Edited September 2019
I know, I know, everyone wants to go to Norway in the summer to enjoy the warm(ish) weather, hike through the fjords, and stay in a cottage on the coast. But I’m beginning to suspect that everyone has it wrong, because winter in Norway is amazing.
In fact, winter might just be the best season of all to visit Norway.
1. Magical sparkling snow
So you hate winter and all that awful heavy snow you are endlessly shoveling while it soaks right through your ‘waterproof’ boots? No worries, Norwegian snow is nothing like that!
It’s light and fluffy, and on particularly cold days it’s full of glitter! It’s basically fairy dust.
For the highest quality snow, visit Norway in January or in February for pure magic. And if you’re wondering where the best places to visit in Norway in winter are, head up – into the mountains, that is! While at sea level the weather in winter varies a lot and there can even be rain, if you go up to the Norwegian mountains in the winter you are guaranteed a winter wonderland.
At least my home in Rauland, in the mountains of Telemark, is the most beautiful winter wonderland I ever did see.
Also be aware that farther north does not necessarily mean colder in Norway. Places near the coast will always be warmer than places inland, and the coldest places are in the mountains. So if you want to be guaranteed a white winter in Norway, head inland and up!
2. People ski and sled everywhere
Horse-drawn sleighs may be a thing of the past, but in Norway you will still see plenty of people skiing to school or the post office. And what better way to make it to work on time than sledding down the hill into town?
I wish this were a joke, but at least where I live people totally ski and sled everywhere. In fact last year when Dan and I sold our car Dan bought a spark for us to get around on. A spark is a chair sled where one person sits on the chair and the other person stands behind and kicks and steers the sled. It’s super fun, but can also be a little dangerous!
3. Everyone looks prettier when they’re cold
I know a lot of people are fans of hot vacations, but they seem to be forgetting the realities of hanging out in a tropical oasis: heat rash, frizzy hair, and sweat sweat everywhere.
You won’t have to worry about any of that while traveling through Norway in the winter (or summer for that matter).
Sorry what was that? Freezing your toes off? Some call it frostbite, I like to call it nature’s blush.
4. It doesn’t have to be cold
Not convinced that rosy cheeks and obedient hair are worth all the chattering teeth? Actually, thanks to the magic of the Gulf Stream, the west coast of Norway doesn’t even get that cold in the winter, with temperatures in many areas rarely dropping below zero.
In fact Dan and I are moving to Northern Norway soon, and while everyone thought we were crazy for moving somewhere even colder than the mountains of Rauland, it’s actually going to be warmer up north because we’ll be nearer the coast.
5. Winter sports!
Even if you’re not a fan of partaking in winter sports, it’s pretty hard to ignore the contagious excitement with which Norwegians follow any sport on skis. Especially when the Winter Olympics roll around!
Aside from women’s handball and that time we almost had a gold medal in fencing, Norwegians tend to pretend the Summer Olympics don’t exist. They are terrible at summer sports (notice how I switched from first to third person there? During the Summer Olympics I become American again).
But the Winter Olympics? GLORY.
6. Christmas forever
With many cold, dark days, Norwegians put extra effort into making their winter homes as cozy as possible. And what’s the coziest holiday? Christmas!
I’m not talking about the stress-filled, shopping-centered Christmas we all know and loathe. I mean chestnuts roasting in the fire, candles in the windows, and Christmas carols softly chiming in the background. It’s the best, and in Norway it lasts for several months – in a good way.
And yes, people here totally keep their Christmas trees up into January and sometimes even February. But I mean, when it looks this good, why wouldn’t you?
7. Cozy winter food
Norway may not be exactly famous for its haute cuisine, but it will top lists for some of the world’s best comfort food. And when is the best time to indulge in hearty comfort food? Winter of course! The colder outside, the better.
Norwegian food was traditional meant to sustain farmers through the cold winter, so we cook with a lot of butter, potatoes, and meat. Not sure if that sounds tasty to you or not, but I swear it is!
Read also: Norway on a Budget: Eating Cheaply
8. It’s dark
Okay, I know the whole 0 to 5 hours of daylight thing is usually a reason NOT to visit Norway in the winter, but bear with me.
We now know Norway as one of the wealthiest countries in the world, but before finding petroleum in the late 1960s, it was one of Europe’s poorest. Centuries in poverty along with some strong egalitarian values (the wage difference between a company’s lowest paid worker and its CEO is surprisingly small) have perhaps contributed to a certain shyness in displaying wealth.
Norwegian homes especially, wooden cottages built into the sides of mountains so they look much smaller than they really are, appear fairly simple and are usually one of about three color choices. It’s a bit of a reversal of another country’s love of elaborate mansions decorated with expensive cars out front, while the insides are left strangely bare.
But while pretty, Norwegians can also come off as a little cold and uniform, hiding away their warmth and personality for only a special few to see.
I’m sorry, did I write “Norwegians?” I meant “Norwegian houses.”
During the dark winter months, however, Norwegian homes positively glow with warmth. Norwegians love lamps, candles, fireplaces, and any other source of light, and are not afraid to use them all at once.
And I think there is nothing cozier than looking across a frozen landscape and seeing clusters of cottages twinkling through the snow.
Unimpressed? There’s also that little natural wonder called the aurora borealis, best seen when it’s dark outside.
And if you want to chase the Northern Lights, I’ve written up three detailed guides to the Best Place in Norway to See the Northern Lights as well as How see the Northern Lights on a Budget, and 7 Mistakes People Make When Trying to See the Northern Lights in Norway.
And for those of you who really want to make the best of your Northern Lights trip and make sure to cover every detail, I’ve written an in depth Northern Lights Guide, which you can purchase here. And since you’re coming from my blog, you can get 20% off with the discount code 20below.
9. Your friends will think you are crazy
I know we’re all too cool to say it, but don’t you feel a teeny bit awesome when your travel plans are met with surprise, skepticism, and good luck wishes?
Plus, since all the normal people will be heading to Norway in warmer months, you’ll pretty much have the country to yourself.
If you’re coming to Norway in the winter, I’ve also written a full packing list for winter in Norway. Winter in Norway is magical, but you also want to come prepared!