Norway In December: Complete December Travel Guide To Norway

December is a busy month in Norway, and a somewhat popular month for tourists who want to experience the Norwegian winter. The days are getting shorter, and the temperature tend to be below freezing for most days, so it’s an incredible time to visit!

Norway in December is amazing for anyone who want to learn more about the Norwegian culture, while also getting a feel for the Norwegian winter. Norwegians tend to be cheery and outgoing in December, and most people are in a good mood (but probably also a bit stressed out).

Northern lights in Lofoten
Northern lights in Lofoten. Photo published with permission.

One of the things to keep in mind when visiting Norway in December is that we celebrate Christmas at December 24, but it will to some extent affect the whole month.

Norwegians tend to be in “Christmas mode” during all of December, and spend a lot of time shopping and preparing for Christmas. All public events, stores and other public gatherings will also be affected massively by the Christmas spirit.

You will find that shops are all filled with cheery people who are out shopping, so it’s a busy time of the year. On the other hand, museums and tourist attractions tend to be uncrowded during December, so it’s a perfect time to visit!

There are several public holidays in December (mainly December 25 and 26), but other day will have businesses that have reduced opening hours. We will come back to this issues later on in the article.

Anyway, Norway in December is also a lot more than just Christmas, so let’s take a closer look at the travel guide for Norway in December!

Tromsø is beautiful in winter. This photo of Norway in December also shows typical public Christmas decorations found in all major cities.
Tromsø at wintertime in December. Photo by Lee Dyer / CC BY-SA 2.0.

What to do in Norway in December

December is (for most years) a true winter month, and it’s the perfect time to enjoy the winter of Norway before it gets much colder in January or February.

It’s a good time to come to Norway to go skiing or enjoy other types of winter sports, but also still early enough in the winter that you won’t feel out of place if you don’t want focus on the snow.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the most popular things to do in Norway in December!

See the northern lights

One of the most popular things to do in Norway in the wintertime is to enjoy the northern lights. This is by far the most common reason for tourists to visit northern Norway in both December and the other winter months.

You have a high chance to experience the northern lights in northern Norway in December. The further north you travel, the higher your chances of seeing it is.

Most people choose Tromsø for their aurora borealis destination, but any city north of Tromsø is also well worth checking out (especially if you want to spend time in a smaller town than Tromsø).

Many consider December to be slightly worse than January or February for seeing the northern lights, but it’s far from a bad time.

You will have a higher chance of cloud cover in December (compared to just after the beginning of the new year), but most days will have some opening slots for the northern lights.

I suggest checking the aurora borealis forecast as well as the weather forecast (to make sure that it’s not cloudy) to find a good time to see the northern lights.

Northern lights in winter
Northern lights in winter. Photo published with permission.

Partake in Norwegian Christmas traditions

As mentioned earlier, pretty much all of December is tied to the Christmas event for Norwegians, and this will 100 % affect your visit to Norway in December.

You will see Christmas ornaments everywhere, and it’s really a magical time of the year. It’s super cozy, and it’s absolutely possible for foreigners and tourists to partake in Norwegian Christmas traditions to a certain extent.

Many of these events are public, and organized by private organizations or the municipality. This allows anyone to join, no matter if you’re Norwegian or not.

Some of these Christmas events include things like:

  • Going around the Christmas tree (as seen on the photo below),
  • Get a bag of candy from Santa Claus.
  • Eat a typical Norwegian Christmas meal.
  • Go to a Christmas market (I really recommend this!).
  • Get into the holiday spirits at a shopping center.
  • See a Christmas event, show or concert.

Make sure to keep reading on, because we’re going to look more closely at some of these things below.

Many museums and cultural institutions will have special Christmas events as well, which might be worth checking out when you’re visiting such as special Christmas exhibitions.

Children walking around the Christmas tree in Røros.
Children walking around the Christmas tree in Røros. Photo by Henrik Dvergsdal / CC BY-SA 3.0.

Enjoy peace and quite at museums and tourist attractions

One of the great things about visiting Norway in December is that it’s a very busy month for all us locals (we need to get everything ready for December 24, and for some reason spend at least 1 month preparing for this day), so you will have museums and other tourist attractions all to yourself!

Well, all to yourself might be a bit of an exaggeration, but December is by far the month with the fewest visitors to museums and tourist attractions, as long as it’s not a Christmas related attraction.

So feel free to plan on visiting the MUNCH Museum, check out the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History (which has a stave church) or just stop by a bunch of different museums! Even places like the Bergen Fish Market will be less crowded in December than in most months.

MUNCH Museum
MUNCH Museum. Photo published with permission.

Visit Røros Christmas Market

There are many different Christmas Markets in Norway, but the Røros Christmas Market is considered to be the best one. It is really just something magical about this event!

The Christmas Market is typically in the first weekend each year, such as December 1 to December 4 in 2022, so you need to arrive early in December to make it in time.

The Christmas Market itself is a traditional Christmas market will stalls that sell traditional Christmas gifts, ornaments and other items all over the city, but also has multiple different events, concerts and shows.

It’s absolutely the best opportunity to get yourself a prime souvenir from Norway, but it can be difficult to free available accommodation during the market dates, so plan ahead!

Taste Norwegian Christmas food

Norwegian Christmas food is really something special, and it’s absolutely possible to taste it even though it’s going to be next to impossible to find a place to eat on Christmas Eve itself.

However, many restaurants will serve Christmas menus all December long, allowing anyone to taste the classical Norwegian Christmas dishes.

Some of the Christmas dishes are a bit of an acquired taste, and tend to be heavy on fat, but I suggest you taste it for yourself.

The most common Christmas dinners in Norway are:

  • Ribbe (Christmas ribs, common in Eastern and Southern Norway).
  • Pinnekjøtt (Sheep’s ribs, traditionally from Western Norway, but increasingly common in Eastern Norway as well).
  • Lutefisk (cod cured in lye, common in Northern Norway).

Some might be concerned that the Christmas food at restaurants is not authentic, but it tends to be very close to what you would get at Christmas Eve in Norway.

Norwegian christmas dinner plate with pinnekjøtt
Norwegian christmas dinner plate with pinnekjøtt. Photo by Bernt Rostadt / CC BY 2.0.

Go skiing

If you want to experience the slopes of the Norwegian mountains, then there’s nothing better than going skiing.

Norway is filled to the brim with “ski destinations”, which are essentially small towns that turn into crowded winter sport cities in the winter.

These towns tend to have more cabins and rooms at luxurious resorts than actual inhabitants, and it’s a great place to go if you want to try winter sports, or just want to enjoy the atmosphere of the afterski where you go to bars after having spent the day in the ski tracks.

Some of the most popular ski destinations in Norway are:

  • Hafjell.
  • Norefjell.
  • Trysil.
  • Geilo.
  • Beitostølen.
  • Nesbyen.
  • Hemsedal.
Skiing at Høgevarde in Flå in Hallingdal.
Skiing at Høgevarde in Flå in Hallingdal. Photo by Nicklas Iversen / The Norway Guide.

Anyone with an interest in skiing should visit on of these ski destinations, because there’s really something unique about a whole village who get turned into a big ski destination every winter.

As you can probably guess, the skiing towns are high in the mountains, so you are guaranteed to have a good snow cover even in December.

Don’t feel comfortable skiing? Don’t worry! You can rent all the equipment you need as a beginner, and even hire a tutor to help you get started.

Try dog sledding

Dog sledding is an incredible experience, and it’s definitely possible to do this in most places in Norway in December. It’s a really unique experience where you get to feel the adrenaline pump as the dogs run at incredible speed in the forest or mountain.

Combine that with the incredible Norwegian nature in winter time, and you are likely to get a memory you won’t forget anytime soon.

You can do day trips by dog sleds, or just book a 30 minute or hour long trip if you want a shorter experience. However, I really recommend going on a day trip on dog sled! A full day in the incredible, Norwegian mountain air is really something special!

Dog sledding
Dog sledding is a popular winter sport in Norway. Photo published with permission.

The weather in Norway in December

The Norwegian December weather is typically characterized by coldness, some snowfall, and varying temperatures.

The snow tends to be more stable in the northern half of Norway, but most of Norway has plenty of snow in December. And as always, the further north you go, the colder and darker it gets.

The weather in Oslo, Norway in December

You should expect the temperatures to be between 0 °C and -5 °C in Oslo in December, but falling down to between -4 °C and -9 °C during the night.

It will be below freezing point for most of the day, but the temperature might occasionally dip above the freeing point for some hours in the middle of the day.

Christmas decorations in Oslo
Christmas decorations in Oslo, including the traditional ferries wheel. Photo by Ryan Hodnett / CC BY-SA 4.0.

The weather in Tromsø in December

Tromsø will be much colder than Oslo in December, so be prepared for temperatures in the range of -5 °C to -10 °C in the daytime, and as cold as -15 °C during the night.

It is rare for the temperature to even get close to 0 °C in Tromsø in December, so make sure to bring warm clothes and be prepared for a lot of snow.

Tromsø
Tromsø. Photo published with permission.

When stores and restaurants are closed in Norway in December

It’s important to be aware that both grocery stores, other shops and even restaurants have special opening hours during December. These are a bit different from the rest of the year due to special rules regarding the holiday season.

Firstly, grocery stores are legally allowed to be open on Sundays from December 1 until December 22. This makes it possible to go grocery shopping on Sundays, even though stores are usually required to be closed all Sundays in Norway.

But it’s not all and well. Because after December 23, the opening hours for the stores get a bit wonky.

Generally speaking, stores close at 15.00 on December 24, and are kept closed until December 26. At this point they can have regular opening hours until December 31. At December 31, they once again close at 15.00, and are closed the following day as well (but that’s technically in January).

The same goes for all other stores, and even some restaurants are closed on December 25 and 26. Restaurants are allowed to choose if they want to be kept open or not, but it can actually be a bit difficult to find restaurants that are open these days, even in the big cities such as Oslo, Trondheim, Tromsø or Bergen!

So prepare ahead, and make sure you got everything you need for the next few days before the stores close on December 24.

Outside of a Rema 1000 store
Outside of a Rema 1000 store. Photo: Nicklas Iversen / thenorwayguide.com.

Events in Norway in December (other than Christmas)

Non-Christmas events are very rare in Norway in December, so there’s not a long going on really. There are no big non-Christmas festivals or anything like that, so the best option is just to try to embrace the Christmas spirit that will affect everything on your visit.

Frequently asked questions about visiting Norway in December

Is December a busy month for tourists in Norway?

December is a really busy month for locals in Norway, but it’s a just below average month for tourists. So you can expect big crowds at shopping centers and things like that, but not as museums and tourist attractions.

Is there snow in Norway in December?

Yes, it is very likely that there is snow in Norway in December, but you are not 100 % guaranteed in southern Norway. Most years will have a decent snow cover in all of Norway, but a day of heavy rainfall when the temperature breaches the freezing point might ruin the entire snow cover.
However, go far north like north of Trondheim, and you can pretty much be sure that you will experience the snow.

Norway monthly travel guides

This is far from the only monthly guide to Norway we have in store, so check out the other months below if you are interested in visiting Norway in the future.

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