Article Contributer Katie White
What if you could go to a tourist destination when hardly anyone else was there? The flights are cheaper, you could take one of the best train rides in the world with hardly anyone on it, and still see all the best sights in two different cities. That’s Norway in March.
Norway is a great place to visit in summer and winter. Summer for the amazing Fjords, and winter for the snow and in the north, and the chance to see the Northern Lights.
Visiting Norway in March or April does mean you’re a little early to travel to the Fjords, but there is still so much to see and do at this time of year and it’s a great weekend getaway from the rest of Europe, leaving you free to explore the Fjords later. There are less other tourists to contend with for the main sites, and flights at this time of year can also be cheaper than others. Since Norway is one of the more expensive European countries to visit, it’s a good chance to have a weekend away in Norway on a budget. So here’s some tips on what to see in Norway in March and how to get around.
Top Things to do in Oslo
Oslo likes a sleep in. Like many other European countries places don’t open until around 10am, so when you head out on your first morning you will be greeted by mostly empty streets. The only other people out will be weighed down by their ski gear, heading off for a day on the slopes.
You can wander the streets and take in the sights with no one else around. Also you can discovere the favorite food of the weekend, the cinnamon scrolls. Living in the US I everyone knows a good cinnamon bun, but these are something else! A cinnamon bun, known as Kanelboller in Norwegian, and a coffee would set you back about 50-70NOK, which is the equivalent of around €5-7Euro. Not bad for prices in Norway and a great on the go option for a budget food in Norway. Of course you’ll want to sustain yourself on more eventually, but you can live on those cinnamon buns for breakfast and snacks.
So what is there to do in Oslo?
Bygdøy or Museum Island
There’s something really cool about putting all your main museums on an island in the harbour, and five of Oslo’s museums are located on one. Well, technically it’s not an island since there is a bus, but the ferry is a great and easy way to get there from central Oslo, and have the fun of being on Oslo Fjord at the same there. There are also parks and forests located on Bygdøy so you could spend a whole day wandering around the island if you wanted to. Go over in the morning to see the Viking Museum and the Open Air Museum, and take a walk around to see how locals live in the area.
The Viking Ship Museum in Oslo holds some of the best Viking artefacts you can see anywhere. I thought all Vikings were buried at sea or cremated, since that’s what the movies and media seem to show us. It is true in some instances, but there have also been discoveries of fully intact ships buried with the remains of people and a wealth of goods inside. The consensus seems to be that the ship was the person’s way to the afterlife, although no one knows quite why some people were buried in this way, and not others. For us, it means an insight into the lives of the Vikings that we wouldn’t otherwise have.
The Oseberg Ship is one of the ships at the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo, and it was recovered from the largest Viking burial site in the world. Two woman were buried with the ship and a number of animals. Although the area had been ransacked at some point before it’s rediscovery, there was a lot to be recovered from the Norwegian site. Learning more about the Vikings, seeing these ancient and mostly intact Viking ships and imagining when the sea was full of them is one of the highlights of Norway.
Vigelandsparken or Vigeland Sculpture Park
Take a short bus ride from the centre of Oslo to Viglandsparken, a sculpture park that showcases the work of Gustav Vigeland. Dont go out of yout way to visit parks unless there’s something else to see there. You will really enjoy seeing the different sculptures on display here. Plus enjoying yourself in the snow!
Oslo Opera House
The Oslo Opera house is next to Oslo Fjord and it’s built to look like ice rising out of the sea. This unique design means you can wander all over the roof of the building and see Oslo from all different angles. In the summer it would be a great place to spend some time relaxing in the sun. In the winter it gives you a chance to see Oslo from a different point of view, just be a bit careful of any ice!
This medieval castle and fortress is located right next to Oslo Fjord in the centre of the city. It was built around the 1290s and was used to protect Oslo, and later as a prison. It’s free to enter and you can discover more about the history of Oslo and see a part of the city how it used to be.
The waterfront area near downtown Oslo is also known as Fjord City, and it has been recently renovated into a great area with restaurants, museums and public spaces. Much of the time in March is sunny if cold, so walking along this area can be a great way to get a bit of sun!
Eating out in Norway is expensive, but the food is good, with lot’s of fresh fish options and different styles to try. There are a lot of restaurants along this stretch of the waterfront and it’s worth checking the menus to see if you can find one within your budget.
Cruise of Oslo Fjord
Visiting Oslo in late March or at Easter means you’re just in time for the reopening of the Oslo Fjord cruises. In winter ice forms on the Oslo Fjord right up to the harbour and ice breaking ships have to make way for the regular ferry from Denmark, while smaller boats stop sailing altogether. When the ice is thin enough again the Oslo Fjord tours start.
Fjord cruise open from late March to September and leaves from the Rådhusbrygge port. Easter id the first weekend of the year that the Oslo Fjord Sightseeing Cruise is open.
Oslo to Bergen Train by Day and Night
The train from Oslo to Bergen on the west coast of Norway takes almost 7 hours and has voted one of the best train journeys in the world. During the train journey you cross over Europe’s highest mountain plateau and the countryside changes dramatically from greenery, to mountains, lakes and fjords.
The train itself has great facilities and you can choose from many different upgrades for things like powerpoints and unlimited coffee. It might sound like a long journey, but its definitely worth the views to take in on the way! Travelling to Norway in March means the train won’t be too busy, even for Easter weekend. Many of the people will be travelling to different ski resorts and dressed in their ski gear for the journey, since as soon as they get off the train they can start skiing to their accommodation straight away. The lack of people means you are able to hop from side to side and change seats multiple times to take in the best views. I can imagine if it’s busy in summer you would miss some!
You can book a return flights to Oslo since you need to get back somehow. Although the journey is fantastic you don’t want to spend another day of your trip on it so opt for the night train from Bergen to Oslo if not flying. Travelling by night was an experience altogether! You can just stay in the airplane style seats, but you can opt for a cabin for not much extra cost. You can have your own small cabin that contains a small bunk bed, places to store your luggage and to get ready in the morning. Its a really fun way to get back to Oslo!
Fares for the Oslo to Bergen and back train are definitely cheaper the further you book in advance, so check out the NSB website for fares and times.
Top Things To Do in Bergen
Bergen is located on the west coast of Norway, and it seemes completely different to Oslo. If you have to choose between the two then I would say Bergen is the best place to go in Norway, because while Oslo has some great sights and museums to see it feels more like a business area than the more relaxed and arty Bergen.
So what is there to see in Bergen?
Bryggen UNESCO World Heritage Area
Bryggen is Norwegian for ‘Wharf’ and this area on the Bergen Fjord is historically the commercial area of Norway. The warehouses here now date back to around 1754 when they were rebuilt after fires, although some cellars are from the 15th century and the actual site has been used for much longer. The building now house various restaurants, museums and shops. Bryggen is one of the highlights of visiting Bergen and a great place to just wander and check things out.
Mount Floyen Funicular
From the middle of Bergen you can take a cable car up Mount Floyen to see incredible views across Bergen and the Fjord. There are lots of walks in the area, and here you can find traces of Norwegian folklore, with carvings to trolls peppering the landscape. For those in Norway on a budget, you can walk up Mount Floyen instead of taking the cable car, or you can opt to walk one way and cable car the other.
Like most places, the Bergen Waterfront has many restaurants and pubs, although once again you’ll find the food on the expensive side. Soup is generally the cheapest option and a cold night a generous bowl can be delicious and filling, especially the fresh seafood chowder option. The cost is around €10 which makes it one of the cheapest meals out you could have in Norway.
Eating Norwegian food at Pingvinen
Trying local foods is one of my favourite things to do in a new country, and while the cinnamon rolls are awesome you couldn’t live in Norway on those alone. In Bergen head to a restaurant called Pingvinen, Norwegian for penguin. It’s a really cute little restaurant featuring traditional Norwegian food cooked homestyle. You will love the lingonberries with the meat and fresh vegetables, and you might try the reindeer here it is sometimes on the menu for those wanting to try something different.
A decision to visit Norway in March at Easter because the flights are cheaper can turned out to have more benefits. You will be able to visit the most popular places at a less busy time and take advantage of all the top things to do in Oslo and Bergen. If you have more time and it’s warmer then the Fjords near Bergen it would definitely be a great addition, but a weekend away in Norway in March can be done on a budget.