December is one of the coldest months of the year in the fjords, but the warm waters of the Gulf Stream create a slightly milder climate than other parts of the world at the same latitude. Temperatures here will feel less bitter than inland Norway, though you can expect that rain—common this time of year—could turn to snow at the drop of a hat.
Average temps hover in the 30s and 40s° Fahrenheit range around the fjords near the village of Flåm. Shorter days and more moisture also add to the wintry feel: daylight hours last about 5-6 hours a day, while Tromsø to the north is cooler and completely in the dark, meaning no sunrise or sunset for the entire month. The so-called Polar Nights don't stop Norwegians from staying active; as a way of life, they get outdoors for exercise as often as possible.
It's best to pack smart with warm, waterproof gear and boots, especially if you plan on exploring the city streets and nature trails.
Learn more in our article on Norway in December.
Crowds & Costs
If you want to experience the fjords with fewer crowds and lower prices, it's best to come early in the month when Norwegians are busy getting in the holiday spirit, of which they take great pride. The days between Christmas and the new year, though, turn into a busy period, especially as European tourists arrive looking for winter sports in the mountains and fjords. This is when prices for hotels and flights tend to spike. Make sure to book popular accommodations far in advance or consider these Unique Lodging Options in Norway.
Where to Go
There are over a thousand fjords along the coast so where you decide to go depends on your priorities. Most travelers will arrive and depart in Oslo, situated on the Oslofjord, with its sleek opera house, hip neighborhoods, and holiday festivities in the form of pop-up markets and street carolers. Other cities known for festive winter culture include Trondheim, Bergen, and the art nouveau city of Ålesund on the west coast with easy access to fjords.
They offer great culture while also providing access to smaller villages nearby. For instance, the pretty city of Ålesund, with its art nouveau architecture, makes a great base for seeing the UNESCO-listed Geirangerfjord by boat and hitting the slopes at the ski resort Strandafjellet Skisenter. Meanwhile, fjords north of the Arctic Circle, like those found in Alta and the Lofoten Islands, makes a great base for viewing Northern Lights and Sami Culture.
Due to Norway's winter conditions, getting around this time of year will likely involve a mix of short flights, trains, ferries, and overnight Hurtigruten cruises that can last up to two weeks between Bergen and Kirkenes near the Russian border. Long scenic road trips are not recommended this time of year unless you're equipped with a 4x4 for all types of weather.
What to Do
Cities in the fjords benefit from close proximity to nature so you can easily bundle up for some long city walks or short hikes no matter what the weather does. Bergen's seven surrounding mountains offer numerous hiking opportunities—the most popular are accessible with the Fløibanen Funicular right from the city center. The platform at Mount Fløyen, for instance, can be easily reached with an umbrella if it's raining for great views over the city. Meanwhile, Ålesund offers a hike to Sukkertoppen (Sugar Top), for magnificent views of the city's art nouveau architecture, islands, and nearby fjords.
From here, you can take a boat ride through the Geirangerfjord where several awesome waterfalls and farms dot the 10-mile-long landscape. Other notable fjords that should be considered include jaw-dropping Naeroyfjord and Aurlandsfjord—great for photographers.
Skiing is also a big draw in the fjords and what better place to partake since Norway invented the sport in the 19th century. A handful of resorts can be accessed from the fjords like in the student town of Sogndal, on an inlet of the Sognefjord (the longest fjord in Norway), which guarantees a scenic backdrop. To stay warm and cozy, head inside the many cafés, art exhibitions, and intimate concerts where Norwegians love to present a feeling of 'kos', the local version of the Danish 'hygge', especially during the winter months.
Unique winter activities can be found in the northern part of Norway, too, where you can go surfing year-round, and even snorkel with whales thanks to the Gulf Stream's warm waters. Remember when planning your adventure in the northern fjords that December doesn't see the sun, though the darkness can also add to your experience: You’ll see some amazing stars, and long nights mean more chances of seeing the Northern Lights.
Here are the Top Norway Experiences in Winter.
Events in December
Christmas Eve, Christmas Day & Boxing Day. All three days are celebrated across Norway. Expect festivities, concerts, holiday markets, and caroling leading up to the holidays, as well as business closures.
Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony. This major invite-only event in Oslo takes place in December each year and captures world attention.
St. Lucia Day. This holiday parade and festival of lights celebration takes place in mid-December all across Norway.
Traveling to Norway in December? Check out these great itineraries.
Oslo, Bergen & Tromsø Winter Adventure. Escape the summer crowds with this weeklong winter-themed itinerary that highlights both southern and northern Norway. After a night in Oslo—Europe's fastest-growing capital—you'll take one of the steepest trains in the world to Flåm for snow-covered fjords. You'll then train to Bergen, a UNESCO-listed waterfront city with vibrant restaurants before flying north to picturesque Tromsø. This is where you'll finish the trip, with two nights in the Arctic wilderness dog sledding and searching for the Northern Lights.
Norway Winter Wonderland Tour. Expect uninterrupted snowscapes and Northern Lights sightings on this Arctic adventure. The trip starts in Tromsø, the 'Paris of the North' and your base for several snow activities. Then set sail on the Hurtigruten to the Lofoten Islands before heading to Trondheim, the UNESCO-listed village called Røros, and finally a night in cosmopolitan Oslo.