If snowshoeing up mountains, boating around frozen fjords, taking respite in roasting saunas and cosying up in cafes or watching the world go by as candles twinkle around you sounds appealing, you should consider a winter trip to Norway.
The country excels at all times of the year, with the warmer, brighter conditions in summer often favoured by travellers.
But take one look at the frozen landscapes of fjord Norway or the myriad of winter activities that are available in Tromsø and Norway in winter will soar straight to the top of your “must-travel” list.
However, weather and darkness must be taken into account – this can be a challenging time of year to visit Scandinavia, particularly if you’re venturing into the Arctic.
In much of Norway, temperatures plummet below freezing from November onwards (in some places the first snowfall is as early as October!), and snow and ice cover much of the country.
But that doesn’t mean that Norway’s gems are hidden in the cold season; frosty weather transforms the landscape, bringing a winter wonderland to life before your eyes.
When planning a winter trip to Norway, you’ll need to consider where is best to go, transport, activities and what to pack.
I recently visited Bergen, Fjaerland, Flåm and Tromsø in February, and here’s my conclusive guide with all of my best tips!
This blog post contains affiliate links. I was a guest of Widerøe airlines and Norwegian tourist boards. All opinions are my own.
Planning a winter trip to Norway: my top tips!
Here’s everything that you need to know when you start to plan your winter Norway trip!
Choose your activities wisely
Soar down ski slopes, trudge up snow-covered hills, or just forget about the outside world by getting cosy with a cup of hot coffee and watching the snow fall outside.
There are so many winter activities in Norway; and, by choosing yours carefully, you can easily tailor-make your winter itinerary by choosing the best seasonal activities.
Norway’s winter activities include skiing and snowboarding; there are resorts and slopes all over the country, close to cities like Oslo, Bergen and Tromsø.
If you can’t or don’t want to ski, consider snowshoeing, which is a fun way to see the epic mountain scenery without needing a particular skill – it’s just like walking!
In the snowier parts of the country, you could also try out snowmobiling, where you’ll soar over a bright white landscape.
Dog sledding is another popular activity, mainly in Tromsø and the surrounding Arctic region. You could also arrange reindeer sledding experiences, many of which include learning about Sami culture.
In the north, explore the countryside on a northern lights tour. These tours will take you into the dark Arctic landscape, to somewhere with clear skies where you can wait for the aurora bolaris to appear.
It’s never guaranteed that you’ll see the northern lights in Norway (or anywhere in the world), but the northern part of the country is one of the best destinations in the world to hunt for them!
Of course, there’s also a variety of activities that you can enjoy year-round, including basking in the atmosphere of Tromsø, enjoying fresh seafood in Bergen, fjord boat trips, riding on the Flåm railway and visiting museums all over the country.
Choose your destination
Once you’ve thought about what kind of trip you want – where that be skiing, an Arctic winter wonderland trip in northern Norway or exploring the fjords around Bergen – select your destination!
Here are some of the best places to visit in Norway in winter.
The top choice for winter travellers to Norway, Tromsø boasts northern lights dancing across the sky (if you’re lucky!), authentic Sami cultural experiences, snowsports just outside the city centre and a pulsating, engrossing atmosphere in the city itself.
Plus, when you stay here you’ll enjoy unique museums that showcase Tromsø’s northerly position; check out the Polar Museum, which focuses on expeditions to the north pole, or the Troll Museum, with exhibitions about Tromsø’s most talked-about mythical character.
Also, don’t miss the Arctic Cathedral, probably the most famous landmark of Tromsø, or exploring the harbour, whether you walk around it, sail on it on a boat tour (whale watching is popular in Tromsø in winter!), or take a dip in it after baking in PUST sauna (which is what we did on a chilly February morning).
The cosy city of Bergen doesn’t see anywhere near as much snow as other Norwegian destinations in the winter; temperatures are often about 5C, which makes it perfect for tourists who want to experience a Norwegian winter without being too cold!
If you’re in Bergen and want to enjoy some snow, it’s a short journey up Mount Fløyen or you can hop on a train to the nearby ski resort of Voss.
Back in Bergen, enjoy its delectable food scene throughout the winter months; there’s even a fish festival in February. Walk around Bryggen and see the colourful buildings of the UNESCO wharf, popping into museums along the way to learn more about the city’s fascinating history.
If it gets chilly, Bergen has an abundance of cosy cafes and fun bars – my favourite was Frescohallen, which is adorned with several frescoes that depict the history of the city.
Just a three-hour train ride from Bergen, Flåm sits nestled in fjords, and is usually covered by a carpet of white snow throughout the winter season.
The village is most famous for the beautiful Flåm Railway, a must-do for any train fanatics. In the winter you can also enjoy snowshoeing and skiing in the nearby surroundings – often with views of the fjords themselves.
Boat tours leave throughout the year – if you’re feeling intrepid, opt for the RIB version, or there are electrically heated boats too.
And staying at the historic Fretheim Hotel, which has huge windows overlooking Flåm’s scenery, is an experience in itself.
The picturesque village of Fjaerland is a little more challenging to reach in the winter months; we took a flight from Bergen to Sogndal and then arranged a transfer, although you could take a bus from Sogndal airport to the city centre and then change for another bus to Fjaerland.
However, it’s worth the extra journey – in the winter, Fjaerland is a delicious hidden gem, the cliffs enclosing a bright blue river that snakes through the bottom of the fjord. It’s also in striking distance to Jostedalsbreen, the largest glacier in mainland Europe.
While Fjaerland’s natural beauty is certainly a reason to visit – it’s one of the best Norway fjords winter destinations – the village’s spirit also makes it a wonderfully cosy winter destination.
They’ve earned a reputation as a book town, with plenty of bookshops to peruse (perfect if you need to warm up while exploring!).
There’s also the Norway Glacier Museum, which is one of the best in the country and explains the geology and history of the Jostedalsbreen Glacier and discusses glaciers all over the world.
After hosting the 1994 Winter Olympics, Lillehammer was put firmly on the map for skiing and snowboarding, with resorts and cross-country trails aplenty.
At only a two-hour train or bus journey from Oslo, it’s also very accessible.
Norway’s capital is usually snowy in the winter months (and, as is unsurprising in Norway, there’s skiing right outside the city centre).
Enjoy a fantastic food scene, plenty of museums and architecture like the Opera House. Over Christmas, it has some of the best festive markets in the country, with a jolly, holiday atmosphere throughout the capital.
Winter near the north pole? Well, kind of – Svalbard is about halfway between the top of Norway’s mainland and the pole. In the winter, the islands are in total darkness (it’s called “Polar Night” season).
Due to the abundance of polar bears in Svalbard, it’s illegal to leave Longyearbyen, the de facto capital, without a gun. For tourists, this typically means that you can’t leave Longyearbyen without a guide – although there are plenty of tours that take in the surrounding landscapes.
While that might seem unappealing to many, for curious travellers it offers a fantastic chance to see one of the world’s most fascinating and remote places; and of course, watch out for northern lights.
Svalbard is firmly on my travel bucket list, and I know that I’ll be visiting during the winter season – not least so I can write about it on this blog!
Select your hotels
Once you’ve decided on where you’re going to stay in Norway in the winter, choose your hotels!
Norway’s hotels are generally of an excellent standard, with comfy beds, high-speed WiFi and sumptuous breakfast buffets.
Of course, luxury hotels come at quite a hefty price tag – this is Scandinavia, after all – but there are a few mid-range brands that offer comfortable rooms with plenty of amenities at a better value. Scandic Hotels and Thon Hotels are generally highly regarded; you’ll also find international chains like Radisson Blu.
In some of Norway’s more remote locations, you’ll find friendly independent guesthouses. These also have a high level of service, often with personal touches like talks about the area or evening meals. Often, they’re set in stunning locations!
Here are all of the hotels that I can personally recommend. You can click through on their names to go through to their Booking.com listing, or read my full reviews!
- Scandic Torget Hotel: Situated in central Bergen, right opposite the Fish Market, this hotel provides comfortable beds with fluffy duvets, large bathrooms and an excellent buffet breakfast – I enjoyed avocado and tabasco on toast, along with Norwegian cinnamon rolls, before each day! Read my full review.
- Fjaerland Fjordstove Hotel: An idyllic guesthouse sitting on the edge of the fjord, this hotel provides tailor-made hospitality, with charming rooms decorated in period decor and wraparound windows in the communal lounge. The expert chef made the best food I tasted in Norway, and it’s within steps of all of Fjaerland’s best attractions. Read my full review.
- Fretheim Hotel: Sitting in the tourist hub of Flåm, Fretheim Hotel started life as an English lord’s manor house, with part of the hotel still decorated to reflect that time period. It has a buzzing bar and restaurant serving fine Norwegian food (including seafood and reindeer, but with plenty of veggie options for non-meat eaters). Read my full review.
- Thon Hotel Tromsø: Right in the heart of Tromsø is this warming modern hotel, with well-furnished rooms offering comfy beds, power showers, USB chargers and Nespresso coffee machines. Plus breakfast buffet at Thon Hotel Tromsø was the best that I had in Norway! Read my full review.
If you’re browsing accommodation, I’d recommend using Booking.com; they provide a range of competitive prices and offer perks and discounts for regular users.
Book your transport
Norway in winter is a land of ice-covered landscapes; which certainly looks stunning, but can provide some logistical issues when it comes to transportation!
However, with the right planning, you can safely and easily find your way around the country.
Flying around Norway
I visited Norway as a guest of Widerøe airlines; they connect Bergen with over 40 destinations around the country.
With Widerøe, you can easily fly from the UK or select other European destinations to Bergen, and then connect to places like Tromsø and Sogndal.
Do factor in some time for things to go wrong on your winter Norway trip; bad weather can cause planes to be delayed or cancelled.
I’d also recommend spending a night in Bergen or Oslo at the end of your trip before taking your onward plane; this is just in case a plane from one of the more remote regions is cancelled.
Our plane from Tromsø was delayed, which meant that we didn’t make our short layover in Bergen and spent an extra night there; so do plan your layovers accordingly to avoid this happening.
Norway’s trains plough on throughout the winter months and are especially valuable if you’re sticking to destinations in the southern part of the country.
The Oslo to Bergen line is wonderfully scenic and takes around seven hours to connect the two cities.
You can also reach destinations like …. on the trains.
All trains are bookable on the Entur website, although it’s often cheaper to book direct with the provider.
Buses connect more remote areas of Norway that the train routes don’t get to. For example, you can take a bus from Sogndal to Fjaerland in fjord Norway or Tromsø to Atla in the far north!
Buses in Norway are generally reliable and safe; on rare occasions, they may be cancelled in winter due to road conditions.
However, most Norwegian bus drivers are experts in driving in the snow, and the vehicles are kitted out with icy-weather equipment.
Personally, I wouldn’t drive around Norway in winter; our driver (Adrienne from Wonderlust) expertly navigated the journey from Fjaerland to Flåm, but the weather closed in and I was very impressed with how she navigated it in a calm and collected manner.
If you’re used to driving in extremely snowy conditions, you may be ok; but if you have any doubt, stick to public transport.
If you do want to drive and need to hire a car, I’ve always used Europcar for vehicle rental in Europe and have found them to be reliable and good value.
Many of Norway’s top winter experiences are best enjoyed on tours. Here are a few of the best tours that operate in winter:
- Fjord cruise from Bergen: This cruise explores some of the best fjords close to Bergen, ideal if you don’t have time to visit the country’s other fjord destinations. Click here for more information.
- Flåm railway from Bergen: You can visit the Flåm railway independently, but if you want to do it as a day trip from Bergen, this self-guided option is perfect. Click here for more information.
- Husky sledding in Tromsø: One of the best Norway winter activities, husky sledding is the perfect way to see Tromsø’s surrounding Arctic landscape. Click here for more information.
- Northern lights tour in Tromsø: When in northern Norway, spot the northern lights (if you can!). This northern lights tour forays out into the snowy scenery, finding the best place to see the lights on any given night. Click here for more information.
- Sami culture tour from Tromsø: Learn about northern Scandinavia’s indigenous community on this valuable tour. Click here for more information.
I always use Get Your Guide for booking tours in Europe; they’re flexible, reliable and offer great rates.
The last thing to do when planning a winter trip to Norway is to make sure that you’ve packed right!
In most locations, Norway’s winter weather is extremely cold, with temperatures often dropping well below freezing.
Packing the right gear is therefore essential to ensure you stay warm and comfortable during your trip.
My suitcase included clothes and items like:
- Thermal layers: essential for the Arctic and mountains, they’ll protect you from the coldest of weather!
- Middle layers: I packed thick tracksuit bottoms and woolly jumpers.
- Ski gear: I wore my ski jacket and salopettes, even though I wasn’t actually going skiing.
- Winter boots: Triple check your boots are waterproof before heading to Norway in winter – I learned the hard way that mine were no longer waterproof and ended up with very soggy feet!
- Hat, scarf and gloves: You’ll need these wherever you go in Norway!
- Sunglasses: The sun can bounce off the snow and be very bright!
- Portable charger: If you’re spending long days out of your hotel, your device’s battery might drain. Ensure that you’re never out of battery by packing a charger.
- Camera: You’re going to want to take photos of Norway’s epic scenery!
- Swimsuit: Necessary if you’re going to saunas or jumping in the fjords!
Head to the airport, board the plane and enjoy Norway in winter!
Are you ready? Norway in winter is wonderfully alluring, whether you want to tackle the Arctic on trips outside Tromsø or sit in a cosy Bergen cafe watching the world go by.
This guide should have helped you to plan the intricacies of your Norway trip, ensuring that you choose the best places to stay, tours to go on and transportation in the cooler months.
Now, all that’s left is to head off on your Norway winter trip! The country’s another world in the cooler months, and provided you have sufficient layers and extreme weather contingency plans, it’ll be a trip unlike any other.