8 Reasons Why January and February are the Best Times to Visit Norway
We have been to Norway several times and still believe that the best time to visit Norway is January.
While summer and winter are both appealing there’s something really special about Norway during winter when you can see the Northern Lights and feel the warmth and glow of hygge all around you.
The first time I visited was during 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? The second time I visited was summer and then the last time we went, we went together to experience Norway in all its glory during winter once again.
If you ask us, “When is the best time to go to Norway?” we have to say, it really is splendid to visit Norway in January and February.
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1. Magical Snowy Scenery is Plentiful
If the thought of a “Winter Wonderland” pulls at your heartstrings, Norway in January and February is the place for you. You’re nearly guaranteed to see snow somewhere (if not everywhere) if you go to Norway during these months.
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? We could!
We saw breathtaking scenery like this everywhere we went, not just at the outdoor museum when we went to visit Norway.
2. There are Less Tourists during Winter in Most of Norway
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.
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.
The only area that experiences peak season during winter is in the Arctic Circle, in an area like Tromso. There are plenty of fun winter sports to do in this northern city in Norway. The northern lights and winter excursions, like whale watching, are two great Tromso excursion options.
3. Sunrise is Typically Later (If There is One)
I’m not a morning person, but I am a photo person. (Dan’s definitely a morning person.) Due to the daylight hours in January, sunrise has never been easier 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 at 9:00am? And yet, another reason why winter is the best time to visit Norway!
4. It’s Not THAT Cold Everywhere
I thought I was a little crazy to visit Norway during one of its coldest months, albeit booking tickets to go. Would we freeze and get frostbite? When people ask me, “How cold is it in Norway during winter?” 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 found to be unbearably cold at one point and thought frostbite could truly be a problem was in Tromso.
(I recall taking a trip up a mountain in the famous Fjellheisen cable car to see an aerial view of the city. I wasn’t being able to feel my toes through my layers of multiple thick socks and snow boots. I knew frostbite was a real threat at that moment and it was time to defrost in front of a heater. I quickly traveled back down the mountain to get warm and thaw.)
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 – we used it all in Tromso to beat the winter Norwegian weather, especially during our Polar Fjord Cruise.)
The point is: pack right and you’ll be okay. And it really isn’t that cold in many of the southern cities in Norway.
5. You can See the Northern Lights during Winter in Norway…and they’re Breathtaking
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 we have 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 during an organized Northern Lights tour we took in Tromso was wild. The best way I can describe it is by imagining an invisible person skywriting with glow sticks.
I’m almost speechless recalling the experience, trying to communicate its wonder. If you visit Norway during winter, we cannot recommend traveling north to Tromsǿ enough to specifically see the Northern Lights.
6. Cost are Generally Lower during Winter
Since it’s not a popular time to visit the country, as a whole, prices are more affordable. This is particularly true 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 or putting it out of your price range. We recommend checking Booking.com for hotels in cities like Oslo, Bergen, Trondheim, and Tromsø.
7. Delicious Winter Comfort Foods are at Their Best
Norwegian’s have some of the most delicious, delectable comfort food. Reindeer soups and entrees, sausages, warm fish cakes with potatoes, and great coffee all make me yearn for January in Norway.
Having these foods 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, which is another reason why a winter visit is the best time to visit Norway.
Here are a few activities you may see or participate in during January in Norway, particularly in the north:
- Sleigh rides with reindeer (during summer, they retreat to the mountain and you cannot take a sleighride with them!)
- Ice sculpture competitions
- Humpback Whale Watching (November through January)
- Dog Sledding
I was lucky I happened to be in Tromso during an ice sculpture competition (twice during January and February!).
Another reason why January is the best time to visit Norway is that, for the most part, by the end of the month the whales have migrated away from Tromso.
If this has piqued your curiosity about Norway, also check out:
- One Day in Oslo: Not-to-Miss Things to Do in the Capital of Norway
- Is it Worth Visiting Asker, Norway near Oslo?
- Most Unique Travel Gift Ideas for Travel Lovers
This is a convincing argument for visiting in winter! I would have never thought to go in winter. I live in upstate NY and we average 12 ft of snow a year, so traveling to more snow doesn’t exactly appeal to me, but humpback whales, ice sculptures, and the northern lights could change my mind!
I know – I totally hear you! But it’s so wonderful in winter. If you’re going to be cold in upstate NY regardless, may as well have a change of scenery and experiences in Norway, right?
Convinced as well!! It’s definitely going on my bucket list! I went to Bodo in Norway in November and it was amazing. Cold and dark but truly amazing. The atmosphere, the snow, the landscapes… (didn’t get to see the northern lights – you’re so lucky!)
I’m glad we stayed a few nights to maximize our potential to see the Northern Lights! It was worth it. Fingers crossed you get to see them soon!
Great post and photos! I have been trying to gather up courage for a winter trip to Europe…and those Northern Lights look so stunning!
If there’s any great motivation for a winter trip the Northern Lights is certainly a good one! <3
I would have thought it would be bloody cold, so it’s good that you made it clear. I don’t actually mind the cold as long as there is a lot of snow. I love snow. And Norway certainly delivers. Such wonderful photos!
Snow isn’t guaranteed of course BUT there’s a good chance there will be snow in the winter in Norway ESPECIALLY in the north!!! Thank you for your compliments on my photos! 😉
I’ve always wanted to visit a Scandinavian country in winter to see the Northern Lights and it definitely sounds like Norway is a good choice. I’ve never experienced snow before so I was quite taken with that photo. Travelling in off season is always a good idea because you can get cheaper accommodation and less tourists everywhere. Shame about the limited daylight hours though! It would make it harder to go out and see all the things that you would want.
You must experience snow!!! Where do you live?
The daylight is challenging to see things however they’re so well adapted to it, it doesn’t hinder much expect for seeing/photographing things in sunlight.
I like and agree with all the reasons you quote for visiting Norway in winters. The activities are different at that time of the year, especially with the snow..that sounds wonderful. And as the Norwegians say… “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.”
Exactly! 😉 Thanks for your comment, Punita!
Being from Canada, I feel like I could handle the cold. After all, like you said, it’s cold at home anyway! Norway looks like such a magical winter wonderland. I don’t mind that the daylight hours are a little less…because you can see the northern lights! Amazing 🙂
That’s the spirit! 🙂 Plus the right clothes and jackets account for a lot of preparedness for visits in the winter!
I am a big fan of visiting places in their offseason. You get to see more at far lesser cost. Last year I did Finland at around the same time and really loved my experience. Norway is really high on my list and your article just convinced me more to plan it in winters.
Yes, totally agree. I want to go to Finland too. Glad to hear you loved it there!
Okay, you have me rethinking my trip to Oslo in August. I would love to see the Nothern Lights again and I like that it is less touristy. The comfort food has to be my favorite.
Oslo in August is much different than the winter. If you want to see the Northern Lights you’ll have to go outside the city regardless – but it’s more likely you’ll see them in winter.
I so agree with everything you’ve written – I visited Oslo in January and it was completely magical. The lighting was super special, especially just as the sun went down. You’ve captured it perfectly with your picture of the Royal Palace. It was blimmin’ cold though!
Thank you so much for your compliments, Samantha! It was great to walk around in the magic of the season with barely any tourists to contend with!
I’ve only been to Norway once to visit Oslo, but this trip definitely makes me want to return! I completely agree with what you say that there is no such thing as bad weather – I love that attitude to being able to enjoy the weather no matter what it throws as you. When you visited, did you also do dog sledding? I’d love to do that but am always worried about how much it would cost!
Positive attitude is half the battle! 🙂 I didn’t do dog sledding…I know a lot of winter sports are costly. I’ve heard good things and that the dogs love doing it. Just thinking of them working so hard makes me feel torn though!
You have given us the perfect reasons to visit the place in January or I say winters. Everything covered in snow, with less tourist and those crazy Northern lights will be perfect. I guess it will be cost effective too.
It’s perfect in the winter. I hope you visit! 🙂 You won’t be disappointed.
I’ve been to Norway a few times now, but only ever in winter. And I have to agree that it is gorgeous with the snow. I also love Arctic Norwegian food with the reindeer and root purées, plus the seafood.
Yes!!! Great call on the reindeer. Eating that just wouldn’t be as comforting in the summer!