Read more
Maijazz 2020: Unge Talenter Bjergsted - Jazz
An open relationship with musical genres combined with a constant search for new ways of expression has led Sigurd Hole to a personal voice as both… Read more
Maijazz 2020Sigurd Hole "Lys / Mørke"
It never became a rock opera, but the double album "The 30 Years War" released by Ketil Bjørnstad and the Stavanger ensemble together in 1981 became… Read more
Maijazz: 30-årskrigen «live» med Ketil Bjørnstad og Frode Rønli med band
"Skakke Sanger". Britt-Synnøve Johansen, John Lilja and Johan Egdetveit live in a strange world, and they know about many scary people and animals.… Read more
Maijazz 2020: Familieforestilling - Skakke Sanger
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
Two intense weeks with over 200 events in the fields of music, ballet, opera, theatre, dance and the performing arts. 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
It's the time for the NATTJAZZ feeling! Walk through the city in the early hours of the morning, soak in the summer air with music in your head and in… Read more
Night Jazz
Langesund has developed into an international meeting place for individual singers and choirs in the shanty genre. Read more
Langesund International Shanty Festival
The Viking Festival, Avaldsnes has become the biggest Viking Festival at the West Coast of Norway. The Viking Farm will  be populated… Read more
VIKINGFESTIVALEN
12 and 13 June, Tøyenparken: Children's festival featuring great performers, art, dance and theatre Read more
Miniøya children's festival
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
16-19 June, Grefsenkollen: Popular summer festival 377 metres above the city Read more
OverOslo music festival
This festival has been moved from the summer of 2020 to the summer of 2021. Tickets bought for the 2020 festival are valid for this event. Contact the… Read more
Piknik i Parken 2021: day 1
Dance and fun from the morning til the evening throughout the whole weekend. The event start Thursday with a "great seeing you again" evening in the… Read more
The New Hallingtreffet
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
This festival has been moved from the summer of 2020 to the summer of 2021. Tickets bought for the 2020 festival are valid for this event. Contact the… Read more
Piknik i Parken 2021: day 2
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
This festival has been moved from the summer of 2020 to the summer of 2021. Tickets bought for the 2020 festival are valid for this event. Contact the… Read more
Piknik i Parken 2021: day 3
Experience a little piece of America in Norway at Farsund's American Festival. Join the street parade, have fun at the fair and listen to great… Read more
American Festival Lista
Downhill- and terrain cycling festival in Ål Ski Resort! Activities all weekend with competitions and lots of fun!… Read more
Hillbilly Huckfest
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
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
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
Southern Norway's most cozy music festival. Read more
Skral Festival
A music festival  at Spornes Studio on the isle of Tromøy, not far from the middle age church Tromøy kirke. Concerts with mostly… Read more
Spornesfestivalen
Festival in Ravnedalen, Kristiansand. Read more
Ravnedalen Live 2021
Beach party at Sjøsanden! Read more
Sydli 2021
Crab festival on the charming island of Atløy Read more
Crab festival on Atløy
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
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
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
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
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
11. - 14. August, Tøyenparken: One of Oslo's largest music festivals Read more
Øya Festival
The annual Shellfish Festival in Mandal, Norway's most southern town, is well worth a visit. Read more
Shellfishfestival in Mandal
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
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
20 and 21 August, Bislett Stadions: Two days of EDM, pop and electronica Read more
Findings Festival
Vulkan Open Air is organised for the first time with an ambitious programme. Friday august 20th, Lars Winnerbäck and Stein Torleif Bjella are… Read more
Vulkan Open Air // Lars Winnerbäck/Stein Torleif Bjella
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
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
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