Norway is known for its incredible natural beauty and its flowing fjords framed by sheer snow-capped mountains and luscious greenery truly are a sight to behold.
What’s more, Norway is one of the few places you can witness the spectacle that is the northern lights in its true glory. With excellent fishing and hiking opportunities throughout the country too, it’s easy to see why it’s a nature lovers’ paradise.
But there’s more to Norway than its outstanding landscapes. It also has a very high standard of living, with low crime rates, excellent educations, and awesome healthcare systems. Its cities are teeming with cultural events, and there are plenty of old fishing towns with tonnes of points of interest for any history buffs out there.
You might have to acclimatize yourself to some unusual daylight hours (depending on where you set up camp), and you’ll certainly have to brace yourself for some bitter winters. Plus, living in Norway certainly is not cheap – but at least the wages are so high they make up for it.
If you can handle the high prices and cold weather, Norway really does have a lot to offer. So, in case you’re thinking about taking the plunge and moving there for a while, we’ve put together this list of the best places to live in Norway – enjoy!
Best for: Culture close to nature
Region: Western Norway
When you think of living in Norway, there are probably two things that spring to mind – colorful quirky cities and incredible natural landscapes. You might think that you have to live in the middle of nowhere to have access to some of Norway’s finest fjords and mountains… but guess what? If you live in Bergen, you don’t have to choose – you’ll get the best of both worlds.
Bergen, often referred to as ‘the gateway to the Fjords of Norway’, is located on Norway’s western coast, halfway between the Sognefjord Hardangerfjord.
This makes it an ideal base from which to explore either fjord, and a visit to the fjords is an incredible experience that offers some incredible sights – you’ll find snow-topped mountains, deep rivers, and hundreds of babbling brooks, and tumbling waterfalls in the surrounding areas.
In fact, the fjords in the west of the country are so impressive that they’re often described as the most beautiful fjords in the world, and they’ve earned themselves a place on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
The city of Bergen itself is also packed with fun-filled activities, and top things to do there include taking a spin on the Fløibanen funicular for great views of the surrounding countryside and hitting up the Bergen Aquarium, which is the largest in the whole of Norway.
For a blast from the past, you can check out the area of Bryggen, a historic harbor district with some fantastic architecture (yet another UNESCO World Heritage Site). It’s also home to various universities, one of which is the Bergen National Academy of the Arts, and you’ll find some awesome street art throughout the city.
This city is safe and very welcoming to foreigners who move there to start a new life. What’s more, the cost of education for children is lower here than in some of Norway’s more urban cities, although general living costs remain very high – but at least the job market here is fairly prosperous.
Overall, a range of cultural attractions, low crime rates, and a generally positive attitude to foreigners, combined with a great education system, make this a great place to live in Norway as a family. Oh, just make sure you pack an umbrella (or five) because you’ll more rainy days here than elsewhere in Norway!
Best for: A unique way of life
Region: Northern Norway
If you want to experience life in the far north of Norway, then you should definitely check out Tromso, situated in the Article Circle itself. As the capital of northern Norway, Tromso is teeming cultural events, including its famous film festival.
What’s more, the city is an architect’s dream (or perhaps a carpenter’s), with various wooden buildings from years gone by, including the only wooden cathedral you’ll find in the whole of Norway.
Life here will certainly take some getting used to – from November to January the sun doesn’t rise here at all while from May to July it remains a permanent feature in the sky. You might think that this rather unusual seasonal lighting might get people down, but the people of Tromso do handle this situation remarkably well.
Perhaps this is because they spend a lot of time in nature – boat tours, fishing trips, and northern lights expeditions are just a few things you can get up to (or just good old-fashioned hiking) while you explore the nearby fjords and mountain ranges.
There’s a university here, great healthcare, and very low crime. There are also plenty of jobs, which might be why its population continues to grow steadily year after year. If you’re after a peaceful, cultural existence, and are p for experimenting with extreme light variations, then this is definitely the place to be.
Best for: Affordable living and historical buildings
Region: Southern Norway
If you’re keen to live in Norway but are put off by some of the sky-high prices you’ll find in its major cities, then the town of Fredrikstad could the destination for you.
While it’s not necessarily cheap compared to European standards, accommodation there is certainly more economical than in the rest of Norway. Healthcare is excellent too, although you won’t find as many jobs here as elsewhere.
Located in the south of Norway, this charming town is located at the mouth of Norway’s longest river, the Glomma, and the river making its way through the old-fashioned buildings certainly makes it one pretty place to live – in fact, it won the national award for being the most attractive city in 2017.
The historical roots of the town are incredibly well preserved (it’s actually the best looked after a fortified city in northern Europe) and you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time as you wander through the cobbled streets taking in the sights of building and fortifications from years gone by.
Granted, there might not be quite as much to do here as in some of the busier cities, which put some younger fold off moving here. However, Fredrikstad is only an hour’s drive from Oslo, so you can always pop over there for a weekend if you start to get cabin fever, and things do liven up during the summer months went the town hosts various events and music festivals.
Best for: Jobs and city vibes
Location: Southeast Norway
No list of the best places to live in Norway is complete without a shoutout to the countries capital, Oslo. You’ve probably heard a lot about Oslow already – it’s one of Europe’s most sought-after cities… but also one of the most expensive to live in.
Packed full of bars, restaurants, and other amenities, Oslow is an awesome place for people who just love that classic city lifestyle. It’s trendy and loads of fun for young people, with loads of old buildings being converted into hip hangouts and various creative events being held here.
Yet despite its trendy urban vibes, it’s also full of cultural attractions, such as the Akershus Fortress, which has been around since medieval times, an opera and ballet house, and tonnes and tonnes of museums. In fact, check out our previous article on ‘what is Oslo famous for’ if you want some more details.
Despite being a thriving city, Oslo has some excellent nature right on its doorstep, with the Nordmarka Forests less than half an hour away from the city, Oslow fjord running through the city itself (and offering great chances to go kayaking, fishing, and more), and tonnes of green spaces littered throughout the city.
So, what’s the catch? If you’ve ever thought about a holiday to Oslow you probably know this already – it’s the price. Oslo has a very high standard of living, but there’s no escaping paying for it.
If you’re thinking of moving there with a family and want a spacious play to stay, you’ll need to have a big savings pot or a very well paid job to make it work – although the saving grace is that there are plenty of jobs going in Oslo and they tend to be very well paid to make up for the high cost of living.
Best for: Jobs and city vibes
Location: Southeast Norway
Located on the coast in the southeast of Norway, Arendal has a classic laid-back coastal vibe. The harbor is a predominant feature and the town remains a major fishing port. It also features old-school wooden buildings, including the town hall, which is comprised of four different stories, making one impressive building overall.
Being so close to the coast, this is a great town for water enthusiasts, and there are ample opportunities for fishing and swimming. What’s more, there’s some splendid countryside around the Arendal Region, and the Raet National Park is definitely worth a visit.
A chilled atmosphere and plenty of outdoor space make this a great location for anyone with little ones, but it’s surprisingly expensive so make sure you’re financially prepared. It might not have tonnes to offer in terms of nightlife, but there’s are plenty of music festivals and art exhibitions to keep you entertained, especially during the summer months (see here for upcoming events).
Best for: City life with a reasonable price tag
Location: West Norway
If you’re after a thriving city oozing with nightlife, fine food (including three Michelin-starred restaurants), and cultural forms of entertainment, then look no further than Stavanger.
Old Stavanger is full of classic wooden buildings, and wandering around its cobbled streets is a great way to get a sense of how things used to be in Norway. There are also loads of museums for you to check out, including one on petroleum for anyone so inclined, and a medieval cathedral in the city center – I guess it’s not surprising Stavenger won the city of culture award in 2008.
The shoreline, lakes, mountains, fjords, and forests nearby mean that you can get out and enjoy some of Norway’s finest natural landscapes without having to venture far from the city, winning.
Plus, unlike many of Norway’s major cities, this one isn’t as expensive as the others – prices dropped after the oil crash of 2014, which might be bad news for locals but it’s good news if you’re thinking of snapping up any property in the area.
Best for: Nature lovers
Location: West Norway
Last, but by no means least, on our list of the best places to live in Norway is Alesund.
This is a great town for anyone with a love of fishing or the sea in general – it’s Norway’s man fishing harbor, features an excellent aquarium, and attracts many marine biologists to its university. There are also tonnes of land-based activities for fans of the outdoors, including some awesome mountainous hikes in the area.
What’s more, it’s an extremely safe place, even by Norweigan standards (which are very high), and is particularly open to foreigners. This welcoming attitude extends further, and Alesund hosts various LGBT festivals, parties, and events.
The nightlife does leave somewhat to be desired, and we wouldn’t recommend moving there if you’re a party animal at heart. Plus, despite being a small, sleepy town, the cost of living is surprisingly high. However, if safety, nature, and a welcoming attitude are important to you, then it’s probably worth the price.
Okay, there you have it – the best places to live in Norway. There really is quite a range of locations out there, and which one is right for you will probably come down to a whole bunch of factors, such as whether you’re a city person or more into the outdoors, what your budget is like, and whether you’re moving solo or with a family.
Wherever you chose to set up camp though, you’ll never be too far from some incredible natural landscapes, cultural cities, and sleep laidback towns – you can always move to one and spend your holidays in another!
Anna is the co-owner of expert world travel and can't wait to share her travel experience with the world. With over 54 countries under her belt she has a lot to write about! Including those insane encounters with black bears in Canada.