Norway

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Norway is the westernmost, northernmost — and surprisingly also the easternmost — of the three Scandinavian countries. Norway is known for the complex and deep fjords along its west coast, as well as the midnight sun and Northern Lights. Mainland Norway stretches from the North Sea near Denmark and Scotland to borders with northern Finland and the northwestern tip of Russia, as well as a long border with Sweden to the east. Norway also includes the Svalbard islands.

Population: 4,722,701 people
Area: 323,802 km2
Highest point: 2,469 m
Coastline: 25,148 km
Life expectancy: 80.44 years
GDP per capita: $55,900
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About Norway

History

The petty Viking kingdoms of Norway were unified in 872 AD by Harald Fairhair. In the following period, Norwegians settled in many places, such as Iceland, the Faroe Islands and parts of Scotland and Ireland, where they founded Dublin. In the beginning of the 14th century, Norway and Sweden were unified as the Norwegian king was also elected king of Sweden. At the end of the century, the two countries and Denmark were unified in the so-called Kalmar Union.

Sweden broke out of the union in 1521. Norway remained in union with Denmark until 1814. Only a few months after the declaration of independence, Norway entered into union with Sweden, though it must be noted that this union with Sweden allowed Norway to keep a great deal of independence.

The union with Sweden lasted until 1905, which is considered the beginning of modern Norway. From 1940 until 1945, Norway was occupied by German forces during World War 2.

Climate

Because of the gulf stream, the climate in Norway, especially along the coast, is noticeably warmer than what would otherwise be expected at such a high latitude. Although half the length of Norway is north of the arctic circle, the climate is not arctic. Summers can be moderately warm (up to 25-30°C), even in northern areas, but only for limited periods. The length of the winter and amount of snow varies considerably. In the north there is more snow and winters are dark; on the southern and western coast, winters are moderate and rainy. Further inland (North Norway and East Norway) the temperature can easily fall below -25°C. In the interior of Finnmark -25°C to -35°C is common in January (record low at -50°C). Along the coast of Hordaland and Roagland temperatures only occasionally and briefly drop below -5°C. Some mountain areas have glaciers and permanent snow, but there is permafrost on the mainland.

Norway's hours of daylight, temperature and driving conditions vary greatly throughout the year. Seasonal variations crucially depend on region (distance from ocean) and latitude as well as altitude. Note in particular that the area with midnight sun (north of the arctic circle) also has winter darkness (polar night) when the sun does not rise above the horizon at all.

Norwegian weather is most pleasant during the summer (May to early September). If you like snow, go to Norway in December to April. Along the coasts and in southern part of West Norway there is little snow or frost and few opportunities for skiing, even in winter. In the mountains there is snow until May and some mountain passes are closed until the end of May. If you come in the beginning of May some passes can be still closed, but since the snow is melting very quickly, you will get a possibility to enjoy plenty of waterfalls before they disappear. And in this time the number of tourists is very small. Spring in Norway is quite intense due to the abundance of water (melting snow) in conjunction with plenty of sunlight and quickly rising temperatures (typically in May). Complete forecasts and statistics at yr.no.

Geography

Norway sits on a large peninsula shared with Sweden in the north of Europe. In the north, it also borders Finland and Russia. Some 5 million inhabitants share an area about the size of Germany and larger than Britain. Norway is primarily a very long country - driving from the most southern to the most northern cities equals the distance from Hamburg to Malaga (and through much more rugged terrain). Norway's coastline is also one of the longest in the world - if islands and fjords are included the coastline has been calculated as 50,000 to 100,000 km. Nordland county alone has a longer coastline than the entire United Kingdom when fjords and islands are included.

Norway is well known for its amazing and varied scenery. The fjords in the west of the country are long narrow inlets of the ocean, flanked on either side by tall mountains where the sea penetrates far inland. Norway's endless coastline also includes countless islands of all sizes - there are more than 200,000 identified islands along Norway's coast (only surpassed by Greece). The many islands and skerries shelter the coast from the rough Atlantic such that Hurtigruten and other ships can travel long stretches on calm waters. There are more than 450,000 lakes throughout Norway, even inside the city of Oslo there are several hundred lakes. The vast majority of the land is a rocky wilderness, and thus Norway has large, completely unpopulated areas, many of which have been protected as national parks. Also outside the national parks, much of the land is unspoiled nature - there is in fact no need to visit a national park to experience wilderness and great landscapes. Roads and railways as well as ordinary ferries offers easy access to great panoramas. There are few sandy beaches along Norway's endless shores, shores are typically rocky, steep cliffs or gentle polished slabs of rock.

Norway's highest point is Galdhøpiggen, 2,469 m (8,100 ft) in the Jotunheimen region that lies midway between Oslo and Trondheim, but away from the coast. In the far north (Finnmark), there are relatively flat open spaces. Several of the world's greatest waterfalls are in Norway, particularly in the western fjords and the mountain region.

While there are mountains all over Norway, some major mountain areas define Norway's main regions. The north-south line of mountain areas (notably Hardangervidda and Jotunheimen) are major barriers and separates West Norway from East Norway. Similarly the wide Dovrefjell separates Middle Norway (Trøndelag) from East Norway. Norway also includes the nearly unpopulated Svalbard archipelago far from the mainland, on the edge of arctic ice shelf.

The long rugged coast, fjords, countless lakes, tall waterfalls and pretty rivers means that water is the one thing that most characterizes Norway.

Activities

A great introduction to Norway is the one-day Norway in a Nutshell [23] package on a single ticket from Oslo or Bergen into the mountains, with a boat trip through the fjords. You can break the trip at several interesting cabins for walking or just admiring the view, and even hire a mountain bike for part of the journey. One of the highlights of the 'Norway in a Nutshell' package is Flåmsbana [24], a 20 km railway that's one of the steepest in the world. Along the way you'll see beautiful mountains, rivers, valleys, waterfalls, and other beautiful sights on your way to the town of Flåm.

  • Go on top of the nearest top/mountain. Just for the walk. And for the view.

Hiking

Norway has endless opportunties for hiking in its wide wilderness, from easy walks in Oslo's city forest to alpine climbing in Jotunheimen or Troms. A number of areas are protected as national parks, but most the country is equally attractive and available to the public. Skiing is season is generally from mid-November to late April, while bare ground hiking season is generally from mid summer to September. Note that hiking season varies greatly depending on region (and from year to year): In the high mountains there may still be deep snow until July, while in the lower areas and along the coast hiking season start early spring.

In Norway, travelers enjoy a right to access, which means it is possible to camp freely in most places for a couple of days, as long as you're not on cultivated land and provided you are at least 150 m away from houses and farm buildings. Don't leave any traces and take your rubbish away for recycling.

Den Norske Turistforening (DNT) [25] (The Norwegian Mountain Touring Association) operates many staffed and self-service mountain cabins, marks mountain routes, offers maps and route information, guided tours, and several other services for mountain hikers in Norway.

Mountainous areas are popular among both Norwegians and tourists. Tourists can visit Galdhøpiggen (2469), the highest mountain in Norway, or join a musk ox safari in Dovrefjell.

Google Maps can only be used for initial planning, not for navigation in the field. Try the national mapping agency's Atlas.no site, which concords with their excellent printed hiking maps. Hikers in the wilderness should bring a detailed topographical map 1:50,000 (1:75,000 can also be used).

Skiing

Both cross country and alpine skiing are popular sports in winter, and the largest areas, such as Trysil, Hafjell and Hemsedal, compete well with the Alps at lower altitudes. Telemark is also a nice area to ski in. (The birthplace of cross country ski.) Voss, Geilo and Oppdal are other major ski resorts. Winter sport resorts typically open in early December, whereas cross-country skiing may begin in November in some uplands. Around Oslo, within reach of the metro and city buses, there is a large park ideal for cross-country skiing, as well as hills for alpine skiing. In Stryn, at Galdhøpiggen and at Folgefonna there alpine ski centres that are open in summer only (May–September), offering unique opportunities for alpine skiing in T-shirt and short pants. Back-country skiing is popular in late winter and spring, and the season lasts until late May in the high plateaus/central mountains.

Dagens Næringsliv, the leading business daily, rated the best alpine resorts 2013:

  • Hemsedal - Norway's most complete alpine resort, can be compared to leading resorts in Austria and Canada.
  • Trysil - best for children, Norway's largest winter resort
  • Oppdal - all-over second best
  • Stranda - Norway's best offpiste skiing, heavy snowfalls (ahead of Røldal and Narvik)
  • Hafjell - best snowpark, stable cold climate, 1994 olympics
  • Geilo - well suited for families with diverse preferences
  • Voss - ideal for day trips from Bergen
  • Kvitfjell - Norway's toughest downhill slopes, 1994 Olympics
  • Lyngen - best summit skiing
  • Hovden - best in South Norway, 200 km from Kristiansand

Best cross-country resorts according to Dagens Næringsliv:

  • Beitostølen
  • Geilo
  • Golsfjellet
  • Gålå
  • Sjusjøen - 350 km trails
  • Oslo - 2600 km trails (350 km with lights) inside the big city
  • Rauland - stable snow in uplands
  • Meråker

Cycling

You can rent a bicycle virtually everywhere in Norway. Cycling routes exist usually near bigger cities; you can find some tours at Cycle tourism in Norway [26]. Some roads and tunnels are forbidden for cyclists as they are life-threatening; read the section By bicycle above. Some city dumps may have a special section where you can pick up discarded bicycles (and other stuff) for free. The charity thrift-stores (FRETEX/ELEVATOR/NMS Gjenbruk) sometimes stock used bicycles.

Swimming

There are few sandy beaches and water is mostly cold, in salt water as well as fresh water. Some fjords, parts of Oslofjord for instance, can however get pleasantly warm in late summer. The coast is mostly rocky, but some areas have stretches of gently rounded, polished slabs of rock, "svaberg", these get quickly dry and warm in sunny weather, and is a popular hangout in summer.

Food

Cuisin

Traditional Norwegian "farm" food is made by whatever can grow in the northern climate, be stored for a year until new crops come out, and contain enough energy for you to do hard work. Regional variances in traditional food are huge and hence, and what is thought to be "typical traditional" for one Norwegian might be totally unknown to another. Typical examples are variations of yeasted and unyeasted bread and other forms of bakery, porridges, soups, inventive uses of potato, salted and smoked meat, and fresh, salted or smoked fish. Dried cod (tørrfisk) and salted cod (klippfisk) are staples of coastal communities in the west and north and can be seen drying on outside racks in spring and summer. The national dish of Norway is fårikål, a stewed casserole of lamb's meat and cabbage. Other specialties include lutefisk (lyefish) made from dry/salted fish processed in lye, and potato dumplings served with salt meat (raspeball) or mixed with fish (blandeball). Sheep's head (smalahove) and dried mutton ribs (pinnekjøtt) are traditionally served before or during Christmas in Western Norway.

Finer traditional food is usually based on hunted animals or fresh fish. Steak, medallions and meat balls from game, deer, reindeer and elk are highly appreciated foods with international reputation, so are fresh, smoked and fermented salmon varieties as well as a host of other fish products. Traditional pastries like lukket valnøtt (marzipan-covered whipped cream cake) are other original contributions to international cuisine. Cheese of various types is common, but one particularly Norwegian favorite is brun geitost (brown goat-cheese), a mild sweet cheese which bears a remarkable similarity to smooth peanut butter in color, texture and taste.

Today, Norwegians use plenty of sliced bread for almost any meal except dinner, whereas recipes for hot meals will be taken from almost anywhere in the world, including of course the traditional kitchen, but seldom the most extreme examples. Lunch usually consists of some bread and snacks instead of a warm dish but this is then compensated by eating well at dinner time. Most Norwegians don't go out for lunch, instead have a quick meal in the workplace.

Norwegians are also known for eating a lot of frozen pizza. Frozen pizzas are available at modest prices in any grocery store.

Places to eat

Eating out is expensive, with fast food starting from 50 kr and sit-down meals in a decent restaurant nearly always topping 200 kr or more for a main course. Even a take-away sandwich and a coffee at a gas station may cost you up to 70 kr (9 €, US$ 11.5). One way to cut costs is self-catering, as youth hostels and guesthouses often have kitchens for their guests. Supermarkets and grocery stores are not hard to find, even in the smallest village there is usually more than one grocery store. The largest chains are Rimi, REMA 1000, ICA and Joker. Breakfast is often hearty and buffet-style, so pigging out at breakfast and skipping lunch is also an option. Buy/bring a lunchbox before attending breakfast, as most of the bigger hotels will allow you to fill it up for free from the breakfast buffet for eating later in the day.

For a cheap quick snack Norwegian-style, look no further than the nearest grill or convenience store, which will dish up a sausage (pølse) or hot dog (grillpølse) in either a hot dog bun (brød) or wrapped in a flat potato bread (lompe) for around 20-30 kr. However prices can soar as high as 50kr if you buy at the right (read wrong) places. In addition to ketchup and mustard, optional toppings include pickled cucumber (sylteagurk), fried onion bits (stekt løk) and shrimp salad (rekesalat). To get the most for your money, order a (kebab i pita) which is lamb meat roasted on a spit then fried when you order, served together with vegetables in a pita bread. This tastes great, is extremely filling and can be found for as little as 40 kr in central Oslo. Outside, you will have to stick with your grillpølse.

Vegetarians

Very few Norwegian cuisine restaurants have vegetarian meals on the menu, but will make something if asked, with varying success. Some of the few chains of stores/restaurants where you will always have a vegetarian option is Peppes Pizza, Dolly Dimple's, SubWay and Esso/On the run (spinach panini).

Allergies and diets

If you have allergies like lactose intolerance and gluten allergy, going to Peppe's Pizza, Dolly Dimple's, Subway and Burger King are good suggestions. But if you want to eat somewhere a little fancier, asking the maître d' at the restaurant is always good practice. In some cases, if it is not on the menu, they might be able to accommodate you anyway.

As the regulations for food is extremely strict in Norway, the ingredients for anything you buy is always printed on the packages, and if you ask, you will always be told what is contained in the food you order.

Food safety

Food safety is very good in Norway. Salmonella is very rare compared to other countries, and health officials inspect restaurants at a regular basis. Also tap-water is usually very nice; Voss water from Vatnestrøm in Aust-Agder is actually exported abroad, including USA.

Drinks

Norway is often described as a "dry" country, because alcohol is highly priced and glass of wine/beer in a restaurant is in the range of 60 NOK. When in cities/towns with many students (Oslo/Bergen/Trondheim/Tromsø in particular), you can very often find prices to be lower. Ask at your place of accommodation or young people in the streets for hints and tips of where to go. Beer can be bought at the supermarkets, however wine and stronger alcoholic beverages have to be purchased in state owned liquor stores (Vinmonopolet [27]). The price of alcohol, however does not stop the locals from having a good time. They are often found drinking and carrying on in local street parties and on their porches.

The high prices are most likely part of the reason why the tradition to hold vorspiel and nachspiel before going out is very popular in Norway. The words derives from German and can be translated into pre- and afterparty. If going out in the weekend, it is not unknown for Norwegians to gather at a friends house and not leave there until after twelve in the evening. So if you've seen Norwegian drinking culture abroad, and are shocked by the empty bar/club at ten o'clock, call your Norwegian friend and ask where the vorspiel is. (note if that person is Swedish, there are many of them in Norway, vorspiel means foreplay, they would say foreparty) It's likely to be a whole lot of fun. Clubs tend to fill up around midnight-1 a.m. However this is mostly true in weekends, during normal weekdays, you will often find Norwegians sitting in bars enjoying a couple of beers or a bottle of wine.

You must be at least 18 years old to purchase beer/wine and 20 years old to purchase spirits (alcohol levels of 22% and above) in Norway.

Technically, drinking in public is prohibited. This law is very strict, and even encompasses your own balcony, if other people can see you! Luckily, the law is very seldom enforced (I've never heard of anyone being fined on their own balcony, for instance), and Norwegians indeed do drink in parks. There are calls for modifying the antiquated law, and recently, there has been a debate in media: most people seem to agree that drinking in parks is alright as long as people have a good time and remain peaceful. However, if you bother others and get too intoxicated or a policeman happens to be in a bad mood, you may be asked to throw away your alcohol, and in a worst-case scenario, fined. Drinking openly in the street is probably still considered somewhat rude, and it would be more likely to bring the police's attention than a picnic in a park, and is advised against. Having a glass of wine in an establishment that legally serves alcohol at the sidewalk, of course, is not a problem.

Be careful about urinating in major cities like Oslo if you're drunk, fines for public urination can be as high as 10.000 krones ($1750)! However, this normally isn't a problem if you urinate in a place where nobody sees like a couple of yards into the woods. Public intoxination is also something you should be a bit careful with, especially in the capital, Oslo. In smaller towns the police will have no problem giving you a night in the local jail if they think you are disrupting peace and order.

In Norway, all alcohol with a volume percentage of under 4,75% can be sold at regular shops. This means you can get decent beer all over the place. The price varies, but imported beer is usually expensive (except Danish/Dutch beers brewed in Norway on licence like Heineken and Carlsberg). Shopping hours for beer are very strict: The sale stops at 8PM (20.00) every weekday, and at 6PM (18.00) every day before holidays (incl Sundays). Since the sale is decided in the local council, it may vary, but this is the latest times decided by law. This means the beer will have to be PAID before this time. If it's not paid, the person behind the counter will take your beer, and tell you "Sorry pal, too late!". On Sunday, you can't buy alcohol anywhere except bars/pubs/restaurants.

For strong beer, wine and hard alcohol, you will have to find a Vinmonopolet branch. The state shop have a marvellous choice of drinks, but at mostly sky-high prices. The general rule is that table wines are more expensive than in nearly any other country. Expect NOK 80-90 for a decent, "cheap" wine. However, as the taxation is based on the volume of alcohol per bottle rather than the initial cost, you can often find more exclusive wines at comparably lower prices than in private establishments in other countries. Vinmonpolet is open until 5PM (17.00) Mon-Wed, 6PM (18.00) Thu-Fri, and 3PM (15.00) on Sat.

Many car borne visitors (and Norwegians on shopping trips to Sweden) bring alcohol into Norway, but note that there are import restrictions for private use, of 1 litre liquor and 3 litres of beer.

Beers Norwegian beer isn't the best in the world, but it's certainly worth trying. The brands you are most likely to see in pubs are Ringnes, Hansa and Frydenlund (accompanied by a vast array of imported drinks). Local brewer Aas (Drammen) tend to produce beers a notch above the rest. Recently a range of microbreweries and craft breweries have made locally produced beer of all varieties and often high quality available. For instance Nøgne Ø, Ægir and Haandbryggeriet produce for the national market. Beer from small or specialty breweries are also available in pubs or cafes such as Mikrobryggeriet (Bogstadveien Oslo), Lorry's (Parkveien, Oslo), Ægir (Flåm), Grünerløkka Brygghus (Oslo) or Beer Palace (Aker Brygge, Oslo).

Shopping

The Norwegian currency is the Norwegian crown (norske krone), abbreviated kr. A 1/100th krone is called øre. When you need to disambiguate the Norwegian krone from e.g. the Swedish or Danish krone, use the official three-letter abbreviation NOK. The exchange rate between the Scandinavian currencies is approximately 1:1. As of September 2013, there is about 8 NOK to one euro. Euros are generally not accepted in shops, except in some airports and international transport (flights, ferries).

Coins come in 1, 5, 10, and 20 kroner. Paper notes come in 50, 100, 200, 500, and 1000 kroner.

ATMs in Norway are called Minibank. There is no problem locating an ATM machine in urban areas. At main airports and Oslo Central Station, you can withdraw euros, dollars, British pounds, Swedish, Danish and Norwegian kroner. Nearly all stores, with the notable exception of grocery stores and the post office, accept major credit cards such as MasterCard and Visa (bring your passport/driver's license, as you are required to identify yourself when using a credit card).

Costs

Norway is an expensive country for visitors. While it is possible to travel in Norway on a limited budget, some care must be taken. Because labour is costly, anything that can be seen as a "service" will in general be more expensive than you expect. Travel costs can also be a killer, because the country is large and distances long, so a rail or air pass can save you a lot of money.

As rules of thumb, subsisting on under 500 NOK/day will be difficult even if you stay in hostels and self-cater, with 1000 NOK/day allowing a more comfortable mid-range lifestyle and over 2000 NOK/day needed for good hotels and restaurants.

Take care when buying alcohol and tobacco. It will most certainly be more expensive than you expect. A 400 or 500 ml beer in a pub or restaurant will cost around 60 NOK whilst a 500 ml can of 4.7% beer in a supermarket costs about 25 NOK. Cigarettes cost about 90 kr for a pack of 20, and a bottle of 500 ml Coke will usually cost 15 NOK. On the positive side: Norway has good quality tap water. Buying bottled drinking water is unnecessary and hugely expensive.

Fast food restaurants like McDonalds and Burger King are also more expensive than in most countries due to the labour costs. A large BigMac menu will set you back around 90 NOK, the same goes for a Double Whopper Cheese menu. Also, keep in mind that most bakeries, fast food chains, and other types of restaurants that offer takeout, charge more if you eat it at the restaurant than if you take it with you, due to differences in the VAT rate.

In Norway, waiters are not dependent on tips from customers as they are in the US, as they are well paid. However, tipping is not unusual in mid- to high-end cafés and restaurants, but only if you feel you have been treated well. Tipping cab drivers is usual if you travel for more than 200 NOK, but you will get no reaction from the driver should you choose not to tip, so this may be a new experience to American and English tourists. Tipping is never considered offensive, but not tipping is also rarely frowned upon.

If you are a bit careful about your expenses a daily budget of around 1500 NOK (€190) per day is not unrealistic.

You can save some money by bringing supplies. Be aware of the strict Norwegian border regulations, which allow a maximum of 200 cigarettes or 250 grams of tobacco, 1 litre of hard alcohol and 1 1/2 litre of wine and 2 litres of beer OR 3 litres of wine and 2 litres of beer OR 5 litres of beer. As a general rule, tobacco, alcohol and meat will be comparatively expensive. Vegetables, flour, baby articles, car supplies (oil, window wiper fluid and so on), and clothes will have (almost) the same price as in neighbouring countries, or even be cheaper.

Many Norwegians living near the borders with Sweden, Finland or Russia head into those countries to purchase groceries, as the costs are significantly cheaper. While the option of crossing into Russia is not available for most travellers due to Russia's onerous visa requirements, those visiting areas near the Swedish or Finnish borders should consider this option before travelling to other areas, as there are no border controls between Norway and Sweden or Finland.

Money exchange

It is possible to exchange money in most banks near tourist information offices, in the post-office or withdraw the money in local currency from the ATM. In some places, however, they don't handle cash in the banks so they only way to exchange money is in the post offices where the exchange fee might be up to 75 kr (9.5 €, US$ 12.2)!

You will get the best rate when you withdraw money from the ATM or simply pay with a credit card. Note that the country is currently upgrading to a new system using computer chips embedded in the card and a pin number. Credit cards with magnetic strips are still accepted throughout the country; however, you will have to let the merchant know that the you do not have a pin code you need to sign instead. It is also important to note that sometimes a merchant system will not allow signatures, so it is a good precaution to have cash on hand to pay if needed.

For example (August 2009) the exchange rate in the bank was 8,75 NOK for €1 (taking into consideration that it is not possible to exchange an amount for more than 5000 NOK per one transaction and there is a commission of 100 NOK for each transaction); in the tourist information office the rate exchange was 7,28 (no commissions), by withdrawal from ATM the rate was 7,74 (taking into consideration all the bank commissions).

Shopping

Opening hours in Norway are better than they used to be, though many smaller stores still close early on Saturday (1 PM or 3 PM is typical) and nearly everything is closed on Sundays. Grocery stores (particularly in the cities) have long opening hours frequently until 10 or 11 PM on weekdays. You'll often see opening hours written as "9-21 (9-18)" on doors, meaning 9 AM to 9 PM weekdays, 9 AM to 6 PM Saturday. The grocery market is dominated by a handful of chains covering most of Norway: Rimi, Rema 1000, Kiwi, Prix and Bunnpris are low price shops with a narrow selection of items; Coop, ICA and Spar have wider selection and better quality at a slightly higher price; Meny, Mega and Ultra have fewer shops and higher prices.

Convenience stores, notably the major chains Narvesen and Mix (all over the country), Deli de Luca (Oslo, Stavanger, and Bergen only) and 7-Eleven (bigger cities only), are open from early morning until late at night every day, with 24 hour service in the biggest cities. All over the country you will find gas-stations, Statoil, Shell, fresh/selected, YX (HydroTexaco) (these days turning into 7-eleven with gas) and Esso, On the Run. Virtually all gas-stations serve fast-food, especially sausages and cheese. Also hamburgers, pizza, and so on. The gas-stations have long opening periods, and the bigger stations in cities and near bigger crossroads are open 24 hours. Convenience stores and gas stations are relatively expensive.

Most big cities have over the years been almost exclusively dominated by shopping malls. Although you do have shopping streets like Karl Johans Gate in Oslo, Strandgaten in Bergen and Nordre gate/Olav Tryggvasons gate in Trondheim, you are bound to find malls around the country by Thon Gruppen and other major companies. Norway is also home to Scandinavias biggest mall - Sandvika Storsenter - located 15 minutes outside Oslo by train. In Oslo you have Byporten Shopping Senter, Oslo City and Gunerius located right next to Oslo S train station and Paléet and Arkaden Shopping in Karl Johans Gate, as well as several malls and shopping centres a bit further out.

Getting "good deals" and bargaining is frowned upon, and the caterers are not authorized to give you a better price. The price you see, is the price you pay. Although asking for a discount is perfectly ok, getting one will in most cases never happen. If you plan on buying tax-free, a good practice is to bring with you the necessary forms. Most stores will have these forms at hand themselves but it is a good precaution. Also, if you pay with credit card, you might have to sign the receipt which will require some form of ID, drivers license and passport are both ok. This is due to the strict nature of money transactions.

This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Norway on Wikivoyage.

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Stavanger is the fourth largest city of Norway with a population of 126,021 within city proper as of January 1, 2011. It is in the south-western coast of the country. The urban area of Stavanger stretches across many neighboring municipalities, making it the third largest city in Norway by total urban ... (read more)

Interesting places:

  • Stavanger Cathedral
  • Norwegian Canning Museum
  • Solvberget
  • Valberg Tower
  • Norwegian Petroleum Museum
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Tromsø is a city in the very northernmost part of Norway. It is almost 350 km north of the Arctic Circle and is one of the best places to view the spectacular Northern Lights in winter.

Interesting places:

  • Tromso Cathedral (Tromso Domkirke)
  • Polar Museum
  • Art Museum of Northern Norway
  • Polaria
  • Mack Brewery
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Kristiansand is the capital of Vest-Agder County, Norway. By population, it is the fifth largest city of Norway.

Interesting places:

  • Kristiansand Cathedral
  • Christiansholm Festning
  • University of Agder
  • Kristiansand Zoo
  • Kristiansand Kanonmuseum
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Gardermoen is a town in Norway, housing Oslo's main airport. Your only reason to stay here would be some time between flights.

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Ålesund is the largest city in Møre og Romsdal, Western Norway, with about 40,000 inhabitants, 70,000 in the surrounding area. Ålesund is the gateway to the iconic northwestern fjords (among which Geirangerfjord is particularly famous) and surrounding alpine mountains.

Interesting places:

  • Alesund Ferry Terminal
  • Alesund Church
  • Alesund Museum
  • Jugendstilsenteret
  • Sunnmore Museum
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Lillehammer is a small town in the county of Oppland in south-central Norway.

Interesting places:

  • Maihaugen Museum
  • Lysgardsbakken Stadion
  • Ormtjernkampen National Park
  • Lillehammer Kunstmuseum
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Haugesund is a city in the region West Norway of Norway. The town offers a much wider range of goods and services than might be expected from a city of its size (approx. 32,000 inhabitants; 42,000 including all suburbs), due to its position as the definite center of its relatively populous region.

Interesting places:

  • Haraldshaugen
  • St Olav\'s Church
  • Haugesund Town Hall
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States in Norway

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Points of Interest in Norway

Norway has plenty of rural attractions - mountains, fjords, islands, glaciers, waterfalls, forests and small villages. Norway's natural and cultural sights often coincide, such as an impressive mountain road within a great scenery or the ancient stave churches located in the most serene landscape.

Natural

Norway has an abundance of waterfalls, in any size and shape. Norway is home to a notable number of the world's tallest waterfalls, particularly in the central mountains and western Norway. Many waterfalls are surprisingly accessible as they are often found close to main roads or railways, some plunge directly into the great fjords. Other attractions worth a visit are the northernmost point of Europe at Nordkapp, the island of Lofoten, the glacier of Jostedalsbreen and the mountains of Jotunheimen.

Fjords

Norway's famous fjords are found throughout the country and not limited to a particular region or location. In most parts of Norway fjords are the dominant landscape features, traditional districts are often identified by proximity to a major fjord and often have the same name. For instance Nordfjord is the district surrounding the Nordfjord. Orientation is likewise typically related to how far one is removed from the open ocean along the fjord, key words are "inner" and "outer" fjord areas. Fjords are often so deep and/or wide (particularly in western Norway) that they can only be crossed by ferry (a few daring bridges or tunnels have been built). Traditionally the fjords were the highways of large parts of Norway, because overland transport was often difficult, slow or virtually impossible. Today fjords remain as obstacles for roads and railways, only cruise passengers experience travel along these vast corridors.

The most dramatic and famous fjords are largely in West Norway, approximately from Stavanger to Molde. Although the western fjords vary slightly in appearance they are generally relatively narrow, surrounded by steep rock faces, tall mountains and extremely deep (particularly the middle and innermost parts). These typical features of western fjords are most pronounced at the easternmost part where fjords intersect with the highest mountains (such as Jotunheimen). Melt water from glaciers flow into major fjords such as Sognefjorden. Nordland and Troms counties are also home to wild landscapes with alpine summits, island and impressive fjords. Other large fjords such as Trondheimsfjord, Oslofjord or fjords of eastern Finnmark are far less dramatic but still dominates the landscape in these regions. South Norway has some scattered fjords, but smallish compared to the wild fjords of the west and the wide Trondheimsfjord. There are no saltwater fjords in interior of East Norway, but there are countless lakes many of which resemble western fjords and are in fact called "fjord", for instance the long narrow Randsfjorden is a lake.

The fjords of western Norway (represented by fjords of Geiranger and Nærøy) is a UNESCO world heritage site.

Northern lights and midnight sun

If you want to see the northern lights, CNN has Tromsø on top of its list of best places to see it. Tromsø should also be visited during summer to see the midnight sun. Of course both can be enjoyed anywhere in the northern parts of the country. Northern lights is most frequent roughly north of arctic circle (from Bodø and further north). Because the midnight sun occurs in the same area, these phenomena can not be experienced at the same time. As northern lights otherwise is not restricted to a specific location, a dark night and clear sky are the only prerequisites. Clear sky correlates with cold weather, so visitors should be well dressed, particularly November to March. Midnight sun and, more importantly, 24 hour daylight occur around midsummer north of the arctic circle - the further north, the longer the midnight sun season. At midwinter there is a corresponding period when sun is below the horizon and there is no real daylight (so called polar night).

Cultural

While most people don't pick Norway because they'd like to walk around in cities with museums, monuments, parks streetside cafés or luxurious restaurants, in Oslo and some other cities that's also an option. Just getting around in Norway by car, boat, train, bike or foot usually rewards you with great views. Speaking of transportation... Norway is also where you should head to if you literally want to take a train ride to Hell!

UNESCO world heritage sites of the country are:

  • The rock paintings of Alta
  • The Vega archipelago
  • Urnes stave church in Luster
  • The mining town of Røros
  • Bergen's waterfront, Bryggen

While Norway's cultural heritage is most pronounced in rural areas, Norway's cities also offers interesting cultural sights, old or new. Cities like Bergen, Ålesund, Kongsberg, Røros, Trondheim and others are interesting because of architecture and history. Typical for Norway is the widespread use of wood as building materials, even in city centres (notably Bergen, Stavanger and Trondheim), and the friendly atmosphere created by the many modest buildings. Norway's cities also offers fascinating modern architecture, most notable in the capital Oslo with landmark buildings such as the new Opera house and the University library, as well as the new controversial skyline downtown.

Galleriet Shopping Centre - Bergen

Fridtjof Nansen Square - Oslo

Stavanger Cathedral - Stavanger

Old Town Bridge - Trondheim

North Cape - Nordkapp

Stigfossen - Andalsnes

Tromso Cathedral (Tromso Domkirke) - Tromso

Roros Kirke - Roros

Stockfish Museum - Leknes

Alesund Ferry Terminal - Alesund

Kristiansand Cathedral - Kristiansand

Flydalsjuvet - Stranda

Voringfossen - Eidfjord

Arctic Circle Museum (Polarsirkelsenteret) - Rana

Lom Stave Church - Lom

Saltstraumen - Bodo

Torgalmenningen Square - Bergen

Kloverhuset Shopping Centre - Bergen

Oslo City Hall - Oslo

National Theater - Oslo

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