Things to Do in Norway
Thanks to its spectacular location among a series of islands and skerries laced with waterways and scalloped inlets, and to its backdrop of snow-clad peaks, Tromsø is the epicenter of day trips out into fjords bordering the Norwegian Sea. These long, narrow sea inlets are characterized by steep, mountainous slopes carved out by glaciation during the last Ice Age. Within easy reach of Grøtfjord, Erdsfjord, Balsfjord, Lyngsfjord and Kattfjord on the neighboring island of Kvaløya, the city is connected to this spectacular seascape with a network of ferries, buses and bridges.
From half-day sightseeing trips to the sharp peaks of Balsfjord or into the pristine waters of Erdsfjord, surrounded by steep mountains; to fishing for cod, salmon and halibut in the deep fjord waters; and crewing yachts into the calm, sheltered waters, there’s a choice of tours from Tromsø.
For the ultimate view of Bergen, scaling the 399-meter peak of neighboring Mount Floyen is the most popular choice, serving up magnificent panoramic views over the city and its fjords. The easiest way to reach the top is by riding the Fløibanen funicular railway, a thrilling 8-minute journey from the Bryggen harbor to a lookout point around 1km from the summit.
A network of marked hiking and mountain biking trails also run around the mountaintop, following scenic forest trails and lakeside walks, and offering views spanning the surrounding fjords, islands and mountains. Mount Floyen is also home to the Floyen Folk Restaurant, where regular folk music concerts are held in the summer months, as well as a café, shop and children’s playground.
The cool, contemporary city of Oslo lies at the head of its fjord, a calm, clear body of water some 68 miles (107 km) in length that leads out to the Strait of Skagerrak and in turn to the Baltic and North seas. It is a summertime paradise for the lucky inhabitants of Oslo, scattered liberally with islets, isolated coves, and little pockets of beach.
Oslo Fjord is best discovered by boat, and there are many options for day trips from many-sailed clippers to island-hopping ferries. Around a dozen islets fan out into the fjord; pretty little paradises with sandy strands, cycle and hiking routes, and historic lighthouses. There’s a ruined Cistercian monastery on Hovedøya, a smattering of holiday homes and sports facilities on wooded Lindøya, and a nature reserve for wading birds on Bleikøya; most of the islands are accessible in about 20 minutes from Vippetangen on the Oslo waterfront.
Another of the museums on Bygdøy Peninsula, the Viking Ship Museum displays a surprisingly decorative collection of Viking grave goods discovered around Oslo Fjord but is best known for the Viking ships that are elegantly displayed in pristine white galleries.
Three ninth-century longboats were excavated in southern Norway after centuries of being buried in peat. The wooden ships have been painstakingly reconstructed and – despite their lengthy incarceration – are virtually complete. The finest is the Oseberg boat, which discovered in 1903 after more than a thousand years underground. Due to its rich ornamentation, experts believe it was constructed purposefully for the burial of wealthy Vikings.
A visit to the Viking Ship Museum also includes entrance to the Norwegian ethnographic collection in the Museum of Cultural History, where artifacts include Egyptian mummies and medieval decorative arts.
Stretching from Oslo Central Station to the Royal Palace, Karl Johans gate is Oslo’s main thoroughfare. Named after King Charles III John (Karl Johan), the street is home to many of the city’s top attractions, including the Royal Palace, Stortinget, National Theatre and Central Station.
During Oslo’s short summer, residents flock to the beer gardens lining the street for al fresco drinks. Come winter, a pond along the street transforms into an ice skating rink. Throughout the year, restaurants, cafes and bars lining the street fill up with both locals and visitors. Much of Oslo’s best shops can be found along the street and the smaller streets branching from it.
More Things to Do in Norway
Norway’s stylish, innovative new arts center opened in 2008 at Bjørvika, with views stretching out over Oslo Fjord. It is home to the national ballet, opera and orchestral companies but audiences probably come as much for the sublime waterside setting of this gleaming white auditorium as they do for the performances. Designed by Norwegian architect Tarald Lundevall, who also built the National September 11 Memorial Museum & Pavilion in New York, the opera house is constructed of marble, granite and glass and won the prestigious Mies van der Rohe Award for Contemporary Architecture in 2009. Inside there are three main stages, combined able to seat audiences of up to 2,000; all this is supported by a staff of 620 led by artistic director Tom Remlov in a labyrinth of more than 1,000 studios and workshops.
Kvaløya is Norway’s fifth-largest island, covering 740 square km (285 square miles), and its name translates from Sami to "Whale Island" thanks to its cluster of central mountains. Lying west of Tromsø and connected by the elegant spans of the Sandnessund Bridge, the eastern shores of Kvaløya now form a suburb of the city, known as Kvaløysletta and home to a population of about 10,000.
Of its snow-capped peaks, Store Blåmann is the highest at 1,044 meters (3,425 feet) and can be scaled by intermediate climbers. Kvaløya is also indented by fjords and wild coastal scenery, with its western fringes hitting the untamed Atlantic, while the island of Sommarøy – famous for its glorious white sandy beaches – hangs off its southwestern coast. Humpback whales can be spotted offshore from late November until January, and the little settlement of Ersfjordbotn, dominated by the sheer cliffs of its fjord, is one of Norway’s top destinations for spotting the Northern Lights.
Located 300 km (186 miles) into the Arctic Circle northeast of the city of Tromsø, the Lyngsalpene (Lyngen Alps) are a 90-km (56-mile) range of untamed mountains stretching from Lyngenfjord in the south and heading north to Ullsfjord almost on the border with Sweden. They form a spectacular landscape of deep gorges, gleaming icy glaciers and wild, boulder-filled rivers, with cliffs rising sharply up to 1,000 meters (3,280 feet) from the sea.
With the highest mountain of Jiekkevarre reaching 1,833 meters (6,104 feet), in winter the Lyngen Alps are a paradise for experienced climbers and extreme skiers. Their gentle, lower slopes become a snowy haven perfect for dog sledding, snow safaris and spotting the elusive Northern Lights, which dance merrily across the winter skies. In summer the mountains are illuminated by the eerie glow of the midnight sun; sailors flock to the calm, sheltered waters of the fjords; and fishing becomes the most popular sport.
Jutting out into Oslo Fjord, the Bygdøy Peninsula is a one-stop leisure destination just west side of the city center. A clutch of Norway’s most popular museums are found here along with hiking and cycling trails, beautiful – if small – beaches at Huk and Paradisbukta, plus several cafés and seafood restaurants. Come sunny days, the peninsula is full to bursting with Oslo families enjoying the peninsula’s laid-back vibe and the organic farm at the Royal Manor, which is the summer residence of King Harald V.
Altogether Bygdøy is home to the Neo-Gothic castle of Oscarshall, the Holocaust Center in the austere Villa Grande, and no less than five museums. Of these, the Viking Ship, Fram, Maritime and Kon-Tiki museums deal with Norway’s illustrious nautical heritage, while the open-air Norwegian Folk Museum concerns itself with Norway’s cultural past. It displays a colorful collection of Sami national costumes from Lapland alongside 150-odd reconstructed buildings.
Holmenkollen is an Oslo landmark hill north-west of the city center; there has been a ski jump here since 1892 but the present-day ‘S’-shaped jump at Kongeveien was constructed in 2010. The jump is 394 ft (120 m) long and it is 197 ft (60 m) high and it’s one of Norway’s best-loved visitor attractions.
There’s plenty of year-round outdoor and indoor action at Holmenkollen: climb the 250 steps to the viewing platform for vistas across the scenic Nordmarka protected wilderness; visit the world’s oldest ski museum at the foot of the jump; or grab a zip line to whizz 1,180 ft (360 m) down the length of the ski jump – a ride for real adrenaline junkies with a firm head for heights. Somewhat more enjoyable is the simulator ride that gives a bird’s-eye experience of ski-ing down the ski jump. In winter Holmenkollen hosts the World Cup Nordic skiing events and is the springboard for Nordic or downhill ski-ing and skating in Nordmarka, which by summer it is hiking and cycling.
Fram was veteran of many Arctic voyages when Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen – the first man to reach both North and South Poles – gained worldwide fame by sailing her to Antarctica from 1910 to 1912, where he beat the UK's Robert Scott in a race to the South Pole.
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