Norway; the land of the midnight sun, a thousand waterfalls, the magical northern lights, fjords and coastal islands and nature lover’s paradise. What many people fail to recognize are the urban hubs in Norway. Norway’s land makes up approximately 241,000 square miles (including Svalbard) and their population just recently reached 5 million inhabitants in 2012. For comparison, Wisconsin on the other hand covers 65,000 square miles which is just about a third of Norway’s entire landmass. Wisconsin’s population on the other hand tops out at 5.6 million people which surpass Norway by over half of a million. The country’s topography is dominated by mountains, fjords and glaciers implicating that the 5 million people dwell primarily in small towns and bigger cities. A third of the population dwells in the six biggest cities ranging in population of almost 1 million in Oslo to 100,000 in Drammen. Let’s take a look at the four biggest cities in Norway.
Norway’s capital city of Oslo is a beautiful seaport cradled in the southern mountains and buzzing with plenty of museums and restaurants, along with an abundance of free attractions and easy to use transportation. Oslo is the largest city in Norway with an urban population of approximately 950,000. Oslo is a must see when visiting Norway and, because of its airport and location, the city is often the startup location for anyone’s tour through Norway. Karl Johan’s Gate is the main street filled with shops, bars and restaurants leading up to King Harald and Queen Sonja’s Royal Palace where you can catch the popular Changing of the Guards every day at 1:30pm. Don’t miss out on the free visits to Vigeland Park and the new Oslo Opera House. Don’t forget to take a walk down the bryggen and take time to see the old Akershus castle. Check out the official travel guide to Oslo for specific information on museums, transportation, nightlife and more.
The west coast city of Bergen is the second largest city in Norway with a “greater” population of nearly 400,000. Bergen is a culturally rich city with a long history as an early 14th century trading port, now sited on the UNESCO’s World Heritage List. Bergen’s famous fish market is full of fresh fish, fruits, vegetables, flowers and more and is a hotspot for both locals and tourists. This beautiful harbor town is surrounded by mountains and is home to the famous Fløibanen Funicular which takes sightseers up Fløyen Mountain to see the view over Bergen and the natural wonders beyond. With an easy to use public transportation system, this laid back city has something to offer almost anyone. Visit the official website for Bergen at visitBergen.com.
The west coast city of Stavanger is typically associated with the oil industry and the headquarters of Norway’s largest company, Statoil. Greater Stavanger has a population of nearly 200,000 making it the third largest city in Norway. Its small size and old style charm offer tourists a unique experience. Visit the famous Norwegian Petroleum Museum and take a look at the history behind Norway’s riches, its oil found just off Stavanger’s coast. Take a short trip outside the city to Prekestolen (The Pulpit Rock) just above Lysefjord and hike up to the top to dangle your feet over one of the most recognizable rocks in Norway. The cobblestone streets and old wooden homes will take your breath away in this delightful coastal city.
Norway’s central city of Trondheim is definitely a college town, home to The Norwegian University of Science and Technology and is surrounded with plenty to do and see. The city is the fourth largest in Norway and has a population of 170,000. With students included the number spikes to nearly 200,000. Trondheim was a religious hub for Europe during the Middle Ages and its iconic Nidaros Cathedral has been around for over 700 years. Be sure to walk over the Old Town Bridge and under the Lykkens Portal for good luck. With its rich history dating back to the Viking Age, Trondheim offers plenty of museums and walking tours. Because of its large population of college students there are an abundance of good restaurants, music concerts, cultural findings and nightlife. Check out Your Guide to Trondheim.