Norway is one of my favorite countries in the world in which to travel. It's organized, it's safe, it's clean, and it's jaw-droppingly beautiful no matter which way you look.
And this applies no matter what *season* you visit Norway in, too.
While the summer months are high season in Norway for people to go on hikes, sail the fjords, and bask in the midnight sun, don't discount a trip to Norway in the winter months. Norway makes for a great winter vacation.
Norway in winter isn't actually as cold (or as dark) as a lot of people assume. Only the most northerly part of Norway experiences Polar Night, and the Gulf Stream coming off the Atlantic keeps temperatures bearable, even in the depths of winter.
If you're considering a winter getaway to Norway, here's a 10-day itinerary you can feel free to follow in order to see the best of what Norway has to offer in the colder months.
When to visit Norway in winter
This heading might seem a bit silly, because obviously you're going in WINTER. But winter in Norway can be quite different depending on which month you visit.
For example, December has the shortest days in Norway – even in Bergen, the sun doesn't rise until 9:45 a.m. in late December, and sets around 3:30 p.m. By late-February, though, the sun is rising before 8 a.m. and setting around 6 p.m. in Bergen.
In Tromsø, the city experiences Polar Night in December. By mid-February, however, the sun is rising around 7:30 a.m. and setting around 4:30 p.m., with the days getting longer by about 10 minutes every day.
So, in my opinion, the best time to visit Norway in winter is in February or March, when you still have snow and a chance to see the Northern Lights, but when the days are long enough for you to actually do things.
The Perfect 10-Day Itinerary for Norway in Winter
Note: This suggested itinerary does NOT require you to rent a car in Norway in winter! Yay!
Day 1: Arrival + Oslo
Welcome to Norway! Whether you're flying in from the US or from elsewhere in Europe, use your first day in the country to get yourself acclimated to both the weather and the country.
Catch the train from Oslo's Gardermoen airport (it will be listed as “Oslo Lufthavn” when you're buying your ticket) to the central train station downtown (Oslo sentralstasjon, or Oslo S). The fastest option is to take the Flytoget train, which will get you downtown in just 20 minutes.
Once you're in Oslo, you can walk or catch a taxi to your hotel. And then it's time to explore!
Since you might be dealing with some jetlag today, I recommend doing some on-foot sightseeing this afternoon. My favorite place to walk in Oslo is along the waterfront, where you can see the Akershus Fortress and the Opera House. I'd also recommend popping into City Hall to see its striking floor and murals.
Oslo doesn't get as much love as some other parts of Norway, but the city is actually very cool.
Where to stay in Oslo: For ease of getting there, I recommend staying at the Thon Hotel Terminus, which is close to Oslo's central train station (you can easily walk there). This hotel has a good location close to the city center, and has one of the best breakfast spreads I've ever seen at a hotel! (Read reviews on TripAdvisor | Book your stay at Thon Hotel Terminus here!)
My top Oslo tip: If you're looking to save some money in Oslo, turn to food for your savings. The Mathallen Food Hall in the Vulkan neighborhood is a great place to go for an affordable meal.
Sample costs for today: Flytoget train from airport – 190 NOK ($23 USD) for a one-way fare
Day 2: Oslo
Today, it's time to explore more of Oslo. After a good night's sleep, you should hopefully be ready for a full day of sightseeing.
Some things I recommend doing/seeing today include:
- Stroll up Karl Johans Gate, the main street in the center of Oslo that leads from the train station to the Royal Palace (though note that the Royal Palace itself is only open for tours during the summer months).
- Visit The Vigeland Park, a large park and sculpture museum displaying the works of Gustav Vigeland.
- Go to at least one museum, like perhaps the Fram Polar Ship Museum or Kon-Tiki Museum or Norsk Folkemuseum. (I personally also loved the Viking Ship Museum, but they're currently building a whole new museum, and it's not set to reopen until 2025/26.)
It's fairly easy to get around Oslo using public transport (there are trams, buses, subways, and ferries, all run by Ruters). You can buy a 24-hour transport ticket that covers just about everything for 114 NOK ($13 USD). During the summer months, you can take a ferry out to Bygdøy (the island where are the museums are), but in the winter only buses run there so you won't have to worry about separate boat tickets.
If you'd rather not tackle Oslo independently or pay for public transport, there are a couple tour options that might appeal to you. For example, Oslo has a hop-on, hop-off bus with audio commentary that stops at all the major sites in the city. Or you could book a walking tour that would include a lot of the main sights.
Where to stay in Oslo: Again, I recommend staying at the Thon Hotel Terminus, which is very central and also one of the top-rated hotels in Oslo.
Sample costs for today: Vigeland Park – Free!; Fram Museum -140 NOK ($16 USD)
Day 3: Norway in a Nutshell, Part 1
One of the most popular things to do in Norway is the Norway in a Nutshell “tour.” And I have “tour” in quotation marks there, because it's not a tour in the traditional sense – there's no guide, just a set itinerary and tickets that are booked in advance.
The Norway in a Nutshell tour runs either one-way from Oslo to Bergen (or vice versa), or as a round-trip from either city. The highlights of the tour include a ride on the famous Flåm Railway and a fjord cruise on Aurlandsfjord and Nærøyfjord.
For this trip, you can use the Norway in a Nutshell tour as a very scenic way to travel from Oslo to Bergen.
During the summer months when the days are super long, it's possible to do Norway in a Nutshell in one day. But during the winter months, I highly recommend spreading the journey out over 2 days so you can properly appreciate all the scenery.
You'll start your morning by catching a train from Oslo's main station that will take you to the town of Myrdal. You'll be on the Bergen Railway, and the ride is about 4.5 hours.
Once you arrive in Myrdal, you'll switch trains and get on the Flåm Railway, a 20.2-kilometer-long branch of the Bergen Line. This train ride is often named one of the most beautiful train journeys in the world, but make sure to keep your eyes open because it only lasts for about 45 minutes!
This train ride ends in the fjord town of Flåm, which is where I recommend staying for the night. You should arrive around 2 p.m., meaning you won't have to worry about any part of your journey being in the dark.
Booking Norway in a Nutshell
Norway in a Nutshell tours can be booked via the Fjord Tours website, and they'll walk you through the process. Basically, though, you want to choose “Tour with overnight stay” when you start your booking. And when you get to the page where it gives you the option to book hotels through their portal, go ahead and check the “I want to arrange hotel on my own” box under the Flåm tab.
Also, this is a tour that you'll want to book in advance. You can either have all your tickets and itinerary mailed to you, or you can choose to pick up your packet at Oslo airport or Central Station.
And yes, you take your luggage with you on this trip! Porters are available to help you at some stops (for example, there's a separate luggage car on the Flåm Railway), but otherwise you're responsible for getting your luggage on and off each train.
Read more about this trip here: Norway in a Nutshell: What Is It, and Should You Do It?
Where to stay in Flåm: There are a few different hotel options in Flåm, but the town IS a popular stopover spot, even in the winter months – so be sure to book well in advance! My pick here would be the Flamsbrygga Hotell, a chalet-style hotel overlooking the fjord that is the top-rated hotel on TripAdvisor. (Read reviews on TripAdvisor | Book a room at the Flamsbrygga here!)
Sample costs for today: A one-way Norway in a Nutshell tour from Oslo – 2080 NOK ($255 USD)
Day 4: Norway in a Nutshell, Part 2
If you're feeling adventurous this morning, you can book an optional snowshoeing tour up in the mountains near Flåm (this is something you can add on to your Norway in a Nutshell tour when you book it if you want). A bus will take you up into the mountains, and you'll snowshoe hike to the Stegastein viewpoint in Aurland.
Afterwards (or first thing in the morning if you don't go snowshoeing), you'll board a boat for my favorite part of the Norway in a Nutshell tour: a cruise on Aurlandsfjord and Nærøyfjord.
On this 2-hour cruise, you'll make your way through some of Norway's best fjord scenery, including the Nærøyfjord. Nærøyfjord is one of the narrowest fjords in Europe, and also appears on UNESCO's World Heritage List. Here, the mountains really do seem to tower above you.
And don't worry – the boat has both indoor and outdoor seating, so cruising is fine even in the winter months!
You'll disembark in Gudvangen, and then board a bus that will take you to the town of Voss. In Voss, you'll board another train that will take you to Bergen.
If you do the snowshoe hike in the morning, you won't board your fjord cruise until 3 p.m., and will arrive in Bergen around 8 p.m. If you skip the snowshoeing, you'll do your fjord cruise first thing in the morning, and will arrive in Bergen around 6 p.m. (though note that this option means you'll have a few hours to kill in the town of Voss!).
Once you get to Bergen, I recommend taking a taxi or rideshare to your hotel since it will be dark by the time you arrive.
Where to stay in Bergen: Check out the Thon Hotel Rosenkrantz, the top-rated hotel in Bergen. I like Thon hotels a lot because they usually include (a very good) breakfast and are reasonably priced. In this instance, the Thon Hotel Rosenkrantz is also in a prime location in Bergen, right next to the colorful Bryggen Wharf. (Read reviews on TripAdvisor | Book a room at the Thon Hotel Rosenkrantz here!)
Sample costs for today: Optional snowshoe hike – 775 NOK ($95 USD)
Day 5: Bergen
Bergen is the second-largest city in Norway, but the good news is that it doesn't feel like it. Most of the places you'd want to visit on your first trip to Bergen are all within walking distance of the wharf.
Some must-dos today in Bergen include:
- Explore the Bryggen, the iconic row of colorful wooden houses along Bergen's old Hanseatic Wharf. This is the most historic part of the city; the wharf was first built in the 14th century. Spend some time wandering through the maze-like alleyways between the old buildings.
- Take the funicular up to the top of Mount Fløyen*, which is accessible even in the winter. From here, you get a view out over Bergen and the Seven Mountains that surround it.
- Visit a museum, like the Hanseatic Museum, the Bergen Maritime Museum, the Leprosy Museum (yes, it's a thing!), or KODE (a museum complex dedicated to art, design, and music).
*Note: The funicular is currently undergoing renovations, and is set to reopen in April 2022.
For lunch or dinner, head down to the Fish Market for some super fresh seafood. During the summer months, the Bergen Fish Market is one of the top outdoor markets in Norway. In the winter, though, you'll want to head into the indoor arm of the market, the Mathallen. There are fewer vendors here in the winter, but you can still find fresh seafood to try.
Where to stay in Bergen: Again the Thon Hotel Rosenkrantz is my top pick in Bergen.
My top Bergen tip: If you plan to do a lot of sightseeing, I recommend picking up a 24-hour Bergen Card, which will get you free or discounted admission to dozens of museums, attractions, and tours throughout Bergen. (You can even use it to save money at restaurants.) In the winter, many attractions offer free admission with the card as opposed to a discount. (Check which attractions are included here.)
Sample costs for today: Bergen Card – 280 NOK ($33 USD); Mount Fløyen funicular (if you don't have the Bergen Card) – 95 NOK ($11.50 USD)
Day 6: Bergen and fly to Tromsø
This morning, finish up any sightseeing you wanted to do in Bergen. Then, this afternoon, it's time to start the second half of your trip: it's time to fly to Tromsø!
Widerøe airlines has direct flights from Bergen to Tromsø, while flying on another airline like Norwegian or SAS will probably have you connect through Oslo. Either way, you should be able to arrive in the late afternoon/early evening. It takes about 2 hours to fly direct to Tromsø from Bergen.
Once you arrive, head to your hotel (the airport bus drops off at the hotel I've suggested) and get ready for some epic outdoor adventures in the Gateway to the Arctic!
Where to stay in Tromsø: I recommend the Scandic Ishavshotel, which is located right on the Tromsø Sound. Many rooms have great views, and they all come with free wifi and included breakfast. The on-site restaurant here is also quite good. To top it off, the Scandic Ishavshotel is one of two main hotels in town where most of the tour companies do free pickups from. (Read reviews on TripAdvisor | Book a room at the Scandic Ishavshotel here!)
Day 7: Tromsø
Tromsø is located at 69.6492° N latitude above the Arctic Circle. The city of 75,000 people is the “capital” of Northern Norway, and is one of the largest cities found in the Arctic.
It's actually more popular to visit Tromsø during the winter months because of its outdoor activities and the chance to see the Northern Lights.
Today, I'd start the day with an adventure activity like cross-country skiing or dogsledding.
Cross-country skiing isn't just a sport in Norway; it's a national pastime! Kids learn how to ski in school, and it's not unusual to see people out on skis at all times of the day in winter. If you're going to try only one physical outdoor activity in Tromsø, make it cross-country skiing.
In Tromsø, Tromsø Outdoor offers a great 3-hour course for beginners. (Though they also offer fun showshoeing tours if that's more your speed.)
Another option is to try out dogsledding, which is another popular winter sport in Norway. And yes, it is most definitely a sport. Sled dogs aren't just any dogs – they are specifically bred to love to RUN, and are considered athletes.
If you want to try the sport out, I can recommend the Tromsø Villmarkssenter for dogsledding tours. They pick you up from Tromsø and take you out to their center on Kvaløya, where you can get up close with the dogs. You see exactly where the dogs live and how they're cared for – when I visited, I saw happy and playful dogs who were excited at the chance to get hooked up to a sled.
The sled ride itself lasts for about an hour, with a stop halfway through to take photos. The scenery is stunning, and afterwards you'll return to the center for a lunch of reindeer stew. (Book this tour here.)
There's an option to drive your own dogsled in Tromsø, too, but I will be perfectly honest and tell you that this is NOT easy work! It's much more than just standing at the back of the sled – you have to push and pull and lean, and sometimes run up snowy hills to help the dogs. I don't recommend the driving unless you're in good physical shape and are ready for a workout!
Tonight, if the weather cooperates and the tours are going out, sign up for your first Northern Lights tour! There are a LOT of Northern Lights tours in Tromsø to choose from, so I recommend looking for one that promises a small group and a guide who can help you take photos.
Small-group Northern Lights tours to check out include this one and this one, both of which are “chase”-style tours, meaning you'll have the best chance of spotting the aurora.
Where to stay in Tromsø: The Scandic Ishavshotel is still my top pick!
My top Tromsø tip: Many of the sidewalks in Tromsø are actually heated in order to shed the snow and ice. But other parts of the city will still be very slippery! Make sure you've got boots with good gripping soles, or invest in some Yaktrax to help give you better traction.
Sample costs for today: Cross-country skiing tour – 995 NOK ($120 USD); Dogsledding tour – 1990 NOK ($230 USD); Northern Lights tour – $150-$200 USD
RELATED: 9 Lies (and One Truth) People Tell You About Seeing the Northern Lights
Day 8: Tromsø
Today I recommend taking some time to explore Tromsø. So many people come to this city for the Northern Lights, but then spend all their time booking activities outside of the city. The city itself, though, is pretty cool!
Some things you can do include:
- Visit the Arctic Cathedral (officially Tromsdalen Church) across the sound from the main part of Tromsø. It's an iconic building in Northern Norway, and sometimes you can hear concerts inside the church.
- Ride the Fjellheisen aerial tramway up above Tromsø for the best view in the city. The cars run from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. throughout the winter months, and the views are seriously great.
- Check out the Polar Museum, which offers a fascinating look into Arctic trapping and hunting and the early polar explorers.
If you're looking for something unique to do in the afternoon, consider a Tromsø Beer Safari, which includes tasting some local beers and snacks.
Tonight, if conditions are good (or if conditions were bad on Day 7), consider another Northern Lights tour! (I promise, you'll never get tired of seeing them.)
Where to stay in Tromsø: The Scandic Ishavshotel is still my top pick in Tromsø, but if you want to try something different for your last couple of nights, the Thon Hotel Polar is another good option a couple blocks away.
Sample costs for today: Fjellheisen tramway – 228 NOK ($26.50 USD); Polar Museum – 100 NOK ($11.50 USD)
Day 9: Tromsø
On your last day in Tromsø, let's have a “choose your own adventure” kind of day! There are a lot of cool adventures you can have from the city, including:
- A snowmobile safari up in the Lyngen Alps
- An Arctic fishing adventure (mostly offered in February and March)
- A Sami culture and reindeer experience, where you can learn about Norway's native reindeer herders
And tonight is your last chance to go on one last Northern Lights tour in Tromsø, should you so choose.
Where to stay in Tromsø: Again, the Scandic Ishavshotel is still my top pick in Tromsø, but if you want to try something different for your last couple of nights, the Thon Hotel Polar is another good option a couple blocks away.
Sample costs for today: Snowmobile safari – Around $250; Sami/reindeer tour – Around $160
Day 10: Depart Tromsø
After a week and a half seeing Norway's winter highlights, it's time to head home, or onward to wherever your travels take you next.
If you have more time to spend in Norway, you could add a few nights in the Lofoten Islands, which lie south of Tromsø and are popular in winter with photographers. Just note that you WILL need a rental car in the Lofoten Islands in winter, as there's not really public transport available to help you get around.
I do NOT recommend driving in Norway in winter unless you have experience driving in snow/on ice.
What to pack for Norway in winter
I have a whole packing list for Norway in winter!
The absolute must-haves include:
- A warm, moisture-wicking base layer (I love this turtleneck and these silk leggings)
- A trusty mid-layer, like a fleece jacket or down vest
- Warm, waterproof outer layers (check out my go-to snow pants)
- Boots that will keep your feet warm and dry + warm socks
The great news is that most tour operators in Norway will supply you with a warm jumpsuit, boots, and sometimes even gloves if you don't have the proper outdoor gear.
READ NEXT: 12 Fun Facts You Might Not Know About Norway
Would you ever want to visit Norway in winter?
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Sorry, Amanda I mean! ahhh…
That’s a great question! If you wanted to rent a snowmobile on your own to use, you’d need a regular driver’s license. I think there are different rules if you’re going with a tour company on an organized ride (you might not even need a license if the tour is on private land), but basically a regular driver’s license should be fine! I’ve done 2 different snowmobile tours in Norway, and did not need any additional special license.