The climate of the last two millennia was characterised by decadal to multi-centennial variations which were recorded in terrestrial records and had important societal impacts. The cause of these climatic events is still under debate but changes in the North Atlantic circulation have often been proposed to play an important role. In this review we compile available high-resolution paleoceanographic datasets from the northern North Atlantic and Nordic Seas. The records are grouped into regions related to modern ocean conditions and their variability is discussed. We discuss our current knowledge from modelling studies, with a specific focus on the dynamical changes that are not well inferred from the proxy records. An illustration is provided through the analysis of two climate model ensembles and an individual simulation of the last millennium. This review thereby provides an up-to-date paleo-perspective on the North Atlantic multidecadal to multi-centennial ocean variability across the last two millennia.