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In Norway, you can easily go from big cities to small towns to fjords without ever having to visit another airport or getting behind the wheel of a rental car.
I started my Norwegian journey by hopping on Flytoget, the electric express train that runs from the airport to Oslo’s central train station, 50 kilometres away. Once there, two of the city’s biggest attractions are within walking distance: Its striking opera house, which offers informative backstage tours, and a museum dedicated to the work of Edvard Munch, whose painting, The Scream, is recognizable around the world.
A short tram ride from the opera house is the must-see National Museum, which brought together the collections of five art and design museums under one roof when it opened in 2022. The gallery also houses the original version of The Scream (several others are at the Munch Museum). A bit further afield is the Vigeland sculpture park, an outdoor gallery of more than 200 sculptures by Gustav Vigeland.
Venture Outside Oslo
One of the best ways to do that is via a self-guided tour that saves you the hassle of arranging train tickets, boat tours and hotels on your own. I was booked on Fjord Tours’ Sognefjord in a Nutshell tour, which took me from Oslo to Bergen via train and boat.
From the central train station, I boarded the Bergen line to Myrdal, a four-and-a-half-hour ride that climbs steadily through the mountains via hundreds of tunnels and bridges. The line justly shows up on lists of the most scenic train routes in the world.
At Myrdal, I hopped on the Flamsbana line, which takes an hour to get to the tiny town of Flam. But what a smorgasbord of scenery you’ll see in those 60 minutes — from forested valleys zig-zagged with waterfalls, to snow-covered glaciers, to lush farmland, with a photo stop along the way at the thundering Kjosfossen Falls. What could possibly top this?
The answer came the following day when I boarded a sightseeing boat for the five-hour trip to Bergen via the spectacular Sognefjord. Blue sky touched the snowy clifftops that framed the fjord, where waterfall after waterfall cut steep paths through the rock.
Norway’s second-largest city
Bergen is now Norway’s second-largest city, but it was once the country’s capital and most important trading port, wrapped around a tiny inlet of the North Sea. Traces of that history can be seen in the Bryggen area, a string of tall wooden buildings lining the waterfront (most built after a 1702 fire) that once served as warehouses. Sinking foundations mean many of the colourful buildings are rakishly askew.
The rest of Bergen is relatively modern, but not lacking in charm. Take the funicular — yes, it’s electric — to the top of Mount Floyen to see the city spread out below you. I ran into a gaggle of young children on the way down and discovered the funicular was their school bus; they commuted daily from their homes in town to their school on the mountainside.
I’m a sucker for Scandinavian silver, so I couldn’t pass up a guided tour of the Arven gold and silver factory, which lets you see craftsmen at work on everything from cutlery to candelabras.
After two days in Bergen, it was time to get back on the water. I was able to snag a spacious cabin on the Havila Castor, the newest cruise ship in the Havila Voyages fleet, for an overnight trip north to Alesund, while my fellow passengers stayed on board for a 12-day cruise up the Norwegian coast. The trip was both comfortable and guilt-free, since the 640-passenger Castor is fully electric and emission-free.
For anyone who appreciates Art Nouveau design, Alesund is a jaw-dropper. The port town burned to the ground in 1904 and was rebuilt almost entirely in three years, when Art Nouveau was in its heyday. When you’re strolling through the town, look up to see the decorative embellishments above doorways and between stories, everything from floral friezes to stylized swirls and knots. And make time for a visit to the Art Nouveau Centre to learn more about the town’s history and architecture.
It was an overcast day when I got on the boat that would take me down the Geirangerfjord, a UNESCO world heritage site, to the small town of Geiranger. We passed a few small boats along the way, but we were mostly alone in this pristine paradise. Although it was chilly on the front deck, I braved it for up-close views of countless waterfalls crashing down jagged cliffs. The grey skies rippled with clouds made the views even more dramatic.
Luckily for me, the Hotel Union Geiranger was nestled high above the water and the balcony of my room looked straight down the fjord. It was hard to tear myself away from that view, but I did for the chance to take a spin in a tiny electric Renault Twizy, courtesy of eMobility Geiranger. The hairpin mountain roads were a tad intimidating in a vehicle half the size of a golf cart, but also exhilarating.
From Geiranger, an electric-powered bus took me down the serpentine and spectacular Trollstigen Road (more waterfalls, more glaciers) to Andalsnes, where I broke off from the tour to return to Oslo by rail on the Rauma and Dombas lines.
The writer was hosted by Visit Norway. The article was not vetted by Visit Norway before publication.
IF YOU GO
Fjord Tours offers customizable, self-guided tours that give you a choice of hotel accommodation.
Havila Voyages offers coastal cruises that range from two to 12 days, but you can also book a short trip between ports.
Stay at Villa Inkognito. This meticulously restored boutique hotel, in an 1870s building in the upscale Frogner neighbourhood, is opulent, indulgent and unforgettable. Its sister hotel next door, Sommero, is almost as fabulous.
The Thief, in the waterfront Tjuvholmen area and a stone’s throw from the National Museum, is dark, artsy and glamorous; I could envision James Bond sipping a shaken-not-stirred martini at its rooftop bar.
Frogner House, which has 448 short-term apartments for rent in central Oslo, is a great option if you want more space, a kitchen and a washing machine — the latter is a godsend if you are travelling with only carry-on baggage.
For general information about travelling in Norway, go to visitnorway.com