Don’t be on the lookout for any horned helmets—turns out that’s 100% myth—and don’t worry about any cheap reproductions here. This is the birthplace of the Viking Era (793-1066 AD), and the entire coast is dotted with remnants of these seafaring people, seasons be damned.Viking relics (ships, cemeteries, religious sites) can be found all throughout the country, though Oslo’s Viking Ship Museum might be the most readily accessible off the plane. For a fully immersive experience, visit the Viking Farm at Avaldnes in Haugesund (once the royal seat of Viking kings), the Njardarheimr Viking Village in Gudvangen, or the Kaupang Viking town in Larvik. You’ll see how Vikings lived day-to-day, tour the villages, and join in on authentic-to-the-era meals.
Every time a remarkable place receives UNESCO World Heritage status, handwritten letters get mailed to hordes of hungry tourists. At least, that’s how it seems. But come wintertime, at Bryggen—a row of Hanseatic League merchant houses dating from 1702 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site—the clack of your heels is the only noise on the block.Stop into the Hanseatic Museum for a guided look into the city’s history, grab dinner at Bryggen Tracteursted, the city’s oldest restaurant, pictured above, or just wander the wooden structures on your own, imagining this Viking port hundreds of years ago.
The atrium of the Fretheim Hotel might as well be a walk-in Norwegian snow globe. This is where the Flam Railway begins, right at the edge of the world-famous Sognefjord. Stay here, on-site at a farm-turned-inn dating back to the late 1800s, and you’re seconds from hopping aboard a RIB safari on the nearby UNESCO-listed Nærøyfjord (yes, even in winter), taking one of the world’s most scenic train rides, or simply lounging in an armchair with a cup of cocoa.
Stavanger’s “Color Street”
Technically named Øvre Holmegate, most people know it as the “color street.” Lit up with lights and painted in a series of bright colors, you’ll know it when you see it—the vast majority of Stavanger’s houses are white, white, and white. It’s now become its own destination, filled with quirky bars (Bøker og Børst, or “Books and Booze,” epitomizes this), restaurants, and shops that stay alive well into the night.
Cruising the Lysefjord
The hike to Pulpit Rock, or Preikestolen, isn’t advisable in wintertime (early spring is doable with a guide), but that doesn’t mean you can’t ride the waters beneath it. From Stavanger, take the Fjord Line along the Lysefjord, and you’ll get three hours on these chilly, powerful waters. Out on the deck or safe inside the cabin viewing out the panoramic windows—glass of wine in hand—is up to you. You’ll see Vagabond’s Cave, Hengjane Falls, and the epic Pulpit Rock, though every second of the trek is a geological memoir, holding millions of years of nature’s work in front of your eyes.
Bryggen From the Harbor
How many UNESCO World Heritage Sites get more beautiful at night? Sitting right across the harbor from downtown, photographers line up on the water’s edge to snap photos of Bryggen’s old merchant houses, not quite blending into the city lights that climb the hillsides.
Oslo Opera House
Put away your pearls—the Oslo Opera House is meant for all of us. Designed to look like an iceberg, consider its steeply angled roof an invitation to partake, touch, and enjoy. With a walking path up either side, it doubles as a meet-up spot, a picnic spot, and a grab-a-photo-of-the-harbor spot, in addition to its designation as a hub of world-class music and entertainment.
Flåm in Winter
The “traveler’s list of tourist traps” is only getting longer, and, unfortunately, many consider Flåm to have now made the cut. Come summer, swarms of international tourists flock to this otherworldly spot made surprisingly less spectacular with long lines, slow-moving tourists, and higher prices. But in winter? The above photo is worth far more than a thousand words, and nearby adventures—RIB safaris, river cruises, skiing, and the like—are available year-round.
At Myrkdalen, the largest ski resort in Fjord Norway, you have through May to get your snow kicks on, and that means snowboarding, downhill and cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or simply riding the lift for the views. The Myrkdalen hotel is ski-in/ski-out, with cabins and apartments built for whoever’s ready to become a lifer. If the apres-ski scene doesn’t convince you, the open views across the mountains of Hordaland might.
Snowshoeing Around Stegastein (Black and white snowshoe/color snowshoe)
The Stegastein viewpoint is hard to beat in terms of minimal effort and maximum reward. Drive your car up the winding road, park in the adjacent lot, and boom: Fjord views to last a lifetime. But it’s just one point on the Aurlandsfjord, and the views are million-dollar all along these mountainsides. Explore out on your own (or with a guide), and you’ll nab an image few tourists ever get the chance to see.