Winter weather has arrived in Norway, and with it comes a cheerful holiday atmosphere. December is one of the chilliest months of the year, with average temps hovering in the 20-30° F range. Shorter days also add to the wintry feel: the sun is up for about 5-6 hours a day in Oslo, while Tromsø to the north is colder and 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.
If you're visiting Norway's coast, the warm waters of the Gulf Stream create a milder climate than other parts of the world at the same latitude. Temperatures here will feel less bitter than central and northern Norway, though you can still expect snow in the nearby mountains, and (if lucky) in the city of Bergen as pictured above. When in doubt, do as the locals do: dress warmly, bring waterproof gear, and be prepared for rain that sometimes turns into snow.
Crowds & Costs
In the early part of the month, you'll get to experience both cities and nature with few crowds and tourists. The days leading up to Christmas, though, turn into a busy period in Norway when prices for hotels and flights tend to spike, and advance bookings are required. Most winter activities are in full swing by now so there are plenty of options to choose from across the country. If the hotel you're after is booked, consider these Unique Lodging Options in Norway.
Where to Go
There's no place in the country that should be off your agenda in December since laid-back Norwegians know how to make the best of the season. Oslo is a good place to start your adventure, with its sleek opera house, hip neighborhoods, and holiday festivities in the form of pop-up markets and street carolers. Other cities known for winter culture include Trondheim, Bergen, and the art nouveau city of Ålesund on the west coast with easy access to fjords.
Those in search of a remarkable holiday atmosphere should consider the UNESCO-listed village of Røros, with 17th and 18th-century buildings lining the streets. Once the roads are covered in snow (usually by December) the locals get from top to bottom and back again using kick-sleds known as 'sparks'. The town boasts local-handmade goods and is known for its Norwegian food scene, so this is a great place to come for a weekend.
Meanwhile, central Norway's inland peaks and national parks, especially Geilo and the region between Oslo and Bergen, attract locals and international visitors for their trails, snow activities, and lively resorts. If you make it to the Arctic region, you'll have more chances of seeing the Northern Lights as well as humpback and orca whales in the waters around Tromsø.
Due to Norway's winter conditions and mountainous terrain, getting around this time of year will likely involve a mix of short flights, trains, 4x4 rentals, and/or super jeep transfers.
What to Do
Norway's cities are all located close to nature so you can bundle up for some long city walks or short hikes. For instance, in Oslo, you can also take a 30-minute tram from the city to a beautiful car-free island and walk around one of the lakes. Meanwhile, Bergen's seven surrounding mountains offer many hiking opportunities—the most popular are accessible with the Fløibanen Funicular right from the city center.
Photographers will love southern Norway's late sunrises, early sunsets, and blue hours—here are some tips for capturing it all. To stay warm and cozy, head inside for cafés, art exhibitions, and intimate concerts where Norwegians love to present a feeling of kos, the local version of the Danish hygge.
There are more unique winter activities in the northern part of Norway where you can go surfing year-round, and even snorkel with whales thanks to the Gulf Stream's warm waters. Inland there is skiing, dog sledding, snowmobiling, reindeer safaris, rock art, and Sami culture. Remember when planning your Arctic adventure that December doesn't see the sun, though the darkness can also add to your experience: You’ll see some amazing stars at night in the countryside, and long nights mean more chances of seeing the Northern Lights.
Events in December
Røros Christmas Market. For one weekend a year, the postcard-village of Røros hosts its Christmas market—a popular event drawing crowds from across Norway. Shops sell everything from hard-carved toys to reindeer skins and wool hats, as well as local food and drink.
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 over Norway.
Christmas Eve, Christmas Day & Boxing Day. All three days are celebrated across Norway. Expect festivities, holiday markets, and caroling leading up to the holidays, as well as business closures.
Traveling to Norway in December? Check out these great itineraries.
Norway's Winter Wonderland Tour. Start in Tromsø, the 'Paris of the North' —your base for several snow activities. Then set sail on the Hurtigruten to explore the Lofoten Islands before continuing (by sea) towards the city of Trondheim, the UNESCO-listed village of Røros, and finally a night in Oslo.
Northern Norway's Arctic Adventure. In less than a week, experience snow-covered scenery and the Northern Lights with this photogenic road-trip through the Lofoten Islands. The trip begins with a car ferry from Bodø, where you'll drive across the coastline at your own pace and explore some of Norway's oldest and most colorful fishing towns hugging the shore with traditional red rorbu (fishermen's huts).