Winter in Northern Norway is a time for festivals, ranging from intimate indoor concerts to challenging outdoor competitions.

Meet the northerner at home

Some of the best and most unique festivals in Northern Norway take place during winter. In the evenings it is nice to get together and enjoy cultural events. The cold, snowy winter days offer the perfect setting for racing. Festivals in Northern Norway are always organised by enthusiasts and the audience will mainly consist of locals. In other words, this is the place to get to know us northerners!

Here is a list of some festivals in Northern Norway:

November–December:

As the dark time of year approaches, the Christmas atmosphere sieves in. This is manifested by the decorated Christmas streets, markets and intimate concerts with candle lighting.

  • Barentsjazz: A small and cosy autumn festival in Tromsø
  • Pre-Christmas adventures in Henningsvær: Get hold of a blue painted kicksled and kick your way from shop to shop in Henningsvær, a long way from the shopping centres of this world.
  • Rundhaugmartnan: A market for Christmas presents, music and local culture in the cold winter weather of Inner Troms     

January:

In January, the light is returning but temperatures can drop really low. What better thing to do than to enjoy some music, see a film or go to the theatre? And it certainly doesn’t have to be all light entertainment.

  • Polar Night Half Marathon: Run a half marathon wearing spikes through the icy winter streets in Tromsø.
  • Tromsø International Film Festival: A very popular film festival.
  • Bodø Jazz Open: This jazz festival takes place at different venues in Bodø, from the Stormen Concert Hall to a Sami lavvu tent.
  • The Northern Lights Music Festival: A music festival in Tromsø on a high artistic level.
  • Day of the sun: Towns and villages celebrate the return of the sun. In Tromsø the inhabitants eat jam doughnuts, while in Vardø they fire a sun salute from the fortress.

February:

The Sami National Day, falling on 6 February, is a great opportunity to get to know the culture of the Sami people. Due to the longer days, there are more outdoor festivals in this period.

  • Ilios: A New Music festival in Harstad.
  • Sami Week: This Sami culture festival in Tromsø includes a range of events, climaxing in the reindeer race through the city’s main street.
  • Alta Sami Music Festival: Presents a varied Sami programme.
  • Nordlyst: A music festival in Andøy/Vesterålen.
  • Polarjazz: The northernmost jazz festival in the world takes place in the polar night of Longyearbyen.
  • Blåfrostfestivalen: All the cool rock bands come to play in an old industrial hall in Rognan. 
  • Vesterålen Skreifestival: This is a cultural festival taking place during the winter “Skrei” cod fishery at Myre, Vesterålen. 
  • Vinterlysfestivalen: A theatre festival in Mo i Rana.

March–Easter:

The long and bright days, with nice weather and milder temperatures, make March a great month for being outdoors. Go ocean fishing, dog sledding, snowkiting or have a snowball fight – just get outdoors! And why not top it off with a concert in the evening?

  • Vinterfestuka: In Narvik they celebrate the towns railway navvy heritage with concerts, exhibitions and a festive atmosphere.
  • Sunfest in Longyearbyen: The return of the sun is celebrated with a great party and many concerts.
  • Finnmarksløpet: A 1000 kilometre sled dog race around Finnmark
  • Yukigassen: Snowball war in Vardø, including a festival tent and evening events.
  • The World Championship in Cod Fishing: A fun cod fishing competition in Svolvær. Previous winners include amateurs and beginners, so this is your chance to become a world champion!
  • VAKE: A snowkiting competition on the Varanger peninsula where colourful sails cross white plains in the mild temperatures of late winter.
  • Easter festival: Easter is a quiet time of year in most of Northern Norway. However, in Kautokeino and Karasjok there is full activity. Reindeer racing, lasso throwing, concerts and the Sami Song Contest (Kautokeino) is a tradition with deep roots.

These are annual festivals. The list is by no means exhaustive.