Travel Diary: Norway (Oslo, Balestrand & Bergen)
This travel diary breaks down our overall trip itinerary to Amsterdam, Copenhagen, & Norway, & focuses in detail specifically on Norway... and where we stayed, what we did, and where we ate while in Oslo, Balestrand, & Bergen!
In this post you’ll find my travel diary/guide to Norway. We went in mid-April on a trip that consisted of Amsterdam, Copenhagen, and three destinations in Norway (Oslo, Balestrand, and Bergen). Our full trip itinerary is below:
Day 1- Fly into Amsterdam // Day 2- Amsterdam // Day 3- Amsterdam/fly to Copenhagen // Day 4- Copenhagen // Day 5- Copenhagen // Day 6- Copenhagen/fly to Oslo, Norway // Day 7- Train from Oslo to Myrdal, train to Flam, ferry to Balestrand // Day 8- Balestrand, Norway // Day 9- Ferry to Flam, train to Myrdal, train to Bergen // Day 10- Bergen, Norway // Day 11- Fly to Oslo, fly to United States
In my opinion, it was the best of Amsterdam/Scandinavia and a once-in-a-lifetime trip. My mom planned it (I take ZERO credit this one!) and brought along this guide book during the trip. We would highly recommend our travel itinerary, but note that we planned it according to my little sister’s school schedule, as she was studying abroad in Copenhagen, so you could definitely switch it up! Our ONLY regret is not packing less, ha! I would recommend bringing a backpack, a crossbody bag, and a medium sized suitcase. You can find everything I packed for the trip here. The weather we experienced ranged from the low 40s to low 60s and we had blue skies and sunshine every single day, except for the last day in Bergen it drizzled!
This post includes all of the details from our stay in Norway, but you can also find our Amsterdam Travel Diary and Copenhagen Travel Diary as well. I only included restaurants/excursions that provided the best experiences, and that I would recommend to a friend. 🙂 I also only provide our personal opinion and candid photos, because the facts on everything, as well as the professional photos, are already available online through the links I include. At the start of the post, you’ll find my overall description and thoughts on the place, so definitely make sure to read that!
As always, don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions at all! I’m here to share our photos and tips, in hopes that it can inspire a trip or help you find the best spots if life takes you to any of these places!
Overall Thoughts on Norway
We spent about a quarter of a day in Oslo, and honestly, that was enough! I’m sure there were key places that we missed (I heard that there are floating saunas on the lake?!), but it didn’t end up being a key destination for us and that was okay. We ended up flying out of Oslo to get back to the U.S. at the end of our trip, and their airport is one of the nicest airports I’ve been in! So definitely a good spot to fly in and out of.
Oh, Norway. Never in my life did I think I was going to fall in love with a little mountain town called Balestrand, Norway!! When it comes to mountains, it’s hard to beat. I think its second best to the Swiss Alps (which I visited in the fall a few years ago), but it’s small-town feel is unmatched. The “town” is literally a handful of buildings right along the harbor. It sits at the base of the most spectacular, snow-tipped mountains, that back right up to crystal clear, still lakes. If you like the Grand Tetons, the Swiss Alps, or really any kind of nature at all, this has to be a bucket list destination for you. It’s definitely off the beaten path, but all the best places are. 😉
Bergen totally surprised me as being such a beautiful, charming city. Have a drink on the dock, outside of the historic, colorful buildings, and people/boat watch. There’s so much going on in the harbor that makes it a busting and lively place! And OMG I forget to share that I had the best hotdog I’ve had in my life at a little stand with a red roof right off of the square along the harbor (I’m so sorry I don’t have the exact name! But you should be able to find it). I’m so glad Bergen ended up being the last spot in our journey!
Where We Stayed
Note that I sectioned everything out by the city that we were in: Oslo, Balestrand, or Bergen!
Oslo: Grand Hotel Oslo— We got into Oslo right before dinner time and it was pretty much a ghost town because everyone had gone to their mountain houses for Easter vacation (they take Easter VERY seriously in Norway and it is synonymous with vacation). We ended up booking this hotel last minute on a whim (long story), but it ended up being perfect. It’s a grand hotel that sits right on the city square. The rooms were very nice and updated, and the bar right off the lobby was one of the best bars we encrusted on our whole trip. The bartender made me a gin cocktail (note: I told him that I didn’t care for gin and he wanted to prove me wrong… and he DID 😉 ). Delish. In the morning, the hotel staff was very accommodating in helping us get all of our stuff into a cab and on our way to the train station, which was about a five minute drive from the hotel.
Balestrand: Kviknes Hotel— This was the most “historic” feeling hotel that we stayed in during our trip and it had the best views of any other hotel on the trip (by FAR). Its history runs so deep and we had the best time getting to know the staff there and asking them all about it. Tip: sometimes bus tours drop off their groups at the hotel to eat in its dining room (since it’s pretty much the only place to eat in a large group in Balestrand), so check with the front desk to see if any bus tours are getting in and try to eat before them, since dinner is buffet style.
Bergen: Opus XVI— I remember that we had a difficult time trying to decide where to stay in Bergen, and ended up with the Opus. Note that this was probably the only hotel that we didn’t have a good room view in, but it was probably the most updated in terms of luxury rooms and accommodations. I really loved the bed/bedding at the Opus (#Eloisestatus)! It was a nice, luxe place to stay to recoup during the last portion of our trip. We really enjoyed hanging out in the swanky lobby as well, for a glass of wine or a latte, and listening to the John Mayer that they had playing on repeat! The location was awesome as well, as it was about a minute walk to the harbor. The only downfall was that you didn’t get the harbor views, but I can imagine that the harbor is pretty loud and busting at night, so that was most likely a blessing in disguise!
What We Did
Oslo: Magic Ice Bar— My sister, mom, and I ended up at the Magic Ice Bar after dinner in Oslo and it was a cool idea (pun intended), but wasn’t that packed or happening so we didn’t end up staying long. It’s a fun photo op and touristy activity though if you’re looking for a new kind of bar to experience though!
Balestrand: Flam Train Ride/Ferry— We got to Balestrand, Norway by taking a train from Oslo to Mydal and then another train from Mydal to Flam. Then, we took the ferry from Flam to Balestrand (are you picking up on why I wished I had packed lighter?! ?). To get back from Balestrand, we took the ferry from Balestrand to Flam, and then the train from Flam to Mydal, where we caught a train to Bergen. I promise that it’s much simpler than it sounds when you’re doing it! The train rides from Mydal to Flam (and vice versa) and then the one from Mydal to Bergen, were the most beautiful train rides I’ve been on in my life.
The Flam Railway is rated one of the most gorgeous train rides in the whole world, and I don’t doubt that for a second. It’s truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. You will find your eyes glued to the windows. Make sure your camera is charged and that you’re wide awake! Tip: on the trip from Oslo to Mydal, sit on the left side of the train if you’re facing the front. That will give you the best view of everything outside!
The ferry was also a complete dream ride… it was like no ferry I’ve been on before. At points all you could see were mountains, waterfalls, and deep, clear water. It was about an hour-ish from Flam to Balestrand (with one other stop in between) and we almost didn’t want it to end! Tip: get some cheese and crackers and a cider beforehand at the little grocery store in Flam, and make sure you get in line for the ferry as soon as you can so you can get a seat at a table by the window up on top, on the second level. That’s where the best view is!
Balestrand: Fjord Adventures Boat Tour— On our first full day in Balestrand we took this boat tour, which is the BEST way to get up close to the mountains and waterfalls, and truly see it all in its glory. We really lucked out with the best weather all throughout this trip, but especially in Balestrand, which we heard often receives rain in the winter/spring. We fortunately had blue skies and sunshine, but still bundled up for the boat tour. The guide, who owns the boat tour company, gives you suites, gloves, and goggles to put on as well, because as soon as you get on the boat you’re going FAST. The boat tour created a “wow, how am I even here right now” type of moment, and was phenomenal. It’s worth going to Balestrand just for that!
Balestrand: Hiking— We got a hiking tour map from our concierge at the Kviknes Hotel and my mom, sister, and I did a self guided hike (it would have been too much for my dad’s knees!), that was QUITE the sight to see. I was breaking out in a SWEAT, and was of course thinking that every stone was really a troll (see: my Frozen references below, ha). But it was honestly a perfect hike for the non-hiker and the views were insane. You got an even better look at the mountains from the top, and saw all of the town of Balestrand below. Tip: if you ask for the hike map from the Kviknes Hotel concierge, we took the 3 kilometer one I believe!
Balestrand: St. Olaf’s Church— We did a lot of walking around in Balestrand, because we just couldn’t get enough of the views, and swooned over the darling ginger-bread like houses that dotted the edge of the town along the water. One such gingerbread-like building that we stumbled upon was St. Olaf’s Church. I had been getting Frozen movie vibes from Norway the moment that we stepped on the ferry, and thought that the name Olaf sounded too familiar, so I looked it up and learned that that church inspired both the church in the movie Frozen and the name of the snowman, Olaf! Actually, the movie is actually inspired by all places in Norway. It’s safe to say that I broke out into my own Frozen musical for the rest of our stay in the country…
Bergen: Bergen Segway Tour— There aren’t a whole lot of excursion type things to do in Bergen, and this Segway Tour is rated the #1 thing to do. We aren’t typically Segway people (as in, we’ve never been on one), but gave it a try and actually really enjoyed it! There was one minor incident that involved my sister and a stone wall (ehem), but other than that it was a seamless experience and provided a great overview of the city.
Bergen: Funicular: One afternoon we took the funicular, which is like a bigger cable car, up to the top of a mountain in Bergen. This is also located about a five minute walk from the Opus XVI hotel, and was a really unique way, and cool vantage point, to see the whole city. Grab a glass of wine at the top and relax a bit before your way down! You can walk up or down as well, but after my hike in Balestrand I was taking that funicular. ?
Bergen: Nordnes— Our Segway tour took us through the cutest, cobblestone-clad part of Bergen, which we learned was called Nordnes. We wandered back there after the tour to walk through the adorable streets and take photos of the colorful houses. Such a pretty spot to get lost if you want to do some walking!
Where We Ate
Balestrand: Kviknes Hotel Dining Room— We ate all of our meals in the Kviknes Hotel during our stay in Balestrand (I honestly don’t know if there’s anywhere else to go, and the town was pretty much shut down due to it being Easter week). No complaints here though— it was the best buffet we encountered during the trip— a delicious caesar salad bar, salmon served in every which way, almost any meat you could want, and a decadent dessert bar… we felt spoiled (and stuffed) by the buffet and the VIEW. Oh, the view. We sat at the same table each night and it looked directly over the lake and up to the mountains. We couldn’t get enough of it! They said that they had seen killer whales in the water right off of the hotel two week prior so our eyes were peeled, though we didn’t end up spotting any. Honestly, go to the Kviknes Hotel for the views and stay for the food! ?
Bergen: Bryggeriet — We had reservations here for our first night in Bergen, which was the perfect spot to go for our first dinner there. It’s located right along the harbor, about a three minute walk from our hotel. I got the stuffed chicken and my sister got the salmon and both were so good! Tip: when you make your reservation ask to be seated closet to the water!
Bergen: Olivia— We really couldn’t decide where to go to dinner on our last night in Bergen, and ended up going to Olivia’s, which is an Italian place located right below Bryggeriet, I got the seafood linguini and it was delicious!
I hope you found this post to be helpful, inspiring, or at least fun to scroll through. 🙂 Definitely let me know if you end up visiting any of these spots due to my recommendations, I would absolutely love to hear what you think! xx