The recorded history of Norway is long and interesting, dating back to at least the ninth century. Interesting facts about Norway can be learned from information from archaeological findings, art, rock carvings, songs, and stories passed down through the centuries. With so many historic attractions in the country, visitors are sure to return home with a new depth of knowledge regarding this part of Scandinavia.
In earlier Norwegian history, settlers traveled and set up living areas in small groups. They were adept hunters and left behind examples of daily life through tools, clay containers, and rock carvings of the animals they hunted. These artifacts are a key to learning about the history of Norway and its beginnings, and supplemented by written accounts of the Vikings, for instance, from elsewhere in Europe and archaeological findings, historians were able to learn a great deal about Norway’s past.
Throughout Norway history, the Viking influence has played a significant role. Their biggest influence on Norwegian history covers the period from roughly 800 to 1050 A.D. One of the most interesting facts about Norway from the Viking period is that there were no written documents from that time; the Vikings that told of their travels, pagan beliefs, land acquisitions, battles on land and sea and their interaction with the history of Norway was passed down through the generations by word of mouth in what are known as the Vikings Sagas.
The collection of epic tales about Norway history were most likely embellished by the tellers, but the events were so meticulously detailed that they still provide a solid glimpse into Viking life. Although the Viking Sagas were not written down until much later in history, the artifacts, buried warships, and examples of metal artifacts from ships dating to the ninth century found in locations and fjords validate the facts about Norway and the Vikings retold in the sagas from that period. The Vikings’ Norse mythology and belief in Nordic Gods prevailed until approximately, 1060 when Norway embraced the Christian religion.
Other notable times in Norway history concern the capital city of Oslo, which was founded in 1048. Third in line behind Trondheim and Bergen, the city was designated the capital of Norway during the late 1200s. The city became the official royal residence in the fourteenth century when Akershus Fortress was built. Today, Oslo is the largest city in Norway and because of its size and international airport, it is also often the first stop for visitors to the country.
The city of Trondheim, originally named Nidaros and founded in 997 by Viking King Olav Tryggvason, was the first capital of Norway and retained that status for about 200 years. Two fascinating facts about the current third-largest city in Norway are the crown jewels of the country are secured in the city and all of the countries kings, past and present, have been either crowned or blessed in Trondheim. Trondheim is home to Nidarosdomen, the national sanctuary, which is built over the grave of the country’s patron saint, St Olav.
Norway's second largest city, Bergen, has a lively and interesting history of its own. Bergen was founded by King Olav Kyrre in 1070, two decades after Oslo. The town was small at that time but was active in shipping and trade.
In the year 1217, Bergen history records that the city became home to King Hakon Hakonson. The role of capital city was moved from Trondheim, and Bergen was designated as the new capital city of the Kingdom of Norway.
Bergen retained the title of capital until the late 1200s when Oslo was named as the capital city of Norway. Bergen's growth in population grew and through new trade and flourishing shipping businesses, Bergen continued to expand and became the largest city in Scandinavia. Today, Bergen continues to be a popular destination for visitors to Norway and is the second-largest city.
The history of the Vikings is the most well-known aspect of the country’s past, but for travelers interested in learning about other eras as well, there are abundant options for museums in Oslo and throughout the country that allow visitors to learn about Norway. Whether you’re interested in riding the historic Flam Railway or learning about life in Svalbard, you’re sure to leave with a new appreciation of Norwegian history.