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It’s well known that Norway is the fairest place in the world to live, and also one of the most beautiful. Think towns that look out onto majestic fjords and coastal settlements sprawled across Arctic archipelagos. Here Culture Trip has selected some of the most Instagram-worthy towns to visit.
Ålesund was almost completely destroyed in 1904 when a fire ripped through the wooden town. One of Norway’s most exquisite towns rose from the ashes of tragedy. Its streets are lined with brightly coloured Art Nouveau architecture. Ålesund is spread over seven islands, intersected with charming waterways and surrounded by the sea and mountains in the background.
Nicknamed the “gateway to the fjords”, Bergen is surrounded with breathtaking natural beauty. The city’s Hanseatic Wharf, “Bryggen”, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site boasting cobbled alleyways lined with traditional wooden houses. Bergen is filled with a unique juxtaposition of architectural styles, from medieval and Art Nouveau to contemporary design.
Fredrikstad’s Old Town was built according to the Dutch model, with wide moats surrounding high earth ramparts, making it impossible to breach the city. Today the Old Town is filled with a bustling market square, winding, cobbled alleyways and charming, traditional shops selling unique handicrafts and souvenirs. Thanks to its unusual structure, the town is also filled with plenty of lush green spaces.
This tiny village is situated right at the head of the dramatic Geirangerfjord, with sloping, craggy hills providing an awe-inspiring backdrop, and stunning blue waters and steep mountains unfolding at the foot of the village. Take a hike up one of the many mountain paths, past numerous waterfalls and take in the breathtaking views from the top.
Henningsvær is a charming fishing village spread over seveal tiny islands in the Lofoten Arctic archipelago. The town’s colourful homes appear to emerge from the sea, reflected in the crystal clear waters. Thanks to its extreme northern location, Henningsvær experiences extraordinary weather conditions. In the winter, snow covers the island, turning the buildings into gingerbread houses, while in summer, the village experiences beautifully clear days and 24-hour daylight.
Longyearbyen is the third northernmost settlement in the world and the largest on the Svalbard Islands on the North Pole. The surrounding landscape has an extraordinary, desolated kind of beauty; set in a flat, sweeping valley with steep mountains and bordered by a sandy bay. The town is a small, colourful spot amidst the dramatic rock and snow. Longyearbyen is largely made up of rows of charming houses painted bright red, green, yellow, or blue, contrasting with the sparkling snow which covers the town eight months of the year.
Reine draws thousands of visitors each year despite its diminutive size because of its stunning surroundings. The tiny fishing village is located on the island of Moskenesøya in the gorgeous Lofoten archipelago clustered around calm blue waters with lush, sloping hills in the background. Meanwhile, all around the village for miles to see, enormous, snow-capped mountains rise like islands from the ocean, creating a formidable, awe-inspiring view.
Skudeneshavn, located on Karmøy island’s southernmost tip, comprises almost 130 original 19th-century timber houses all painted in striking white. Hundreds of boats fill Skudeneshavn’s harbour during summer for the annual boating festival, when handicraft markets and traditional folk performances pervade the streets.
Located over 200 miles inside the Arctic Circle, Tromsø greatly benefits from its extreme location, considered one of the best places to see the Northern Lights. The town aquarium allows visitors to get up close to local wildlife, and the Polar Museum sheds light on the region’s fearsome apex predator. The town’s surroundings are equally astonishing, with large birch forests and stunning views of the area’s numerous fjords and mountains.
Trondheim, founded in 997AD, was Norway’s Viking capital for almost 300 years and a great place to experience the region’s history. The town boasts a stunning example of Gothic architecture, Nidaros Cathedral was one of the most important churches in Northern Europe during the Middle Ages, while the medieval fortress of Sverresborg boasts impressively preserved buildings and now serves as an open-air museum.