Drinking Age in Norway: Understanding Alcohol Laws & Culture


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Whether you’re a tourist visiting for a short period or a student planning to stay for a longer term, understanding the alcohol laws in this country is essential. Ensuring that you drink responsibly is not just a matter of legal compliance, but it is crucial for your safety and well-being, as well as that of others around you.

Stay tuned as we delve into the legal aspects, where and when you can buy alcohol, drinking age and identification requirements, and some cultural norms surrounding drinking in Norway.

Key Takeaways

  • The legal drinking age in Norway is 18 for beer and wine and 20 for spirits.
  • Alcohol can only be purchased within specific timeframes, depending on the type of store.
  • Always carry a valid ID when purchasing or consuming alcohol.
  • Drinking in public is generally not allowed and can result in fines.
  • Norway has strict drinking and driving laws with a legal BAC limit of 0.02 grams per deciliter.
  • Cultural norms prioritize moderate and responsible drinking.

Legal Drinking Age in Norway

Understanding the legal drinking age is a fundamental first step before purchasing or consuming alcohol in Norway. The country has specific age restrictions depending on the type of alcoholic beverage in question:

For Beer and Wine

The legal drinking age for beer and wine (up to 22% alcohol by volume) is 18 years old.

For Spirits and Other Strong Liquors

If you wish to purchase spirits or other types of alcoholic beverages that contain more than 22% alcohol by volume, you must be at least 20 years old.

It’s essential to note that these age restrictions apply not only to the purchase of alcoholic drinks but also to their consumption. Establishments such as bars, clubs, and restaurants are obligated by law to check identification if there is any doubt about your age.

Failure to comply with these age restrictions can result in fines or more severe legal consequences for both the individual and the establishment.

Where Can You Buy Alcohol?

Where Can You Buy Alcohol

Once you’re aware of the age restrictions, the next question that naturally arises is, where can you buy alcohol in Norway? Depending on what you’re looking to purchase, there are different places where alcoholic beverages are sold:

Grocery Stores

  • You can buy beer and cider in grocery stores, supermarkets, and convenience stores.
  • Note that these establishments only sell alcoholic beverages with an alcohol content up to 4.7%.


  • For wines, stronger beers, spirits, and other liquors, you’ll have to visit a Vinmonopolet store.
  • Vinmonopolet is a government-owned monopoly and the only retail store where you can purchase drinks with an alcohol content above 4.7%.

Bars and Restaurants

  • For immediate consumption, bars, clubs, and restaurants serve a variety of alcoholic beverages.
  • Keep in mind that these establishments have the authority to ask for identification to verify your age before serving alcohol.

Time Restrictions for Buying Alcohol

In Norway, you can’t buy alcohol whenever you want; there are specific time restrictions to be aware of. These time limitations vary depending on where you are purchasing the alcohol and even what day it is.

Place of PurchaseMonday-FridaySaturdaySundayPublic Holidays
Grocery StoresUntil 8:00 pmUntil 6:00 pmClosedVaries
VinmonopoletVariesLimited HoursUsually ClosedVaries
Bars and RestaurantsUsually until 1:30-3:00 amVariesVariesVaries

Grocery Stores

  • From Monday to Friday, alcohol sales generally stop at 8:00 p.m.
  • On Saturdays, the cutoff time is usually 6:00 p.m.
  • On Sundays and certain public holidays, alcohol sales in grocery stores are not permitted.


  • Vinmonopolet stores have varying hours but often close earlier than many other retail stores.
  • Many Vinmonopolet stores are closed on Sundays, and opening hours can be limited on Saturdays.

Bars and Restaurants

  • Bars and restaurants have different closing times, but serving alcohol generally stops at 1:30 a.m. to 3:00 a.m., depending on the establishment and the day.
  • Some places may have special licenses to serve alcohol later, but these are exceptions rather than the rule.

Identification Requirements

Identification Requirements

An important aspect to consider when buying or consuming alcohol in Norway is the need for valid identification. Establishments are legally obligated to verify the age of individuals who appear to be younger than the required legal age. Here’s what you need to know about ID requirements:

Types of Acceptable ID

  • Passport: A valid passport is widely accepted and is the most reliable form of identification.
  • National ID Card: If you are from a country that issues national ID cards which include a photo and date of birth, these are usually accepted.
  • Norwegian Bank Card: Some places may accept a Norwegian bank card with a photograph as a valid form of ID.

Importance of Carrying an ID

Always carry an acceptable form of ID when you plan to purchase or consume alcohol. Even if you’re well over the legal drinking age, some establishments have policies that require ID from all customers.

Failure to present a valid ID when asked can result in not being served or even being asked to leave the establishment. This applies to both stores selling alcohol and places like bars and restaurants where alcohol is consumed.

International Visitors

If you’re a tourist, it’s advisable to carry your passport, as it’s the most universally accepted form of ID. While some places may accept a foreign driver’s license, it’s not guaranteed.

Being prepared with the correct form of identification ensures a smooth process whether you’re buying alcohol at a Vinmonopolet, picking up some beer from a grocery store, or enjoying a night out at a bar or restaurant.

Related: The Best Credit Cards In Norway For Foreigners in 2023

Consumption Rules

Beyond buying alcohol, it’s crucial to know where it is acceptable to consume your drinks in Norway. The country has specific rules regarding alcohol consumption in public and private spaces, as well as at events. Let’s take a closer look:

Public vs. Private Places

In general, drinking alcohol in public places like parks, beaches, and streets is not permitted. Authorities can confiscate your drinks and fine you if you’re caught.

Drinking is usually confined to private settings like homes or places licensed for alcohol consumption like bars and restaurants.

Alcohol at Public Events

Special licenses are required for public events where alcohol is served, like festivals or outdoor concerts. Consuming your own alcohol at these events is typically not allowed unless explicitly stated.

If you are at an event that permits alcohol, it’s important to drink responsibly. Excessive drinking or disorderly behavior could result in you being removed from the event or facing legal repercussions.

Special Municipal Rules

Some municipalities may have specific by-laws regarding alcohol consumption in certain public areas, such as local parks. Always check for posted signs or consult local guidelines to ensure you’re in compliance with the rules.

Understanding Norway’s rules around alcohol consumption can significantly improve the quality of your stay, whether you’re a tourist or a resident. These guidelines are in place not only to maintain public order but also to encourage responsible drinking and ensure everyone’s safety.

Drinking and Driving Laws

Drinking and Driving Laws

Drinking and driving is a serious offense in Norway and is subject to strict penalties. The country has stringent blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limits and severe consequences for those who break the law. Here’s what you need to know:

Blood Alcohol Limits

The legal BAC limit in Norway is 0.02 grams per deciliter, which is substantially lower than in many other countries. Even small amounts of alcohol can put you over the legal limit.


Penalties for exceeding the BAC limit can include fines, imprisonment, and the confiscation of your driver’s license. The severity of the penalty depends on the amount of alcohol detected in your system.

Fines are often calculated based on your income, making them potentially very high. For serious offenses, you could face up to one year in jail. If an accident causing injury or death occurs as a result of drunk driving, the penalties are far more severe and could result in a longer prison sentence.

Police Checks

Police in Norway are authorized to conduct random breathalyzer tests, and you are legally obligated to comply.

Refusing a breathalyzer test is itself a criminal offense and can result in similar penalties as failing the test.

Practical Tips

The safest approach is not to drink and drive at all. Use public transport, a taxi, or designate a sober driver if you plan on consuming alcohol.

Related: Getting a Driving License in Norway: A Step-By-Step Guide

Cultural Norms Around Drinking

While understanding the legalities surrounding alcohol is crucial, it’s equally important to be aware of the cultural norms around drinking in Norway. These norms can provide you with valuable context for how to behave in social situations involving alcohol.

Social Drinking

Norwegians often enjoy social drinking, commonly in the form of “vorspiel” (pre-parties) at home before heading out to bars or clubs.

Beer is popular for casual gatherings, while wine is often reserved for dinners and special occasions.

‘Koselig’ Moments

The Norwegian concept of ‘koselig,’ similar to the Danish ‘hygge,’ often involves enjoying good drinks in a comfortable, intimate setting, usually at home with friends or family.


Tipping isn’t a widespread practice in Norway as it is in some other countries. However, leaving some change or round up the bill is acceptable when you’re at a bar or restaurant.

Moderation is Key

Heavy drinking is generally frowned upon, and public drunkenness is especially unacceptable. The emphasis is on enjoying alcohol responsibly and in moderation.

Responsible Drinking: Safety Tips

Responsible Drinking Safety Tips

Understanding the legal and cultural frameworks surrounding alcohol consumption in Norway is a great start, but it’s also important to practice responsible drinking. Here are some safety tips to keep in mind:

Always Have a Designated Driver or Use Public Transportation

If you’re going out with friends and plan on drinking, ensure someone is designated as the sober driver for the night. If that’s not possible, consider taking public transport or booking a taxi.

Keep an Eye on Your Drink

It’s essential to always keep an eye on your drink to avoid any risk of drink tampering. Never leave your drink unattended; if you’re suspicious, getting a new one is safer.

Know Your Limits

Understanding your alcohol tolerance can go a long way in ensuring you drink responsibly. Try to gauge how much you can handle without becoming overly intoxicated.

Eat Before You Drink

Consuming alcohol on an empty stomach can speed up intoxication. Eating a meal before you start drinking can help slow down the absorption of alcohol.


Alcohol can dehydrate you, which not only intensifies a hangover but can also make you drink more than you intended. Make it a habit to alternate alcoholic drinks with water.

Beware of Mixing Alcohol and Medication

Certain medications can have adverse interactions with alcohol. If you’re on medication, consult your doctor or read the instructions to ensure it’s safe to consume alcohol.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Legal Drinking Age for Beer and Wine?

The legal drinking age for beer and wine (up to 22% alcohol by volume) is 18 years old.

Can I Buy Spirits in Grocery Stores?

No, spirits and other strong liquors are only sold at Vinmonopolet, the government-owned alcohol retailer.

What Time Do Alcohol Sales Stop in Grocery Stores?

Sales usually stop at 8:00 p.m. from Monday to Friday and at 6:00 p.m. on Saturdays. Alcohol sales are not permitted in grocery stores on Sundays and certain public holidays.

What Happens if I Get Caught Drinking and Driving?

Penalties can range from fines and temporary license suspension to imprisonment, depending on the level of alcohol in your blood.

Is Public Drinking Allowed?

Drinking in public places such as parks, beaches, and streets is generally not allowed. Police can confiscate your alcohol and fine you if you’re caught.

Do I Need an ID to Buy Alcohol?

Yes, you will need a valid form of identification to purchase alcohol, irrespective of your age. A passport, a national ID card with a photo, or a Norwegian bank card with a photo are generally accepted.

Is Tipping Expected When I Order Alcohol at a Bar or Restaurant?

Tipping is not mandatory but appreciated. You can round up the bill or leave some change if you wish.


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