Norway has long been associated with the iconic knitwear featuring geometric snowdrops, selby roses and bold, natural colours. The most authentic colours are black and white and the primary colours, and one of the most traditional styles is open at the front like a cardigan with hinges rather than zippers or buttons. Dale of Norway is the best-known brand of high-quality Norwegian knitwear, though it is also rather expensive. You’ll find the Dale sweaters in all Oslo souvenir shops. For a cheaper, just as authentic option, head to Oslo’s vintage or second-hand shops such as Vintage Heaven, where you may be able to hunt down an older or hand-knitted sweater. You can also go for a smaller item, such as a hat or gloves.
Trolls are an old part of Scandinavian folklore. The shy, nightly creatures have traditionally been associated with magic (witches and wizards are known as ‘trollkvinner’ and ‘trollmenn’ in the Scandinavian languages). Over the past few centuries, the image of the troll transformed from one associated with darkness and death to one of mischievous little beings hiding out in the Norwegian mountains and forests. The little figures you’ll see in all of Oslo’s souvenir shops may be on the more touristy side of things, but they are one of the most unique souvenirs you can pick up while here.
Norwegian brown cheese is one of Norway’s most iconic foodstuffs, which you are unlikely to find anywhere outside Scandinavia. Originating from Gudbrandsdalen (the Gudbrand Valley), this caramel-like whey-based product made with goat or cow milk is not technically cheese, though it is considered cheese by everyone. It is commonly put atop a slice of bread or toast or enjoyed on a waffle for celebratory occasions. If you fancy a taste, ask for ‘myseost’ in supermarkets.
The invention of the classic cheese slicer ranks amongst Norway’s proudest achievements in many Norwegians’ minds (the other great Norwegian invention is the paper clip). If you’re looking to go really cheesy (sorry), hunt down one of the ones shaped like a moose.
Cloudberries are some of the rarest berries around. They have not really been cultivated and are found almost exclusively in the wild, where they can be picked for a couple of weeks in July. The tart, raspberry-like berries turn orange when ripe and can be turned into jam to preserve them. In Norway, they are traditionally mixed with whipped cream and sugar to make a dessert called ‘multekrem’. You can find cloudberry jam in larger supermarkets – though be warned, at around 100 NOK (£9/$12) per jar, it is quite expensive.
This one’s a bit more touristy again, but if you’re looking for a historical kind of souvenir, you can’t really go wrong with the Vikings. Viking jewellery can be both elegant and stylish – look into the classic round brooches or a Thor’s Hammer necklace, for example – and drinking horns, which can’t be put down until all the liquid has been drunk, would make a night of debauchery even more debauched. You can find these at the Viking Ship Museum, some of the other museums and, if you’re lucky, at Viking or Medieval Festivals in Oslo.
Elk and particularly reindeer are traditional parts of Norwegian cuisine. They both have a lovely, gamey taste and can be used in anything from burgers to stews to sausages. You can taste it at restaurants or cook it at your holiday home if you have access to a kitchen or BBQ. But if you’re bringing elk or reindeer meat with you when you return home, make sure it’s cured or properly packaged and read up on the customs regulations for your particular journey.
Freia Chocolate is a Norwegian institution. You’ll find its little flagship store by parliament on Karl Johans gate – close to the large light-up Freia sign – and in every single supermarket and kiosk in Oslo. The most Norwegian of its chocolate creations may be the Kvikklunsj bar, which has had a long-running dispute with its fellow four-fingered friend the Kit Kat bar, and forms one of the pillars of Norwegian society. It is particularly popular around Easter hiking trips, when it is custom to bring along a Solo soda, an orange and a Kvikklunsj bar to feast upon.
Bunads are traditional Norwegian folk costumes worn by many men and women for big celebrations such as the 17th May, the crazy National Day. Now, they are hideously expensive – usually around 30,000 NOK (£2,700/$3,500) – so we are not suggesting you pop out and buy one unless you’re loaded or very into Norwegian folk culture. Also, the bunads are an intimately Norwegian thing, and you should have deep roots to Norway to own one. You may be able to pick up a little part of one, however, such as an embroidered headpiece or a bit of beautiful Norwegian lace, from one of the bunad shops in Oslo. Even if you aren’t looking to buy anything, they make for really interesting places to visit to learn more at the beautiful, old-style outfits.
This delightful spirit is popular at special occasions and feasts all over Scandinavia. In Norway, it is known as ‘Akevitt’. The usual English spelling, ‘Aquavit’, alludes to the Latin origins of the name, “Aqua vitae”, or “the water of life” (interestingly, ‘whiskey’ and ‘vodka’ have similar origins in Gaelic and Russian). The drink is made using dill or caraway and must have a minimum alcohol percentage of 37.5 per cent, making it a great addition to any celebration, particularly if herring is involved too. Pick up a bottle of akevitt at the state-run alcohol stores ‘Vinmonopolet’ or at the duty-free at the airport, where it’ll be significantly cheaper. Enjoy!
Featured image by Ralf St.