An increasing number of travellers are seeking alternatives to plain, standard hotel rooms when booking their accommodation. While comfort remains a priority for many, finding something unique, preferably in a spectacular location, is a determining factor too. Much more than just a place to crash for the night, such accommodation choices become a crucial part of the holiday experience. Whether sleeping in a Sami tent (lavvo) in the Finnmark wilderness, retreating to the comfort of your own cabin after a long day hiking in the mountains, or enjoying spectacular views from one of Norway's traditional wooden hotels, the options are many. Old world grandeur or modern design, in cities or in the countryside, on land, by (or on) the water, even up in the trees... there truly is something for every taste when it comes to alternative accommodation in Norway.
- Historic hotels
- Spa resorts
- Modern design
- Snow hotels
- Fishermen's cabins
- A floating hotel
- Close to nature
- For kids and teens
Nothing makes a holiday that little bit more special than a stay at a historic hotel. And the good news is that Norway has quite a few to choose from. The Hanseatic Hotel in Bergen, for example, is located in the heart of the UNESCO World Heritage site of Bryggen. Small but perfectly formed, this intimate hotel is housed in a wooden building and furnished in 16th-century style – giving visitors a feel of what Bergen was like in its medieval trading days. Or what about spending the night at Dalen Hotel, a masterpiece of traditional Norwegian dragon style ("dragestil”) along the Telemark Canal, or the Hotel Union Øye by the Norangfjord? Both were among the first hotels to open when European tourists, many of them aristocrats, started travelling to Norway at the turn of the 19th century. De historiske (Historic Hotels) offer over 40 properties enjoying stunning locations and good old-fashioned service, many of them in Fjord Norway.
Located in Norefjell, 90 minutes from Oslo, the Quality Spa & Resort Norefjell, which opened in 2009, was named Best Spa Resort in Norway in both 2010 and 2011 at the prestigious World Travel Awards. Other popular spa resorts include Dr Holms in the small mountain town of Geilo, Farris Bad in Larvik, on the southern coast, and Solstrand Hotel in the Bjørnefjord, 30 kilometres south of Bergen.
Chic and stylish, the Grims Grenka, Oslo’s first boutique hotel, is a popular spot for fashion shoots. The hotel’s roof terrace was recently voted one of the best in Europe by Fodor’s. Located in trendy Grünerløkka, the sleek Scandic Vulkan, which opened in October 2011, is another good bet, as is the Scandic Oslo Airport, which has won plaudits for its design. Outside of Oslo check out Rica Seilet in Molde, a striking glass building shaped like a sail, the Clarion Collection Hotel Havnekontoret in Bergen, the new Thon Hotel Tromsø and the Juvet Landscape Hotel near Geiranger (see “Close to nature” below).
Tempted by a holiday in the wild, but not prepared to do without modern conveniences? Glamp it up at the Canvas Hotel in Telemark. Here you will find 10 Mongolian-style yurts featuring wooden floors and comfortable beds, and even outdoors bathtubs to soak in after a day mountain biking or hiking in the beautiful surrounding countryside.
Alternatively, spend a night in a lighthouse, with the sea as your closest neighbour. Skomvær Lighthouse, at the southern tip of the Lofoten Archipelago, and Slettness Lighthouse, continental Europe’s northernmost lighthouse, both offer accommodation. So does Svinøy Lighthouse outside Ålesund – the only way to access this one nowadays is by helicopter. In Southern Norway try Lista Lighthouse in Farsund, Homborsund Lighthouse in Grimstad and Store Torungen, on an island outside Arendal in Aust-Agder. Homlungen Lighthouse on Hvaler and Steilene Lighthouse in Nesodden are good options in the Oslofjord.
Find a list of lighthouses offering accommodation.
For something really cool (literally), try a night at Kirkenes Snow Hotel in Finnmark. Built afresh every December with ice from a frozen nearby lake, and featuring specially commissioned artwork each year, this hotel makes for a romantic retreat, where beds are big blocks of ice and guests cuddle up under reindeer skins (temperatures in the rooms hover around -5°C). The ice bar is a popular area for socialising in the evening, and if you need to warm up the restaurant next door features a big open fireplace. Snorrisniva Igloo Hotel in Alta, also in Finnmark, is another alternative offering similar kind of accommodation.
Staying in a fisherman’s cabin (“rorbu” in Norwegian) is very popular, particularly in the Lofoten Islands and along the Helgeland Coast. Rorbuer vary in size and standard, but can usually accommodate at least four people, often more, making them a great option for families and small groups travelling together. Book well in advance.
A floating hotel
If this doesn’t float your boat, stay on a ship. The Vulkana in Tromsø is a converted fishing vessel offering both accommodation and a rather unique spa – the hulk, where once 60 tons of cod were stored, now houses a Japanese-inspired Zen Lounge and a Turkish hammam, while the main deck features a wood-fired sauna and a small dining room seating up to 12 guests. Staring at the northern lights above head in the saltwater hot tub on the top viewing deck is quite an experience.
Close to nature
Brumunddal’s Tree Top Huts, a cluster of tree houses with unbeatable views of the surrounding forest, is the perfect retreat for wildlife lovers. Guests have been known to spot a moose or two from the viewing platform high up in the canopy. Or try the Juvet Landscape Hotel in Valldal near Geiranger. The hotel is a collection of small wood and glass units using the gorgeous scenery as a unique backdrop, and was the recipient of the 2011 Norwegian Tourism Award.
For kids and teens
As all parents know, keeping the kids happy is the key to a successful holiday. A stay at the Rica Dyreparken Hotel in Kristiansand, a safari themed hotel where a giant giraffe welcomes guests in the lobby and each room has an animal theme, is sure to put a smile on their face. The same applies to nearby Abra Havn Pirate Town, opened in May 2012 (both hotels are located in Kristiansand Zoo). Or what about booking a night at the music themed Rica Rock City Hotel in Namsos, where guests can sleep in a giant guitar? Opening soon too in Vierli, Telemark, will be Norway’s (and the world’s) first skate in skate out hotel, sure to become popular with even the most surly teenagers.
Did you know?
The Grand Hotel was the first hotel in Europe to open a women-only floor. The Ladies Floor, as it is called, features 13 uniquely styled rooms named after (and inspired by) famous Norwegian women, including golfer Suzann Pettersen, actress Maria Bonnevie, writer Åsne Seierstad and Sami musician Mari Boine, among others.
The SUB units at Stokkøya Sea Centre in Trøndelag have been featured in a number of travel and design magazines. The individually designed units, all built in concrete and glass, feature new and recycled furniture, and are partially dug under the sand to soften their impact on the landscape.
Åmot Operagård is a boutique hotel offering top opera evenings in a bucolic setting. One of the suites is named after soprano Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, who performed here in 2009.
The Energihotellet in Nesflaten is a 1960s design hotel in Fjord Norway. Built to provide accommodation for the workers at the nearby power station, it is a typical example of the architecture of the time and still features original furniture by Sven Ivar Dysthe.
Travellers heading to Svalbard can stay on the Noorderlicht, a ship frozen in the ice in Tempelfjorden, a three-hour skidoo ride from Longyearbyen. It is the world's only ice-bound hotel ship.
DNT, the Norwegian Trekking Association, has a network of 460 cabins throughout Norway, 400 of which offer overnight accommodation. Most of these cabins are located in mountain areas, and boast great scenery.