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When should you visit Norway? What month is the best month? When is it warm and sun? When can I see the Northern Lights?

These are commonly asked questions when travellers are planning to come to Norway. And there are hundreds of articles online giving you various answers, though they all typically say the same thing: July! Warmth! Sun! Pleasant! I read through dozens of these articles and typically read the same advice. However, it doesn’t really coincide with what I’ve experienced actually travelling in Norway.

I take groups around Norway throughout the year for different purposes, and I’ve found that there is no special month to visit. No month is the ‘best’ month. No season is the ‘best season’. It depends on what you want to experience. Don’t like crowds? July isn’t for you. Don’t like rain? Maybe skip November (but seriously, you have to love the rain if you’re coming to Norway!)

Choosing which month is best really depends on what you want to get out of Norway. So, in my guide, rather than tell you the ‘best’ month, I’ve put together an overview of what Norway is like each month. That way, you can understand what you can expect and choose your time of year from there.

I’ve provided a general overview of Norway in each month, but focus also on Bergen. I mean, this blog is called ‘I Love Bergen’ after all! Also I live in Bergen, so I deal with the weather every day. For temperature averages, I focused on the three most commonly visited cities: Oslo, Bergen and Tromsø. But, of course, the weather varies dramatically across the country. If you think I should add a city, let me know.

I’ve also focused on the most recent data for each month. It’s easy to get overall averages, but the weather in Norway is changing: it’s warming up. So I think the recent data is much more realistic than averages built up over time.

If you think I’ve skipped over anything, or if there’s anything you think I should add, let me know!

 

A Quick Summary

 

  • Northern Lights: I’ve had the most success in March, though any time between October and March works as long as you put in the effort
  • Winter Activities: Come between December and March, though if you can push it to January do that.
  • Cool Weather: April, May, September, October
  • Nature Lovers: May or October. Spring or Autumn
  • No Crowds, Open Attractions: May
  • Hot Weather: July. But don’t expect it to be hot like elsewhere in Europe
  • Snow: February/March. March is the month with the deepest snow

Spring

While Spring technically starts in March, I’ve put it from April. March, after all, is still a popular month for seeing snow, the northern lights, and taking part in winter activities. It just makes more sense that it be bundled with the other winter months!

During April and May, the days are getting longer and the snow is beginning to melt. During May, the plants all turn green and the flowers boom. Birds are starting to build their nests and farmers are delivering their newborn lambs. It’s a lovely time of year to be in Norway!

Spring is the best time of year to wee waterfalls. As the snow is melting, it creates giant waterfalls. By July, their flow has weakened considerably, and in winter they are frozen.

Spring is also when the birds are at their liveliest. The migratory birds return home in April to enjoy the warmer seasons. The Varanger Peninsula is one of the best places to see birds like white-tailed eagles, gyrfalcons, steller’s eider and Arctic Sea Ducks. If you visit Røst in Lofoten in mid-April, you’ll see thousands of Arctic puffins return to their breeding grouns.

On the West Coast of Norway, you typically get spring in late April/early May. They have to be a little more patient in Northern Norway, with spring coming in late May or early June, but by then the days are long and bright and the summer days have already started. May is the month when the two-month-long midnight sun begins in the Arctic.

It’s notoriously hard to predict when spring arrives; technically the spring equinox is around 20 March. Personally, I don’t start feeling the spring weather until May. But even then, May can be a snowy month.

How to Dress

Dressing in April and May is difficult because the weather is so hard to predict; by the time you’ve put on your jacket, the weather has changed for either the worse or the better.

It’s good to pack warm clothes no matter what, and a waterproof and windproof jacket is always needed. Make sure you dress in layers so you can adjust according to the weather.

You typically won’t need snow boots in April, and you definitely won’t need them in May. While we still may get snow, it does melt very quickly and doesn’t affect walking around. In Northern Norway, the snow may sit for a little longer, but it’s not often slippery.

Seasonal Food & Drink

Spring is the time for lamb dishes, usually around Easter, and it’s also when we have the first potatoes, asparagus and wild garlic for the year.

Fresh fish is always good, and in spring we typically have herring and cod from the Lofoten area.

Closer to summer, rhubarb begins to appear.

May is a month of public holidays included the much loved 17 May (Constitution Day), and for that day many Norwegians bake incredible cakes, pastries and breads. The best cakes have lots of fresh berries on them, whereas the popular and much loved kransekake is available for purchase in stores.

During spring you finish your winter food, and you may come across salted meat and raspeball on the menus. Raspeball is a traditional potato dumlping, though it goes by many dufferent names!

Weather

Spring arrives early in Southern Norway compared to the rest of the country, usually some time in April. The days are getting warmer and lighter every day. Spring flowers appear, the trees are budding, birds build their nests and farmers deliver newborn lambs. In early spring the coastal areas of Western Norway have the highest temperatures. In May, it’s normally southern Norway that has the warmest weather.

Above the Arctic Circle, Spring may not come until late May or early June.

I’ve always found spring hard to predict. Last year, in May, it was hot and sunny, but this year it’s been cold, rainy and snowy for pretty much all the month.

Summer

Summer! Summer is (of course) the most popular time to visit Norway, and why not. The days are long, the sun is shining, and everything is open. The Norwegian summer weather is (for the most part) quite stable, and the temperatures are lovely all over the country. In July, during the summer holidays, you’ll see the locals out enjoying the sun after a long and cold winter. It’s also common for people to go out on their boats. Some have their sailing boats, while most just use their small traditional boats to cruise on the fjords and through the archipelagos.

Summer is a popular month to go hiking, and all trails typically are open by July. Lots of people also spend nights out in nature camping and take to the ski trails to go cycling. Outdoor recreation is a major part of the Norwegian identity.

At the same time, summer is the high season. Expect cruise ships, endless bus tours, crowds, lines, and higher prices. Hotels may sell out months in advance, while museums may be overcrowded to the point it’s unpleasant. Everyone comes in summer. The July holidays for Europe sees numerous caravanning Germans or Dutch on the roads, which is a thrill on the narrow fjord roads.

Clothing

Norwegian weather is always unpredictable. It may be hot and sunny one day, and then the next day it’s cold and rainy. Always pack windproof and waterproof clothing, but don’t hesitant to pack shorts and a t-shirt!

Seasonal Food & Drink

Summer is a lovely time for fresh berries, and blueberries are commonly found in the Norwegian forests and mountains. In Southern Norway, they tend to ripen in the middle of Summer. In July and August, you’ll see roadside booths offering locally grown strawberries and cherries for sale.

Norwegians love grilling. Whole sections of the supermarket are dedicated to it. Almost no matter the weather Norwegians will be outside grilling whatever they come across. Vegetables, fish, meat, and poultry on the barbeque is a summer tradition for the Norwegians.

The first sign of summer is when you see Norwegians outside drinking beer. There is even a Norwegian word for this: utepils. It’s so ingrained in summer that the first opportunity for it will often be mentioned in the press.

Pick up a lovely plate of freshly caught fish served with sour cream, potatoes and cucumber salad. Or maybe have shrimp straight from the boat, enjoyed right at the dock?

Weather

Typically, summer temperatures reach 25 to 30 degrees, and there is hardly any humidity in the area. Even the nights are warm.

In the last two years, we have had sweltering heatwaves where temperatures have gone over 33 degrees.

The warm months sound great at first, but Norway is not built for hot weather. Hotels are typically not air conditioned, as are museums and supermarkets. It gets uncomfortably hot during summer, and this can be pleasant, especially if you aren’t used to that kind of heat. I mean, I’m from Australia and I find it unpleasant! So don’t think you have to travel in July because it’s hot and sunny; most of my groups love the colder weather. It’s more Norwegian, right?

From late June to early August it never really gets dark anywhere in the country. The midnight sun occurs only above the Arctic Circle, and lasts typically from mid-May to the end of July. Below the Arctic Circle the sun does set, but we never really get a true darkness. The sky is more like dusk throughout the night.

The warmest and most stable weather usually occurs in Eastern Norway, where it’s often very sunny and temperatures are over 25 degrees Celsius.

The highest temperatures are inland.

Along the Western Coast, the cool sea breezes keep most heat waves at bay, but keep in mind Bergen can be very rainy, even in summer. A lovely sunny day can be followed by three miserable rainy ones.

Autumn

The Norwegian autumn comes with a variety of weather. In some parts of the country, summer may last until well into October, while rain and snow can arrive as early as September.

The best part of autumn is the changing of the colours. The trees and heath turn yellow and red and leaves start to fall off the trees. The colours are at their most dazzling in autumn. The mountains are especially beautiful at this time of the year, and it’s a popular season to go hiking

Clothing

Wind and rain make the outdoors a typically wet experience in autumn, but you may get lucky and see a last glimpse of summer weather. It is difficult to predict the weather in autumn, but you should pack wind and rainproof outer clothing. Underneath wear a couple layers that you can adjust according to the temperatures.

Seasonal Food & Drink

Autumn is harvesting time. This is when the menus change once again, and Norwegians favour local ingredients and slow-booked and rich dishes suited for a chillier climate.

Fårikål, Norway’s national dish, is popular in autumn; there’s even the Fårikål Feast Day in September.

The Norwegian word for autumn is høst, which literally translates to harvest. Gathering fruits, berries and mushrooms is a popular hobby. Lots of Christmas treats are prepared in autumn.

Apple Day is also celebrated in September. The season’s apples are perfect as jams and pies.

Other popular foods are lamb, moose and other wild beasts, which go well with lingonberries and cream sauce. Potatoes, sweet carrots and crispy chanterelles also are found on menus.

Winter

Winter is a lovely time to be in Norway, despite the fact it’s the quietest time of the year. Most of the country turns into a winter wonderland, and the northern lights begin to shine in the skies. While Bergen doesn’t see much snow at this time of year, you just have to travel an hour inland and you are surrounded by some of the most popular ski slopes in the country.

Skiing has a special place in Norwegian culture and history, and during the winter people of all ages head to ski resorts, forests and mountains to enjoy their national hobby.

Seasonal Food and Drink

Winter is the best time of year to eat seafood such as prawns, langoustine, blue mussel, scallop and lobster. Fresh fish is also best in winter, and many restaurants offer cod, halibut, salmon and trout.

Christmas food will be found on the menus throughout winter. This includes smalahove (sheep’s head), lutefisk (cod soaked in lye), and pinnekjøtt (dried, salted and steamed sheep’s ribs).

What to Pack

Winter in Norway can, of course, be very cold. Bring layers. Use wool rather than cotton or polyester, and make sure you have waterproof clothing, as well as a coat that is both water and windproof. This is especially important in the coastal areas. If you are visiting a city, you don’t need waterproof pants and a down jacket will work just fine.

Weather

In winter, the average temperature for the entire country is -6.8 degrees, but the conditions vary a lot. Around Oslo, snowfall is common, and the average temperature is just below zero. In Bergen, the weather rarely goes into the negatives and we get more rain than snow.

The lower areas of Northern Norway have very cold winters with lots of snow. The snow, strong winds and severe frost is particularly harsh, and may result in road closures.

The coastal areas are much milder.

The sun disappears from Northern Norway by the end of November, and until mid-January the region experiences the polar night. This doesn’t mean it’s completely pitch black throughout winter; Northern Norway gets these lovely polar lights; blue, pink and orange skies during the daytime, and then perfect northern lights darkness during the night. In southern Norway, at its worst, we get around 5.5 hours of sunlight a day.