Planning a trip to Norway but have no idea where to start? Then this is the picture-packed post for you.
Like many people, I'm sure you're crossing your fingers that a trip to Norway in 2022 will be possible. For those living in Norway, the opportunity to see more of the country we call home is one that shouldn't be missed.
But in a country with so much natural beauty and history to explore, where do you even begin? We've done our best to build a “bucket list” of 25 places that we consider to be must-sees in Norway.
This isn't intended to be a definitive list, and there will be many places well worth seeing that haven't made our list. It's intended to provide some inspiration to help you plan your future travels. So, let's get started. In no particular order…
Places to see in Northern Norway
The north of Norway is remarkably different from the rest of the country in so many ways. It always surprises me how many Norwegians have never set foot north of the arctic circle, when there is so much to see and do. Here's just a handful of ideas.
Regular readers will know I consider the Lofoten islands to be one of the must-visit places on earth, let alone Norway. This Lofoten fishing village spread over several islands at the foot of a mountain wall is one of the best spots.
The handful of arts and crafts businesses including a couple of art galleries give an interesting reason to visit Henningsvær besides the landscape. Outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy everything from rock climbing to snorkelling.
There are a few places to stay in the village, but it's just as easy to visit Henningsvær as a day trip from nearby Svolvær. A car is recommended, as it is all over Lofoten, to make the most of the trip.
Another Lofoten favourite, Reine is famous as the location for one of the most famous photographs in all of Norway. The cluster of buildings making up the village with the imposing mountain backdrop is just as impressive in real life.
There are several ways to reach Reine, all of which impressive in different ways. The Lofoten road trip along the E10 from Svolvær is simply unforgettable, while others opt for the ferry from Bodø to Moskenes. This gives a unique perspective on the imposing mountains of Lofoten.
Finally, you can fly from Bodø to Leknes, and drive a rental car from there. Flying at relatively low altitude around Lofoten gives yet another different perspective on this truly special place.
Hidden away in the far north between Lofoten and Vesterålen is the narrow Trollfjord. This spectacular fjord full of natural beauty and home to diverse birdlife including white-tailed eagles.
Only accessible by boat, the Trollfjord typically welcomes visitors on the Hurtigruten coastal voyage and day-trippers from Svolvær. These trips often focus on birdlife and sealife. Whales, porpoises, basking sharks and seals are among the species to be found in the nearby waters.
The fjord also has a fascinating history. Way back in 1890, the fjord was the scene of conflict between industrial steamboats and local fishermen over local fishing rights.
The conflict was immortalised in the painting The Battle at Trollfjord by Norwegian artist Gunnar Berg, one of the most recognisable works of art from northern Norway.
4. Tromsø from Fjellheisen cable car
There's plenty to see in Tromsø, the biggest city in northern Norway. But the number one must-do is to the Fjellheisen cable car up to the Storsteinen mountain ledge.
From 421 metres (1,381 feet) above sea level, you get a stunning view of the town, summer or winter. In the summer, the area is perfect for hiking. In the winter, you'll probably prefer to take advantage of the cafe and restaurant!
The more energetic may prefer to hike up to Storsteinen. This has been made easier since the recent construction of the sherpa stone staircase. Just be aware there are 1,300 steps!
5. Norway's North Cape
Unlike many places on this list, I'm not including Nordkapp for spectacular scenery. The view from the clifftop is simply open ocean, and often cloudy. It's more to simply say, “I was there.”
While it isn't technically Norway's northernmost point, there's a visitor centre and the iconic globe sculpture to entertain visitors and provide photo opportunities. The drive there is also a memorable one.
A trip to the northernmost place on earth you can travel to on a commercial aircraft is on many people's bucket lists. These remote Arctic islands are Norwegian territory and are a tourist draw for adventurers, wildlife lovers and the simply curious.
Whether it's exploring the Russian settlements or taking in the spectacular scenery, there's plenty to see and do on Svalbard. The Governor of Svalbard requires anyone travelling outside the settlements to carry a gun, in case of polar bear attack.
Places to see in Western Norway
Back down on mainland Norway, the western region—also known as Fjord Norway—is a popular tourist destination.
7. Bryggen, Bergen
There’s so much to see in Norway’s second biggest city but most tourists start at the UNESCO World Heritage site Bryggen. This collection of wooden buildings built around narrow alleyways and cobbled squares hark back to Bergen’s days as one of the most important trading towns in the medieval Hanseatic network.
The Hanseatic Museum has temporarily relocated from a historic trading house to the assembly rooms at Schøtstuene and is still worth a look despite the less atmospheric setting. Also check out nearby Bryggens Museum that tells the stories of the archaeological excavations of Bryggen to date.
There are so many sights to see in and around the fjord region that even an entire book wouldn’t do them justice. Carved by glaciers in the last Ice Age, the fjords attracted the first settlers to Norway and today do the same with tourists.
But it's the UNESCO World Heritage site Geirangerfjord that makes the list because of the number of incredible viewpoints available by the roadside. Get on the water if you can, and see if you can spot the abandoned mountain farms Skageflå, Knivsflå and Blomberg.
9. The Nordfjord from Loen Skylift
Since 2017, the Loen Skylift cable car has given thousands of people a whole new perspective on Norway's Nordfjord. Breathtaking views down the Nordfjord are the reward for the pricey trip.
An old folk tale claims that Mount Hoven is named after the Norse God Odin's horse Sleipner. On a mountain ride, Sleipner is said to have struck his hoof leaving the powerful scar on the mountainside that is clearly visible today.
10. Galdhøpiggen: The very top of Norway
Getting to the top of Norway’s tallest mountain isn’t as tough as you might expect. At 2,469 m (8,100 ft) above sea level, Galdhøpiggen is an imposing sight, but there are two main routes up that can be done within a day.
Given the altitude, the season is short. Typically, the trails are accessible from June to September. The shortest hike requires a glacier crossing and can only be done with a guide.
11. The Atlantic Road
Daniel Craig drove the Atlantic Ocean Road in his last appearance as James Bond in No Time To Die. It was the latest in a long list of big and small screen appearances for the iconic stretch of coastal road, one of Norway’s 18 national scenic routes.
Opened in July 1989 after six years of construction, the 5.2-mile-long road connects Averøy island with the mainland by way of causeways and eight bridges across an archipelago.
For tourists, the road can be a destination in itself or simply a part of a much longer road trip along the coastline. The sweeping Storseisundet Bridge is the most famous spot and its worth driving the road back and forth a few times to experience every twist and turn from both angles.
12. Trollstigen mountain pass
The serpentine Trollstigen mountain pass is one of Norway's most popular driving experiences. Viewpoints at the top provide a memorable view of the road in context with the mountains and valley.
If the road isn’t too busy, stop at the old stone bridge that crosses the Stigfossen waterfall. It’s the perfect photo opportunity, especially early in the season when snowmelt feeds the waterfall.
Ålesund offers fairytale architecture in a simply stunning natural setting. Walking around the compact downtown area is the best way to appreciate the city, but if you have time, it’s worth climbing the steps to Mount Aksla for a famous view.
To get the full story on the city’s disaster out fire and reconstruction, visit the fascinating Jugendstilsenteret. The city’s aquarium is also worth a visit.
14. Pulpit Rock
Pulpit Rock, or Preikestolen in Norwegian, is one of Norway’s most famous hikes. The end result of the two-hour hike? Stunning views of the Lysefjord from a clifftop 604 meters above sea level.
A popular day trip from Stavanger, Pulpit Rock attracts tourists from all over the world. You may also have seen it on the big screen as one of the settings in Mission Impossible – Fallout.
15. Gamle Stavanger
Back in Stavanger, don't miss the opportunity to wander the streets of the fascinating old town. Known as Gamle Stavanger, the area features hundreds of white wooden houses that are among Norway's best preserved.
People still live in the houses and they take great pride in them. To see the area at its best, visit in the summer season when blooming hanging baskets line the streets and scented rose bushes creep over the white wooden fences.
Trolltunga—known in English as the Troll’s Tongue—is one of the most spectacular cliffs in Norway, hovering 700 metres above Ringedalsvatnet lake. Carved by an icecap that once covered much of Norway, the cliff is today the end point of one of Norway’s most famous hikes.
The demanding mountain hike shouldn’t be attempted by beginners as it takes several hours. But the reward for experienced hikers is fantastic. Most Trolltunga hikers spend the night in Odda either side of the trip.
17. Briksdalsbreen glacier
The glaciers of Norway are retreating fast. One that you can still see relatively easily is Briksdalsbreen, an arm of the great Jostedalsbreen glacier in Jostedalsbreen National Park.
The area offers many opportunities for keen hikers. Most popular is the straightforward 3 km trail from the mountain lodge parking lot to the glacier. Those who struggle to walk needn’t miss out, as there are ‘troll cars’ for hire.
18. The Flåm railway
Previously named by Lonely Planet as the world’s most beautiful train journey, the Flåm railway packs stunning mountain, fjord and valley scenery into less than one hour. The trip includes a couple of photo stops including the powerful waterfall Kjosfossen.
From the high mountain station at Myrdal down to the Aurlandsfjord, the 50-minute ride full of twists and turns down the lush Flåm valley is a true engineering marvel. It took 17 years to build, a history that is commemorated in a small museum next to the arrival station in Flåm.
The easiest way to reach the Flåm railway is to take the Oslo-Bergen railway to Myrdal station. From Oslo, the scenic journey takes just under 5 hours and Flåm departures coincide with the train’s arrival at Myrdal. The two trains combine for one very memorable trip.
Places to see in and around Oslo
Norways capital city Oslo offers plenty to see for a week or more, so it’s a challenge to pick just a few must-see places. We’ve done our best, but for a full guide check out our travel guide to Oslo.
19. Oslo's Vigeland Park
Explore the essence of human nature through the lens of Norwegian sculptor Gustav Vigeland. His park in the leafy west of Oslo features more than 200 sculptures in bronze, granite and cast iron.
While the diminutive Angry Boy attracts camera-weilding tourists, the imposing monolith is the undoubted highlight of the park. Carved from a single piece of stone, the monolith depicts more than 100 intertwined human figures reaching for the skies.
20. Akershus Fortress
Evr since its construction in the Middle Ages, Akershus Castle and Fortress has been an important building in Oslo with many diverse uses. First built as a royal residence and for protection, it’s also served as a military base and prison.
The fortress also played a role in World War II. Occupying German forces seized control of the facility for use as a prison for deserters, Germans opposed to the Nazi system and some members of the Norwegian resistance.
21. Holmenkollen ski arena
This world-class sporting arena towers above the landscape in the hills above Oslo. Holmenkollen ski jump is an impressive sight whether or not there is an event on.
Bu the ski jump also houses a museum that will be of interest to anyone keen on winter sports. The exhibition covers 4,000 years of the history of skiing and includes an incredible 2,500 pairs of skis!
Places to see in Central Norway
Central Norway is a region steeped in history. There's plenty to see in this region of Norway but we've picked out just two of the highlights.
22. Trondheim's Nidaros cathedral
Nidaros Cathedral draws people from all over the world to Trondheim and is a true icon of the city. There's plenty to see in the cathedral itself and surrounding buildings such as the museum within the adjacent archbishop's palace.
It holds a special place in the history of Norway. The cathedral began its life as a simple wooden chapel built to honour the grave of Olav Haraldsson, the Viking king who helped convert Norway to Christianity and later became the patron saint of Norway.
The former copper mining town of Røros is known for its remarkably well-kept wooden buildings and historical importance. Visiting the copper mine is a must to understand the history of this fascinating UNESCO World Heritage site.
But Røros offers much more than just a history lesson. The town is thriving today thanks partly to tourism but also a thriving sustainable food industry. For example, the town's dairy has recently begun exporting its famous butter to the US.
Other places to see in Norway
There are so many other places to see in Norway that it's truly impossible to cover them all in one article. Here are two more that you can find elsewhere in the country.
24. Heddal stave church
Norwegian stave churches are known throughout the world. Many have survived thanks to restoration projects over the centuries. One of the best examples is Heddal stave church in Notodden municipality, south-west of Oslo.
Heddal is the largest of Norway's remaining stave churches, but it's the height that strikes visitors the most. At 29 metres tall and with three turrets, the fairytale structure doesn't seem real at first!
Yet this remarkable wooden church is one of Norway's few stave churches still in regular use as an active place of worship.
25. Telemark canal
The Telemark canal is a historic 105km-long network of lakes and canals that connects Skien with Dalen. Formerly an important transport route for the timber industry, the canal is today used mainly for leisure and tourism.
Yet its location in the Telemark region means it's less famous with international tourists than it otherwise would be.
That's a shame, because the canal is a living heritage site and a wonderful opportunity to experience slow travel. Return trips from Skien to Dalen on heritage boats are a popular activity among Norwegians.
An overnight stop in the historic Dalen Hotel with its spa treatments and excellent restaurant is an undoubted highlight of the trip.