From Epperly Travel Agent, Meg Mills
I’ll be honest – Norway was never on my bucket list. Having lived in France, Europe had become like a second home to me, and I love all its hidden treasures, but Norway was never a place that really stood out to me before. Thankfully, I married a man with a love of all things vikings, and he recently dragged me along on a 6 week Nordic adventure while he completed an internship with one of Oslo’s top restaurants.
I am SO glad he did! If there’s one thing I’ve learned in all my travels, it’s that the places you never expected to love will often surprise you in the biggest ways.
We started our Norwegian journey in Oslo with a stay at the lovely Hotel Continental, one of our Virtuoso partners, and arguably the best hotel in all of Norway. It was the perfect place to rest up after a long flight and connection, and the breakfast the next morning in the Caroline restaurant was the best we had throughout our journey (later on our trip I also had a chance to sample lunch in their famous Theatercafeen restaurant – now I know why it’s constantly listed as one of the top places to eat in Oslo!). As one of our Virtuoso partners, Hotel Continental also offers exclusive amenities to our guests and absolutely amazing service!
We made our way to the central rail station the next morning and hopped on a train bound for Bergen. This particular journey lasted 7 hours, and while most might balk at being stuck on a train for that amount of time, I can honestly say it was one of my favorite parts of the entire journey. The Bergen Line has been voted one of the most scenic railways, and it certainly lived up to our expectations! Beautiful mountain and fjord views had me glued to the window for the majority of the journey as we watched the changing landscape go by.
Once we hit higher altitudes, we had a huge shock – we knew Norway would still be cold when we arrived in April, but we certainly weren’t expecting to still see this much snow! Silly Southerners…
Bergen greeted us with pretty blue skies, and we were surprised the weather cooperated with us for the remainder of our stay. Bergen is notorious for being a gray, drizzly city, and while it was certainly chilly, we enjoyed plenty of sunshine too! The city’s landmark is Bryggen –or, the wharf –a UNESCO World Heritage Site with old, Norwegian charm. It’s filled with charming restaurants and tourist shops, where you can find more than your fair share of trolls and Norwegian sweaters.
Also not to be missed: a ride in the funicular up Mt Floyen, a journey to see the Fantoft Stave Church, and a visit to the famed composer Edvard Grieg’s house (you know him from his famous work “Hall of the Mountain King”…trust me).
After our stay in Bergen, we rented a car to road trip our way back to Oslo with plenty of fun stops along the way. As much fun as the train ride was, Norway by car is one of the best ways to see the landscape and take control of your own journey.
We drove through snow capped mountains, took in the mighty fjords, stopped at several waterfalls and even found another stave church in Borgund. One of the best parts of having a car was getting to stop in little towns along the way and take detours when we discovered something new (which was how we wound up at an overlook jutting out over the Aurland fjord and finding goat caramel in the sleepy, but stunning town of Undredal).
Our two day trip included a stopover in the charming town (if it can even be called that) of Flam and a stay at the Fretheim Hotel. A popular cruise stop, Flam offers a step into a little Norwegian village, as well as plenty of nearby hiking and fjord tours.
When we made it back to Oslo, we finally had time to discover everything this city offers. The National Gallery boasts Munch’s famous painting, The Scream, while the outdoor Norwegian Folk Museum offers a wander through what Norwegian villages would have looked like once upon a time. My husband’s favorite by far was the Viking Ship Museum – truly I had no idea just how large these ships actually were!
Some of the best food and shopping in Oslo can be found along Akker Brygge, and in the summer this area comes alive with fjord swimming and ice cream stands on just about every corner.
Also near Akker Brygge is Oslo’s other major luxury hotel, The Thief. This property offers a modern twist on luxury and is one of the only hotels in Oslo to harbor its own spa (the hallway leading down to it boasts a feature wall with soft lights meant to mimic the Northern Lights). In warmer months, their rooftop bar features fun music and perfect views over the Oslo fjord.
Overall, Norway is a delight for all kinds of travelers – the adventurous, the cultural, the history lovers, and even those who love the creative arts. Norwegians are welcoming and kind and always proud to show off their gorgeous home. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to start planning your Scandinavian getaway!