Anyone heading up to Norway anytime soon? Here’s a short list of things to see and do when you’re in country. Be prepared to be blown away by the natural beauty of the country and the prices. The best time to go is in the summer, when the daylight can last almost 24-hours straight (in the far north) and the temperatures rise to the mid-20s.
#1. Take a cruise up Sognefjord. It’s only a couple of hours away from Bergen, on the west coast of the country in the middle of the fabulous fjord lands. You could also drive there from Bergen, but why stress yourself out on the windy roads when you can relax and let the ship’s captain do the work. When you think “fjord,” Sognefjord is what you are imagining. For the truly adventurous, there is a mail boat that cruises all the way from Bergen to Lofoten (in a couple of days) with stops along the way.
#2. Take a hike up Fløyen in Bergen, or get lazy and take the funicular to the top. The mountain offers amazing views of Bergen, it’s harbor, fjords, and has a small restaurant if you feel like a snack. Bring a rain jacket, though, since the weather in rainy Bergen is fickle.
#3. Ride the train from Bergen to Oslo. It’s about a six-hour journey (compared to an hour’s flight time), but the views are magnificent. Pack a lunch ahead of time (there is a small meal cart), and watch the amazing scenery roll by. The journey is so pretty and popular that the Norwegians even made a TV show about it- Six hours of continuous video from multiple cameras mounted to the outside of the train.
#4. Sunbath on the grass at the Aker Brygge fort and then take a ferry or sailboat cruise around Oslo’s harbor and fjord. Bring a sweater as the temperatures out on the water are normally far cooler than on land, and marvel in the beauty of the city and its surroundings.
#5. When you get tired of the harbor, catch the metro line to the Oslo ski jump (Holmenkollen). There you can hike around in the mountains and still be back in town within 30 minutes. If you’re in Oslo in the winter (and properly attired), you can take the metro to the ski jump and then rent small sleds to race down snowy trails from the top of the mountain to a nearby metro station. Jump back on the metro, ride to the top of the mountain, and repeat! If you get cold, pop into the restaurant on the hill for something warm.
#6. Skoleboller! My favorite Norwegian dish, Skoleboller is a coconut covered pastry filled with creme anglaise. Other local dishes include fresh salmon (of course), moose or reindeer (depending on the time of the year), plenty of fish, and… tacos! Norwegians love tacos, probably since they are easy to make and a spicy treat very different from most traditional Norwegian food. Oslo has many fine restaurants, just try not to think about how much things cost.
#7. Talk to Norwegians. Pro tip: Scandinavians tend to be very shy until they have had a couple of drinks, but will open up if you start the conversation. Don’t worry, they are almost all perfectly fluent in English. So just walk over, say hello, and start making friends!
#8. Now that you have some local friends, get an invite for a party on the 17th of May. Every year Norwegians celebrate their independence from Sweden with parades, parties, and lots of booze. Typically, the party starts around 1000 for a champagne brunch in someone’s house before everyone heads downtown to watch the parade and to keep partying. Many Norwegians will be wearing their traditional garb, which vary in appearance and make from town to town. The strongest will party straight through the day into the night! Expect chaos, poor service in the overwhelmed bars and restaurants, and lots of fun!
#9. Take a walk through the Vigeland Park on a sunny day. Filled with exotic sculptures, the entire park was the brain child of Gustav Vigeland, who spent much of his life creating each piece in the park. If the weather is bad, maybe a visit to the Munch museum is in order. Or better yet, go see the viking ships at the Vikingskipshuset museum, and then walk over to the outdoor Norsk Folkemuseum. Filled with homes and buildings brought from around Norway, the museum provides an interesting way to learn about Norway, its inhabitants, and how people really used to live.
#10. See a performance at the new Opera House. Located on the water front, the building is a piece of art in and of itself. Afterwards, you are just a short walk from the downtown bars and restaurants.