Staying in Balestrand
Norway's western coast is an outdoor lovers' paradise with an intricate maze of more than 1,000 fjords creating a dramatic landscape of steep, lush mountains, tumbling waterfalls, and calm seawater. The Sognefjord, nicknamed the 'king of the fjords,' is the longest and deepest fjord stretching 127 miles (204 km). Because of its expansive size and accessibility from Bergen and Oslo, it's also the most visited fjord in the country.
On the northern shore is the town of Balestrand, with art galleries, guided cultural walks, and an aquarium that includes free use of row boats and canoes. Balestrand is also an excellent base for fjord cruises, especially to Fjærlandsfjord (a narrow branch of the Sognefjord), which is home to the Norwegian Glacier Museum, located at the edge of Jostedal Glacier (the largest glacier in mainland Europe). More activities in the Sognefjord include hiking, cycling, kayaking, and fishing. For more ideas, check out the top experiences in the fjord region.
With 190 rooms, Kviknes Hotel is one of the Sognefjord region's largest and most famous hotels. It has been family-owned since 1877, and the historic wing is the highlight, with an impressive first floor decorated with original art and antiques. On the above levels, there are 30 rooms with old-world decor and patterned wallpaper—and many come with balconies facing the fjord. A newer, less-attractive annex is where most guest rooms are located (though many are renovated). These comfortable rooms also have balconies with mountain and/or fjord views.
Every guest has access to a grand dining room serving international buffets and multicourse menus, along with a well-stocked wine list with more than 300 labels (look for regular tastings in the cellar). A nautical-themed bistro provides casual lunch and dinner options. The hotel is a short stroll to Balestrand's passenger ferry terminal with express service to Bergen, art galleries, the aquarium, and a traditional stave church. Learn more
A 10-minute drive outside Balestrand, the peaceful, family-owned Dragsvik Hotel is situated on a narrow peninsula with fjord views in both directions. Simple, bright rooms come in various categories with charming historical touches and unique configurations. There are also five private cabins dotted along the hillside, which tend to draw couples. These units have private decks, kitchenettes, lounges, and dining areas.
The best views are available at the hotel restaurant with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the fjord and, on a clear day, Jostedal Glacier. Dinnertime has a romantic ambiance due to the soft music, low lighting, and candles where guests can choose between a handful of rotating options that will likely include fresh seafood and a house burger, as well as local beers and a wine list. Learn more
Balestrand Hotel is a budget-friendly option with views of the fjord from a large terrace and a private little beach for swimming. In the lobby, the new, second-generation family owners have spruced up the interiors to create a hip, open layout for ordering drinks and snacks, with several tables and lounge areas topped with flickering candles. Though it's a quieter location and a bit removed from the center of Balestrand, the owners will pick you up and deliver you at the ferry dock during arrivals and departures.
There are 30 sparsely decorated rooms. Half have big windows and seated balconies overlooking splendid fjord views (especially lovely with a cup of coffee from the lobby or a beer at sunset). The other 15 rooms are in the rear, up against a mountain dotted with houses (for a lesser cost). Most rooms can be configured depending on the guest's preference, and extra beds can be added if a bigger group exists. Learn more