Christmas in Oslo is truly a magical experience that combines the festive atmosphere with the charm of the Norwegian capital. Known for being a vibrant and cosmopolitan city, Oslo is full of attractions for families, art lovers, skiing and outdoor enthusiasts and anyone looking for a quiet, sophisticated place to holiday. Christmas is an excellent time to visit Oslo because it is not as crowded with tourists as in the summer, allowing you to experience the magical atmosphere of Christmas in Norway.
You can explore the many places of interest, immerse yourself in the rich cultural scene, and admire Norway’s beautiful natural landscape in a tranquility rare to find elsewhere. Twinkling lights decorate the trees and create an enchanting atmosphere throughout the city. Christmas markets fill the streets, giving you the opportunity to purchase unique gifts and handcrafted works of art. There’s a palpable buzz of optimism in the air, with people exchanging smiles and good wishes for the new year.
But one of the main attractions of Christmas in Oslo is definitely the delicious local cuisine. Norwegians are famous for their cookies and Christmas treats. So, make sure you have space in your stomach to enjoy these local delights. From biscuits to fish and meat specialties, there are dishes to satisfy every palate. You should mingle with locals at the Oslo Christmas Markets, which offer dozens of stalls selling food, sweets, and hot drinks.
Furthermore, if you are a lover of winter sports, Oslo and its surrounding areas are the ideal place to practice them. Snow-capped mountains offer opportunities for skiing, snowboarding, and sledding, while frozen lakes let you go ice skating. Christmas in Oslo is a great time for an off-the-beaten-path holiday and could be the gateway to a wider winter adventure in Norway. In any case, you will surely find many things to do that will satisfy your interests. Let’s go and discover the best ones!
What you will find in this guide to Christmas in Oslo:
Christmas in Oslo: The Christmas Tradition in Norway
Christmas in Norway is a truly special and engaging holiday, enriched with unique traditions that span the entire festive season, known as “Juletid” or “Jul”. This period extends from the fourth week before Christmas until the Epiphany, encompassing a series of significant events and celebrations.
The Julebord marks one of the initial Christmas events in Norway. It is a lavish festive feast, often presented in buffet style, offering a wide array of traditional Christmas dishes and alcoholic beverages. This celebration coincides with the commencement of Advent, which falls on the fourth Sunday before Christmas. During this time, children commence their countdown to Christmas with Advent calendars, each containing a small gift for every day leading up to the grand day. Typically, these gifts include sweets, chocolates, or small toys.
December 23rd is referred to as “lille julaften” or “little Christmas Eve”. On this day, many Norwegian families add the finishing touches to their Christmas preparations, such as setting up the Christmas tree. Some parents even permit their children to open a small present in advance, heightening the anticipation for the following day. Christmas Eve, known as “Julaften”, is the most significant day of the holiday season. During the evening, families come together for a special dinner featuring the centerpiece Christmas meal. This is also the time when gifts are exchanged among friends and family.
December 25th is considered an intimate day dedicated solely to spending time with family. December 26th presents an opportunity to invite close friends to share the remnants of the Christmas Eve feast. The week between Christmas Eve and New Year is referred to as “Romjul”. During this period, hunting is prohibited, while fishing remains allowed.
In the past, it was a tradition to sacrifice a goat known as “Jelebukk” during this week. Today, the Yule goat is often symbolized by a straw figurine, frequently used as a Christmas ornament. This goat was regarded as a protective spirit for the home during the Christmas season and was offered as a sacrifice to the gods and spirits that accompanied the interval between the winter solstice and the new year, known as “romjul”.
On the evening of December 31st, Norwegian families host a dinner similar to that of Christmas Eve. However, it is customary to invite friends and neighbors to partake in the meal. As midnight approaches, people leave their homes and join their neighbors in lighting fireworks, exchanging greetings for the new year.
The precise date for concluding Christmas celebrations may vary, but it is generally regarded as Epiphany, which falls on the twelfth day after Christmas. Some individuals keep their Christmas trees until January 5th and light Epiphany candles known as “Hellig-tre-kongers-lys”, one for each of the Holy Three Kings. When these candles burn down until their arms meet, Christmas is officially declared over. This tradition provides a significant and ceremonial closure to the Norwegian holiday season, which extends well beyond December 25th.
Christmas in Oslo: The Best Christmas Markets
The Oslo Christmas Markets offer a magical experience during the holiday season. These bustling and picturesque gathering spots are located both in the heart of the city and in more secluded areas, providing a wide array of products and activities to create the perfect atmosphere for celebrating the holidays.
Christmas in Winterland (Jul i Vinterland)
Oslo’s crown jewel of Christmas markets, Christmas in Winterland, is located in Spikersuppa along Karl Johan Street. This enchanting market captivates visitors with its cozy wooden stalls. Here, you can immerse yourself in the Christmas spirit while exploring the various stalls offering gourmet products, traditional sweets like gingerbread and pepperkaker biscuits, as well as a diverse selection of handmade gifts and decorations.
Don’t forget to savor the delicious local cured meats and wrap yourself in warm Norwegian sweaters to ward off the winter cold. For the little ones, there are gingerbread workshops, Santa Claus‘s residence, and handmade gifts. Moreover, a grand Ferris wheel and an ice rink add an extra layer of magic to the Christmas atmosphere.
Dates: Mid-November to early January
Christmas Market at Youngstorget
If the weather doesn’t cooperate, the indoor Christmas Market at Youngstorget (Julemarked på Youngstorget) offers the perfect solution. This market takes place in traditional heated lavvu tents, ensuring a pleasant shopping experience regardless of the weather. The stalls inside offer a wide selection of Christmas decorations and handcrafted souvenirs, ideal for taking a piece of Oslo and Norway home with you. Here, you’ll not only find unique gifts but also a delectable variety of local delicacies. This is the ideal place to relish Christmas specialties and uncover hidden treasures while immersing yourself in Norwegian tradition.
Dates: Mid-November to the end of December
Read More: Check out our definitive guide to the OSLO CHRISTMAS MARKETS.
Norsk Folkemuseum Christmas Fair
During the Christmas season, the Norsk Folkemuseum transforms into a magical wonderland, immersing visitors in an unparalleled festive atmosphere. The scent of fresh bread and spices wafts through the air, enveloping every corner of the museum with an irresistible fragrance, while the sounds of traditional Christmas music fill hearts with joy and anticipation for the holiday.
The Norsk Folkemuseum’s annual Christmas Fair hosts exhibits that celebrate and showcase Norwegian Christmas traditions and boasts over 100 Christmas stalls, each offering unique gifts, handcrafted Christmas decorations and traditional Norwegian culinary delights. For the little ones, the Christmas Fair offers a world of fun with pony rides and the opportunity to interact with adorable farm animals. However, the real magic unfolds in Santa’s workshops, where young visitors can create personalized Christmas decorations and learn the secrets of Santa’s craft.
The Christmas Fair is also home to a candle factory, where you can admire master craftsmen at work, creating decorative candles that will become cherished parts of many families’ Christmas decorations. Candle art is a centuries-old tradition in Norway, and this fair offers a unique opportunity to witness this craft in action.
The Norsk Folkemuseum is also one of Oslo’s nicest museums, suitable for the whole family. It is located on the scenic Bygdøy peninsula and is reachable by bus from the city center. It is advisable to purchase the Oslo Pass, which offers free entry to the museum, free unlimited rides on public transport, and free admission to the city’s top museums.
The Norsk Folkemuseum Christmas Fair is typically held only on the first two weekends of December. This year, it will be held on December 7-8 and December 14-15, 2024.
Christmas in Oslo: Other Things to Do and Events
Ice Skating in Oslo
Ice skating in Oslo is a cherished tradition enjoyed by both locals and visitors alike. The city provides numerous opportunities to partake in this delightful winter activity. One of Oslo’s most renowned ice skating rinks can be found at Frogner Stadium. This enchanting venue typically welcomes visitors from mid-November to mid-March, providing a generous window of time for skating enthusiasts to revel in the icy fun. With its breathtaking views of Frognerparken, this rink promises an unforgettable experience for all skating enthusiasts.
For those seeking a romantic ice skating experience, the Spikersuppa ice skating rink is an ideal choice. Nestled in the heart of Oslo, between the Storting (the Norwegian Parliament) and the National Theatre, this rink transforms into a captivating oasis during the Christmas holidays. The ice glistens under the radiant Christmas lights adorning the square, creating an absolutely magical ambiance. The rink is open to all, free of charge, and skate rentals are available on-site for a fee.
Oslo also caters to adventurous skaters who yearn to explore frozen lakes. Maridalsvannet, Bogstadvannet, Østensjøvannet, Sognsvann, and Nøklevann are some of the city’s renowned lakes that freeze during the winter, offering a unique opportunity to relish the thrill of skating amidst the stunning natural backdrop. However, it’s crucial to exercise caution and ensure that the ice is safe before embarking on this exhilarating adventure.
Oslo Fjord Cruise
Undoubtedly, one of the most captivating things to do in Oslo during the Christmas season is a cruise along the tranquil waters of the Oslo Fjords. This experience offers a unique perspective of the city, allowing you to venture onto the serene waters surrounding Oslo while enjoying breathtaking views of its key attractions, harbor, and stunning coastline.
As you sail along the coast, you’ll be enchanted by the picturesque coves and scenic bays that characterize this region. The cruise will also bring you close to a striking, solitary lighthouse that stands out against the horizon, adding an element of mystery to your adventure. On your journey, you’ll navigate through an intricate maze of islands, each adorned with charming, colorful wooden houses, creating a scene straight out of a Christmas postcard. Surrounded by unspoiled natural beauty, with snow-capped landscapes and crystal-clear waters reflecting the wintry Christmas sky, you’ll feel immersed in a magical wonderland.
A highlight of this excursion is the opportunity to spot numerous seabirds inhabiting the fjord, including the majestic white-tailed sea eagle, a symbol of the power and beauty of Norwegian nature. To fully enhance your experience, it is advisable to book this cruise well in advance, as it is exceedingly popular, and reservations fill up quickly during the festive Christmas season. If you’re looking to make this experience even more memorable, consider the option of an evening cruise. This tour includes a delectable dinner allowing you to savor local cuisine as you glide through the Oslo Fjords. It’s a unique opportunity to fully immerse yourself in the culture and beauty of Christmas in Oslo.
Vigeland Park is a magnificent creation entirely conceived and constructed by Gustav Vigeland, one of the region’s most renowned artists. This park is an essential destination for anyone visiting the Norwegian capital, even during the winter. One of the defining features of Vigeland Park is its remarkable collection of over 200 sculptures, all crafted by Gustav Vigeland himself. These masterpieces date back to 1900 and serve as a remarkable testament to the artist’s creative genius. Among the park’s primary attractions, you will encounter a granite bridge adorned with statues of men, a majestic bronze fountain, a 17-meter-high obelisk adorned with 121 human figures, and the evocative Wheel of Life.
During winter, especially when the park is blanketed in snow, the landscape assumes an even more enchanting and fairy-tale-like ambiance. You’ll feel as though you’ve stepped into a monochromatic world populated by granite and bronze statues, as well as the striking headpieces of Viking dragons, creating an extraordinary visual experience.
If Vigeland’s captivating works within the park aren’t enough for you, a visit to the small Vigelandsmuseet is highly recommended. In this museum, you will encounter all the tests, drawings, studies, models, and plaster copies of the original statues found in the park, all on display. It presents a unique opportunity to fully immerse yourself in the artistry and mind of Gustav Vigeland, gaining a deeper understanding of his creative process and the evolution of his works over time.
Skiing in Oslo
For winter sports enthusiasts, Oslo offers a myriad of opportunities, with an essential stop being a visit to Holmenkollen. Located in the northern part of the city, just 10 kilometers from the center, this hill is a true paradise for ski lovers. One of Holmenkollen’s highlights is the famous Holmenkollbakken Ski Jump, which proudly holds the title of the oldest ski jumping hill in the world. This iconic venue not only provides the chance to witness top-level ski jumping competitions but also offers the thrill of sliding off the ski jump for the bravest adventurers.
However, Holmenkollen is not just about the ski jump. Here, you’ll discover a biathlon stadium where athletes combine cross-country skiing and shooting, along with numerous cross-country ski trails that wind through enchanted forests and snow-covered landscapes. It stands as one of Norway’s primary centers for Nordic skiing and hosts one of the most prestigious competitions, the Holmenkollen Trophy (Holmenkollrennene or Holmenkollen skifestival), with a tradition dating back to 1892. Attending or witnessing this event is a unique experience that will immerse you in the authentic atmosphere of Norwegian skiing.
If you’re looking to learn how to ski or perfect your skills, Oslo Vinterpark is the ideal place. Here, you can participate in private ski courses and lessons suitable for all skill levels, for both adults and children. The incredible thing is that you can take lessons both during the day and in the evening, thanks to the illuminated slopes, allowing you to ski even after dark. Whether you’re interested in cross-country skiing, alpine skiing, telemark, or snowboarding, the experienced instructors speak English, French and German, ensuring you can enjoy the experience without any language barriers.
Relaxing Sauna with a View
For an authentic and unforgettable Norwegian experience, don’t miss the opportunity to enjoy a floating sauna on Langkaia Pier, opposite the Oslo Opera House. KOK floating saunas offer a unique experience where you can relax and warm up while sailing in the majestic Norwegian fjord. Their two welcoming boats can accommodate groups of 10-14 people, allowing you to share this special moment with friends or participate in a shared experience with others. However, the highlight of this experience is undoubtedly the exhilarating plunge into the freezing sea, an invigorating experience that will energize you and make you feel truly alive.
If you prefer a larger sauna and a lively atmosphere, head to Langkaia Pier to discover SALT. This wooden structure, designed by renowned architect Sami Rintala, offers a variety of experiences, including events, concerts, and, of course, group saunas. Norway’s largest sauna can accommodate up to 100 people at a toasty 80 degrees Celsius. Outside, you’ll also find spacious cherry wood barrels transformed into 90-degree saunas. Inside, cozy spaces await where you can sit by the fireplace and savor a hot chocolate or cocktail.
3 Beautiful Day Trips to Do at Christmas in Oslo
Christmas Village in Bærums Verk
As the Advent season approaches, the idyllic Bærums Verk village, nestled just 20 km away from Oslo, undergoes a captivating transformation into a Christmas wonderland. This hidden gem in the Oslo region is renowned for hosting a traditional Christmas market that ranks among the finest and most enchanting in the entire area.
Wandering through Bærums Verk‘s charming cobbled streets, you’ll encounter quaint wooden houses and ancient artisan workshops where time-honored crafts like ironwork, glassblowing, and woodworking come to life. During the Christmas season, the village awakens with the warm glow of twinkling lights, festive decorations, and the irresistible aroma of local culinary delights. While here, you can enjoy a delightful ride on a horse-drawn carriage or even hop on ponies for a memorable experience. Engage in Christmas-themed workshops and explore the artful sculptures thoughtfully scattered throughout the village.
To reach Bærums Verk, you can conveniently drive or take bus 150 from Oslo Central Bus Station, ensuring easy access to this magical Christmas destination.
Christmas at Hadeland Glassverk
Nestled amidst the idyllic Norwegian hills, a mere 40 kilometers north of Oslo, lies the esteemed Hadeland Glassverk. This captivating destination serves as the backdrop for an extraordinary celebration that ushers in the Christmas season in the most spectacular fashion. Each year, Hadeland Glassverk undergoes a magical transformation, as its charming park and quaint old wooden houses are bathed in the radiance of 50,000 twinkling lights. This enchanting spectacle, known as the “Festival of Lights”, is inaugurated by the Region’s Governor and sets the stage for the Advent season’s warm embrace.
However, the allure of Christmas at Hadeland Glassverk extends far beyond the dazzling lights. Inside the indoor market, an inviting and cozy atmosphere welcomes you with a plethora of activities for both adults and children. Here, you can savor delectable Norwegian Christmas sweets and peruse an extraordinary array of glassware, perfect for elegant holiday gifts. Make sure not to forgo the opportunity to explore the historic glassworks, founded in 1762, and representing the oldest continuously operating industrial company in the region. The Glass Museum, Scandinavia’s largest, houses an impressive collection of creations spanning 250 years, narrating the craft and artistic heritage of Hadeland.
Within the glassworks, visitors of all ages can partake in the mesmerizing glassblowing process and craft their very own unique Christmas ornaments. For added excitement, embark on a delightful sleigh ride through the enchantingly decorated Christmas-themed village or glide gracefully on an indoor ice rink. And if you seek holiday gift inspiration, rest assured that Hadeland Glassverk has all your needs covered. Nine stores offer an exquisite selection to adorn your holiday table, featuring glass, china, fabrics, tableware, decor, and elegant gift items.
Nestled just an hour’s drive away from Oslo, Blaafarveværket Museum offer a captivating journey through history. This unique museum’s roots trace back to the cobalt mines, once pivotal to the ceramic and glass industries of bygone centuries. Established in 1773, these mines played a vital role in cobalt pigment production, yet by 1857, economic turmoil and competition from synthetic dyes led to their closure. Remarkably, they continued to operate until 1898, when circumstances forced their shutdown.
In 1978, after an 80-year hiatus, Blaafarveværket was reborn as an expansive open-air museum. Here, visitors are treated to an immersive experience, exploring the ancient cobalt mines and a reconstructed village, a testament to the lives of the miners. The museum also boasts two delightful restaurants and charming shops, making it an ideal destination for a leisurely day out.
Throughout the summer season, the museum opens its doors until September, with the cobalt mines accessible into October. Additionally, during the Advent period, Blaafarveværket transforms into a festive wonderland. Local specialties, including biscuits, sausages, herring, and cheeses aged in the mines, fill the air with delicious aromas. And for those seeking unique souvenirs, the museum offers an array of cobalt blue glass products crafted with pigments sourced from these historic mines.
What is the weather like in Oslo during Christmas?
Oslo’s winter climate is defined by cold temperatures and limited daylight hours, although it is moderated by the influence of the Atlantic Ocean. Situated in the far south of Norway, Oslo enjoys a humid continental climate, setting it apart from the more extreme climates found in the country’s northern regions and areas farther from the coast. In comparison to other parts of Norway, Oslo experiences milder winter conditions.
The contrast can be substantial: when I lived near Tromsø, temperatures frequently plummeted below -20°C. In Oslo, typically throughout the winter months of December, January and February, average temperatures hover between -5°C and -7°C. However, it’s worth noting that temperatures can occasionally dip well below these averages, occasionally reaching -10°C or even -15°C.
So, it may be chillier than what you’re accustomed to, necessitating appropriate clothing choices. Layering is key, with a snug, insulated coat or parka, preferably wind-resistant. Opt for warm trousers and comfortable, insulated shoes, preferably water-resistant with non-slip soles. Don’t forget to pack gloves and a hat as essentials!
One notable aspect of winter in Oslo is the limited daylight hours. During December, Oslo only experiences slightly over an hour of daylight each day, resulting in prolonged periods of darkness. This can significantly impact your daily routines and outdoor activities. While the optimal time to visit Oslo is during the summer, the city still exudes its unique charm during the Christmas season!
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FAQs about Christmas in Oslo
Is Oslo worth visiting at Christmas?
Visiting Oslo during Christmas is undoubtedly one of the best times to experience the city’s charm. It offers a cozy atmosphere, and compared to the bustling summer months, it is notably less crowded and quieter. While summer is undeniably the prime season for Oslo, the shoulder seasons also have their appeal. Winter, on the other hand, may not be the most ideal time to explore Oslo due to the cold weather and limited daylight hours.
However, December stands out as a fantastic exception. During this month, you can immerse yourself in the enchanting Christmas ambiance of Norway, savor delightful seasonal cuisine, and explore a multitude of activities and attractions. Additionally, Oslo becomes a paradise for skiing enthusiasts during this time!
Does Oslo have Christmas Markets?
Yes, Oslo has some nice Christmas Markets. The most famous and largest is held in the heart of the city, offering a plethora of family attractions, including a large amusement park with a Ferris wheel, an ice rink, a children’s playground, and dozens of stalls. There are also other Christmas Markets scattered throughout the city center and surrounding areas. You can find all the details and everything you need to know in our guide to the Oslo Christmas Markets!
What is open in Oslo on Christmas?
Christmas in Oslo is a public holiday, so most supermarkets and shops are closed, as well as most public and private offices and banks. Most businesses remain closed on 25–26 December and 1 January. Christmas Eve and December 31st are not public holidays, but shops usually close early, typically around 4 pm at the latest. Some of the most important museums, such as the MUNCH Museum, usually remain open.
Does it snow in Oslo at Christmas?
Contrary to what one might expect, snow is not a certainty in Oslo at Christmas. In December, there may be some snowfall, but while it will certainly be quite cold and icy, there may not be any snow. The climate is a bit milder and less snowy than in the surrounding villages, which are located in the mountains or in the cold hinterland.
If you want to experience a snowy Christmas near Oslo, you could simply hop on the Oslo to Bergen railway. This scenic journey takes you to idyllic snow-capped plateaus and mountain villages that are popular for cross-country skiing. The mountains near Oslo are also renowned for skiing, and for villages with a snowy and cozy atmosphere, you can visit the ancient mining town of Røros and the city of Lillehammer, which are respectively almost 400 and 200 km from Oslo. They’re not as close, but relatively closer than the snow-covered regions in the North.