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Reine, Moskenesøya, Lofoten
Reine, Moskenesøya, Lofoten | © David Wilkinson / Flickr
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When's the Best Time of Year to Visit Norway

Picture of Danai Christopoulou
Updated: 6 April 2018
It goes without saying: Norway is gorgeous all year long. But depending on what you’re looking for, some seasons may be more suited for traveling than others. Below, we’ve mapped out each month’s unique happenings and approximate temperatures, so that you can decide when to go and what to pack. Please bear in mind, though: Norway spans across nine different climate types, and almost half of it is above the Arctic circle, so the weather can vary drastically (as in, more than 68°F/20°C) depending on whether you’re on the north side or the south side of this huge country.

January

January is the coldest and darkest month of the year. Even in the southern part of the country, in cities like Oslo and Bergen, the sun sets around 3pm so you won’t get more than six hours of daylight. But if you venture farther north, you’ll be greeted with the famous blue light of the Polar Nights, where the sun almost doesn’t rise at all during the day. If you can brave the cold and darkness though, it’s actually a good idea to head to a northern city like Tromsø: both the Tromsø International Film Festival (TIFF) and the Nordlysfestivalen (Northern Lights Festival), a celebration of music in all its forms, are taking place in January. In Tromsø, you can also see the Northern Lights in January.

Rainfall: 12 days

Temperature: 24.8°F (-4°C)

The blue light of polar nights in Tromsø, Courtesy of Visit Tromsø
The blue light of polar nights in Tromsø | Courtesy of Visit Tromsø

February

February is ski month in Norway. Of course, the ski season here starts in November and lasts until April, but in February the snow is usually most thick and the extra daylight hours (about 9 hours in the southern part of the country) mean more time hitting the slopes. There are also some unique cultural events taking place around the country, from the Ice Music Festival and the Star Wars event in Finse to the Polar Jazz festival in Svalbard and the Birken ski festival in Rena, which follows the route that a group of skiers took during Norway’s civil war back in 1200 to carry the young prince Haakon Haakonsøn away from the enemies and to safety. February is also a great month for Northern Light sightings.

Rainfall: 12 days

Temperature: χ°F (-4°C)

Birken ski festival 2017 | Courtesy of Birken
Birken ski festival 2017 | Courtesy of Birken

March

In March, the light returns. The Spring Equinox on March 21 ushers in the season where the sun refuses to set – within the course of this month, daylight hours in Oslo reach 13, and thanks to the Daylight Savings time change, the sun doesn’t set until 7.30pm. Up in the north, things are a bit different: March is the first month of the year the sun actually shines at all in Svalbard, and there’s a week-long festival to celebrate its return. The weather is still cold though, as the snow hasn’t thawed yet.

Rainfall: 11 days

Temperature: 32°F (0°C)

The moment the sun rises again | Courtesy of Longyearbyen Kulturhus
The moment the sun rises again in Svalbard | Courtesy of Longyearbyen Kulturhus

April

In April, the snow starts to thaw and the rain season starts. Temperatures are rising, but you’re still advised to wear layers as it can get cold, especially if you’re near water. It’s also usually very windy, so a raincoat may be more practical than an umbrella. April is probably not the best month to be in Oslo, as the russefering celebrations start. (If you’ve watched SKAM, you know what we’re talking about. For the rest of you: drunk groups of students in red overalls, roaming the streets partying.) But Bergen, Norway’s second largest city, is beautiful this time of year. Sure, it will be rainy – but when isn’t it raining in Bergen?

Rainfall: 15 days

Temperature: 39.2°F (4°C)

May

In May, the whole country celebrates. Norway’s National Day is May 17, and everyone is wearing their traditional bunads, eating waffles with strawberries and attending the parade. No matter which city you choose to visit, everything will be festive and beautiful, but the biggest parade is taking place in Oslo, where the Norwegian Royal Family will also be attending. The fjords are also very beautiful this time of year, especially Hardangerfjord with its orchards of flowering fruit trees along the water.

Rainfall: 17 days

Temperature: 48.2°F (9°C)

The Norwegian Royal Family
The Norwegian Royal Family | © Vegard Wivestad Grøtt/ NTB SCANPIX, Courtesy of Kongehuset

June

June is also a joyful month. From late June to early August, the weather is at its warmest (temperatures can reach 86°F/30°C) and it never really seems to get dark – something that Norwegians celebrate with bonfires by the sea on June 23 (Midsummer). There are quite a few medieval festivals, and one of the prettiest ones takes place in Norway’s oldest city, Tønsberg. Prepare for jousting knights, medieval music, theater performances and a lot of dancing. If you’re more of an introvert, there’a book night in Mundal, Norway’s famous book town.

Rainfall: 17 days

Temperature: 53,6°F (12°C)

Middelalderfestivalen in Tønsberg
Middelalderfestivalen in Tønsberg | Courtesy of Visit Tønsberg

July

July is a slow month, as all Norwegians are on holiday either abroad or in the southern part of the country, in places like Kristiansand. By now we’re well into the Midnight Sun, with the sun rising at 4am (bring a sleeping mask) and not setting until 10pm. The festival season is well underway, with many unique cultural festivals like the Riddu Riđđu Festivàla that celebrates Sami indigenous culture. Foraging season is well underway too; you can roam the forests for berries, get fresh produce from roadside booths or attend a cool food festival, like Gladmat in Stavanger. Or you can hit one of Norway’s beautiful beaches to swim, snorkel or even surf.

Rainfall: 18 days

Temperature: 59°F (15°C)

Traditional music in Riddu Riđđu Festival | © Eirin Roseneng, Courtesy of Riddu Riđđu Festival
Traditional music in Riddu Riđđu Festival | © Eirin Roseneng, Courtesy of Riddu Riđđu Festival

August

August can be a bit chillier than you’d expect; the overall feeling is more that of autumn than summer. But to keep the summer vibe on, there’s an abundance of festivals taking place. Øya Festival in Oslo brings Coachella vibes (and famous artists) with a four-day music fest on the green grass of Tøyen Park. The Peer Gynt Festival, taking place in the Gudbrandsdalen valley, celebrates the iconic play-in-verse by Henrik Ibsen, with a theatre performance at a gorgeous locale by the lake. The north celebrates as well: the Oi! Trøndersk Mat og Drikke Festival showcases the best local cuisine has to offer in Trondheim, and the Medieval Festival in the Lofoten Islands, organized by the Lofotr Viking Museum, connects you with Norway’s Viking past.

Rainfall: 19 days

Temperature: 55.4°F (13°C)

A magical setting for a theatre performance | Courtesy of Peer Gynt festival
A magical setting for a theater performance | Courtesy of Peer Gynt festival

September

September is an interesting month to visit Oslo. Various events like Culture Night, where the city’s cultural institutions extend their opening hours into the night and host unique free cultural events, or the torchlight walk by the Akerselva river to celebrate the autumnal equinox, will make your visit to the Norwegian capital unforgettable.

Rainfall: 18 days

Temperature: 50°F (10°C)

Oslo Culture Night, Courtesy of Oslo kulturnatt
Oslo Culture Night | Courtesy of Oslo kulturnatt

October

If you love foraging, October is your last chance to get your hands on some tasty mushrooms. As the days turn dark again, the daylight activities diminish, but on the proverbial bright side, now you can get a chance to glimpse the Northern Lights. This year, October will also be pleasantly cheesy, as the World Cheese Awards will be taking place in Norway for the first time.

Rainfall: 18 days

Temperature: 41°F (5°C)

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Aurora Borealis in Longyearbyen | © Christer van der Meeren/Flickr

November

By November, the Polar Night season is well underway – the sun sets around 3pm in places like Oslo, and doesn’t rise at all north of the Arctic Circle. If you’re okay with the cold and the dark, it may be a cool (and not just literally) experience to visit the North Cape, Europe’s Northernmost point, for Aurora Borealis sightings and snowmobile rides.

Rainfall: 15 days

Temperature: 32°F (0°C)

The Northern Lights at North Cape | © Stål Vidar Mikkelsen, Courtesy of Visit Nordkapp
The Northern Lights at North Cape | © Stål Vidar Mikkelsen, Courtesy of Visit Nordkapp

December

Everything looks festive in Norway in December, as the old Pagan traditions of Juletide (Winter Solstice) have merged with the Christian traditions, giving a merry spirit to the whole month. Now is the time to eat popular Christmas food to keep you warm, book a table in some of the country’s best restaurants for a holiday meal or just join the merriment in Santa Claus’s real village, where it’s Christmas all year long.

Rainfall: 13 days

Temperature: 26.6°F (-3°C)

When not to go to Norway

Like we said, Norway is gorgeous all year long. But due to the big differences in temperatures and the drastic changes in the light, November–January are not usually recommended for travelers who don’t love the cold. Or, it might be the best time for those that actively want to spot the Northern Lights.