A creative's guide to Norway: Local artists and designers share their top travel tips
Leading creatives give their top tips on the best places to visit, eat, drink and soak up the culture in Bergen and Oslo.
We British are an odd bunch. At vast expense, we'll happily fly thousands of miles across the world to visit far-flung destinations in Asia, Australia and the Americas. Yet most of us never think to take the short hop across the North Sea, where a truly magical land of wonder awaits us in Norway.
Mountains, fjords, Northern Lights, indigenous culture, whale watching and more beckon in this land of the midnight sun, which benefits from low crime rates, friendly and welcoming people, fascinating history, beautiful architecture and fantastic, thriving and culture-rich cities.
It's great to visit a country that's so radically different, in so many ways, from our own. But, of course, planning a trip to Norway can be quite challenging, especially when you consider the language barrier. For this reason, we highly recommend using the Guide to Europe website, which brings everything you need to know into one website.
Whether you're booking hotels, flights, car hire, day trips, tours or other activities, you can be sure that the information here is up-to-date and accurate and will provide you with the best possible prices. So it really is a no-brainer if you want to organise your perfect trip to Norway without much unnecessary faffing.
To help you further, we asked local creatives for tips on visiting the country's two largest cities, the capital Oslo and the second city, Bergen, and they came up trumps. Read on as illustrator Viktorija Semjonova and creative design director Steve Price give their advice on visiting Bergen, while graphic designer Silja Haddal Mork, illustrator Kristian Hammerstad and Meghan Beaton, Film Commissioner for Norway, offer their insider tips and pointers for visiting Oslo.
Of course, there's more to this vast land than just Bergen and Oslo, so for full information on visiting Norway, visit the Guide to Europe website.
Things to do
Nordnes Sjøbad is a 25 metre salt water pool, heated to an inviting 30°C (86°F) and overlooking the ocean and mountains. It's located in Nordnes Park, not far from the aquarium and within walking distance from the town centre. During the winter months, it's open Tuesday (7-1), Thursday (4-9) and Saturday (10-3).
Another place to experience incredible views is the Fløibanen, a funicular railway that connects the city centre with the Fløyen mountain. The journey to the top, at 320 m above sea level, takes between five and eight minutes. It runs every 15 minutes, and wheelchairs and children's pushchairs are catered for.
From October until April, the railway is open 7.30am to 11pm on weekdays and 8am to 11pm at weekends. The cafe at the top is on the pricey side, though, so you may want to eat beforehand: you can get breakfast or brunch at Godt Brød, which is a 10 minute walk away.
For more information and ideas for your Bergen visit, check out the best tours and tickets in Bergen on the Guide to Europe website.
You can't come to Scandinavia without indulging in its traditional sauna culture. So no matter the season, no visit to Norway is complete without checking any of the eclectic saunas along the Oslo fjord, indoors and out. For tickets and other information, check out the Oslo Sauna Association, a non-profit whose vision is "sauna for the people".
A great place to take kids is the weirdly awesome Norsk Folkemuseum, where houses and environments from all over Norway through the ages have been taken down and rebuilt on location. You can go inside and see authentic old interiors and how people lived in Norway before, from old farmhouses to wooden churches from the Viking era to more modern flats. Located at Museumsveien 10, 0287 Oslo, it's open 11-4 daily.
For a different vibe from downtown Oslo, explore the up-and-coming neighbourhood of Tøyen, a quiet residential area known for its 'green lungs' in the form of the Botanical Garden and Tøyen Park, just a few minutes walk from the square and tube station. In this area, Tøyen & Bar And Postkontoret are great to work from, grab lunch or just to go for a coffee.
From Tøyen, head to Kampen, which is a five-minute walk. A beautiful area with brightly coloured wooden houses. Farine, Kampen Kaffe & Bar, and Kampen Bistro all serve lush food and drinks – and the little flower shop is to die for. Kampen Park is stunning, too. Going for a walk in this area will fuel your creative inspiration. If you're lucky, you could also catch a gig at Kampen Bistro.
Although it's a big city, Oslo is close to nature, with fantastic hiking possibilities a Tube-ride away. Twenty minutes from the centre, you're in hilly forests with small lakes, mountains and trails. Another place only a short bus ride away is Ingjerstrand Bad, a modernist bathing area and restaurant from the 1930s. Another great place is Henie Onstad Kunstsenter, which host art exhibitions in a fantastic building next to the Oslo Fjord. It's a great place to go for a walk along the seaside. Located 10km southwest of the city, at Sonja Henies v. 31, 1311 Høvikodden, it's closed Mondays, open 11-9 Tuesdays and 11-5 all other days.
For more information and ideas for your Oslo visit, check out the best tours and tickets in Oslo on the Guide to Europe website.
Art and culture
Looking for a gallery with a difference? Founded by architect Ben Wenhou Yu and designer Yilei Wang, Northing Space is a multi-functional cultural space in downtown Bergen which promotes Norwegian art and culture to East Asia and the other way round. You'll find it on Østre Skostredet 10, 5017 Bergen, and it's open 1-5 on weekdays and 12-5 on Saturdays.
USF is the place to head for cinema, music festivals, exhibitions and more. Built on the previous site of the United Sardine Factory, this enormous space is now home to about 200 independent creatives working in art, crafts, music, dance, dramatic art, design and architecture, and more. Located at Georgernes Verft 12, 5011 Bergen, it's open 11am-12midnight Friday and Saturday and 11am-11pm all other days.
KODE galleries, Norway's second largest art museum, is a must-visit for any creative. With four buildings but just one entrance ticket, you can experience masterpieces from Norwegian art history by the likes of Edvard Munch, Harriet Backer, Nikolai Astrup and J. C. Dahl. It's open 11am-4pm Tuesday and Wednesday, 11am-8pm Thursday, and 11am-4pm Friday to Sunday.
Another cultural landmark in the city is the Bergen Kunsthall, a contemporary art museum boasting a variety of exhibitions from international and Norwegian artists. Based on an early functionalist building designed by the architect Ole Landmark in 1935, it also features concerts and club nights. Located on Rasmus Meyers allé 5, 5015 Bergen, the main galleries are open 11am-8pm on Thursday and 11am-5pm on all other days.
Want to delve into Norwegian history? Founded in 1825, the University Museum of Bergen is the place to head. This magnificent building was renovated and reopened in 2019 and features zoology, geology, botany and science history. Start at The Whale Hall, where you'll encounter one of the world's largest collections of whale skeletons on display. It's on Haakon Sheteligs Plass 10, 5007 Bergen and is open 11am-5pm on Sunday and 10am-4pm all other days.
For more information on arts and culture in this city, check out the best cultural tours in Bergen on the Guide to Europe website.
Sommerro House is a fab 1930s landmark that's just undergone a total refurbishment. Occupying the former headquarters for the city's electrical company, this home-away-from-home boasts decadent rooms, great restaurants and bars and Oslo's first rooftop pool and terrace. You'll find it in one of the city's oldest neighbourhoods, Sommerrogata 1, 0255 Oslo.
Two sensational new museums have opened in Oslo in the last 12 months. Munch Museum is an art museum dedicated to the life and works of the Norwegian artist Edvard Munch, best known for his painting The Scream. Founded in 1963 last October, it moves to a brand new building, which is a three minutes walk from the Oslo Opera House at Edvard Munchs Plass 1, 0194 Oslo. It opens 10am-6pm Monday and Tuesday and 10am-9pm on all other days.
The National Museum of Art, established in 2003, also recently opened a new building, in June. Holding the Norwegian state's public collection of art, architecture, and design objects, this is the largest museum in the Nordics. Its most eye-catching feature is the large, illuminated exhibition hall on top of the building, while the rooftop terrace offers a fantastic view of the inner Oslo fjord. Located at Brynjulf Bulls Plass 3, 0250 Oslo, Norway, it's open 10am-9pm, Tuesday to Sunday.
You might not be able to read Norwegian, but the new Oslo library, Deichman Bjørvika is such a dynamic and exciting space, it's still worth a visit. Designed by architectural firms Lundhagem and Atelier Oslo, it covers six floors, boasts a striking visual design, and was named the world's best library in 2021. It features an entire floor dedicated to children, a café, a restaurant, a cinema, and an auditorium. Located at Anne-Cath, Vestlys Plass 1, 0150 Oslo, it's open from 8am-10pm on weekdays and 10am-6pm at weekends.
The library is right across from the stunning Oslo Opera House, which was built by the innovative Norwegian architects at Snøhetta. Home of the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet, and the national opera theatre in Norway, it's a great place to visit for a performance, a tour of the building, or just to sit on the roof and admire the view. A three-minute walk from the Munch Museum, it's located at Kirsten Flagstads Plass 1, 0150 Oslo. The grounds are open 24 hours a day, but most amenities, such as the shop, bars and restaurants, are only open on performance days.
Finally, if you want to enjoy art in the open air, the Ekebergparken and Vigelandsparken sculpture parks are both free to enter, all year round. Ekebergparken is at Kongsveien 23, 0193 Oslo, and Vigelandsparken is at Nobels gate 32, 0268 Oslo.
For more information on arts and culture in this city, check out the best cultural tours in Oslo on the Guide to Europe website.
Where to eat and drink
NobelBopel is a cozy place that's ideal for coffee for two. Boasting a great brunch plate sourced with local ingredients, it's situated on Welhavens gate 64, 5006 Bergen and is open 10am-10pm on Thursday and Friday and 10am-8pm on other days.
Bergen Kaffe Brenneri, aka BKB, is another great place to get a drink by the water, not least because they make their own kombucha. You'll find them on Thormohlensgt 45, Bergen 5006, open 9am-5pm on weekdays and 12pm-6pm on weekends.
Another good choice in town is Blom, which has great lattes, great pastries… great everything, basically. Located at John Lunds Plass 1, 5015 Bergen, it's open 8-5 weekdays and 11-4 weekends.
Café Smakverket is one of the best places for lunch in Bergen, or you could just head there for a coffee. Everything's delicious, and it's perfect for people watching too. Based on Rasmus Meyers allé 3, 5015 Bergen, it's open 11am-4pm, Tuesday to Sunday.
For dinner, meanwhile, Lysverket is a Michelin-starred treat. Here, creative Norwegian dishes pair with craft cocktails and wine in a sleek, contemporary space. Located in Kode 4 (see Arts & Culture above), it's open 6pm-11pm, Tuesday to Saturday.
Looking for a canteen-style neighbourhood bistro based in a former sex shop? Of course you are! Hot Shop is the newest Michelin-starred addition to the thriving Norwegian food scene. It's located at Københavngata 18, 0566 Oslo, and opens 6-10 Wednesdays and Thursdays and 5-10 Fridays and Saturdays.
Kafeteria August is a casual restaurant and wine bar. Set in a beautifully-designed space, it serves breakfast platters, coffee in the morning, then simple vegetable dishes and small plates like potato salad and beef tartare alongside wine in the afternoon and evening. It's located at Universitetsgata 9, 0164 Oslo: right next to the new exterior light installation by design studio Void.
Looking for a lively night? Head to Grünerløkka. One of Oslo's hippest areas, it's known for its street art, stylish bars, happening dance clubs and mellow cafes. Recommendations include Bortenfor, Bar Boca, Aku Aku Tiki Bar and Nedre Løkka Cocktailbar. Or venture down to the Tjuvholmen area and The Thief for a posh cocktail inspired by the art at Astrup Fearnley, preferably drunk from a shoe!
Where to shop
Heim Bryggen is a cute, tiny shop focusing on nordic design, art and homeware. You'll find unique items from local and Norwegian artists and designers, as well as some international products: a great place to head for gifts and authentic souvenirs. You'll find them at Strandgaten 25, 5014 Bergen, open 11am-5pm.
Organised by Pamflett, an artist-run, self-publishing workshop, Bergen Art Book Fair showcases local, national and international artists and small press publishers. This annual event has an incredible atmosphere and is a must-visit for artists and avid readers. The next one occurs from 14-16 April 2023 at the Bergen Kunsthall.
Norwegians have a saying: 'There's no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing'. If you want to be better prepared, visit Norwegian Rain's flagship store, where you'll find a quality selection of styles. Located at Operagata 75C, 0194 Oslo, it's open 12pm-4pm on Sunday and 10am-6pm on all other days.
Another must-visit is Norwegian fashion brand Holzweiler's flagship store, at Akersgata 16, 0158 Oslo, Norway. Founded by two siblings, this Oslo-based fashion house aims to make good fashion that can stand the test of time. It's closed on Sunday, open 10am-6pm Saturday, 10am-8pm Thursday and 10am-7pm all other days.
Also keeping it local is Oleana , a Norwegian textile company established in 1992 that produces everything at our own factory. A great place to buy a Norwegian jumper, their flagship store, can be found at Stortingsgata 8, 0161 Oslo.
How to get the best prices in Norway!
Whether you want to book tickets and tours, learn more about Oslo and Bergen, or explore the other areas of Norway, the Guide to Europe website, which brings everything you need to know into one, easy-to-navigate portal.
A fresh, exciting and convenient way to access the many wonders of this Nordic country, Guide to Europe lets you compare everything from flights and hotels to cars and experiences to get the best prices for your Norway trip. Furthermore, its team of specialists are always on hand and eager to help make your travels as comfortable and enjoyable as possible.