Sleep in the world's largest gingerbread house, experience a fairytale-like white Christmas with cheerful markets – and visit Father Christmas himself. These are some of the best places to go if you want to celebrate Christmas in Norway.
1. The Christmas capital of Norway – Oslo
With decorations everywhere, Oslo is a glorious sight all through December. You’ll likely get a white Christmas here as well, and if so, the Korketrekkeren toboggan run about 20 minutes from the city centre is great fun.
From mid-November, you can visit the big Winter Wonderland Christmas market at the main street Karl Johan. Shop Christmas gifts from the market stalls, have a warm cup of gløgg (the Scandinavian version of mulled wine), ride the Ferris wheel, or strap on a pair of ice skates. There is also a popular Christmas market at Youngstorget, as well as several other smaller markets around Oslo.
The most unique Christmas fair, however, takes place at the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History at Bygdøy during the first two weekends of December. Experience traditional Christmas in different eras, browse the market stalls, attend Christmas decoration workshops, and enjoy festive entertainment.
To get a proper taste of Norwegian Christmas, try traditional Christmas dishes at a local restaurant – just remember to book a table in advance, since this is a busy time.
And if you have the time, you won’t regret taking the bus to idyllic Drøbak. Not only is there a lovely Christmas market there – it even has a Christmas shop that's open all year round.
2. The Christmas Town Tromsø
Get ready for a unique Christmas adventure in Northern Norway. The mini-metropolis Tromsø offers a pre-Christmas period full of magic.
Tromsø is the perfect place to get into the festive spirit. The streets will be lit with Christmas lights, making Christmas gift shopping an atmospheric treat. You can find the perfect gift in the exclusive shops in Tromsø city centre or at some of the market stalls. At Christmas, we Norwegians like to treat ourselves with extra delightful food, and local delicacies are on the menu at most of the city's restaurants.
When you visit around Christmas, you can also go on adventures in the Arctic nature. What is more Christmas-like than greeting a reindeer herd? A dog sledding trip under the northern lights is also guaranteed to get you into the holiday spirit.
3. The Christmas spirit in Bergen
The narrow alleys of the old Hanseatic city of Bergen are a wonderful setting to get into the Christmas spirit. You’ll find a big Christmas market at Festplassen. The city is also home to the world’s biggest gingerbread town. Watch as they switch on the lights at the top of the city on Mount Fløien, and round off the evening with a Christmas concert.
In addition to doing some Christmas shopping, you should pay a visit to the KODE art museums, the famous aquarium, and numerous other exciting attractions around town. You can easily combine a visit to Bergen with a journey to Flåm, either with the Flåm Line or on a fjord sightseeing cruise or round trip like Norway in a nutshell.
4. Visit Trondheim in Christmas
Trondheim in Trøndelag is packed with Christmas treats. Have a cup of hot chocolate in the colourful area of Bakklandet when it's all dressed up for the holidays, experience the city's Gothic queen Nidarosdomen Cathedral wrapped up in snow, and bring the family to the fun Christmas market in the centre!
If you want a touch of luxury, you can top off your holiday with a stay at Britannia Hotel, which is well-known for their amazing Christmas decorations and luxurious celebration.
Trondheim is also the perfect place for foodies, and with cosy cafés and top restaurants almost around each corner, you will have plenty to choose from.
5. A white Christmas in Lillehammer
If you’re dreaming of a snow-covered winter wonderland, Lillehammer is a safe bet. The quaint city by Lake Mjøsa is located about an hour and a half from Oslo Airport by train.
Discover how Christmas was celebrated in the Middle Ages, at the Maihaugen open-air museum – which hosts a festive Christmas market on the first weekend of Advent.
A visit to see the arts and crafts at the creative hub Fabrikken is a must, and you should stop by Lillehammer Art Museum, too. Afterwards, you can seek out the perfect Christmas gifts in the city's festively decorated streets.
If you want to get active in the snow, combine your trip to Lillehammer with a day or two in one of the nearby top-notch ski resorts Hafjell and Kvitfjell, which are usually open from November. You might also be brave enough to try the bob and luge track used at the 1994 Winter Olympics – and if not, you can take the chair lift to the top of the Lysegårdsbakkene ski jump for a fantastic view.
6. A pre-Christmas adventure in Henningsvær
Are you ready for a Christmas experience under the northern lights? In the beautiful city of Henningsvær in Lofoten, the pre-Christmas fun starts at the beginning of November. This authentic fishing village has many quaint niche shops, and local artisans who have mastered the arts of glassblowing, candle making, and wool hat design.
Even though the village is quite small, you’ll find several art museums here, too, including the KaviarFactory and Galleri Lofotens Hus. Why not round off your aesthetic experience with a tasty treat at a café, pub or restaurant? Note that some places are closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.
Take a selfie with one of the blue kicksleds that have been equipped with wheels – perfect in mild temperatures – and spend a night in one of the fishermen’s cabins by the seaside. If you want to get out of the city, a day trip to the Lofotr Viking Museum at Borg is lots of fun. Or perhaps you want to visit the charming villages of Svolvær or Kabelvåg, with museums, aquariums, and galleries?
The closest airport and Hurtigruten port of call are in Svolvær, from which you can take a bus to Henningsvær.
7. A traditional Christmas in Røros
If you’re looking for a nostalgic feeling, charming Røros has precisely what you need. The old mining town with small timber houses is on the UNESCO world heritage list and is the perfect place to avoid the pre-Christmas rush of the bigger cities, with lots of niche stores and talented artisans selling their wares.
Røros take a lot of pride in its food, so don’t be surprised to see reindeer, Arctic char, and craft beer on the menu.
Get into the Christmas spirit with a visit to the Christmas market held on the second weekend of Advent, and to Røros Church for a magical Christmas concert. You can also join a guided tour through the city or try dog sledding.
A trip to Røros can be combined with an unforgettable Christmas concert in the Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim during Christmas. You can easily get to both destinations by train or plane.
8. Christmas towns in the south
In the south of Norway, you’ll find several towns that go above and beyond to create the perfect Christmas. Visit Kristiansand and stroll around the Christmas market in the public square. Taste the traditional Christmas cookie kageman before gliding around in the ice rink.
Egersund near Stavanger and Tønsberg by the Oslofjord are both cities that are regularly named among Norway’s best Christmas towns. In Fredrikstad on the Eastern shores of the Oslofjord, the Gamlebyen old town creates an enchanting atmosphere for pre-Christmas celebrations, with festive music, niche shops, and Christmas markets.
9. Sleep in Santa’s giant gingerbread house
Do you want to meet the real Norwegian Santa? Take the train in the direction of Røros and hop off at Tynset to visit the mountain village of Savalen. Nissegata (Santa lane) has charming hotels – or you can sleep in the world’s biggest gingerbread house!
Nissehuset (Santa’s house) has a gift-wrapping machine, a fairy tale throne and, of course, a post office. Although Nissehuset is open year round, almost every day, including holidays, the most magical time to visit is of course during the beautiful winter months.
After a day filled with fun in the snow, you can heat up in the spa and swimming pool at Savalen Fjellhotel. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, the town arranges fun holiday activities at weekends. And once the new year is here, Santas from around the world gather in Savalen to compete in the annual Santa Claus Winter Games.
Also, have you heard about fjøsnissen? He's the authentic Norwegian "Santa", and quite different from Santa Claus.
10. Christmas in Kongeparken amusement park
A hug multitude of twinkling lights light up Kongeparken amusement park near Stavanger all through December. Many different activities, workshops, and fun shows will get you into the festive spirit, and Santa will of course be there! Many of the park’s rides are open as well.
A visit to Kongeparken can be combined with Christmas shopping in nearby Stavanger and Sandnes, two cities that have good transport connections and that are well worth a visit in their own right.
11. Celebrate Christmas at a hotel
Eager to get a break from the Christmas rush? More and more people prefer to spend the holidays at a hotel, where the tree is already decorated and the dinner is prepared by professional chefs. In Norway, many hotels offer traditional Christmas celebrations, complete with carolling, holiday activities, and visits by Santa.
Why not start some new Christmas traditions while you’re there? If you pick a hotel in the mountains or near a ski resort, you can go alpine skiing during the day – and sink into a comfy armchair with a cup of gløgg (Scandinavian style mulled wine) in the evening.
12. A Christmas cruise with Hurtigruten
Still searching for a unique way to celebrate Christmas? Every year, thousands of people spend the holidays onboard one of the Norwegian coastal express Hurtigruten’s ships. The coast is magical during winter, with snow-covered mountain tops and fresh crisp air. In North Norway, you’re likely to see the northern lights dancing across the sky.
On Christmas Eve, all the ships are docked, so you can attend a local Christmas service if you like. Later in the day, the ships’ restaurants serve traditional Norwegian Christmas dinner, with local ingredients from the regions you’ve sailed through. And don’t worry – Santa knows the route, so he won’t have any trouble finding you and your little ones.
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