Norway is a big country with both small towns in the middle of nowhere, big cities with a big cultural scene, and everything in-between. It might be overwhelming to choose where to live if you’re moving, but we’re going to try and help you out by going over the best places to live in Norway!
We will be looking closer at the best places to live in Norway for different needs. So this is the place to be if you want to find the best place to live for nature experiences, the best place for finding a job, or the best place to live in Norway if you want the best culture scene.
Norway is filled to the brim with beautiful places, national parks and incredible wildlife, but there’s also some downsides to certain places in Norway that you should be aware of before moving. So, keep reading if you’re interested in starting a new life in Norway!
The best big Norwegian cities to live in
There are several major cities with over 100,000 inhabitants in Norway, and many foreigners choose one of these to settle down in when they are planning on relocating to Norway. These are great for people who are used to the city life, but there are only a handful of cities with over 100,000 people in them in Norway.
It’s difficult to choose the best cities to live in, because it kind of depends on your preferences. Do you prefer to live in the capital, on the west coast, or a bit in the north? But let’s take a closer look at the most popular Norwegian cities.
Oslo is the capital city of Norway, and by far the biggest city. It will without a doubt be the city with the most different job opportunities, the city with the most diverse culture, and the city with the most entertainment options.
There’s a great public transport in Oslo, and it’s absolutely on par with other big cities in Europe. International travel is only a short train ride away, because Oslo Airport Gardermoen takes you pretty much anywhere in the world.
There are just over 500,000 people living in Oslo, and it’s growing year by year. Some feel like the big population is amazing, while others feel like it’s impossible to get to know people there since you never really bump into familiar faces.
The housing prices have become pretty insane in Oslo in the recent years, so you might feel like it’s impossible to buy an apartment or even rent in the city without spending most of your salary. Be prepared to spend around 3 million NOK for an apartment or 11 million NOK for a house!
This has lead to many people living in the other cities close to Oslo, then using public transport to get to and from Oslo to work in the capital. But we’ll get back to these cities later on.
Bergen is Norway’s second largest city, and the biggest one in western Norway. While it’s about half as many inhabitants in Bergen as in Oslo, it feels much less crowded. Incredible hikes are always just a short bus or Bybanen ride away, and most people feel like Bergen is much more open than Oslo.
There’s a bustling cultural scene in Bergen, and the city is home to one of the world’s oldest orchestras, the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, and a popular theater venue called Den Nationale Scene. The music scene is also great, and it’s the home city to classical composer Edvard Greig as well as the more contemporary artists like Kygo and Sondre Lerche.
Bergen is also considered to be pretty expensive to live in, but it also has a great public transportation system. There are lots of international students and students in general because of the University of Bergen, a highly regarded university.
PS. keep in mind that Bergen is known to have the most rainy days out of all the cities in Norway! So bring your umbrella and buy some good waterproof clothes.
Trondheim is a large city located pretty much in the middle of Norway, so it’s perfect if you can’t decide if you want to live in the north or the south of the country. It’s a pretty big city with almost 200,000 inhabitants, and many people consider it to be a very good place to live.
Some of the benefits of choosing Trondheim is due to its great university. It’s a city with loads of students and younger people, and many consider it to be the tech capital of Norway. It’s easy to find a job if you got a teach or IT education, but there’s also many other industries that require people there.
The city itself is known for being a great place, and the city center is a mix of old, traditional wooden houses and modern buildings.
Stavanger is yet another big Norwegian city, and its known to be the oil capital of Norway. Most people who work in the oil industry are based in Stavanger, and this is the city located closest to the offshore oil rigs.
You should be aware that Stavanger is a very expensive city, and living costs are driven high by the fact that the average salary is very high in the area. This all has to do with the fact that many people are employed in the oil industry, so it might be difficult to live there with a regular, non-oil based salary.
Stavanger is a beautiful city though, and a great bonus is that you will always be close to the Pulpit rock hike!
Benefits of living in a big city in Norway
Some of the benefits to living in a bigger city in Norway compared to a town is better job opportunities. It will be easier to find a job, especially if you don’t speak Norwegian.
Learn more: How to find a job without speaking Norwegian.
Generally speaking, bigger cities tend to have higher wages. There will be more job opportunities with people with a higher education, and the non-skilled jobs also tend to pay a bit better than in the towns and villages in Norway (but it’s not that big of a difference for unskilled laborers).
People in the cities tend to be more familiar with foreigners who move to Norway, and a higher percentage of people will be comfortable with speaking English. You have a higher chance of finding people from other nationalities, and there are typically foreign communities in these bigger cities.
If you’re young, then you will want to know that the bigger cities will have a higher proportion of younger people. It’s very common for Norwegians to move to a bigger city when they become young adults, and about half of them never really move back to the town they grew up in.
And let’s not forget all the convenience of living in a big city. Want to go to the cinema, see a concert, attend a food festival, music festivals, go to art galleries or just enjoy yourself at a good restaurant? The bigger the city, the more entertainment opportunities it will have.
All the big cities in Norway have easy access to the nearest airport, so it’s easy to get back home to your home country if you ever get homesick. Most of them are within a 40 minute drive to an international airport. And let’s not forget that cities have a good public transportation system as well.
Downsides to living in a big city in Norway
The big cities in Norway also do have some downsides, and some of these might be a dealbreaker for some. I know that I would personally not enjoy living in the crowded cities, but rather enjoy myself in a much smaller city.
The cost of living will be a lot higher in a big city. Apartments and houses are generally very expensive in the big cities in Norway, and even renting is extremely expensive. You might have to pay double for an apartment compared to if you move to a smaller city. It’s no fun being a grown-up with a decent job, but only being able to rent a tiny room in a shared apartment..
Crime rate will generally be higher in bigger cities, but it’s still very low compared to most other countries in the world. You are pretty safe, but you might encounter some illegal activities during the nighttime.
And as you can imagine, bigger cities means more crowds, more noise and more unfamiliar faces. Some people feel like it’s difficult to get to know people when moving to Oslo and the other big cities, and Oslo is among the cities with the highest rate of loneliness in Norway.
Living in a Norwegian middle-sized city
Norway has plenty of middle-sized cities, and many of these are great for living in. These places tend to be great if you’re looking for a city where you have all the amenities of a city while also getting the benefit of cheaper housing costs and less crowded areas.
Many people live in the cities located close to Oslo, and these are gradually becoming more and more popular. Some popular middle-sized cities close to Oslo are:
All of these are cities where it’s possible to live there while working in Oslo, and commuting by train or bus to and from work every day. It’s pretty popular with families who don’t want to live inside Oslo, but the commute will eat up a lot of your free time.
The best cities in western and the fjord region of Norway
The western coast of Norway has plenty of different cities that are all consider to be middle-sized with between 20,000 and 50,000 inhabitants. There are perfect for settling down in if you want to live close to the ocean, get a job as a fisher, or just enjoy the amazing fjords of the western Norway every single day!
Some of the most popular cities on the west coast of Norway are:
PS. don’t forget to include Bergen and Stavanger if you’re planning on moving to western Norway. These are included on the list above for big cities.
If you want to live in western Norway without being at the coast, there’s the area called the fjord region. There are many smaller cities located right next to the fjords, and these places often offer an incredible natural beauty. Just remember to settle down a bit away from where the cruise ships docks.
Some of the most popular small cities and towns in the fjord region of Norway are:
The best places to live in northern Norway
Northern Norway is extremely beautiful, and many people dream of moving there. There’s something magical about passing the arctic circle and getting to the vast wilderness of northern Norway, with its characteristic houses and towns that have sprung up from fishing villages.
There are few places as beautiful as the Lofoten islands, so what’s better than buying a house and settling down on this island archipelago? There are many small towns spread across the islands, and it’s absolutely possible to settle down there. Finding a job might be challenging though, so it’s probably best for those of you who can work remotely.
Lofoten is a popular tourist destination, and it brings in hundreds of thousands of tourists every year. This might be a bit annoying in the summer, because it will be flooding with people from early June to late August, but most residents gets used to it.
So if you want the incredible beaches, a good community and incredible hikes just outside your front door, Lofoten might be a great place to live in Norway.
Bodø got over 55,000 inhabitants, so it’s one of the biggest cities in northern Norway, and it’s known for it’s proximity to Lofoten and other places with incredible nature. It’s perfect if you enjoy hiking in winter conditions, but still want to live in a rather big city.
You are always close to mountain ranges with some of the highest peaks, so it’s perfect for hikers.
Also read: How to get to Bodø.
Tromsø is the biggest city in northern Norway, and it has over 72,000 inhabitants. There are also many international students in the city, and it’s by far the city with the most English speakers in northern Norway due to the international students.
If you want to live in a pretty big city while also having access to the aurora borealis for most of the winter, then Tromsø might be a great choice!
Alta is the biggest city in the far north of Norway, and it’s 20,000 inhabitants make it the northern capital of Norway. This city is really far in the north, and it will be very cold and many days with polar nights there. It’s a great place for everyone who loves the winter, and who might be interested in things like dog sledding, solo hiking and skiing.
There’s even an UNESCO World Heritage Site in Alta. This is because Alta used to be a religious center about 7,000 years ago, and there are thousands of rock carvings from this time period.
Benefits to living in northern Norway
Northern Norway can be extremely beautiful, and it’s a great place to live if you want to experience the northern lights on a regular basis. Imagine how incredible it would be to just go out on your balcony and see the northern light on a regular Wednesday evening in the winter!
Some of the other benefits to living in northern Norway is the low cost of living. You can buy houses much cheaper compared to in the south of Norway, and many municipalities will have tax benefits to the people who live there.
The summers might not be a warm as in southern Norway, but keep in mind that northern Norway has midnight sun, meaning that the sun never goes down for many weeks in the summer months. The further north you are, the more days with midnight sun it will have.
Northern Norway is a great place for those of you who love the winter, and are fine with it being covered in snow for most of the year. If you think skiing is better than walking, northern Norway might just be a good choice.
Downsides to living in northern Norway
There are some big downsides to living in northern Norway as well, and most of northern Norway has a big recruitment issue. Young people tend to move away from northern Norway, and never really return.
Some of the downsides are the long winters, and the polar nights that come with them. This is a certain time period where the sun never rises, so it’s constantly dark outside. Any point north of the polar circle will have polar nights, and the further north of it, the more polar nights there are per year. The summer months are short, cold and generally unpredictable.
The general lack of things to do in northern Norway can also be considered a downside. When you get away from Tromsø, the selection of restaurants, cafés and places like that are very limited. The public transportation system is terrible to be blunt, and you have to rely on a car to get between places. And even when you’re in your car, be prepared for terrible roads and long distances between each place.
The best cities in southern and eastern Norway
When we’re looking at middle-sized cities in southern and eastern Norway, there are plenty to choose from. This means that you can settle down in a city that’s perfect for your needs, and you have multiple option.
Some of the most popular and biggest cities in southern Norway are:
Southern Norway is a beautiful place to live, especially if you don’t really like the snow and freezing cold. The gulf stream makes sure that it’s a pretty nice temperature all year long, and the summer months are incredible. It’s a great place for those of you that want the benefit of moving to Norway without wanting to freeze in -20 °C.
The people in southern Norway are also known for their laid-back and relaxed attitudes, and they seem to have all the time in the world. It’s also the most religious region of Norway, and this is the only place where you will find a high concentration of Christians and active churchgoers.
Eastern Norway is another option, and there are many cities to choose from. This region is great if you’re looking for a regular job, because there a diverse and interesting job market there.
Some of the most popular and biggest cities in eastern Norway are:
- Sandefjord. Sandefjord is an old whaling town that has gradually evolved to become a nice city.
- Tønsberg. Tønsberg is one of Norway’s oldest cities, and was a popular viking city in the Middle Ages.
- Fredrikstad. Fredrikstad has an incredible old town that used to be a fortified city.
As you can see, you have lots and lots of options if you want to move to a middle-sized city in eastern Norway. This part of Norway is the most populated by far, and the cities are not far from each other. In addition to all these cities, there are hundreds of towns and villages between the cities as well.
PS. all the cities close to Oslo are also technically on the eastern part of Norway, but these are all included on the list above, so refer to that for a list of these.
What are the best Norwegian small towns to live in?
You will find small Norwegians towns all over Norway, and living in one of these is something special. Small towns might be perfect for you if you ‘re after a relaxing place to live with a tight-knitted community, but this tight-knitted community also means that it’s very difficult to get accepted into the community.
There will probably be some issues if you’re moving to a small town in Norway, but nothing that can’t be worked out. But what are the best Norwegian small towns?
There is not really a best small town, because these are all unique and different from each other. You really have to find a small town that suits your needs, and where you feel comfortable living.
Benefits to living in a small town in Norway
Small towns in Norway are great if you are looking for a relaxed place to live for a while, while slowly getting to know your neighbors.
Once you get to know people in a small town in Norway, you will always bump into someone you know when you’re shopping or when hanging out, so it’s very social after you have gotten to known people.
Norwegian towns has low crime rates, and most people don’t even lock their cars or front doors in smaller towns. The smaller towns and villages have some of the lowest crime rates in all of Norway.
The public schools and kindergartens tend to have fewer children, and many people feel that these schools are generally better than the schools with hundreds or thousands of children in them in the cities.
Downsides to living in a small Norwegian town
There are also some downsides to settling down in a small Norwegian town. Since everyone already knows each other, it’s very difficult to get accepted into the social group. You might have to live there for several years before you are accepted as “one of them”, and this is a big problem even for Norwegians who are moving to a small town.
Many people feel lonely when moving to a small town, and it can take years before you start to feel like you belong there! Smaller villages are even more difficult to settle in, and the less people, the more difficult it is.
Some other downsides are that you will have a very limited selection of stores, restaurants and entertainment options. Many towns will only have a single small grocery store, and you might have to drive for an hour or two to get to a bigger place where they have shopping options for clothing, electronics and things like that.
The public transport system is often next to non-existent in many smaller Norwegian towns, and most people rely on their car to get anywhere.
The best places to live for nature lovers
You might think that I would provide you with a list of places to settle down if you are a real nature lover, but the matter of fact is that all of Norway is great if you are a nature lover!
Even the biggest cities like Oslo and Bergen has pristine nature and hiking opportunities that can be reached by public transport, and if you drive for 1 – 2 hours you have thousands of popular places to go hiking!
Smaller towns and villages will typically have great hikes just a few minutes from the city center, and you can often get into amazing natural wilderness very quickly.
How to decide where to live in Norway
Which factors should use you when deciding where to settle down in Norway? We’ve already covered many different places, but how do you chose?
Most people settle down in a certain place because of a job opportunity there. People often get offered a job in a new place, and after living there for a few years, they end up starting a family and really settling down there.
That’s not the only reason to choose another place to live in Norway though. You need to find a place that’s perfect for your needs, which can mean proximity to nature for some, and a great music scene to others. Find out what is important to you, then use those criteria to decide where to settle down.
What your family needs or where you have relatives might also affect where you settle down. It might be fine to live in a remote village in Norway when you’re young and single, but it might not be as great if you’ve got relatives somewhere else after you start your own family and want help with the children.
As a foreigners, you might also want to consider foreign communities to be a factor. Some towns and cities have a large international community, while some have sub-communities for certain nationalities. Since Norwegians are pretty difficult to get to know, finding a community that is familiar with your own culture might be a good idea.
Should you move to Norway?
Many people dream of starting a new home in Norway, but it’s not something that’s a perfect fit for everyone. Free health care, high wages, a high life expectancy and free university education are some things that make people attracted to the idea of moving to Norway.
While all of those things are great, Norway is not for everyone. It is generally pretty difficult to get a residence permit unless you have a good reason to get one. It’s not like most people can just pack up and move to Norway.
I suggest reading up on moving to Norway before you even consider it. The country has many positive sides, but there are also many downsides to moving to Norway. The fact that Norwegians are difficult to get to know is a big problem for many foreigners.
Frequently asked questions about the best places to live in Norway
What is the best city to live in?
There is no such thing as a “best city” or top cities, because it depends on your needs. Both Oslo, Bergen, Trondheim and Stavanger have a high quality of life, so it kind of depends where in the country you want to settle down.
Can you live on Svalbard?
Svalbard is technically owned by Norway, but you need to fit certain requirements to live there, such as being able to take care of yourself or have a job there. So the island with polar bears and polar ecosystems might not be for everyone.
Is Norway the best Scandinavian country?
It depends on who you ask. Norway is generally considered a great country to live in, but there are many amazing countries in northern Europe. Each of them have their pros and cons, and this is also true for Norway.
Where can you live close to ski resorts in Norway?
Most cities in Norway are actually pretty close to ski resorts, unless you are living very close to the coast or in southern Norway. But there are ski resorts pretty close to Oslo and Trondheim. The best ski resorts are in the middle of Norway.
What is Norway’s capital?
The capital of Norway is Oslo, and it’s considered a good place to live if you enjoy city life.
What is the best place to live in Norway for finding a job?
If you want to move to a place in Norway for the intention of finding a job, consider the biggest cities like Oslo and Bergen. These will always need both skilled and unskilled laborers.
What are the best small villages in Norway?
There are thousands of small villages and towns in Norway, so it’s impossible to decide which is the best. It just depends on where you prefer to stay. So find yourself a cozy village, see if it fits your needs, and keep looking until you find one that’s perfect for you.
Nicklas is the owner and editor of The Norway Guide, and is responsible for most of the content on the website.
He lives in Skien, Norway with his wife and two children. Nicklas is specialized in Norwegian ecology (including Norway’s geology, wildlife and flora) from his degree in Ecology And Nature Management at University of South-Eastern Norway, but has a particular interest in tourism and content creation.
His biggest hobbies are fishkeeping, going on hikes with his dog, and rooting for the local football team.