Exploring Norway things you should know
Have you ever thought about exploring Norway? Maybe you’ve seen those dreamy pictures of magnificent fjords or watched episodes of Vikings on Netflix?
How would you go about organising a trip to Norway? It’s a vast country more than half of which is covered in forest. It’s the richest country in Europe and it’s people have a high standard of living. Of course we all know how cool Nordic design is! Read on to find out about Fjords, Oslo sights, Bergen, boutique hotels and everything in between!
Take the work out of your trip and get some inspiration from our itinerary and experiences this summer August 2017.
Our itinerary covered the ultra modern capital city of Oslo, the UNESCO world heritage city of Bergen and in between we spent some glorious days exploring Norway’s fjords in rural Aurland. We spent a week doing this and we are a family of 4 people.
How did we go about organizing our trip? Luxury Action, a company that specializes in organizing luxury travel to Arctic countries, helped us organize our trip. There is a direct flight to Oslo from Dubai on Emirates, but on this occasion we took a British Airways flight from London Heathrow.
Stop 1 Exploring Norway – Oslo
We stayed in the very modern Tjuvelholmen area of Oslo that’s right on the water’s edge. We spent 2 nights at the iconic The Thief hotel. It screams high tech and luxury at the same time, from the moment you enter the hotel elevator to when you turn out your lights at night, everything is very high tech here, but it’s also a hotel that focuses on art too.
A swim in the indoor hotel pool is a must do, the floor and walls of the pool are made of aluminum, one of Norway’s major exports, and the pool lights will subtly change colour as you swim.
Try the Rasool treatment if you have time, then alternate between the steam, sauna and swimming pool. But do check your room rate includes use of this small but exclusive spa area. Coffee, tea and small fruit platters are complimentary while you use the spa area, and that includes the pool. The Rasool treatment is great but do note you apply your face scrubs and body rubs yourself.
Breakfast at The Thief was full of local produce and featured everything you’d expect from a hotel of this standard. We loved our fruit and vegetable shots and of course the Norwegian smoked salmon was a must try!
Key sights to see in Oslo include the impressive Holmenkollen ski slope jump, the Oslo opera house and Vigeland sculpture park.
We also really liked the Viking Museum. We managed to see all of the above and more in one day using a combination of a private car and driver with a guide, again organized by Luxury Action.
We couldn’t have done this otherwise as distances and more importantly ticket queues are long!
We ate dinner at Oslo’s answer to Zuma, that’s Hanami Sushi one evening, and it’s conveniently located just 2 minutes walk from The Thief hotel. We loved the warm rugs on the outdoor chairs and the heaters above us kept away any cold winds very effectively. It’s really worth sitting outside if you can just to take in the changing light in the evening over the marina.
We also experienced what the Norwegian’s call a Prawn Buffet one evening. This was part of a boat cruise that lasted for around 3 hours and again started just a few minutes walk from our hotel.
Our family really enjoyed this experience that involved sitting on simple outdoor benches while sailing around the bay. The prawn buffet really is literally a prawn buffet. So that means barrels of fresh shrimp prawns, bowls of salad and some sliced bread.
Do note you do have to peel the prawns yourself and that could take a while, but you do end up with a delectable prawn sandwich for your dinner!
Stop 2 Exploring Norway Aurland and Fjord country
We took 2 trains to get to Flam, where we were picked up by car for the last 10 minutes of our journey to the cosy riverside farm lodge Aurland 292. Our first train from Oslo station to Myrdle took around 3 hours or so and this was a very comfortable journey despite it being standard class. You must book your seats before hand though.
There is a small kiosk cafe selling refreshments on board, and behind it is a really comfortable dining car that’s open to everyone. It has leather seats and proper tables.
I loved the stools with counters by the windows! It’s a good idea to buy some snacks from the supermarkets in the station beforehand though especially if you’re travelling with children, the supermarket food is better value too.
Our second train took us on a very scenic route from Myrdle to Flam, but this was an extremely different journey as it was packed with tourists, but the journey was just an hour.
Aurland 292 is not a working farm but it is arranged very much in farm house type accommodation. There are a variety of beautifully decorated rooms, some with sitting room and patio areas, but all have their own en suite bathrooms. There is even a self-contained fisherman’s cottage on the grounds that would be perfect for families.
The farm is still owned by the original family who first worked here and Ency, now 3 years old was the first child to be born and stay on the farm in 85 years!
Aurland 292 is a special place for a number of reasons. The warmth of the people is evident throughout and nothing is too much trouble. The design of the rooms is very in keeping with tradition without sacrificing comfort or design and the communal dinners are really special.
We explored Aurland on a proper tour by Tune one of the owners of Aurland 292. She took us by car around the local area but then parked by a mountain to explain we were starting a hike up to a goat farm!
This took around 1.5 hours or so and was in parts a bit challenging, but we didn’t need special hiking boots or gear at all. We’re all averagely fit.
For Tune, who also took her dog with her, it was literally like a walk in the park! We were rewarded at the top with some very fresh goats’ cheese and pancakes all hand made by Anne Karin who’s lived on the farm for almost 30 years.
We also tried some Brunost cheese, this is cheese again that’s made fresh every day on the farm and specific to Norway. It’ brown in colour due to the caramelizing of the whey, that’s the liquid that’s usually thrown away during the cheese making process! But this liquid is boiled, then caramelized almost and kneaded into a soft, salty, creamy cheese!
Check out the video above to see the cheese being made.
Going down the mountain was much quicker but I found this more challenging than going up as it was quite steep in parts. We found a gorgeous spot by the fjord for a late afternoon lunch. Aurland is well worth a visit to hike, climb, walk around in or just to hang around in.
Stegastein is also well worth a visit for the dramatic views and the pathway that literally juts out onto thin air for about 30 meters!
Last stop exploring Norway – Bergen UNESCO world heritage site
The quickest way to Bergen from Aurland would be by car and the journey would take around 2.5 hours, but we took a ferry right from Aurland quayside and this took nearer 5 hours, obviously going through some magnificent fjords. This is quite a long journey though. We were rewarded with a spectacular sky when we arrived at Bergen harbor or the Bryggen as it’s known!
Unlike Oslo, Bergen is a much smaller city and it’s very walkable. Nevertheless our guide showed us the key sites and again we were so glad she bought tickets for our passes to Floyen, which saved us a lot of time waiting in long queues. Do see the video to get an idea of views at the top.
The Floyen is Bergen’s funicular railway and it’s worth going to get some spectacular views of the city from the top. There is a café at the top, but we recommend going back down and trying some of Bergen’s very good small coffee houses.
We got amazing views from the tower on the 6th floor of our hotel in Bergen, the Clarion Collection Havnekontoret, about 10 minutes walk from the quay side.
The hotel is ideally situated for exploring Bergen and the staff are all super friendly. Do have a good breakfast before you go exploring. You, can come back for tea, waffles, again self made in the afternoon, or a light salad and soup meal in the evening. All these refreshments are included in the price of your stay so it does make it a good value hotel with good sized rooms. The food is simple though and you make the waffles yourself!
Bergen used to be the capital of Norway and it’s rich in tradition and history. The fort area is well worth a visit and while we were there, it played host to a concert of local pop stars Marcus and Martinus who attracted crowds of 23, 000 young fans! They themselves are only 14 years old themselves though!
The Bryggen houses are a set of 11 old wooden houses that sit right by the waterside of Bergen’s harbor. They’ve been carefully restored and are still working shops and restaurants. Walk in between the houses and explore in between the alleys. Have a look at the wooden fish on one of the courtyards.
You must visit Bergen’s fish market, both the indoor one and the outdoor one, again right in front of the harbour. We preferred the indoor one and we got to taste all kinds of seafood delicacies from smoked trout to smoked minke whale!
Do make time to visit the Kode museums in Bergen. There are 4 inter related museums and one ticket of 100 Norwgian kroners, that’s about AED 50 allows you in to all 4.
Prioritise the Edward Munch museum and go on the free guided tour. It provides a fascinating insight into the painting and psyche of the painter.
Do also try and make time if the weather is good to walk to the botanical gardens in Bergen in the area of the university museum. We loved our walk here and this was well off the beaten Bergen track.
Bergen’s airport is extremely modern and opened in August 2017 after an extensive refurbishment.
Restaurants are expensive in Bergen so have a good breakfast at your hotel and if the weather is good make one of your meals a picnic! Stop for a coffee at Lyseverket, the very popular restaurant in Kode 4, just next door. We couldn’t get a table for dinner, but coffee and the typical cinnamon buns make a great pit stop.
Read our post on Eating out in Bergen to get our tried and tested recommendations. (that post is coming soon)
Exploring Norway is it worth it
Overall we’re really glad we explored Norway, the fjords were magnificent and we loved Oslo’s cool vibe and Bergen’s history. But as everyone kept telling us, we were so lucky with the weather, we had almost uninterrupted sunshine for most of our week, it would have a completely different experience exploring Norway in the rain! Eating out in Norway, especially in Bergen was much more expensive that we had anticipated so do allow for that, but don’t let that stop the explorer in you!
The Clarion Collection Havnekontoret
Share this post in your favourite way if it’s inspired you to travel to Norway. I’d love a comment to know what you think!
Thank You Monica.