Norway is the most mountainous, most scenic, and most prosperous of all the Scandinavian countries.
While Oslo and Bergen are the big draws for tourists, Norway’s greatest claims to scenic fame are her deep, lush fjords. The surrounding countryside is decorated with medieval stave churches, fishing boats, cascading waterfalls, dramatic glaciers, and brightly painted shiplap villages. There’s a certain mystique about the “land of the midnight sun,” but the most picturesque travel thrills can be enjoyed by going west from Oslo rather than north. The entire west coast is slashed by stunning fjords – Sognefjord tops the list, with tiny but tough ferries, towering canyons, and isolated farms and villages bathed in the mist of countless waterfalls.
The Norwegian nature is free for everyone to walk in, and The Oslo Opera House, which opened in 2008, was built as an extension to this idea. Usually, you are reprimanded to walk on rooftops. This new building in the very epicentre of Oslo feels like the complete opposite of the usual “Please don’t touch” culture tourists are often met with worldwide.
In Oslo you have a number of places to choose between for swimming in the outdoors. You can swim both in the fjord and in the lakes in the woods.
I chose this hotel which was adjacent to Oslo’s Grand Central Station. It was the perfect location – just a few paces away from the main Karl Johans Gate – shopping street 🙂 and next to the historic center. Comfort Hotel Grand Central.
The hotel’s interiors are quite eclectic in contrast to its neo-classical exterior. I actually found the tiger tacky but I learned that the Tiger represented Norway – as it is fondly referred to as “The Tiger City”. Thus the commanding Bronze Tiger Sculpture in front of the Central Station as well.
The hotel lobby crosses over to Central Station. So many dining options and shops to consider here as well.
Many rooms offer views of the Jernbanetorget square. Across the street is the popular Karl Johans Gate.
Adi and Joaquin had their own room. What a funky mural.
Along the popular Karl Johans avenue is the luxurious Grand Hotel. The preferred venue for hosting celebrities, world leaders & Nobel Peace Prize laureates.
Studenterlunden. The park dates to 1837 when the area opened adjacent to the new buildings of the University of Oslo. The municipality took over responsibility in 1888. The park includes a music pavilion, beer garden and a variety of statues of famous Norwegians including Henrik Ibsen, Ludvig Holberg and Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson. Wikipedia
The National Theatre in Oslo is one of Norway’s largest and most prominent venues for performance of dramatic arts.
Dad encouraging this one to study here. The University of Oslo, until 1939 named the Royal Frederick University , is the oldest university in Norway. The Academic Ranking of World Universities has ranked it the 58th best university in the world and the third best in the Nordic countries. In 2015, the Times Higher Education World University Rankings ranked it the 135th best university in the world and the seventh best in the Nordics. While in its 2016, Top 200 Rankings of European universities, the Times Higher Education listed the University of Oslo at 63rd, making it the highest ranked Norwegian university. Wikipedia
Fancy meeting Gunnar Sonsteby – A member of the Norwegian resistance movement during the German occupation of Norway in World War II. He is also known for being the most highly decorated citizen in Norway, including being the only one to have been awarded the War Cross with three swords, Norway’s highest military decoration.
The Oslo Cathedral is the main church for the Church of Norway Diocese of Oslo, and is used for weddings and funerals by the Norwegian Royal Family and the Norwegian Government. It was first consecrated in 1697, and in 1950 it was restored back to its original baroque interior.
Alongside the Shopping District is the Paleet Shopping Center. This is a destination with a strong personality – an overall experience through modern design paired with dining venues and high end boutiques.
They patiently waited while the girls wandered around.
The Parliament of Norway Building.
Our family of 5 planned this brisk side trip to see more of Norway before embarking on our Scandinavian Cruise. From Oslo, we zipped through the fjords following the “Norway in a Nutshell” route to Bergen. Our heads spun from all the sights – an experience so surreal, as if we travelled back through time / worlds – with natural landscapes left to thrive on its own. That was indeed an overwhelming experience!
After our hearty breakfast, we were ready to head to our platform. Just a 5min walk from our hotel :))).
It was about 5 degrees. Dad wanted to wait outside while the rest of us were cozying up inside. All set for our full day voyage to Bergen.
Our Nutshell route started with a train ride, leaving Oslo at about 8 a.m. for Myrdal. Our cameras clicked like castanets as the train roared over Norway’s mountainous spine. We travelled through The barren, windswept heaths, glaciers, deep forests, countless lakes, and rugged ski resorts. The railroad is an amazing engineering feat. Completed in 1909, it’s 300 miles long and peaks at 4,266 feet — far above the tree line.
Under the powerful and majestic Hallingskarvet, with the sweeping Hardangervidda plains in the west, you will find the national park village, Geilo. Geilo made one of the first ski areas in Norway, after that time Geilo got more famous. With the high mountains and big woods, the opportunities for downhill skiing and cross country is perfect. Geilo has more than 500 km cross country trails, 39 slopes for downhill skiing. In the summer Geilo is well known for its hiking and mountain biking opportunities. It also offers other activities like white water rafting, downhill biking, fishing, and horseback riding. Hiking season starts in the end of June.
Hardangerjøkulen icecap. For the Star Wars fans, it is noteworthy to know that this was the setting for the remote ice planet Hoth. Some of the most iconic scenes from Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, including the attack on the Rebel Alliance’s Echo Base by Imperial Walkers and Han Solo’s daring rescue of Luke Skywalker after his tauntaun was attacked by a wampa were shot here. One can only imagine how the crew struggled with sub zero temperatures here.
Finse is a mountain village area on the shore of the lake Finsevatnet in Ulvik municipality. The village is centered on Finse Station, a railway station on the Bergen Railway line. Finse sits at an elevation of 1,222 metres (4,009 ft) above sea level, making it the highest station on the entire Norwegian railway system. There is no road access to Finse, and you can only get here by railway, walking or biking on the Rallarvegen. It is the place in Central Norway for wild Arctic-Like wilderness adventures. You only need walk a few minutes away from the tiny train station to find total silence, but if you prefer your rest time to be more adrenaline-filled then the countryside surrounding Finse offers nordic skiing in winter and hiking in summer, not to mention what could be Norway’s steepest mountain-bike ride.
Between the towns of Voss and Finse, Myrdal is the junction of the Oslo–Bergen railway and the spectacularly steep Flåmsbana railway. From here, the dramatic Flåmsbana line twists 20km down to Flåm on Aurlandsfjorden, an arm of Sognefjorden.
The trip on the Flåm Railway provides a panorama of some of the wildest and most magnificent Norwegian mountain scenery. We saw rivers slicing their way through deep gorges, waterfalls leaping off steep mountainsides with snow-covered mountain peaks, as well as mountain farms clinging tenaciously to steep slopes.
Considered the world’s most beautiful train journey. The Flåm Railway is considered to be one of Norway’s most important and spectacular tourist attractions. Every year, this amazing railway line attracts visitors from around the world, and in 2014 Lonely Planet named it the world’s more beautiful train journey…
Was hoping to see Kjosfossen Waterfall in all its enchantment this early Spring but its just beginning to thaw out. During the main season, a show is performed where a girl is dresses as Huldra (a seductive forest maiden) stands by the cliff of the falls as she allures the audience with her singing.
In contrast to the white lunar surroundings we travelled through, We approached the Flam Valley – a welcoming scenery of spring.
We were impressed to see this boat as our ride through the Fjords.
The fjord village of Flam is located in the inner part of the magic Sognefjord – the scenic Aurlandsfjord branch. From Flam there are fjord cruises to the UNESCO World heritage, dramatic Naeroyfjord – the narrow fjord, to the tiny fjord village of Gudvangen. In Flam you can also board the express steamer to Bergen, taking you through the magic Sognefjord, with ports of call in fjord villages such as Leikanger, Balestrand & Vik. In the centre of Flam village there are 2 beautifully located hotels; the classic Fretheim hotel & the tiny Flaamsbrygga hotel with its own brewery. Both of the hotels have excellent restaurants, focusing on local products. The beautiful Flam valley with the Flam river & tiny farm houses, surrounded by spectacular mountain peaks, is an excellent area for hiking & biking trips.
Approaching the Naeroyfjord. This dramatic, narrow fjord is one of the inner branches of the main Sognefjord, Norway’s longest fjord. This 18 kilometre long fjord is only 500 metres wide in some parts, with steep mountain sides and unbelievable, tiny farms clinging to the mountain sides. Since 2005, the Naeroyfjord has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Water falls cascade down the mountains and more picturesque villages dot the landscape.
Leave it to this little Ms. Congeniality to make friends anywhere. She spoke English and Tagalog while her friend spoke in Mandarin. But they were singing Finger Family songs together.
A quick stopover in Gudvangen.
My mind was set to visit the beguiling city of Bergen. Although considered the second largest city in Norway, it opts to maintain its small-town charm and atmosphere.
We rewarded ourselves with a sumptuous dinner at Bryggeloftet – a Traditional Bergen Restaurant with views of the Harbor.
We liked the ambiance and the staff were quite friendly.
Moulles Frites gone in minutes! We were so hungry! I was slurping the butter soup without guilt!
Joaquin opted for Sea Bass.
Adi just had a Lobster Tail starter.
Anton and I just had to try their Entrecote. It was good!
Founded more than 900 years ago, Bergen has roots to the Viking Age and beyond. For centuries, it was a rich trading port servicing Norway and the rest of Europe. Bryggen, (“The Hanseatic Wharf”) is the most obvious remnant from this time, and is today home to many of the city’s restaurants, pubs, craft shops and historical museums.
Loved the location of our hotel. Breakfast at the Mezzanine was pleasant with views of the Wharf’s activities.
Breakfast overlooking the Wharf.
In getting into Bergen Lifestyle, I opted to enjoy their seafood selection .
Johanneskirken is a stately and beautiful church in red brick. It is situated on a hill, looking down at the town. It was bulilt in the 18th century. The chimes were beautiful to listen to.
Torgallmenningen is the Main Square in Bergen. It is a popular meeting area as crowds can peruse through stores, cafes and even hang out in one of the two major malls nearby – Xhibition and The Galleriet. The prominent monument seen in the middle of the square, pays tribute to Norway’s extensive sailing history.
At the Festplassen.
Cute family in their traditional bunader (folk costumes)
Taking it easy by the Lille Lungegardsvann before check out and luggage hauling.
What an Interactive pond. Couldn’t help but try it out ourselves. On top of Waterfall is a statue of Ole Bull. (violin virtuoso). His musical excellence influenced contemporary artists. His Villa on Lysoen Island is a sight to behold. They call it the “Little Alhambra” featuring towers, exotic ornamentation and a beautiful music hall.
Bergen’s fish market is one of the town’s most famous spot. Here you can take a walk along the bustling market and check out the fresh culinary treasures from the sea. The Bergen fish market is a picturesque and lively spot in the heart of Bergen. As the name would suggest the stalls in the market mainly sells fish, but you can also buy fruit, vegetables, handcrafted objects and souvenirs. A lot of people enjoy buying fresh shrimp and eat them by the market stalls or at Bryggen next to the fish market. The Bergen fish market is most active during the summer, during the winter season and colder periods a lot of trade has moved indoor to the Mathallen. Fisketorget is a great alternative to satisfy your seafood cravings. The novelty of eating in a market can still be enjoyed as the restaurant is located by the wharf as well.
Bustling Scene in Fisketorget.
Ooohhh! Caviar delights!
Had to sample their Halibut Fish and Chips!
More Mussels to enjoy!
Strawberries with Vanilla Cream for dessert.
Bryggen is a bit like being on a film set with quirky little alleyways. Frontage is beautiful, but the real treasures are to be found up the alleyways. Lovely galleries, cute cafes and souvenir shops awaiting to be discovered.
More shops and galleries to discover here. Ambiance is more relaxing as its less touristy.
St Mary`s church is the oldest existing building in Bergen. They say, judging by its architectural style, it was probably built between 1130 and 1170.
Couldn’t get enough of these Effortless beauties as we explored the cobbled streets behind Bryggen.
Adorable Melaware designs!
Just spent the afternoon wandering aimlessly. Sometimes its better to have no plans at all.
The Hanseatic Wharf in Bergen is one of the city’s iconic sights. It may be true that only one of the buildings actually dates back to the 1700’s and the rest of them were re-built in more recent years, but the place still leaves you in awe especially when you walk through the interiors.
Around 10 percent of the population in Bergen are students, which adds a fresh and youthful mood to the city’s vibe. Our kids were only too delighted to discover that the stores were just as chic and current as the metropolis’. We were also lucky to catch the Annual Bergen Marathon on our last day. Breakfast was certainly entertaining with views of the lively crowd cheering their runners on.
Great! They finally set up the fish market on our last day! Just in time for the Annual Bergen Marathon as well! It was a festive morning. They were drumming up the energies with their fun music here.
Crowds cheering the runners on. In front of our hotel.
Off to Copenhagen !