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Norway Travel Guide

Updated on February 4, 2013
Hemsedal, County of Buskerud
Hemsedal, County of Buskerud

The Middle Night Sun realm offers unique experiences. Norway is a land of traditions, represented by rural wooden churches and the traditional dances. The children grow up hearing tales about fairies and trolls, and some grown-ups, even though they won’t recognize it, still believe in these fabulous creatures. Norway is also a realm with waterfalls, rapid rivers, magnificent mountains and glaciers, crystal lakes, fishing villages and quiet fjords. In the north, the coastline is dotted by houses painted in bright colors, which are in contrast with the fjords and mountains’ sobriety.

Norway is a combination between ancient and modern. It’s a strange but also a usual fact to see a Lappish grandma, dressed in a brightly colored costume and reindeer skin loafers, waiting for the plane in the Tromso airport. The sun in the middle of the night is famous – the city of Tromso is located above the Arctic Circle, where the sun never rises in the winter and never sets in the summer.

Each of the four main cities has a unique charm – Oslo is the capital city and the financial center, Bergen is the former Hanseatic port and the gateway to the fjords’ realm, Stavanger is a central point in the oil industry and Trondheim is an old center of Christianity, and more recently, of technical research. In the wild areas between the main urban centers there are rare wonders, like Jostedalsbreen, the biggest glacier in Europe. The activities that you can perform outdoors are skiing, fishing and alpinism.

Norway's Tourist Attractions

When you visit the capital city don’t miss the excellent collection of museums, including the ThorHeyerdahlKontikiMuseum, the MunchMuseum and the VikingBoatMuseum.

Also in Oslo, visit the RoyalPalace (Konegelige Slott) opened for visitors from the beginning of June to the mid-August. A short walk from the city’s center there is the Akershus castle, where you can explore the city’s military past.

Above the city, the Holmenkollen ski center is a major attraction for the entire year, with a ski museum and a simulator that offers a virtual experience of a ski jump.

Walk through the wooden stores in Bruggen, the historical center of the city Bergen and place enlisted in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Take the gondola or the cableway towards the top of the mountains that surround the former Hanseatic port Bergen. Explore the fish market in the neighbourhood or take a trip to Troldhaugen, the former residence of the Edvard Grieg composer.

Discover the former days of glory of city Trondheim, which used to be Norway’s capital city, in the Nidaros Cathedral and visit the RingveMuseum, which contains a collection of historical musical instruments.

Don’t miss one of the 28th medieval wooden churches, spread through the southern region of the country. The oldest one is the Urnes church, dating from 1130.

If you’re interested in literature, Skien is the place where Ibsen was born, the house where he grew up offering an insight in his life and a multimedia exposition.

Roros is a small but scenic village, located near the border with Sweden and which was a mining settlement from the 17th century until the 1980s. Discover the historical center, the old wooden church and the MiningMuseum.

Observe Saltstraumen, the most powerful maelstrom. There is a multimedia visiting center dedicated to this phenomenon. Saltstraumen is a strong current, located approximately 30km away from the city of Bodo.

Admire the Voringfossen waterfall, the most renowned one in Norway, located close to the main road between Oslo and Bergen. Another waterfall, Mardasfossen, has the highest water descent in the northern European, almost 300meters.

Admire the middle night sun in the Arctic region, in the Northern Cape and enjoy the comfort of the cruise ship Coastal Express, which lays anchor in several ports on its northern voyage.

In the city of Tromso you can admire the northernmost brewery, university and cathedral, two hours away from Oslo by plane.

Climb the Jostedalsbreen glacier, the biggest one in Europe and which is the central element in a great national park.

Admire the traditions, folklore, music, dance and traditional Norwegian dishes, in the events that take place in the outdoor museum Norske Folkemuseum, on the island Bygdoy, near Oslo.

Learn more about the semi-nomadic Lappish culture in the northern Lapland, in the museum Sami Musea from Varangerbotn.

Gols Church, Christiania
Gols Church, Christiania

Norwegian Cuisine

It’s hard to define the Norwegian cuisine in the same way as would do it for the French one, in a country that doesn’t have a history of aristocratic and bourgeois social classes, to develop a culinary tradition. Besides the hotels, the traditions are still kept in some mountain lodges. However, in the present, the Norwegian cuisine can definitely boast with a great diversity. Like in the other countries, tourism has created a process of internationalizing the dishes – you can easily find chains of international restaurants.

As a reaction to this process a tendency of returning to traditions emerged. In the rural areas people started to look in grandma’s cookbook and some national dishes like the fermented fish (rakfisk), cottage cheese (gammelost) and salty lamb steak (pinnekjott) became popular again. The new generation of cooks is oriented towards the Norwegian specific, applying the methods of the classic French cuisine.

Usually, the breakfast is huge and consists in a variety of fish, meat, cheese and bread, served as a cold buffet, with coffee and sunny-side up eggs. The alcohol has the tendency of being limited and expensive, even though the beer and wine continues to be popular. The national beverage, Aquavit, is a spirit.

Norway's History

The first inhabitants of Norway came 10.000 years ago, during the Ice Age. These primitive hunters and gatherers communities followed the glaciers, which were retreating towards the north and the migrating herds of reindeer. The biggest impact on history was represented by the Viking Era, which seems to have begun in 790. During the next century, the Vikings engaged in several raids in Europe, sometimes establishing settlements. The Viking leader Harald the Blonde unified Norway in 900 and the king Olav adopted the conquered islands’ religion, converting the population to Christianity a century later. The Vikings were experienced sailors and they were the first to cross the Atlantic Ocean. Eric the Red, the son of a Norwegian which was exiled in Iceland, colonized Greenland in 982. In 1001, Eric the Icelandic’s son, Leif Eriksson, was probably the first European that explored the North American Coast. The Viking age ended in 1066, when Harald I of Norway was killed in the battle of StamfordBridge, in England.

In the 13th century Oslo became a center of power. It continued to flourish until the mid 14th century, when its population was decimated by the Bubonic Plague. Norway was absorbed by Denmark and then, after 400 years, in 1814, it was given to Sweden. In the same year, tired of forced unions, Norway created its own constitution, but was forced to accept the Denmark king’s sovereignty. The nationalist movements lead eventually to a peaceful separation from Sweden in 1905.

Norway remained neutral in both world wars, but it was occupied by the Nazis in 1940. King Hakon created a government in exile and turned most of his fleet under the Allies’ command. The resistance movement fought tenaciously against the Nazis, but while they were retreating, the Nazis decimated almost every villages and cities in their path. In 1960 Norway joined the European Association of Free Trade, but has been hesitant to associate with other nations. Since then, Norway is a country with one of the highest life standards in the world.


What You Should Know

If you’re invited to dinner, remember to leave your footwear in the hallway, especially in the winter and in the spring’s beginning. Also it a custom for guests not to drink or to eat until they are invited by the host. Politeness is more of a behavior matter than a linguistic one. For example, “please” is a very rare used expression in the Norwegian language. Not talking loudly and keeping your calm is an essential sign of virtue. The Norwegians are generally straight-forward persons and address their interlocutors by their first name, even in formal situations.

You might consider life expensive in Norway. But remember that the inhabitants’ income is very high, comparing to other developed countries. On the national day the entire country is filled with small flags. Also, on other occasions, like Christmas, the national flag is used very much. The local hour is GMT+1.


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