Welcome to the Scandinavian coast. This popular journey loops around Southern Norway, visiting key summertime attractions. For the ultimate mix of scenery, outdoor adventure, and history, you can't do much better than this relaxing 10-day itinerary.

Highlights

  • Discover Bergen and Oslo with a knowledgeable local guide
  • Explore the small islands off Southern Norway's coast
  • Ascend the longest wooden stairway in the world
  • Climb aboard the  Flåm Railway to enjoy beautiful scenery
  • Venture by ferry through Norway's longest and deepest fjord

Overview

Start off exploring Bergen, the country's second-largest city, known for its stunning UNESCO World Heritage Site. From there, you'll hop on a bus to the pretty port town of Stavanger, then ride a ferry through the Lysefjord to hike the longest wooden stairway in the world. Continuing east, you'll stop in charming island towns along Southern Norway's coast. Next, you'll board a train to Oslo and soak up the pleasures of Europe's fastest-growing capital. You'll finish the adventure with an adventure on the Flåm Railway and a ferry excursion through Norway's longest and deepest fjord.

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Welcome to Bergen Bergen
Day 2 Explore Bergen with a Local  Bergen
Day 3 Bus to Stavanger  Stavanger
Day 4 Day Trip to Flørli Stavanger
Day 5 Train to Arendal Arendal
Day 6 Day Trip to Merdø Island Arendal

Day 7

Train to Oslo  Oslo

Day 8

Explore Oslo with a Local  Oslo

Day 9

Train to Flåm and Ferry to Bergen  Bergen
Day 10 Depart Bergen
 
 

 

Day 1: Welcome to Bergen

A view of Bryggen in Bergen, Norway

Welcome to Norway! This wharf city, one of the oldest ports in Europe, is located on the west coast. Bergen is surrounded by ocean, mountains, and fjords, including Sognefjord, the country’s longest and deepest.

Be sure to ride the Fløibanen funicular (or hike the trail on foot) to the top of Mount Fløyen — one of Bergen's seven peaks — for the best views of the city. Then take a leisurely stroll back down the path while discovering hidden troll sculptures along the way.

Also make sure to check out the Bryggen area of downtown to view the waterfront wooden houses that characterize the city, dating back to the 1700s. This historic area is a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site.

This walkable city boasts a vast selection of cultural and outdoor activities, not to mention lively restaurants and nightlife, thanks in part to a young student population.

Some great local options for dining and drinking include:

  • BarBarista: A funky coffee shop, restaurant, and music venue.
  • Bryggeloftet & Stuene: A traditional mountain lodge restaurant.
  • Zupperia: An eclectic European restaurant right on the Bryggen wharf.
  • Bare Vestland: A basement-level eatery specializing in Norwegian tapas.
  • Pygmalion Økocafe and Galleri: An organic restaurant located in a historic space with a fireplace. There's also an art gallery hosting exhibitions and live music.
  • Matbørsen: Three restaurants in one serving international cuisine in a gorgeous, airy space, former home of the Bergen Stock Exchange (founded circa 1862.)

Day 2: Explore Bergen with a Local

Looking down at Bergen from a mountain trail

After breakfast, meet up with a local guide for a private tour of Bergen. Your guide will tailor the tour to your interests. Here are a few walk or hike ideas that past travelers have enjoyed:

Walk Through History (three hours): This walk starts from the city center and travels through narrow streets up to the mountainside known as Sandviksbatteriet, with spectacular views over the city. From here, the trail takes you to a hidden cabin rich in World War II history. During the walk, your local guide will offer local stories of Bergen's history and culture.

Hike Mt. Sandviken (two to three hours): This hike heads to Mt. Sandviken, one of the seven mountains surrounding Bergen. The tour includes a visit to Stoltzekliven, a local attraction featuring 900 steps built by sherpas from Nepal. This trail hosts the steepest race in the world and features spectacular views from the top.

Hike Three of Seven Mountains (five to seven hours): On this longer hiking trip, you will have the opportunity to climb three of the seven mountains surrounding Bergen: Mt. Ulriken, Mt. Rundemannen, and Mt. Fløyen. Lunch will be served at a scenic spot along the trail, followed by a local treat, Kvikk Lunsj (Norway's version of a Kit Kat), and coffee or tea.

The rest of the day is yours to continue exploring the city on your own. Note that a 24-Hour Bergen Card includes bus travel and admission to many museums and attractions.

Day 3: Bus to Stavanger

A cobblestone street in Stavanger, Norway

After breakfast, you'll take a bus headed south along the coast of Norway towards Stavanger, gateway to the Lysefjord. The trip will take between four and five hours. 

Keep your camera close, as there is much to see on this route: views of the rugged Norwegian coast, tiny fishing outposts, and eventually, a ferry and undersea tunnel. The trip may include a stop in one of these villages for coffee, or to sample traditional food for lunch. Options include Fiskesuppe (seafood soup) or homemade Norwegian bread served with local cured meats and cheeses. 

Once you arrive in the pretty port city of Stavanger, check out the historic center. It features some of the best-preserved wooden buildings in Norway, many dating back to the 18th century. During summer months, the waterfront comes alive with outdoor concerts and festivals. 

Day 4: Day Trip to Flørli

A ferry headed to Flørli in the Lysefjord

Put on your hiking boots: this morning, you'll catch a boat headed deep into the Lysefjord towards Flørli. This roadless hamlet is best known for its tough climb to the top. 4,444 steps (yes, that many!) lead up the steep mountain. This is the longest wooden stairway in the world.

Flørli is also known for its hydropower history. You can learn more about this in the Power Hall, which hosts an interesting exhibit on the topic. Pack a picnic for the journey or take advantage of the onsite café for lunch. Better yet, finish the climb with a rewarding beer at the pub.

Another option is to rent kayaks or canoes and paddle at your leisure around this stunning area of the Lysefjord. 

You'll return to Stavanger by ferry in the afternoon.

Day 5: Train to Arendal

Arenal, the so-called "Venice of Scandinavia"

Today, you'll have breakfast at your hotel in Stavanger before boarding a scenic train route eastward towards Arendal, one of the larger towns on Norway's southern coast.

Once known as the "Venice of Scandinavia," Arendal used to have a series of canals until they were turned into wide streets following a devastating fire. Nowadays, the town still oozes with charm, and the best place to start is in the historic center. Known as Tyholmen, it's renowned for its beautifully preserved 18th-century wooden houses. Many artists and craftspeople have migrated here from Oslo, taking over the wood-framed structures and restoring them to their original glory.

During summer months, the town is overrun with domestic vacationers, giving it a fun and lively vibe. That's especially true around the harbor, where boats bob in the water and people crowd into outdoor restaurants and bars. There's also a busy calendar of festivals and open-air concerts that take place by the water.

If peace and quiet is more your speed, the archipelago around Arendal offers plenty of nature activities like boating, cycling, swimming, deep-sea fishing, and kayaking. 

Day 6: Day Trip to Merdø Island

The quiet and car-free island of Merdø

Today, you'll day-trip to the beautiful island of Merdø by boat to experience another popular summertime destination for locals. 

This car-free island was one of Norway's most important ports in the golden days of sailing, featuring a customs station, pilot station, school, and post office. Like Arendal, Merdø is noted for its well-preserved wooden houses.

Explore the island's coastal culture by hiking around its rugged paths. Sunbathe and relax on a couple of small sandy beaches, or climb on rocks and boulders while enjoying fantastic views of the lighthouses. History buffs should seek out two burial mounds that date from the Iron Age. Bring a picnic, or dine at the island's appealing café. 

For some local culture, visit the Merdø Museum, where the buildings date from the 18th century, to see how a small coastal farm works. 

In the afternoon, you'll return to Arendal by ferry.

Day 7: Train to Oslo

An open-air plaza in Oslo

Today, you'll take the train from Arendal to Oslo, a trip that lasts approximately four hours.

Norway's rapidly growing capital is still considered a small city, helped by the fact that it's surrounded by mountains and the sea. Not only is the city center made for walking, but outlying neighborhoods, filled with charm and character, are easily accessible by public transportation. Jump onto a tram, train, or bus and explore all that Oslo has to offer.

Suggested activities include: 

  • Take a half-day and wander around Aker Brygge, an area made up of beautiful modern buildings, lively bars, and abundant nightlife. It acts as a sort of courtyard for the city of Oslo, bringing together both tourists and locals to enjoy great food, atmosphere, and entertainment.
  • Spend the afternoon visiting the Viking Ship Museum and the Norwegian Open Air Folk Museum. Both museums are in the same area, so they pair well together.
  • Walk along the Havnepromenaden (harbor promenade), a new five-and-a-half-mile (9km) waterfront park offering sightseeing, history, art, architecture, and adventure.
  • Visit the Vigeland Sculpture Park, with 200 larger-than-life sculptures that depict human emotions and the ups and downs of life. 

Day 8: Explore Oslo With a Local

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After breakfast at your hotel, meet up with your guide for a private tour of Oslo that's based on your interest. Options include:

Akerselva River Walk (four to five hours): On this tour, you'll take the tram to the Akerselva River, an important waterway steeped in local history. You will start with the Norwegian Museum of Science and Technology (on the north side of the river) and then head south to the Labor Museum (part of the Oslo City Museum) while your guide shares stories about the heart of Oslo's history. The river is five miles (8 km) long and passes waterfalls, swimming areas, forested areas, and wildlife, so be sure to bring your camera.

From Fjord to Forest (full day): This outdoorsy tour takes you to a beautiful island just outside Oslo's harbor. It's reached by tram in about 30 minutes' ride from the city center. No cars are allowed here, so the island is full of recreation options. Choose an activity depending on the season, or simply walk around one of the lakes while your guide shares local history. 

Holmenkollen Ski Jump (two to three hours): If you have less time to spare, this tour heads for a popular area called Holmenkollen, where a wooded range of hills can be reached by light rail from the city center in about 35 minutes. Open year-round, the Holmenkollen Ski Museum & Tower presents over 4,000 years of snow sports, including an exhibition on snowboarding and modern skiing. Head for the observation deck offering panoramic views of Oslo, and then walk down to the ski jump while your guide shares stories about local trolls, legends, and castles.

The rest of the afternoon and evening is yours to explore on your own.

For dinner, wander around the city's historic center, which is buzzing with restaurants and outdoor cafés. If you're looking for Oslo's trendiest local scene, head east for Grünerløkka, which many inhabitants refer to affectionately as "Løkka." This once-run-down sector of Oslo is now the site of refurbished apartments, fashionable cafés, and hip restaurants. 

During summer months, Oslo comes alive to celebrate extended daylight hours, with various festivals and celebrations happening each week. 

Day 9: Train to Flåm and Ferry to Bergen

A ferry ride on Sognefjord, Norway's longest and deepest fjord

After an early breakfast, catch a ride on the Flåm Railway, regarded as one of the most beautiful train rides in the world. The journey is steep in places, passing waterfalls and stunning landscapes.

When you get to the charming village of Flåm, sit back and have lunch at a café. Suggestions for dining include: 

  • Aegir Brewery & Pub for authentic Viking culture inside the restaurant's historic wooden structure. 
  • Flåm Marina and Apartment Café for a peaceful atmosphere and lighter fare. 

Enjoy the serene nature or go for a stroll through town before you catch your mid-afternoon scenic ferry ride (approximately five hours) back to Bergen by way of the Sognefjord, Norway's longest and deepest fjord.

You'll arrive with enough time to have a late dinner and explore Bergen by night.

Day 10: Depart Bergen

The colorful buildings of Bergen, Norway

It's time to say farewell to Norway! Enjoy your last moments in this beautiful country with a leisurely breakfast, neighborhood stroll, or souvenir shopping in the city before you head to the airport for your return flight home.

Map

Map of Oslo, Bergen & Southern Norway - 10 Days
Map of Oslo, Bergen & Southern Norway - 10 Days