Feeling torn between the urge for urban kicks and the need for simpler and more secluded pleasures? Norway’s cities provide plenty of escape routes into the wonders of nature.
Published: 13 September 2018
It’s the traveler’s eternal dilemma: Stay in the city for the hustle, bustle and excitement, but risk feeling more worn-out afterwards than when you arrived? Or get away from it all and explore the great outdoors – even though that could leave you with fewer cultural and culinary travel experiences to look back at?
Thankfully, there’s no need to make a choice. City life in Norway offer a plethora of means to combine these two approaches. Here are some tips that are guaranteed to lower your shoulders during your stay in some of Norway’s biggest cities.
In the capital, one of the most obvious alternatives for a Sunday walk is the Vigeland installation at Frognerparken. The sculpture park is admittedly an immensely popular attraction, and your chances of having it all to yourself are slim, but most of the park’s 320 acres are secluded.
In addition to 214 sculptures by Gustav Vigeland and a museum dedicated to the iconic Norwegian artist, the park offers large green areas and a quiet lake. For more art and nature combined, Ekebergparken close to the city center is an alternative with a stunning view.
In Bjørvika in Oslo, a cultural community combining art and urban food production has emerged the last few years. Losæter is run on ecological and organic principles, with an ancient grain field, a bakehouse, a full-time city farmer and a collective of urban herbalists – “herbanists” – providing a green spot in a thriving part of the city center.
A fascinating part of Norway’s history is idyllically located on a small island approximately two kilometres outside of Trondheim. Munkholmen in Trondheimsfjorden has historically been used as an execution ground, a monastery, a prison and a fortress, and during WWII, the islet was used as a fortification for the occupying power. Today, Munkholmen is a museum, with daily guided tours in several languages.
The forest is also within reach in Trondheim. Located about 10 kilometres outside the city center, the area is characterized by a number of lakes and mountains – including Storheia, at 565 metres above sea level the city’s highest point.
Another view – quite literally – of how the city life is enhanced by its natural surroundings is provided at Fløibanen in Bergen, Norway’s oldest funicular, which has brought more than 50 million people to the top of the mountain Fløyen and back to the city since the opening 100 years ago. Best of all: The ascension starts in the heart of the city.
The sporty traveller may experience another one of Bergen’s seven mountains, Sandviksfjellet, on foot. Stoltzekleiven – colloquially known as Stoltzen – is an almost 1000 metres long trail with a climb of more than 300 metres, and new stone stairs laid by Nepalese sherpas in 2011. Every autumn the mountain race Stoltzekleiven Opp is arranged here.
The largest city of southwestern Norway, Stavanger was a center of power during the Viking Age. One of the most important battles of the period was fought by beautiful Harfrsfjord at the end of the 9th century, which laid the foundation for Norway as a unified country. The three swords planted in the rock at Harfrsfjord is a monument to this dramatic event.
Another part of Stavanger suited for lowering your heart rate is the old town, also known as Straen among the locals. Here you’ll find Northern Europe’s oldest preserved area of wooden houses, with some of the buildings probably dating back to the 1600s or 1700s.
Up north in Tromsø, the city is close to nature. A great place to explore the area is Kvaløya, an island connected to Tromsø by bridge. A great place to observe the magic northern lights, traces of ancient history is also found at the farm Skavberg, where petroglyphs dating several thousand years back provides a glimpse of past hunting rituals.
Trying out Tromsø’s gondola lift is highly recommended as well. The ride with Fjellheisen takes four minutes, starting in the district Tromsdalen and ending by the station Fjellstua on the Storsteinen mountain, beautifully situated 421 metres above sea level.
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