Norwegian Christmas markets to visit
Where to get your festive fix if you are traveling in Norway this holiday season
While Christmas markets in Norway are not as grand as many others in Europe, they do have some critical elements of authenticity. It’s cold, and it’s often snowing! While I used to thoroughly enjoy sipping mulled wine amid the hordes at Birmingham’s Christmas market in the UK, I don’t remember a time when it snowed.
Also, Norwegian Christmas markets just seem to have a nicer feel to them. Perhaps it’s the cold, but they are almost always less crowded and definitely more family friendly, and they offer a nice selection of products from local craftspeople and food from farmers. They’re not cheap of course, but this is Norway. Here are a few of the best:
December 7-10, 2017
A few years ago, I drove through a frightening blizzard for hours to get to the Christmas Fair in Røros, but it was so worth it! I spent two days exploring the nooks and crannies of the old copper mining town, soaking up the festive atmosphere. I met reindeer, then ate reindeer (not the same ones!), marveled at the gingerbread house competition, listened to carols from local schoolchildren, discovered the local pottery, and warmed my hands by the many open fires.
The beautiful Røros Church hosts a Christmas concert the day before the fair opens. Røros is worth a visit at any time of year, but this weekend is extra special. Just don’t forget to wrap up warm, as Røros can be one of the coldest places in Norway. It was only -14˚F when I went, but it can get significantly colder.
Bærums Verk, near Oslo
Weekends from November 25, 2017
In 1610, King Christian IV (of Denmark and Norway) founded an iron ore production facility. More than 400 years later, Bærums Verk is now a thriving shopping destination, home to a blacksmith, glassblowers, a patchwork shop, carpenter’s workshop, and other traditional Norwegian crafts, alongside more modern shopping and dining opportunities.
From the end of November, Julegaten (the Christmas Street) opens every Saturday and Sunday, offering novel gift ideas, local food, and entertainment. I took a trip back in 2012 and after exploring the beautiful site complete with frozen waterfalls (yes, it was that cold!), I stumbled upon the market.
As I wandered around Verksgata, it gradually became a picture-postcard Scandinavian Christmas. There were reindeer pulling children on sleighs, Glühwein by the bucket, and yes, chestnuts really were roasting on an open fire!
December 9-23, 2017
Claimed to be the world’s largest gingerbread town, Pepperkakebyen is located right in the heart of Norway’s second city. Kindergartens, schools, businesses, and thousands of individuals have contributed to the annual event since its creation in 1991.
It’s quite the spectacle. Expect Bergen in miniature: houses, trains, cars, and ships made from real gingerbread. And of course plenty of opportunities to buy gingerbread too!
December 7-10 & 14-17, 2017
In 2004, Egersund was voted as Santa’s hometown in Norway by listeners of NRK. As luck would have it, plans for a Christmas market were already underway. That Christmas, the center of Egersund was transformed into a festive town full of food, textiles, mulled wine, art, decorations, and more. It’s been the same ever since.
A busy program of entertainment and concerts is on offer, and although I’ve not had the pleasure of attending Julebyen, I recommend you check it out anyway if you’re in the Stavanger region. Don’t forget to let me know what it was like!
Norwegian Folk Museum, Oslo
December 2-3 & 9-10, 2017
Going to an open-air museum in the winter may not seem like the most sensible plan (I tried it in Lillehammer once and boy was it cold!), but Oslo’s Folk Museum is well worth the trip. Unlike some other festive events, the Christmas Fair celebrates a traditional Norwegian Christmas as it has been done for centuries.
The houses at the open-air museum (all of which were relocated from different parts of Norway) are decorated according to the Christmas traditions of the original inhabitants at the time.
As is typical for Norway, children are the center of attention with choirs, activities, and even a Santa’s workshop on offer. It’s not just for tourists either! Many locals attend every year with their families spanning multiple generations. Note that the Christmas festivities are taking place only on the first two weekends in December this year.
December 8-20, 2017
If you can’t make it to Røros, Trondheim’s Christmas event is one of the best city center markets in all of Norway. Torvet, the city’s central square, fills with stallholders selling unique gifts, while a giant Sámi tent hosts a café serving hot snacks, beer, mulled wine, and coffee. A couple of stages host a vast program of concerts and other cultural events throughout the two-week long event.
David Nikel is a freelance writer based in Norway. He runs the popular www.lifeinnorway.net website and podcast and is the author of the Moon Norway guidebook, available now in all good bookstores.
This article originally appeared in the Nov. 17, 2017, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.