In September 2017, we travelled to Bergen, Skjerjehamn, Voss, Gudvangen, Flåm, and Oslo in Norway over a 9 day period. Here’s what we’d do again and what we’d recommend doing differently.
Norwegian Airlines uses mostly Dreamliners, which are very comfortable and boast that with better air pressure, you feel less jet lagged. We can attest to this as after 12 hours of travel (JFK > Oslo > Bergen) we showered and were ready to walk around town for a few hours before staying up until10pm with no trouble. Book on Norwegian if at all possible!
Time of Year — The temperatures were in the high 50s and while it was a bit chilly, we definitely recommend this time of year, because it is much less crowded and the leaves are changing for autumn!
Language — Everyone speaks very good English and we did not have a problem getting around at all.
Cost — Norway is expensive. Especially prepared foods (at restaurants). To save some money, try opting for a home cooked meal a few times during the trip. We found grocery store prices to be much more reasonable (keep in mind we’re NYers and are already used to higher than normal prices).
Norway in a Nutshell (NIAN) — This is a standard tour that can be booked as a package. However, it is pretty easy to copy the timelines and book things separately yourself to A) save some money (about $50 per person at the time of writing) and B) avoid the crowds. Traveling even 1 hour later than the NIAN itinerary will significantly reduce the number of other tourists you’re traveling with.
NSB — The NSB is the national Norwegian railway system. Most of your trip can be booked through NSB (more details below).
Bergen is a cute, quiet town with a wharf on the UNESCO World Heritage list. There aren’t many international flights from the states directly to Bergen, but it’s worth doing the transfer in Oslo on the way there to get it out of the way.
Bergen (4 nights)
Bergen is a great place to start your trip and I recommend spending 4 nights there. We stayed in a great Airbnb that was an 8 minute walk from Sentrum in a neighborhood called Mohlenpris, which was perfect.
- Food: Kippers, Allmuen, Bare Vesteland, Spisekroken, Daily Pot Matcha, Pygmallion, Godt Brodt (bakery with delicious snacks)
- Sites: Hanseatic Wharf (Christmas shop & leather shop — make sure to see the crooked houses and staircases), Bergen Fort, St. Mary’s Church (12th century Romanesque church), Mount Floyen (take the tram up and walk down)
- Walks / Neighborhoods: Nordnes — gorgeous small wooden houses on winding streets in a very hilly neighborhood overlooking water on both sides
- Excursions: take the afternoon ferry to Skjerjehamn from Bergen. It’s only an hour or two away and is a great way to see some of the coast. Skjerjehamn itself is a very tiny island and you can see the whole thing in less than an hour, but it is beautiful
- While in Bergen, stop by the train station to purchase your ticket for the first leg of your journey from Bergen to Voss (1 hour). You won’t be able to purchase this beforehand unless you have a Norwegian credit card, but buying at the train station is very straightforward.
Travel Bergen > Flåm (half day)
You can book some of your travel in advance, but in general, getting around is very easy and if you end up not booking anything until the day of you will probably be just fine. As an alternative route, it is possible to take a fjord ferry directly from Bergen to Flåm (4–5 hours), which I am sure would be beautiful. If you are short on time, I recommend skipping the Skjerjehamn excursion and taking this ferry. You’ll get to see the coastline as well as the fjords in a nice ferry.
- Morning train from Bergen to Voss (quick layover ~ 10 minutes)
- Bus from Voss to Gudvangen (bus that takes you past some gorgeous waterfalls on a windy road — can be skipped in favor of a train from Voss to Gudvangen if preferred). Purchase tickets on the bus directly from the driver (cash only).
- Ferry from Gudvangen to Flåm (this is one of the highlights of the tour. We recommend taking the “premium” ferry, which is more expensive but worth it. 2 hours through the beautiful and historic Naeroyfjord). Tickets can be purchase ahead of time or on the day of.
Flåm (1 or 2 nights)
Flåm is a super tiny town that doesn’t have a whole lot going on, but can be a great way to break up the trip from Bergen to Oslo. There is a great brewery that you shouldn’t miss, but other than that, relax during this part of the trip. The walks and museum can be done in 1 day.
- Food: Aegir Brewery (definitely the best option for lunch, dinner, and beers with a cozy fireplace and delicious food and drinks). There is a sort of food truck area set up with a few options that are decent for a lighter lunch or you can go to the local grocery store and get some bread and meat for sandwiches.
- Sites: Flåm Railway Museum (pretty much the only thing there really is to do in Flåm besides hiking / walking / eating)
- Walks / Neighborhoods: Walk on one of the many hiking trails near the main waterfall in Flåm or walk towards the small village of Lunden
- Excursions: Fjord Safari Heritage tour (travel on a small dinghy to Gudvangen with a stop in a tiny town of Undredal for a cheese tasting — take an afternoon for this)
Travel Flåm > Oslo (half day)
This is a gorgeous day full of trains. You’ll take a shorter historic train first through the mountains with a stop at a beautiful waterfall before transferring in Myrdal for the longest leg of the trip. The food on the longer train is actually pretty decent, but again, pretty pricey so feel free to pack a lunch or snacks if you’d rather spend your money in Oslo.
- Take the Flåm Railway to Myrdal — this is an absolutely beautiful short trip through the mountains with gorgeous views on both sides of the train (you’ll be standing up taking photos out of both sides so don’t worry about which side to sit on). Tickets can be purchased in advance through the NSB website (you will keep digital tickets on the mobile app to show to the conductor).
- Transfer in Myrdal for an NSB train to Oslo. Myrdal is at higher elevation that almost anywhere else in this trip and various groups mountain biked around this area. We did not bike here, however I would definitely recommend doing it! The train from Myrdal to Oslo is also gorgeous with sites out of both sides (right side might have had slightly better views). Tickets for this train can be purchased in advance through the NSB website (you will keep digital tickets on the mobile app to show to the conductor).
Oslo (2 or 3 nights)
Maybe it’s because we’re from New York or maybe it’s because we were starting to get sick, but we weren’t blown away by Oslo. It’s a nice place to walk around for a day or two, but we wouldn’t recommend spending too much time here. Wandering around different neighborhoods is our preferred way of seeing almost any city and we thought that Bergen had more to offer. Bergen is much nicer and more historic, whereas Oslo is a working / living city with a much larger population.
- Food: The Happy Pig (Den Glade Gris) for delicious pork knuckle and pulled pork sandwich and the best beer we had on the whole trip (Voss Pale Ale). Focacceria (quick focaccia snack). Vulkanfisk (fish market), Tunco (delicious quick ramen / noodle restaurant)
- Sites: Akershus Fortress, Oslo Opera House, The Royal Palace, National Architecture Museum, Karl Johans Gate (the Times Square of Oslo — see it once and never go back)
- Walks / Neighborhoods: Sofienberg (the hipster part of town), Vigeland Park, Aker Brygge
- Take the high speed train from Oslo city center to the airport as it is very convenient.
We very much enjoyed our time in beautiful Norway and highly recommend anyone try to visit if possible. We would be happy to share more details of our trip so feel free to get in touch with any questions!