For the last few weeks, my Facebook feed has been dominated by the latest Christmas TV adverts from John Lewis, Sainsburys and the like. As the Christmas season seems to start a month earlier in the UK than Norway, it serves as a useful heads-up for me to start thinking about my plans.
As usual I’ll be returning to the UK and Gerry will be making the trip to Mexico. It’s my fourth Christmas season in Norway, although I am yet to spend Christmas Day itself here. So I make the most of the Christmas sales and markets, while avoiding the traditional culinary “favourites” of pinekjøtt and lutefisk…
Christmas markets in Norway are not as grand as elsewhere in Europe. I’m thinking especially of the giant Frankfurt market in Birmingham that I frequented every year – aah memories of the singing moose head and gløgg are flooding back! Norwegian Christmas markets seem to have a nicer feel to them. Perhaps it’s the cold but they are almost always less crowded, more family-friendly and offer a nice selection of products from local artisans. They’re not cheap of course, but this is Norway.
Here’s a few of the best…
5-7 December 2014.
Last year we drove through a blizzard to get to the Christmas Fair in Røros but oh it was worth it! We spent two days exploring the nooks and crannies of the old copper mining town, soaking up the festive atmosphere. We met reindeer, ate reindeer (not the same ones!), examined the gingerbread house competition, listened to carols from local schoolchildren, discovered the local pottery and warmed our hands by the fire.
The beautiful church hosts a Christmas concert the day before the fair opens. Røros is worth a visit at any time of year, but if you’re planning a visit soon, make sure it’s on this weekend. Read more from my visit.
Bærums Verk, near Oslo
Weekends from 28 & 29 November 2014
In 1610, King Christian IV (of Denmark and Norway) founded an iron ore production facility. Over 400 years later, Bærums Verk is now a thriving shopping destination, home to a blacksmith, glassblowers, a patchworks shop, carpenter’s workshop and other traditional Norwegian crafts.
From the end of November “Julegaten” (the Christmas Street) opens every weakend, offering gift ideas, food and entertainment. I took a trip back in 2012 and after exploring the beautiful site complete with frozen waterfalls (it was cold!) I found the market:
“As I wandered around Verksgata it gradually became a picture postcard Scandinavian Christmas. There were reindeer pulling children on sledges, Glühwein by the bucket and yes, even chestnuts roasting on an open fire!”
Every day from 22 November 2014
Photo: Visit Bergen
The world’s largest gingerbread town, right in the heart of Norway’s second city. Kindergartens, schools, businesses and thousands of individuals have contributed to the annual event since its creation in 1991. I haven’t been yet, but I’m told by many it’s well worth a visit.
Expect Bergen in miniature: houses, trains, cars and ships made from real gingerbread, and of course, plenty of opportunities to buy gingerbread too!
4-7 & 11-15 December 2014
Photo: Julebyen Egersund
In 2004, Egersund was voted as Santa’s hometown in Norway by listeners of NRK. As luck would have it, plans for a Christmas market were already underway. That Christmas the centre of Egersund was transformed into a festive town full of food, textiles, mulled wine, art, decorations and more. It’s been the same ever since.
A busy program of entertainment and concerts is on offer, and although I’ve not had the pleasure of attending Julebyen, I recommend you check it out anyway if you’re in the Stavanger Region (and then report back!)
Norwegian Folk Museum, Oslo
Weekends during December 2014
Photo: Norsk Folkemuseum
Going to an open air museum in the winter may not seem the most sensible plan (I tried it in Lillehammer once and boy was it cold!) but Oslo’s Folk Museum is worth the trip. Unlike some events, the Christmas Fair celebrates a traditional Norwegian Christmas as it has been done for centuries. The houses at the open-air museum (all of which were relocated from different parts of Norway) are decorated according to the Christmas traditions of the original inhabitants.
As is typical for Norway, children are centre of attention with choirs, activities and even a Santa’s workshop. It’s not just for tourists either! Many locals attend every year with their families spanning multiple generations.
God jul alle sammen!