A Nordic country of 5.4 million people, straddling the artic circle, and known for its skiing prowess. There are so many things to see from the fjords in the west, to the artic tundra in the north, and the bustling capital Oslo. You even have a choice of over 200,000 islands, and some of the most pristine beaches in the world, but don’t forget to pack a sweater along with a swim suit.
The capital and largest city
The second largest city, the largest port, and the former capital.
Oslo to Bergen Train
Said to be one of the most beautiful train routers in the world, this was a no brainer for me to choose when leaving Oslo and going to Bergen. Of course, flying would be faster, and about the same price, I had to see the beauty for myself…it did not disappoint. The train tops out at Finse station at 4000 feet (1222 meters). This high point is about 2.5 hours east of Bergen and 4.5 hours west of Oslo. In early March, during my trip, there is still feet of snow on the ground for much of the trip and the outside temperature dropped to as low as 3 degrees Fahrenheit. I understand the snow lasts until April, typically. It feels so good to be in the warm train drinking hot chocolate!
However, I recommend booking early. Even in the winter, these trains sell out. And, if you want a widow seat for the view, you better get it on with plenty of time.
The only downside on my trip is that my train departed over 2 hours late, so much of the ride (and apparently the best parts) ended up being in the dark. Plus, I didn’t book early enough, so I didn’t have a window seat to fully enjoy the view. C’est la vie. Live and learn!
Snow skiing is ubiquitous in Norway, and it seemed everywhere I went, people had skis. At the café, the market, on busses and trains. Even my Airbnb had skis in it. No wonder this country dominates the Olympics in skiing events.
The capital, with 635,000 people, is remarkable for its museums and parks. It is said that 95% of the residents have a park within 1000 feet of their home, and they are popular even in the winter.
But, when it is too cold outside, feel free to enjoy world class museums. Notably, the National Museum, the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History and the Munch Museum, among many others.
Though not was colorful as cities like Zagreb, there are wonderful highlights throughout parts of Oslo that add a splash of color…very welcome while walking the streets in the cold winter.
Getting to and around Oslo
Arriving by plane is quite easy. The airport is north of the city, but the Fly Express train easily takes you right into the center train station (Oslo Central or Oslo S).
Once in the city, most of what you will want to visit is near the center, and public transportation abounds. Subway, trams and busses are everywhere. The easiest way to get around is use the Ruter app. Once you put a credit card in, tickets are all acquired with just a push of a button (open the app, and hit “purchase ticket”). They last for an hour, include transfers, and cost 40 kroner each. (about $3.86). There is no need to present the ticket while boarding any of the transportation. You simply walk on. However, you need the ticket purchased before boarding. There are random checks and the fine for not having a ticket is 950 kroner (about $91) if paid on the spot or 1150 kroner if paid later.
National Museum in Oslo
An impressive display of Norwegian art from decorative arts (furniture, clothing, etc) to classical art and modern and contemporary art, all in one place. Though, it focuses largely on Norwegian artists, there is still a representation of other popular artists including Picasso, Monet, and Rodin, among others. And, of course, a very large selection of Munch (including The Scream).
Akershus Fortress - Oslo
The original castle was built around 1300, and the fortress on the peninsula was greatly expanded in the 17th century. It is still currently used by the Norwegian Armed forces and the Defense College.
17th century cathedral still used today for royal and state events, as well as regular services.
The Royal Palace Oslo
The home of the King and Queen, and situated at the end of Karl Johans Gate, on the Bellevue rise, the palace was built between 1825 and 1849. It is open for tours only in the summer, but it beautiful to see year-round. It is surrounded by the Palace Gardens, free to walk around all year.
Oslo Opera House
Just 15 years old, the modern building is situated directly next to the train station and the harbor. Seating over 1300 people, it is the home of the National Opera, Ballet, and Theatre groups.
Performances are quite regular. While there in March, there were nearly daily performances of your choice of 7 different operas, ballets, and concerts.
Frogner Park Oslo
Wonderful, even thought provoking, sculptures by Gustav Vigeland set in the midst of this 110 acre park that was once the 18th century gardens of Frogner manor. In the early 20th century, the city purchased it and made it a public park that is now visited by over 1 million people per year.
Norway’s second largest city. However, set in the heart of the fjords, and surrounded by hills, it is a much more scenic area. Founded in the 11th century, the city was also Norway’s capital in the 13th century. It is still Norway’s busiest port and helps support the tourism industry with cruises as well as fishing and oil. And, if you are looking for cool summers, this is a great place as the average high temperature in July is 66 degrees Fahrenheit (19 C).
A medieval wharf in the historic harbor district known for its colorful, wooden-clad boat houses. Today, full of shops and restaurants, it still does historical tours and demonstrations.
Waterfront, stone-built fortress, and a museum. It includes Rosenkrantz tower, which dates back to the 13th century, but its present form is from the 16th. The fortress is still used by the Norwegian Defense Agency.
St Johns Church Bergen
Gothic Catholic church with red brick and copper accents. Completed in the 1890’s; it is the largest church in Bergen, seating over 1200 people.
Walks above Bergen - and a funicular
There are plenty of walking trails top the hills above the city. A must do for the views and the fresh air. But, if the steps are too much, there is also a funicular that starts just 2 blocks from the harbor...Floibanen. It takes just 5 to 8 minutes to reach the top.
St. Mary’s Church Bergen
St. Mary's Church is the only remaining of the twelve churches and three monasteries that were built in Bergen during the 11th and 12th centuries. The church seats about 240 people. Construction of the church is believed to have started in the 1130s or 1140s and completed around 1180, making this church one of the oldest remaining buildings in Bergen.
Gamle Bergen Museum
Open-air museum with historic wooden buildings, actors in costume & theatrical performances. Located about 15 minutes north of the city center, by bus.
Fantoft Stave Church
Early medieval wooden church, built in the village of Fortun & moved here, with carved dragon heads.
Taking a boat from Bergen up to the Mostraumen Fjord. It was 3 hours round trip, and even in the cold weather that made it impossible to stay outside for long, it was well worth it.