As you know, I love warm weather and get plenty of it running my African travel company. But I do enjoy the winter too – by which I mean proper winter. Not that grey, bleak, rainy and cold English winter or the howling Siberian winds cutting through Berlin. I’m talking about winter in Norway. So in that respect, living in Trondheim (and travelling to Africa) is pretty much perfect.
Winter’s arrival should be something to be celebrated, especially in a place as extraordinarily beautiful as Norway. While many may prefer Norway’s extended days and warmer temps, the snow-cloaked months here have always enchanted me most of all. The chance for skiing, sleigh rides, reindeer encounters, glimpsing the aurora, and simply burrowing into hygge perfection is unbeatable.
Having spent many winters exploring Norway’s wonders, I’ve gathered all my insights into this guide for savouring everything this magical season offers. Here you’ll find my tips on weather and attire, transportation insights, top winter destinations and activities both popular and hidden, places to stay, holiday fun, and more so your winter trip to Norway can be smooth, safe, and ultimately unforgettable. With a bit of preparation, Norway in winter becomes a true winter wonderland.
When to Embrace Winter in Norway
Before detailing the plethora of incredible things to do during Norway’s chilly yet beautiful wintertime, let’s cover the essentials like when you can expect winter conditions and what to pack. That way, you’ll be fully prepped to head into the Norwegian snow globe and start making lifelong memories.
The Winter Season in Norway
While everybody has their own concept of when winter “officially” starts, most Norwegians consider winter to run from around early November through early April based on snow, freezing temps, and darkness descending. November welcomes the first dustings of snow in many parts, December sinks into the polar nights up north, January often brings the most intense cold, February spikes with winter break travel crowds, March starts hinting at spring again, and April showcases the season’s last hurrahs.
Of course, variability exists across Norway’s long span reaching into the Arctic. Southern coastal cities like Bergen find winter far milder, while inner mountain towns and Norway’s north see dramatic shifts. Here in Trondheim we’ve had snow on the 17th of May (Norway’s national day) and even in June.
But wherever you may roam, the winter months promise enchanting transformations.
Ideal Times to Visit Norway in Winter
Pinpointing when to visit Norway in winter depends on your interests, budget, and crowd tolerance. Here’s a quick breakdown of the pros and cons of visiting during different months:
- November: Minimal crowds, cheaper rates, autumn-winter transition
- December: Christmas spirit in full swing, busier, higher prices
- January: Polar night and northern lights viewing, coldest temps
- February: Winter break crowds, winter sports events, family fun
- March & April: More daylight returns, spring hints, discount rates
Ultimately there’s no wrong time to visit Norway in winter – each phase of the season offers magic!
What to Pack for Norway’s Winters
Dressing appropriately makes all the difference in fully enjoying Norway’s snowy months. Having the right cold weather gear and winter wear allows you to appreciate the wonder rather than just feeling frozen. Here’s my winter Norway packing list:
- Thermal baselayers (tops & bottoms)
- Wool socks
- Winter jacket (waterproof with insulation)
- Snow/ski pants
- Waterproof winter boots
- Scarves, hats, mittens
- Balaclava face coverings
- Hand/foot warmers
- Layering options like flannels, sweaters
- Nighttime wear
Winter Activities for Outdoorsy Fun
If you love activity, Norway serves up endless options for winter fun and adventure. Once you bundle up against the elements, the snowy fun can begin!
Hit Norway’s Legendary Slopes
Norway is recognized as one of the premiere skiing destinations worldwide. Options span from large resorts with après-ski scenes to tiny secret spots without lifts. Groomed trails and off-piste terrain challenge all abilities. Night skiing under spotlights or the northern lights takes it to another level!
Some top spots include Trysil, Hemsedal, Geilo and, of course, the iconic Holmenkollen in Oslo. Don’t miss the annual Holmenkollen Ski Festival celebrating Norway’s ski culture either.
Try Exhilarating Snow Sports
Beyond just downhill skiing and snowboarding, Norway serves up ways to slip and slide across the winter landscape:
- Snowshoeing through remote forests and peaks
- Cross-country skiing on peaceful trails
- Alaskan-style dog sledding across the tundra
- Snowmobiling through the Arctic wilderness
- Ice climbing on towering frozen waterfalls
- Snowkiting using wind power to soar across white expanses
Embark on Arctic Safaris & Reindeer Encounters
Up in Northern Norway, companies offer once-in-a-lifetime Arctic safaris out in the remote snowy wilderness. Experience sleigh rides, ice fishing, Sami cultural insight, and glimpses of reindeer, orcas, foxes, whales and more against stunning backdrops.
Try Ice Swimming, Snorkelling & Scuba Diving
For the ultimate Norwegian polar plunge, join hardcore locals and dive into winter’s freezing waters. Special thermal wetsuits allow swimming below ice sheets, through crackling ice caves, and alongside aquatic wildlife. Serious bragging rights if you dare!
Top Destinations for Winter Holidays
From bustling cities full of twinkling lights to remote reaches where the northern lights dance, Norway overflows with breathtaking places to base your winter escape.
Trondheim: Simply the best
It’s my hometown now so I could be accused of bias, but I have travelled extensively in Norway and my place beats the rest. Trondheim has many of the country’s best and most exciting restaurants, cosiest cafes, lively bars and Norway’s best hotel, along with superb breweries, historical sites and massive, uncrowded forests right on the edge of town, it takes some beating. And it has a beautiful Christmas market, a downhill ski centre and miles of cross-country trails too. I could go on, but you’re better off reading my Trondheim travel guide.
Oslo: Urban Winter Chic
The reasonably vibrant capital city provides plenty to do from munching cod at the Christmas markets to ice skating at Spikersuppa to strolling the illuminated harborfront to touring its museums and galleries. Sled down the Oslo Winter Park mountain right in town!
Tromsø: Gateway to Arctic Adventures
Experience winter’s magic up close in Norway’s “Paris of the North” where Sami culture thrives and Arctic safaris depart to stunning destinations like Svalbard from this walkable base. Gaze at the northern lights from across sweeping bridges.
Lofoten Islands: Dramatic Peaks Meet Azure Waters
There’s no place more intensely beautiful in winter than the snow-dusted peaks of the towering Lofoten Islands, where colorful fishing villages perch along the shoreline looking out at the sea now filled with rocking ice floes and whales.
Geirangerfjord: Fairytale Winter Wonderland
Marked as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this breathtaking Norwegian fjord landscape transforms into an icy kingdom sprinkled with snow-covered mountain farms, cascading waterfalls turned to ice, and the deserted roads just begging for a cross-country skiing adventure.
Svalbard: Remote Arctic Wilderness
The remote Arctic archipelago of Svalbard turns into a snow globe of glittering ice and experiences like dog sledding across expansive ice sheets, viewing polar bears, and seeking the elusive northern lights dancing across the starry skies in the long polar night.
Top Activities for Families with Kids
Norway shines when it comes to winter fun for families. These activities let kids play and learn in the snow together.
Reindeer Sleigh Rides
Cozy rides at spots like Polar Park pull everyone close together under cozy blankets for a peaceful reindeer sleigh ride through sparkling landscapes. Many hotels also offer short evening rides.
Search for Trolls Around Town
In Bergen, take kids on the Troll Hunt walking tour using clues to find wooden trolls playfully hidden around town. You’ll weave through historic alleys learning about Norway’s troll folktales.
Meet Santa’s Reindeer
At Drotningruta Lodge outside Oslo, families can visit Santa’s reindeer to hand feed them, learn about Sami reindeer herding, and maybe meet Santa himself inside a traditional lavvo tent.
Snow Tubing and Sledding Hills
Snow tubing down hills at ski resorts like Hunderfossen provides wet, wild and hilarious frosty fun. Bring your own sled or inner tubes to careen down gentle slopes together.
Cosy Winter Lodging Options
With shorter winter days spent actively exploring, you’ll want nights spent cozied up in magical accommodations. Norway offers these wonderfully wintry lodging gems:
Remote Wilderness Cabins
Imagine falling asleep under the northern lights and complete silence in remote cabins nestled amid majestic mountains and snowy plains accessible only via snowshoe, ski, or sled. Pure magic!
Snow Hotels Carved from Ice and Snow
From igloo guest suites to ice chapels for exchanging vows, incredible snow hotels like Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel outside Alta and Kirkenes Snow Hotel provide stays carved from ice straight out of fairytales.
Traditional Fjordside Farms
Stay in a historic mountainside farmhouse and immerse in local traditions – from meals of preserved winter foods to roaring fires in wood-burning stoves – while gazing at moonlit fjords and valleys blanketed in snow.
Cosy City Centre Stays
Bergen’s Hotel Oleana and Oslo’s The Thief provide ultra-cozy yet modern downtown stays with fireplaces, bold textiles, and views readymade for unwinding after winter explorations.
Holiday Magic, Traditions & Events
Winter holidays shine bright with extra magic across Norway from Christmas markets to torchlight parades to cod feasts.
Christmas Markets Spread Holiday Cheer
Norway’s major cities sparkle with festive Christmas markets where you can browse traditional crafts and ornaments, warm up with mugs of gløgg, delight in treats like pepperkaker, and find treasured gifts. Trondheim Christmas Market is, perhaps unsurprisingly, my favorite.
Restaurant Feasts on Christmas Eve
Most Norwegians celebrate Julaften, or Christmas Eve, with a multi-course traditional dinner at home. Read more about traditional Norwegian Christmas treats here.
Fireworks on New Year’s
On New Year’s Eve, the sky lights up with dazzling firework shows. Join locals trekking through the snowy streets to public displays to welcome the new year. Scandinavia brings in the New Year in many unusual ways.
Sami Winter Festivals
Experience Arctic winter magic by attending Sami cultural festivals like the Sami Week in Karasjok honoring indigenous traditions. Watch reindeer racing and lassoing, browse crafts, sample cuisine and more.
Getting Around Norway in Winter
While getting around Norway in winter poses some extra considerations, a bit of preparation makes venturing out into the snowy seasons totally manageable.
- Use snow tyres and bring tire chains for traction
- Stock an emergency roadside kit (warm clothes, food, battery chargers etc.)
- Adjust driving based on road conditions – go slow!
- Avoid driving in complete darkness when possible
- Don’t park along snow banks – you may get plowed in!
- Allow plenty of extra travel time for slower speeds
Winter Public Transit
Buses, trains, ferries and planes still run frequently across Norway in winter. Booking in advance is wise for peak season. Dress warmly when waiting outdoors for transport and confirm schedules ahead of time directly with providers as heavy snow can cause service interruptions.
Even small communities across Norway remain connected by short flights zipping over the snowy landscapes. Airlines like Widerøe and SAS service destinations across Northern Norway all winter. Flights provide quick domestic connections to your winter adventures!
Key Takeaways for an Incredible Winter Trip to Norway
- November to April spans Norway’s winter season with December-March being “high season”
- Dress in layers with thermal baselayers, waterproof outer gear, and accessories like hats and mittens
- Try exhilarating snow sports across Norway’s stunning winter landscape
- Experience Arctic safaris, reindeer encounters, and more in Northern Norway
- Visit top spots like Trondheim, Oslo, Tromso, Lofoten Islands, and Svalbard for winter magic
- Remote cabins, snow hotels, historic farms, and city stays provide cozy nights
- Holiday events like Christmas markets, torchlight parades and feasts sparkle with extra magic
- Use snow tires, emergency kits, adjusted driving and public transit to get around
With the proper mindset, attire and itinerary embracing all Norway has to offer in its snowiest season, a winter trip here promises profound beauty, cultural insight, heart-pumping activities, holiday enchantment and lifelong memories. Bundle up and let Norway cast its winter magic over you!