Norway Itinerary
May 7, 2012 1:51 PM   Subscribe

Norway Itinerary: I've always had a nagging desire to see Norway but after all the recent shocking activity the thing that struck me most was the amazing people. So I've decided to see the beautiful country for myself and would like some help putting together a memorable itinerary

Probably for a week but could maybe do 10 days and up to 14 - although I am supposed to be somewhere else for the second week.

Flying into Oslo late on a Friday and have no plans yet - but quite like the idea of a log cabin, the midnight sun and bergen.

Help much appreciated, we like quaint towns, sight seeing, beautiful landscapes, history, shopping, music, rock,
posted by trashcan to Travel & Transportation around Norway (16 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
The Oslo-Bergen train ride is a lot of fun and quite beautiful.

I lived in Oslo for a while, I'd suggest the Viking Ship Museum since you like history, Frogner Park and the Vigeland Sculpture Park within, and Akerhus Fortress. Aker Brygge is a big shopping-type area, as those things go, and is a nice place to mill around and hang out and people watch.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 2:20 PM on May 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

I actually just got back from a trip to Norway. Bergen is magnificent, (but a bit on a small side- we easily did all the sights within the city within 2 days).

I am not kidding when I say that the train ride between Oslo and Bergen was the highlight of the trip. 7 hrs of drinking wine (bought at the airport duty free shop as soon as we landed!), playing cards and watch the Norwegian country side go by was an incredible experiance. Also it cost $35 bucks each way, which is by far the cheapest thing we did in Norway. ($10-13 beers on average at a bar? ouch)

I would have loved to take a train or boat ride from Bergen further North. I did not find Oslo particularly lovely, but the waterfront is under developement, and I could see returning to Oslo in 8 yrs (with a significantly higher budget) and enjoying it more properly. We had fun going out to some music stuff in Oslo, but all I remember is meeting up at the police station and wandering off from there. We did do a "mini-cruise" around the oslo harbor which was fun- but we had a really gorgeous day. Vigeland park was.... interesting, and very much stuck to a theme.

My friends and I rented apartments via AirBnB, and had various grocery store adventures as we very much mistranslated some things. We had very good luck with Air BnB, and it was significantly cleaner and cheaper than the hostels/hotels at the same pricepoint.
posted by larthegreat at 2:23 PM on May 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Years and years ago, I stayed in the mountain town of Geilo during the midsummer festival. My group stayed in a ski chalet close enough to walk into town.

The town itself was cute, we did a fair amount of hiking, and we didn't feel weird about participating in their midsummer festival (with the traditional May Pole, music, and dancing). The sun stayed out until 11:30pm, and so did we :)

I look back on my time there fondly, and happily suggest that you consider it!
posted by Elly Vortex at 2:31 PM on May 7, 2012

I spent 2-3 weeks in Norway last year and had a lovely time; here's a blog post I wrote. Two things to know. It is very expensive, because the country is not on the Euro and is essentially an oil economy. And it is very large, particularly driving distances. The fjords are gorgeous but make car travel awkward.

Oslo is a great city, but it also feels like any other Northern European city and less uniquely Norwegian. If your time is limited I'd suggest heading west and north. Bergen, certainly, either by train from Oslo or fly. The Norway in a Nutshell tour from Bergen sounds hopelessly touristy but was actually totally amazing, recommended.

One interesting tourist destination in the area of Bergen is Balestrand and its Kvikne's Hotel. Not a lot to do there, but beautiful on the lake and with some interesting vacation history.

if you have time, I can heartily recommend Lofoten, this beautifully remote set of fishing villages on a peninsula / islands. Absolutely gorgeous and great for tourists. You can fly to Bodø and then take the ferry, and there are small airports on Lofoten itself. Another remote bit of beautiful Norway is Senja, although up there the tourist amenities get pretty thin.
posted by Nelson at 2:37 PM on May 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

First things first. Norway is big. The datum that sticks out for me is that Oslo is closer to Rome than it is to the North Cape (ie far north of mainland Norway). So you're not going to be seeing all of it. You can get about fairly quick if you are prepared to fly between the major cities, the trains are generally good (where there are trains, you can;t tke one north of bergen for example) but if you want to do the main fjords then its coaches or hire cars and not speed. It would be very easy to keep moving for the whole ten days and not scratch the surface, so think about what you most want and pick that. When you say a cabin do you want to stay in one place? There is something to be said for doing so, you can do the cities in 1 day or two, but the joy of Norway is often not in the cities but in the landscape. So stay somewhere and meet some people but use it as a jumping off point to see the best of the country.

I would cut it down to two main choices of places to stay/see. There's the fjord country in western Norway and the Lofoten Islands in the North. Both offer magnificent landscape and elements of Norwegian culture, obviously the fjords are unique but the Islands are also stunning. The fjords would also let you see the Jostedalsbreen glacier, the biggest in mainland Europe. The Lofotens are in the Arctic circle so you get proper midnight sun. Weather may be a bit riskier in the north. I would really advise having a good look at these areas and picking one to stick with.
posted by biffa at 2:38 PM on May 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

I agree with Nelson, the Loften Islands are really beautiful. I only spent a few nights there but remember getting North of Bergen difficult by land (I think I had to take a train back to Olso, but this was over 10 years ago).
posted by Bunglegirl at 2:53 PM on May 7, 2012

Thirding the Oslo-Bergen train ride, it's spectacular.

Consider spending a whole day at the cluster of museums around the Viking Ship Museum; the Norwegian Folk Park and Kon-Tiki museum are much more epic than they sound. The raft Thor Heyerdahl sailed across the Pacific is fricking tiny.
posted by pickingupsticks at 4:23 PM on May 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Go to Tromso, ride the funicular up, walk down as the sun sets. You will not regret it.

And in Tromso if you're moderately lucky you'll get to see the Northern Lights.
posted by shivohum at 5:29 PM on May 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's been a long time since I've been to Norway, but Nidarosdomen (Nidaros Cathedral) in Trondheim is quite an astonishing sight to see. Make sure you see some stavkirker too!

If you have the time and budget definitely check out the Hurtigruten coastal voyage, which is supposed to be a gorgeous trip.
posted by Songdog at 5:34 PM on May 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Last year in late spring I spent two + weeks in Norway. Upon arrival I spent two nights in Bergen (stayed with a good friend) then boarded the Hurtigruten for the coastal voyage up and down the coast from Bergen to Kirkenes (Russian border) and back to Bergen.

The Hurtigruten stopped at 32 ports - notably Alesund (beautiful Jugendstil town) Trondheim (agree that the cathedral is magnificent, and the canal and the side streets are delightful) in Tromso (loved the Polaris show and the ice church) in Nordkapp at the top of the country (it had snowed the day before, so the views of the blue ocean extending to infinity, cast against the blue sky and the white crisp snow underfoot were spectacular) and Hammerfest (home of Norway's death metal, and home to the Museum of Reconstruction which I dare you to visit without shedding a tear or few).

I loved the Lofoten and Versterolen islands. I was thrilled by a bouncy RIB/zodiac boat trip near Bodo in the churning rapids, while the tides changed. And I was sobered by the signage at Norway's only crossing into Russia, now an ordinary shengen border crossing, but with vestiges of far darker days. Speaking of which, I was amused to see a frozen lake near the border line, with orange cones delimiting the Russian side, and the Norwegian side, with nordic tracks laid on each sides of the cones - with people happily skiing on each side.

I saw the Northern Lights near Bodo, they were impressive, spiritual even. It was bloody cold out on the open waters that night, but oh the views, the changing dancing lights...

And upon my return to Bergen with the Hurtigruten ship I spent one more evening with my friend then took the train to Oslo. The 7 hour train was a splendid trip overland, with more views of mountains and rivers and skiers and snowed-under ski chalets.

My two last nights in Norway were spent in Oslo. Until then I had not really felt the bite of the currency exchange, or the impact of visiting a country where the minimum wage translates to about $26 an hour. I had stayed with a friend and booked a ferry trip with all meals included, the train trip was inexpensive (and they have wifi on board!!) and my hotel (a little Radisson right in the middle of the old town in Oslo) had been pre-booked by me in Vancouver by using Expedia.

So the food prices were a shock. Good lord. $16 for an ice cream on the Strand (Movenpick, but yeah, that's still a lot). $25 for a burger with a cup of coffee near the museum. I can't remember what dinner was with wine but it was in the same order of ohmygoodness - yummy but quite spendy.

So my advice is to pre-book and pre-pay in your own country as much as possible, and leave some room on your credit card for when you are in Norway. The people are lovely, the views are superb (the coast is gorgeous, Vigelandspark in Oslo is a masterpiece), the cities are clean, the infrastructure is very efficient, the food is fresh and tasty - and if you love fish, oh you will love Norway all right. I greatly enjoyed my trip and if I could, I'd be back there again right now.
posted by seawallrunner at 6:13 PM on May 7, 2012 [4 favorites]

The datum that sticks out for me is that Oslo is closer to Rome than it is to the North Cape (ie far north of mainland Norway).

According to Google Maps, Oslo is 2000km from the north cape and 2500 from Rome (including the distance on the ferry to Denmark). But you wouldn't know if you're using a Mercator projection.
posted by benbenson at 4:15 AM on May 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

For concerts and other events in Oslo: Oslopuls.

So the food prices were a shock. Good lord. $16 for an ice cream on the Strand (Movenpick, but yeah, that's still a lot). $25 for a burger with a cup of coffee near the museum.

Restaurant prices are always higher in popular, touristy areas like Aker Brygge.

An ice cream from Diplom-Is or Hennig-Olsen at any local kiosk (including Narvesen at Aker Brygge) should cost around $2 to $4. The hamburger menu at Max (at Egertorget in central Oslo) costs around $15.

Hotel breakfasts are usually included in the room price, and you can get food and beer at the local supermarket for lunch and/or dinner, perhaps a picnic at Hovedøya or one of the other small islands just off Oslo harbour. You can also get fresh shrimps from one of the boats near Aker Brygge. Serve them with a baguette, mayo and a slice of lemon.

7 hrs of drinking wine (bought at the airport duty free shop as soon as we landed!)

You can buy 3 l wine and 2 l beer duty free on arrival at Oslo Airport Gardermoen.

(I live just outside Oslo. If you need more info, feel free to MeFi mail me.)
posted by iviken at 4:28 AM on May 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

According to Google Maps, Oslo is 2000km from the north cape and 2500 from Rome (including the distance on the ferry to Denmark). But you wouldn't know if you're using a Mercator projection.

Or remembering out of some guide book I read ages ago. Heh.

I would also nth stocking up on duty free at your departure airport if you want to drink at all.

Food wise you can eat very pleasantly by keeping an eye out for markets. Since you're there in the summer it will be easy to lunch on seafood in various combinations (def in Bergen and Trondheim), plus lots of fresh soft fruit. I remember being able to smell fresh strawberries at around 100 paces from the Trondheim fruit market there were so many of them.

(We are currently swaying between the Lofotens and and the Pyrenees for our summer hols and this thread is definitely influencing me.)
posted by biffa at 4:41 AM on May 8, 2012

Regarding Lofoten:
''When my grandfather, and his father, used to plow this land,'' he continued, ''they'd sometimes turn up skeletons and some artifacts -- a Viking sword, a gold ring, the foundations of a house, the outlines of a Viking ship.'' Hov, Frode said, comes from an Old Norse word meaning sacred place of offering.
What did he think of people playing golf where Viking bones rest?
''They'd probably think it's fun,'' he said. ''They were Vikings.''
posted by iviken at 5:02 AM on May 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

Definitely take the railroads between major destinations, if you're not in any hurry. The highlight from my trip was the Flåm Railway leaving from Myrdal. Absolutely stunning. Day hikes from Flåm are equally amazing, and you can catch a ferry from there to Bergen that threads its way through the fjords on the southwest coast.
posted by Mayor West at 5:13 AM on May 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

We went to Norway last summer and did the most amazing overnight kayak trip through a fjord with Nordic Ventures. Truly incredible. We also took the train down to Stavanger to hike to Pulpit Rock and then take the boat up to Bergen. If I had to do it again, I would skip Stavanger entirely and spent my whole trip in a kayak (and I am not a hardcore kayaker - it was just too beautiful).
posted by oryelle at 12:33 PM on May 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

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