I’ve been to Norway several times. Summer and winter are both appealing. It’s hard for me to admit winter may be the best time to go because I am a warm weather girl through and through. I visited one winter while living in New York; I figured if I was going to be cold somewhere in January it may as well be Scandinavia, right? But guess what? If you ask me, “When is the best time to go to Norway?” I have to admit, it really was fabulous to visit Norway in January! So much so, in fact, I’ve returned during winter.
1. Magical Snowy Scenery is Plentiful
If the thought of a “Winter Wonderland” pulls at your heartstrings, Norway in January is the place for you. You’re nearly guaranteed to see snow somewhere (if not everywhere) if you go to Norway during January. I felt like I was in an episode of The Vikings as we walked around Oslo’s Norsk Folkemuseum, covered in snow. Could you faint from the beauty? I could! And we saw scenery like this everywhere we went, not just at the outdoor museum when we went to visit Norway.
2. There are Less Tourists
During summer there are tons of tourists no matter where you go. The weather’s nice, people are flocking to the region and of course the country’s residents are out and about soaking up the sunshine and green grass covering the ground. But I felt like I had the place to myself in winter. Which is just another valid reason why January is the best time to visit Norway. The photo below was taken at the Royal Palace in Oslo during the afternoon with only four other people in sight. (It’s darker in the afternoons there because the days are shorter in January.) The photo pictured above, of the stave church, would make you think we had the museum to ourselves. We pretty much did.
3. Sunrise is Typically Later (If There is a Sunrise)
I’m not a morning person, but I am a photo person. Due to the daylight hours in January, sunrise has never been so easy to capture because it’s later! As previously mentioned, days are much shorter during Norwegian and Scandinavian winters. Oslo, Norway in January brings a sunrise time about 9:15am and sunset around 3:30pm. (Depending on when you visit Norway, there may not be any daylight in some cities like Tromso and Kirkenes, due to their location in the Arctic Circle.)
Sure, that makes daylight hours during your Norway vacation less plentiful and more precious. But when you can capture an image like this pink and purple sunrise at the Oslo Opera House without waking up at 6:00am can you really complain? And yet, another reason why January is the best time to go to Norway!
4. It’s Not THAT Cold Everywhere
I thought I was crazy to visit Norway during one of its coldest months. Would I freeze and get frostbite? When people still ask me, “How cold is it in Norway in January?” My answer is, “Pretty freaking cold.” However, Norwegian’s have a famous saying, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.” Be prepared and logical in your packing list and you’ll be okay.
In Oslo and Bergen, especially, I found myself dressing in lighter layers than I expected.
The only place I thought frostbite could truly be a problem was in Tromso, in the Arctic Circle. (I recall taking a trip up a mountain to see an aerial view of the city and not being able to feel my toes through my layers of multiple thick socks and snow boots. No joke – I knew frostbite was a real threat in that moment and it was time to defrost in front of a heater. I quickly traveled back down the mountain to get warm.)
I ordered anything I thought may warm me up before I left for the trip as I prepared my bags! I purchased insulated leggings and made sure I had jeans baggy enough to wear layers under. I bought Gortex mittens. Hand warmers were purchased in bulk. Hats, scarves and long sleeve shirts were plentiful. (You may think that sounds like a crazy list but trust me – I used it all in Tromso, especially, to beat the January Norwegian weather.)
The point is – pack right and you’ll be a-okay. And it really isn’t that cold in many of the southern cities in Norway.
5. Breathtaking Northern Lights during Norwegian Winters
As soon as you learn what the Northern Lights are (also known as Aurora Borealis) it’s likely to be a fast addition to your bucket list. It’s truly one of the most gorgeous things I’ve ever laid eyes on.
This scientific phenomenon is the sun’s electrically charged particles reaching the earth’s atmosphere. It’s science in motion. Neon signs in nature. Watching the animation unfold before us was wild. The best way I can describe it is imagining an invisible person skywriting with glow sticks. I’m almost speechless recalling the experience, trying to communicate its wonder. If you visit Norway in January we cannot recommend traveling north to Tromso specifically for a shot at seeing the Northern Lights.
6. Cost are Generally Lower
Since it’s not a popular time to visit the country, as a whole, prices are more affordable particularly for tours and accommodations. Consider this a major bonus because Norway is one of the wealthiest countries in the world and prices coincide with that fact. Small savings on hotels and Air BnBs could be the difference in making it an affordable trip to consider.
7. Delicious Comfort Food at Its Best
Norwegian’s have some of the most delicious, delectable comfort food. Reindeer soup, sausages, warm fish cakes with potatoes and great coffee all make me yearn for January in Norway. Having all these things during summer just isn’t the same.
8. Awesome Snow Sports and Activities
When you live in the cold you adapt to it, including what sports your culture embraces. Norway’s winter sports are impressive and invigorating!
Here are a few activities you may see or participate in during January in Norway, particularly in the north:
- Sleigh rides with reindeer
- Ice sculpture competitions
- Humpback Whale Watching
- Dog Sledding
I was lucky I happened to be in Tromso during an ice sculpture competition. But if I traveled back there in January again (which is likely) I’d be sure to go in the first half of the month. This would ensure I could go on a Humpback Whale Watching excursion. Another reason why January is the best time to visit Norway is because by the end of the month, and certainly February and beyond, their migration through Tromso is over and they’ve left the region.
If this has piqued your curiosity about Norway also check out:
- 10 Mostly Free Sites to Visit in Oslo Norway
- Best Places to See the Northern Lights
- Squashing Skepticism with Our Norwegian Airlines Review
Would you visit Norway in January?