10 Days in Norway: Summer
After a night in Oslo, rent a car and head west to Bergen, spending a day and riding the funicular. Continue onward to Aurland, where spectacular fjords and hikes await. From there, it’s a beautiful, winding 250-mile drive (including ferries) across fjords and north to the mid-Atlantic coastal town of Alesund. Complete the loop through spectacularly forested countryside back to Oslo, stopping in picturesque towns and villages along the inland fjord Mjøsa, including Lillehammer, Gjøvik, or Lena.
Nordnesparken, 5005 Bergen, Norway
It was August, so it seemed a perfectly sensible idea. I’m in Norway, land of the fjords—let’s go for a splash in one! Bergen has a lovely little lido that offers you just that opportunity. Sure, you can swim in its heated outdoor pool, but the real attraction is the small roped-off area of (lifeguard patrolled) fjord. Having warmed up—not literally—in the lido, I dipped my toe in the sea and, before I could register how cold it truly was, launched myself in. It was cold. Colder than an ice bath. Colder than locking yourself in a beer cellar (it’s not that far, remember, from the Arctic). And, once my horrified body had recovered from the shock, it became one of the most enlivening experiences of my life. Just don’t stay in there too long.
There’s no better view than from the top of 320-meter-high Mount Fløien. Ride up on the Fløibanen Funicular, just a short walk from the cruise ship dock on Bryggen wharf. The ascent takes less than 10 minutes, with sprawling Bergen unfolding before you. At the top, enjoy breathtaking panoramas from the viewing platform and choose from hiking trails of various lengths and effort levels.
Norway’s rich folk history comes to life at the workshop and store of the revered Henning family. Located in the rolling hills just outside of the town of Lena and overlooking the western bank of Mjøsa, the Henning family workshop has drawn people from both inside and out of Norway‘s borders since 1947. Though small (the shop itself is located in a small timber house dating back to 17th century), fans of woodwork can easily whittle away the better part of an hour checking out the handcrafted items on display on Henning’s shelves. After a unique gift? All items are on sale, of course, From ancient Norse Deities (including Odin, the all-seeing, Freya, Thor and Loki) to delicate Norse nativity scenes and, of course, trolls of both genders. The rolling hills surrounding the shop are filled with bucolic farmland, farmhouses and a church dating back to the 11th century. Though a bit off the beaten path, Henning’s shop is worth the trip.
Skolegata 24, 2850 Lena, Norway
With a population just above a thousand, the town of Lena hardly seems a likely candidate to experience a tourism explosion and is thus unlikely to warrant a multi-page guidebook feature anytime in the near future. This isn’t to say Lena isn’t without its bucolic charms. Located in the Østre Toten municipality of Norway, the town sits on the western side of Mjøsa, which is either Norway’s largest lake or its longest inland fjord (depending on whom you ask). Surrounding Lena are rolling hills, pastoral farmlands, and the occasional interesting find for those who take the time to explore. For a small town, Lena is a pretty good place to shop (especially when one is already used to the ridiculously high prices found in Norway). The town has many small stores, including antique shops and secondhand places. Couples traveling together should check out a place called Nyli. It’s a small boutique with lovely clothing and a cozy little café, allowing ladies to shop for clothing while their men hang out and read over coffee. Lena’s lovely and centrally located train station is, alas, only for show, the tracks having been removed decades ago. But several daily buses do the 115-mile trip between Lena and Oslo, stopping at the airport on the way.
Jernbanetorget 2, 2609 Lillehammer, Norway
The few episodes of the Netflix show Lilyhammer didn’t prepare me for my visit to the actual town of Lillehammer itself. With its bricked pedestrian mall filled with boutiques and other high-end shops, the town seemed more like a nordic Boulder, Colorado, outpost than something toward which a mafia wise guy acclimated to a New York state of mind would gravitate. But that’s television for you. Though my time in town was brief, I could see the charm of the town that hosted the 1994 Winter Olympics. Strolling the hilly residential area above the main drag on a dark midwinter evening, I came across dozens of locals commuting with ski-poles and mountain bikes tricked out with studded ice tires, seemingly unperturbed by the layer of ice on the town’s every horizontal surface. On the main drag, I visited pastry shops and sipped steaming coffee next to a small creek. I dallied too long to make it to either the Norwegian Olympic Museum or the Lillehammer Art Museum, but there’ll always be another trip.