Your ideal Norwegian vacation
Match these itineraries to your personality and see Norway the way you want to see it
By Kelsey Larson, Norwegian American Weekly
If you are planning a trip to Norway, it stands to reason that you want it to be memorable. Amidst all the big tourist attractions in this beautiful country, it is easy to lose sight of what matters the most in making a trip memorable: you! We’ve compiled a list of our favorite places, some you’ve heard of and some off-the-beaten-track, to fit several different personalities and situations. Mix and match, and most of all, see the sights that matter the most to you!
Are you a lefse-baker, a lutefisk-dinner-attender, or just someone who has always enjoyed studying the family tree and ruminating on mysteries of the past? Then perhaps your trip to Norway should include these stops:
Norwegian Folk Museum, Oslo, Norway: This museum has two unique claims to fame: it is the largest museum of cultural history in Norway, and includes the world’s oldest collection of open-air exhibits. Look inside some of Norway’s oldest and best-preserved buildings, eat lefse baked in a stone oven, and explore a replica of “old town” Kristiania, Norway.
Maihaugen, Lillehammer, Norway: Another impressive folk museum, Maihaugen is an open-air museum that features over 200 buildings. The grounds are beautifully kept, making Maihaugen the perfect place for a walk through history on a summer day.
Norwegian Emigrant Museum, Hamar, Norway: This museum has everything a good heritage-sleuther might need: thousands of books, publications, and immigrant letters from the USA. If you’re on the other coast, you may want to check out the Norwegian Emigration Center in Stavanger, which specializes in helping Norwegian-Americans find their roots in Norway!
Would you pack up and move to a foreign county just because you liked the look of their 1994 Winter Olympics, like Steve Van Zandt’s character in the new Norwegian hit show “Lilyhammer”? If so, then these stops are for you. And, of course, the first is
Lillehammer, Oppland, Norway: Lillehammer was the site of the 1994 Winter Olympics, and many of the facilities built especially for that great event are still maintained and open for tourists. Check out the giant ski jump for a great view of the city, visit the stadium, than head to the amazing Norwegian Olympic Museum, the only museum in northern Europe that tells the entire history of the Olympic Games from 776 BC up until the present day.
Holmenkollen, Oslo, Norway: Oslo’s giant ski jump is one of Norway’s most dazzling feats of architecture as well as most visited tourist attraction. Not only will you be treated to great views of the city and the fjord, but there is shopping, coffee, and the Ski Museum to keep you occupied.
Morgedal, Telemark, Norway: This off-the-beaten path attraction is nevertheless one of the most important for the sports enthusiast, especially if skiing is what floats your boat. Known as “the cradle of modern skisport,” Morgedal is the birthplace of great ski innovator and Telemark-skiing inventor Sondre Norheim. Visit the Ski Museum here and learn more about the history of skisport before enjoying delicious local flatbread and rice pudding at the café.
Are you traveling with small children in tow? Never fear – for the fearless traveling parents, here are some places the kids (and the adults!) will enjoy.
Kon-Tiki Museum, Oslo, Norway: This museum is a delight for kids and equally fascinating for adults. Learn about Norwegian adventurer Thor Heyerdahl’s many exciting journeys, and even see a replica of his famous balsa raft, the Kon-Tiki. There’s contests and games for the kids, as well as a cinema and a gift shop.
Bø Sommerland, Telemark, Norway: Bø is a small rural village nestled in the shadow of the mountain Lifjell, but it has a big claim to fame with Sommerland, Scandinavia’s largest water park. Here the kids will stay busy all day with the many water attractions and huge playground. Enjoy the special Norwegian touches too, like Eventyrhuset (Fairy Tale House).
Kongeparken, Stavanger, Norway: After recently winning a coveted THEA award (the Oscar of theme park awards), Kongeparken has proved itself to be one of the best amusement parks in the world – with a distinctly Norwegian flavor. Make your own delicious chocolate at the Freia chocolate factory, or try Norway’s longest bobsled track, over 1,000 meters long!
Who wouldn’t dream of a romantic vacation with that special someone in a country as beautiful as Norway? Here are some suggestions for the traveling couple with romance in mind.
Gamle Bybro, Trondheim, Norway: Originally built in 1685, the “Old Town Bridge” is also known as “The Gate of Fortune” and those who walk over it are said to be blessed with good luck. Stroll along the wooden walkway and look down into the cool waters of the Nidelva river, where some have said otters are known to frolic. A more romantic place in a more beautiful city cannot be found!
Klosteret Restaurant, Oslo, Norway: Are you and your loved one hanging out in Oslo, and looking for some romantic ambience? Klosteret Restaurant fits the bill. Located off the beaten path on Fredensborgveien, the restaurant is lit only by natural candlelight and features a prize-winning wine list. A dining experience worth the price!
Baroniet Rosendal: This manor, built in 1665, has the distinction of being the only Barony to ever exist in Norway. Located only a daytrip away from Bergen, between fjord, glacier, mountain and waterfall, the manor offers tours, concerts, dining experiences, and more. The manor’s renaissance rose garden is one of the most famous rose gardens in Norway.
Have you always held a particular fascination for those old Norse seafarers of yore? Take a trip to the scene of the crime and sharpen your knowledge by visiting some of Norway’s excellent Viking-themed destinations.
Viking Ship Museum, Oslo, Norway: One of Norway’s most popular museums, the Viking Ship museum houses real Viking-age ships as well as priceless artifacts from the Viking age. A must-see for anybody, Viking enthusiast or not!
Lofotr Viking Museum, Lofoten, Norway: This museum, set against the rugged beauty of Lofoten’s mountains and fjords, includes several recreations of Viking buildings, including the impressive longhouse. In addition, the museum owns several reconstructions of Viking ships. In the summer, these are available to row out on the water, creating a true Viking experience.
Gran, Oppland, Norway: Located off-the-beaten-path, about an hour’s drive from Oslo, Gran Municipality is a tradition-rich place, steeped in medieval history. Visit the sister churches in Granavollen, two impressive stone churches from the Middle Ages built side-by-side. Behind the nearby Nikolai Church, find the Granavollen Runestone. In Tingelstad, visit the Hadeland Folk Museum, where you will find a Viking gravemound as well as a copy of the 11th century Dynna Runestone. A true Viking tour!
Norway has some of the world’s most beautiful natural scenery to offer, and is perhaps one of the most accessible countries in the world when it comes to hiking, camping, and otherwise “roughing it.” If you love nature, give Norway a chance!
Jotunheimen National Park, Oppland/Sogn og Fjordane, Norway: Jotunheimen is one of Norway’s premiere hiking and fishing regions. Covering an area of 715 square miles, the park includes Northern Europe’s two highest mountain peaks, countless rives and lakes filled with trout, diverse wildlife and some of the most beautiful hiking trails Norway has to offer.
Preikestolen, Rogaland, Norway: This is perhaps Norway’s most famous natural tourist site. Located only an hour from Stavanger, this fantastic cliff drops nearly 2,000 feet to Lysefjorden below. It is only a 3 – 4 hour round-trip hike to reach Preikestolen, and it is a must-see for nature lovers!
DNT cabins: Den Norske Turistforening (Norwegian Trekking Association) provides an amazing resource for hikers and campers in Norway: their cabins. These can be found in all regions of Norway. Some are staffed, some are fully stocked with food and bedding, and others simply offer a roof over your head. This is the perfect way to stay comfortable as you experience Norwegian nature wherever you are.
As you know if you’ve ever visited Norway before, it is a very expensive place to travel. Maybe all these options sound great, but are difficult for you to afford. Never fear! Here are some great ways to enjoy Norway on a budget.
Living: Check out Thon Hotels. This is Norway’s primary budget-hotel chain, with locations all across the country. The rooms are clean and neat, at a fraction of the price of a fancier hotel! Also, check out Hosteling International (www.hihostels.com). Hosteling is a great way to save money.
Eating: Sit-down restaurants in Norway are always expensive. If you do sit down, look for the “dagens rett” on the menu. This will usually be the cheaper meal! Also, eat ethnic! You’ll find ethnic food stands in abundance (try the delicious kebob, for example), which will serve up hearty, filling food for a relatively cheap price. Finally, do your food shopping at grocery stores. Check out the “First Price” brand at Meny grocery stores. Stocking up on food at the store will get you more bang for your kroner!
Touring: Consider a city pass! Oslo’s city pass includes free admission to over 30 museums, free use of public transportation, free parking and other deals on dining and shopping. The “Bergen card” does much the same thing for the city of Bergen. Save up to $100 on activities in the city. Go to www.visitoslo.com for more information.
This article originally appeared in the Mar. 30, 2012 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (800) 305-0271.