• Slovakia!

    Slovakia: Tatra Mountains. Go Now!

    The Tatra Mountains (pictured) form the backdrop of this rural country, whose culture is rooted in this beautiful landscape. Go Now!

  • Bulgaria!

    Bulgaria: An old Turkish bridge. Go Now!

    The isolated mountains of Bulgaria hide cultural gems around every corner, including this old Turkish bridge in the Rhodopi Mountains. Explore Bulgaria!

  • Italy!

    Italy: Rome' historic buildings. Go Now!

    Crumbling buildings in Rome (pictured) only add to the atmosphere in a country where old is redefined and western civilization begins. Explore Italy!

  • Portugal!

    Portugal: Palace of Pena. Go Now!

    Although next to the seas and made famous by trade, Portugal boasts dynamic landscapes and architecture, including the Palace of Pena (pictured) near the town of Sintra. Go to Portugal!

  • Denmark!

    Denmark: Landscape. Go Now!

    From cities like Copenhagen to islands, beaches, and vast fields (pictured), Denmark offers incredible history, architecture, scenery, and more. Begin Your Journey!

  • Armenia!

    Armenia: Noravank Monastery. Go Now!

    With a unique language, foods, architecture, and identity, Armenia is a fascinating country and culture unlike no other in the world. Begin Your Journey!

Architecture of Norway

The earliest architecture in Norway was likely housing and nothing else. Prior to even the Viking ages the most important structure was the home and over time these homes developed a very unique style that can still be found in Norway as well as places the Vikings settled, such as Iceland. These homes were often built with sod or grass on their roofs in order to naturally insulate the homes during the cold winters and, although no homes from before the 1000s exist, homes in this style were continuously built for hundreds of years. Some of the oldest and most impressive houses in this style are in the town of Roros.

Norwegian Architecture - Stave church
Stave church

Through this early period homes were nearly the only structure built as money was limited, resources were available, but costly, and everyday focus was simply on survival rather than on luxury, making homes very simple. At this time religion was secondary for the people and political structures were small so few buildings dedicated to religion or politics were built during this time.

After the introduction of Christianity, the centerpiece of many Medieval Norwegian towns became the wooden stave churches, which were constructed with ship masts and had long sloping roofs to shed the snow. These churches represented a major shift in the culture as these structures were much larger than homes and cost a great deal of time and money, showing the importance the people placed on the religion at the time.

Although stave churches were built throughout the Nordic countries, most of the surviving churches in this style and from this time are in Norway, including the oldest, which is the Urnes Stave Church (1100-1200s) near Sognefjord.

Norwegian Architecture - Nidaros Cathedral
Nidaros Cathedral

One of the oldest and most impressive stone structures in the country is the Nidaros Cathedral (1000-1300s) in Trondheim. This building, which served as the consecration sight for the Norwegian kings (as Trondheim was the nation's capital for years), was influenced by English architecture and is somewhat unique in style, although there are significant Romanesque and Gothic touches. Like the stave churches, this cathedral shows the emphasis and importance of Christianity in Norway at the time.

From the 1300-1500s Bergen rose to power as a member of the Hanseatic League and the wharf section (Bryggen) developed an architectural style to match their needs as a port as well as to represent their wealth. Unfortunately, these buildings were primarily constructed in wood and many have since burned down, although they always seem to be re-built in the same style.

Bergen truly represents a change in the culture at the time. In addition to the obvious influence from the Germans who controlled the city, this construction marks a noticeable change in the structures being built. Obviously houses and churches were still built, but much of Bryggen was built for commercial trade and these large and impressive structures were built with money from this trade and to house trade, truly symbolizing a shift in priorities to economic growth and development.

Norwegian Architecture - Bryggen in Bergen
Bryggen in Bergen

Following in the trend of commercial growth, in the 1600s the cities of Kongsberg and Roros both arose as mining towns. Again houses and churches were present and remain among the most impressive structures in these towns, but the buildings again shifted in style as many of the most noticeable structures were built and used for mining operations and shipping, creating very specialized buildings.

Most architectural movements of mainland Europe never made their way to Norway or if they did, they did so with very limited influence. This began to change in 1814 when Norway gained greater freedoms as they separated from Denmark and shifted their capital under their new Swedish rulers. With a new capital city, new construction began and many buildings in historic Oslo were built in the popular styles of that time, most notably neo-Classical. This also began a time when new constructions were built, including a university, government buildings, and numerous commercial structures.

Norwegian History - Oslo Opera House
Oslo Opera House

In the 1900s Norway continued to adopt trends from Europe and today the city of Alesund has a huge number of Art Nouveau buildings, which were built after much of the city was burned down in 1904. Other large cities, such as Oslo also built in this style to a degree.

In the latter half of the 1900s and into the 2000s sky scrapers, modern architecture, and post-modern structures have been built throughout Norway. Oslo is home to much of the country's more recent architectural movements and this is perhaps best represented with the capital's post-modern Opera House (2007). However, for a cross section of all of Norway's architectural history, Bergen is probably the best example, while only a village can truly provide traditional wooden architecture as most of the country knows it, including the famed stave churches.

This page was last updated: August, 2013