How should I spend nine days in Norway?
November 29, 2018 12:22 AM   Subscribe

What do you think is an ideal itinerary for nine days in Norway for a Nordic newbie?

I'm going to be in Northern Europe/Scandinavia for a few weeks in May and have found myself with nine days to kill from May 14th to May 23rd. Thanks to Instagram and watching too much Skam, I really want to spend it in Norway. I will be flying out of Oslo on my last day. While I'd like to not go too overboard budget-wise (yep, I've heard how expensive Norway is and plan on eating lots of homemade sandwiches), I'd love recommendations for an itinerary or just places to go and things to see.

I will not have a car nor access to one, but I'm open to flying to Tromsø or Trondheim if it's worth it, otherwise I'm sticking to trains or public transportation. As for other relevant info- I'm a 20-something vegetarian (no seafood recs plz), love museums, and am really into knitting and mushroom hunting.

Thanks, mefites!

Oh, and I am aware I'll be there during syttende mai and am looking forward to it!
posted by mollywas to Travel & Transportation around Norway (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Unfortunately there will be no mushrooms in May. Mushroom season is in autumn here.

The standard recommendation I have is going on the Bergen Line (Bergensbanen) which could be lovely in May. There are a couple of options there, for instance getting off at Myrdal and taking the museum railway down to Flåm. Then you can go back up again and get on the main train, or you can stay a night in Flåm and take the express boat to Bergen to see some fjords.

On the 17th you might will have to make a plan if you want to eat anything else than hotdogs - restaurants will be packed.

What kind of museums are you into? Art/history/technical/oddities?
posted by Harald74 at 12:54 AM on November 29, 2018 [2 favorites]

May 17th is national holiday and there will be parades in every major city. and as mentioned above restaurant and city centres in general will be packed with Norwegians (some drunk) in traditional garb.

I second the train from Oslo to Bergen and the excursion to Flåm + express boat. It is quite a nice ride. Especially the Flåmsbana from Myrdal to Flåm. The boat to Bergen is electric and it is surprisingly quiet. The Oslo Flåm Bergen route is part of the "Norway in a Nutshell" tour which you can buy tickets for, which might be cheaper than buying tickets individually.
May is probably the best time to go to Bergen weather wise (as a local). The chances of getting rained on are lowest and you can go hiking into the mountains around town. There are quite a few museums in town as well. KODE, the art museum with a permanent exhibition of Norwegian painters (Astrup, Munch, Dahl etc), Bryggen the old medieval trade center, the house of composer Edvard Grieg has been turned into a museum as well with daily concerts. Even though Bergen is a seafood city, you can get vegetarian food almost everywhere.

Trondheim Cathedral is quite impressive and so is Ringve, the music museum.

Tromsø has a nice arctic museum about the race to the poles and arctic exploration in general. I personally liked Tromsø much more than Trondheim, but it is much smaller.

Let me know if you want to know more.
posted by Megustalations at 2:32 AM on November 29, 2018 [2 favorites]

There are a couple of options there, for instance getting off at Myrdal and taking the museum railway down to Flåm. Then you can go back up again and get on the main train, or you can stay a night in Flåm and take the express boat to Bergen to see some fjords.

There are more options than this from Flåm. You can also use ferries and buses to head north and further into the fjord area. It should be relatively easy in nine days to make your way to Alesund and then Andalsnes to catch a train to Trondheim and then either fly or train back to Oslo. This would open up options like taking a flying tour over the Jostedalsbreen glacier as well as letting you see more of the fjords.

Whatever you decide, take your waterproofs.
posted by biffa at 5:24 AM on November 29, 2018

The only thing I'd add to what everyone else has already said is that Flåm itself is something of a purpose-built tourism hub and basically exists to sell cruise ship passengers (even more) expensive souvenirs, so I wouldn't count on spending more time there than you absolutely need to.

(we did the Bergen/Myrdal/Flåm/Bergen loop this summer, breaking it with a day in Balestrand and a trip up to Fjaerland to the foot of the Jostedalsbreen glacier; would 100% recommend, it's a stunningly beautiful country)

But also, hard yes on the waterproofs.
posted by parm at 5:53 AM on November 29, 2018

I just spent 9 days in Norway in August going Ålesund->driving through the fjord area to the interior (Oppland)->Bergen->scenic train to Oslo, with a few days in each stop. It was a perfect combination of nature and cool urban Scandinavia.

We had a car for the fjord area to Bergen bit, but part of that is that my boyfriend gets seasick very easily so we were avoiding ferries - you could very easily put together something in that big, stunning fjord-laden area between Ålesund and Bergen with ferries and trains. The Bergen-Oslo train is not at all overhyped. It's about seven hours but I would have been happy if it were twice as long.

All three cities had excellent museums. We particularly liked the Fisheries Museum in Ålesund and the whole Kode complex in Bergen. Oslo, of course, is in a league of its own museum-wise, and we simply ran out of time and didn't make it to everything we would have liked to!

I love the Arctic and we strongly, strongly considered flying to Tromsø instead of starting out in the Ålesund coastal area, but when looking at possible itineraries it ultimately it felt too rushed because we weren't willing to drop the Bergen piece. Your traveling style might be different, but just a data point.

I love Norway and can't wait to go back.
posted by superfluousm at 7:36 AM on November 29, 2018

Flam is a tourist trap. As not particularly outdoorsy people we ended up just going Bergen-Myrdal by normal train, Myrdal-Flam by tourist-trap train, Flam-Bergen by express boat. This gave us enough time to eat lunch in Flam and buy me a ridiculously warm sweater, which I don't wear because I live in Atlanta. That is all the time you need in Flam. If you're going to take the Flam railway in one direction only, it should probably be downhill,from Myrdal to Flam - doing it uphill would be anticlimactic.

In Bergen, the Grieg museum is worth your time. Be there for one of the piano recitals if you can. In Trondheim, there are two museums I liked, the Trondelag Folk Museum and the Ringve museum. All of these are a bit out of town but easily accessible.

The Oslo to Trondheim train is nearly as scenic as the Oslo to Bergen one, and less overrun with tourists, so if you want six hours of looking out a window consider taking the train instead of flying. I also recommend buying "first class" - if I remember correctly it's about 100 kroner (12 USD) extra and it comes with unlimited hot cocoa.
posted by madcaptenor at 8:53 AM on November 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

I don't think anyone is suggesting staying in Flam, its the connecting railway to Myrdal that makes it worthwhile. The alternative would be to break an Oslo-Bergen trip by going both ways then go to Bergen and get a one way boat ticket up the Sognefjord but only as far as Balestrand or one of the other towns on the north side of the fjord.

If you go Oslo-Myrdal then look out for the site of the Battle of Hoth, which is two stops east of Myrdal, near Finse.
posted by biffa at 9:06 AM on November 29, 2018

Oh wow, local here and works in travel and property around the country.

First things first. Oslo is lovely and going through a lot of changes including the cosmopolitan tradition of building huge things around the harbor (Opera House, BarCode, Bjørvika) including a new library, museums, restaurants, housing etc. Its a fun city to explore and we recommend to all our guests a three day max - anything else have to kick you out to the forest to walk around.

Aside from the normal tourist attractions, probably the most important stop is the Tourist information office located at the train station. Sounds a bit strange, but in reality, it is one of the best in the world. Speak to someone, let them know what you are interested in, how much time you have and presto - they will provide for free and most economical itinerary for you. Saves all the time and allows you to enjoy Oslo at your own pace with super local tips. I have traveled the world and to be fair, never encountered something so well run with a focus on making sure you get the most bang out of the city for the buck!

Up North or West Coast?
Tromsø in May (speaking from experience is beautiful and summer is just coming full center) but its off season and the area is quite small. You will either be forced to join the standard lines at the tour offices pitching everything from whale watching to excursions, but to be honest, Tromsø and environs are best explored via car. We are there a few times each year and with a car find some of the most amazing things. Without one - you are stuck in the tourist trap. Don´t get me wrong - for Northern lights in winter it is spectacular and just beyond but in lead up to summer there are a lot better alternatives down south.

Norway in a nutshell (Oslo to Bergen via Flåm or vice versa):
It works and as previous commentators have mentioned Flåm really is just a hokey tourist trap. Getting on the ferry or travelling down via Myrdahl to Bergen is amazing. What really is important here is you have Bergen and Stavanger - both are AMAZING for 17th May and give a real insight to the natural beauty of our land. It is extravagant and made for really seeing what our country offers in terms in natural beauty. Grab a boat or take the bus - the people are amazing and if you are indeed a mushroom picker - without the actual picking of mushrooms - there is something amazing to be standing 5000 feet over a fjord in pristine nature just going oh my god I could keep walking for days.

Again, the tourist information centers in both Bergen and Stavanger are invaluable. If it was me, I wouldnt plan too much in advance - just have an idea of some highlights you want to see and use local resources to fill in the gaps. I can assure you though 9 days with west coast and Oslo will be incredible and wont dent the pocketbook as much if you do the guided tour route.

Regarding food - we have a strong contingent of vegans and nothing wrong with that. Oslo, Bergen, Stavanger and everywhere else will cater to your needs and the grocery stores whilst they might be the size of a 7-11 always have a very good selection of veg, fruits and faux meat eater products. You will fit right in. No one really cares about what you eat - as long as you eat well :P

Hope this helps in a larger picture framework. To summarise, plan the nine days around west coast and Oslo - you will not be disappointed. As much as I love Oslo - it is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg in terms of exploring our beautiful country.

Last. 17th of May in Oslo is absolute chaos. The spectacle is amazing in the city center during the morning, but by late afternoon you will find everyone except those Norwegians mastering the art of drinking heavily from early morning to night are the only ones left in town. Plus its impossible to get a table, relax or anything. Much rather spend on West Coast - and that is from a local.
posted by Funmonkey1 at 2:42 PM on November 29, 2018 [3 favorites]

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