Family holidays in Norway can be whatever you want them to be, whether your interests are Vikings and trolls, fantastic museums, great beaches or excellent ski resorts. Like its neighbour Sweden, this long thin country tumbling down the western side of Scandinavia is blessed with space and fresh air – it covers roughly the same area as Great Britain but has less than 5 million inhabitants. In the west, the famous fjords are spectacular, while in the far north the Northern Lights dazzle and delight. But the rest of Norway is no shy and retiring beauty – the vast unspoilt tracts of National Park, the swathes of rugged wilderness, the breathtaking waterfalls, and the pretty islands all conspire to make you fall madly in love with this gorgeous land.
Unsurprisingly, given nature’s bounty, this is a country that appeals to outdoorsy families, offering skiing (cross-country and alpine) and snowboarding in family-friendly resorts in winter, and hiking, biking, kayaking and whitewater-rafting in summer. So as the Norwegians do and make the most of all those lovely forests and mountains.
Above all, Norway’s seasonal activities are second to none, so why not push the boat out with an unforgettable family adventure in search of Santa or the elusive Northern Lights in the Norwegian section of Lapland?
Things to do with kids in Norway
Discover the capital Oslo, starting with a trip to the museums on the Bygdøy peninsula: hear about the Vikings at the Viking Ship Museum and learn about Norway’s cultural history at the nearby Norsk Folkemuseum. Also close-by are the Kon Tiki Museum and the Fram Museum, for tales of polar exploration and the world’s most famous polar ship. The Oslo Reptile Park is back in the centre; east of the centre is the Natural History Museum, while west of it lies the International Museum of Children’s Art and Frogner Park, home to Oslo's most visited attraction, the Vigeland Sculpture Park, and to Norway’s largest playground.
Take a day-trip out from Oslo to see the child-friendly exhibits at the Norwegian Museum of Science and Technology or experience the high-octane thrills at Tusenfryd, Norway’s largest amusement park.
If you’re visiting Oslo in winter, make the 30-minute journey out of the capital to Oslo Winter Park Tryvann, the area’s main ski resort, offering 14 slopes, alpine skiing, snowboarding and a special area for kids and beginners.
Seek out more winter fun at Lillehammer 185km to the north: pay a visit to the Olympic Park and ski-jumping arena or base yourself in one of the five ski-parks within easy reach of the centre, where active families can tackle everything from dog-sledding and cross-country skiing to ice-fishing, horse sleigh-rides and tobogganing. For magical evening entertainment, head to Hunderfossen Vinterpark minutes from the centre, which has an ice cathedral and fairytale palace plus activities including snow-rafting, ice-bowling and high ropes for kids 7+. In summer, take a trip to Lake Mjøsa to ride on the world’s oldest paddle-steamer, the Skibladner, built in 1856.
Norway is also a fantastic destination for a family ski trip, with popular resorts including Geilo and Trysil.
Visit Kristiansand in southern Norway – for the beach in summer and for good skiing in winter. In warmer months, ride the Setesdalsbanen Steam Railway or head out of town to Kristiansand zoo and amusement park, with a waterpark, forest park, entertainment area, themepark and zoo.
Base yourself in Bergen if you want to explore Norway’s famous fjords or go up into the mountains surrounding the city for skiing, sledging and hiking. The Fløibanen Funicular takes you to the top of Mount Fløyen for fantastic views of Bergen, great hiking trails, a playground and the Troll Forest, where little ones can follow a magical trail and cross Billy Goats Gruff bridge. In winter, the paths down from Mount Fløyen are floodlit at night, making them perfect for sledging. In Bergen itself, visit the pretty 19th-century wooden houses in Gamle Bergen (Old Bergen) or get hands-on with the interactive exhibits at the Vilvite Science Centre. Bergen Aquarium is another must for families, with penguins, sealions and sharks.
Head south of Bergen, to Stavanger, a great destination for summer family holidays, with some of the best beaches in Norway. Also visit the secret treehouse at the Norwegian Children’s Museum and head out to the region’s many fjords.
Have an unforgettable family adventure by heading to the far north, to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights in Tromsø or the Finnmark region ('Norwegian Lapland'). Just 2,000km from the North Pole, Tromsø is the capital of the Arctic and one of the easiest destinations for families hoping to see the elusive Aurora Borealis. While sightings are never guaranteed, the lights are at their most frequent in late autumn and winter/early spring. (Those hoping to see them should come prepared for extreme cold and be ready to set aside at least a whole night for the quest). And Tromsø has plenty else to keep the kids entertained: visit the bearded seals at Polaria, the city’s arctic aquarium, or take the Fjellheisen Cable Car up Storsteinen Mountain for panoramic views over the city and, if you’re lucky, to experience the Midnight Sun or Northern Lights.
In Finnmark, base yourself in Alta, the largest town, where as well as looking out for the Northern Lights you can get an insight into the life of the region’s indigenous Sami people, join a fisherman on a king crab safari and take the kids on a reindeer sleigh-ride across the region’s white plains. Don’t leave without taking a dog sled or snowmobile safari – preferably under the Aurora Borealis!
Pizza, pasta and other international favourites are readily available in Norway, making family holidays a breeze. Local specialities include fresh fish (smoked salmon and gravlaks, and pickled herring); those with a sweet tooth will enjoy the pancakes, waffles, sugar cookies and Krumkake, a crispy traditional Christmas cookie.
When to go to Norway
Guaranteed snow makes Norway ideal for winter family skiing holidays. But do bear in mind that central and eastern Norway experience VERY low temperatures (-40°C) in winter.
In summer Norway is warmer than you might expect given its location, due to the Gulf Stream. Warm weather (25–30°C) and long bright days make summer perfect for family holidays and activity breaks in the south. Further north, summer temperatures are also pleasant (up to 25°C). But weather can be changeable year-round, so come prepared for the outdoors whenever you visit.
Your kids may be entertained by the 24hr sunshine in midsummer (all over the country) or by the ‘polar night’ in deepest winter (in the north), when the sun doesn’t rise at all. The Northern Lights occur in the darker months, usually in the north.
Visitors in May won’t be able to miss Constitution Day on the 17th – it’s celebrated in every city, town and village by a parade of school kids accompanied by marching bands, people dressing in national costume, games, and food galore, including Rømmegrøt (sour-cream porridge with cured meat and salmon).
This is the one downside to this child-friendly country – you may be able to get to Norway relatively cheaply, but food and drink are notoriously expensive. You could save your krone by choosing a basic self-catering cabin, youth hostelling or camping.
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Flying time2hrs All flight times are based on flights from UK London airports, to the capital or nearest destination airport.
Carbon footprint CO2 Estimated tonnes of CO2 produced for return flights for a family of four.
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