UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Norway
Norway is home to some truly ancient and colorful attractions and some of these are even designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. At the same time, not everyone knows about these sites before visiting Norway so we have compiled this list, as well as some further info on the UNESCO non-profit organisation.
Located in the city of Bergen, this series of Hanseatic buildings stand proudly along the side of Vagen harbour. Incredibly, the origins of this city date back to the Middle Ages (1020 AD) and the pier itself was first constructed circa 1100 AD, while these buildings by the Hanseatic League were built in 1350.
Just so you know, the ‘Hanseatic League” was a confederation of market towns and merchant guilds that dominated maritime trade in the Baltic region. After establishing an office in Bergen, trade prospered in the city and the Hanseatic merchants moved into this series of iconic buildings which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Norway since 1979.
How to visit: the Flesland International Airport will be your destination if you come by plane, and a short bus (or tram) ride will take you to the center of Bergen - «the gateway to the fjords».
2. West Norwegian Fjords – Geirangerfjord And Nærøyfjord
Believe it or not, this is the only natural site on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Norway. It was first recognised in 2005 and features two main fjords called Geirangerfjord and Nærøyfjord in the Sogn og Fjordane County.
While both fjords are spectacular to see, Nærøyfjorden fjord is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful in the world and the number of ferry tours in this region is testament to this opinion.
How to visit: Fjord Tours offers several Norway in a Nutshell® tours that will take you through the various West Norway fjord landscapes.
3. Rock Art Of Alta
Alta is a municipality in the north of Norway where thousands of rock carvings inhabit the landscape. In fact, there are more than six thousand carvings at no less than forty-five sites including Tranfarelv, Storsteinen and Kafjord. In many ways, the Rock Art of Alta has provided a unique insight into life during Prehistoric times with paintings of animals, hunters, dancers and even rituals at every turn.
The Rock Art of Alta is protected since 1985 and as you can imagine, this is also one of the oldest UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Norway.
How to visit: The most common way to reach Alta is by plane, generally with a stop-over in Tromsø.
4. Røros Mining Town And The Circumference
Lack of resources was a serious threat for many towns in ancient times and both mining and agriculture were the two industries which enabled them to survive. Røros was one such place and this iconic area offers a great insight into the work and lifestyle of these challenging times.
Although established in 1644, this town was in operation all the way up until 1977 when settlement developed at the nearby Hitterelva River - the source of power for the mining. However, the square-grid design and renaissance facades have been restored and since 1980, the Røros Mining Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Norway.
How to visit: We recommend the scenic train journey the Røros Railway, which is both the most eco-friendly, as well as the most thrilling, way to arrive in Røros!
5. Veganøyan - The Vega Archipelago
The Vega Archipelago became a designated UNESCO World Heritage site in 2004 and this cluster of islands is located in the aforementioned municipality of Vega. Featuring more than 6,500 islands, this archipelago was a haven for fishing and harvesting for the first settlers in Norway.
Indeed, this is still quite an inhospitable environment yet several villages, farms and lighthouses still inhabit the region.
How to visit: Plane from Oslo to Brønnøysund, then ferry to the islands.
6. Struve Geodetic Arc
In 1816, scientists began an attempt to measure the size and curvature of the earth’s surface. Friedrich Georg Wilhelm von Struve set out to find an accurate measurement of the meridian which would help determine this size and this was completed by creating an arc with a series of survey triangulations.
While thus arc would pass through ten more countries, the first of these is situated in Norway’s Black Sea.
How to visit:multiple locations.
7. Rjukan-Notodden Industrial Heritage Site
Located in Telemark County, Rjukan-Notodden Industrial Heritage Site is the most recent addition to UNESCO (2015) and this cultural site is tasked with protecting Lake Heddalsvatnet and Vestfjorddalen Walley. However, this site also provides a glimpse into the past that formed the identity of two historical towns in the area - Rjukan and Notodden.
At the centre of this site, a plant produces fertilizer to help preserve the landscapes. Also, there are two more plants with worker accommodation, transport systems and hydroelectric power plants. Nearby Rjukan and Notodden.
How to visit: Plane to Oslo, then bus or car to Rjukan.
8. Urnes Stave Church (1979)
Situated in Sogn og Fjordane County, Stave Church was built in 1132 and features Romanesque architecture. Incredibly, the church was built entirely of wood and this is the oldest church of this kind in Norway. You will also find animal art inside and many archaeological examinations have taken place here to learn more about this ancient church. While established as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979, the church has not been used since 1881 when the nearby Urnes parish was abandoned. How to see: The church is in the majestic Sognefjorden where we offer our Sognefjord in a nutshell tour.
As you can see, there are eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Norway and only one of these is a natural site. Either way, these fascinating attractions are worth a visit and a great way to explore the colorful and ancient past of Norway.
How to visit: We’d like to invite you on our UNESCO Fjord BusTour that brings you through the amazing Sognefjord and Geirangerfjord regions.
UNESCO and the Importance of Preservation
UNESCO is an acronym for the “United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation’, which is essentially an agency that seeks to promote peace through scientific, cultural and educational reforms.
In case you might be asking yourself, this organisation was set up in 1943 by the ministers for education from the United Kingdom, United States, China and the USSR. In recent times, this agency is more closely associated with important heritage sites around the world but the initial purpose of UNESCO was to help build world peace on the back of two devastating world wars.
But what does UNESCO do exactly?
UNESCO is heavily focused on many important global issues including sustainable development and the eradication of poverty. However, the organisation is also tasked with protecting historical and cultural attractions around the world which is preciously why we have “World Heritage Sites in Norway”.
For example, as a means of protecting the Temple of Abu Simbel from being overrun by the Nile Delta, UNESCO conducted a campaign which enabled twenty-two monuments to be moved to safety. Later, the Acropolis in Greece, the Galápagos Islands in Ecuador and many more famous sites were added to this list.
More info about UNESCO.
As for the World Heritage Sites in Norway, Bryggen and Urnes Staves Church were the first attractions to be protected in 1979 and six more sites have followed in the time since.