All UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Norway (Complete Guide For All 8 Sites)

There are a total of 8 different World Heritage Sites in Norway, and all of them are something special. Some of the sites are popular tourist attractions, while others are pretty unknown. However, they all have in common that they have been an important part of history, and are worth preserving.

We are going to take a closer look at all the 8 different Norwegian World Heritage Sites in this article, talking a bit about their history, and finally how to experience the site for yourself.

The Rock Art of Alta
The Rock Art of Alta. Photo by Karin Tansem / CC BY-SA 4.0.

1) Bryggen in Bergen

Bryggen (the old wharf) in Bergen is probably the most well-known off all the World Heritage Sites in Norway, and for a good reason. It’s right in the middle of Bergen, so it’s easy to access, and it’s one of the most cozy places in the entire city.

The characteristic part about Bryggen in Bergen is the unique architecture. This was made possible because of several fires during the last few centuries, and each time it burned down it had to be rebuilt. Over time this lead to some unique solutions to make big stores on the waterfront with the limited building space they had.

There are currently 62 houses that are on the World Heritage Site list, and these are all found in the Bryggen area in Bergen. Most of them are still used a stores or restaurants these days, so it’s a World Heritage Site that you can actually experience and is still operational, not just something pretty to look at.

How to get to Bryggen World Heritage Site: Bryggen is at the waterfront in Bergen, and can be reached by walking from Bergen city center.

Bryggen in Bergen
Bryggen in Bergen. Photo published with permission.

2) Urnes Stave church

Urnes stave church is one of the most idyllic stave churches in Norway, with it’s location to the amazing blue fjords in the background. The church itself was built in the 12th and 13th century, and got a place on the World Heritage Site list since it was a perfect example of traditional Scandinavian wooden architecture.

It might not be as ornamented as some of the other stave churches, but the location just next to the Sognefjord makes it a really special place, and by far the most photogenic stave church in all of Norway.

Ironically Urnes Stave church is one of the least visited stave churches in Norway, so it’s not always super crowded like many of the other ones are.

How to get to Urnes Stave church World Heritage Site: It’s a big hassle to get to Urnes Stave church with public transport, so you need a car for this one. You can reach it by driving from either Oslo or Bergen on E16 until you get to Lærdal.

From Lærdal, follow Rv5 to towards Sogndal, then change to Fv55. Drive on Fv55 for until you see the signs towards Urnes stavkirke. This is where you will take a right and switch to Fv338. Follow that road until you are at the church.

Urnes stave church
Urnes stave church. Photo by Leo-setä / CC BY 2.0.

3) Røros mining town and the surrounding area

Røros is a town located close to the Swedish border in the middle of Norway, and has a long history as a mining town. Copper and sulfur pyrite was extracted from the mines between 1644 and 1977, and this has shaped the town in a unique way.

All of Røros was destroyed by Sweden during the was in 1679, but the town was quickly build up shortly after. This allowed the entire town to follow the same design patterns, making the town feel very unique. Many people feel like the town has a medieval feel to it.

Many people visit Røros as part of their journey to get to Femundsmarka, and it’s common to stay a night or two before going to the national park to witness some of the best wilderness in Norway. Røros is also known for its incredible Christmas market, so stop by during December if you have the chance.

How to get to Røros World Heritage Site: You can get to Røros by train from either Oslo or Trondheim. There are also bus connections from both of these cities.

Røros. Photo by Andy Heidinger / CC BY-SA 4.0.

4) Rock art of Alta

The rock art of Alta is a set of over 600 different stone carvings. The site was found in 1973, but the stone carvings themselves are much older. It’s impossible to know exactly when they were carved, but it is estimated to be between 7000 to 5000 years ago.

The site is the biggest rock carving collection from the stone age in all of Northern Europe, and it’s absolutely an amazing sight. The carvings have been helping scientists understand what life was like for ancient people in Northern Norway, and you can clearly learn about how they used fall pits to catch wild reindeer

How to get to the Rock art of Alta World Heritage Site: The rock art of Alta is located about 10 kilometers away from Alta, and you can get there by bus, taxi or car. You can get to Alta with a plane ride from Oslo.

Read more about the rock art of Alta here.

Rock art of Alta
Rock art of Alta. Photo by Hans A. Rosbach / CC BY-SA 3.0.

5) Vegaøyan / The Vega Archipelago

The Vega Archipelago, called Vegaøyan in Norwegian, is a set of islands in the northern part of Norway. These islands provide a unique ecosystem that is home to sea birds and other species that live off the sea.

The archipelago has a total of 6,500 islands, so there’s plenty of islands to explore. There are hundreds of beautiful beaches, amazing hike trails and natural wonders to explore. The best way to experience the archipelago is from a canoe or kayak, but there are also ferries that operates between the islands.

How to get to the Vega Archipelago World Heritage Site: To get to the Vega islands, travel to Brønnøysund by plane or bus, then take the bus or drive to Målvika where the ferry to the islands depart from. This will take you to the main island called Vega, where you can then further get to the smaller islands.

Eidem beach
Eidem beach on Vega island. Photo by Uspn / CC BY-SA 3.0.

6) Struve Geodetic Arc

Struve Geodetic Arc is a chain of survey points used for triangulation. They were part of a survey to find the exact shape of the planet by measuring the long segment of a meridian. The experiment was lead by Georg Wilhelm Struve, and there are survey points in over 10 different countries that stretches over 2,820 kilometers.

There are over 250 triangulation points, and 34 of these have been included on the World Heritage Site list. The most visited one in Norway is the one at Hammerfest, the point furthest north on the survey.

How to get to Struve Geodetic Arc World Heritage Site: There are four survey points in Norway, but the most visited one is Struve Geodetic Arc at Hammerfest. This is located in the city of Hammerfest, just close to the city center and docks. So either ride a ferry to the city or book a flight to Hammerfest to get to it.

Struve Geodetic Arc at Hammerfest
Struve Geodetic Arc at Hammerfest. Photo by Mikkoau / CC BY-SA 4.0.

7) Geirangerfjord and Nærøyfjord (West Norwegian Fjords)

The Norwegian fjords are well known to most of the world, and arguably one of the most famous aspects of Norwegian nature. Two of the fjords, Geirangerfjord and Nærøyfjord, got included on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list in 2005.

The reason is that these fjords are considered archetypical fjord landscapes, and are among the most scenic fjords in the entire world. They are also among the deepest fjords, and are the home to bigger animals such as sharks and the occasional whale.

Also read: Everything you need to know about the fjord water.

I advise anyone who is visiting Norway to stop by the West Norwegian Fjords, because it’s really something special about them.

How to get to West Norwegian Fjords World Heritage Site: The West Norwegian Fjords are not a single point that you can visit, but rather a big collection of places. There are plenty of bus lines that take you from the major cities in Norway to the fjords.

Nærøyfjord. Photo by mcxurxo / CC BY 2.0.

8) Rjukan–Notodden Industrial Heritage Site

The Rjukan–Notodden Industrial Heritage Site is the newest addition to the Norwegian UNESCO World Heritage Site list, and was added as late as 2015. Rjukan and Notodden are two different industrial cities in the Telemark county in Norway, and were added because they were outstanding examples of industrial development at the beginning of the 20th century.

Some of the industrial development that took place at Rjukan–Notodden Industrial Heritage Site was the development of water-powered electricity generation, a green type of energy that gives Norway over 95 % of its electricity to this day.

The factories are in great shape, and have been turned into museums. This allows you to get a unique look at what life was like for the workers, how the factories operated, and how it affected the entire city.

Vemork at Rjukan is probably the most famous of all the places that are included as part of Rjukan–Notodden Industrial Heritage Site. Vemork was occupied by German nazi soldiers during the WWII, and the sabotages that took place there are some of the most famous Norwegian war stories.

How to get to Rjukan–Notodden Industrial Heritage Site: Both Rjukan and Notodden can be reached by bus. Notodden can also be reached by train from Oslo.

Vemork is part of Rjukan–Notodden Industrial Heritage Site. Photo by LinguineFusilli / CC BY-SA 4.0.

PS. Heddal stave church is also very close to Notodden, so make sure to stop by if you’re in the area. This stave church is not a part of the UNESCO World Heritage list, but it very well could have been.

Heddal Stavkirke. Photo by Micha L. Rieser.

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