If Norway’s been on your bucket list as long as you can remember but you need a nudge to start planning your trip, we’re here to help you. Before you go, here are only 30 things that Norway is famous for.
Norway is known as the Land of the Midnight Sun. It is famous for its phenomenal fjords, lakes and magical skies. Norway is also famous for its languages, Vikings and folklore, being eco-friendly, and oil production. Also, many inhabitants of Norway are renowned ski fanatics, frozen pizza lovers, and Tesla drivers!
Let’s dive into the list of what Norway is known for.
Norway is famous for its fjords – so much so that we’ve taken the word “fjord” from them. One in particular, Sognefjorden, is the deepest in the world. Located at the heart of Norway, Sognefjorden is 205 kilometers (127 miles) in length and 1308 meters (4291 feet) deep.
You can visit these places no matter the weather, though activities differ depending on the season. Expect long walks with breathtaking views in summer and excellent cross-country ski paths in winter. Either way, Sognefjorden is one of Norway’s most visited attractions for a reason.
2. Laerdal Tunnel
Norway is famous for being home to the Lærdal tunnel, the world’s longest road tunnel. It links major cities like Oslo and Bergen, so it’s a good option if you rent a car during your stay in Norway.
Laerdal tunnel stretches some 24.5 kilometers (15 miles) and is lit the whole way so it’s easy to forget you’re driving through a series of rock chambers.
Oslo is the capital of Norway, and many things that Norway is known for can be explored in this beautiful city.
The eco-conscious harbor city of Oslo is famous for its architecture, Viking history museums and modern architecture. It’s also where the Norwegian Royal Family live!
Read our in-depth guide to learn all what Oslo is famous for.
One of Norway’s most sought-after Instagram destinations is the reward after a 13 kilometers (15 miles) hike. Located 150 kilometers (93 miles) south-east of Bergen, Trolltunga is a sharp, long cliff that looks out over Ringedalsvatnet lake and got its name for its likeness to a troll’s tongue.
This is the ultimate place to absorb Norway’s quirky and unique landscape – tourists really do flock here though, so it’s well-worth a 4am wake up call to experience it without the masses.
Norway is known for exporting and eating a lot of salmon. They love salmon so much that if you’re feeling especially great, then a Norwegian might adoringly call you “en glad laks” – a happy salmon.
The Norwegian salmon industry is worth $5.3 billion, so salmon really does make them happy. Traditionally, salmon is eaten smoked or cured, called røkelaks and gravlaks in Norwegian.
Salmon is also pan-fried, and often served with boiled potatoes and a creamy sauce. It can’t go unmentioned either that Norway actually “invented” salmon sushi by exporting Norwegian salmon to Japan – thanks, Norway!
6. The Northern Lights
Norway is known for being one of the go-to destinations to see the Northern Lights. From September to March the skies above Norway glow green from Aurora Borealis’ magical light.
The Northern Lights can be seen in many parts of Norway so it might be hard deciding where to go. Luckily, a Norwegian app called Norway Lights will help you out if you want to plan a trip to see them! It works by calculating the probability of seeing them in regions where they appear most frequently. It’s available for both Apple and Android devices.
In the Alta region, you can even experience the Northern Lights while bathing. The Scandic hotel has an outdoor pool that’s made for floating and staring up at Norway’s night sky – now that’s a travel story.
7. The Midnight Sun
Norway is also known for its incredible skies in the spring and summer months!
After months of not seeing the sun rise – or just a few hours daylight – the opposite occurs in the opposite half of the year. The sun stays up all day in some parts of Norway, and even the south experiences days where it feels like it never really got dark. In Olso, the day of the summer solstice has 12 hours and 56 minutes more daylight than the winter solstice.
Svalbard, between mainland Norway and the Arctic Circle, gets daylight all day from 20 April to 22 August. We’ve all left a movie theater and been surprised by the bright light – but try leaving a nightclub and hearing the birds sing!
8. Svalbard & The “Doomsday” Vault
Norway is known for its close proximity to the North Pole, and about halfway there is where you’ll find the Norwegian owned island cluster called Svalbard. It’s the furthest north you can fly on a commercial airline, and only 2,500 people live there. Svalbard is also the location of the northernmost sushi restaurant in the world.
The isolation of Svalbard makes it the ideal location for something you want to protect, and the Norwegians aren’t taking any chances with agriculture’s fate. The Seed Bank of Svalbard, nicknamed the “Doomsday Vault”, has over a million plant seeds from all over the world preserved in permafrost. Just in case.
9. Arctic Animals
The less than 3,000 people of Svalbard share their home with Norway’s most spectacular wildlife. Before you offend a Norwegian and ask if they have pet polar bears, it’s worth remembering that you’ll only find them all the way up in Svalbard, not on the mainland. And they’re definitely not pets.
Don’t worry! There are friendlier species that live in mainland Norway including Arctic foxes, reindeers, and seals.
Norway is also known for its controversial stance on whale hunting, and in 2019 it became the country to hunt the most whales. There are 20 species of whales living in Norwegian waters, including Humpback, Sperm and Killer Whales.
Primarily, Norwegians hunt the minke whale. Norwegian authorities estimate that there are some 10,000 minke whales living in Norway’s coasts. The whaling industry seeks whales for their blubber to produce soap, paint and varnish, as well as for consumption.
The European Union parliament has challenged Norway’s views on whale hunting, but since Norway is not a member of the EU it is free to make its own decisions regarding the issue.
Also Read: 27 Things Iceland Is Known And Famous For
11. Beerenberg Volcano
Norway is known for its natural phenomena, but did you know that Earth’s northernmost volcano can be found there?
Located on Jan Mayen island, the volcano Beerenberg stands at 2277 meters (7306 feet) and it last erupted in 1985.
Jan Mayen island is situated off the coasts of Norway and Iceland, and is uninhabitable. Beerenberg is mostly covered in glaciers and has erupted six times since records began in 1732.
Norway is known for so many good things that there had to be another catch somewhere. Norwegian weather isn’t famed for its sunshine or scorching days, although the summers can be mild and vibrant. Norway’s second-largest city, Bergen, is the rainiest city in Europe. It rains 270 days of the year there, so don’t forget to pack a raincoat!
Don’t let that put you off. Bergen is known as the Fjord’s Heart and has cobblestone streets lined with gorgeous old buildings. The surrounding mountains and easy access to Norway’s most beautiful fjords are just added extras for budding visitors.
The harbor in Bergen has been given UNESCO World Heritage status and hails from the 1200s, so no trip to Norway would be complete without stopping by.
13. The “Norwegian” Language(s)
Norway is known for speaking Norwegian but a lesser known fact is that there are actually two official versions of Norwegian written and spoken in Norway today: Bokmål and Nynorsk.
Norsk (Bokmål) is the most commonly spoken language in Norway, with 90% of Norwegian students electing to learn and use it at school. Bokmål can be described as a cousin of Danish, with strong similarities between the two. It makes sense, because Danish was the official written language of Norway until 1814.
Nynorsk is another variant of Norwegian, created in 1929, which includes Norwegian regional dialects and is, etymologically speaking, close in form to Icelandic. Districts can declare themselves as using either Bokmål or Nynorsk, though many schools teach both.
There’s also a third official language in Norway which relates to their indiginous peoples, the Sámis. Sápmi is spoken by around 12,000 Sámi people in Norway today.
14. Norwegian Independence Day
Norway is famous for its national pride and independence, and it’s well earned after their turbulent history. On 17 May 1814, Prince Regent Christian Fredrik of Norway was appointed king and signed Norway’s constitution. Shortly after however, a war with Sweden revoked Norway’s independence until 1905.
Known to Norwegians as ‘Syttende Mai” (“Seventeenth May”), this is the day when Norwegians celebrate their independence in full swing. On this day, young and old Norwegians dress in traditional Norwegian clothes called Bunads, parade through towns and cities and feast. The celebration of 17 May was prohibited during the German occupation of World War 2, a time still in living memory for some older Norwegians.
Champagne, salmon, and as many Norwegian flags as possible are good indicators if you’re not good at remembering what day it is – it’s impossible to miss!
Norway is known for its viking history, and the Norwegian ancestors continue to make their mark today. Some of history’s most formidable Vikings were Norwegian.
Leif Eriksson was born in Iceland to Norwegian parents, and his legacy is perhaps the most famous. He beat Christopher Columbus to “the New World” by about 500 years. He named the Canadian soil he landed on Vine Land, and Viking relics have been found in Newfoundland to prove it. Erik the Red was actually called Erik Thorvaldsson, and his temper was as red as his hair. He founded the first settlement of Greenland, and he even gave it the name it still goes by today.
Lastly, the first king of Norway was allegedly called Harald Fairhair. He had two sons who succeeded him: Erik Bloodaxe and Haakon the Good. You’ll be glad to know that Norwegians these days only have titles like the above in the telephone directory, but are much milder these days. More on that further down the list!
Ålesund is located in the north-west of Norway, and it’s one of the country’s greatest hidden treasures. It’s the capital of Norway’s fisheries and new and old architecture make this town’s landscape pop, making it a great place to stay if you’re going fjord-exploring.
From Ålesund, you can catch a train or coach to take you to the fjords for further exploring on foot. You can also take a fjord cruise which will show you three fjords in just three hours if you’re short on time!
17. Voss Water
Norway is known for being expensive and luxurious, and contributing to this reputation is the artesian Norwegian water brand Voss. Norway was promoted on the big screen in 2015 when Voss made a cameo in the James Bond movie Spectre.
Norwegian television channel TV2 alleged that Voss water is actually just Norwegian tap water from Iveland, south Norway. If it is, I don’t know why they want to dispute it – Norway is reputed to have some of the best tap water in the world. This is good news for visitors because you can save a lot of money by just drinking from the taps!
Scandis like myself often turn to Voss at a pinch when looking for a temporary homesickness cure; it just tastes so crisp!
18. Europe’s richest millenials
Norway is known for being a wealthy country despite its tiny population, but compared to other countries with enormous economies like the U.S, U.K and Canada, Norwegian millennials are thriving economically.
Norwegian millennials are the only Europeans who can claim they have a better economic situation than their parents did when they were their age. Norwegian millennials on average earn a massive 460,000 NOK ($56,200). A casual supermarket job in Norway will pay you about 14,000 NOK ($1,700) a month after taxes, and many Norwegian millennials even manage to afford properties with this method.
It definitely helps that all education is free in Norway and university students receive grants on top of loans with very low interest rates.
Norway didn’t get the title of Most Sustainable Country without some serious effort. Norway is known for its dedication to fighting climate change and almost 99% of all Norway’s electricity is powered by water and winder power. But that’s not all!
Norwegian start-up company Too Good To Go realized that one-third of Norway’s food ended up as compost or lining trash cans. To combat food wastage, they created an app so Norwegians could buy leftovers from cafes, bakeries, restaurants and hotels all over Norway at a discount. Sustainable and affordable!
20. Largest consumers of electric cars
Norwegian eco-generated electricity also charges half of the cars in Norway, because 50% of all cars purchased in Norway are electric! In Oslo you’ll almost certainly see many Tesla models parked up and down the streets. Norwegians buy the largest amount of electric cars anywhere in the world.
Norway has a target of eliminating sales of gasoline and diesel cars by 2025. That’s not enough for the Norwegians, however. In the year 2026 and onwards, only zero emission electric ferries will be allowed to use Norwegian waters to ferry fjord-seekers on cruises.
21. Oil & Gas Production
Norway is known for its mass export of oil and gas, particularly in Europe. This seems a little at odds with Norway’s focus on the environment and sustainability, but it’s where most of the country’s wealth comes from.
Norwegian oil and gas is almost entirely exported, and Norway is the 8th largest exporter of oil and gas in the world. All the money made from oil and gas in Norway is stored in the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund which now stands at roughly $1 trillion.
This enormous piggy bank then invests in almost 1000 companies to generate even more money. Some would say they’re saving for a rainy day, which is lucky considering Bergen exists!
22. “Funny” names
Norway is known for its “funny” names. Of course, Norwegian parents don’t purposely give their children names to make us laugh. However, there’s a very real chance you’ll meet a few men called Odd or Even in Norway. There are even 22 men called Odd-Even. How balanced and Scandi is that?
Names in Norway can sometimes lead to confusion. In Oslo, 50 of the 4,000 Hansens in the telephone directory are called Hans. The solution? The Norwegians have provided hints next to each name like “Hans the retired” or “Hans the bricklayer”.
If you fancy it, you can take a trip to the village called Hell. There’s not a lot to do there other than take a selfie with the sign, but if you find yourself near Trondheim Airport with nothing else to do then it’s something to tick off your list and laugh about!
23. Norwegian folklore
Norway is known for its Viking history, but you’d be wrong to assume that Norwegian folklore is limited to just Norse mythology. Apart from Odin, Freia and Thor, trolls feature heavily in Norwegian folklore and the bad news is, they’re nearly all evil.
If fairy tales are your thing, go to Eventyrskogen near Stavanger. You can take a one hour walk through the forest which has been decorated with trolls and googly eyes, all with some reference to Norwegian children’s stories.
24. Roald Dahl & The Chocolate Factory
One of the most famous children’s writers of all time, Roald Dahl, was Norwegian by birth. Roald’s parents even named their son after another famous Norwegian, Roald Amundsen.
Roald was raised in Wales, U.K, but his stories were heavily influenced by his Norwegian heritage, especially Charlie & The Chocolate Factory. In fact, the chocolate factory that Dahl so vividly describes was inspired by the Freia Chocolate Factory in Oslo. Adding to Dahl’s legacy is his story The BFG, which was made into a Hollywood hit directed by Steven Spielberg.
25. Table etiquette
Something that others have pointed out to me about Scandinavian culture is dining etiquette. Norway is known for its family focused approach to dining. If you’re invited to eat with a Norwegian family, you’ll thank me later for this advice!
Reaching across others at the table is not only acceptable, it’s encouraged. In my house, we’ve playfully nicknamed this maneuver the “Norwegian reach”. Don’t ask a Norwegian to pass you the salt, as they will simply lean across you if it’s closer to your plate. This is entirely normal in Norway and other Scandinavian countries, so don’t be offended if it happens to you.
Remember to say “Takk for maten” at the end of the meal, as Norwegians always thank the cook when they’ve finished eating. Especially if you have Scandi in-laws, this is a sure-fire way to impress them!
26. World’s best skiers
Norway is known for being the home of skiing! A well-known saying in Norway is that Norwegians are born wearing skis on their feet. Thankfully for poor mom, it’s not literally. Norwegians love skiing so much that this saying mostly refers to their world-leading skiing prowess.
Not only have the Norwegians won the most Winter Olympic medals, including gold, but they invented slalom skiing as a way of training young children to improve their technique.
There are 125 ski resorts to choose from in Norway if you love to ski as much as the locals. Geilo, between Oslo and Bergen is a family favorite and one of the oldest in the country. If you’re flying into Oslo, then Norefjell is probably your best bet – there’s even a free bus transfer from Gardemoen, Oslo airport, too. An added bonus about Norefjell is that there’s an award-winning spa on the premises, so you can rest up after your busy ski days!
27. Card is king
Norway is known for its leading role in the revolution against cash. That’s right, cash is not king in Norway, and it shares the number one position of the highest card usage per capita with Iceland.
Two thirds of the Norwegian population use person to person payment via an app called VIPPS. It’s quickly becoming the go-to method of paying in most restaurants, cafés and shops but sadly, they only accept Norwegian banks.
Make sure you bring a credit or debit card with you to Norway though, because many places will no longer accept cash. If you’re curious, the currency in Norway is the Norwegian Krone (NOK). Here’s another free piece of trivia – VIPPS is the sound Norwegians use to indicate a sudden transaction: Vipps, a polar bear appeared!
28. Not so fast food
Norway is known for its excellent cuisine – particularly fish dishes. However, eating out can be very expensive, and you should be forewarned that your usual go-to’s when low on funds might not help you much in Norway.
At 49 NOK ($5.67), the Norwegian Big Mac is the second most expensive in the world and there’s no KFC. The health-conscious Norwegians do have a fast food soft spot however, and it’s probably not what you’d expect.
Norwegians are the largest consumers of frozen pizzas in the world! In 1980, the company Grandiosa sold the first pizza produced in Norway and now it’s a kind of cult classic.
29. Norwegian Waffles
Norwegians love their waffles as much as the Belgians! Norway is known for making waffles in distinctive flower and heart shapes, and serving them with sugar, cream and jelly (jam).
There are different favorite toppings depending on where you are in Norway, though. You might be served waffles with eggs, caviar or cloudberries in the north of Norway, traditional brown cheese or ice cream in the south. The good news is, whether you prefer sweet or savory, Norway has a waffle topping that suits you.
30. Norwegian expressions
When they’re not calling you a happy salmon, Norwegians have some other great ways of expressing themselves. Norway is known for its many idioms that are sure to put a smile on your face!
Trying to hide from infectious laughter or to keep a straight face? A Norwegian would say you’re “smiling in your beard” – å smile i skjegget. Tell a Norwegian you don’t like skiing and they might think you’re crazy. If that happens, they might ask “have you smoked your socks?” – “har du røyke sokka dine?”
Perhaps the best of all though is the word “utepils” which means outdoor-beer. Because the winters are long and daylight limited, Norwegians never pass up an opportunity to sit in the sun when it appears – regardless of how cold it might be. Sun’s out, Norwegians out – for an utepils that is!
I could go on, but I think this list is enough to persuade you to put Norway at the top of your travel wishlist. You’re pretty much a Norway expert now, so get planning! Did we miss anything? Let us know what else Norway is famous for in the comment box below.
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