Almost three weeks on the road, interesting museums, wonderful old churches, charming old towns, villages and small towns, magical Lofoten, The Arctic Circle, The Atlantic Road, waterfalls, trolls and views that take your breath away – it’s a short summary of an almost 6.000 kilometers road trip this summer, through Norway. Beyond everything, heartfelt, priceless memories and so much gratitude – for the chance of discovering, with time and so much joy, one of the most beautiful countries on earth.
We are residents in Norway for a few years – but up to this year we have never spent our summer holiday here. This year, because of coronavirus pandemic, we decided not to travel aboard – and, although unplanned, we had one of the best holidays ever. Our main itinerary was Sandnes Lillehammer – Røros – Trondheim – Bodø – Lofoten – Tromsø – Molde – Ålesund – Bergen – and here’s what we fell in love with.
Various and highly interesting museums
Norway has wonderful specialty museums, not all of them promoted as they deserve – it’s a personal conclusion. You will find diversity, small museums with so many stories and rare or unique exhibits, for all preferences. Here’s a personal selection, from what we had seen:
Olympic Museum in Lillehammer – The Winter Olympics took place in Lillehammer in 1994 and this spectacular museum takes you right in the heart and atmosphere of the competition. You will find here original objects exposed, a biathlon simulator, movies, contemporary exhibitions.
Norwegian Rock Blasting Museum in Lillehammer – it’s a very original museum, arranged in an old gallery, inside the mountain. You’ll feel the water dripping from the roof during your visit – it’s a special, different atmosphere. Passionate ones will discover here old machineries, including a 120-tonne dump truck from Sør-Varanger.
The Norwegian Vehicle Museum in Lillehammer – over 80 historic vehicles can be admired here, but what I found even more spectacular was the collection of old bycicles – 60 are on display, many of them produced in Norway.
Tramway Museum in Trondheim – presents the history of the city’s two tramway companies, started in 1901 and 1924. You will find an exhibition of old photos and also one with charming, old trams – a very interesting place to visit.
The Norwegian Aviation Museum in Bodø – this is a “must see” if you get to Norway – one of the most spectacular museums in the entire country and the largest aviation museum in the Nordic countries. The collection includes more than 40 airplanes and helicopters and is divided into a military section and a civil section.
Military Museum from Narvik – the museum tells the story of World War II in Northern Norway and the dramatic fight for Narvik in 1940. It also has a section that deals with universal issues related to war, conflict and human rights, and historical items from WW II are exposed.
Polar Museum in Tromsø – quite an interesting place, a different kind of “window” to the arctic world, the exhibitions deal with sealing, overwintering trapping, the stories of famous trappers, the expeditions of Fridtjof Nansen and Roald Amundsen.
Old Bergen Museum in Bergen – this charming, open-air museum, recreates an old, small town consisting of around 50 wooden houses dating from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. You will find here different old workshops, an old school, with everything carefully chosen to take you back in time and illustrate the atmosphere from very many years ago.
Håkon´s Hall in Bergen – was built between 1247 and 1261 as a royal residence and feasting hall, and is still in use for royal dinners and other official occasions. Site of national heritage, it was the place where many important national events took place, including the promulgation of Norway’s first complete set of laws.
Bryggens Museum in Bergen is the perfect place to find out more about the local history, everyday lives of the medieval people of Bergen and Western Norway. We just loved this museum, located very closed to famous old Bryggen, UNESCO Cultural Heritage.
Fjell Fortress in Bergen – Fjell Fortress played a key role in the defence of Bergen during World War II. Now, 75 years after the end of the war, you can still see the fortress, which was built by the Germans. Down in the 14-metre-deep Cannon Well, you can learn more about the cannons and the fortress.
Arquebus War History Museum in Tysvær is one of Norway’s largest military defense museums. You will find here informations about local history, detailed exhibitions and an impressive collection of objects from the period of German occupation of Norway 1940-1945.
History Centre and Viking Farm in Avaldsnes – a “must see” for those who want to know more about history and the way vikings used to live. In the farmyard you will find a longhouse, a boat house for a Viking warship, a roundhouse and several smaller buildings. Outside the farmyard there are paths through the forest for those who will just seek some peace and tranquility.
Village museums, wonderful places for heart
Well, there’s a story with village museums in Norway, and I’m also a big fan of such places, generally speaking, that’s why I decided to write about them separately. You will find them all over Norway – bigger or just smaller ones, but all telling with so much charm stories about local old ways of living. The most beautiful, in my opinion, is The Norwegian Museum of Cultural History from Oslo, and I strongly reccomend it – we have seen it two years ago – but during this holliday we have discovered three more, and each of them is a very beautiful and worth seeing.
Maihaugen Museum in Lillehammer is Norway’s largest open-air museum. The museum offers more than 200 buildings from different eras, it’s full of stories and a wonderful place to walk in. You can spend here an entire wonderful day with your family – you will find exciting museum experiences for both children and adults.
Same with Trøndelag Folk Museum from Trondheim – more than 80 historical buildings, several indoor exhibitions and two restaurants, beautiful place to visit without wondering what the time is. Don’t miss The House of Mice during the visit – children of all ages, even the big ones, will love the place!
Sunnmøre Museum in Ålesund – you will find here 55 charming old houses, with indoor exhibitions, but what we found the most spectacular was the museum’s vast boat collection, one of the largest in Norway, including replicas of Viking ships.
Impressive cathedrals and old churches
You probably know famous norwegian stave churches from all tourist calendars and brochures – they are spectacular and you can’t miss them if you get to visit Norway. From this holiday I reccomend two – Ringebu Stave Church, close to Lillehammer, and Fantoft Stave Church in Bergen – both are absolutely wonderful.
Ringebu Stave Church dates back to around 1220, and is one of the country’s 28 remaining buildings of its kind.
The old stave church at Fantoft, originally built in Fortun in Sogn in 1150 and moved to Fantoft in 1883, burnt down on 6 June 1992. Fantoft Stave Church has been rebuilt exactly as it was before the fire.
I also recommend two spectacular cathedrals, very different but each of them unique and lovely to see.
Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim – built over a 230 year period, from 1070 to 1300, is the northernmost medieval cathedral in the world and one of the most beautiful cathedrals I’ve personally ever seen.
The Arctic Cathdral from Tromsø is a modern concrete and metal church and was built in 1965. It’s one of the main attractions of the town – and definitely worth a visit.
And I don’t want to go to the next paragraph without writing a few words about Røros Church – a small arhitectural jewel in the charming town that is on Unesco Cultural Heritage List. The building was finished in 1784 and is one of the largest churches in Norway, with 1600 seats.
Old towns in Norway are a story themselves – the only thing I can reccomend is to take time to discover them. Time and enough space on your photo camera – because there will be so many things that you will want to “catch”. I personally loved old town of Ålesund most, but Bryggen in Bergen is also wonderful, same with old, extremely well preserved bulidings from the old town of Trondheim. I’ll put a few pictures – surely not enough, for how much beauty you will discover there!
Well, here’s a different story. I’ve read so much about Lofoten, considered by many to be the pearl of norwegian tourism, but you can’t imagine the real magic of the place until you get there. Lofoten is magical, I must repeat – it has something that will make you certainly want to come back – and I will.
First observation is that, if you travel by car, I strongly recommend you not to take the ferry but to get there on the road, even if you bypass a few tens of kilometers – the stunning landscapes are worth every extra hour on the road.
Landscapes in Lofoten will leave you breathless – everything is beautiful, quiet, magical, wherever you look you say WOW. A story from one end to the other.
But Lofoten doesn’t mean nature only – although the blogs, websites and brochures mostly speak about this. We found extremely interesting museums in Lofoten. Lofotr Viking Museum is certainly the most spectacular and features the largest Viking-era house ever found, but we also loved Lofoten War Museum, that offers the largest exhibition of rare uniforms and artifacts from World War II, Norwegian Fishing Village Museum, where you can discover everyday life at the Lofoten fisheries over the last 250 years, Lofoten Museum / Coastal Administration Museum or Lofoten Aquarium – each of them certainly worth seeing.
And a special mention for Lofoten beaches – among the most beautiful I have ever seen.
I love seeing small towns on road-trips, well preserved old places where you can discover authentic local life – and so many stories. From this holiday I have a few I simply fell in love with.
Tvedestrand book town – is a place where a book lover will love to live at least three lives – I’m kidding and not quite. On the main street of the old town you will find one antique shop after the other, some of them on many levels, full of old books – a real Heaven for book lovers. And after few hours of walking among books taste something from the bakery located right at the beginning of the main pedestrian street – it will complete the story.
Røros – is one of the oldest towns of wooden buildings in Europe and a UNESCO World Heritage site. It’s absolutely charming – no surprise it is full of tourists, we also found it like this although it was quite a rainy day when we got there. I can recommend the painting workshop from the main pedestrian street, wonderful local paintings and a charming host that completes the story, and of course the local bakery – absolutely delicious.
Skudeneshavn – is a small piece of Heaven with an old historical center extremely well preserved that takes you back in time with a huge smile both over your face and your heart. Don’t forget the camera when you get there – you will feel like taking pictures everywhere!
Henningsvær in Lofoten islands – has the most well-preserved architecture of the traditional Norwegian villages, a place that will take you back in history and will offer you the joy of some magical views. Don’t miss the local Glass Studio – you can see the glassblower in action and you may purchase glass art objects from the gallery.
Dokka – became Norway’s first official village in 2009, and has a vibrant community with winter market, village markets, village festival and Christmas market. Don’t miss the local shop with fresh meat products – it has also a restaurant and is famous, we have waited for around 40 minuntes in the street to enter, it was full of customers and rules of social distancing during pandemic must be respected, but certainly worth it, products are absolutely delicious.
Norway is famous for its spectacular waterfalls, that can be admired all over the country. I have three recommendations from this holiday.
Langfoss – was voted world’s most beautiful waterfall in 2006 and one of the ten most beautiful waterfalls in 2011. It has a total drop of 612 metres and is the fifth highest waterfall in Norway.
Låtefoss is the main attraction in Oddadalen, also known as “the Valley of Waterfalls”. Twin waterfalls were a popular tourist attraction as early as during the 19th century.
Hellesylt waterfall in the small village of Stranda is highly spectacular, also – we went there just to see it and it was full of tourists, taking pictures.
Many consider this the most beautiful drive in the world – I wasn’t extremely impressed, maybe I was expecting something else after so much reading about it. But if you get in the area is certainly a place to visit – the main bridge is really spectacular, you will also find beautiful views on the way.
The Arctic Circle Center
Well, it’s the last place I imagined I would visit in short pants and flip-flops, but it’s certainly an interesting experience in the middle of july. You can admire the views, enjoy a little bit of snow in the middle of the summer, take some pictures and of course buy souvenirs from the local shop.
Oficially, troll is a term used to describe various supernatural beings in Nordic folklore and storytelling traditions, and has roots in norwegian mythology. For each visitor, trolls are a part of Norway’s magic. I “hunt” trolls for pictures, I admit – just love them, and if you still keep a childish part in your heart I’m sure you’ll love them, as well.
Yes, Norway is famous for its views, also, and is absolutely true – it is one of the most beautiful countries on earth. What I love most is its wild, preserved nature, kept like that, all those places that take your breath away, kind of places you will like to grow old in. So yes, take the camera but most of all take time with yourself – it’s a place to admire, to love, to connect with nature, to charge your batteries, to discover and rediscover.