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Five things you need to learn to love about winter in Norway

Pictured is Ryten in Lofoten, northern Norway.
Learning to love winter in Norway is a key part of adapting to life in the country. Pictured is somebody making the most of winter by climbing Ryten in Lofoten. Photo by Conor Sheridan on Unsplash
Winter is at the bottom of many people's list of favourite seasons. But the colder months are an opportunity to experience some of the best things about life in Norway.

The long winter nights 

This may be a hard sell for many, and I’m sure some of you reading this may struggle with the long winter nights. It’s also one of the things that friends and family back home ask about most (after the obligatory fascination with the cost of a beer) when you first move to Norway.

If you were given a krone for every time someone asks something along the lines of “isn’t it really dark all winter?” you certainly wouldn’t be able to afford a house, but you’d be well on the way to being able to buy yourself a famously expensive drink.

But there are many aspects about the long nights that can be embraced. In 2019, our readers in Norway said the long nights provide an opportunity to create a cosy Scandinavian atmosphere at home.

READ MORE: How to survive Norway’s long winter nights

My tip (and something I have to remind myself frequently) is that life doesn’t stop once the sun goes down.

There’s still plenty to see and do once the sun sets. Most cross-country ski courses and sports pitches are floodlit, meaning you can still exercise outdoors, and shops, museums and restaurants don’t shut up shop at first sight of the moon.

Additionally, the long winter nights in Norway offer an opportunity to do things that can’t really be done in too many other places.

For example, the long, dark nights bring the northern lights with them and offer an annual opportunity to see something many people spend their lives dreaming off.

The cold weather

Another hard pitch, I know. But the cold, as biting and teeth chattering as it can be, can be enjoyed, albeit with plenty of layers on.

Without the cold, we wouldn’t have skiing, sledding, snowboarding or ice skating. If you get bitten by the winter sports bug, then you’ll welcome the ‘right kind of cold’ with the same excitement and optimism as a warm summers day, and lament seeing the ‘wrong kind of cold’ in the forecast.

Often, I find myself getting excited about this Goldilocks-esque cold range, where it’s cold enough for the snow not to melt away, but not so cold that we don’t get any fresh powder.

Embracing the cold isn’t all about sports. Instead, thank the cold weather for offering once in a lifetime activities such as dog-sledding or visiting an ice hotel.

Staying active

This loosely ties into the first two points, but there are some additional benefits to staying active during the winters in Norway.

Wintertime may seem like the time to batten down the hatches and hunker down in front of the fireplace and read some Nordic noir, but in truth, it isn’t.

As mentioned above, various sports can only be done in winter. Additionally, for keen runners, you may have noticed, especially in Oslo, that the snow doesn’t stop people from getting out to get their miles in.

There are options available for those more partial to a game of football (even if you can’t hack it on a cold, snowy night in Gronland). Cageball in Nydalen, east Oslo or Vallhall in the west of the capital are examples of where you’ll find a game indoors.

A lot of winter sports in Norway can be cheap to get into, with the exception of alpine skiing and snowboarding. Ice skating rinks are generally free and open to the public, cross country courses are free and floodlit, and for sledding, all you need is a hill and something to launch yourself down it on.

Finding new indoor spots

When summer arrives, it’s all engangsgriller (single-use grills, often for an impromptu bbq in the park) and utepils (beers drank outside). Therefore, winter is actually a much better time for activities with an emphasis on being indoors.

Museums, cafes, restaurants: winter offers a great time to find your favourites before the time comes to try and spend all hours basking in what precious little sun the country gets in the summer.

Embracing the culture

Winter can prove an excellent time to embrace the local culture. Firstly, there’s learning how Norwegians celebrate Christmas and Easter (I am counting Easter as a winter holiday as it’s still cold and snowy), be that with a viewing of Tre nøtter til Askepott (a Czech adaption of Cinderella dubbed in Norwegian and shown at Christmas) or diving into påskekrimmen (a crime novel or show watched or read typically at Easter).

For those who are a dab hand in the kitchen, it also means baking various seasonal goodies when appropriate.

Luckily, there are more hands-off ways of embracing the culture during the winter. For example, you can take a trip to the cabin. Winter holiday homes are a big deal in Norway, where friends or family spend the time lighting fires and playing board games — although we recommend hiding the wood splitting axe when the monopoly board comes out.


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