Norwegian Cabin Culture Explained

Norwegians are obsessed with cabins and cottages, or hytter as we call them, and you will find that Norwegians use every opportunity to spend as much time in their cabins as possible.

But what exactly are Norwegian cabins, why do Norwegians love them so highly, and what should you do if you’re invited to spend a few days in a Norwegian cabin?

We’re going to take a deep dive into Norwegian cabin culture in this article, making you a true cabin expert by the time you’re done reading this!

So if you’ve been invited to spend a few days at a Norwegian cabin, read on to learn all there is, including what to do at a cabin, how to behave, and what’s expected of you.

A Norwegian forest cabin. Photo by Nicklas Iversen / The Norway Guide.
A Norwegian forest cabin. Photo by Nicklas Iversen / The Norway Guide.

The different types of Norwegian cabins

It’s not a one size fits all for Norwegian cabins, and there are several different types of Norwegian cabins. Which type of cabin you’re going to visit will affect what’s expected from you, and how the trip is going to be like.

Most older cabins lack a lot of modern amenities, and there are lots of cabin that don’t have electricity, indoor plumbing or even running water. So don’t be surprised if you need to use an outdoor toilet, fetch water from the nearby lake, and live without TV or phone chargers for a couple of days!

However, there are also lots of modern Norwegian cabins with heated hot tubs, showers, internet and all the regular luxuries you expect from a hotel room or a regular house.

Forest cabins and hunter lodges

Forest cabins and hunter lodges are usually very basic cabins that are designed to primarily be a place to sleep and eat, while you spend most of your time outside. These tend to be located in the middle of nowhere, and you can expect to go for a hike to get to them in the first place.

A cabin in the forest
A cabin in the forest. Photo by Nicklas Iversen /

I would not expect electricity or indoor plumbing from a forest cabin, so be prepared to use the outhouse if you need to use the toilet, and cook on a gas or open flame.

A Norwegian cabin outhouse. Photo by Nicklas Iversen / The Norway Guide.
A Norwegian cabin outhouse. Photo by Nicklas Iversen / The Norway Guide.

Despite typically being completely off-grid, it’s increasingly more common for even forest cabins and hunter lodges to have solar panels and propane gas tanks to provide cooking opportunities and some basic lighting at night.

A solar panel like on the photo below is more than enough to keep lights on and charge your phone without problems, even on cloudy days.

Solar panels on a cabin. Photo by Nicklas Iversen / The Norway Guide.

These cabins have traditionally been built for hunters, fishermen and others who have needed a place to sleep while spending time in nature, but they are gradually becoming more common to be used as purely recreational cabins.

Forest cabins tend to be on the cheap side, and you can become the proud owner for somewhere in the range of 400,000 NOK to 800,000 NOK. They are often owned by a family where people from several generations use the cabin.

Mountain cabins

Mountain cabins are the most popular type of cabin in Norway, and small mountain municipalities will often have more cabins than they have regular houses. The reason behind the mountain cabin’s popularity is their proximity to ski hills or cross country ski tracks.

Norwegians really love to ski, and are willing to spend lots of money to have a second home closer to the ski tracks!

Tradtional Norwegian mountain cabins.
Tradtional Norwegian mountain cabins.

The mountain cabins are typically used in the winter, beginning from the first snowfall until Easter. It’s a long tradition to spend the entire Easter in a mountain cabin, but the skiing season tend to quickly fade a few weeks after Easter.

It’s obviously entirely possible to use these mountain cabins in the summer as well, but it’s far from as crowded at the small cabin villages at this time of the year. However, the close proximity to mountain hikes make them a nice place to spend a few days in the summer as well.

Cozy cabin

As mentioned above, mountain cabins are by far the most common ones, and also the most diverse type of cabin. Some mountain cabins don’t have electricity, plumbing, running water or anything like that, while others have everything you would expect from a house.

If you’re invited to a mountain cabin, make sure to ask about the amenities. This will let you know if you’re going to be staying at a place with a warm shower, hot tub, all modern cooking options, and an internet connection, or at an older mountain cabin where candlelight are your only source of lighting once the sun sets.

Also make sure to bring warm clothing, because mountain cabins are often cold (especially the older ones)! Remember those wool socks and thermal underwear.

Norwegian cabin in the winter
Norwegian cabin in the winter. Photo published with permission.

The price range for a mountain cabin can be anywhere from 600,000 NOK to several million NOK. They are also often owned by a family where several members of the family will use the cabins, either at the same time, or on a rotation.

Luxury ski resort type cabins

The luxury ski resort cabins are a breed of their own, even though they are arguably just a type of mountain cabin. Large ski resorts in Norway tend to have large “cabin villages” filled with luxury cabins in the entire surrounding area.

These cabins aren’t what you traditionally think of as a cabin, and are instead luxury houses with floor heating, a heated hot tub, saunas and all the luxury you can imagine. They are often just a stone throw away from the ski hills, making them ideal for people who want to spend the entire day skiing or snowboarding.

Many of the “cabin villages” will have lots of cabins close together, and there are even apartment style cabins that you can buy.

Luxury ski resort cabins are nice if you want to focus on skiing, and have the multiple million Norwegian kroner required to buy one.

Geilo is well-known for its ski resorts and cabin culture. Photo by Graham Lewis / CC BY 2.0.

Rorbu cabins

Rorbu cabins are yet another unique type of cabin. These are typically very rustic, small cabins with a few beds and a small place to prepare your food.

A rorbu was traditionally used as a seasonal living quarter for fishermen who traveled far away from their home to participate in seasonal fishing. They are still used for this reason in some places like Lofoten, where “Lofotfiske” between January and April brings in hundreds of fishermen.

The rorbu cabins are located very close to the harbor, and offer little luxury. It was just a place to grab a meal and sleep after all. You find lots of rorbu cabins in northern Norway, but they are also found along the fjords, as well as anywhere close to the ocean.

Reine Lofoten in winter with snow
Reine village in Lofoten with rorbu cabins on the left. Photo published with permission.

The close proximity to the ocean has lead to rorbu cabins being a popular type of cabin. They are often a bit on the cheap side, and are perfect for travelers who just want to spend most of their time outside.

It’s not common to be invited to stay at a rorbu cabin, seeing as they are typically super small and best suited for a single or a pair of people sleeping there. Don’t expect plumbing, electricity or running water.

It’s very cool to rent a rorbu if you’re visiting a place like Lofoten, so consider doing that when visiting northern Norway!

Rorbu cabins in Svolvær, Lofoten.
Rorbu cabins in Svolvær, Lofoten.

I would also like to mention that there are modern “rorbu” cabins that look like small, luxury cottages. While their design and proximity to the sea technically makes them a rorbu, they are not really a rorbu in the traditional sense, but it’s a much better experience for tourists who want a bit of modern lives while also waking up with an amazing view.

DNT Cabins

DNT Cabins are yet another type of cabin, altought they are a bit different from the rest of the cabin types. A DNT cabin is simply any cabin owned by The Norwegian Trekking Association / Den Norske Turistforeningen (we just call it DNT, and so should you).

These cabins are unique in a way that they are open to the public, and anyone can become a DNT member to buy a key. Once you have the universal key, you’re free to sleep and stay in these cabins for a fee.

Gresslihytta DNT cabin in Tydalen
Gresslihytta DNT cabin in Tydalen. Photo by Havardtl / CC BY-SA 4.0.

Some of the unique aspects about the DNT cabins are that some of them are built in areas where it’s otherwise illegal to build cabins. They offer a type of refuge for travelers who are spending multiple days hiking in places like Hardangervidda, Jotunheimen or Femundsmarka. They even have DNT cabins at places like Lysebotn!

Here’s a guide to booking a stay at a DNT cabin if you’re interested in testing it. Their accommodation is open to all, and it’s almost nesessary to stay at a DNT cabin if you want to book a room to sleep at when hiking to places like Galdhøpiggen.

Spiterstulen mountain lodge
Spiterstulen mountain lodge in Jotunheimen is a DNT cabin. Photo by Havardtl / CC BY-SA 4.0.

Seaside cabins

The final type of Norwegian cabin you can stay at are seaside cabins. These are cabins that are located close to the ocean, typically in southern Norway.

A seaside cabin is often used in the summer months, and can function as a type of summer house where the entire family moves to the seaside cabin at the beginning of the joint holiday, then stay there for the entire summer vacation.

But just take a quick look at the photo below, and I’m sure you can understand why people are loving these types of cabins.

Cabin by the sea

Just like with the mountain cabins, some seaside cabins lack electricity and plumbing, while others are closer to luxury houses.

Seaside cabins can be insanely expensive, especially in southern Norway or close to Oslo. In these cases. be prepared to pay at least 4 – 5 million NOK for even a small and old ocean cabin! If you want a seaside cabin at the best areas (like in Kragerø), don’t be surprised to see price tags of 15 million NOK or more!

This has lead seaside cabins to be seen as a kind of luxury cabin that are unattainable for regular, working people, and mainly for the CEOs and well-paid consultants.

Norwegian seaside cabin.

What to do in a Norwegian cabin

So what exactly do we Norwegian do when we’re staying at a cabin? The answer depends a bit on the season and type of cabin.

The universal thing to do at a cabin is to relax and enjoy yourself. Spend money and time on preparing amazing meals, spend time with your friends and family, don’t stress about regular life, and try your best to just enjoy the Norwegian nature.

Feel free to leave your phone in your room for most of the day, and try to disconnect a bit from the stress of the daily life.

And that’s pretty much it. Mountain cabins will often have a big focus on hikes in the summer and skiing in the winter, while seaside cabins will have more focus on barbecuing, swimming, boating and sunbathing.

How to act at a Norwegian cabin

I have talked with several people who have felt a bit overwhelmed by the seemingly different set of social norms applied at a cabin compared to when being invited to a regular Norwegian home, so I’m going to include a short description of how you are expected to act and what you’re expected to do at a Norwegian cabin.

Feel like home

Firstly, the overall atmosphere at a Norwegian cabin is more relaxed than if you’re invited to stay at a home. You are likely just fine with getting your breakfast from the fridge, cook a few eggs, or making a coffee without asking (just make sure they don’t have a shared breakfast planned), and you’re kind of expected to feel like home.

This means that you can enjoy the freedom do act like home, but at the same time you’re also expected to partake in all the boring sides of a shared community. This means that you should help out with the cooking, doing the dishes or do some general cleaning – without having to wait to be asked.

The general mantra is that everyone’s equal, and everyone helps out in the ways the can. It’s not common for the owner of the cabin to act like a host, and the guests to act as guests.

Do the dishes if you're invited to a Norwegian cabin!
Do the dishes if you’re invited to a Norwegian cabin!

Do whatever you feel like

Activities tend to be loosely organized when staying at a cabin, so you are free to accept or decline invitations, especially when its activities that only last for a few hours (and not the full day).

Common activities to do at the cabin includes hiking, skiing and playing board games.

You’re going to be hiking when staying at a cabin in Norway.

Want to take a nap instead of joining the hike? People are going to be perfectly fine with that, even if you’re staying behind alone at the cabin.

If you’re going with a group of friends or even a family without any children under the age of 18, expect drinking. You might even expect this in many cases after the children have gone to sleep. This will of course depend on the group you’re traveling with, but Norwegians at a cabin and drinking tend to go hand in glove.

Go outside

Be prepared to spend a lot of time outdoors, even in terrible weather. No one sits indoor in their cabins all day long, and the saying of “there’s no bad weather, only bad clothing” truly applies to this situation.

You’re probably going to be eating most meals outside, including breakfast and dinner.

Skiing with dog

How to stay in a Norwegian hytte as a tourist

While most cabins in Norway are owned by a single family, there are also plenty of cabins that are available to rent. Some of these cabins are rented out by professional firms, but there are also lots of families that rent out their cabins to make some extra income (it’s very expensive to upkeep a cabin after all).

I’ve written a very detailed guide to renting cabins in Norway already, so check it out if you’re interested in renting your very own cabin in Norway.

There are thousands of different cabins available for rent at all times, so you have lots of options to choose from. Cabins can be rented from or’s cabin site. Expect to pay anywhere from 800 NOK to 3,000 NOK per night, depending on the type of cabin, location and number of beds.

Mountain cabins

What about owning a Norwegian cabin?

While staying a few days at a Norwegian cabin is one thing, owning one is another thing entirely. Many Norwegian (myself including) dream of buying my own cabin where we can retreat and enjoy life every time we have a few days off work, but this pleasure is far from cheap.

Anyone can legally buy a property in Norway, even foreigners, but this does not grant any addition rights for foreigners. So you won’t get a residency card or an extended tourist visa on the account of buying a Norwegian cabin.

And mentioned above, the price for buying a cabin can range from as little as 400,000 NOK up to 15 million NOK, so there’s something for all price ranges. The location and proximity to the sea or ski hills tend to be the biggest factors, as well as the size and amenities of the cabin.

A cabin in Saltstraumen with a Norwegian flag
A cabin in Saltstraumen with a Norwegian flag. Photo published with permission.

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