Lillehammer was charming and scenic. We visited the Olympic park and ski jump, saw the town from above and enjoyed some lite shopping. We also visited a Swedish open-air museum called Maihaugen. Where we were able to visit an old-world Swedish schoolhouse, Stave Church, Farm and Stables and tons of old-world empty houses. I found this to be very interesting, and not a waste of time. It really made you feel like you were able to understand how they lived in the 1600’s in Sweden. We spent the night in Lillehammer on our way across Norway to Flam. Unless you’re a big fan of the Olympic park or winter sports, it’s not a must stop town, but it has its charm.
Flam is the gateway in the heart of the southern fjords of Norway. While the town itself is very small and does not have much to offer the visitor, it is very convenient to experience this part of the country from Flam. You can board or end your journey on the Flam Railway here, which ascends into the mountains of Norway to a height of about 1200m where it ends at the top of the pass in Myrdal. One of the worlds most beautiful train rides. Also, from Flam you can catch short or long ferry rides through the Hardangerfjord and the Sognefjord. These fjords are stunning to cruise through, with some of the best scenery in the world. Depending on the season you visit. Cascading waterfalls abound as the melts at the top of the fjords and mountain peaks allow for an amazing show from mother nature.
The second biggest city of Norway. A buzzing hub of residents and visitors mix in Bergen, as it is frequently the embarkation port for most cruises for the fjords to the north. Bergen is delightful but rainy. Easy to walk everywhere and has a great seafood market right along the port. You can even dine right at the market, pick you shellfish fresh and watch them cook and serve it to you. Yes, it was very good! As we dined on fresh Tiger Prawns, Lobster and Cod. Shopping in the city is popular with numerous indoor shopping malls just blocks from the port. A popular thing for visitors to do is to take the cable car up to Mt. Floyen and see the amazing view of Bergen and the outer islands and inlets. Bergen has a nice park with a lake to walk around, and the historic area offers castle, fort, museums and houses from the 1700-1800’s. The city can feel very crowded if even just 2 large cruise ships are in port. In season Bergen can at times see 5 large ships in port on a day. The locals put up with it, but they commented they are none to thrilled with too many cruise visitors at once and are trying to have the local government put some limits in place for Bergen arrivals. I found Bergen to be wonderful, everywhere we dined, shopped and visited was great. I would call on Bergen again if I were in the area.
I want to go back to Oslo, that it for sure. Oslo blew me away. It was more about just being there, than any one site or visit. I felt like this was a place to be and to live. The Oslo people are kind, friendly, funny and know how to enjoy life. It’s almost impossible to not enjoy shopping on the Karl Johans Gate (a street that runs east/west through the entire city center, that is lined with shops on both sides). This street greatly reminded me of Paris, but actually it may even be more impressive than Paris as the whole street is pedestrian only on one side. With the impressive Town Hall and National Theatre and Ice-Skating Rink! The far western end of the street leads right up to the Royal Palace. Of course, Oslo’s pride and joy is the modern Opera House, and we did make sure to walk over to it and visit and walk up to the top. It is a very impressive structure of modern cosmopolitan art. Oslo is wealthy, and you can tell it right away with all the new construction going on in the city. Talking to a cab driver, who informed us Oslo is now rated #1 as the most expensive city for private transportation in the world, pointing out that Tokyo is #2. I can attest to this personally when a 5-minute taxi ride cost us nearly $20.00 US$. The driver informed us, next time best for you to take metro. Yes indeed. Something unique in Oslo is the public scooters. Everyone uses these, the locals have an app. You put your phone to the scooter, and it unlocks the wheels. These two wheeled scooters buzz around the city center at up to 40mph. While I was tempted to give one of these a go, I didn’t want to injury anyone, haha, so opted not to.
My Hotels in Norway:
Clarion Collection, Lillehammer: Not again… Another Clarion, this one was not as bad as the one in Karlstad, but still I had the same issues with this Clarion. Rooms were just way too small, I do not think Globus should be using these Clarion’s on this program. We were supposed to stay at a Scandic in Lillehammer based on this itinerary online, but of course Globus reserves the right to change those hotels. They should have stuck with the Scandic. Again 1-night stay so it’s ok, but wouldn’t do it again. Though dinner here was not bad.
Freheim, Flam: The best hotel in Flam, and many guests were so happy we were staying in Flam at this hotel. A woman on the tour even said she booked this tour because of this hotel stay. We only stayed in Flam for 1 night. The hotel is classy, the rooms modern but traditional. The location is perfect. Front facing rooms look right out into the fjord, with beautiful waterfalls and such a great scenic view. Of course, our room faced the back, oh well. I was very impressed with this hotel, the staff were excellent, the included dinner and breakfast were the best on the entire tour. You have instant access just by walking out the door of this hotel to the famous Flam Railway to Myrdal, and the scenic new stylish modern ferry service that runs through the fjords. So, it is very convenient for visiting this part of Norway to base here for a night or two to enjoy the beauty this region has to offer.
First Hotel Marin, Bergen: Perfect 4 star hotel. 1 block up from the waterfront on the old town wharf side of the port. A traditional hotel but very well taken care of, rooms well feeling a bit old are very spacious with hard wood floors. Walking distance to everything, and the front desk was very helpful with getting us coveted dinner reservations and giving very good recommendations. While I think rooms could be a little more modern.
Thon Opera, Oslo: Thon is another Scandinavian modern brand that you see throughout the region’s main cities. This is a big hotel, and it was another hotel that found us sharing the hotel with Viking Cruises guests. It has a huge lobby and it’s 2nd floor connects to Oslo’s main train station. Rooms are very nicely appointed, stylish and modern. I enjoyed this hotel stay in Olso. The hotel is also located only 1 block from Oslo’s famous modern opera house. A very nice square is also just adjacent to the hotel with some good dining options available. Oslo’s main shopping streets are about a 10-15min walk away. While I liked the Radisson Blu’s we stayed at, I would lean towards saying the Thon Opera was probably my favorite hotel while on the Globus tour. Breakfast and dinners included at this hotel were very good.