Norway is a terrific destination in which to travel as a family. This is a country that has become world famous for creating family-friendly living conditions, and most hotels, restaurants and many sights are accordingly child-friendly. Remember, however, that distances are vast and careful planning is required.
Best Regions for Kids
Green parklands in abundance and a large array of museums, many with an interactive component, mean there's plenty to keep children happy, but be warned that not all sights and restaurants are that welcoming to younger travellers.
- Central Norway
Lillehammer's (sometimes interactive) Winter Olympic sites may appeal, as will activities around Røros, and safaris that set off in search of elk and musk oxen.
- Bergen & the Southwestern Fjords
Bergen and Stavanger have numerous child-oriented attractions, while elsewhere there are boat trips on the fjords, interactive museums, water-based activities and the occasional Viking landmark.
Whale-watching is the main draw here, with ample opportunities on Vesterålen.
- The Far North
Winter-based activities such as dog-sledding thrill travellers of any age, while the Northern Lights are something the kids will never forget.
Norway for Kids
Domestic tourism is often organised around the assumption that many Norwegians will be travelling as a family, with everything from hotels to museums more than willing to not only accommodate children, but make sure they have a good time.
Some of Norway's museums will immediately appeal to children (such as natural history museums), but even where the subject matter is more adult in focus, some museums have interactive exhibits and/or children's play areas with toys and activities. And in summer (especially July), numerous museums with a historical focus organise programs for children, with games, activities, and staff dressed up in period costumes.
On a practical level, most attractions allow free admission for children up to six years of age and half-price (or substantially discounted) admission for those aged up to 16. Family tickets are available at many of Norway's sights. Unfortunately some museums in Oslo insist that you use their baby strollers and not your own.
Dotted around the country are some terrific theme parks that allow you to pass a day on rides and in themed pavilions; the focus is usually local in character, with trolls and other mythical Norwegian creatures the recurring themes. Larger towns and some coastal regions also have excellent aquariums.
Activities & Wildlife-Watching
Adventure tourism is one of Norway's major attractions, and there are a whole range of activities that kids can enjoy, although obviously the older your children, the wider the range of possibilities. For young travellers, wildlife safaris in search of whales, elk and musk ox are a terrific option. Dog-sledding is also possible in Svalbard, the far north and around Røros.
For older children, you may be surprised at what can be accomplished, from short hikes to kayaking and family white-water-rafting trips, and even some of the higher-octane thrills around Voss may be possible for travellers as young as 10 or 12.
- Vikingskipshuset, Oslo Reconstructed Viking ships at the Viking Ship Museum.
- Kon-Tiki Museum, Oslo Guaranteed to inspire the inner explorer.
- Natural History Museum, Oslo Stuffed Arctic wildlife.
- Archaeology Museum, Stavanger Viking-themed activities in summer.
- Norsk Oljemuseum, Stavanger The Oil Museum is one of Norway's most interactive.
- Norwegian Children's Museum, Stavanger Wonderful indoor playground for younger kids.
- Nordvegen Historiesenter, Karmøy Part museum, part Viking farm.
- Norwegian Glacier Museum, Fjærland Hands-on exhibits of Norway's icefields.
- Norsk Luftfartsmuseum, Bodø Ideal for the aeroplane enthusiast.
- Kristiansand Dyrepark Outstanding zoo and funfair in Norway's far south.
- Hunderfossen Familiepark Water rides, wandering trolls and fairy-tale palaces.
- Atlanterhavsparken, Ålesund Atlantic Ocean Park is one of northern Europe's best aquariums.
- Akvariet i Bergen Fantastic aquarium that you can reach by boat.
- Lofoten Aquarium, Kabelvåg Seals, sea otters and other marine creatures.
- Olympic Park, Lillehammer Everything from simulators to bobsled runs.
- Senjatrollet, Senja The world's biggest troll, with accompanying attractions.
- Polar Park, Setermoen An excellent animal park with Arctic species.
- Namsskogan Familiepark Arctic wildlife, ziplines and climbing facilities south of Mosjøen.
- White-water rafting Family-friendly trips in Sjoa and elsewhere.
- Dog-sledding Possible from Røros in central Norway to Tromsø, Øvre Dividal National Park, Karasjok and Svalbard in winter, with sleds on wheels in summer.
- Skiing Year-round skiing at centres used to catering for kids, including Lillehammer, Trysil, Voss and, in summer, Stryn.
- Kayaking Shorter family-friendly trips in Voss, Svalbard and across the fjords.
- Whale-watching See the giants of the sea off the northern coast from Andenes, Stø and Tromsø.
- Musk-ox safaris Search for this otherworldly beast in Dovrefjell-Sunndalsfjella National Park, around Oppdal and elsewhere.
- Elk safaris Free-range moose in southern and central Norway, including from Oppdal, Rjukan and Evje.
- Walrus, reindeer and Arctic foxes Walrus safaris are an exciting addition to Svalbard's wildlife offering, while reindeer and (to a lesser extent) Arctic foxes are sometimes seen within Longyearbyen itself.
As you'd expect, children's products such as baby food, infant formula, soy and cow's milk, and disposable nappies (diapers) are widely available in Norway (in supermarkets, pharmacies and more expensive convenience stores), but they're much more expensive than back home. You may want to bring a reasonable supply in order to keep costs down.
For all-round information and advice, check out Lonely Planet’s book Travel with Children.
When to Go
Easily the best time to travel in Norway with children is the main tourist season, which runs from mid-June to mid-August – this is when hotels offer the best deals for families, all sights and attractions are open and the weather is more conducive to a happy family holiday.
If you've come to Norway for the Northern Lights or winter activities such as dog-sledding, don't be put off by the bitterly cold weather. It's all about coming prepared with the appropriate clothes (Norwegian families don't hide in their homes for 10 months of the year!), and winter can be a magical time to be here.
Hotels, hostels, campsites and other accommodation options often have 'family rooms' or cabins that accommodate up to two adults and two children. Although many hotels do have larger, dedicated family rooms, other places simply squeeze in cots and/or extra beds when space allows, always for an additional fee.
One hotel chain that makes a special effort to cater for families from mid-June to mid-August is Thon Hotels (www.thonhotels.no), where family rooms can cost as little as 1150kr – stunning value by Norwegian standards. Most Thon Hotels also have a small children's play area and nice touches such as children's check-in steps.
Even in some upmarket restaurants, children will be made to feel welcome and, as a result, Norwegians are often seen eating out as a family group. Many restaurants offer children's menus with smaller portions and prices to match. And most of those that don't are willing to serve a smaller portion if you ask.
The high cost of meals can mean it's a challenge in Norway to ensure that your children eat well, but the general availability of hot dogs, hamburgers and pizzas do provide a fall-back option. Supermarkets are also good if you're stocking up for a family picnic and many have pre-made meals. Most restaurants have baby-change areas and a limited number of high chairs.
Norway's impressive public transport system is at once a comfortable means of getting from A to B and – given the variety, which spans trains, buses, tourist boats and ferries – may also carry considerable appeal for children.
On trains and buses, children under four generally travel for free (although they won't have a seat), while those aged between four and 15 (16 on the Hurtigruten coastal ferry) travel for 50% of the adult fare. Some long-distance trains have a special family carriage complete with a children's play area!
Car-rental firms hire out children's safety seats at a nominal cost, but it's essential that you book them in advance, especially in summer and on weekends when demand is high.