From a museum dedicated to the rowdy escapades of the Vikings to an institution focused on the chilling history of leprosy, Norway is filled with museums devoted to different aspects of its unique history. Here are seven worth visiting.
Holmenkollen Ski Museum
Open for nearly a century, the Holmenkollen Ski Museum is considered the world’s oldest museum dedicated to skiing. And while its collection is extensive—covering more than 4,000 years of skiing history and including ancient rock carvings, equipment used during polar expeditions by Norwegian explorers in the 1800s and more—its showpiece is the 397-foot ski jump tower just outside its doors. Since 1892, some of the world’s greatest ski jumpers have competed here (the tower has been renovated 18 times in the years since). Today, visitors can experience the massive structure by soaking in the views from the observation deck at the top.
At one time, the buildings housing the Leprosy Museum served as a working hospital. Called St. Jørgen’s, the facility dates back to the 1700s and was where, in 1873, Norwegian physician Gerhard Armauer Hansen discovered Mycobacterium leprae—the bacterium that causes leprosy. Visitors today can still walk through the facilities, where many of the rooms, including patients’ quarters and a kitchen, remain largely unchanged. Visitors can get a very real sense of what life was like for patients and healthcare workers who once lived and worked there.
Viking Ship Museum
During the Viking Age, a timeframe that most historians agree spanned the late 8th century to the mid-11th century, the Vikings crisscrossed the open waters between their homeland of Norway to various points across Europe. During these journeys, they would "raid and trade" with villagers. The Viking Ship Museum is one of only several museums in the world specifically dedicated to showcasing the historic escapades of these Scandinavian seafarers, and its extensive collection includes both reconstructed and preserved Viking ships.
Located 110 miles north of Oslo, Maihaugen gives a glimpse of what life was like for Norwegians from the Middle Ages to today. Spanning 89 acres, the open-air museum stems from a collection belonging to Anders Sandvig, a local dentist who collected artifacts, such as altarpieces, tools and old furniture. He sold the collection in 1901 and its new owner continued to add new acquisitions, including nearly 200 buildings showcasing the different architectural styles that are commonplace in Norway, like the stave chapel pictured here.
Most people have heard of Edvard Munch, the Norwegian artist responsible for The Scream—but what they may not realize is that Munch created multiple versions of this iconic work, including two paintings and two pastels. The Munch Museum holds one of the paintings (the other painting belongs to the nearby National Gallery), as well as an extensive collection comprised of more than 1,200 paintings, 18,000 prints and six sculptures created by the prolific artist. Museumgoers are also welcome to visit Ekely, his residence and studio, located six miles to the west of the museum.
Norwegian Museum of Hydropower and Industry
Located in the village Tyssedal near the country’s southwestern coast, the Norwegian Museum of Hydropower and Industry tells the story of Norway’s industrial history, specifically its usage of hydropower, a renewable energy source that creates electricity from flowing water. Housed inside a former power station, the museum gives visitors a firsthand look at its inner workings. The brave can opt for a guided hike up the mountainside to Lilletopp, which once housed the facility’s pipelines and is now an excellent vantage point for scoping out the area’s nearby glacier.
Gustav Vigeland remains one of Norway’s most well-respected sculptors, and the Vigeland Museum and Park celebrates his artistry with a museum and sculpture park dedicated to his immense body of work. In addition to carving hundreds of sculptures, Vigeland also created woodcuts and drawings, which are on display alongside some of his smaller works. And just north of the museum sits Frogner Park, home to 200 of his largest pieces, including a Monolith made to look like human bodies that towers 56 feet in height.