Things to do in Norway

Must-see Norway sights

Norway is one of those countries that you can’t get bored in. There are intense art galleries for art-lovers, jam-packed museums for history-lovers, swathes of cuisines for foodies and, well, plenty more to do, see and experience in between. In other words, it’s a land of contrasts: majestic mountains tower above mysterious fjords, harsh winters welcome glorious summers, and UNESCO-listed stave buildings stand alongside ultra-modern designs in the likes of Bergen and Oslo. As for prices, Norway can be eye-wateringly expensive, but planning ahead and budgeting will help. But Norway’s nature is free - another reason to make the most of its best playground: the great outdoors.

  1. Enjoy the arts at Oslo Opera House
  2. Get fishy at Norwegian Canning Museum
  3. Pose at Pulpit Rock
  4. Take in KODE Art Museums of Bergen
  5. Explore the Old Town in Fredrikstad
  6. Marvel at Nidaros Cathedral, Trondheim

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1. Enjoy the arts at Oslo Opera House

Norway’s capital city has plenty of museums and galleries, and a mix of interesting arts and cultural spaces, like the National Theatre and Nobel Peace Centre. The most scenic and striking of them all, though, is the Oslo Opera House . This iconic landmark resembles a glacier floating in the harbour, and watching the opera, ballet or concert here is one of the best things to do in Norway.

Best for: Getting a cultural fix.

While you’re there: 50-minute guided tours of the venue.

2. Get fishy at Norwegian Canning Museum

Wondering what to do in Norway that brings you closer to its history with the sea? It may not sound too appealing, but it’s what’s on the inside that counts, right? Stavanger’s Norwegian Canning Museum is set in the city’s sought-after Old Stavanger (Gamle Stavanger) neighbourhood. Housed in a factory at Ovre Strandgate, in the old part of town near the harbour, it’s preserved in its original state as the museum. In the big open room with its curing ovens, the guides describe the life of the people who worked long hours at the intricate process of threading the sardines onto long rods, smoking, then packing them, almost all of it being done by hand.

Best for: Seeing history come to life.

While you’re there: Check out over 180 early 19th-century white wooden houses in Gamle Stavanger.

3. Pose at Pulpit Rock

The most famous mountain formation in the Lysefjord, east of Stavanger, is Pulpit Rock (Preikestolen), which sticks out about 30 metres from the mountain that towers over 600 metres over the water below. A hike up to this tourist attraction is one of the most popular things to do in Norway, and is visited by around 120,000 people every year. The trail starts near the stunning Preikestolen Mountain lodge on an accessible hike - keep an eye out for golden eagles and reindeer. The hike takes two hours each way, so wear sturdy walking boots, warm clothing and water. The views are simply breathtaking, and you’ll understand why it’s best to set off early to beat the crowds. Looking at Norway holidays and wondering where to base yourself? The surrounding areas of Lysefjord and Stavanger have a great range of places to stay, and are set against some truly beautiful backdrops.

Best for: Hiking with a totally rewarding view.

While you’re there: Sightseeing boats leave from Stavanger to Lysefjord all year round to view Pulpit Rock from below.

4. Take in KODE Art Museums of Bergen

You might not know much about Bergen, but you should. Aside from its relaxed atmosphere and appealing mix of the cosmopolitan and the outdoors, this southwest-coast city boasts one of the largest art, craft and design museum complexes in the Nordic countries. KODE, Art Museums and Composer Homes is centred around Lille Lungegardsvann, the lake in the middle of the park. The collection of around 50,000 art objects is spared over four sites, all within easy walking distance of each other. KODE 1 showcases furnitures, ceramics and textiles; KODE 2 focuses on contemporary art; KODE 3 displays the Rasums Meyers paintings collection and the Munch collection, and KODE 4 has art collections ranging from the 14th century to the present day.

Best for: Losing yourself to art spanning the ages, cultures and genres.

While you’re there: KODE 4 also houses the Children’s Art Museum.

5. Explore the Old Town in Fredrikstad

The Old Town (Gamblebyen) in Fredrikstad is Scandinavia’s best-preserved fortress town, dating back to 1567. The cobbled streets of the Old Town were laid by prisoners; you can still see the wooden stocks that face the former prison on the main square. Here you’ll also find the former military barracks (now a school) and a statue of Frederick II, the Danish king who founded the town. Also worth checking out are the drawbridge at the entrance to the town; the former arsenal (now the tourist office); and the Provianthus, the Old Town’s oldest building. Looking for a picture-perfect shot? There’s a good view over the Glomma River, and the moat that surrounds the fortress, including 200-odd cannons that are still in place.

Best for: Stepping back in time.

While you’re there: Explore a few art galleries and small boutiques, then stop for coffee or lunch in one of the little cafes.

6. Marvel at Nidaros Cathedral, Trondheim

A thousand years ago, Trondheim was Norway’s capital, but today, it’s the historical, cultural and religious capital instead. Although it’s got modern ties, it still retains an old-world charm, but the stand-out sight is Nidaros Cathedral . This is where King Olav Tryggvason - or St Olav, the country’s patron saint - is buried; his nephew, Olav Kyrre, built this great stone church over where his body was laid. For centuries, pilgrims travelled from Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, the Faroe Islands and even Greenland to pay homage to the saint, making it easily one of the most important sites in Trondheim you can still visit today.

Best for: Gothic and Romanesque architecture.

While you’re there: Book a tour; combined tickets include the Archbishop’s Palace and crown jewels.

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