June 27th, 2023

Uncover the Innovative Art, Architecture and Design Scene in Norway

June 27th, 2023

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From traditional to cutting-edge, explore the best of Norwegian culture

Norway may be renowned for its wild, awe-inspiring landscapes and unspoiled natural beauty, but our country has a rich and vibrant cultural heritage, too. Home to some of the world's most progressive and exciting artists, architects, and designers, it boasts an extraordinarily diverse array of cultural delights. From historic stave churches with their intricate wooden carvings to sleek glass-walled galleries showcasing the best of Norwegian design, there is something to inspire everyone.

Norwegian Art: A Rich and Vibrant Tradition

Perhaps Norway’s best-known artist, Edvard Munch has an entire museum dedicated to his fascinating life and iconic artwork. Oslo’s striking new MUNCH museum is one of the world’s largest museums dedicated to a single artist, with no less than three versions of his most famous painting, The Scream. The building itself is a masterpiece of sustainable design, clad in undulating aluminium panels. There’s even a rooftop bar, Kranen, for post-gallery cocktails overlooking Oslo’s spectacular skyline.

You’ll find more works by Munch, along with Renoir, Monet and Van Gogh at Norway’s big-hitting National Museum, newly opened in 2022 and the largest art museum in the Nordic countries. Boasting over 47,000 artworks and objects, it’s a monumental treasure trove which features some of Norway’s finest native artists, from Harriet Backer’s detailed Impressionist paintings to Harald Sohlberg’s soul-stirring ‘Winter Night in the Mountains’ (sometimes nicknamed ‘Norway’s national painting’), along with Sami artists such as Maret Anne Sara.


Heading onwards to Bergen, Norway’s beguiling UNESCO-listed seaport, you’ll find the phenomenal Kode Art Museums and Composer Homes. Spanning four beautiful buildings spread across the city centre, the museum has masterpieces from Norwegian art history including Nikolai Astrup, Kitty Keiland and, of course, Edvard Munch. The immaculately restored and preserved homes of composers Harald Sæverud and Edvard Greig offer a unique and fascinating glimpse into the lives of these musical legends – don’t miss one of the atmospheric concerts held in these ‘living museums’.


Contemporary Art in Norway: A Thriving Scene

From thought-provoking modern art installations and leafy outdoor sculpture parks to unexpected treats such as the far-flung KaviarFactory in a tiny Lofoten fishing village, Norway leads the way with its innovative contemporary art scene.  A must-see for art lovers is Oslo’s fjord side Astrup Fearnley museum, with key works by artists such as Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst and Norwegian artist Bjarne Melgaard, as well as major temporary exhibitions.

The surrounding Tjuvholmen area is a unique and eye-catching district of Oslo, with a range of distinct architectural styles and a clutch of cool contemporary galleries. Norway’s capital city is also home to some incredible open-air sculpture parks, including Vigelandsparken, with 200 works in bronze, granite and cast iron by the acclaimed Gustav Vigeland. There’s also Ekebergparken, a short tram ride from the city centre, with works by internationally-renowned artists sprinkled among the lush foliage of this scenic park.

An hour’s drive from Oslo takes you to the incredible, immersive Kistefos museum, among whose attractions is the dramatic Twist gallery – an extraordinary feat of engineering built by acclaimed architects BIG. It’s a bridge, sculpture and gallery rolled into one mesmerising building. BIG are also the brains behind The Plus (named for its distinctive shape when seen from above). Designed for furniture company Vestre, the striking concrete-and-steel building is a carbon-neutral factory and visitor centre set within 300 acres of forest which is open for hikers to enjoy. For a change of pace, set your sights on off-the-beaten-track Hå gamle Prestegard, on Norway’s southwest coast. This remote cluster of white-washed, historic buildings (including a lighthouse) houses a world-class contemporary art collection in an extraordinary natural setting.

More exciting projects are on the horizon, including Kunstsilo, a 1930s grain silo in Southern Norway which is currently being transformed into a world-class gallery which will exhibit the world’s largest private collection of Nordic modernist art when it opens in 2024.


Architectural Wonders of Norway: From Traditional Stave Churches to Modern Masterpieces

Influenced and inspired by the country’s wildly beautiful natural landscapes, Norway’s architectural treats range from historic churches to the world’s most spectacular toilets (yes, really). Everywhere you turn, you’ll find buildings that will capture your attention. History buffs mustn’t miss a visit to one of the 28 remaining Stave churches, the oldest preserved wooden churches in Christianity. Some have exquisite wooden carvings which combine Christian motifs with Viking themes such as dragons. If you are looking to visit a Stave Church, check out our 'Modern Luxury In The Realm Of Norwegian Folklore' journey.

Modern marvels include Oslo’s Opera House, built by renowned design firm Snøhetta, which rises like an angular ice floe on the city’s harbourside, with a panoramic rooftop. Next door is the equally striking Deichman Bjørvika, Oslo’s public library, with a spectacular cantilevered top floor. There’s also the award-winning Vennesla library in Agder, with its slender internal wooden beams designed to look like the inside of a whale. For an extraordinary example of sustainable architecture, take a stroll past the ground-breaking Spaces Tullinløkka, a flexible workspace in the city centre built with zero carbon emissions thanks to creative design using reclaimed and recycled materials.

But it’s not just the big-name architectural landmarks that will linger in your memory after your visit. Everyday structures, such as the ingeniously-designed rest stops and loos on Norway’s scenic routes, and the amazing viewing platforms by the Vøringsfossen waterfalls, are standout buildings in their own right.

Leading the way in innovation and creativity, Norwegians’ love of clever, playful design extends to the country’s unique accommodation. Along with sleek boutique hotels and homely B&Bs, you’ll find quirky treehouses hidden among whispering pines, ultra-modern waterfront cabins with their own floating saunas and glass-walled domes for watching the magical Northern Lights. The same is true when it comes to dining, with stunning designs such as Restaurant Under, an underwater Michelin-starred wonder designed by Snøhetta which rests half-sunken on the seabed, with half-metre thick walls and huge glass windows for a memorable meal beneath the waves. Or maybe you’d love an art-focused Oslo walking tour led by a resident expert. Our curated itineraries are carefully crafted and designed to help you make the most of your visit to this incredible country.


Norwegian Scenic Routes

Whether you want to delve into Norway’s rich and fascinating history or discover its cutting-edge artwork and innovative design, we can tailor an itinerary that will give you a whole new perspective on Norway. Perhaps you dream of setting off on one of the 18 Norwegian Scenic Routes, amazing stretches of road packed with art, architecture and design. The Scenic Route project was greenlit in the 1990s, and Norway embarked on an ambitious endeavour - A nationwide competition that encompassed the selection of roads and the design of new structures, aiming to transform 18 of our roadways into captivating cultural destinations. As The New York Times said, “In Norway, the Journey is the Destination”.

In 2023, Norwegian Scenic Routes celebrates 30 years of innovative road trips. Originally conceived as a way to bolster Norwegian tourism, decades later this visionary project has transcended borders and ignited a global movement, inspiring governments worldwide to establish their own sets of Scenic Routes. Emphasizing a sense of national pride, the majority of the Norweigan Scenic Route architects hail from Norway. However, to enrich the cultural tapestry other notable contributions include the memorial on the Norwegian Scenic Route Varanger, by the French-American artist Louise Bourgeois. Steilneset Memorial commemorates the women and men who were tragically burned at the stake during the 1600s witch trials. Other notable Norwegian Scenic Routes include the Atlantic Road, which curves elegantly from islet to islet over its seven bridges, and the Geiranger-Trollstigen Scenic Route with its eleven hairpin bends.


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Danny Dodd

Travel Curator
Hi! I'm Danny, and I'm a Travel Curator here at Up. Get in touch, and I'll do my best to answer any questions you might have.