I have to admit I was skeptical about visiting Norway in the winter. Sure, it’s cool seeing reindeer, snow, and northern lights but I imagined a land of darkness and cold. Instead, I found warmth and light everywhere I turned. From the urban beauty of Oslo to the tranquility of snow-clad Alta, I kept finding reasons to visit Norway in the winter… 13 reasons specifically. Keep reading, and you might find yourself boarding a Norwegian Air flight before you know it.
1) Exploring Around the Oslo Harbor
Oslo’s harbor is so much more than a shipping port. It’s packed full of public art and fascinating architecture, especially in the winter. She Lies replicates an iceberg that reflects light differently day or night and swirls with the tides. During the winter, you can almost imagine a rogue iceberg floated into port. SALT is a nomadic art project overlooking the Opera House bringing together art, food, music, and architecture. I am usually not an architecture fan, but the ultra-modern opera house and Bar Code district made me think Norway’s vision of the future wouldn’t be bad at all. The city is filled with so much warmth and love that even the winter chill is held at bay.
2) Sweating in a Scandinavian Sauna
Norway borrowed the Finnish tradition of sauna and added their own special flare. The Oslo Fjord Sauna lets you and up to 14 of your closest friends soak in the harbor views (see what I did there 😉 ) while basking in the heat. When it’s time for a break, you can take a dip in the refreshing winter water of the Oslo Fjord. I did it in the dead of winter and came out alive, so you can too. You can also try the Oslo Raft Sauna made entirely out of recycled material which is super cool.
3) Cruising the Oslo Fjord
Fjord cruising has been a staple of Oslo tours for decades. I went on Vision of the Fjords, an all-electric boat that quietly cut through the icy waters. From her bow, I saw islands, lighthouses, and those colorful seaside houses like you’d see on jigsaw puzzles. A thick blanket of snow makes this scene even more magical.
4) Walking Karl Johan’s Gate
Why do they call a road a gate? My guess is that it used to run through the city’s ramparts. Now it connects Oslo Central Station to the Royal Palace. As I walked up from the harbor to the palace on the hill, I saw parliament and Oslo University. A 2-mile walk up Karl Johan’s Gate introduced me to all things Oslo. What amazed me the most is how all the city embraced winter. There were people everywhere walking in the snow and paying winter weather no heed.
5) Discovering Street Art in Oslo
Over the last decade, Oslo’s street art scene has grown to larger than life proportions. By 2020, the city aims to be Scandinavia’s most extensive outdoor art gallery. While you’re on your walkabout, you should check out the some of the adorable boutiques. Maybe you’ll find that perfect accent piece that will always remind you of Oslo, or at least you’ll get to warm up inside for a spell.
6) Staying at Oslo’s First Energy Class A Hotel
When in Rome right? Norway is Europe’s Green Capital for 2019 so why not stay at a geothermally heated hotel whose solar panels create as much energy as the hotel uses. Add that to their super-efficient windows, and it is easy to understand why the Scandic Vulkan was ranked Oslo’s First Energy Class A Hotel. I loved the comfortable beds at the Scandic Vulkan as much as their fantastic breakfast spread. The ultra-modern Scandic Vulkan is a cozy counterpart to a drafty old hotel room.
Photo by Lia Garcia (link in picture)
7) Photographing Norway’s Northern Lights
I photographed northern lights in the town of Alta which sits north of the Arctic Circle. The sun never rises in the winter, but the lights fill the night sky. Alta is far enough north that you’ll see Northern Lights on every clear winter night. You can find dark skies just outside of town where the city lights glow just bright enough to accent the horizon. I’m not going to lie, photographing Northern Lights was colder than jumping in the Oslo Fjord, but it was the highlight of my trip.
8)A Homestay with Sami Reindeer Herders
Impact Travel Alliance partnered with a local group called Visit Natives who connected host indigenous families to travelers looking to experience their unique way of life. Imagine snowmobiling hours outside of town to a semi-nomadic reindeer herders’ cabin where you’ll learn the secrets of ranching in the Arctic. It’s may be cold outside, but you can’t deny the warmth of your host.
Photo by Alice Ford (link in picture)
9) Gliding Across the Snow on a Dogsled
So there I was on a dog sled just outside the Trasti and Trine Lodge. I yelled mush, and the dogs just stared at me. My guide yelled over “That’s only in the movies. Try OK”. I said “OK,” and the dogs took off like four-legged lighting. Dogsledding feels just like skiing groomers, but you have fluffy friends with you. How cool is that? I loved exploring the forests and trails and can’t wait to do it again!
10) Visiting the Northern Lights Cathedral
This unique cathedral of wood and titanium dominates the skyline of Alta’s business district. It looks like a science fiction centerpiece from inside to out and perfectly embodies the magic of the Northern Lights and the Norwegian winter. Spoiler alert for the narrative piece of my journey, I spent 24 hours convalescing on the amazingly comfortable Thon Hotel and staring at the Cathedral through my window. I know from personal experience how beautiful the Northern Lights Cathedral is as the light changes.
11) Snuggling in an Ice Hotel
What says winter more than sleeping in an igloo hotel? Sorrisniva is Norway’s first and most famous ice hotel. I always imagined coming here with my husband, Ed, whose metabolism is high enough to qualify him as a heater. Even without my hot husband, I was plenty warm at night on top of my fur blanket bed wrapped up like a burrito in an expedition sleeping bag. The hotel itself is a work of art carved by local artists every winter. This year’s theme was fairy tales and believe me, I felt like a princess staying at Sorrisniva.
12) Eating Like a Viking
I don’t exactly know how a Viking would eat, but I imagine lots of meats and everything else. Dining in Norway was that kind of adventure. I had a Seven-course Asian fusion meal at the Hitchhiker in Oslo- heck yea. I drank down Honey Mead from the Himkok Speakeasy – super yum. There were even Sushi tapas from Ett Bord. What really got me going was the gourmet coffee from Oslo’s favorite bean master Tim Wendelboe. The coffee may have got me going, but what sealed the deal (no pun intended honestly) was the reindeer steaks at Sorrisniva.
13) Flying Norwegian Airlines
Norwegian Airlines offers amazing rates to fly to Norway in the winter. The Flytoget train gets you into Oslo in no time, and you’ll never have to worry about snowy roads keeping you from the airport. I had the chance to fly premium class on my trip, which had ample leg room and meal service throughout the voyage. Not only that, but I landed rested and recharged due to Norwegian airlines lower in-cabin atmosphere. Say goodbye to jet lag as you roll VIP style.
Wrapping up My Winter Visit to Norway
My tour of Norway in the winter was one of the most amazing and memorable trips I have ever had. If you want to know all of the gory details, go check out my narrative article Visiting Norway in the Winter – the magic of snow and shadows. It tells the story of how my Norway trip ended a 10-year self-imposed snow sabbatical after I had to quit professional skiing, how I made new friends on the road and new experiences I’ll remember for a lifetime. Who would have thought that dogsledding felt close enough to skiing to make me cry or how beautiful the northern lights really are? I hope it will inspire you to go to Norway in the winter and create your own memories.
Disclosure: A big thank you to Visit Norway, Norwegian Airlines, Impact Travel Alliance, North Adventure, Visit Natives and Visit Oslo for hosting us and setting up a fantastic itinerary! For more travel inspiration check out their websites and social networks.
As always, the views and opinions expressed are entirely our own, and we only recommend brands and destinations that we 100% stand behind.
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