Full of colour, aromas, and festive cheer, Christmas markets are popular across Scandinavia with locals and tourists alike. Here's when and where to get your Christmas market fix in Norway this year.
As the darkness of the polar night grips Norway, many of its towns transform into winter wonderlands. From the bustling streets of Oslo to the snow-laden streets of Røros, these markets offer a magical blend of crafts, gifts, and warming food and drink.
With a few notable exceptions, Christmas markets in Norway are not as grand in scale as elsewhere in Europe. I'm thinking especially of the giant Frankfurt market in Birmingham that I frequented every year.
That said, Norwegian Christmas markets seem to have a nicer feel to them. They are mostly less crowded and more family-friendly. Perhaps it's the cold—and sometimes the snow—but they are definitely different.
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Christmas markets, scandi-style
So, what to expect? Stalls typically offer a selection of products from local artisans and farmers. That means they're not cheap of course, but this is Norway.
A visit to a market involves shopping for gifts, but also gathering with friends and family to indulge in some Christmas food and drink, perhaps to the soundtrack of some live music.
Usually, December is not a hugely popular time to visit Norway. Many attractions are either closed or have reduced opening hours. Darkness fills much of the daytime, and icy streets can make wandering around hazardous.
But it's also a very atmospheric time of the year, and the Christmas markets are a big part of that! So, if you are planning a December visit to Norway, here's a few of the best markets to look out for.
Christmas markets in Oslo
Let's start with the capital. Oslo remains a popular place to visit year-round. If you're visiting in December, you have the choice of several Christmas markets to enjoy. Here are some of my favourites:
Jul i Vinterland, Oslo
2023 Dates TBC
If you don't want to leave the capital then look no further than Spikersuppa, the urban park between the National Theatre and the Parliament building. Officially known as Jul i Vinterland (Christmas in Winterland), the market has become more popular with each year.
Here you'll find stallholders selling everything from reindeer meat to knitted hats and mittens. But the centrepiece of the capital's most visible festive market is undoubtedly the ice rink.
Access to the rink is free, although you'll need to pay to rent a pair of skates if you don't have your own.
Norwegian Folk Museum, Oslo
2-3 & 9-10 December, 2023
The houses at the open-air site (all of which were relocated from different parts of Norway) are decorated according to the festive traditions of the original inhabitants. As is typical for Norway, children are centre of attention with choirs, activities and even a Santa's workshop.
We're back to the capital for something a little different. Unlike most of the markets on this page, the Christmas Fair at the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History celebrates a traditional Norwegian Christmas as it has been done for centuries.
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 the Norsk Folkemuseum is worth the trip.
Photo: Norsk Folkemuseum.
It's not just for tourists either! Many locals attend every year with their families spanning multiple generations.
Note that the Christmas festivities are only taking place on two weekends this year, fairly early in the festive season. So, plan accordingly! To help your planning, check out more information on the website here.
Bærums Verk, near Oslo
25 November – 21 December, 2023
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 day, offering gift ideas, food and entertainment. I took a trip back in 2012 and after exploring the beautiful site complete with frozen waterfalls (yes, it was that cold!), I stumbled upon 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!”
During the opening period, the market is open 3pm-8pm weekdays, 10am-6pm Saturdays, and 12 noon to 6pm on Sundays.
Christmas markets in Bergen
Now we're done with the capital city, it's time to visit the west coast. Let's take a look at how things work in Norway's second biggest city.
Pepperkakebyen, the Gingerbread Town
18 November to 31 December, 2023
See 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.
As you can see from the video above, you can expect to see Bergen in sweet miniature. Everything from houses, trains, cars and ships are made from real gingerbread.
Admission is free for children under 12 on weekdays but costs 50kr at weekends. Admission for adults costs 150kr, with 100kr tickets available for students and teenagers.
Bergen Christmas market
1-22 December, 2023
Elsewhere in Bergen, the Bergen Christmas Market (Julemarked) takes place on Festplassen at the heart of the city. Openly daily from 12 November to 22 December, the market offers a wide range of food, drinks and gifts in a festive atmosphere.
Other Christmas markets in Norway
Beyond Oslo and Bergen, there's plenty more festive events to discover across Norway, from big cities to tiny towns. Here are some of the best to watch out for:
Røros Christmas market
7-10 December, 2023
Now from the capital, we take a big detour to one of the smallest places in Norway to host a Christmas market. In central Norway, close to the Swedish border, lies the wonderful UNESCO World Heritage Site, Røros.
Several years ago now, 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!) and examined the gingerbread house competition. Then we listened to carols from local schoolchildren, discovered the local pottery and warmed our hands by the open fires.
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 in December, make sure it's on this weekend.
Just don't forget to wrap up warm, as Røros in the winter can be one of the coldest places in Norway. Temperatures can plunge well under -30C in the winter.
Although, in recent years, the temperature around the time of the market has been much more manageable, typically just five or ten degrees below freezing. You can find more information about this year's market here.
Trondheim Christmas market
3-20 December, 2023
If you can't make it to Røros, Trondheim's Christmas event is one of the best city centre markets in all of Norway. Although as with all markets on this page, the weather can occasionally add a challenging dimension! But as you can see, things carry on regardless:
Held on the city's central square, the busy pedestrian location is lined with stallholders selling unique arts, crafts, and gifts, while a giant tent hosts a cafe serving hot meals and snacks, beer, mulled wine and coffee.
A couple of stages host a vast programme of live music and other cultural events throughout the two-week long event. Oh, and the weather isn't always as bad as the picture suggests! In fact, some recent years have been entirely snow-free. Read more about the event here.
Tromsø Christmas Town
From mid-November, 2023
Billing itself as Norways Christmas Town, Tromsø pulls out all the stops for the festive season. Rather than a single venue, Tromsø's concept is to give the entire town centre the feel of a Christmas market.
Held in the polar night period, Tromsø offers cozy cafes, a waterfront ferris wheel, and plenty of shopping opportunities for Christmas gifts.
7-10 & 14-17 December, 2023
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. Although I've not had the pleasure of attending Julebyen, I recommend you check it out anyway if you're in the Stavanger Region.
Entry is free. Don't forget to let me know what it was like! You can read more about Egersund's Julebyen here.
Maihaugen Christmas market, Lillehammer
2-3 December, 2023
Located on the hillside above Lillehammer, Maihaugen is one of Norway's best open-air museums. At Christmas, the historic buildings are decorated and the season is celebrated as in the olden days.
There's also, of course, a wide selection of stalls with Norwegian crafts, local food, and Christmas decorations for sale. The only downside of this event is it's only celebrated over one weekend, so don't miss out!
Christmas market at Hadeland Glassverk
At Hadeland Glassverk, you can easily combine Christmas gift shopping with a cozy, festive experience. Here, you’ll find shops, restaurants, an art gallery, and Norway’s largest indoor Christmas market.
So there we have it! This isn't intended to be an exhaustive list. Many towns and cities across Norway host Christmas market events, but this gives you an idea of what to expect. Merry Christmas everyone, or as they say around these parts: god jul alle sammen!
Have you ever been to a Christmas market in Norway? Which ones are your favourite, and why? Let me know in the comments below.
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