I love May in Norway. Tourism picks up and people start to visit, but it’s still somehow quiet. Museums and attractions open up, as does the sky. May is normally associated with being a sunny month, but you still get gorgeous views of snow on the mountains. But that isn’t always the case; some years, such as this one (2020), it snows throughout the month. I’m sitting here, on 17 May, looking at snow on Bergen’s mountains. But last year, at the same time, it was hot and sunny.
Speaking of 17 May, May in Norway is a month of public holidays. They seem to be almost every day. By far the most special, though, is the 17th of May: Norway’s Constitution Day. If you are able to be in Norway on this day, you will have an unforgettable experience.
|2019 High||2019 Low||2019 Average||Normal Average||Deviance|
|Oslo||+24.8C (21 May)||-1.8C (8 May)||+10.4C||-10.8C||– 4C|
|Bergen||+24.3C (17 May)||+0.6C (3 May)||+9.4C||+10.5C||-1.1C|
|Tromsø||+15C (28 May)||-3.1C (4 May)||+5.2C||+5.1C||-1C|
|Wettest Day||Total Precipitation||Normal||Days with Precipitation||Snow Days||Highest Wind Gust|
|Oslo||15.2mm (11 May)||83mm||53mm||9||0||18.3 m/s (2 May)|
|Bergen||24 May (21.5mm)||89.9mm||106mm||15||1 (max depth 1cm)||19 m/s (18 May)|
|Tromsø||13 May (18mm)||46mm||46mm||10||0||14.2 m/s (30 May)|
|1 May Sunrise/Sunset||1 May Day Length||10 May Sunrise/Sunset||10 May Day Length||20 May Sunrise/Sunset||20 May Day Length||30 May Sunrise/Sunset||30 May Day Length|
|Oslo||5:14am / 9:15am||16:00:54||4:51am / 9:37pm||16:46:12||4:28am / 10pm||17:32:23||4:09am / 10:20pm||18:11:08|
|Bergen||5:33am / 9:39pm||16:06:09||5:09am / 10:02pm||16:52:43||4:45am / 10:26pm||17:40:24||4:26am / 10:47pm||18:20:38|
|Tromsø||3:18am / 10:08pm||18:50:00||2:22am / 11:05pm||20:43:19||Up all day||24:00:00||Up all day||24:00:00|
Note: From May Oslo receives no true darkness. Until 11 May, it gets ‘astronomical twilight’, and from 12 May it gets ‘nautical twilight’.
Note: From May Bergen receives no true darkness. Until 9 May, it has ‘astronomical twilight’. From 10 May it has nautical twilight.
Note: Until 17 May, Tromsø only gets ‘civil twilight’. From 18 May onwards, it’s the midnight sun!
May in Norway is when we start feeling spring coming. I remember May 2019 fondly; it was sunny almost every day. I loved it. May in 2020, however? It’s been cold and stormy and snowy/rainy almost the entire month. I’m sitting here on 17 May looking at snow on the mountains. This snow is rare though; the locals in Bergen reference it as a rarity: “some years there can even be snow on 17 May!” I always scoffed at that. No way is there snow in May. but here we are.
May is also the beginning of the bright nights. In Bergen and Oslo, there is only a couple hours of proper darkness, while in Tromsø, by the end of the month it is the the midnight sun. i.e. the sun never goes below the horizon. When I go to bed at 11pm, it’s not dark outside in Bergen.
May is the month when everything goes green. The mountains turn from their wintery grey into a lush green; and in town the spring flowers are planted at all the parks.
In Bergen, the cherry blossom trees bloom. This is incredibly beautiful and marks the sign of spring for the locals. The rhododendrons also come out during May; considering Bergen is the ‘City of Rhododendrons’ with over 1000 types, this is something to see. They never stay bloomed for long, long.
Still, on the mountains you see snow. This greats some great photos. If you take a fjord cruise, you’ll see blossoming fruit trees contrasted against snowy mountains. It’s lovely.
In May, tourism returns to Norway. Most museums and attractions begin their summer hours on 1 May, though some will wait until after the 17th of May. The smaller attractions may hold off until June, when school holidays begin. The summer hours are typically from 9am – 6pm, giving you plenty of time to visit all the lovely museums.
Cruise ships are arriving in May, but not to the extent that you’ll see in June and July. Same goes with tour groups; they are beginning to arrive, but are not at their peak yet. This makes it a great month to visit. You get all the advantages of summer tourism without most of the tourists.
There are many public holidays in Norway in May. The 1st of May is Labour Day, where you’ll see flags all over the city. 8 May is Liberation Day from the Nazis, and you’ll hear the cannons fired at 11am.
But most famous of all is 17 May: Norway’s Constitution Day. If you can be in Norway on this day, you will be rewarded. Norwegian’s put on their bunads and take to the streets to celebrate their national day. There are huge parades in every settlement in the country, and the atmosphere is electric.
While Oslo’s 17 May parade is the largest and most known, you can be anywhere in the country and have an amazing time. The small towns know how to put on a party, too!
The Bergen International Festival takes place in late May and is one of the largest music events in Scandinavia. It features classical, ballet, opera, and theatre from Norway and around the world at different venues around Bergen. They often use a lot of the historic buildings, such as Håkon’s Hall, as music venues.