Most people tend to think of Norway like a frozen wasteland, but this is far from the truth during the summer. The summer in Norway can actually be very hot at times, so swimming in the sea, in a lake or in a river can be refreshing.
But is the water in Norway actually warm enough that you can go swimming in it?
You can go swimming in Norway, but generally only between June and late August. The water in smaller lakes can reach a good temperature of 20 – 24 °C, while the ocean temperature usually stays around 18 – 21 °C.
You can swim in both the ocean as well as in lakes, streams or rivers, and there are lots of good options for either one. Some people prefer to swim at beautiful beaches (we actually do have a lot of these in Norway), while other prefer to swim in small, secluded lakes deep in the forest.
We will be looking closer at everything you need to know about swimming in Norway in this article.
Swimming close to cities and towns in Norway
Most cities or even smaller towns in Norway will have at least one designated swimming spot or beach where you can go for a swim. Coastal cities will usually have bigger beaches, while inland towns tend to have either natural or man-made beaches at a local lake.
These dedicated swimming spots typically have changing facilities, toilets, handicap accessibility, parking spots and sometimes small stores that sell ice cream, non-alcoholic drinks and snacks.
The designated swimming spots tend to be owned by the municipality, are free to use, and often have public transport that brings you to it. Some cost money to access (like Sjøbadet in Trondheim or Nordnes Sjøbad in Bergen), but all of these have free options nearby, and the fee is because of premium features and not access to the swimming spot itself. For example, Nordnes Sjøbad offers a heated pool that you can enjoy next to the ocean when the water is too cold to swim in.
Most of the dedicated swimming spots tend be very crowded during sunny days in the middle of summer, so expect to be surrounded by people at these places.
You are free to swim pretty much anywhere!
Even though most cities and towns have popular places to go swimming, you are free to swim at pretty much any place you like in Norway. We have the principle of freedom to roam, giving you access to swim at any point on the coastline, or any secluded place in lakes or rivers (and any other freshwater reservoir).
You are theoretically allowed to swim anywhere on the coast, but people might get upset if you go swimming just outside their cabin. They are not really allowed to refuse you to swim there, but you should just choose somewhere else if you don’t want a conflict.
When it comes to freshwater sources, you can go swimming anywhere you want as long as it does not bother the people who live close to it. A rule of thumb is to stay 150 – 200 meters away from houses or cabins where people are currently staying, especially if you are a large group that make a certain amount of noise.
There are thousands of small lakes scattered all over Norway with no cabin or house anywhere close to them, and you are free to swim at any of these with virtually no restrictions.
Many Norwegian people have their own “secret” swimming spots that they prefer, where they can go swimming without being bothered by anyone else.
There are just a few exceptions to these freedom to roam-laws. One of them being places where the water is used as drinking water. If this is the case, you will be met by signs telling you just that, and you can be fined if you go for a swim at these. Luckily these drinking water sources are pretty rare.
Swimming in mountain lakes in Norway
Many people enjoy going for a swim in a mountain lake while hiking, and while this can be a great experience, remember that the water is usually pretty cold in the mountain lakes. This is because the snow melts very late high up in the mountains, and will cool down the lakes during the first half of summer.
So swimming in a mountain lake is awesome, but be prepared that it might not be very comfortable. If you’re lucky, you might even find a small lake with a waterfall in it!
Swimming in the Norwegian fjords
You can freely swim in the fjords, but it will be a little bit colder than freshwater sources or even the ocean during the early summer. However, swimming in the fjords is a unique experience that makes for some great photos!
Remember that most fjords don’t really have much shallow grounds, and might descent deep down very fast. It is therefore not recommended for young children unless you are at a beach or somewhere you know that it is shallow enough.
The fjord water can sometimes turn green at spring, but this is not dangerous, and you can still go swimming in it.
Swimming in the ocean
You are free to swim anywhere in the ocean, so knock yourself out! There are very few dangerous animals or fish in the ocean in Norway, but stay away from the red jellyfish (Lion’s mane jellyfish) since they are painful to touch, and are somewhat common in some areas.
There are sharks in Norway, but they are not considered to be dangerous to humans, so don’t worry about them.
The ocean water tend to warm slower than inland water, so it is best suited for swimming it at late summer such as in late July or August.
Swimming in lakes and rivers all around Norway
There are thousands of small lakes, streams and rivers where you can go swimming in Norway, and a secluded lake in the middle of the forest can be a great place to go for a private swim.
When you want to swim in a larger river, keep an eye out for the current. This can be pretty strong and dangerous in certain rivers, especially during late spring when it carries melted snow water.
Rivers tend to be colder than lakes, and the smaller the lake, the faster it gets warm when the summer begins.
When to go swimming in Norway
The swimming season in Norway is from June to the end of August, but the exact season can vary a bit due to the unreliable weather. Sometimes you can get indian summers that allows you to go swimming even during most of September, while June and July can have very cold waters if it rains a lot.
And as you might expect, the further north you go, the colder the water will be, and the shorter the swimming season will be.
Small freshwater lakes can be very warm when the weather has been warm for a few weeks, and reach nice temperatures of 22 °C or more. However, these are also subject to rapid cooling if it rains a few days in a row, and will lower the temperature for a few days after.
The ocean on the other hand remains more steady. It will gradually keep getting warmer during all of the summer, and the peak is during August when its at its warmest.
Swimming during the Norwegian winter
Some Norwegians love to swim during the winter, which is referred to as isbading (ice bathing) in Norwegian. This is when you cut out a large block of ice from the ocean during the winter and go swimming in it.
The water is obviously very cold, so you won’t be able to swim for long. Many people really seem to love ice bathing, but most of us think this is borderline crazy.
If you want to try ice bathing in Norway during the winter, find a local club or group that does it. I would advice against trying this yourself without any experience, because it can be very dangerous if you push yourself too hard or don’t properly know how to handle yourself on the ice.
There are also a few places where you can rent a sauna with the opportunity to ice bath outside, then go inside the warm sauna to get the warmth back to your body.
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.