70 Stunning Facts about Norway

By Karin Lehnardt, Senior Writer
Published August 21, 2016Updated October 14, 2016
  • Norway’s formal name is Kongeriket Norge (Kingdom of Norway).[12]
  • Norway was originally called Nordweg, meaning the “Northern Way.”[6]
  • Norway’s national symbol is the lion.[12]
  • Norway has a total area of 125,021 square miles (323,802 square km), which includes Bouvet, Jan Mayen, and Svalbard Islands.[12]
  • Norway’s flag is red with a blue cross outlined in white that extends to the ends of the flag. The vertical part of the flag is shifted to the hoist side in the style of the Dannebrog (Danish flag). The colors recall Norway’s past political unions with Denmark (red and white) and Sweden (blue).[12]
  • Beerenberg, at 7,306 feet (2,227 m), on Jan Mayen Island in the Norwegian Sea, is the Norway’s only active volcano.[12]
  • In December 2010, the Norwegian newspaper Aftenpost claimed to have gotten hold of Julian Assange’s Wikileaks’ purported 250,000 confidential U.S. Embassy cables.[17]
  • The Norwegian cheese slicer has remained nearly unchanged since it was invented in 1925
  • The cheese slicer was invented in Norway in 1925 by Thor Bjørklund.[9]
  • The Lærdal Tunnel is the world’s longest road tunnel at 15 miles (24.5 km).[16]
  • In Norway, you can buy alcoholic beverages only from stores named Vinmonopolet. There are only two in each city, and none in the countryside.[2]
  • Norwegian Erik Rotheim invented the forerunner of the can-and-aerosol system we known as the aerosol spray can. He was granted a patent for his invention in Norway on October 8, 1926.[9]
  • The official Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square in London has come from Norway every year since 1946.[14]
  • If you own a television in Norway, you have to pay an annual licensing fee of US $480.66.[1]
  • Minnesota is the unofficial Norwegian capital of the United States, and more Norwegians live in Minnesota than in any other state.[2]
  • Modern skiing has its origins in the county of Telemark in the 19th century, but an ancient rock carving at Rødøy in Nordland county shows that Norwegians used skis as far back as 4,000 years ago. The oldest preserved ski excavated is a 2,300-year old one found in Finnmark in far northern Norway.[15]
  • In the 1870s and 1880s, Sondre Norheim of Telemark, began using stiff ski bindings that enabled him to swing and jump without the risk of falling off. He also designed a “waisted,” or Telemark, ski, which was the prototype for the modern ski. Norheim combined ordinary skiing with jumping and slalom and impressed his countrymen at the first national cross-country ski race held in Oslo in 1867.[15]
  • Norway is the world’s leading producer of Atlantic salmon and the second largest seafood exporter in the world
  • Norway is the world’s largest exporter of salmon.[12]
  • Norwegian Jon Torsteinson Rue, a.k.a. “Snowshoe Thompson,” from Telemark County, emigrated to the U.S. and maintained the only winter mail route over the Sierra Nevada Mountains, from 1856 to 1876. Telemark ski designer Sondre Norheim also promoted the sport of skiing in the U.S. when he emigrated in 1884.[15]
  • The word “slalom” (slalåm) originated in Morgedal, Norway, home of Telemark ski designer Sondre Norheim. The first syllable, sla, means “slope, hill, or smooth surface,” while låm is the track down the slope. The normal slalom was a cross-country run over fields, hills, and stone walls, weaving among thickets. Slalom was first contested as an Olympic sport at the 1936 Winter Olympic Games in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, where Norwegian Schou Nilsen won a Bronze medal in the Women’s combined event.[16]
  • Grandiosa frozen pizza is Norway’s unofficial national dish.[11]
  • Norway is not a formal member of the European Union, having opted out during a referendum in November 1994.[4]
  • Grimstad, Norway, was the home of playwright Henrik Ibsen and is also the sunniest place in Norway.[16]
  • Trondheim, Norway, was one of Europe’s first wireless cities.[15]
  • Kirkenes, Norway, is as far east as Cairo, farther east than Finland, and only 9 miles (15 km) from the Russian border.[15]
  • Sognefjorden is the largest fjord in Norway and third largest in the world. It is the longest ice-free fjord in the world and stretches 127 miles (205 km) inland from the ocean.[16]
  • The Sognefjord is Norway's longest fjord, and one of its arms, the Nærøyfjord, is on UNESCO's World Heritage List
  • Hammerfest proclaims itself as the world’s northernmost town; however, the village of Nordkapp bills itself as the northernmost point in Europe. The settlement is nearer to the North Pole than to Oslo and sits at 71°10′ 21″ N, where the sun never drops below the horizon from mid-May until the end of July. Even though Nordkapp claims the distinction, the actual northernmost geographical point in continental Europe is Knivskjelodden. It is 3 km west of Nordkapp, but it sticks its finger 4,780 feet (1,457 m) farther northward.[15]
  • Although the first mention of Svalbard Island is in an Icelandic saga from A.D. 1194, the official discovery of Svalbard belongs to Dutch explorer William Barents, for whom the Barents Sea is named. He named the island Spitsbergen (Sharp Mountains). The Norwegian name, Svalbard, comes from Old Norse for “cold coast.” The 1902 Treaty of Svalbard granted Norway sovereignty over the island.[15]
  • Norway greatly impacted Western civilization during the Viking age, a period usually dated from the plundering of England’s Lindisfarne Monastery by Nordic pirates in A.D. 793.[10]
  • Norway’s Hardangervidda Plateau is the biggest mountain plateau in Europe and home to the continent’s largest herd of wild reindeer.[15]
  • The Norwegians founded Dublin, Ireland, in A.D. 836.d[4]
  • Exiled from Norway and then banished from Iceland for three years for murder, Erik the Red set out in A.D. 985 with 25 ships, 14 of which arrived in Greenland, where two communities developed.[4]
  • The Norwegian government highly taxes gas to convince people to keep their cars at home and to use public transportation instead
  • Norway has the highest gasoline prices in the world at US$9.79 per gallon, even though Norway is one the biggest exporters of oil in the world.[8]
  • Exiled from Norway and then banished from Iceland for three years for murder, Erik the Red set out in A.D. 985 with 25 ships, 14 of which arrived in Greenland, where two communities developed.[4]
  • Norway’s first Christian king, Olav Haraldsson, was killed by an alliance of farmers and landowners at Stiklestad, the first major Norwegian land battle. In A.D.1035, Olav’s son Sweyn was made king, and Olav was eventually canonized as St. Olaf, Norway’s Patron Saint. St. Olav’s remains were reinterred at Nidaros, today’s Trondheim.[4]
  • It was during the reign of Olav Kyrre the Peaceful that Norway built its stave churches, wooden structures resembling an upturned keel, which were lavishly decorated with dragon heads and scenes from heathen mythology.[4]
  • A 1910 U.S. Census recorded 800,000 of its inhabitants as either Norwegians or natives of Norwegian parents.[5]
  • Edvard Grieg, Norway’s most famous composer, was inspired by Old Norwegian folk melodies and composed some of his most famous suites for Henrik Ibsen’s Peer Gynt, including “In the Hall of the Mountain King.” Grieg was at the center of Oslo musical life between 1866 and 1874, and his debut concert was the first to consist entirely of works by Norwegian composers.[15]
  • Edvard Munch was a Norwegian painter and printmaker, who is famous for his painting The Scream (1893).[15]
  • Sig, Norman, and Edgar Hansen of Discovery Channel’s popular reality series Deadliest Catch learned how to fish the waters of the Bering Sea from their Norwegian-born father, Sverre Hansen, who died in 2001, just before Deadliest Catch became a smash success and made his sons and his boat, The Northwestern, into celebrities.[3]
  • According to the 2013 Global Peace Index, Norway is one of the most peaceful countries in the world, ranking 11th out of 162 countries.[7]
  • Norway has been ranked as the world's most peaceful country
  • The most celebrated act of resistance in Norway during World War II was the sabotage, by members of the Scottish-trained Norwegian military resistance, of the Vemork heavy water plant at Rjukan, in Telemark County, in February 1943. The production of the heavy water in the plant was a race which, if not stopped, could have conceivably given Adolf Hitler the atomic bomb.[15]
  • Norway was one of the founding nations of the United Nations in 1945, and the first U.N. Secretary-General was Norwegian Foreign Minister, Trygve Lie.[4]
  • Norway has two official languages: Riksmål or Bokmål (book language), a modification of the old Dano-Norwegian tongue left over from the days of Danish dominance, and Nynorsk (or Landsmål), which was developed with the 19th century upsurge of Norwegian nationalism and is based on the Old Norse dialects that came before. Bokmål is most commonly used.[4]
  • The Sami constitute approximately 1% of Norwegian population. They are an ancient ethnic people with their own language and culture. Only 7% are employed in herding reindeer. Half of the world’s Sami population of 70,000 live in Norway.[6]
  • Troldhaugen, Norway, is the home of composer Edvard Grieg as well as having the aquarium with the largest collection of saltwater fish in Europe.[6]
  • Snorre Sturluson’s Heimskringla (The History of Kings), written in the Old Norse Period (A.D. 750–1300), is still a bestseller in Norway today.[6]
  • The Petsamo–Kirkenes Offensive was a major military offensive during World War II
  • During World War II, the Norwegian mining town of Kirkenes suffered more bomb attacks than any other place in Europe except for Malta.[4]
  • Sigrid Undset, Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson, and Knut Hamsun are all Norwegians authors who have won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Norway’s most famous author, playwright Henrik Ibsen, did not.[15]
  • Norwegian actor/singer Øystein Wiik has played the part of Jean Valjean in Les Misérables in Oslo, Vienna, London, and Munich.[15]
  • The Norwegian pop music group A-ha wrote the title song for the 1988 James Bond film The Living Daylights.[15]
  • Nils Gaup’s film Veiviseren (The Pathfinder) was built on Sami folklore from the Middle Ages and performed in the Sami language. It was nominated for an Academy Award for best foreign film in 1987.[15]
  • Norway’s national drink is akevitt, or aquavit. It is a potato-based spirit seasoned with caraway seeds or sometimes dill, fennel, cumin, star anise, or orange peel. Akevitt was derived in 1831 from a whisky created by Eske Bille, and sent to Archbishop Olav Engelbrektsson, as aqua vitae (water of life)—a cure for all ills. There is one brand of akevitt, called Linje Akevitt, which is shipped to Australia to mature and then back to Norway. The word linje is added because the akevitt crosses the Equator.[15]
  • The Norwegian Postal Service was established in 1647. The first Norwegian stamp was issued in 1855. There are about 2,640 post offices in Norway, from Ny-Ålesund on Svalbard in the north to Lindesnes in the south.[6]
  • Norway boasts of a very famous hot chocolate factory, Freia, immortalized in Norwegian-American author Roald Dahl’s book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Freia chocolate was one of the main sources of sustenance for Roald Amundsen on his journey to the South Pole. Amundsen planted the Norwegian flag at the South Pole in 1911 as the first man to reach the South Pole.[15]
  • Norway's famous hot chocolate factory, Freia, is immortalized in Norwegian-American author Roald Dahl’s book, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
  • In 1990, Norway established a permanent research station, named Troll, in the Antarctic.[6]
  • Bouvet Island, in the South Atlantic Ocean, is the most remote island on earth. Since 1929, Norway has administratively controlled the uninhabited island. In 1971, Norway designated the island and the adjacent territorial waters a nature reserve. Since 1977, Norway has run an automated meteorological station and studied foraging strategies and distribution of seals and penguins on the island.[12]
  • In 1986, Norwegian Monica Kristensen received the prestigious Gold Medal of the Royal Geographical Society in London, becoming the first woman in 50 years to receive this award, for leading a successful expedition to the South Pole.[15]
  • In January 1993, Norway’s Erling Kagge became the first man to go alone and entirely unaided to the South Pole.[15]
  • In 1947, Norway’s Thor Heyerdahl gathered a small group of Scandinavians, built a replica of a Peruvian log raft, named it Kon-Tiki, and set off on a 97-day voyage into international fame. He wanted to test his theory that the Polynesian peoples actually originated from the Americas and sailed west to settle the Pacific Islands.[16]
  • Norway has won about 2 times as many medals in the Winter Olympics than in the Summer Olympics
  • Norway has won more medals in the Winter Olympics than any other country, with 332 to date since the first Winter Olympic Games in 1924. Ole Einar Bjøerndalen, a cross-country skier, is the most decorated Winter Olympian, with 13 total medals. Norway has hosted the Winter Olympics twice: Oslo in 1952 and Lillehammer in 1988.[13]
  • Norwegian King Olav V won an Olympic gold medal in sailing in 1928 and was an active sailor all his life.[15]
  • In 1895, Alfred Nobel, the Swedish founder of the Nobel Prizes, stipulated that the Peace Prize was to be awarded by a committee appointed by the Storting, the Norwegian governing body. The Norwegian Peace Prize Selection Committee selects a Peace Prize winner every year. The award ceremony takes place each year on December 10, the anniversary of Alfred Nobel’s death, and celebrations are held on that date both in Stockholm and Oslo.[15]
  • Coffee came to Norway about 280 years ago, but it wasn’t generally accepted until the 1870s. Today, Norwegians are among the world’s biggest consumers of coffee per inhabitant.[15]
  • In July 1825, the ship Restauration left Norway’s Bergen Harbor with 52 crew and passengers who would be the first Norwegians to emigrate to the U.S. The ship arrived in New York in October 1825, and most of the families who made the crossing settled on the shores of Lake Ontario. Over the next three generations, over 750,000 Norwegians would immigrate to North America.[15]
  • Norway’s Bjarni Herjólfsson, after losing his way while sailing from Iceland to Greenland in A.D. 986, ended up, according to an ancient saga, as the first European to sight the American continent.[15]
  • Norwegian explorer Fridtjof Nansen established his reputation in 1888 with a hazardous crossing of Greenland from east to west, recounted in his The First Crossing of Greenland. He later won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1922.[15]
  • Norwegians are avid book lovers
  • Norwegians read more than any other population in the world, spending an average of 500 kroner (~ US$76) a year per capita on books. More than 2,000 book titles are published annually in Norway.[6]
  • The Holmenkollen Ski Festival is the world’s oldest, established as early as 1872, and is one of Norway’s most visited tourist sites, attracting nearly 1 million people per year.[15]
  • Norwegian Birger Ruud won both the men’s ski-jumping event in 1932 and the men’s downhill racing event in the 1936 Winter Olympic Games, making him the only athlete to win both Alpine and Nordic skiing events.[15]
  • Oslo-born Grete Waitz was the first women to run a marathon in less than two and a half hours.[15]
  • Important Dates
    A.D. 700–800Viking Age Begins.
    850–870Viking King Harald Fairhair unites Norway into one kingdom.
    1000Leif Erikson discovers North America. King Olaf I Tryggvason sends missionaries to Christianize Iceland. Battle of Svolder takes place, and the Norwegians are beaten. King Olaf I is killed.
    1015Olaf II Haraldsson declares himself King of Norway after returning from war with the Danes. He converts his people to Christianity.
    1028King Olaf II is forced to flee Norway by Canute, King of England and Denmark. Canute the Great becomes King of Norway.
    1030King Olaf II is killed at the Battle of Stiklestad.
    1031King Olaf II is named Patron Saint of Norway.
    1035King Canute dies.
    1045–1065King Harald Hardrada fights numerous battles with the Danes.
    1066Harald Hardrada invades England with 300 ships and thousands of men, is defeated at the Battle of Stamford Bridge, and is killed in battle. Fewer than 25 of his ships return to Norway.
    1261Greenland and Iceland form union with Norway.
    1349Black Plague strikes Norway and kills 2/3 of the population.
    1397Union of Kalmar unites Norway, Denmark, and Sweden under Queen Margarethe I of Denmark.
    1523King Christian II is exiled after civil war in Denmark; Frederick I becomes king of Denmark and Norway.
    1537King Christian II establishes Evangelical-Lutheranism as official religion of Norway and Denmark.
    1570Sweden cedes claim to Norway.
    1660Pact of Copenhagen establishes official boundaries of Denmark, Sweden, and Norway.
    1814Norway establishes its Constitution. Denmark cedes Norway to Sweden.
    1825First immigrants leave Norway for America.
    1884Norway establishes its Parliamentary system, called the Storting.
    1903Roald Amundsen searches for Northwest Passage.
    1905The Storting proclaims Norwegian independence from Denmark; Prince Charles of Denmark is crowned King Haakon VII.
    1911Roald Amundsen reaches the South Pole.
    1914Norway declares neutrality during World War I.
    1915Germans torpedo the Norwegian ship Regin.
    1918Norwegian women gain the right to vote.
    1919Versailles Conference gives Norway sovereignty over Svalbard Island.
    1920Norway joins the League of Nations. It gives Russia rights to mine on Svalbard.
    1924Norway’s control of Greenland is ended; rights to Greenland ceded to Denmark.
    1939World War II begins; Norway remains neutral.
    1940Germany invades Norway and attacks ports. Norwegian Royal family flees to the U.K. and sets up government-in-exile. Vidkun Quisling names himself head of Norwegian government.
    1941Quisling introduces martial law.
    1942–1943767 Norwegian Jews are deported to Auschwitz, and over 1,100 Jews flee to Sweden.
    1945German forces in Norway surrender. Royal family returns. Quisling is tried and executed for treason. Norway joins the United Nations.
    1949Norway joins NATO.
    1959Norway becomes founding member of European Free Trade Association (EFTA).
    1971Norway begins oil production in the North Sea.
    1981Gro Harlem Brundtland becomes first female prime minister of Norway.
    1991King Olav V dies; son Herald becomes King Harald V.
    1994Voters reject membership in European Union (EU). Norway hosts Winter Olympic games in Lillehammer.
    1997Dr. Christian Sandsdalen is first Norwegian convicted for euthanasia.
    1998Gro Harlem Brundtland is named head of World Health Organization (WHO). Accord signed between Russia and Norway for dismantling of 90 nuclear submarines decayed in Barents Sea.
    2004Armed men steal paintings from the Munch Museum in Norway, including The Scream, which is later found and returned undamaged.
    2006Largest underwater gas pipeline in the world is opened to transport gas from Norway to Britain. Protestors set fire to the Norwegian embassy in Syria due to cartoons in a newspaper.
    2010Three Norwegian residents are arrested for ties to Al Qaeda, bomb plots in the U.S. and UK. Norwegian daily newspaper Aftenpost given access to cables held by WikiLeaks.

1 Bawer, Bruce. “State TV in Norway: Paying to Be Propagandized.” Frontpagemag.com. January 23, 2013. Accessed June 2, 2014.

2 Berglund, Nina. “No Easy Task to Ease Liquor Sales.” News in English. January 26, 2014. Accessed June 12, 2014.

3 Broom, Jack. “Seattle Fishermen Find Riches and Fame on ‘Deadliest Catch.’” Seattle Times. June 14, 2006. Accessed April 21, 2014.

4 Brown, Jules and Mick Sinclair. Scandinavia: The Rough Guide. London, UK: Harrap Columbus, 1990.

5 DeRusha, Jason. “Good Question: How Norwegian Is Minnesota?” CBS Minnesota. October 10, 2011. Accessed June 12, 2014.

6 Facts about Norway: 1990-1991. Oslo, Norway: Schibsted, 1991.

7Global Peace Index: Norway.” Institute for Economics & Peace. 2014. Accessed June 12, 2014.

8Highest Gas Prices: Countries.” Bloomberg. 2014. Accessed April 29, 2014.

9 Ikenson, Ben. Patents: Ingenious Inventions—How They Work and How They Came to Be. New York, NY: Black Dog & Leventhal, 2012.

10 Logan, F. Donald. The Vikings in History. 2nd ed. London, UK: Routledge, 1991.

11 Marley, Michaela. “The Happiest Countries in the World: Norway.” The Columbia Chronicle. November 12, 2013. Accessed June12, 2014.

12Norway." (World Fact Book). The Central Intelligence Agency. April 16, 2014. Accessed April 17, 2014.

13Ole Einar Bjoerndalen: The Best Biathlete in History.” Olympic.org. 2014. Accessed April 21, 2014.

14 Stew, Martin. “Trafalgar Square’s Christmas Tree is Cut Down in Norway.” ITV. November 19, 2013. Accessed June 12, 2014.

15 Su-Dale, Elizabeth. Norway (Culture Shock!). Portland, OR: Graphic Arts Center Publishing Company, 1995.

16 Symington, Andy, et al. Scandinavia (Lonely Planet). Berkeley, CA: Lonely Planet, 2011.

17Wikileaks Cables Leaked: Aftenposten, Norwegian Newspaper, Claims to Have Full Access to All 250,000 Documents.” The Huffington Post. Updated May 25, 2011. Accessed April 21, 2014.