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What you should know about dining out in Norway

Norway's international reputation on the food scene may not enjoy the reputation of its neighbours, but what can you expect if you take a night off from the kitchen in Norway and choose to go out to eat instead?

Pictured is a group of people eating out.
Here's what Local's in Norway think about eating out in Norway. Pictured is a group of people eating out. Photo by Jay Wennington on Unsplash

Locals opinions are varied 

“There are a lot of good things going on, but you just have to be very aware of where you’re going to grab a bite,” says Leeni from Oslo. Adding, “Fine dining scenery is great, but the casual world is not that developed. It’s more mediocre quality with a high price. That’s just my opinion.”

The fine-dining scene in Norway has grown in the past decade. Restaurants like Maaemo and Under are making a name for themselves both with local diners and the Michelin guide. 

Casual dining may not be quite as vibrant as the fine dining scene. But that doesn’t mean you still can’t find some good places.'” Even on the coast, it is hard to find a good fish restaurant. However, there is always pizza kebab, but we have some nice Thai food. Which might come in handy if you are a vegetarian and travelling outside of Oslo.” says Mireille Wulf

Lunch and breakfast

If you’re dining out in Norway, you may want to choose to go out to dinner instead of breakfast and lunch. Some bigger cities, such as Oslo and Trondheim, have started developing more of a weekend brunch and lunch scene. Though your options are nowhere near what they would be in comparison to other large cities in Europe. 

There is “No tradition for lunch here. Norwegians have always eaten bread and cheese and bread and liver paste for lunch. With a half-hour break, you don’t have time for more,” says Frances. It’s true, on the weekdays, 

Norwegians are very much no muss, no fuss when it comes to their meal choices. The matpakke or “packed lunch” dominates as the main source of food throughout the workday. 

“Many restaurants do not seem to open for lunch. Which is very strange for me, even after considering that many Norwegians in offices just eat cold sandwiches,” says Ankur.

If you’re looking to grab a bite to eat earlier in the day, local cafes will usually have a few selections to choose from, though they may not be warm. Think more ham or shrimp sandwiches than warm stews and pasta dishes. 

You could also choose to dine at a hotel if you want a more hearty breakfast than the pastry selection at the local cafe. Hotels all around the country usually offer drop prices for their surprisingly good breakfast buffets if you’re not staying with them.

And the coffee

Are you meeting a friend for coffee? You’ll likely have a few places to choose from. But be aware of some subtle differences in the size and temperature.

The “Portion sizes are small and extremely expensive, including the drinks. Coffee arrives warm and ends up needing to be finished quickly. No real need to sit at the coffee shop because your tiny cup size and room temperature makes the outing quick,” says Deon Van Zyl.

“My experience with coffee in shops/restaurants here is that it is served warm and not hot. I prefer my coffee hot. Just warm becomes cold even before the first sip when you take away a cup in the cold,” says Deepika Nowley. “Also, what surprised me at first was the word” dobblet “. I expected a larger cup, but it only meant a double espresso shot for the same cup size.” 

READ ALSO: Why is food in Norway so expensive?

Coffee and teas may be served a little cooler than you are used to, but you’ll likely never have a tough time finding a place that serves warm (not hot) drinks in this country. After the Finns, Norwegians consume the most coffee globally, averaging around 7,2 kilograms of coffee per person per year. They mostly prefer light roasts and without the extra fluff. However, most cafes will offer you the option of ordering milk-based coffee drinks.

Best way to pay and tipping culture

Tipping is not a customary practice in Norway. Those who work in the restaurant industry, both in casual and fine dining, are paid a decent wage and don’t have to rely on tips as they would in other countries. However, if you want to tip, feel free to do so. It wouldn’t be out of the ordinary to tack on some extra if you particularly enjoyed the service or food. 

“Most Norwegians use cashless methods to pay; and, when paying, it is not customary to tip for a handful of items or just a couple of drinks,” says Samantha Gross Galiando. Adding, “While Norwegians are known for their politeness, behaviour can vary depending on their age group and venue type.”

Payment methods, like most everything else in Norway, paying at a restaurant or cafe has, for the most part, become paper-free and digitized. Of course, you can still pay with cash. But you might have to end up waiting extra for your server to come up with the right amount of change back. Or you may even be asked to pay by a card or mobile pay instead. 

Forgot your wallet? That might be ok. Many restaurants accept payment by Vipps ( the most popular payment app in Norway) if that is your only option. You don’t want to assume this alternative is available in smaller towns or more rural areas. So try and remember to bring a backup method of payment just in case. 

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The best sweet treats you should be able to identify if you live in Norway

Sweets are serious business in Norway, and sweet buns (boller in Norwegian) are basically the unofficial national dessert. But how familiar are you with other sweet staples that millions in the country have grown up eating?

The best sweet treats you should be able to identify if you live in Norway

Norwegians have a major sweet tooth and often indulge in sweet treats. With a long tradition of baking and consuming both sweets and pastries, there are many traditional Norwegian desserts and sweets that are wildly popular in the country – especially when it comes to special occasions.

If you’ve spent anywhere north of six months living in Norway, you should be able to identify most of the sweets in our guide. However, in case you haven’t been able to get your hands on some of these sweet delicacies, we recommend you do so as soon as possible. You can thank us later.


Lefse are a popular sweet snack and are often enjoyed after a hike or walk. Photo by: Robin I. Capar

1. Lefse (Norwegian flatbread with sweet toppings)

Lefse is a traditional Norwegian flatbread often made from potato or regular flour (depending on the region), butter, and milk (or cream). It is very popular in Norway and is often served as a day-to-day dessert (you can buy it in most stores and bakeries year-round), but it is also commonly eaten on special occasions like Christmas, weddings, and other celebrations.

While some people eat it plain (personally, it tastes a bit dry and too buttery to me without toppings or a glass of milk) or with a variety of toppings, such as jam, whipped cream, chocolate spreads, cream cheese, sugar, and cinnamon. Some people even opt for a salty version, for example, by adding smoked salmon to their lefse.

Note that there are significant regional differences in how people prepare and eat lefse, so make sure to try this sweet snack in different parts of the country if you get the chance.

It’s always a good idea to enjoy lefse with a cup of coffee after a good hike! Personally, I make sure to do that after climbing Mount Fløyen in Bergen, as a café at the top of the mountain serves lefse with brown cheese (burnost in Norwegian), whipped cream, and several jams.

Kransekake 1

The kransekake is one of Norway’s most popular celebration cakes. Photo by: CC BY-SA 4.0 / Lorie Shaull

2. Kransekake (an almond-flavoured celebration cake)

If you have ever been to a Norwegian wedding or confirmation, you have likely come across the kransekake, a tower-shaped cake made by stacking multiple rings of dough – consisting of almonds, egg whites, and a lot of sugar – on top of one another.

The cake rings are stacked in decreasing size from the bottom to the top, which forms an elegant cone-shaped cake tower. The rings are also often decorated with white icing and small Norwegian flags.

Kransekake is widely known as a celebration cake, so don’t be surprised if you find it at most big family events.

Maybe it’s just a personal preference, but just as with lefse, I prefer to have kransekake with some coffee or milk, as store-bought versions also tend to be a bit dry for my taste.

Baking amateurs who make kransekake on their own often use cake forms when they bake the cake on their own, as they help you get the ring sizes just right.

Gingerbread cookies

As a dessert, pepperkaker are usually eaten during Christmas time in Norway. Photo by Kelsey Weinkauf on Unsplash

3. Pepperkaker (gingerbread cookies)

You can often tell that the Christmas season in Norway is underway when you start smelling the sweet aroma of gingerbread cookies in the air (a second sign is that stores start selling premade gingerbread cookie dough).

Pepperkaker come in all shapes and sizes, from small hearts, discs, stars, and animals, to more sophisticated creations such as gingerbread houses (Bergen has a long tradition of putting up a Pepperkakebyen exhibition, which, each year, houses the largest gingerbread town in the world).

As a dessert, pepperkaker are usually eaten and offered to guests during Christmas time. These sweets are simple to make, especially if you opt for the premade dough, which only needs to be cut into shapes and then baked in the oven.

You can also prepare your own dough by mixing together flour, ginger, cinnamon, sugar, and cloves.

Cinnamon buns

Skilingsboller are eaten after lunch or in the afternoon as a snack. Photo by David Köhler on Unsplash

4. Skillingsboller (Norwegian cinnamon buns)

No need to tiptoe around it – Norwegians are a nation of sweet bun (boller in Norwegian) aficionados. There’s a variety of boller all around the country, but the skillingsboller – a Norwegian take on the cinnamon roll – is most closely associated with the country’s second-largest city, Bergen.

Skillingsboller are a circular pastry made from a mix of flour, sugar, cardamom, milk, yeast, eggs, butter, and, on occasion, chopped almonds.

After the base of the bun has been baked to a nice golden brown, Norwegians tend to put butter and additional sugar on the pastry while it’s still smoking hot.

Traditionally, skilingsboller are eaten after lunch or in the afternoon as a snack along with a hot beverage, but you’ll find Norwegians devouring them at virtually any time of day on most city centre walks in Bergen or Oslo.

Due to their popularity, you’ll be able to find them in many bakeries, cafes, and stores in Norway.

Kvæfjordkake 1

As a very luxurious cake, the kvæfjordkake is reserved for special events. Photo by: Kjetil Ree / CC BY-SA 3.0

5. Kvæfjordkake (a sponge cake with meringue and almonds)

We’re wrapping up this roundup with a cake proclaimed “Norway’s national cake” by viewers of the Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) in the early 2000s – the kvæfjordkake. It also bears the nickname of “the world’s best,” that is, verdens beste.

This is another popular dessert often served during special occasions like weddings and Christmas. Essentially, it’s a multi-layer sponge cake with meringue and almonds filled with (vanilla or rum) custard and whipped cream.

As a delicious and luxurious cake, it’s no wonder that it’s reserved for events such as confirmations, weddings, and birthdays.

The kvæfjordkake is slightly more popular in northern Norway than in the rest of the country, but you shouldn’t have trouble ordering it from larger bakeries across the country.