Unique music venues in Norway

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Marie Peyre - [email protected]
Unique music venues in Norway
Turdandot, Fredriksten Fortress. Photo: Halden Arbeiderblad

Fancy a concert in a listed property or a centuries-old fortress? A mausoleum or a snow amphitheatre, maybe? Norway is home to some very special music venues - our travel editor Marie Peyre rounds up some of the best.


The Arctic Cathedral, Tromsø
Tromsdalen Church (it's not actually a cathedral, despite its nickname) opened to the public in 1965, and is still one of Norway's most iconic buildings, instantly recognisable with its thread of triangular white concrete blocks and its huge stained glass mosaic. The church is a very popular concert venue boasting great acoustics - in 2016 more than 500 concerts where held here, attracting performers of international renown as well as local and national musicians. 
The Arctic Cathedral in Tromso. Photo: Arthur Arnesen/
Troldsalen and Troldhaugen, Bergen

Tucked away in the garden at Troldhaugen, the summer home of composer Edvard Grieg and his wife Nina, Troldsalen is a small, intimate concert hall sitting just under 200 spectators. Concerts take place here throughout the year, and the hall can also be rented out for private performances. The large floor-to-ceiling windows behind the stage let the light flood in and reveal a lovely view of the composer's hut and Lake Nordås in the background. A great  place to listen to Edvard Grieg’s music while enjoying the very scenery that inspired his work. 

Troldsalen. Photo: Dag Fosse/KODE Bergen

Lysøen, Bergen

Set on its own island a few miles south of Bergen, Lysøen is the former home of Norway's violin virtuoso and composer Ole Bull. The villa, an eclectic building as colourful and unconventional as its former owner, features a mix-match of styles - the overall effect is not unlike that of a fairytale castle. The Lysekoret Choir holds each summer a number of recitals in the intricately decorated Music Hall, the main room at Lysøen. The Bergen International Festival also has some concerts there in May-June 

Concert at Lysøen. Photo: Dag Fosse/KODE

Baroniet Rosendal, Hardanger

Norway's only barony dates back to 1665, and enjoys a beautiful location in Hardanger, surrounded by historic grounds and gardens. It is a well established venue for concerts, which take place here throughout the summer, and Baroniet Rosendal even organises its own chamber music festival in August. This year it will celebrate Mozart' music, with Norway's acclaimed pianist Leif Ove Andsnes leading proceedings as artistic director.

Photo: Baroniet Rosendal
Ice Music Festival, Geilo
Imagine a stage and concert arena made entirely of snow and ice, built from scratch every year. Picture yourself sitting outside in the cold, as night falls (and maybe a few snowflakes too), listening to the sound of music from instruments made entirely out of ice. Welcome to the magical world of Geilo Ice Music Festival, arguably Norway's most unique music festival. Here performers make the ice sing, as they say - and sometimes also have to clap between numbers just to keep their hands warm. 

Geilo Ice Music Festival. Photo: Marie Peyre
Emanuel Vigeland's Mausoleum, Oslo
Emanuel Vigeland was the younger brother of Gustav Vigeland, the man who gave Oslo the splendid sculpture park that bears his name. Emanuel was also an artist, and this building, dating from 1926, was originally intended as a future museum for his sculptures and paintings. He had a change of heart though, and the building was eventually transformed into a mausoleum - all windows were sealed, and his ashes laid to rest in an urn above the entrance door after his death. A dark, vaulted room whose four walls and ceiling are entirely decorated with a huge fresco describing the cycle of life (including some explicitly erotic scenes), the mausoleum also boasts very special acoustics. Catch a concert in what many consider to be Oslo's best kept secret. 
Emanuel Vigeland Museum. Photo: Martin Slottemo Lyngstad
Underwater Pub, Oslo 
Music in a pub? What's special about that, you might ask? Well, this Oslo pub (not actually located under water, despite its name) is transformed into an opera stage twice a week, so lucky punters can enjoy a few arias as they sip their beer and tuck into their nibbles. The idea when the first opera evenings were started here 26 years ago was to introduce opera to a younger audience, one who may think of it as just screaming fat ladies. Hence the free admission. The 'Opera to the people' concept has proved so popular it has spread around the country and even abroad. Some of the best singers from Oslo Opera have performed at the Underwater Pub over the years, but you never know in advance who's on on the day, with the suspense adding to the thrill of the experience. 

Opera at the Underwater Pub. Photo: Jan Liedtke

Fredriksten Fortress, Halden

Not content with its stunning location overlooking the Iddefjord and Halden Harbour, Fredriksten Fortress also enjoys one of Norway's most strategic military positions, guarding the border with Sweden to the south. It is one of Norway's most visited fortresses, with 350,000 visitors last year. The 350-year-old complex also makes for a terrific open air concert venue, and a number of events and festivals take place here every year, from opera (Mozart's The Magic Flute is on this year) to the popular Tons of Rock festival, held in June. 

Carmen, Fredriksten Fortress. Photo: Halden Arbeiderblad




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