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A definitive guide to visiting Norway

Balmoral arriving into Olden, Norway

A truly magical place, Norway captures the hearts and minds of those that travel there. With a deep tradition of folklore, unique cuisine and stunning landscapes, there’s so much to love about this Scandinavian country. 

Many holidaymakers know very little about this mysterious Nordic destination and all the special secrets it holds. To explain why Norway is a fantastic place to visit, we’ve asked David Nikel, a British-born journalist living in the country, for his tips. 

David Nikel is a British freelance journalist and writer who’s been living in Norway since 2011. Having published his first guidebook about the country, Moon Norway in 2017, he now writes stories about Scandinavia and the Nordic region for global media including Forbes.com. 

What is Norway famous for?

Without a doubt, Norway is most famous for its fjords. Though the western fjords of Geirangerfjord and Nærøyfjord are the most well-known due to their UNESCO World Heritage status, there are deep sea inlets with high cliffs all over the country. Sailing is one of the best ways to appreciate them, as some of the best fjords are inaccessible or difficult to get to by car.

David Nikel

David Nikel

Another stunning example of Norway’s dramatic landscape is the Lofoten Islands. The archipelago’s incredible scenery and unique wildlife makes it a great place to visit all year round, particularly if you like to get stuck into outdoor activities like kayaking or hiking. Similarly, the capital city of Oslo has a distinctive culture with lots of things to do in any season. 

Alongside its unmistakable wilderness, Norway’s food, folklore and friendliness are its other most famous qualities. Local salmon and heart-shaped waffles are just two of the region’s delicacies. You can also learn about the country’s famous Vikings, hear magical stories or embrace the relaxed lifestyle that sees Norway appear frequently in the top ten world’s happiest countries. 

Scenic Lofoten in Norway

What language do they speak in Norway?

Norwegian is the native language of Norway.

There are two written variants of Norwegian and many regional dialects that are very distinct from each other. These developed because, historically, people couldn’t travel between valleys and regions easily due to the mountainous terrain. This means Norway has many more spoken dialects compared to other similar-sized countries. 

Most Norwegians also understand Danish and Swedish as the languages are very closely related. Plus, virtually everyone is fluent in English. So while learning a few words of Norwegian will be appreciated, you'll get by absolutely fine just with English.

What is the currency in Norway?

The official currency of Norway is the Norwegian Krone. Norway's society is highly digitised and many places are now completely cashless, particularly in the city. Most tourist sites and local buses may still take cash, but you will get by fine with your digital wallet, debit or credit card and a small amount of cash just in case.

Sculptures at the Vigeland Park, Oslo, Norway

What is your favourite thing about living in Norway?

Norway has a more relaxed way of life and everyone has a connection with the outdoors from childhood. Every city has opportunities to enjoy nature, from taking boat trips to nearby islands to hiking trails in the forests that surround virtually every major city. 

Even in the capital Oslo, you can ride a ferry to a peaceful island in just 10 minutes, or take a 30-minute ride on the metro deep into the forest.

What is the best time to visit Norway?

It surprises many to find out that Norway is a year-round destination. July is Norway's holiday month and when tourist sites tend to be at their busiest. May and early June are good times to visit as there is a higher chance of good weather and you have the benefit of longer days. 

March and April can also be beautiful with clear skies and snow on the ground. Though you run the risk of poor weather, with many hiking trails and some mountain roads not yet being open. The early autumn is another beautiful time to visit on a ship as you see the changing colours along the coastline, although there is a higher chance of rain at that time of year.

Balmoral arriving into Olden, Norway

When can you see the Northern Lights in Norway?

“There are a lot of myths about when you can see the northern lights. The reality is that, as they are a natural phenomenon, there is no single best place or time to spot them. For example, although Tromsø and Alta are considered the ‘best places’, you can only see them here if there are no clouds. If there is a thick cloud cover, you won't see a thing.”

In contrast, if there are clear skies, you might see something 200 miles south of these locations. One must-have when light spotting is dark skies, so plan your trip for between mid-September to mid-April.

Of all the times I've seen the lights in northern Norway, by far the best displays I saw were from a ship while we were sailing far away from city lights.

Northern lights over Tromso, Norway

Where are the fjords in Norway?

Fjords are found all across Norway. The west of the country has the famous UNESCO World Heritage locations of Geirangerfjord, Hjørundfjord and Nordfjord, which are renowned for their wildlife, waterfalls and beautiful villages. However, fjords can be found as you travel further north along the coastline up to Trondheim and as far as the Lofoten Islands. 

What are the best Norway cruises?

I'm a huge fan of fjord cruises, but you should choose the itinerary carefully. If you want to see these natural giants, then consider the sailing route as well as the ports of call to make sure you can see as many as possible. Some of the fjords are 100 miles inland and so the sail-ins and sail-outs can last for several hours and offer some of the most stunning scenery.”

The added benefit of cruising on one of Fred. Olsen’s smaller ships means that you will be able to visit breath taking, lesser known Fjords. With added access to more to more interesting places you will be able to take in the more exclusive sights of this beautiful place. 

Cruise magical Norway with Fred. Olsen

Whether you want to experience the lively atmosphere of Oslo or get up close to the fjords and northern lights, a Norwegian cruise with Fred. Olsen is a great choice. Discover the majestic landscape from the water, try some of the most delicious local produce and enjoy the excellent scenery in ultimate comfort. 

Plus, with plenty of excursion options available, you can immerse yourself in the Norwegian culture and lifestyle too. All when you book with Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines

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