This relaxing journey loops around Southern Norway to key summer spots for the ultimate mix of nature, history, and culture. Take a local tour of Bergen, visit the charming towns and islands along Southern Norway's coast, get to know Oslo, and take a scenic ride on the famous Flåm Railway. End your trip with a memorable ferry ride through Norway's longest and deepest fjord.

Highlights

  • Explore the colorful streets of Bergen’s UNESCO-listed wharf with a local
  • Glide past mountains and waterfalls as you sail the Hardangerfjord
  • Climb 4,444 steps on the world's longest wooden stairway in Flørli
  • Ferry to the beautiful beaches of the car-free island of Merdø
  • Check out Oslo's up-and-coming neighborhoods and restaurant scene

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Welcome to Bergen Bergen
Day 2 Explore Bergen with a Local Bergen
Day 3 Fjordcruise to Hardangerfjord Bergen
Day 4 Bus from Bergen to Stavanger Stavanger
Day 5 Day-Trip to Flørli Stavanger
Day 6 Train from Stavanger to Arendal Arendal
Day 7 Day-Trip to Merdø Island Arendal
Day 8 Train from Arendal to Oslo Oslo
Day 9 Explore Oslo with a Local Oslo
Day 10 Train from Oslo to Flåm - Ferry to Bergen Bergen
Day 11 Depart Bergen  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Welcome to Bergen

Bergen at dusk
Bergen's vibrant colors

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

If there's time, 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, and 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 (a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site).

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

Some great local options include:

  • BarBarista: A funky coffee shop, restaurant & 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: A healthy, organic restaurant located in a historic space with a fireplace and an art gallery for art exhibitions and live music.
  • Matbørsen: Three restaurants in one serving international cuisine in a gorgeous, airy space—the former Bergen Stock Exchange, circa 1862.

Day 2: Explore Bergen with a Local

Walk high above town for a panoramic view of Bergen.
Walk high above Bergen for a panoramic view

After breakfast at your hotel, meet up with a local resident for a custom private tour of Bergen. Your guide, who was born and raised in Bergen, will find the right tour for you based on your interests. Here are a few walk or hike ideas that past travelers have enjoyed:

  • Walk through History (3 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 small, hidden cabin rich in World War II history. During the walk, your local guide will offer local stories of Bergen's history and culture.
  • Explore Bergen's Parks & Architecture (3 hours): This easy walking tour visits notable exteriors and city parks starting with the largest church in Bergen: St. Johannes. From there, you will walk through the botanic garden and onwards to Bergen`s largest and most beautiful park: Nygårdsparken. You'll then walk through the city's narrow streets lined with traditional Bryggen houses and eventually visit Nordnes, another great park. Your guide will share stories of life in Bergen, as well as offer lesser-known activity and restaurant recommendations not frequented by tourists. 
  • Hike Mt. Sandviken (2.5 hours): This hike heads to Mt. Sandviken, one of the seven mountains surrounding Bergen, including a visit to Stoltzekliven—a local favorite consisting of 900 steps built by sherpas from Nepal. This trail is home to the steepest race in the world and features spectacular views from the top!

The rest of the day is yours to continue exploring the city on your own. If you get a 24-Hour Bergen Card, that will allow you free bus travel and free admittance to most museums (as well as other attractions), so take advantage!

Day 3: Fjordcruise to Hardangerfjord

Hardangerfjord's bucolic surroundings

After breakfast at your hotel, you'll head to the harbor to catch a lovely cruise ride to Rosendal. This trip will sail through the fjords of Bergen to the Hardangerfjord, known as the "queen of the fjords"; keep your camera close as you'll encounter spectacular views of steep mountains and cascading waterfalls along the route. 

Arrive in Rosendal for a 3.5-hour visit, which includes a guided tour of a manor dating back to 1665. For lunch, relax with a two-course meal prepared with fresh herbs and vegetables grown onsite, along with coffee, tea, and pastries. After lunch, continue your tour in the manor's romantic rose garden before returning to Bergen. 

When you return, the rest of the evening is yours to enjoy.

Day 4: Bus from Bergen to Stavanger

Quaint streets of Stavanger
Quaint streets of Stavanger

After breakfast, you'll take a bus headed south along the coast of Norway towards Stavanger, the gateway to the Lysefjord. The trip will take approximately 4-5 hours. 

Keep your camera close, as there is much to see on this route with views of the rugged Norwegian coast interspersed with tiny fishing outposts, and—eventually—a ferry and undersea tunnel. Stop in any of these villages for coffee or to sample traditional fare for lunch, such as Fiskesuppe (a seafood soup), homemade Norwegian bread, or local cured meats and cheeses. 

Once you arrive at this pretty port city, check out Stavanger's old center, which has 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 5: Day-Trip to Flørli

Take in dramatic views as you make your way to Flørli by boat
Take in dramatic views as you make your way to Flørli by boat

After breakfast, put on your hiking shoes and catch a boat headed deep into the Lysefjord towards Flørli—serviced by four ferries a day. This roadless hamlet is best known for its tough climb to the top, via 4,444 steps (yes, that many!) up a steep mountain—in fact, this is the longest wooden stairway in the world!

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

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

Return to Stavanger by ferry in the afternoon and stay overnight.

Day 6: Train from Stavanger to Arendal

Picturesque buildings in Arendal
Picturesque buildings in Arendal

Today, you'll have breakfast at your hotel in Stavanger and then connect to a scenic train route eastward towards Arendal—one of the larger south-coast towns in Norway.

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 historic charm, and the best place to start is in the village center where you can visit Tyholmen 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 infiltrated with domestic holidaymakers giving it a fun and lively vibe, especially around the harbor (called Pollen) with boats bobbing in the water, outdoor restaurants and bars, as well as a stocked calendar of festivals and open-air concerts by the water (most weekends). 

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 7: Day-Trip to Merdø Island

The shores of Merdø Island
The shores of Merdø Island

After breakfast in Arendal, take a day trip to the beautiful island of Merdø by boat (pay directly) and experience another popular location for locals during the summer season. There are several ferries a day leaving from Pollen Harbor, so take your pick. 

This car-free island, recorded as early as the 1300s, was one of Norway's most important ports in the days of sailing, with a customs station, pilot station, school, and post office. Like Arendal, Merdø is noted for its well-preserved wooden houses.

When you arrive, experience the island's old coastal culture by hiking around its narrow paths. You can layout and relax on a couple of small sandy beaches, or explore areas of rugged rocks and boulders with fantastic views towards the lighthouses. History buffs can seek out the two burial mounds from the iron age that can be found on two locations on the island. Purchase provisions at the market and have a picnic or dine at the island's nice café. 

For some local culture, the Merdø Museum takes space in a small coastal farm with the main building from 1736, kept as it was in about 1800. There are tours you can join, held every hour in the afternoon during summer months. 

Return to Arendal in the afternoon by ferry.

Day 8: Train from Arendal to Oslo

Vigeland Sculpture Park
Vigeland Sculpture Park

Today, you'll take the train from Arendal to Oslo (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 sea. Not only is the city center made for walking, but outlying neighborhoods -- filled with charm and character -- are easily accessible by public transportation, so jump on a tram, train, or bus and explore all of what Oslo has to offer.

Suggested activities include: 

  • Take a half-day and wander around Aker Brygge, an area on the Oslofjord made up of beautiful, modern buildings where you can find bars and abundant nightlife. It acts as a sort of courtyard for the city of Oslo and brings together both tourists and locals alike to enjoy the great food, atmosphere, and entertainment.
  • Spend the afternoon visiting the Viking Ship Museum and the Norwegian Open-Air Folk Museum by way of public transportation. 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 waterfront park, which combines sightseeing, history, art, architecture, and a little bit of adventure.

  • Visit the Vigeland Sculpture Park, where 200 larger than life sculptures are placed throughout this green lung in the middle of the city. The sculptures depict the ups and downs of life and the raw emotions of human beings. Bring your camera!

Day 9: Explore Oslo with a Local

Restaurants in a quiet alleyway of Oslo
Restaurants in a quiet alleyway of Oslo

After breakfast at your hotel, meet up with your guide for a custom private tour of Oslo. Your guide, a native of Oslo, will find the right tour for you based on your interests. Here are a few ideas that past travelers have enjoyed:

Akerselva River Walk (4-5 hours): On this tour, you'll take the tram to the Akerselva River, an important waterway that offers an abundance of 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 Labour 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 bring your camera!

From Fjord to Forest (full day): This outdoorsy tour takes you to a beautiful island just outside Oslo's harbor, reached by tram in about 30 minutes 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 (2-3 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, polar exploration, and 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 core 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 10: Train from Oslo to Flåm - Fjordcruise to Bergen

Get ready for stunning scenery from the deck of the ferry
Get ready for stunning scenery from the deck

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 and passes through waterfalls and stunning landscapes, so keep your camera close. 

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 11: Depart Bergen

Walkable streets in the city center.
Walkable streets in the city center

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