Planning a trip to Oslo, Bergen and the Fjords? There's no shortage of things to see and do. Here are 5 suggestions!
Visit the Viking Ship Museum
Oslo is crammed with excellent museums to suit all ages and interests, and the should be right at the top of your list. Its huge, airy halls contain three wonderfully well-preserved Viking ships: the Oseberg, the Gokstad and the Tune. Built in the 9th Century, these enormous ships dominate the space inside the museum – but do look out for other, smaller treasures too, including sledges, carvings and textile remnants. There's also the skeletal remains of the man who was buried with the Gokstad ship – grim but fascinating!
The Viking Ship Museum is located on the peninsula of Bygdøy – best reached by boat (see below) – and there are several other museums here that are worth a look, so it's a good idea to allow a full day for exploring this area of Oslo.
A 15-minute walk from the Viking Ship Museum, the (below) houses another huge ship. The Fram transported Roald Amundsen and his team to Antarctica for their successful South Pole expedition in 1910. It's a superb, interactive museum that's great fun for kids. You can explore inside the whole ship – peek into the surprisingly plush sleeping quarters of the crew and wander through the living area, complete with piano. There are lots of activities and challenges – are you strong enough to pull a sledge to the South Pole? And of course you'll learn all about Amundsen's polar expedition. Don't miss the polar simulator that recreates the atmosphere of the ship crashing through the ice – keep a look out for ice mummies and polar bears inside. And put on an extra layer before entering – it's cold!
Where to stay
The Oslo Clarion Royal Christiania is in a great location for exploring the city as it's within walking distance of many of the city's attractions. The family rooms here are comfortable and spacious, with two separate sleeping areas – ideal if you're travelling with children. There's an excellent breakfast that will keep you going all day, as well as a gym and indoor pool. See our .
The offers free entry to more than 30 museums and attractions – including the Viking Ship and Fram museums – and will save you money if you intend to visit a few. Free public transport around the city is also included – try the hop-on hop-off mini-cruise boat trip (pictured above, right; available with 72-hour pass), which is a fun way to see the city from the water and to reach the museums at Bygdøy.
#2 Take the train
The is a superb rail trip that crosses the country – and frequently appears in “world's best rail journey” lists. Leaving Oslo, you'll trundle for a couple of hours through pretty landscapes of rolling wooded hills and green pastures studded with red-painted farm buildings. All very pleasant.
But then the real action starts, as the train passes through a succession of tunnels, each time emerging to more and more dramatic scenery. At the highest point of the journey is the Hardangervidda mountain plateau (Europe's largest), surrounded by snow-capped mountains – where there was still snow lying on the ground, even when we visited in July. The journey takes around seven hours.
If a seven-hour train trip seems too long, a good place to break the journey is Flå. The main reason to visit is the , where you can see bears and other animals in huge, natural enclosures. There's a petting area where children can get closer to some of the smaller animals (the friendly goats were a big hit with our kids) and a superb adventure play area. After visiting all the animals, don't miss the indoor interactive exhibition, where you'll learn all about Norway's four major predators: lynx, wolf, wolverine and brown bear.
Where to stay
in Flå is a five-minute walk from the bear park. Rooms here are pleasantly decorated in natural, muted colours with wildlife themed accessories (bears feature strongly). Family rooms are spacious, with pull down bunk beds for the children. Service is excellent, and there's a great value dinner buffet – ideal for families on a budget.
For a small supplement, you can travel first class on the Oslo to Bergen train. Komfort class costs NOK 90 (around UK£7) and gets you a more comfortable seat with lots of legroom and unlimited free tea, coffee and hot chocolate.
#3 eat skillingsboller in the Bryggen
In Bergen, explore the attractive waterfront. Here you'll find the Bryggen – a colourful collection of old wooden houses included on UNESCO's World Heritage List. These historic buildings have been a place of trade for centuries, and now many of them house gift shops – including a delightful year-round Christmas shop – and cafés. Wandering through the narrow wooden alleyways behind the shop fronts is high on the agenda of many tourists, and the area can become swamped by tour groups in high season – it's best visited in the evening, after the tour buses have departed. Head up the hill, deeper into the Bryggen to escape the crowds and explore narrow cobbled lanes and steep stairways – some of the wooden houses here date from the 1700s.
Take the to the top of Mount Fløyen, and enjoy fantastic views of the city. At the top there are hikes of varying lengths, and a children's playground, restaurant and shop.
Where to stay
The , Bergen, is a five-minute, pleasant walk through a park from the train station and offers tranquil, bright, modern rooms with spotless, spacious bathrooms. The hotel has a superb eco policy, with electricity powered by wind or water and local food offered in the restaurant. The breakfast here is superb, with an enormous range of food including pancakes, salmon, eggs, fresh fruit and smoothies. .
Eating out in Bergen (as in most of Norway) can be very expensive. If on a budget, check out , a bakery on the Bryggen waterfront with waterside tables and hot dishes such as pizza and quiche, as well as salad and tasty filled rolls. Baker Brun also offers a tempting selection of cakes – try skillingsboller, a traditional Bergen pastry spiral lightly spiced with cinnamon.
#4 Float on a
You can't visit the Bergen region without taking to the water at least once – and a trip along one of Norway's stunning fjords is the main reason many visitors come here. offers one of the best trips, on a big, modern boat with plenty of space. The route along the Osterfjord to Mostraumen offers stunning fjord views all the way. At the narrow opening to Mostraumen fjord, the surrounding cliffs tower dramatically above the boat – and before the boat turns around to head back to Bergen, the crew collect water from a waterfall for passengers to drink.
It's cold on board – even in summer – so wrap up warmly. We wished we'd had gloves. If you do get too cold, there are warm comfy seats inside with big picture windows – but stand or sit out on deck for the best experience.
For something a little less sedate, head for Flåm – 160km north-east of Bergen – where offers exhilarating trips on a super-fast RIB. Don an attractive yellow, waterproof onesie, goggles and hat with earflaps (you'll need all three items, as it's extremely cold out on the water), before speeding along Aurlandsfjord, and then into the stunning Nærøyfjord. Along the way, the boat pauses at points of interest and the excellent, entertaining guides share fascinating snippets of information. If you're lucky you'll spot seals, porpoises or sea eagles.
During the Fjordsafari, we passed dilapidated spring farms – used in springtime by farmers who would transport their animals across the water, by boat, in search of better grazing pasture. We also saw cute baby goats scampering down impossibly steep mountain paths, and a seal. In Nærøyfjord – 17km long and a UNESCO World Heritage site – we were treated to some of the most spectacularly beautiful scenery we have encountered anywhere, with mountains reflected in the fjord and waterfalls plunging down all around us.
Where to stay
The cabins at are ideal for families. Situated 30km from Flåm on the Flåm to Bergen road, the cabins sleep four-six people and are clean and comfortable. A steep and strenuous climb up the mountainside directly behind the cabins brings you to a viewpoint with jaw-dropping views. For the less fit (or just plain lazy) the views from the cabins' decks are equally gorgeous.
Midway between Flåm and Gudvangen is the tiny, fjordside hamlet of Undredal (above, right) – site of Scandinavia's smallest church. It's a lovely peaceful spot that the tour buses don't visit – although some boats stop here. There's an artisan cheese factory here, producing traditional white and brown Norwegian cheeses courtesy of the 500 goats that roam the surrounding landscape.
#5 Ride the steepest railway in Europe
Don't leave Flåm without taking a trip on the . This remarkable feat of engineering, with tracks following narrow ledges along the mountainside and twisting and turning up steep gradients, is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Norway. It takes about an hour to travel from Flåm to Myrdal – where it's possible to connect with the train to Oslo or Bergen. The views, it goes without saying, are spectacular – not least at the stunning Kjosfossen Waterfall, where you should keep your eyes peeled for a surprise dance performance!
A great day trip from Flåm, the is one of the best-preserved churches of its kind in Norway. Its elaborately tiered structure gives it a fairytale appearance that's enhanced by the ornate wooden carvings of dragons, crosses and complex knotwork. A short walk from the church brings you to the Vindhellavegan, an ancient road that twists dramatically down the valley.
Those fond of superlatives will enjoy the journey to Borgund, through the 24.5 km long Lærdal Tunnel – the longest road tunnel in the world. Inside are several rest caves, eerily-lighted blue to simulate natural daylight. They're designed to stop drivers falling asleep – the route through the tunnel gets quite boring after the first 10 minutes!
Where to stay
is right by the water and a convenient option for early train or boat trips. The two-bedroomed apartments are just 400m from the shops and restaurants in the centre of the village, and have balconies with fjord views.
In summer, the Flåm Railway can get very busy. Booking ahead is essential. Early morning and late evening departures on the train tend to be quieter – so consider making the most of the light summer evenings and pack up a picnic tea for a memorable evening out!
Contact for help with planning your trip, including advice on tickets, tours and accommodation.
Lonely Planet Norway is an invaluable guide, with detailed descriptions of each region and colour photos to inspire you.
Green Adventures March 2016