Most of the festivals in Norway happen in the spring and summer when the Norwegians come out to play. It seems like they try to enjoy themselves twice as much to make up for a long winter. For example, the Viking Festival and northern Norway Arts Festival are extremely popular events that take place in the warmer months. The winter calendar is dominated by Christmas, since Norway is a Christian country, but the celebrations take on a distinctive Scandinavian feel as you roam around the markets. Norway considers itself to be forward thinking when it comes to contemporary culture, which is evident in the amount of modern music and art events the country hosts, such as the Norwegian Wood Festival which attracts top talent from around the world.
Dating back to 1956, this week-long festival is held every year in far northern Norway, centered on the municipality of Narvik. It is a cultural affair celebrating the rich history of the people that live in the barren Arctic Circle and the advancements they have made to join modern society. The festivities include concerts, exhibitions, art performances and parades, with locals turning out in historic Norwegian dress. It is held in March as winter winds down, which is where its name is derived, literally translating to "winter festival."
When people think of modern day Norway most direct their thoughts towards its Viking heritage. This June event celebrates that history at Karmoy, the traditional seat of Viking kings for 500 years. The event lasts for four days and comprises of battle reenactments, saga storytelling, Viking dress, weaponry demonstrations, and a literal taste of Viking life with traditional foods sold in the market area.
Norwegian Wood Festival
Since its inception in 1992, this modern music concert has gone on to be a firm event on the global festival calendar, hosting big name acts such as Alanis Morisette and the Foo Fighters. It is usually held the second weekend of June, and has a huge turnout.
Arts Festival of Northern Norway
Norway is proud of its artistic heritage, producing painters such as Edvard Munch, most famous for the Scream. This festival has been running since 1965 and is the Nordic country’s most important cultural event, presenting a mix of contemporary music, dance and visual art. It is held on the last weekend of June in Harstad.
This is a food festival held over a long weekend in July that celebrates Scandinavian flavors. It attracts around 250,000 visitors every year to sample the best culinary delights of Norway’s contemporary cuisine. Held in Stavanger, leading international chefs serve as the guests of honor.
Peer Gynt Festival
One of the best representations of the natural beauty of Norway has been intertwined with folklore in the fairytale of Peer Gynt. The production was later turned into a play by Henrik Ibsen in the 19th century, which is more famously remembered for its classic musical score composed by Edvard Greig. There are 30 events at 15 locations around the Vinstra and the Gudbrandsdalen valleys, using Norway’s landscape as real life backdrops to depict the tales. Taking place annually over 12 days in August, the festival culminates with the presentation of the Peer Gynt Prize, which is awarded to an outstanding member of society.
Risor Wooden Boat Festival
This festival reflects Norway’s historic coastal culture. Held every year on the first weekend in August, there are 100's of handcrafted wooden boats on display which are raced in regattas around the harbor.
Christmas takes on a distinctive Scandinavian feel in Norway, which is reflected by the numerous Christmas markets that set up shop across the country at the beginning of December. Purchase small gifts and trinkets that reflect the traditions as you enjoy carollers and sip mulled wine.