By Gillian Birch –
Norway, the land of the midnight sun, is quite unlike anywhere else on earth. Prepare to encounter Viking history, stunning fjords, cascading waterfalls, outstanding seafood, modern cities, friendly locals and some of the most magnificent natural sights in the world.
Norway – An Overview
Sandwiched between Sweden and the Norwegian Sea, Norway’s fragmented coastline stretches for over 2700 kilometres into the Arctic Circle, home of polar bears, mythical trolls and the extraordinary Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights). Beyond the main cities of Bergen, Trondheim and Stavanger, the coastline is dotted with rustic fishing villages accessible only by boat.
Landscape: Pine forests, mountains and glaciers run down to still, dark-water fjords where hiking, mountaineering and boating are popular summer activities. Winter visitors are lured by the skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling and dog-sledding at resorts such as Lillehammer, home of the 1994 Winter Olympics.
Food: Fish is a staple of the Norwegian diet and is even served smoked for breakfast along with meat, cheese, eggs and bread. Popular main meals include meatballs, boiled fish, roast elk, reindeer or a dried cod stew known as bacalao.
Language: English is widely spoken in the main cities and the currency is Norwegian krone. Beer and cider are popular drinks and, be warned, wine and spirits are expensive. Alcohol is only available in restaurants and bars or through the government-controlled Vinmonopolet outlets.
Over half of Norway’s five million population are concentrated in the southeast, around the capital city of Oslo. It’s a popular destination for visitors to fly into, with many museums, parks, cultural attractions, hotels, restaurants and lively nightclubs along Aker Brygge.
This progressive city has a wealth of fine architecture to look out for, including the Oslo Domkirke (Cathedral), the 1866 Stortinget (Parliament building), the Nobel Peace Center where the peace prize ceremonies are held and the 13th-century Akershus Castle on the waterfront.
Located at the head of a long fjord, Oslo is a harbourfront city where fishing boats and ferries are as common as buses and cars. On a sunny day, locals take the ferry from the City Hall Pier to one of the many beaches at Bygdøy, or stroll around Vigeland Sculpture Park with more than 200 bronze and granite structures. If it’s thrills you’re looking for, head to the TusenFryd (Thousand Joys) Amusement Park which has plenty of extreme roller-coaster rides open from June to September.
For something completely different, discover Norway’s Viking history at the Bryggens Museum or explore the excavated 900-year-old Oseberg ship at the splendid Viking Ship Museum.
Gateway to the fjords, the pretty port of Bergen is one of the most visited attractions in Scandinavia, mainly due to cruise ship stopovers. Hosting several music festivals in the summer months, Bergen is home to one of the oldest orchestras in Europe. The timeless quays are lined with tall merchant houses and the 700-year-old fish market, while the UNESCO-listed Hanseatic Wharf in the Old Quarter houses art studios, boutiques and excellent restaurants such as the historic Bryggeloftet & Stuene.
Visit the fairytale Håkon’s Hall and turreted Rosenkrantz Tower, and explore the Sverresborg Fortress. The open-air Old Bergen Museum with its collection of historic wooden buildings is worth a visit, and the tramway up to Fløyfjell peak is a must-do for panoramic views. Further inland, the 152-metre Tvindefodssen waterfall is a popular attraction to visit.
Don’t Miss – Take the train from Oslo to Bergen – considered one of the world’s most scenic train rides. This seven-hour journey across Europe’s highest mountain plateau will be a highlight of your visit to Norway.
Norway’s third-largest city, Trondheim, still retains its small-town charm despite being a lively university city. It’s popular for salmon fishing on the Gaula River and the Bymarka (Green Belt) is excellent for hiking and wildlife spotting. Its northerly latitude means it never really gets dark in summer and it’s an excellent place to see the dancing coloured lights of the Aurora Borealis in winter.
Rich in mediaeval history, Trondheim’s ornate Nidaros Cathedral is the main city-centre attraction, while Stiftsgården Palace is a splendid example of wooden architecture. Dating back to the mid-1770s, this 150-room palace is the largest wooden palace in Scandinavia. The wooden stave churches are also an important part of Norway’s heritage. Built in the Middle Ages, a 12th-century example still survives at the Sverresborg Museum in Trondheim.
Don’t Miss – You can enjoy summer skiing on the Vassfjellet Mountains just outside Trondheim.
Although developed in southwest Norway to serve the oil industry, Stavanger has some outstanding attractions beyond its busy harbour. Outdoor adventurers can climb the mighty Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock) which towers 604 metres above stunning Lysefjord or scramble up the footpath to visit Månafossen Falls.
The Old City has clusters of higgledy-piggledy houses, remarkably well-preserved stave churches and an impressive 13th-century cathedral. Reflecting its industrial heritage, popular attractions include the Norwegian Canning Museum and the Norwegian Petroleum Museum.
Don’t Miss – There’s a ferry and bus service from Stavanger to the top of Preikestolen if you don’t want to climb!
Best Time to Visit
Best Time to Travel to Norway
Plan your trip to Norway for the summer months for the warmest weather and the longest days. However, the weather is still mild enough for outdoor activities in May, September and early October when major attractions are less crowded.
The main ski season starts in late October, which is also the best time to see the Aurora Borealis. December/January is popular for Polar Nights, when 24-hour darkness envelops the Arctic Circle.
Singapore to Norway
Flights to Oslo (OSL) from Singapore take around 18 hours with Turkish Airlines, including one stopover. You can use Oslo as a base for further touring, getting around by train, boat or car.
Where to Stay
Where to Stay in Norway
There’s a good range of hotels in Oslo, many with waterfront locations. Despite Norway’s reputation for having a relatively high cost of living, you can still find affordable hotels such as the Best Western Oslo Airport Hotel or the three-star Thon Hotel Astoria.
Visas are not required for stays of up to 90 days for Singapore nationals.
Photo credits: Getty Images