By Mike & Camilla Kaas-Stock
When people think of visiting Norway, one the first things that invariably springs to mind is to take a cruise along the fjords that are found on the west coast. But first of all let's take a look at Oslo, the capital which is located at the Northern most end of the Oslo fjord. Whether this is a stop on a cruise or a city break, Oslo is well worth a visit.
As a city destination, Oslo has much to offer. The best time to visit is in the late spring or summer when the days hardly end and nightime is but a slight darkening of the sky. Indeed darkness does not come to Oslo at the height of summer even though the city is located in the south of the country.
Karl Johan's Gate is the capitals main street. It leads from the castle and on down to the parliament buildings which are called the StorTing, literally translated as The Big Thing. On a warm summers night it's well worth taking a stroll here to experience the feeling of being in a major northern European city. Many of the locals can be found at the cafes and bars that spill out onto the streets, making the most of this time of year after a long and dark winter.
For those looking for good food and a place to go to soak up the atmosphere, why not pop down to Aker Brygge. Until the mid 1980s this was a shipyard, but now is the place to relax and eat. Here you can sit outside and enjoy the view of the harbour and the old fortress which has guarded the city through the centuries. There are plenty of bars and restaurants where you can sample the delights of traditional Norwegian cuisine, such as Gravlax, Lutefisk or possibly Reindeer Steak, as well as your usual international fare. Just make sure that your wallet can take the strain as it's not without reason that Norway is known to be one of the most expensive countries in the world.
If you do have some money burning a hole in your pocket, then Oslo has everything and more that the shopaholic could desire, from the latest fashion and designer clothes, to the most up-to-date gadgets. Not forgetting that this is a city where everything is within walking distance or a short tram or bus ride.
Culture & Art
Norway has a rich cultural heritage and at the Norsk Folkemuseum you find it in abundance. Located at Bygdøy, a 10 minute bus ride from the centre, this is one of the oldest open air museums in the world. Here they have gathered together buildings and artefacts from all over the country to bring to life different periods of Norwegian culture from the 12th century onwards.
Just around the corner, can be found, the Viking Ship Museum which houses three of the best preserved Viking ships ever unearthed. Not far away from this is the Thor Heyerdahl's Kon-Tiki Museum where you can see several of the ships from his explorations.
If art is your thing, then a trip to the Edvard Munch museum is a must. Edvard Munch left all his remaining painting upon his death to the city of Oslo This museum was purpose built to house his work. Here you can see two of his most famous paintings, Scream and Madonna (no, not the singer).
To see more of this rugged and beautiful country, why not take a cruise. There are basically two options. If spending several days or longer on a ship is not your cup of tea, then you can take a cruise of a specific fjord. Why not take a day trip through the Sognefjord, which stretches more than 200 kilometres inland to the Jotunheimen Mountains. This trip also includes a train journey on the Flåm Railway. The scenery here is truly spectacular and well worth the visit.
Of course if you really want to see Norwegian fjords and coastline in all their splendour, a cruise up to North Cape is absolutely essential. In the summer you can experience the midnight sun and in winter the Northern Lights. Trips vary in length depending on where you alight and can be from 2 to 8 days.
For a holiday to remember, whether you seek the bustle of a city or the serenity of nature, Norway has it all.
Getting to Norway is easy, whether you want or fly or travel by sea, but by far the cheapest if you plan ahead is to book with Ryanair. Prices have been as low as £1.00 which can leave you more money to spend on the finer things. Another option is Norway's own budget airline Norwegian who also have great deals. The flight time is about 1 hour and 40 minutes. If you prefer to go by sea, then ferries go from Newcastle to various Norwegian cities and can take from 12 hours upwards.
If you plan to stay in style in Oslo, then the Grand Hotel is for you. Located in the heart of the city this is the most famous and exclusive hotel in town and the choice of Heads of State and Nobel Laureates.
For a room with a view, you will find that at the Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel is a good choice. This is the biggest hotel in Norway and has spectacular views over the city. And for those on a budget, there are plenty of choices from small hotels to hostels.
Norway has a vibrant nightlife so, if you are planning a night on the town, Smuget which is one of the largest clubs and is located near the Nasjonalteateret (National Theatre) is a good choice. With three stages, seven bars, cafe/restaurant and disco, here is a place that can cater for most needs.
Buying an Oslo Pass is a good idea and soon pays for itself if you are planning on visiting the sights. This card gives you free admission to more than 30 attractions, free public transport including local ferries and discounts on dining and shopping at certain locations. Prices depend on the duration of the pass but start at around £20 per day.
To find out about opening times and prices of attractions as wells as cruises and travel around Norway, go to www.visitnorway.com and www.visitoslo.com