7 War Museums worth visiting in Norway
Many history buffs have asked us about war museums in the Nordic region, but there are benefits for anyone to visit some while in this unique part of the world.
After all, war museums tend to
- provide historical insights, shedding light to the development of our countries;
- highlight the cultural aspects of wartime experiences and their effects on national values and identity;
- bring to light personal stories of wartime, helping visitors to connect with the people who lived through such challenging times;
- inspire through the demonstration of local populations’ resilience and resistance efforts during times of occupation and conflict;
- contribute to raising awareness about the importance of peace, conflict resolution, and preventing future conflicts;
- commemorate and reflect on the sacrifices made by individuals during times of war.
So if you are interested, below are some of the best options during a visit to Norway.
While in Oslo, the Norwegian Armed Forces Museum provides a comprehensive dive into the military history of Norway from ancient times to the present. Exhibits and artifacts showcase historical events, key battles, and the development of the Norwegian Armed Forces over the years. Visitors can also learn about peacekeeping missions, defence strategies, and the role of the military in national security. The museum location itself – at Akershus Fortress in Oslo – has historical significance and adds to the overall experience, allowing visitors to appreciate the architectural and historical aspects of the site.
The Norwegian Resistance Museum is, as the name implies, dedicated to the various Norwegian resistance movements against German occupation during World War II. Visitors can gain a detailed understanding of Norway's role and challenges during German occupation and learn countless stories of courage, bravery, and sacrifice by individuals who played key roles in the resistance. Much attention is given to the human side of historical events by providing insights into daily life, hardships, and the impact of occupation on civilian people. Personal belongings, photographs, underground newspapers, and other key artifacts provide a tangible connection to the past.
Approx. 319km south of Oslo lies the lovely seaside resort city of Kristiansand which is also the home of Vest-Agder Cultural History Museum. The museum delves into Norwegian cultural history, including exhibits related to war and conflicts, particularly as they relate to the local history, traditions, and way of life. The diverse collection of artefacts includes items related to daily life, crafts, agriculture, and other aspects of local culture. Exploring the museum helps visitors to connect with the lives of the people who have lived in Vest-Agder throughout history.
There is also a cannon battery from WWII, in fine natural surroundings at Møvik just outside Kristiansand. The cannon is the world’s second largest cannon installed on land. The cannon battery itself is 19.75 metres in length and weighs 110 tonnes. Construction of the cannon battery started in 1941 and, along with the cannon battery at Hanstholm (Denmark), it was intended to control the shipping lanes in the Skagerrak.
Visitors heading to Northern Norway, such as the Lofoten Archipelago, might like to stop at Bodø, the scenic European Capital of Culture of 2024. Among other things, Bodø has the Norwegian Aviation Museum Norwegian Aviation Museum with 10,000 square metres dedicated to exciting military and civil aviation history, showcasing for a visual journey through the evolution of aviation. Indeed, the museum houses an extensive collection of military and civilian planes, from vintage planes to modern jets, which can be viewed up close. The combination of immersing yourself in aviation history while enjoying Bodo’s scenic surroundings is well worth the visit.
Nestled right in the centre of Svolvær, the main city in the beautiful Lofoten Archipelago, is a fascinating private war museum, the Lofoten Krigsminne Museum. It is different from typical war museums in that it is a private collection - a treasure trove of details, items and stories. It focuses on providing informative content about the Second World War, with a particular emphasis on events that took place in the Lofoten area and Northern Norway during the German occupation of Norway. Our guests highly recommend this museum, so check its opening hours and fit it around your itinerary for the day - often it is open late so just go and check out of hours if you are super keen.
As a part of many Kystruten voyages north, visitors often start or finish their tour in Kirkenes, in far north Norway on the Russian border. Allow time to visit the Borderland Museum , a short taxi ride or e-bike ride from the port and city centre. This museum covers the history of the settlement and development of the region, from its origin as a common territory between Russia, Finland and Norway. The Museum’s war exhibition presents the war history of Kirkenes and the border regions, and it contains, among other things, the Russian fighter plane Ilyushin. During the Second World War, Fortress Kirkenes was the main base for the German forces, and the city became a target for allied bombers.
For more war museums to visit during your time in Norway, see this list of Norwegian Armed Forces museums around the country. They give the public insight and information about the history of the Armed Forces.
Image credits: Steinar Furu, Ernst Furuhatt, Kirkenes Museum, Norges Hjemmefrontmuseum and Roger Johansen.