In our modern hectic lifestyles we often find ourselves trying to cram as much as possible into our short city breaks. We want to see EVERY historical site possible, visit EVERY museum; eat in ALL of the restaurants recommended in our guidebooks; shop to our hearts content; enjoy a concert, show or festival; oh… and catch up with our sleep.
A city break to Norway is different. You do not return from a short stay in Oslo, Bergen, Alesund, Trondheim, or Tromso needing another week away from work to recover. In fact, you are more likely to return feeling refreshed and invigorated after tasting the fresh air and enjoying the cultural attractions and unspoiled nature on offer.
To highlight this diversity, I have identified some of the key sites and activities you can enjoy outside the parameters of some of Norway’s largest cities.
The city of Oslo is considered to be one of the greenest cities in the world. To the west of the city – accessible by a tram -you will find the park of Holmenkollen, the site of the Winter Olympics in 1952 and also the Snowboard championships in 2012. It is also home to the Olympic Museum.
However, it is the natural beauty of Holmenkollen that attracts most visitors. The trees shade and cool you; the marked trails offer excellent walking, hiking and cycling opportunities and the views over the capital to the Oslofjord are spectacular. I live in London and, for me Holmenkollen is like Richmond Park (albeit wilder and with less people) – a tranquil, lush escape from city life where people relax, exercise and enjoy nature.
During the summer months, visitors to Oslo can enjoy a cruise on the Oslofjord and visit one of its many islands. Take a picnic and a towel and enjoy a day of wild swimming and sunbathing. For repeat visitors to Oslo or for those on a longer break, I would recommend a visit to the Hvaler National Marine Park, close to the Swedish border; the landscape of this rock island archipelago is magnificent.
Bergen’s name as the ‘Gateway to the Fjords’ is not undeserving, the city offers wonderful day excursions to the Hardangerfjord, Sognefjord, Naeroyfjord and Aurlandsfjord. Shorter cruises along the North Sea coastline, and panoramic train journeys (including a trip on the scenic Flam railway) are also available.
Bergen enjoys a backdrop of spectacular mountain peaks, which during the spring and winter months are capped by snow. Even within the city limits nature flourishes and a host of marked walking trails are available.
In my opinion, Alesund is probably the prettiest city that I have visited in Norway. With its Art Nouveau architecture, canals and cobbled streets it is a delight to explore on foot. But, it is not only the city that has attracted me to Alesund, it is its glorious backdrop. The Sunnmore Alps and Norwegian Sea archipelago offer a host of destinations that can be visited on a day excursion.
Take a day excursion to Geiranger – using the Hurtigruten Coastal Express; participate in a wildlife safari or visit the bird island of Runde by boat; kayak along the canals of the town; dive in the Norwegian Sea or walk in the Sunnmore Alps – the decision is yours!
Every city in Norway has wild, unspoiled landscapes on its doorstep and Alesund is no different. The natural beauty of the area has attracted many artists to its shores and will find their wears on sale throughout the town (closed Sundays).
In the ‘Land of the Midnight Sun’ and the ‘Land of the Aurora Borealis’, Tromso is a destination for both summer and winter breaks. Surrounded by an archipelago of dramatic and picturesque islands, and backed by the Lyngen Alps, the city is a natural playground for outdoor activities such as hiking and kayaking. During the summer months you can also visit husky dog kennels and observe the dogs training in preparation for the winter ahead.
During the winter months, Tromso is synonymous with the Northern Lights and winter activities. As the starting point for many Arctic expeditions you will also find a host of museums depicting the journeys of Roald Amundsen. Husky dog sled tours, snowmobile excursions, winter cruises as well as the possibility of a sighting of the infamous Northern Lights are on offer.
Next time you think of a city break, think about Norway and maybe even extend your stay by a day or two.
We have various example itineraries you can choose from for a short or long stay in Norway; summer and winter. Please click here for our Tromso winter itineraries.
Scandinavia Product Manager