Mini guide to Bergen and the Fjords, Norway
Bryggen, a city declared by Unesco as a World Heritage city, has colorful houses along the waterfront. (Jean-Pierre Lescourret/LPI)
Mountain landscapes so beautiful they border on the preposterous, mint-green streams opening up into crystalline fjords – make no mistake, Norway’s southwestern coast would be a frontrunner in any international beauty contest. Start at Unesco-protected Bergen and work your way inland via fjord ferry, mountain train and bike.
Flåm Railway, between the Myrdal mountain station to Flåm, is a precipitously steep, winding route through deep ravines, huge waterfalls (including one where ‘wood nymphs’ pop up to sing a siren song to passengers) and gravity-defying mountain farms (flaamsbana.no; £40 return).
An architectural masterpiece, the wooden Stegastein viewpoint rolls out to Sognefjord and back, allowing staggering views of tiny white ferries sailing across the midnight-blue waters. It’s one of 18 viewpoints to be found along the Aurlandsfjord route (turistveg.no/en/aurlandsfjellet/stegastein).
Norway’s not short of great hiking routes, but the journey up the Nigardsbreen glacier stands out. Roped together with 15 others, giant crampons on your feet, the guided path up the blue phosphorescent ice is a chilly and unforgettable experience (jostedal.com; from £19).
Burned down by musician Varg Vikernes in 1992, the A-framed roofs and carvings of the restored Fantoft Stave Church are stirring examples of early Scandinavian Christian craftsmanship (fantoftstavkirke.com).
The pastel palette of Bryggen’s wooden wharf houses in Bergen easily justifies their Unesco status. Shops, restaurants and cafés crowd into narrow wooden streets while buildings – some dating back to the 15th century – lean haphazardly against each other like drunks at closing time (visitbryggen.no).
Eat and drink
A Sixties-style coffee shop, Vågen Fetevare is filled with original furniture and fittings. The coffee is artisan and excellent, and the café itself is the most effortlessly cool hangout in Bergen’s wharf area (00 47 55 31 04 64; coffee from £2).
Take the funicular up to the top of Mount Fløyen – here, Fløien Folkerestaurant has fantastic views across the city to the sea. The food’s not bad either, with fish one of its specialities (00 47 55 33 69 99; dehistoriske.com/restaurant/floien-folkerestaurant; mains from £15).
Take a dramatic cable car ride up Mount Ulriken to find the sky:skraper restaurant, perched 643 metres above sea level. It can get pretty windy up there – but when you consider its excellent steaks and panoramic views, it’s well worth the messed up hair (00 47 55 32 04 04; ulriken643.no; mains from £20).
With a prime location in the Bryggen wharf overlooking the harbour, Enhjørningen serves wonderfully prepared locally caught fish, such as angler or Arctic char, in an endearingly tumbledown and historic setting (enhjorningen.no; 00 47 55 30 69 55; mains from £36).
Fretheim hotel not only hires out bikes for the beautiful downhill ride from Berekvam Station (halfway along the Flåm Railway route) to Flåm itself, but also provides reindeer kebabs at the bottom. The restaurant serves its own cured meats too (00 47 57 63 63 00; fretheim-hotel.no; mains from £25).
The eight rooms at the welcoming, family-run Skansen Pensjonat are light, airy and homely. A great location next to the Bergen funicular means that most rooms have lovely views over the city, while the breakfast platter of meats, cheese and eggs is enough to keep you full until dinner (00 47 55 31 90 80; skansen-pensjonat.no; from £79).
Balestrand is a small town in the middle of Sognefjord, reachable by ferry from Bergen or Flåm. Kviknes Hotel is the leading hotel in town, dating back to 1752. The rooms are modern and the views from the balconies in the older block are nothing short of incredible (00 47 57 69 42 00; kviknes.no; from £123).
Opened in 1928, Bergen’s central Hotel Grand Terminus retains its period grandeur and has architectural awards. The hotel has a huge wood-lined dining hall and exhaustively-stocked whisky bar. Rooms, although comfortable rather than spectacular, are gradually being restored to their former glory (00 47 55 21 25 27; ght.no; from £131).
Arguably Norway’s most spectacularly located hotel, Stalheim Hotel looks over a steep-sided valley near the town of Voss. The rooms are large, and around half have glorious views – room 324, in particular (00 47 56 52 01 22; stalheim.com; May-Sep; from £190).