20 Things That Instantly Make Norway Cool

Norway is never the first place people think of for mind-blowing excitement and ultra cool adventures. But you should think again…

For some time, I’ve realised that the young kids on the block think Norway is, well, a bit boring. It’s just one of those ‘nice’ places you go when you’re retired to experience beautiful scenery at a slow pace. Which is kind of ironic when you look at its neighbours – Iceland, Denmark, Sweden, and Finland – all of which are perceived as being cool like only the Scandinavians know how, but that can’t really be said for Norway. Not just yet….

Working for a tour operator I know what we get enquiries for and who wants to book what destinations. I’m not saying that Norway isn’t popular, because it is, but among retired people. Yeh, the astronomical prices of Norway definitely put people off, but I reckon that’s not the only reason.  Even when we think of the capital city of Oslo it hardly inspires wanderlust, does it? It even rhymes with slow.

I’m not really a person to generalise but if it helps make a point then I shouldn’t stop. Anyone that has been to Denmark and especially Copenhagen will think the Danes are the most stylish people on the planet; anyone that has been to Sweden will think the Swedes are the most beautiful people on the planet; anyone that has been to Iceland will think the Icelanders are the quirkiest people on the planet; and anyone who has been to Finland will think the Finns are the craziest people on the planet. (Seriously the Finns are nuts, especially after a drink or two). So where does Norway and its inhabitants come in on the scale of cool? Well, it doesn’t. At least not at the moment it doesn’t.

But I want to help change that.

It blows all the other Scandinavian countries out of the water when it comes to beauty. I don’t just mean ‘Oh, look darling,  isn’t that pretty?’ kind of beauty. I’m talking dramatic, epic, apocalyptic, a full-on Elizabeth Taylor before she draped herself in diamonds and completely lost it.

So empty your brain of all preconceptions of Norway and take a look at this list.


1. Northern Lights Cathedral

Northern Lights Cathedral, Alta, Norway

Why have a church with a cross on it when you can have a UFO for a church? (It’s supposed to look like the Northern Lights swirling, but I’m sticking with a UFO).


2. Trolltunga

Trolltunga Norway

Trolltunga © VisitNorway

I haven’t hiked to Trollunga yet. But I need to, and when I do I’m going to go on the Via Ferrata.


3. The Igloo Hotel

Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel, Alta, Norway

Not only can you sleep on ice here, you can get hitched in the ice chapel! Quite literally the coolest thing on this list.


4. Svalbard – The lasts stop before the North Pole!

Svalbard glacier

A Norwegian archipelago north of mainland Europe, words can’t express just how insanely awesome this place is, with a mere population of 2500 people and with over 60% of it covered by glacier, Svalbard is unlike any other place on earth.


5. Polar Bears

Polar bear in Svalbard

© Asgeir Helgestad/Arctic Light

About Svalbard… did I mention that polar bears outnumber people up there? Check out the boxing cub on the left. I think I’m in love.


6. And if you don’t see Polar Bears…

Polar bear beer in Svalbard

You can at least console yourself by having a photo with the warning sign or drinking some Polar bear beer. That’s exactly what Megan Starr did! If you want to learn more about life in Norway then you should hop on over to her awesome travel blog: www.meganstarr.com!


7. Magnus Carlsen

Magnus Carlsen
Admittedly when it comes to chess crushes I go goo-goo eyed for Kasparov, but this chess player became the youngster person to be ranked no.1 in the world at the age of 19! You can read about how I sometimes tie in chess with my travels here.


8. Husky-sledding

Husky lsedding Tromso

During the summer when the weather is still cool in the high Arctic but the snow is no longer there you can go husky-sledding on wheels too!


9. If David Bowie Were a Husky Dog…

David Bowie Eyes
Look into my eyes…


10. The 11 – hairpin bends of the Trollstigen Road

Trollstigen Road, Norway

Trollstigen Road © VisitNorway

Narrow, steep, sharp – this road will give you the ride of your life. Part of Norway’s National Tourist Routes that aims to incorporate modern architecture as a means of experiencing Norway’s otherwise difficult to reach landscapes.


11. The Atlantic Road

Atlantic Road, Norway

Atlantic Road © Terje Rakke

If the Trollstigen road wasn’t enough to convince you that Norway has the world’s best driving roads then the Atlantic road should do the trick.


12. Ålesund

Alesund, Norway
Really, how can one place be so pretty? This art nouveau town in west Norway looks like a stained glass window.


13. Lots and lots of colourful buildings

Honningsvag fishing town, Norway
It’s not only Ålesund that’s colourful, in fact the further North you go the more colourful the buildings get to break up  the cold, dark spell of the Polar season.


14. The Northern Lights

Northern Lights in Alta, Northern Norway
Although you can see the Northern Lights from several places usually above the Arctic Circle, Norway has a special historical authority on the subject. The first Northern Lights scientist, Kristian Birkeland built his observatory in 1899 in Alta, Northern Norway. This photo of me dropping a peace sign was taken in Alta too.


15. Skateboarding on the Oslo Opera House

Oslo Opera House

Oslo Opera House © VisitNorway

Norway has some incredible architecture and the Opera House is a fine example. I’ll always remember the first time I clapped eyes on it. I was with my friend Lily and we were on a weekend in Oslo together for my 22nd Birthday. We didn’t realise how expensive the city was until we got there (we were lured in by £12 return flights with Ryanair) so instead of a birthday meal we shared a chocolate bar after pushing the boat out with a £9 sandwich. Trying to stretch out our money for as long as possible we decided to take a walk to the Opera House after a guy from our hostel recommended we go, plus it wouldn’t cost us any money. After walking through a shopping centre we were greeted with the vision of the Oslofjord and next to it the white marble and granite surface of the Opera House shone like a diamond under the sun. Where you expect most opera houses to have an air of pretension this one is nothing like that. The external architecture is geared heavily towards space and exploration, letting you walk onto the roof via wide paving slopes. Incidentally all these slopes and angles means the building is now the number.1 skating spot in the city.  Suddenly my birthday became very memorable.


16. Forget sailing down fjords: fly over them!

Two minutes in will make your mouth drop to the floor. Would you dare be a human bird? If it means flying over the fjords of Norway maybe I would… after some Valium.


17. When you’re in Norway, you go to Hell

Hell in Norway
‘Go to Heaven for the climate, Hell for the company’ ~ Mark Twain.


18. Staying in a Rorbu (fisherman’s cabin)

Rorbu, Fisherman's cabin, Lofoten

Adding a touch of glamour to traditional fishermen’s cabins are these renovated rorbuer in Lofoten which you can stay in. Not only are you surrounded by immense beauty but you can go fishing out of the window if your heart so desires! Now if that’s not cool then I really don’t know what is.


19. Breaking Bad 2

Driving in the Arctic
Walt and Jessie are cooking up in the Arctic. That’s all I can disclose right now.


20. Endless photo opportunities

Kjeragbolten, Norway

Kjerag Boulder © VisitNorway

If Trolltunga wasn’t enough, you also have Pulpit Rock and Kjeragbolten to get that profile picture you want!


What are your thoughts on Norway? Have you changed your mind about anything?

A travel & culture blog specialising in Scandinavia and the Arctic, peppered with the rest of the world in between.

'20 Things That Instantly Make Norway Cool' have 31 comments

  1. December 10, 2014 @ 9:25 am Megan

    well, i lived there for 3.5 years so i guess i kind of dont count as im biased haha. but seriously, you had me at polar bears <3 <3

    norway is a funny one, ill say. after living there i have to conclude that like every tourist i saw there was american (young and old) or old germans. i never really saw much in between, and i worked at a touristy cafe for a while so i saw a good chunk of tourists. it seems as though most europeans count it out because of the prices. getting there is no difficult feat as i find oslo to have such good and cheap airline connections to the rest of europe, but many people will go to oslo, and never see the rest of norway, without ever realizing that oslo looks nothing like the rest of norway lol.

    when i speak to most people living around europe, they have no idea norway has natural beauty. they assume it is like sweden with flat land and lots of space, or like finland with many lakes. both are true, but there is much more to the landscape that makes norway beautiful. people seem to lump the nordic countries together and norway just gets lost in the mix. it's quite sad really. the norwegian tourism board is fantastic and does a great job promoting the country, but somehow it still gets lost in that scandinavian mix.

    i think the reason so many americans end up there is b/c of ancestry. we also have more travel shows on tv than anywhere i have ever seen and so many of them focus on norway (even scandinavian cooking shows lol). we also dont know how expensive norway actually is 😉 while the rest of europe knows this very well… americans who travel never pay attention to the currency EVER (unless they are a young backpacker).

    some of my fav places around norway are røros, folgefonna glacier (used to be able to see this glacier from outside of my window when i lived in western norway!), skudneshavn, hardangervidda, nærøyfjorden, bergen, austevoll, etc etc. i enjoy living in germany now, but really miss the scenery in norway every single day!!!!


    • December 14, 2014 @ 1:44 pm admin

      It must have been interesting to work in a touristy cafe Megan, and I’m glad your observations back up my assertion that Norway doesn’t pull in the people who fall between young and old – although we both agree that it should a lot more than it currently does in spite of the price. (After all it’s the young and rich who wouldn’t think twice about dropping a wad of cash in the South of France or Dubai because it’s seen as the ‘place to be’).

      You’re right that Oslo is nothing like the rest of Norway. For a truly memorable experience, people should go to Norway for the great outdoors which most places in Europe can’t hold a candle to.

      It’s sad that it does seems to get lost in the Scandinavian mix especially when it is so incredibly beautiful due to its insanely long coastline. Although the tourism board do a great job I still think they’re missing a certain element of creativity and excitement in their marketing that is needed to attract the people who go to Canada, New Zealand and Australia (I think these countries appeal to the same type of people). They should take a leaf out of how Iceland promote themselves. Even when you look at their official promotional video, it’s got bags more personality and fun: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=npawmHVaf-E

      P.S Røros is really, really high on my list!!


  2. December 10, 2014 @ 9:42 am Mike

    You just continue to be a rock star blogger, Shing! I’ve sure missed you around! Continue the course my dear as you are doing absolutely fantastic. You KNOW what I’m going to comment on specifically. The polar bears! Kidding…though that would be awesome…and too bad you didn’t see any yourself to take pics of. But, the sled dogs!! Woo hoo!! I also loved your David Bowie spin (D.B. fan here) as well. Please be well and safe I hope all is well with you, my friend! 🙂


    • December 14, 2014 @ 1:59 pm admin

      I thought of you when I included the huskies Mike! I’m glad you mentioned David Bowie – making the image wasn’t all in vain! Kinda looks surreal, eh?

      Hope you are well X


  3. December 10, 2014 @ 12:37 pm CL (RealGunners)

    I’ve always known about the Trollstigen Road (thanks to Top Gear), but this is the first time I am seeing the Atlantic Road. It’s like an entirely different level of awesomeness!
    The things in your list seem to get better and better from 1 to 15. I would be glad to accept a stay in a Rorbu for a bit and die a happy man!


    • December 16, 2014 @ 6:33 pm admin

      The Atlantic Road looks like a snake doesn’t it?! During the winter it can often be closed because it’s too dangerous to cross as the waves can be too severe!

      Glad you enjoy the list RG 😀


  4. December 10, 2014 @ 1:26 pm Silvia

    I’d just like to say that this post instantly makes you cool. Though I suspect you might have a streak of the post-diamonds Elizabeth Taylor in you too.


    • December 16, 2014 @ 6:34 pm admin

      The diamonds I can handle. But not the 8 divorces Silvia!!


  5. December 10, 2014 @ 7:55 pm vongke

    You totally forgotten about Geirangerfjord. It is the most popular fjord in Norway (if not the world) which provides the source of inspiration to make Disney Frozen


    • December 17, 2014 @ 11:15 am admin

      Hi Vongke! I love Geirangerfjord and the boat journey into Geiranger is spectacular but with this list I wanted to include a few more things that might come as a surprise to people.

      However, I was thinking about Geiranger when I included no.10 – flying over fjords! Thanks for commenting, I’ll try and watch Frozen over the festive period 🙂


  6. December 10, 2014 @ 8:05 pm Charlie

    Incredible stuff. I actually really want to go to Norway – maybe because in my head slow life and beautiful landscapes is exactly what I want? Nonetheless! I’m actually planning to go with my mum next time I’m back in Europe and it’s a good opportunity for the Northern Lights. My mum has been saving up for three years so that we could go… Isn’t she a rockstar?


    • December 17, 2014 @ 2:42 pm admin

      Your mum’s a total rockstar!! Haha well if you want something slower Norway can give you that but when the need for speed and excitement strikes you won’t have to look far Charlie 😉 If you have any questions during your planning stage then don’t hesitate to ask! I hope your mum sees the Northern Lights!


  7. December 11, 2014 @ 5:13 am Mediodiablo

    I agree with CL: your list keeps getting better and better as we scroll down 🙂
    Norway was totally off the map for me (it was the only country whose banks escaped the financial crisis of 2008… translation: “they must be pretty boring over there”). Now after reading this post, it’s super cool.
    Are you going to write about Greenland anytime soon?


    • December 17, 2014 @ 2:45 pm admin

      Your comment about the banks really had me chuckling to myself – I see your point haha 😉 But that’s why this post was necessary!

      Oh don’t mention Greenland, it’s excruciating how much I want to go. Maybe 2015 might just be the year. Have you been?


  8. December 11, 2014 @ 4:15 pm Franca

    There is definitely a lot of Norway to like from the amazing Norther Lights, the weird architecture and the adorable polar bears, I’d go only to see them 😉


    • December 17, 2014 @ 2:49 pm admin

      You guys would love some of the weird architecture I’m sure! I know…. the polar bears…. hopefully we’ll be lucky enough to see them someday Franca!


  9. December 12, 2014 @ 6:04 am 8 Travel Bloggers to Follow in 2015

    […] There’s a huge gap in my European travels and that’s way up north in the Nordic countries. Shing’s posts on Iceland, Norway and the Northern Lights are tempting me to head in that direction next year. Especially at the thought of seeing polar bears and going husky sledding. […]


  10. December 14, 2014 @ 10:45 am Miles of Happiness

    I so wanna go there… It looks like a wonderland!


    • December 17, 2014 @ 3:13 pm admin

      Arctic Norway in the winter certainly looks like wonderland – exactly how winter should look 😀

      I hope you get to Norway!


  11. December 16, 2014 @ 10:22 am Sarah

    I’m sold! To be fair, I’ve always thought Norway might have the most spectacular beauty out of all the Scandinavian countries. I would love to check it out for myself, the cost though… Will have to save up first!


    • December 17, 2014 @ 3:15 pm admin

      Ahhh if you already had a good idea of Norway’s beauty you probably didn’t need much persuading then Sarah! It’s worth saving up for 😉


  12. December 19, 2014 @ 2:25 pm The Guy

    Wonderful post Shing backed up with some amazing pictures as evidence too.

    I’ve been to Norway twice already and hope to be back soon. From the small pieces I’ve seen the scenery is certainly wonderful. I’ve also found the people to be some of the friendliest people I’ve met anywhere in the world. I also find the driving on the roads to be very civilised due to the driving rules.

    Nice husky v David Bowie picture, it certainly made me chuckle 🙂


    • December 28, 2014 @ 1:05 pm admin

      Haha glad you like the husky V David Bowie Picture 😉

      The scenery is hard to beat, right? I hope you get to go back soon! (and I hope I do too ;-))


  13. December 23, 2014 @ 6:19 am kami

    Lately I seem to see Norway just about everywhere and even if I’ve been there twice I so would love to return in 2015 and see some more! It surely is one of the most (if not the most) spectacular country in Europe and you just show it perfectly here. The last point appeals to me the most, I always bring thousands of pictures from each trip (literally thousands 😛 )


    • December 28, 2014 @ 1:12 pm admin

      Haha the good thing about solo travelling is that you don’t have anyone rolling their eyes whilst they wait for you to finish taking photos 😀 I hope you get to see more of Norway in 2015 Kami!


  14. December 31, 2014 @ 8:37 am Heather

    I cannot wait to visit Norway!! We’re talking about making our first trip this summer, but I definitely want to experience it in winter as well. You’re photos are just too gorgeous!


    • January 3, 2015 @ 10:19 pm admin

      Yey! Norway isn’t too far from you now Heather! I think your first time to Norway will be great in the summer, when the days are long from the Midnight Sun, and even below the Arctic Circle the nights still stay relatively bright! Let me know if you need any tips, I’ll gladly try and help!


  15. February 27, 2015 @ 7:48 pm Lesley Peterson

    It’s definitely cool that they allow skateboarding on the Oslo Opera House! Would love to visit Norway someday.


  16. March 8, 2015 @ 9:50 am Monika

    I love Norway! I´m currently living and working in Sweden, which is really beautiful, but when it comes to dramatic landscapes and outdoor adventures, I think Norway would easily overtake Sweden (and Sweden is a paradise for outdoors). I guess Norway might be a bit discouraging because of its expensiveness so only retired people with enough money saved can afford it! 🙂 But I really think that Norway can be done on a reasonable budget, too and besides that – it´s worth every single penny! I´m plotting my second visit to Trondheim in two days and I can´t wait for the picturesque train ride 🙂 Hopefully will make it to Ålesund and Geirangerfjord soon 🙂


  17. June 1, 2017 @ 4:59 pm My Adventure Wishlist – Top 10 – Learning to Adventure

    […] inspiration comes from the Culture Map’s Scandinavia section. With “20 things that instantly make Norway cool” and countless other posts, prepare to be enchanted by this Scandinavia-lover’s […]


  18. June 1, 2017 @ 10:14 pm Laura

    Great article – pretty much sums up all the reasons why Norway is already on my travel list! I’ve actually just written a post over on my own blog (www.learningtoadventure.co.uk/my-adventure-wishlist) and I hope you don’t mind but I included a link back to this post as inspiration.


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