Bergen: Easily my favourite city in Norway and I think I could say everybody’s favourite! Bergen is visually stunning, small enough to be able to walk everywhere and full of history. The only downside being that it rains, to a greater or lesser degree, on 300 days a year making it Norway’s wettest spot. Having said that if you’re there on a sunny day, sitting down on Bryggen with a local beer or a glass of wine it’s hard to imagine being anywhere more picturesque. The heart of Bergen really is Bryggen – possibly the most photographed image you’ve seen – the historic Hanseatic Wharf which in addition to a couple of great museums documenting the Hanseatic League and Norway’s fishing and trading industry, is now full of cafes, bars and shops all set in the centuries old wooden buildings. As in most of coastal Norway, you are surrounded by mountains and fjords. Bergen is a great spot to explore the Hardangerfjord and Sognefjords from and ideally where you’d like to start or end a Hurtigruten cruise here as you can easily spend 2-3 days here exploring. My other must do here is take the Fløibanen Funicular from the city centre to the top of the Fløien Mountain. From here, you have a golden opportunity to view the city, the mountains, the fjords and the sea; and its then a lovely walk down through forested paths. For really keen walkers, the 7-mountains walk has become a popular attraction and pursuit walk of approximate 35 kilometres and a total ascent of 2,400 metres. For something more leisurely, if you are connecting Bergen with Oslo at either end then do this by train. It’s one of the most scenic journeys in Norway and best broken with the Flåm Railway along the way.
Ålesund: One of, if not, the prettiest fjord town in western Norway Ålesund is situated at the peak of the fjords in Sunnmøre and just under the high peaks of the Alps. After a devastating fire in 1904, the town was rebuilt in Art Nouveau style and is full of stunning examples of this architecture. There is a great museum in honour of this and the history of the town. The production of klipfish (dried, salted cod) is one of the most important exports from this area, and there is another excellent museum dedicated to this industry and its history. Whilst here you must climb to the top of Aksla for a panoramic view of the city and all the islands around it and of course take a day trip to the Geirangerfjord, a UNESCO World Heritage Site deemed by many to be Norway’s most beautiful fjord.
Trondheim: Set on the River Nidelven, Trondheim is Norway’s historical capital. Founded by the Viking King in 997, it’s full of beautiful architecture, both old and new. The Old Town Bridge connects the new city centre with Bakklandet (one of the most picturesque parts of the city) with lots of lively cafes and restaurants. The Nidarosdomen Cathedral is central to this city and well worth a visit. With more than a day here it’s worth visiting Munkholmen island, a small islet in the Trondheim fjord. In summertime, it’s a great spot to relax, visit the café, swim or learn more about the history and it’s just a 10 minute boat ride away from Ravkloa in the heart of Trondheim.
Lofoten Islands: The Lofoten archipelago consists of seven main islands and is one of the busiest and most productive fishing hubs in Norway. When here you must try stockfish (made from spawning cod) or bacalao (a dish made of dry and salted cod). The islands are also home to the largest number of nesting birds in Norway, with approximately one quarter of the country’s seabird population. Visually stunning as the islands rise tall from the sea, they are easily explored in the summer by bike, car or public bus as the terrain is relatively flat.
Tromsø: Up in the Arctic Circle where the sun never sets during summer and never rises during winter. This is where Norway’s first brewery was founded and still today has the highest proportion of pubs and bars per capita vs anywhere else in Norway, possibly the world! A beautiful little town where almost everything revolves around either Polar research (visit the excellent museums here) or oil and gas pipelines. Known as the ‘Paris of the North’ locals are very proud of their Arctic Cathedral. If you’re here in winter, you’ll be in with a very good chance of seeing the Aurora Borealis (the Northern Lights). Tourists flood here in January and February eager to spot them.