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Norway is a majestic land of fjords, snow-capped peaks and fairy-tale forests. However, there’s a second, secret side to Norway that only the locals know about. Avoid the tourist traps on your next trip to Norway with our list of off-the-beaten-track highlights, from ancient churches to ultra-cool shopping districts. What will you explore first?
One of Oslo’s most prominent landmarks is its modern, glass-fronted Opera House. But if you fancy avoiding the crowds, turn your eyes to the water instead. The first thing you’ll see is the dramatic “She Lies” sculpture, carved out of stainless steel and glass to represent an iceberg.
Next, turn your attention to the small wooden hut perched upon the water, directly across from the Opera House. That’s Sørengas Badstue, a floating sauna made completely out of spare driftwood taken from a local music festival. It’s the perfect way to stay toasty in the winter – your sauna-master will keep the fire stoked. If at any point you get too warm, a quick dip in the icy water is a quick – and powerful – refresher.
Less than two hours from Kristiansand is Kragerø, a favourite holiday spot for Norwegian locals. Situated on the coast, it’s surrounded by over 490 islands, making it the ideal place to discover by boat or kayak. In the town itself, the streets are filled with traditional wooden buildings, and was once home to famous Norwegian artist, Edvard Munch. Take a Munch walk to follow in the visionary’s footsteps.
Once you’ve got your culture fix, stretch your legs by walking to Steinmann Lookout. This viewpoint towers over the city and offers panoramic vistas of the archipelago’s glistening waters.
Back to Oslo now, and to Sørenga, a one-time abandoned shipping port on the harbour that has since been turned into a lively, revitalised area, particularly favoured among the locals. The highlights include the sea-water pool complete with beach – the perfect place to take a dip and relax with a book on a summer’s day. There’s also a sauna here if you’re visiting in winter.
Take your pick from a mouth-watering menu of restaurants, from hip cafes to grab an espresso to traditional pizza places. Pick a seat on the terrace to admire views of the sun setting over the Opera House and Akershus Fortress.
If you’re in the mood for a spot of retail therapy, don’t miss Oslo’s riverside Grünerløkka district. The bustling streets are filled with vintage boutiques and independent shops, as well as plenty of cafes when you need to stop for a caffeine fix. Keep active at the Vulkan Climbing Centre, or get competitive at the mini-golf park.
Stay out past sundown to discover the many bars in the area. Don’t miss Parkteatret, which was originally Oslo’s first cinema, dating back to 1907. Today, you can sip on a cocktail or craft beer while enjoying some live music.
The forested peninsula of Bygdøy really does have it all – immersive museums, a peaceful beach complete with volleyball nets and winding cycling and walking trails. In the summer, you can reach Bygdøy in 10-15 minutes by boat.
Begin your day at the Viking Ship Museum, where you can discover authentic Viking ships as well as relics from tombs found around the city and fjord. Next, head to the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History, a large open-air exhibition celebrating traditional houses, costumes and weapons. End your visit with a meal at the Lille Herben restaurant, which sits on its own island.
Once you’ve visited Bergen’s atmospheric town and ridden the funicular, check out this magnificent example of a Norwegian church. Mysterious and almost gothic-looking, these traditional buildings are distinctive for their slanting rooves and use of wood.
Unfortunately, the Fantoft Church we see today isn’t the original, which was burned down in 1992. But this reconstruction has been built in exactly the same manner as the first one, which dated all the way back to 1150. It was moved to Bergen from the town of Fortun in Sogn in 1883.
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