Nothing’s more festive than Norway at Christmastime—it’s a magical season set under the ephemeral glow of the Northern Lights. Where else would Santa streak across the sky on his way from the North Pole? Close your eyes and smell the pepperkaker, aka gingerbread, as you dogsled through the snowdrifts. Or savor a traditional Scandinavian feast aboard a docked cruise ship on Julaften, which is Christmas Eve. Your choices are myriad, so we’ve selected five enchanting places to visit in Norway during the most wonderful time of the year!
1. See why Santa loves Savalen
Savalen is a mountain village in eastern Norway, where the ski lifts run daily during the holidays. Dog sledding and snowmobile safaris are also popular here. Savalen is home to the world’s largest gingerbread house, where you can spend the night. There’s also a spa and indoor pool at the Savalen Fjellhotel, which might explain why Santas from around the world meet here after Christmas to relax before competing in the Santa Claus Winter Games.
2. Bob sled in Lillehammer
Site of the 1994 Winter Olympics, Lillehammer boasts an Olympic-caliber bob and luge track as well as a chair lift to the top of the Lysegårdsbakkene ski jump, where you can take in the panoramic winter scenery. This picturesque lake-side city is just a 90-minute train ride from the Oslo Airport. In Lillehammer, you can learn about the Viking tradition of the Yule Goat and leave some porridge, or julegrøt, out for Julesnisse. This is after you’ve strolled and shopped the garland-draped pedestrian street of “The Christmas Town.”
3. Make a joyful noise in Trondheim
Every year at Trondheim’s Nidaros Cathedral, built in 1070, a Christmas miracle happens. It’s a concert featuring traditional hymns of peace and joy, performed in both Norwegian and English by the world-renowned St. Olaf Choir. Known as Trondheim’s “Gothic queen,” the cathedral was built over St. Olaf’s tomb. Norway’s largest church has been a pilgrimage destination for Northern Europeans for centuries.
4. Take a Christmas cruise with Hurtigruten
Norway’s famed fjords are jaw-dropping all year round, but what better time to explore the Norwegian coast than during the holidays? Since 1893, Hurtigruten ships have been carrying passengers and freight through islets, archipelagos and coastal villages, some of which are otherwise unreachable by ordinary ships or cars. On Julaften, the ships are docked so you can attend a local Christmas service. Then, Hurtigruten’s famed kitchens serve up a traditional Norwegian Christmas Dinner, featuring locally sourced ingredients. It’s a lovely way to celebrate the season and the region aboard an iconic Norwegian vessel.
5. Enjoy Oslo’s Christmas markets and fairs
Open-air Christmas markets are a Norwegian tradition, and Oslo’s Spikersuppa fair is the fairest of them all. It’s held every year at the Spikersuppa skating rink near the Royal Palace and features food stalls, artisan crafts and even a Ferris wheel. You can stroll, skate and sip gløgg under twinkling lights and falling flakes.
And if you can’t make it to Norway this Christmas, sit back in your Stressless recliner; close your eyes and let visions of sandbakkelse dance in your head. These almond and vanilla-flavored Norwegian sugar cookies are a holiday favorite.
From all of us at Stressless, god jul and godt nytt år in this, our 50th season!