The Norwegian capital lies between the Oslofjord and the forests. As a gateway to the rest of Norway, Oslo offers a unique combination of city life and easy access to the great outdoors.
These 15 attractions in Norway are the most popular among the Norwegians themselves. A recent survey shows that many Norwegians spend the summer holidays in Norway, and lists the 15 most popular attractions and destinations. Experience Norway as the Norwegians themselves like to do it:
1) The Vigelandsparken Sculpture Park
Also known as Frognerparken, the Vigelandsparken Sculpture Park is in many ways Oslo's answer to Central Park in New York. This is where many residents go to barbeque or have a relaxing picnic with family and friends, or just enjoy a quiet stroll among the 212 statues that the park is famous for.
According to the survey, a whopping 78 percent of Norwegians have visited the park, making it a must-see for visitors who wish to experience Norway the Norwegian way.
2) Kristiansand Zoo and amusement park
Only 6 miles from downtown Kristiansand, the Kristiansand Zoo and amusement park is one of the most visited attractions in Norway. In fact, as many as 74 percent of all Norwegians have at some point been here to experience some of the over 800 animals the park houses in what is as close to their natural environment as possible.
As the name suggests, only part of the park is a zoo. The rest can offer more traditional amusement park attractions and activities, and with an extra ticket you can also enjoy the wet park, a "park within the park", which offers all sorts of water activities for both adults and children.
3) TusenFryd amusement park
TusenFryd is perhaps Norway's most famous traditional amusement park, and caters to both families with children and the adrenaline-hungry visitors. Rollercoasters and over 30 different rides and games of all sorts are on offer, as are over 20 different restaurants as well as a water park and a special play park for the smallest children.
According to the survey, around 71 percent of all Norwegians have previously taken part in TusenFryd's delights and services, making it an attraction not to be missed for foreign visitors either.
4) Nidarosdomen cathedral
You don't have to be a pilgrim to visit Norway's biggest pilgrim destination. Allegedly built where Saint Olav was buried in 1030 AD, the Nidarosdomen cathedral is today one of Norway's most popular tourist attractions and has been visited by 70 percent of all Norwegians.
Nidarosdomen cathedral took 230 years to finish and became Norway's national sanctuary and the traditional location for the consecration of the King of Norway. It has been hit by lightning and ravaged by fire at many times throughout history, and the last restoration so far was officially completed in 2001.
5) Holmenkollen and the Ski Museum
Made of 100 tons of steel and soaring 196 feet above the hill it sits on, the Holmenkollen ski jump is an obvious attraction for all visitors to Oslo. It is lit by floodlights at night, and in the base of the tower you'll find the Ski Museum, where the 4000-year history of skiing is presented. The museum was opened in 1923 and is the oldest of its kind in the world. Not surprising, since Norway is also considered the birthplace of skiing.
Maybe this is the reason for its popularity to the natives as well; almost two thirds of all Norwegians have visited Holmenkollen and the Ski Museum at one time or another.
6) Fløibanen Funicular
For almost a hundred years, the Fløibanen Funicular has ferried people between downtown Bergen and the peak of Mount Fløyen, one of the seven mountains surrounding the town. Mount Fløyen is by no means the highest of the peaks, but offers one of the best views over the city and the fjords and islands beyond.
Once you've taken the funicular to the top, the view is not all there is to enjoy either. Fløien Folkerestaurant is one of the most well known restaurants in Bergen, and offers quality food at 1,050 feet metres above sea level. Nearby there are also many scenic paths and trails of all lengths, including some leading to the other peaks in the area.
7) Hunderfossen Family Park
A place of fairy tale joy and farm attractions, Hunderfossen is a favourite amongst families with children. In the wintertime the park transforms to Hunderfossen Winter Park, with a fairy tale castle and Scandinavia's southernmost ice hotel.
8) The Geirangerfjord
Nearly half of all Norwegians have visited the a href="/MWTemplates/StoryPage.aspx?id=3207">UNESCO-listed Geirangerfjord and seen the breathtaking sights it has to offer. The mountains are equally impressive whether seen from above or below, and the fjord just as beautiful. Watch one of the many waterfalls cascading down the mountainside, go fishing or kayaking on the fjord, or bike or drive up the Trollstigen Mountain Road.
9) Vøringsfossen waterfall
With a direct drop of 475 feet and a total fall of 182 metres, Vøringsfossen waterfall is understandably the most famous of its kind in Norway, and a popular attraction for Norwegians and visitors alike. Although there are numerous ways to experience the waterfall and the vertical-walled valley, most people will view the falls from the upper and lower lookouts.
10) Fredriksten Fortress
Built in the latter half of the 17th century to protect Norway against Swedish incursions, the fortress is now a national monument and no longer holds any military value. Relations with Sweden are, after all, significantly improved since then. Today, a variety of attractions are available in the fortress, from exhibitions and guided tours to dining experiences in 17th century style.
11) The Lofoten Islands
Famous for their natural beauty, the Lofoten Islands are where you can step out of the hustle and bustle of modern life and just enjoy the peace and quiet and natural scenery, while at the same time stay in comfort and eat well. Untouched yet popular, modern yet traditional, the Lofoten Islands tend to charm those that visit them and leave them wanting to go back.
12) The National Gallery
Nasjonalgalleriet, Norway's National Gallery, is situated in Oslo, and was established in 1837. Today, it holds the country's largest collection of paintings, drawing and sculptures, with works by Munch, Manet and Cézanne as the highpoints. More than four out of every ten Norwegians have visited Nasjonalgalleriet previously, making it one of the major attractions for visitors to Oslo and Norway.
13) The Flåmsbana railway line
Named "the world's best train ride" by Lonely Planet Traveller, it is no surprise to find the Flåmsbana railway line among the Norwegians most popular attractions in Norway. This scenic railway winds its way into, out of, and along the steep valley sides on its way from Myrdal high in the mountains to the village of Flåm down by the sea.
You might think that a railway like this is hard to get to, but that's not the case. Its upper station is often served by a multitude of daily trains, and there are ferries departing and arriving in Flåm several times per day. The trip is part of the Norway in a Nutshell tour, and can also be combined with biking Rallarvegen in the summer time, and a visit to UNESCO-listed Nærøyfjorden.
14) Preikestolen (The Pulpit Rock)
This rocky formation just squarely out from the mountainside above the Lysefjord, and it's not hard to see where it got its name. Here you can enjoy a truly unique view over the Lysefjord 1,981 feet below, and with rocky stairs made by a team of Nepalese Sherpas, the hike to Preikestolen ("The Pulpit Rock") is not a difficult one. No wonder it's one of Norway's most popular attractions to both natives and visitors alike.
15) North Cape
The North Cape Plateau rises 1,007 feet from the sea, and was previously thought to be the northernmost point of Europe. It was later discovered that a nearby peninsula has a better claim to that honour, but the North Cape has remained the attraction to visit even so. Every year, over 200 000 visitors stand on the plateau and admire the surroundings. Between 14 May and 29 July, you can also experience the midnight sun here, which perhaps explains why most visitors come during the summer.
The old stave churches are Norway’s real contribution to the history of world architecture. The stave church at Urnes is on UNESCO’s world heritage list.
In the rest of Europe, almost all stave churches are gone today. In Norway you can still find 28 of these unique buildings.
Today there are a number of established architectural firms that deserve mention. Lund & Slaatto has been the leading Norwegian firm since the 1940s. One of the firm’s important works is a climate-controlled glass structure protecting the ruins of the medieval cathedral in Hamar.
Sverre Fehn’s architectural works have influenced several generations of Norwegian architects and received widespread international acclaim. Niels Torp had his international breakthrough with a new headquarters building for the Scandinavian Airlines System, or SAS, in Stockholm. Another architecture firm that has gained international acclaim is Snøhetta. They have for example designed the Opera House in Oslo.
Urnes Stave Church and the rock carvings in Alta are among the Norwegian sites on UNESCO's World Heritage List.
Urnes Stave Church
A stave church has been built three times on the same site here at Orneset. A hundred years would pass between the first and the third, the one we can visit today, which was built in 1150. It was once a private church for a powerful high-born family. Its builders were aware of international trends in architecture, and transferred these trends from stone to wood.
The timber was felled in the years 1129-1130. On the long northern wall, original decorated sections from the demolished church have been used: the portal, wall planks and a corner post. The decorated gables from the same church are now covered to prevent wear and tear.
In 1979 it was included on UNESCO's World Heritage List. Ownership of Urnes stave church was transferred to the Society for the Preservation of Norwegian Ancient Monuments in 1880. The society's logo is taken from the carved capitals inside the church.
Similar churches existed elsewhere in Europe, but only the Norwegian ones have survived. Of the original approximately 1,000 churches, 28 remain. Urnes stave church is the oldest and most highly decorated of them. The stave churches are Norway's unique contribution to the world's cultural heritage. Most were built between approximately 1130 and 1350, when the Black Death brought all new building to an end.
Rock carvings Alta
This group of rock carvings in Northern Norway bears the traces of a settlement dating from c. 4200 to 500 B.C. It constitutes the most important piece of evidence documenting the existence of human activity on the fringes of the Far North in prehistoric times - hence its status as a UNESCO world heritage site.
The first petroglyphs were discovered in the 1960s. Since then thousands of paintings and engravings have been found at some 45 sites in the region, the largest of them at Hjemmeluft, the only area open to the public. This is where the Alta Museum is situated. Approximately 3,000 figures have been found here.
Alta Museum consists of an open air museum, where visitors follow a well-marked path and boardwalk to view the rock carvings, and an excellent indoor exhibition explaining the rock art and giving a broader introduction to Finnmark's prehistory. The exhibition also shows how, in the Sámi religion, nature was regarded as possessing a soul and being alive. The museum has other exhibits – you can also learn for example more about the northern lights. A shop and a cafeteria can be found on site.
There are guided walks in English every day in July at 12 noon. For guided walks in groups in other languages than English, you must book in advance. The tour lasts about 45 minutes.
The rock carvings in Alta indicate that this was a religious meeting place in the late Stone Age and early Metal Age, and depict some of the beliefs held by the people from the coast and inland regions, who gathered here several times a year, probably in connection with seasonal, nomadic journeys, and performed ritual ceremonies.
Hewn into the massive and hard sandstone using one stone as a chisel and another stone or an antler as a hammer, the rock carvings testify of aculture of hunter-gatherers who controlled herds of reindeer, built boat and fences, used tools and fishing equipment, and performed ritual ceremonies involving bear worship, as well as other sacred animals. The Sámi gods are also depicted on the Runebommen (magic drum).
Norway's National Day
Nationwide, 17 May. After being ruled by Denmark for 400 years, Norway acquired its own constitution in 1814 and joined in a loose union with Sweden, which lasted until 1905. Norway's Constitution Day is celebrated to this day with parades and festivities throughout the country. Colourful processions of children with their banners, flags and bands lead the way, while everywhere people wearing the traditional costume (bunad) cheer on. The highlight of celebrations is in the capital Oslo, where huge processions descent on Karl Johans Gate, Oslo main street, on their way to see the Royal Family wave to them from the palace balcony.
Bergen International Festival
Bergen, late May-early June. This festival, the largest of its kind in Scandinavia, was founded in 1953. Taking place every year over two weeks in spring, the festival presents over 150 events in the fields of music, ballet, opera, theatre, dance and the performing arts, with many of the events taking place outdoors. With its focus on Nordic Impulses, the festival also aims to be a meeting place for creative and performing artists from the Nordic countries, celebrating their diversity and differences. His Majesty King Harald V is the festival's Royal patron. The festival attracted some 60,000 visitors in 2009. Read more about Bergen International Festival.
Karmøy, June. Bringing Viking history and culture to life, this festival in the coastal community of Karmøy, half-way between Bergen and Stavanger, is the largest of its kind in this part of Norway. Taking place in a reconstructed Viking settlement, the Viking festival, which centers around a big market, offers archery workshops, Viking music, Viking arts and crafts, Viking food, storytelling, sports and more.
Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony
Oslo, 10 December. The Norwegian Royal family and the cream of Norwegian society gather every year in Oslo Town Hall for the Nobel Peace Prize award ceremony, a tradition dating back to 1905. The event itself is by invitation only, although proceedings are shown live on TV. The high profile concert taking place at the Oslo Spektrum the following day, on the other hand, is open to all, and attracts its fair share of celebrities, both on and off the stage.
Folk Museum, Oslo, December. Christmas markets are a popular feature in Norwegian towns and cities from the end of November up to the day before Christmas Eve. One of the most famous is the open air market held at the Folk Museum on Bygdøy, Oslo, the first two weekends in December. The market boasts some 120 stalls selling all manners of arts and crafts, Christmas decorations, and seasonal food. Christmas carols and a Santa's workshop add to the fun.
Popular nature attractions in Norway
Galdhøpiggen, Norway's highest mountain, Nigardsbreen Glacier, the Geirangerfjord and Vøringsfossen Waterfall are all popular natural attractions
Family and fun
Amusement parks, aquariums, farm holidays, skiing lessons - come rain or shine, there is always plenty of things to do with the kids in Norway.
The most famous of all the Norwegian fortresses, is Akershus Fortress and Castle in Oslo city centre.
Another popular fortress is Fredriksten Fortress in Halden. In Fredrikstad, there is Gamle Fredrikstad, the old town which in its entirety is considered a fortress, plus Kongsten Fortress.
In Bergen there is Bergenhus, in Trondheim Kristiansten, and in Vardø, way up north in Eastern Finnmark, you can visit Vardøhus. Kongsvinger Fortress was built to secure the Swedish border in the east.
Fortress on an island
Oscarsborg Fortress lies like a jewel on an island in the Oslofjord outside the small town of Drøbak. This fortress is perfect for families and for those interested in nature, culture and history. The unique surroundings of the fortress provide a fantastic arena for the theatre, opera and concerts which are organised during the summer months.
At Oscarsborg you will find an art gallery, a spa hotel and a good selection of places to eat.
The fortifications are a central part, as is the story of the sinking of the German cruiser Blücher on 9 April 1940.
In summer you can travel by ferry from Oslo to Oscarsborg, or arrive with your own boat to Oscarsborg Marina. The rest of the year you can take a ferry from Drøbak to Oscarsborg.
Visit a museum you are unlikely to find anywhere else in the world. Learn more about Norway, its culture and its people.
Munch Museum Discover the work of Norway's most famous artist at the Munch Museum, which houses the world's largest collection of paintings by the master of expressionism.
Viking Ships Museum
The Vikings were expert seafarers. At the Viking Ships Museum you can see the remains of the impressive ships that carried them on their raids to Europe and further afield.
Check out the ship Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen sailed on to reach the South Pole at the Fram Museum. He was the first man ever to do so.
Nobel Peace Center
From Fridtjof Nansen to the Nobel Peace Prize, awarded every year in December in Oslo. Discover the history of Norway as a nation of peace at the Nobel Peace Center.
"Norwegians are born with skis on their feet", goes a local saying. Find out more about the nation's most popular sport at the Ski Museum in Holmenkollen.
Visit the apartment where Norway's celebrated playwright lived and worked for 11 years. Read more about the Ibsen Museum.
Check out the Folk Museum, one of the largest of its kind in Europe, which boasts an impressive collection of buildings from all over Norway, as well as dozens of different bunad (traditional costumes).
In and around Bergen
You might have heard them march in the streets of Bergen. Find out more about the boys’ brigades, a tradition unique to the city.
Join a guided tour of Edvard Grieg's home in Troldhaugen, the villa where the great Norwegian composer lived with his wife Nina for the past two decades of his life.
Ole Bull's home, Lysøen
Norway's most famous violinist, Ole Bull, was a charismatic man, and his home in Lysøen is just as striking and unconventional as he was.
In Stavanger Norwegian Petroleum Museum
The discovery of petrol in the North Sea in the late 1960s changed the fortunes of Norway forever. The Norwegian Petroleum Museum is a fun place to learn about this success story, and oil in general.
Norwegian Canning Museum
Before that fishing was the mainstay of the Norwegian economy, and Stavanger was a centre for the export of brisling. See how "Norwegian sardines" were gutted, smoked and tinned before being sent on their journey to the far corners of the world. Read more about the Norwegian Canning Museum.
In and near Trondheim
Stiklestad in North-Trøndelag is the battlefield where King Olav Haraldsson (later known as St Olav) fell on 29 July 1030. Learn about this key event in the introduction of Christianity in Norway.
All you ever wanted to know about Norwegian Rock and Pop music, in a brand new building in the harbour area. Read more about Rockheim.
Part of the Selbu Museum, the Knitting Collection features woollen socks, stockings and jumpers displaying the starred black-and-white pattern that is now famous the world over.
Elsewhere in Norway
Lofotr Viking Museum, Lofoten
Take a trip back in time and experience life as a Viking in this 83-metre-long chieftain house at the Lofotr Viking Museum.
Morgedal Ski Museum, Telemark
Morgedal is known as the cradle of modern skiing, and the Morgedal Ski Museum recounts the development of the sport over the last 4,000 years.
Norwegian Forest Museum, Elverum
Vast areas of Norway are covered by forests, and hunting, fishing and forestry are intimately linked to the Norwegian psyche. Read more about the Norwegian Forest Museum.
Norwegian Olympic Museum, Lillehammer
Learn about the 1994 Lillehammer Winter Olympics, the largest sporting event ever hosted on Norwegian soil, at the Norwegian Olympic Museum.
Maihaugen Museum, Lillehammer
Take a look at some of the 190 buildings and 50,000 artefacts depicting life in the Gudbrandsdalen Valley at this big open-air folk museum. The Maihaugen Museum is one of Norway's most popular.
Whaling Museum, Sandefjord
Whaling is a controversial topic these days, yet it remains an important part of the Norwegian heritage. Find out why at the Norwegian Whaling Museum.
Norwegian Klippfisk Museum, Kristiansund
At the Norwegian Klippfisk Museum you can learn about one of Norway's most famous exports, salted split cod, the fish used to make bacalao among other dishes.
The national parks safeguard the rich diversity of Norway's natural heritage, for nature's sake, for our own and for future generations. Norway has 44 national parks, 37 on the mainland and seven on Svalbard. From underwater wonders to high mountainous areas, these parks offer a variety of landscapes and a wide range of exciting outdoors experiences.
Several national parks have arrangements for outdoor activities with a network of marked paths and trails and overnight accommodation in either staffed lodges or self-service cabins.
In vulnerable areas where it is desirable to limit the impact of visitors, paths and accommodation are minimal. General regulations concerning free access and special regulations concerning preservation in the individual parks may limit what is allowed.
Wildlife in the parks
National parks are particularly important for species that need relatively large and undisturbed areas to survive, such as wild reindeer, predators and birds of prey. Many of these are at great risk from human intervention and some are even threatened with extinction. Norway has an international responsibility to look after endangered species and their habitats.
Nearly 85 per cent of Norway's national parks are mountains. The mountain landscape varies from endless gently rolling high plateaus to sharp peaks, ravines and glaciers.
Because of Norway's long traditions as a fishing nation, fish has always been an important ingredient on the Norwegian menu. However, Norwegian farms as well as good stocks of game, have contributed to the Norwegian kitchen with high quality meat.
During the last years Norwegian chefs have been winning international prizes, by the help of their tendency to redefine traditional dishes with a new twist.
Each city has its own identity in the way of cuisine and entertainment.
Norway’s success in the Winter Olympics is unrivalled, and the country has a total of 329 medals (118 gold, 111 silver and 100 bronze) to its tally. The best ever games for Norway were the Lillehammer winter games in 1994, when Norway, which was competing on home turf, topped the medal table, having won 26 medals, of which 10 gold.
Norway has plenty of golf courses, many of them in beautiful locations. Try golfing in the midnight sun, or enjoy a round of golf on ice or snow. Golf is a popular sport in Norway, and new golf courses are popping up at many places throughout the country. From Robert Jones-designed 18-hole courses to six-hole courses built by volunteers – Norway’s 185 golf courses offer something for every player, whether you are a low handicap golfer or a tourist looking for an unforgettable outdoor experience. Either way, Norway has a golf course to suit you.
Most golf courses can be found in the Oslo area and near the cities of Bergen, Stavanger and Trondheim, although there are also some in more rural areas. Most visiting golfers, however, head to the Lofoten Islands for a round of golf under the midnight sun, a truly unique experience. There are also occasional golf competitions on ice or snow. If you want to play golf in Norway, keep in mind that most Norwegian golf courses are products of the environment and the Nordic climate. On the south-west coast you can normally play all year round, but for most courses the season starts in early May and ends some time in October/November depending on when the frost sets in.