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The Cities of Norway

A Norwegian city from above

Everything you wanted to know about the biggest Norwegian cities.

When it comes to Norway, the spotlight tends to fall on the beautiful fjords, sweeping mountain ranges, forests, and other, more rural aspects of the country.

However, the majority of Norway's population lives in urban areas, so let's take a look at where exactly everyone lives.

Oslo

The capital city of Norway, Oslo is the prime stop for urban living in Norway. Being the major transportation hub in the country, if you’re visiting or moving here chances are you will set at least one foot in Oslo.

Oslo capital of Norway

With a population of nearly two million in the entire metropolitan area, Oslo is far and away the largest city in Norway. The economic centre of the country, and massive youth and student populations, Oslo always has something to do or see.

The royal palace, Munch museum, Viking ship museum, the Holmenkollen Ski Jump, the list is endless when it comes to popular destinations and attractions in Oslo.

Even though it’s a big city, getting out in nature is extremely easy from Oslo. A few minutes on a bus, train, or any other from of transportation will take you out into the surrounding woodlands or up to a beautiful section of coastline on the fjord.

Oslo has it all when it comes to urban living in Norway.

Bergen

A hugely popular destination for travellers, this west coast city is the second largest in Norway.

The alleyways of Bryggen in Bergen, Norway.

Perhaps the most iconic stretch in Bergen is Bryggen – the old wharf line with traditional wooden buildings. But the entire city looks stunning from the top of Mt. Fløyen: accessed by hiking or taking the Fløibanen funicular to the top.

Nightlife is top notch in Bergen as well, with yet another city with large student population, as well as working population, there is always something going on.

Fjords are the name of the game for most people that head to Bergen. Situated in the area most people picture when they think of Norway, the dramatic landscapes of the fjords are easily accessible from here.

Famous for being rainy, don’t forget an umbrella if you plan a trip here.

Stavanger

West coast is the best coast; Stavanger adds another tally to the count of great Norwegian cities situated on the left side of the country.

Stavanger travel guide

A former European Capital of Culture, Stavanger boasts great things both in and outside of the city. Classical Norwegian architecture, vibrant nightlife, amazing food, you name it and Stavanger has it.

A university city, Stavanger is home to several universities and research institutions. This is also reflected in the urban atmosphere around town where there is always something happening.

Stavanger also lies deep in fjord country, and offers some of Norway’s most breathtaking views. Preikestolen for example, is one of Norway’s famous natural treasures and lies just outside the door of Stavanger.

Trondheim

Trondheim is a big little city that lies smack dab in the middle of Norway. With a population just under the 200k mark, Trondheim offers a great balance of city life with a more relaxed feel.

Hotels in Trondheim
Trondheim

Home to one the larger Universities: The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Trondheim plays host to several thousand international students. With the large student population the nightlife and other activities.

In the age of Vikings, Trondheim was the capital city of Norway, and so has a lot of history to explore. Most notably, the Nidaros Cathedral at the middle of the city and the multitude of museums scattered about the area.

Like everywhere in Norway, it’s easy escape the city and get out into nature. Woods, mountains, fjords and coastland, and some tundra-esque landscapes are hardly more than a bus or ferry stop away.

Drammen

Centrally located in the eastern and most populated part of Norway, Drammen is one of the fastest-growing cities in the country.

View over Drammen
Drammen

A sleepy feeling town, Drammen overs a more peaceful urban setting. Walks along the river should be a priority for anyone and is a good way to check out all the museums, churches, and other buildings in the city.

Quite a bit of Norway’s beer comes from Drammen from the Aass brewery. So it’s easy to find something to quench your thirst after exploring the river.

Kristiansand

The southernmost city on this list, and in Norway in general, Kristiansand is absolutely stunning. It was also an important military stronghold at one time, marking it as a wonderful destination for history lovers.

Beach in Kristiansand city centre
Kristiansand

Besides the charming, traditional wooden buildings, Kristiansand plays host to numerous attractions. The city prides itself on being a family destination and offers summer time attractions such as a zoo and theme park.

The city isn’t short on more grown-up attractions, with museums, classical architecture, and a beautiful cathedral dotted throughout.

For nature lovers Kristiansand has beautiful coastline, and the beaches to accompany them, and easy access to the outlying woodlands.

Tromsø

The northernmost city on this list Tromsø is on the smaller side of what most people would consider a city. With a population well under 100,000 Tromsø still manages to be a fantastic destination.

Pedestrians on Tromsø bridge
Tromsø

Museums and beautiful architecture are found in abundance in Tromsø, but most of what the city has to offer lies outdoors. Surrounded by mountains, woodlands, and tundra, Tromsø is a nature and adventure lover’s paradise. Pairing the best of city life with easy access to nature.

Northern lights chasers will inevitably end up in Tromsø. This phenomenon is one of the city’s selling points and can be scene throughout the fall and winter months.

Tønsberg

Situated just south of Oslo, Tønsberg is the oldest city in Norway. Officially established in 1838, the town’s history goes back about 1000 years before that.

Tønsberg castle tower
Tønsberg

Viking history and everything in between are bountiful in Tønsberg: museums, ruins, Tønsberg Quayside, and Viking burial mounds can all be explored by visitors.

Tønsberg also hosts a fantastic music festival during the summer, and some great nightlife options throughout the year. Brygge in the downtown area is most visited by the locals.

The Slottsfjellet area holds some of the oldest recorded history in Norway. There still stands the tower of a castle at the top replicates part of the fortress that stood in the earliest days of the city.

Sweeping, rocky coastal landscapes characterize this area of Norway. Pack along your fishing rods and see if you catch a fish off the Verdens Ende (the worlds end)!

Ålesund

Ålesund is often called a fairy-tale city with its art-nouveau architecture and cobble stone streets that twist and turn around canals and the edges of the fjord.

Art nouveau Ålesund
Ålesund

Besides the beautiful architecture, Ålesund boasts an impressive number of museums and one of Scandinavia’s largest salt-water aquariums. But truthfully, nothing beats the views in the area.

The Geirangerfjord is the ideal vision most people have of Norway. High waterfalls and abandoned mountain farms, the fjord landscape is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, and is within a few hours drive of Ålesund, as is the nearby Hjørundfjord.

Fredrikstad/Sarpsborg

These cities lie so close together that they are now considered the same urban area. Both cities are rich with history and modern urban living in a ‘cozy’ setting.

Fredrikstad

The old town of Fredrikstad is a much-visited sight, as it is one of the most well preserved fortified towns in the Nordic region. Here it’s easy to hop around restaurants, bars, museums and galleries.

Sarpsborg was at one point the capital of Norway under King Olav Haraldsson (later St. Olav) and thus has plenty of opportunities to explore both local, and national history. Some great beaches and beautiful coastline are easy to get too as well.

Nearby Fredrikstad/Sarpsborg is the sunniest area in Norway, the Hvaler Islands. A few steps closer to town you can find Sarpefossen, Europe’s largest waterfall. Coastlines and wooded areas are easy to explore from either city.

The cities of Norway: A quick look at the biggest Norwegian cities

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About the Author: Bradley Kurtz

Bradley Kurtz in an American freelance writer living in Trondheim.

4 Comments

  1. The picture up top is Sandnes, with Stavanger in the background. Despite being the 8th most populated city in Norway it’s oddly enough not mentioned in the article.

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