For my solo trip to Norway, I used a Marco Polo Guide as an inspiration. There were three options for tours to choose from. The coastline (and fjords), the north, and the inner part of the country. As most of the country’s first-time visitors, I wanted to see the fjords.
The cities to visit in Norway listed below are in the southern part of the coastline. They are different and varying in terms of climate, atmosphere, and natural landmarks. Choose from these cities or go and see them all!
This post was first published on my previous blog When Woman Travels.
One of the southernmost larger cities in Norway, Kristiansand is easy to reach from any of Oslo’s airports. It is named as Norway’s Flower Town because in Spring you can find more than eight thousand flowering bulbs in different colours planted in Wergelands Park by the pre-school children.
Kristiansand has a sea resort feel about it. One of the places to go to if you like being outdoors and among people, is the old naval base Odderøya. It is now turned into an area for recreation that features a coffee shop with stunning views of two lighthouses, a performing arts centre, a climbing park and outdoor space for concerts.
Walk the streets with beautiful wooden houses in Posebyen, the old quarter. Take a stroll on Markens Street, the main pedestrian street that will bring you to the coastal promenade. The art lovers might want to check Kristiansand Kunsthall Art Gallery at ERådhusgaten 11, 4611 Kristiansand S.
Evenings here can be quiet unless you visit during one of the big music festivals (Palmesus, Sommerbris and Ravnedalen) organized in the city.
Stavanger is one of the most interesting cities in Norway for several reasons. One is the old quarter nearby the port and its white painted wooden houses, arranged in alleys with flowerpots on the windows. Here I realised for the first time that in Norway every house has its own unique window and front door decorations. Something that differentiate them and give them a character. It is lovely to see how people try to make their home beautiful and pleasant, even for the strangers passing by.
The second reason is that you can use Stavanger as a ‘base camp’ and make one of the emblematic for Norway hikes. Preikestolen is not an easy hike, but it is possible even for older people and toddlers (carried by their parents), as I saw.
Bergen is the tourist heart of Norway. A coastal city with long maritime history and culture, UNESCO heritage site and a starting point for tours of the largest fjord in Norway – Sognefjord. Bergen is crowded with tourist and also expensive. However, you can’t avoid this city if you want to see the fjords. And indeed, there is no better place to do that.
At the time of my visit (it was June), Bergen was celebrating the International Hanseatic Day. Bryggen, the line of commercial buildings that remained from the time of the Hansa, is now favourite (and absolute must!) place for the visitors. This part of Bergen is unique and easily recognizable on any picture because of its characteristic architectural style and mix of colours. The arranged in neat lines restaurant tables and chairs in front of the buildings give additional charm to this already magnificent area.
Just at the other side of Bryggen, you will find the world-famous fish market. It is a truly interesting place to visit and taste traditionally cooked fish. I can’t comment more on this as I don’t like eating fish much. But I can say that I saw how people around enjoyed their fish burgers with a great pleasure. I guess, it is a good place to try a Norwegian fish meal.
Daytrips from Bergen
Bergen is interesting also with the possibility to visit various significantly interesting places on a daytrip. For information and arrangements, visit the Bergen Visitor’s Centre. You will find it, very conveniently, at one end of the fish market. It is a well-organized but quite busy office. That’s why you should make sure to go to the centre as early as possible in the morning.
The one-day tour that I took from Bergen was to one of the most advertised places in Norway – Flam. It is said that to take the Flam Railway is the best way to experience some of the most beautiful views in the country. Don’t believe that! There are so many more, equally stunning. But it is the faster way to get from Bergen to Flam (around two hours).
On the way back from Flam to Bergen, I took the Express Boat. It is a comfortable small ferry that gives you an opportunity to see, feel, and breathe the air of the amazing atmosphere of Sognefjord. Standing on the deck with wind-blown hair during almost five hours was one of the greatest experiences for me during this trip. It was cold, yes, with a strong wind. But the views were some of the bests I have seen. And certainly, better that those on the Flam Railway. Standing on the deck, I felt as I was sliding on the fjord’s deep-blue green coloured waters.
After Bergen, I travelled to Fjaerland – for me, the most magical place in Norway. It is not included to this list as it is off the beaten path. It is a bit difficult to reach but also difficult to forget it.
Alesund was a little disappointment in terms of interesting things to see and do. Probably because after all the grandiose views around Stavanger and Bergen, the city looked like a fishing village, despite having the largest area of all municipalities in Norway and occupying numerous islands. Two streets with coffees and restaurants make the small centre a little bit more interesting. But that’s all.
Nonetheless, the town has its charm. It is known for its Art Nouveau architecture and it is regarded as Norway’s beautiful city. But I would say – only from a high point! If you visit Alesund don’t miss the walk to Fjellstua Viewpoint. The panorama of the multi-coloured houses snugged in each other’s shadows and looking as they are glued together sideways is dazzling. And I did enjoy my early morning walk up the stairs to the viewpoint tremendously.
Trondheim is an intriguing city. I did start my stay here by arriving at the train station and the walk to the hotel took me through beautiful bridges and metallic industrial structures. Later, I walked in the city centre that looked to me as a typical European city with Scandinavian charm, without something impressive to remember.
Later, I got lost in the streets behind the old port, in the old town. Although it is the most touristic part of the city, it was absolutely peaceful and one can see and feel the atmosphere of the place in its originality.
Colourful houses, as everywhere in Norway, embellish the streets. Tiny cosy restaurants in Bakkandet with sidewalk tables where light blankets are left on the back of the chairs invite you to stop and have a respite from your exploration. The most spectacular view of this part of the city is from the Gamle Bybro bridge, gently named “The Portal of Happiness”.
My final discovery was the Nidaros Cathedral. Its imposing building exudes a sense of magic, and was surrounded by a clean, well-arranged graveyard in an even more magical park. The cathedral is one of the places everyone should see in Trondheim. Check out the Archbishop Palace’s Museum situated in the same park if you fancy learning about the history of the place and the Norwegian monarchy.
Norway is one of the best places in Europe for solo female travel. And solo or not, to find the quite simple life and to enjoy the astonishing landscapes of Norway is an experience that opens the heart to the true values of life – love and beauty in everything.