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Why is everything in Norway closed on Sundays?

Robin-Ivan Capar
Robin-Ivan Capar - [email protected]
Why is everything in Norway closed on Sundays?
Here's why everything in Norway is seemingly closed on Sundays. Pictured is a florist store. Photo by Nick Night on Unsplash

If you've spent more than a week in most places in Norway, you've likely come across the fact that it's very hard to find an open store on Sunday. Why is that so?


Picture the scene: It's Sunday evening, and you've just realised that you have nothing in for dinner, you head to your nearest supermarket only to find it closed.

This is an all too common occurrence that most in Norway will experience at least once a year, if not more frequently. The reason for this is apart from a limited number of exceptions, most businesses in Norway close down on Sunday.

The country regulated work on Sundays more than 27 years ago. On February 24th, 1995, it adopted the Act on Public Holidays, which currently governs access to shops on Sundays and public holidays.

According to the law, shops must be closed on Sundays and public holidays and after 4pm on Christmas, Easter, and Whitsunday.


The exceptions

However, there are some exceptions to the rules. These include, among other things:

  • Kiosks and convenience stores with a total sales area of ​​up to 100 square meters and gas stations with a total sales area of ​​up to 150 square meters.
  • Stores at campsites during the camping season and in areas which, by decision of county authorities, are considered typical tourist locations.
  • Some restaurants, bars, art galleries, temporary exhibitions, and trade fairs.
  • Shops that mainly sell flowers, plants, and other garden items or local household goods and souvenirs.
  • Duty-free shops at airports.
  • Some outlets can stay open on the last three Sundays before Christmas Eve between 2pm and 8pm.

Limited debate on the issue

Currently, there is limited debate in the country on whether stores should be open on Sundays.

In the past, especially in the 2016-2018 period, opponents and proponents of work on Sundays put forward multiple convincing arguments for their case.

Those against shops staying open on Sundays often point out that Norwegian consumers benefit from taking a break from their busy day-to-day life. Within the current framework, Sundays give them the room to focus on activities other than shopping, such as family life-related activities.

Furthermore, opponents say that shops staying open on Sundays would mean more employees would have to work on Sundays. They claim that it is not a given that the total revenue of shops would increase by much, while expenses would skyrocket due to prolonged working hours and related staff expenses.


According to some critics, large chains and shopping centres that can afford to stay open on Sundays would be able to disproportionately benefit from such a legal framework and outcompete small shops.

On the other hand, proponents of shops staying open on Sundays point out that many consumers want the option of shopping at their discretion – at the time that suits them best. Shopping on Sundays could also free up time during the rest of the week.

They also note that the current regulations have multiple exceptions, providing many shops (especially major chains that have been accused of exploiting "holes in the rules" in the past) with the opportunity to stay open on Sundays. At the same time, others are denied this opportunity, which affects competition in the market.

Proponents of the idea state that requiring nonessential stores to be closed on Sundays to conform to religious, moral, or cultural standards in 2022 is somewhat old-fashioned in Norway's multicultural society.


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