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Attractions In Norway For The First Time Visitor

Attractions in Norway for the First Time Visitor

Are you a first time visitor looking for the top attractions in Norway? Try to arrange your flights so that you fly in to Oslo and out from Bergen or Stavanger, easily done with several airlines, budget or other.

Below are suggestions for a few days in Oslo before you head to the fjords of Western Norway – one of the top attractions in Norway. And if you enjoy hiking (which I think you do, since you’re reading Leigh’s fabulous blog), I’ll add in a few outdoorsy faves along the way.

Oslo – one of the top attractions for the first time visitor to Norway

Begin your journey with a couple of days in Norway’s capital. I recommend getting a ticket on the hop-on, hop-off old sailing ship that plies Oslo harbour, stopping at City Hall, the Opera House and the Bygdøy Peninsula. Set aside at least half a day at Bygdøy – for the beautiful beaches, nature walks and all the little museums dedicated to the country’s long maritime history.

Did you know Norway is one of the world’s largest shipping nations? Not bad for a country of barelyfive million souls.

At Bygdøy, you’ll find the Kon-Tiki Museum, showcasing some of the precarious vessels used by adventurer Thor Heyerdahl to cross the world’s oceans, including the Kon-Tiki, the raft he sailed from Peru to Polynesia in 1947.

The chronicle of that intrepid journey won Oscar for best documentary in 1951. Across the street, the sturdy polar ship Fram is housed in a purpose-built museum. You can’t miss it. Fram was used by several explorers from the golden era of polar exploration in the early days of the 20th century.

Explorer and humanitarian (and Nobel Peace Prize winner) Fridtjof Nansen sailed Fram in the Arctic and Roald Amundsen sailed her in the Antarctic, when he won the race to became the first to reach the South Pole.

You can wander around the deck of Fram, and pretend you’ve time-traveled to 1911 and are about to discover the unexplored polar regions of the world yourself.

"The polar ship Fram"
The polar ship Fram – Photo credit: David Haberthur on Flickr

A bit further along is the Viking Ship Museum, where you’ll be taken further back in history. The museum houses three excavated ships, two of them incredibly well-preserved, as well as numerous artefacts found on board the ships.

Just imagine rowing/sailing across the Atlantic in one of these. They must have been so happy to see the shores of Newfoundland.

There’s heaps more to see and do in Oslo, of course. But I expect you have limited time, so I’ll give just two more suggestions; both are free.

The first is the Opera House, rivaling that of Sydney in my opinion, with the white marble roof sloping gradually into the waters of the Oslo fjord. There always seems to be people taking a stroll on the roof, so join them.

The Oslo Opera House
The Oslo Opera House – Photo credit: Alexandra von Gutthenbach-Lindau from Pixabay

The second is Gustav Vigeland’s 212 life-sized nudes in Frogner Park. This evocative sculpture park shows human life in all its stages, from before birth to death. You’ll meet locals walking their dogs, having after-work beers, sunbathing, skateboarding and climbing on the statues (though that’s mostly kids).

"Statues in Frogner Park, Oslo"
Statues in Frogner Park, Oslo

Head west to see the most beautiful attractions in Norway

But we were going west, weren’t we?

This is where you hop on the train for one of the world’s most famously beautiful rail journeys: the Bergen line. The journey takes 6 – 7 hours, but if you have a few extra days, and you’re here between mid-July and mid-September, I’d recommend getting off at Haugastøl or Finse, hire a mountain bike and ride along Rallarvegen, the Rallar Road.  

The Bergen line was very difficult to build: months and months of snow and freezing temperatures, and much of it had to be bored through solid rock. Rallar was the name of the navvieswho built the railway at the turn of the last century.

Bike on down to fjord level – to the sweet little village Flåm. It’s possible (and recommended) to spend a night in Flåm, to enjoy the views of  Aurlandsfjord, the long white night, the silence of nature and the excellent local kitchen.

The quaint Flåm railway will take you back up the mountain, where you can get back on the Bergen train. Or you can opt for the sea route from Flåm to Bergen.

More info on biking Rallarvegen here.

Stay in Bergen

Bergen is worth a long stay. Norway’s second largest city is on the North Sea and is surrounded by seven mountains. It goes without saying that sporting opportunities abound, on land and at sea.

"The streets of Bryggen, Bergen"
Bryggen is a series of Hanseatic commercial buildings

In the city, there are numerous museums and all kinds of attractions, most famously Bryggen (the harbour).

Bergen was part of the Hanseatic League (a 13th – 17th century merchant guild) and the Hansa architecture has been very well preserved. I love ambling about in the quirky and curious corners of Bryggen and have lunch outdoors at the lively fish market.

Bryggen in Bergen
Bryggen in Bergen – Photo credit: Michelle Maria from Pixabay

"Wonderful colours of these buildings in Bryggen"

Bergen is also the gateway to the fjords. Geirangerfjord is about a 5 – 7 hour drive north of Bergen. Having a car is the most flexible option, but there are buses, trains and planes as well.

Also, Hurtigruten, the coastal express, stops at Geiranger between mid-April and mid-September. Hurtigruten takes cars on board, so it’s possible to enjoy the scenery from the water one way and drive the other.

Geirangerfjord in Norway
Geirangerfjord – Photo credit: Kerstin Riemer from Pixabay

Heaps to see and do along the way, of course. You could hike in Jotunheimen National Park, trek along the blue ice at Jostedalsbreen, Europe’s largest glacier, or even stop for a few runs at Stryn Summer Ski Centre, where on a warm summer day, people will ski in shorts or even bikinis.

Norway isn’t all sports and nature, of course. Among the many cultural highlights along the way, I’d like to draw your attention to the stave churches. There are 28 left of these 12th century wooden churches scattered around the country. Between Bergen and Geiranger is Urnes, the world’s oldest stave church.

If you’re interested in seeing some seriously spectacular bits of nature, and you’re not averse to a  challenging 8-10 hour hike (return), Trolltunga (the Troll’s Tongue) is about 3 hours south-east of Bergen. See Visit Norway’s site  for practical details.

Troll's Tongue hike - Photo credit: Jeremy Elliott from Pixabay
Troll’s Tongue hike and one of the most photographed attractions in Norway – Photo credit: Jeremy Elliott from Pixabay

(PS: I love visiting UNESCO World Heritage sites. If you do too, you’ll be happy to know that this itinerary comprises three of them: Bryggen, the West Norwegian fjords and Urnes Stave Church).

Visit Stavanger

Stavanger is the second largest city on the west coast and Norway’s oil capital. This international city is pretty in its own right; however, the real stunners here lie along the Lysefjord.

The most famous are Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock) and Kjeragbolten, a round rock wedged in a crevice about 1000 metres above the sea. You have probably seen pictures of both.

Pulpit Rock in Norway
Pulpit Rock – one of the must do hikes and top attractions in Norway – Photo credit: Nir Gazit from Pixabay
"Kjeragbolten in Norway"
Kjeragbolten – Photo credit: Den Norske Turistforening on Flickr

Both are accessible by car (or bus in summer) from Stavanger. From the car parks, both hikes take around 4 hours return. The hikes are slightly strenuous; on the other hand, families with young kids do this hike all the time. On the top, you can slowly inch your way out to the edge of the world at Preikestolen – or hop out on the boulder at Kjerag. More information here.

Note: While Sophie didn’t mention it, there is also dogsledding in Norway ; how much fun would that me to do in a country that lovers winter?

This guest post was written by my friend Sophie Redisch, a Norwegian writer and traveler, who blogs at Sophie’s World

Further reading on places to visit in Europe

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

Attractions in Norway for the first time visitor





Leigh McAdam

Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 61,000 followers. Her blog: HikeBikeTravel is frequently cited as one of the top travel and outdoor adventure blogs in Canada.

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta

This Post Has 16 Comments
  1. How stunningly beautiful the fjords are! I’m surprised at how modern Oslo looks. Bergen looks like more my kind of place.

  2. I love these ideas for a first-time visitor — which is exactly what I’ll be when I finally get to Norway one of these days. I’m sure I’d like to spend lots of time in each of these places, especially Oslo and Bergen. I can’t believe that people actually hop on that boulder! That’s one thing I probably won’t be doing.

  3. What a post and so perfectly timed because it was one year ago today that I embarked on my epic voyage to Norway. I visited all of these places except Oslo because my trip focused on the southwestern coast and the fjords of course. Your photos are spectacular too!! Thanks for bringing back such wonderful memories!

  4. Such a wonderful review of Norwegian attractions! Thanks for giving us this background info. I need to think about visiting Norway seriously.

  5. A great piece! I’d certainly keep this in mind if we do get to Norway one of these days. Sophie, watch our for the Easy Hikers!

  6. What a great way discribe for first visitor 🙂 its so neat n clear thought n details 🙂 totally loved.

    My question is m thinking to be 8-10 days n as u said move in from OSLO n return with Other. ( grt idea )

    M taking Car as m photography lover to hv own freedom.

    So will u pls guide which all plcs i can able to cover in given days ??

    Thanks in advance.

  7. Great post, Sophie and Leigh. Stavanger wasn’t even on my radar but if I had to go to Norway, I’d definitely love to see it.
    Oh and btw, there’s a Bergenline Avenue in New Jersey.

  8. wow- love your photos. I live in Newfoundland. I have hiked the Skerwink Trail but was looking for information on the Alexander Murray Trail in Kings Point. You are quite the adventurer!!

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