Land Of The Midnight Sun

Norway is undoubtedly a year-round travel option for groups. Naomi MacKay takes readers on a scenic tour of the snow-clad country, which offers unique accommodation opportunities and the chance to see the spectacular Northern Lights.

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During the summer, the sun doesn’t set in Norway, instead enveloping the landscape in a light that can be compared with sunset or twilight. June and July are the best months to experience this, though head further north and the midnight sun extends from May to August.

Norway’s main attractions are its beautiful landscapes – the coastline with its many fjords along with the ski resorts, woods, lakes, waterfalls and mountains.

Combine this with the unusual light offered by the midnight sun and the chance to experience the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) and you have created the ideal group trip.

The main cities that attract tourists are Bergen, Oslo, Tromsø, Troindheim and Stavanger.


The capital of Norway, Oslo is the most populated city in the country and boasts parks, forest and green spaces that cover two-thirds of its area.

It’s a vibrant place with bars, restaurants and lots of museums including the National Gallery, which features Edvard Munch’s famous masterpiece The Scream.

The Folk Museum is another must-see, offering an outdoor site showing off more than 150 of Norway’s historic buildings, including a Stave Church.

The Vigelandsparken Sculpture Park in western Oslo covers 80-acres and features 212 sculptures created by Gustav Vigeland.

Sightseeing in Vigelandsparken Sculpture Park.

Sightseeing in Vigelandsparken Sculpture Park.

In the summer, it’s the most popular place for locals to meet and have a picnic or barbecue. The Palace Park is also popular – the changing of the guard takes place every day at 1330hrs, while the Botanical Garden in Tøyen boasts around 7,500 species of plant.

Other outdoor pursuits include swimming at beaches such as Huk and Paradisbukta (Paradise Bay) or the lakes in Oslomarka Forest – Sognsvann is probably the most popular.

Winter visitors can go cross-country skiing through the forest of Olslomarka or skate for free in the city at the Narvisen ice rink or Frogner Stadium, which is open from late January to mid-March.

The Opera House was opened in 2008 and is the largest cultural building to have been built in the country since Trondheim’s Nidaros Cathedral, which was built in the 1300s.

Home to world premieres, classics and one-off performances, the building is open to the public. It is also possible to tread its white marble sloping roof and take in views over the city.

Guided tours of the Opera House are available at weekends and last 50-minutes. Another must-see is Oslo City Hall, which has vast murals that were created by a number of prominent early 20th-century Norwegian artists.

Another landmark is the recently rebuilt Holmenkollen Ski Jump, a state-of-the-art ski jump, which is also home to the world's oldest Ski Museum. It has an observation deck that offers stunning panoramic views over Oslo.

Holmenkollen Ski Jump, Oslo

Holmenkollen Ski Jump, Oslo

The only steel ski jump on earth, at night it is illuminated and made visible across the city. The Ski Museum covers 4,000-years of skiing, as well as the polar expeditions of Fridtjof Nansen and Roald Amundsen, the Norwegian explorers.

Find out more about them at The Fram Museum, which houses the world's most famous polar ship. Visitors are able to board the ship and discover how the explorers lived and survived in the coldest places on earth more than 100 years ago.

One of the city’s oldest heritage sites is the Akershus Fortress. It’s a popular recreational area that boasts great views of the harbour, but has also held an important role as a seat for kings and the centre of government.

Akershus Castle is open during the summer to the public and to guided tour groups only during the winter. The site is also home to a church, the Norwegian Resistance Museum and the Norwegian Armed Forces Museum.

Holmenkollen, Oslo.

Holmenkollen, Oslo.

Norway has plenty of famous exports – most notably a-Ha and the open sandwich – but none is as famous as the Vikings, who set sail in the northern seas during the eight to the 11th-centuries. The world’s two best-preserved Viking ships can be see in the Viking Ship Museum on the Bygdøy peninsula.

A rollercoaster at Tusenfryd, located outside Oslo.

A rollercoaster at Tusenfryd, located outside Oslo.

Tickets from the museum can be used to obtain free entry to the Historical Museum if used within 48-hours. Groups of 10 or more are admitted half-price – NOK 40. Children are free.

Once you’re done with the museums, take a stroll around the second-hand and antique market on Vestkanttorvet (every Saturday between March and December) or the Birkelund fleamarket on Sundays.

In December, there are Christmas markets on Rådhusplassen and at the Folk Museum on Bygdøy.

For an excursion outside of the city, head to Tusenfryd, an amusement park about 20-minutes’ drive away, which has a water park, children’s rides and a number of rollercoasters, as well as Thor’s Hammer - a 4D experience based on the Norwegian legend. The Folk Museum is open annually from April to October.

Northern Lights

The Cathedral of the Northern Lights, Alta.

The Cathedral of the Northern Lights, Alta.

Arctic Norway offers the most viewing locations for the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights. This natural phenomenon is at its brightest in Norway – and at places such as Svalbard, Tromsø, Alta, Finnmark and the Lofoten Islands, they can be seen with the stunning backdrop of the snow-capped mountains.

Late autumn, winter and early spring are the best seasons for viewing the lights – most travellers’ head to northern Norway between October and March, with the best viewing times between 1800hrs and 2200hrs. In Finnmark and Tromsø, it is generally possible to see the lights on one clear night out of every two.

Driving snowmobiles in Kirkenes, Finnmark.

Driving snowmobiles in Kirkenes, Finnmark.

It is recommended that you stay in the area for at least a week to increase your chances. The Polarlightcenter in Laukvik on Austvågøya in the Lofoten Islands offers presentations, courses and exhibitions on the lights, as well as a fantastic viewing point.


Bergen is Norway’s second biggest city and its main attraction - the most photographed area is the 15th-century waterfront found at Bryggen.

Bergen - also called the Gateway to the Fjords - is a great base for trips to the fjords and islands and there’s plenty to see in the city itself. A trip up the popular funicular will help visitors orientate themselves.

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The Northern Lights in Lofoten, Northern Norway.

Picturesque Bryggen features colourful traditional buildings lined up at the waterfront with plenty of opportunities for shopping in craft studios and fashionable boutiques and stopping for something to eat.

Bryggen Museum has displays and artefacts dating back to the 14th-century. There’s more history on offer in the 18th-century Finnegård, which houses the Hanseatic Museum.

At the harbour entrance sits the Bergenhus Fortress Museum with an exhibition on the women and resistance groups during the 1940-45 German occupation. After a visit there, walk up to the walled remains of Sverresborg - a fortress that was built around 1660 on the remains of a 12th-century castle.

Head to the Sadviken district to see the Open-Air Museum of Old Bergen, which has 35 historic wooden buildings and demonstrates life in Bergen in the 18th and 19th-centuries.

The city’s cathedral dates back to 1181 and was rebuilt in the 17th-century after various fires. Its Rococo interior was added during the late 19th-century.

For more modern architecture, head to the Grieg Hall, which is famous for its excellent acoustics and stage operas, concerts and ballet.

The university offers a number of museums, which can easily take up a day – such as the Natural History Collection, the Cultural History Collection and the Seafaring Museum.

For outdoor lovers, there is the Botanic Garden or head to the Nygårdspark and its famous Unicorn Fountain by Gustav Vigeland. Meanwhile, the Norwegian Arboretum features more than 5,000 plant specimens from around the world.

Winter Activities

The novelty of guaranteed snow would not be lost on visitors from other parts of Europe where snow is neither widespread nor guaranteed.

Dog sledding at Beitostolen.

Dog sledding at Beitostolen.

Head to towns such as Kirkenes, Tromsø, Alta and Karasjok to take part in winter activities such as dog sledding or reindeer safaris - some tours even offer the chance to stay in a Sami tent.

The Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel is a snow and ice hotel that is built every winter and offers guests activities including snowmobile safaris and a chance to see the Northern Lights. There is a similar option in Kirkenes.

Island Life

The city of Tromsø is mostly situated on the island of Tromsoya, which has a number of museums and birch forests to explore.

Take a trip up the Storsteinen Mountain in the Fjellheisen Cable Car for fabulous views of the surrounding fjords and mountains. Popular attractions include the arctic aquarium Polaria and the Polar Museum.

Tromsø is also one of the best places in the world to view the Northern Lights and during January it is home to the Northern Lights Festival with top artists playing everything from early music to jazz.

Svalbard is a group of islands that has been under Norwegian rule since 1920 and is the most northernmost populated place on earth. There are less than 3,000 people there and visitors come to see its natural attractions, which include glaciers and mountains and wildlife including polar bears, reindeer, polar foxes, whales and walruses.

Natural Wonders

Norway is famous for its fjords - the most well known is Geirangerfjord, near the coastal town of Ålesund.

More than nine-miles long, the cliffs and mountains tower over the deep blue water, which is surrounded by waterfalls and picturesque countryside.

The most famous waterfall in Norway is Vøringfossen between Oslo and Bergen, which cascades 600-feet in a series of drops. The largest glacier in Europe is situated in southern Norway, with the Jostedalsbreen Glacier surrounded by Jostedalsbreen Glacier National Park. Experienced sportspeople can hike or ski on the glacier, but for most it is safer to take a walking tour around the park.

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