Photo: Borgund Stave Church ,Finn Loftesnes
Fjord Tours Articles / 30 Jul 2020

Norwegian Cultural Experiences and Tours

Norway has a rich cultural heritage, with art and stories from bygone eras. Here are some of our insider tips for places to check out.

May 17th

May 17th is Constitution Day in Norway, celebrating Norway’s independence from Swedish rule. It is a National celebration of epic proportions with bands and parades across the country, the biggest of which can be found outside the National Palace in Oslo. The streets are lined with crowds wearing traditional national dress “Bunad” from all corners of the country with flags and bunting aplenty.

Norway's Cultural Heritage

A great deal of Norway’s cultural heritage is traced back to the Vikings, a group of Scandinavian seafaring pirates, traders, and pioneers that settled in Northern Europe in the eighth century. However, throughout their history, the people of this country have always identified with rural culture, which can be seen in its traditional costumes and folk music that are still celebrated today.

One of our favorite examples of traditional lifestyle can be found in the beautiful mountain farm Grettestoele.

17 May Fjord

Food Culture

Catching and preparing top-quality fish has always been a big part of Norwegian food culture with dried cod being a traditionally popular export now surpassed by fresh salmon and arctic cod.

You will find many ingredients in the everyday Norwegian kitchen. Breakfast usually includes fish, flatbread, yogurt, cheese, coffee, and milk. Lunch of fruit, coffee, and the popular “matpakke” containing open-faced sandwiches usually with cheese and cold meat or paté. Dinners usually consist of your standard meat and two vegs but a strange penchant for taco Fridays and frozen pizza has gripped this nation over the last decade. Norway actually sells the highest number of frozen pizzas per capita in the world.

On Constitution Day, Norwegians celebrate by eating flatbread, thinly sliced dried meats, porridge, beer, and aquavit. The Norwegian love for coffee has been reinvented by local coffee brewers and baristas boasting international awards on the walls of their hipster hangouts.

Folkore and Myths

Norway has been inhabited by several different nomadic cultures for many centuries, so folklore is well-established and plays a big part in its modern culture and heritage. Legends include references to trolls and elves that live in the mountains and forests. 

Ashlad is the main character in a number of tales collected in Asbjørnsen and Moe's Norwegian Folktales. The character starts out being regarded as an incapable underachiever but eventually proves himself by overcoming some prodigious deed, succeeding where all others have failed.

Peer Gynt is a five-act play in verse by the Norwegian dramatist Henrik Ibsen published in 1867. Written in Danish, the common written language of Denmark and Norway in Ibsen's lifetime, it is one of the most widely performed Norwegian plays.

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Photo: © Hardanger Folkemuseum

Music of Norway

Norway folk music has an unbroken tradition that has been passed down to each generation for hundreds of years. The folk music culture consists of music in vocal and instrumental pieces that are often performed by soloists. Popular folk musicians and singers include Susanne Lundeng and Odd Nordstoga.

The traditional instrument for instrumental folk music in Norway is the Hardanger fiddle (hardingfele) followed by the harp. Typical traditional dances for Norway folk music include the Halling (hallingdansen), shown in Alexander Rybak's winning performance at the Eurovision Song Contest in 2009.

Hardanger

A Norwegian’s view of Hardanger holding a certain romance can be attributed to the painting Brudeferden in Hardanger, by Hans Fredrik Gude and Adolph Tidemand. Many have tried to find out exactly where in the Hardangerfjord the scene in the painting originated, but a 'twisted fact' is that the famous Hardanger scene is not actually painted in Hardanger but in Germany.

The painters nevertheless had Norway in mind and when cruising around the Hardangerfjord or Eidfjord the locals will argue that the views in real life are even better than in the national treasure painting.

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Photo: Vik Pensjonat og Hytter

Aurlandsdalen

An area particularly rich in Norwegian culture is Aurlandsdalen. Visit Vangen church, which was built by a family who lived in Aurland during the Viking Age. The Stegastein viewpoint offers incredible views not far from here.

The Lærdal Tunnel is a 24.51-kilometer-long long road tunnel connecting the municipalities of Lærdal and Aurland in Vestland county and is one of the longest road tunnels in the world.

Sámi Culture

The Sámi culture is the oldest culture in Norway and is currently experiencing a strong renaissance. The Sámi people live in four countries: Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia. The total population in these four countries is estimated at approx. 80,000 of which half live in Norway. The Sámi people are nomadic reindeer herders and have historically been known in English as Lapps or Laplanders, learn more about their traditional way of life here.

Sámi Music is a cornerstone of the rich sámi culture, based on “Joik” a type of improvised chant that is very characteristic of the “sámi sound”. Today artists mix the traditional with the modern, and you’ll find Joik” used in hip-hop as well as other contemporary genres. The most famous sámi musician is, undoubtedly, Mari Boine who for decades has mixed the traditional with the contemporary in her sound.

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Photo: Thomas Rasmus Skaug

Read more about the culture and life in Norway, and experience Norwegian culture virtually here before deciding to take the trip: