System of government: Constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy
Head of government: Prime Minister Erna Solberg
Population: 5,312,343 inhabitants (August 2018)
Capital city: Oslo
Most important cities for tourism: Oslo (676,462 inhabitants), Bergen (280,203), Stavanger/Sandnes (210,241), Trondheim (194,051), Kristiansand (91,331), Tromsø (76,062), Ålesund (47,700)
Languages: Norwegian bokmål, Norwegian nynorsk, Sami
Religion: Church of Norway (Protestant Christianity)
Currency: Norwegian kroner (NOK) 1 krone = 100 øre
Time zone: Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) +1 hour
National day: 17 May
Read more in the brochure This is Norway 2018 from Statistics Norway.
Norway has the highest concentration of fjords in the world, and nowhere on earth are there more fjords than in Fjord Norway. Formed when the glaciers retreated and seawater flooded the U-shaped valleys, the fjords have made Norway famous. The Geirangerfjord and the Nærøyfjord feature on the UNESCO World Heritage list. The long Sognefjord and the Hardangerfjord, famed for its cherry and apple trees, are amongst the most visited. But the Lysefjord just outside of Stavanger (home to the famous Preikestolen or Pulpit Rock) and the Nordfjord further north are also very popular holiday destinations.National Geographic Magazine has named the fjords “the best unspoiled travel destinations in the world”. And the respected American newspaper Chicago Tribune has included Norway’s fjords on its listSeven Wonders of Nature.
Famed for their boat building and navigation skills, the Vikings also had a reputation as raiders. They were, however, also traders, explorers and settlers, and the legacy from the Viking Age (AD 800–1050) lives on in Norway. The Viking Ship Museum in Oslo is home to the world’s two best-preserved wooden Viking longships, both dating from the ninth century. Lofotr Vikingmuseum in Borg in the Lofoten Islands, Karmøy Kulturopplevelser in Rogaland, and Stiklestad National Culture Centre in Nord-Trøndelag are all good places to learn more about Viking history.
12 famous Norwegians
Roald Amundsen (polar explorer)
Fridtjof Nansen (explorer, scientist and humanist)
Thor Heyerdahl (explorer)
Edvard Grieg (composer)
Ole Bull (musician)
Edvard Munch (artist)
Henrik Ibsen (playwright)
Knut Hamsun (novelist)
Gro Harlem Brundtland (politician)
Sonja Henie (ice skater and actress)
A-ha (pop band)
Jo Nesbø (crime novelist)
The Royal Family
King Harald V of Norway and Queen Sonja have two children. Crown Prince Haakon is married to Crown Princess Mette-Marit with whom he has two children. Princess Märtha Louise has three children with her former husband Ari Mikael Behn.
Christmas in Norway
The run-up to Christmas is a special time in Norway. Candles light up homes during the cold, dark winter months. Most Norwegian towns and cities have Christmas fairs and markets, seasonal concerts, and performances at this time. Oslo’s largest Christmas market is the one at the folk museum Norsk Folkemuseum on Bygdøy. Bergen is famous for its Gingerbread Town which is erected on Torgallmenningen every year. The mining town of Røros in Eastern Norway is a truly magical place to visit in December, and Tregaarden’s Christmas House in Drøbak is a must-see as Scandinavia’s only permanent Christmas shop. Typical Christmas food includes ribbe (roasted pork belly), pinnekjøtt (salted and dried, sometimes smoked, lamb ribs) and lutefisk (stockfish softened in water and lye before cooking).
Arctic Circle and The North Cape
Crossing the Arctic Circle and standing at Europe’s northernmost point, The North Cape are must-dos for many of the people who visit Northern Norway.
11,000 years ago: First signs of human settlement in Northern Norway.
800–1066: The Viking era.
1030: Olaf Haraldsson is killed at the battle of Stiklestad. He was the driving force behind Norway’s conversion to Christianity and was later canonised and known as Saint Olav.
1349: The Black Death kills half of Norway’s population.
1450: Norway becomes a subject of the Danish Crown. It will remain under its authority for almost 400 years.
1814: Secession from Denmark. The peace treaty of Kiel gives Norway to Sweden. The Norwegian constitution is written.
1825: First wave of Norwegian immigration to the USA. The big exodus starts.
1905: The union with Sweden is dissolved and Norway becomes independent.
1960s: Oil is found in the North Sea, a discovery that will change the fortunes of the country significantly.
1972: Norway votes against EU membership (it will do so again in 1994).
1994: The Winter Olympics are held in Lillehammer.
Northern lights and midnight sun
The northern lights (aurora borealis) is a natural phenomenon most commonly observed above the Arctic Circle between late autumn and early spring. The northern lights belt hits Northern Norway above the Lofoten Islands and follows the coast all the way up to the North Cape. This means that no other place on earth offers better chances of spotting the lights, and one location in this area might be as good as another.
In summer, the sun does not set north of the Arctic Circle, meaning that visitors to Northern Norway enjoy 24 hours of daylight this time of year – a phenomenon known as “midnight sun”.
The Sami people
Wildlife enthusiasts will be spoilt in Norway, where moose, reindeer, deer, lynx, and foxes all roam freely. You might see wolves in the most remote areas of eastern Norway, black bears in the Pasvik Valley in Finnmark, polar bears on Svalbard, and even musk oxen, a descendant of the last ice age, in Dovre. Whale watching is a popular activity off the coast of Vesterålen, and Norway is also home to two of the world’s best bird cliffs, Røst and Runde. The Varangerhalvøya peninsula in Northern Norway is another good spot for bird-watching, with lots of migratory birds in season.
17 May, Norway’s National Day
After being part of the Danish autocracy for 400 years Norway got its own constitution, signed in Eidsvoll on 17 May 1814, and joined a loose union with Sweden. Despite the fact that Norway didn’t become fully independent until 1905, Constitution Day remains Norway’s official National Day. Today it is celebrated with children’s processions (not military parades) and festivities throughout Norway. Traditional national costumes called “bunad” are worn by many Norwegians on the day.
Norwegian public holidays in 2023
New Year’s Day: 1 January
Palm Sunday: 2 April
Maundy Thursday: 6 April
Good Friday: 7 April
Easter Sunday: 9 April
Easter Monday: 10 April
Labour Day: 1 May
Constitution Day: 17 May
Whit Sunday: 27 May
Whit Monday: 28 May
Christmas Day: 25 December
Boxing Day: 26 December
The Nobel Peace Prize
The Nobel Peace Prize is the only Nobel Prize not awarded in Stockholm – a yearly Peace Prize laureate is chosen by the Norwegian Nobel Committee. The Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony, during which the laureate delivers his or her acceptance speech, takes place every year on 10 December in Oslo City Hall, the date on which Alfred Nobel died in 1896.
In 2018, the prize was awarded to Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad for their work against sexual violence as a weapon in armed conflicts. Other recent laureates have included US president Barack Obama, children’s rights activists Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi, Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, and women rights champions Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkol Karman. Occasionally the prize is awarded an organisation instead of an individual – for example, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons in 2017, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in 2013, and the European Union in 2012.