Everyone celebrates Christmas in their own way and Norway is no different although naturally, we think that we do Christmas best! It’s a big deal here and with lots of traditions and fun things to do, so a pre-Christmas trip to Norway is always a treat, but how about combining two of our most spectacular regions in one short break for a truly memorable yuletide warm up?
Start the celebrations in Fjord Norway and experience the timeless fjords. Bergen, a compact and walkable city, steeped in history and with a well-deserved reputation for fine food makes the ideal Fjord base. From Bergen a short flight connects you with Tromsø in Northern Norway. Tromsø is another Norwegian city that likes to do Christmas in style. Up here, above the arctic circle is where you have the best chance to see the Northern Lights. There’s also the opportunity to try a whole range of exciting winter activities but of course you might just want to wrap up in a blanket and wait for the show from the comfort of a rooftop bar. However, you mix it up, combining all of these unique experiences makes for one great winter break. There’s celebrating Christmas, and there’s celebrating the Norwegian way!
Magical Fjord Norway
The fjords are a magical and mysterious place, carved by the gods themselves, where time seems to work differently. A majestic blue light kisses the landscape during the “blue hour” right before the sunset in the early afternoon. As the shadows bounce off the mountains, the fjords become a place of wonder and majesty. The winter solstice in December marks the return of the sun after the longest night of the year and is welcomed at Christmas time with rows of candles and explosive fireworks. From the tiny villages hidden in Sognefjord and the winding road round down to Flåm to the Fretheim hotel, everywhere is enveloped in Christmas lights.
Bergen. Gateway to the Fjords
Bergen combines nature, culture and a cosmopolitan feel to give you an authentic fjord experience. A European city of culture with countless museums and galleries, cafés and restaurants to go to, the city still pulsates with life in winter. It’s the sort of place that can be relied upon to get you in the Christmas spirit.
The Gingerbread Town (Pepperkakebyen)
Have you ever built a Gingerbread house and thought “this looks like it could be lived in?”. Bergen is home to the largest Gingerbread town in the world. In November, the community contributes in proper Christmas fashion to construct this Christmassy conurbation. Their creativity knows no bounds with everything from classic houses to stunning churches with gingerbread steeples! Feel like a giant as you walk through this tasty, miniature town.
This year’s Christmas market is in Torgallmenningen square, right in the heart of the city. Here you’ll have your pick of seasonal delights, anything from hot food to sugary treats, or handmade Christmas gifts. Even if you’re only going to soak up the ambiance, it’s an experience in itself just walking around and seeing the market in full flow.
Festival of Lights
The Festival of Lights is a tradition that takes place every year in the city centre, and this year it’s at Ole Bulls plass. Families are invited to light torches and enjoy seasonal music, surrounded by the Christmas lights from the city, all while they gaze up to a brilliant firework display.
Another tradition that the people of Bergen celebrate is lighting candles on Mount Fløyen every Sunday leading up to Christmas. The hike up to the restaurant at the top takes around an hour and the winding paths are all lit during the evenings. When it snows it’s perfect for a sled ride!
Festive food and drink
In the months leading up to Christmas, the local restaurants serve traditional regional specialities that are not to be missed. The most popular dish is ‘Pinnekjøtt’ which is salted mutton rib that you can wash down with a refreshing glass of locally brewed beer.
Northern Norway’s winter wonderland
Of course, the Christmas spirit extends beyond the fjords. Fly North to discover a true winter wonderland. Only two hours away from Bergen with a direct flight with Widerøe.
There’s a whole different world.
Christmas in Tromsø, above the Arctic Circle
Tromsø is the perfect place to get that lovely Christmas feeling. Surrounded by snow covered mountains and maybe with our northern lights dancing over your head, you are destined for some Christmas magic. The city centre streets, shops and restaurants will all be filled with beautiful Christmas decorations, and the polar nights create a cosy atmosphere in town. There will be many things to do during your stay. Make a stop by our Christmas markets or go skating in the city centre ice rink with beautiful views of the Arctic Cathedral and the Cable Car. Warm up with a cup of hot chocolate or our Christmas speciality “gløgg”.
The Christmas spirit arrives early in Tromsø (perhaps because it’s so close to the North Pole). Starting in November, you can take part in a whole host of festive activities. Cafés and restaurants are full of merrymakers eating traditional food and, of course, there is Christmas shopping.
Christmas fairs are held on the weekends and are ideal spots for finding unique handcrafted gifts. On the last day in November, the tree lights are turned on in the city square, illuminating the city with joy and in the second week of December people who live in the inland valleys come to town and bring the Christmas spirit with them as they sing choir songs. People gather outside and share stories over open fires.
Christmas cheer and Christmas Beer
One of the best ways to discover Tromsø is to visit our cafes and restaurants. They’re warm, welcoming and weary shoppers will often find an empty chair calling to them as they take a well-earned rest from their Christmas activities and refuel with a coffee and good company. After a busy day, when all you can think of is a glass of something tall and refreshing, sample Tromsø’s locally brewed Christmas beer, which is dark, thick and smooth all in the same gulp. It’s stocked in bars and restaurants throughout the city and has ex-Tromsø residents flocking back to taste the thick dark nectar.
Adventures in Arctic Cooking
Christmas is a cherished holiday for many Norwegians, and the food traditions are very important. You’d expect the local seafood to be rather special and Tromsø doesn’t disappoint. Scene of burgeoning foodie movement Tromsø is home to an ever-expanding range of eateries. Most have a strong emphasis on locally sourced or produced ingredients, pulled from the ocean or plucked from the mountains and lovingly prepared with finesse by top chefs who in recent years have placed Tromsø firmly on the map of international gourmet cuisine. Local delicacies include Skrei (cod that migrate to local waters at Christmas time), reindeer steak, lingonberries and king crab, washed down with aquavit or Mack beer from the local brewery (the Northern-most brewery in the world). For an adventure in arctic cooking some good places to start are restaurant SMAK, Emma’s Dream Kitchen or Mathallen but frankly you are spoilt for choice.
A little bit of Norway to take home with you.
What should you buy to take home that really captures the essence of Tromsø and Northern Norway? A picture, or a piece of jewellery, or a decorative piece from the world’s most northerly glassblowing studio. None of this will take up much space in your suitcase. If you’re shopping for yourself, warm, hand-made socks, mittens and hats made in Norway’s most active handicrafts county are just the job for a stroll around town and nights out hunting the Northern Lights. Be sure to ask for felted wool products, as they are extra warm!
Especially Christmassy food
Whether it’s something sweet like the black syrupy cordial made from crowberries, soft, crumbly, many-layered sweet lefse, or savoury lamb roll and brawn (a tasty meat paté) from Lyngen or Kvaløya which has the aroma of wild Arctic heather, there will be something appetising to satisfy your taste buds.
Let the light show begin
Winter is when you have the best chance of seeing the spectacular Northern Lights. Trips by dogsled, boat, snowmobile and reindeer sleigh go in all directions from Tromsø, to take you to a front-row seat to view this amazing phenomenon, although some visitors opt to take it all in from a rooftop bar.
The boats along the harbour are happy to bring you out at sea to experience the blue hour (at sunset) or you can join dinner cruises under the Northern Lights. In the city you can stay warm in the sauna with views over the Arctic Cathedral and the Cable Car.
Not a creature was stirring….
While Advent is a hectic, fun and busy time, Christmas itself is very quiet. All the shops and virtually all the cafés, bars and restaurants close down for the holidays. From the 24th to the 26th of December the city has generally calmed down and people are spending time with their families. However, between Christmas and New Year, the cafés, shops and bars open up again and the people of Tromsø enjoy the festivities again.
There’s No(r)way you can miss out this Advent
Christmas in Norway is full of traditions, whimsy and wonder, something that you can’t help but fall in love with. Whether you’re looking for the beauty of the fjords, tick the Northern Lights off your bucket list, or simply get into the festive spirit, Norway knows no limit to its Christmas cheer and neither should you!
Fly direct to Bergen from London Heathrow with Widerøe. Then, when you’re ready to journey North, Widerøe will get you to Tromsø in only 2 hours.