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Magical Norway

By Sienna Bailey

Posted: 6th December 2016 09:19

By Sienna Bailey

With wondrous mountains, spectacular waterfalls and seas so clear you can see the bottom of them, Norway is truly a country steeped in natural beauty. The land of the Vikings and Trolls has much to offer in the way of sightseeing and culture. Here are some of its highlights.

Bergen

Known as the Gateway to the Fjords, this beautiful world heritage city is surrounded by natural wanders. Situated on the West Coast between the Hardangerfjord and the Sognefjord, Bergen is the perfect access point for visitors to see Norway’s biggest natural attraction: the fjords. The city was founded by King Olav Kyrre in 1070, and became an established hub of trade in Europe. Much of Bergen’s medieval past can still be experienced today. In Bryggen, you can see one of the city’s oldest areas, first established during the 12th Century. Despite the damage from several fires over the years, the unique wooden buildings which line the harbour have managed to retain their original 18th Century style thanks to many rebuilding efforts since the great fire of 1701. Bergen prides itself on being a European City of Culture, with several museums, galleries and festivals held throughout the year. It has also attracted its fair share of famous residents; one of them being the composer Edvard Grieg, who wrote some of his most famous works here in his home Troldhaugen, now a living museum and concert hall. There are plenty of shops, bars and cafes to explore and when you get hungry be sure to try some of the fish cuisine, most likely bought fresh from The Fish Market, the most visited distributor of seafood in Norway. If you want to observe Bergen in all its glory, the best way is to take a trip up in the Fløibanen funicular and stand on top of Mount Fløyen where you will see an amazing view of the city.

Stavanger

Stavanger is a small harbour town with an eclectic mix of the old and the new. Old Stavanger is a pretty little area made up of 173 wooden white houses with red roofs, dating from the turn of the 18th Century. Walking down the streets will feel as though you are walking through a fairytale. Other historic landmarks include Domkirke Cathedral, the oldest in Norway built in 1125 which still holds its medieval splendour. The city is a delight to walk around, especially in the Øvre Holmegate which is known as the ‘colourful street’ because of its rows of brightly coloured buildings. The beautiful Lysefjord is also nearby which you can access by river cruise and enjoy the stunning mountain views. You might even see a few Mountain Goats climbing up them. In your down time, pop into a café and try a delicious Norwegian Waffle with jam and cream. Stavanger also prides itself on being Europe’s oil and energy capital and you can learn all about their heritage at the Petroleum Museum. Next door is the contemporary Geopark, a brightly coloured playground painted in street art, made up of debris from the oil industry. Other cultural highlights include the Petroleum Museum, The Museum of Archeology and Stavanger Museum.

Ålesund

Perched on seven coastal islands, Ålesund is truly a gem of Norway. Most of the town was destroyed by a fire in 1904, leaving around 10,000 people homeless. Kaiser Wilhelm II led the rebuilding scheme, bringing together influences from Art Nouveau and traditional Nordic styles to create the attractive town we see today. Stroll past the seaport and study the amazing architecture of the 900 multi-coloured buildings lining the streets. Visit the fantastic city aquarium Atlanterhavsparken, built into one of the fjords. Another must see attraction nearby is the Sunnmøre Museum, 4km from the city centre with over fifty traditional buildings from the 11th to 16th centuries showing how coastal folk used to live. They also have a shipping exhibition with the replicas of Viking boats. If you’re the active type, go for a hike up Sugarlump Mountain, over 800 feet high. Head to the top of Aksla Viewpoint for some amazing panoramic views of the city.

Oslo

The capital city of Norway is full of culture and attractions. During the winter months it is a fantastic skiing destination. Visit the Oslo Winter Park to ride slopes for all ages or the  Nordmarka wilderness area which has more than 450 kilometres of prepared, red-marked ski trails which are lit up in the evening. The historic Holmenkollen Ski Museum presents over 4000 years of skiing history with many polar artefacts from Norway. If you’re looking for some more icy attractions, visit the Ice Bar Oslo for a truly unique experience. Everything from the chairs to the glasses is made of ice. Enjoy a drink while you walk around and observe the amazing ice sculptures on display designed by some of Norway’s most talented artists. When you feel like it’s time to warm up, why not visit one of the city’s many fantastic museums? For history enthusiasts, visit the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History with a fascinating array of artefacts from different social groups throughout the country. Or the Vikingskipshuset, which has authentic Viking ships that are the best presented in the world, dating back to the 9th Century. Astrup Fearnley Museet, opened in 2012, is situated on Oslo’s waterfront and houses contemporary art. It gives the impression, according to designer Renzo Piano, the impression of a large wooden boat. One of the most famous pieces it has is the gilded ceramic sculpture Michael Jackson and Bubbles by Jeff Koons. You are spoiled for choice on the amount of restaurants, cafes and bars there are in the city. The world famous Tim Wendelboe café makes some of the finest coffee in the country and in the Grünerløkka district you will find the Mathallen food hall, where there is a great array of stalls selling street food from all sorts of different cuisines.

Geiranger

Imagine clear waters, snow topped mountains with mist descending from the tops and waterfalls cascading from the sides and you have the picture postcard which is Geiranger. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Geiranger is a small village set in amongst the fjords, with the main mountain being the mighty Geirangerfjord. The waterfalls which ripple from the cracks of the mountains are a particularly spectacular wander, especially the lovely Seven Sisters and the amazing Fossevandring. The best way to experience the fjords in all their majesty is up close, kayaking or canoeing through them or on an exhilarating Rib boat ride. If you are interested in learning more about the fjords, visit the Norsk Fjordsenter Museum has information on the local area, where you can experience interactive exhibitions on the formation of the fjords and hear stories about the history of the people who lived there. There are a few little gift shops to visit too such as the Geiranger Sjokolade to get some tasty chocolate treats and Audhild Vikens Vevstove where you can pick up a range of Norwegian souvenirs from knitwear to Troll figurines. One of the best viewpoints in the region is the Flydalsjuvet, where you can sit and take in the breathtaking sights.