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  • Destination: a road trip through Norway; a rather epic itinerary

    After watching all the endless Instagram and TikTok posts featuring unnaturally good-looking influencers casually hip-swaying their buts into a breathtaking Norwegian panorama, it's now time for you to embark on your own adventurous road trip in Norway. Because reels are just reels. Therefore, I've compiled a delightful list to assist you in planning your road trip itinerary through Norway. Depending on how long you plan to stay in Norway, my earnest advice is to attempt connecting as many of the routes below as possible. Make sure to make a selection beforehand and carefully chart your course. Unless you have a generous two or more weeks planned for Norway, it's unlikely you'll manage to explore all the routes.  But don't fret about any fear of missing out (FOMO), as each route is equally breathtaking and spectacular. Even if you only witness three, you'll return home with stunning vistas etched in your memory. I'll confess straight away; having lived in Norway for almost nine years, I still have four routes to cross off my list. However, I do have a few favorites: Sognefjellet, Varanger, and Rondane. But pay no heed to my preferences; forge your own path. The blue-marked names are linked to Google Maps for easy saving and routeplanning. Godspeed! Gute reise! Bon-voyage! Toedeledokie! 1. The Atlantic Road (Atlanterhavsveien) :    Traversing the rugged Atlantic coastline, this engineering marvel (it's partly a bridge = spoiler) connects small islands, providing panoramic views of the ocean and dramatic coastal landscapes. 2. The Trollstigen Road :    Known as the "Troll's Path," this mountainous road boasts hairpin bends, steep inclines, and breathtaking views, including the cascading Stigfossen waterfall. 3. The Geiranger-Trollstigen Route :    This combined route links the serene Geirangerfjord with the exhilarating Trollstigen Road, offering an unforgettable journey. *2024: Due to safety reasons a fair share of the road is closed until further notice. 4. The Jæren Scenic Route :    Along the southwestern coast, this route showcases white sandy beaches, sand dunes, and traditional farmlands, providing a delightful contrast to Norway's mountainous landscapes. 5. The Varanger Scenic Route :    Extending into the Arctic wilderness of Finnmark, this route takes travelers through expansive tundra, coastal landscapes, and charming fishing villages. 6. The Helgelandskysten Scenic Route :    Traversing the Helgeland coast, this route captures the iconic Seven Sisters mountain range and picturesque coastal scenery. 7. The Senja Scenic Route :    Encircling the island of Senja, this route highlights rugged coastlines, fishing villages, and mountainous landscapes, enhanced by ever-changing light conditions. 8. The Ryfylke Scenic Route :    Winding through the Ryfylke region, this route offers diverse landscapes, including fjords, mountains, and lush valleys, complemented by architectural viewpoints. 9. The Sognefjellet Mountain Road :    As the highest mountain pass in Northern Europe, this route provides stunning views of glaciers, high mountain plateaus, and the renowned Jotunheimen National Park. 10. The Aurlandsfjellet Mountain Road :     Unfolding through high mountain terrain, this route reveals dramatic fjord views, snow-capped peaks, and the charming village of Aurlandsvangen. 11. The Valdresflye National Tourist Route :     Crossing a high mountain plateau, this route features expansive landscapes, crystal-clear lakes, and panoramic views of the Jotunheimen mountain range. 12. The Gamle Strynefjellsvegen :     This historic route takes travelers through mountainous terrain, showcasing remarkable stone architecture and offering breathtaking views of the surrounding peaks. 13. The Rondane National Tourist Route :     Encompassing Rondane National Park, this route provides access to Norway's oldest national park, known for its high mountain plateaus and diverse flora and fauna. 14. The Andøya Scenic Route :     Encircling the northernmost island in the Vesterålen archipelago, this route offers views of the Arctic Ocean, rugged coastlines, and bird cliffs. 15. The Gaularfjellet National Tourist Route :     Meandering through Gaularfjellet mountain, this route presents stunning fjord views, waterfalls, and the unique Utsikten viewing platform. 16. The Hardanger National Tourist Route :     Running through the beautiful Hardanger region, this route features fruit orchards, cascading waterfalls, and panoramic views of the Hardangerfjord. 17. The Møre Coastal Route :     Along the coastal region of Møre og Romsdal, this route unveils picturesque fishing villages, coastal landscapes, and the famous Atlantic Road. 18. The Havøysund National Tourist Route : A complement to Nordkapp, with its terminus at Havøysund and the surrounding islands, offers a surprising encounter with a vibrant community along the coast of Finnmark.

  • Stay: the gift of feeling young again; staying in a tree house in Norway

    The greatest gift you can give an adult is the feeling of being 'young' again (at least for a little while). I last felt young, and I'm not even old, when I slid down a snowy hill on a child's sled. The combination of pure joy and adrenaline is a rarity in an average adult life. I feel the same way about treehouses. As a child I used to build them with my friends, high above the ground in an ancient chestnut tree. It was nothing more than a rickety platform, a few walls, and a 5-meter-long rope ladder that we could pull up so no one else could come up. We felt like kings of an empire. Speaking of tree houses, there are quite a few of them in Norway. In fact, the Norwegians have elevated the construction of such huts to a kind of art form. And you can indeed stay in them. Isn't it wonderful to feel young again during your vacation? I've selected 5 treehouses for you with the only condition that you can (more or less) reach them by car and sleep there with two persons or more. Here we go! In the inland of the historic South Norwegian region Agder lies a very small village; Konsmo. Nothing special. A beautiful valley, a few houses, and mostly meadows and forests. And right there, deep in the woods by a small lake, is a kind of 'settlement' consisting of well-equipped treehouses with comfortable beds and a wood-fired hot tub. The location is picturesque and romantically rustic. Treetop Fiddan is a mini paradise where you lose track of time. Picking blueberries, making a fire, the jacuzzi, and sleeping soundly with only the sound of birds outside. If you're in South Norway, this is almost a must. Odda is a small town nestled between the mountains at the end of a long branch of the majestic Hardangerfjord. It's a place that captivates the imagination, not least because of the filming of the Netflix series Ragnarok that took place there. But also, in Odda, there's a small architectural masterpiece with a fantastic bed and an equally amazing view. In fact, the view is magnificent. I dare say this is one of the most exclusive accommodations in Norway. Additionally, Woodnest is an excellent base for a hike to one of the most Instagrammed spots in Norway: Trolltunga. Staying in Trekronå means living high in the treetops of Ogna, a small town near Stavanger. Two cabins on steel legs in the pine trees near the golf course in Ogna. Nearby, you'll also find Holmasanden, a beautiful sandy beach that is equally stunning all year round. In summer, it's perfect for swimming and sunbathing, and in winter, you can hike in the area and enjoy the elements. The cabins are perfect for three people. And all conveniences are provided. Kitchen, bathroom, and sitting area; it's all there. If you feel like it, you can reserve the sauna. The legendary PAN treehouses are a phenomenon in themselves. This is, of course, due to the architecture and construction, but just as much because of the location. It's not for nothing that the huts are equipped with a professional telescope. The beautiful, open view allows you to, with a bit of luck, see an elk, fox, or wolf passing by. The huts are located in one of the wildest parts of Norway, close to the Swedish border. And by wild, I mean sparsely populated. Hedalen is perhaps best known for a stave church from the 12th century. Additionally, the area borders the breathtaking Valdres and its associated nature parks. Less known is that there is also a fantastic treehouse, or several in fact; Fosstopp . The name suggests it already. There is indeed a waterfall nearby. This is the perfect place when you're traveling with a large family or a group of friends. The treehouses are in the middle of nowhere, so you have the forest, the rushing river, and the beautiful view all to yourself. Moreover, Fosstopp's treehouses are only a two-hour drive from Oslo Airport. A long weekend is not a bad idea. **Getting there: Since most locations in this arcticle are rather remote, public transport isn't really an option, so it is most wise to reserve a car in advance. Since Norway has one of the best fast-charging networks in the world, I would advise you to rent an electric car. Better for the environment, cheaper to charge and it gets you everywhere.   Check here for availability at your arrival airport of choice.

  • Destination: Viking sites in Norway; a (nearly) complete guide to the 15 most important ones.

    When you set foot within the Norwegian borders, you'll quickly notice that the word 'Viking' is quite prevalent. Just consider the number of businesses: Viking Tow Trucks, Viking Window Cleaners, Viking Shoes, and so on. This suggests that Norse Viking folklore plays a lively role in modern society. That's not entirely accurate, but the visible remnants of this illustrious era are abundant in Norway in the form of countless Viking sites, museums and excavations. Therefore, for those intrigued by Vikings, Norse sagas, Viking festivals, folklore and Viking artifacts I've compiled a list of numerous places associated with them. Viking ships, burial mounds, exhibitions; the lot! By the way, did you know that 'Viking' is actually a verb? In the case of a sea journey, you 'go Vikinging.' You are not a Viking. Well, that's a little linguistic nerd quirk. Okay, here's a tidbit since you're here anyway. Even though it hasn't been conclusively determined, the likely reason the Norsemen sought places where there was 'something to be had' probably has to do with a massive volcano erupting on the other side of the globe. This caused a global temperature drop for several years, less sunlight, and particularly in the far north, resulted in very poor harvests. This forced them to search for places where farming was easier such as England and the west coast of France (Normandy is named after Normann or Norseman). Now, onto the list. I've tried to be as comprehensive as possible, but forgive me if I missed something. And referring to the title of this being a nearly complete guide, has of course to do with all the yet to be uncovered sites in Norway. 1. Viking Ship Museum (Vikingskipshuset), Oslo : Home to well-preserved Viking ships, including the Oseberg, Gokstad, and Tune ships. Currently closed due to a massive extension being built. Unfortunately, you'll have to wait until 2027 for the doors to open again. 2. Historical Museum (Historisk Museum), Oslo : Features an extensive collection of Viking artifacts, including tools, weapons, and jewelry. I found myself a little starstruck and nearly spent the entire afternoon in this museum. Especially the jewels and ornaments left a profound impression. 3. Midgard Vikingsenter: Tønsberg : Tønsberg is not only Norway's oldest city (absolutely worth a visit) but also the Viking Center. In the 2000s, an enormous amount of buildings and artifacts from the Viking Age were discovered here. An impressive visitor center has been built around it and a well replicated Viking homestead was erected. Definitely worth the visit, if I may say so. 4. Lofotr Viking Museum, Borg : Located in the Lofoten Islands, it includes a full-size reconstruction of a Viking chieftain's longhouse. What's incredibly cool about it is that it's beautifully situated. You hardly realize it's a museum, making it easier to imagine how it looked back then. Because, oh, the surroundings are beautiful. 5. Avaldsnes : Known as Norway's oldest royal seat, Avaldsnes has the remains of a Viking farm and a reconstructed Viking longhouse. Besides, a part of the hilarious Norwegian series Norsemen was filmed here. 6. Bryggen Wharf, Bergen : A UNESCO World Heritage Site with medieval buildings that were part of the Hanseatic League, influenced by Viking trade. Now, it's not really a typical Viking place, but Norway's history as a trading nation has its roots in the Viking Age. 7. Stiklestad National Cultural Center, Verdal : Site of the Battle of Stiklestad in 1030, where King Olaf II (Saint Olaf) fell. The visitor center explores Viking history. One of those events you're lucky not to have been a part of. About 10,000 deaths occurred, which was an enormous number for that time. 8. Norsk Folkemuseum, Oslo : An open-air museum with historical buildings, including a Stave Church and a farm representing Viking-era architecture. One of my favorite museums in Oslo. 9. Viking Village Njardarheimr, Gudvangen : A reconstructed Viking village where visitors can experience daily life and activities. And not just fun for children, believe me. 10. The University Museum of Bergen (Bryggens Museum) : Exhibits artifacts from medieval Bergen, showcasing Viking history in the context of the city's development. Very interesting exhibition. Especially when it rains, which happens quite often in Bergen, this is a good activity to have in reserve. 11. The Heddal Stave Church, Notodden : Although primarily a medieval church, it provides insights into the architecture and craftsmanship of the Viking Age. Need I say more about stave churches? This is one of the most impressive and largest stave churches within the country's borders and worth a visit. 12. Kaupang Viking Town, Tjølling : Archaeological site of a former trading town dating back to the 8th century. I've never been there, so I can't say anything about it. 14. Trondenes Historical Center, Harstad : Home to a reconstructed Viking longhouse and offers insights into the Viking history of Northern Norway. This is particularly fascinating when you consider that in winter, there was hardly any light here. How on earth did they do it without flashlights? 15. Jernaldergården (Iron Age Farm), Stavanger : A reconstructed Iron Age farm where visitors can experience daily life from the Viking Age. A fantastic representation of a small iron age village. Great fun for kids and adults a like.

  • Stay: we lived in a bubble at Wonderinn; the most romantic stay close to Oslo, Norway

    WonderInn is just an hour's drive from Oslo, yet you find yourself immersed in a completely different world. Among rolling hills, ancient farms, sleepy villages, and vast stretches of woodland, a small paradise reveals itself; WonderInn (Norway). After navigating countless country lanes, you suddenly veer onto a gravel road. This road winds past majestic farmhouses and ventures deeper into the fields until you reach the ultimate destination. The grounds where Wonderinn resides can only be described as idyllic, romantic, even heavenly. A magnificent old birch tree casts its shade over a grassy expanse adorned with several tables and chairs, perfect for enjoying breakfast in the morning. Currently, there's no one else around, except for a chicken wandering near the tables, perhaps in search of the last crumbs from breakfast. An old barn has been transformed into a communal space filled with second-hand furniture and charming decorations. There's a small kitchenette and a shower/toilet. What catches your eye is the abundance of animals all around. The chicken has disappeared for now, but behind one of the sheds, two adorable little pigs stand, happily oinking. They gladly welcome a stroke and seem rather fond of humans (we really don't deserve animals). As you turn the corner along one of the gravel paths, on your way to the river, you suddenly come face to face with four somewhat shy yet curious llamas. It fills your heart with joy, and even though you've only been here for 20 minutes, it feels like the worries of daily life are far behind. By the river, there's a sort of jetty with a terrace and a small sauna. From the sauna, you can relish a splendid view of the river, and with just a few steps, you can plunge into the invigorating cold water for a refreshing break. I dare you! We had reserved one of the igloos. It's located about two hundred meters away from the main building, discreetly nestled on a gentle slope within a small patch of woodland. With our backpacks securely fastened, we stroll towards the igloo, carrying a few bottles of wine and some delicious treats. To our delight, it's exquisitely furnished, boasting a heavenly bed. It might just be the most comfortable bed I've ever slept in. From the plateau where the igloo stands, you're treated to a breathtaking view of the landscape, the farmstead, and the river. Amidst the towering pines, dozens of birds engage in lively conversations. It's the height of summer, a bit too warm, yet there's a tempting urge to light the wood-burning stove. After a delightful evening spent outdoors on the terrace and an hour in the sauna, it's time to retire for the night. The next morning, you can collect breakfast to enjoy beneath the ancient birch tree. Everything is impeccably arranged. The breakfast is simple, yet every bite tastes divine and fresh. We had only booked one night, which turned out to be far too short. Unfortunately, it was the only available night. This brings me to my next point. It's wise to plan your visit meticulously and book well in advance . The modern cabins by the river, in particular, are highly sought-after and often fully booked. No wonder, this is the most romantic stay close to Oslo! **Getting there: it is most likely you'll arrive at Oslo Airport (OSL). Public transport really is a bit of a hassle to get you there and you'll have to walk a big stretch with all your luggage, so it is most wise to reserve a car in advance. Since Norway has one of the best fast-charging networks in the world, I would advise you to rent an electric car. Better for the environment, cheaper to charge and it gets you everywhere. Check here for availability.

  • Eat: slam the brakes... for some of the best fish delicacies in Norway

    The journey from Hønefoss to Bagn isn't particularly remarkable, I must say. The scenery surely is beautiful and vast, with breathtaking views of large lakes and expansive forests. However, it can't compare to the awe-inspiring sight that awaits you as you traverse the mountain passes of Jotunheimen. I've traveled that road countless times on my way to a holiday cottage in Valdres. And during each trip, something peculiar always happens that forces us to slam on the brakes. About a quarter of the way across Lake Sperillen, you suddenly come across a tiny little shop on your right-hand side, easily missed if you're not paying attention: Villfisken . At first glance, the building resembles a Soviet-style kiosk of some sort. But hold on tight for the delightful surprise that awaits you upon stepping inside. Villfisken, or 'wild fish,' owes its name to the nearby lake, teeming with an abundance of fish. And that brings me to their specialty: cold-smoked trout. Absolutely the best I've ever had the pleasure of tasting. Maybe even the best fish delicacies in Norway. But even for those who aren't fans of fish, a stop here is well worth it. They offer an extensive range of local cheeses, deli meats, herbs, jams, crackers, and chocolates. One place where I definitely wouldn't hit the brakes for is the Norwegian Pig Museum . However, if you're in need of your daily dose of absurdity, you might consider making a detour and paying it a visit. It's a barn filled to the brim with the collecting obsession of a retired man; pig-figures. And it's, well, more or less on the way. **Getting there: it is most likely you'll arrive at Oslo Airport (OSL). Public transport really takes forever to get you there, so it is most wise to reserve a car in advance. Since Norway has one of the best fast-charging networks in the world, I would advise you to rent an electric car. Better for the environment, cheaper to charge and it gets you everywhere. Check here for availability.

  • Destination: a list of 19 beautiful villages in Norway you've never heard of (but should definitely visit)

    Norway is an immense country with relatively few inhabitants. Consequently, the number of major cities is quite limited, and they are widely dispersed. However, nestled between these cities lie a plethora of picture-perfect and picturesque villages that seem almost too beautiful to be real. Moreover, for each village, I provide a fantastic accommodation option, allowing you to fully immerse yourself in the beauty away from the beaten path. Unlike many other blogs, I have actually visited these places myself. So, some first-hand recommendations here. Grimstad Grimstad is a stunning small town on the southern coast of Norway. It was the longtime residence of the world-renowned playwright Henrik Ibsen, who worked there as a pharmacist for an extended period. Additionally, this town, with no more than 24,000 inhabitants, hosts a branch of the University of Agder and the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research. Opt for one of the most beautiful vacation homes you can find in the region for your stay. Things to do in Grimstad: Enjoy a drink at Apotekergården . Indulge in delicious cinnamon buns at Hesnes Gartneri . Explore the history at the Ibsen House . Savor a fantastic dinner at Smag og behag . Tvedestrand A picturesque village where time seems to have stood still. Beautiful white houses and a small harbor where numerous pleasure yachts dock in the summer. The first time I visited here, I couldn't help but think of the Truman Show. Once you're here, you'll understand the reference. Stay at the Tvedestrand Fjord Hotel , located right by the water, which greatly enhances the perception of this beautiful village. Things to do in Tvedestrand: Take a boat to Furøya for a delightful lunch or dinner (summer only). While not in Tvedestrand, the Trebåt festivalen taking place in August in Risør is nearby. Nyksund This village on the west coast was completely abandoned in the 1970s but has recently experienced a remarkable revival, becoming a creative hotspot. In the 1990s, a group of German students and artists moved here. For lunch, dinner, and accommodation, head to Nyksund Ekspedisjonen . Mandal Mandal may be a small dot on the map, but it boasts incredibly beautiful beaches where I've spent many summer days. The village itself is charming. Stay at Mandal Hotel , but be aware that it can get quite crowded during the peak season. Things to do in Mandal: Visit the beautiful beaches. Indulge in treats from Edgar's Bakeri & Konditori , the best bakery in the area. Explore the Vigeland house , where the legendary Norwegian artist brothers lived and worked. Experience the Mandal Jazz Festival . Bærums Verk Former industrial heritage from the 16th and 17th centuries has been transformed into charming shops. If you're staying in Oslo, this is an excellent short day trip. Things to do in Bærums Verk: Enjoy lunch at Melboden , where you can sit in the sun on a picnic bench and enjoy delicious pizza and a cold beer. Watch young artists showcase their skills at the glassblowing workshop (especially on Saturdays and Sundays). Have dinner at Værtshuset . When the weather is nice, the garden is a picturesque setting for a meal and drinks. If you're with children, the tiny steam train museum is worth a visit. Visnes Ice-blue glacier lakes and a beautiful meandering river characterize Visnes. This is one of those legendary Instagram locations where many influencers pose with their back-ends against a stunning backdrop. Stay at Visnes Hotel Stryn . Things to do in Visnes: Visit the Briksdal Glacier (Briksdalbreen). Explore Raksætra . Drive along Gamle Strynefjellsvegen. Fjærland A picturesque village on the fjord, Fjærland boasts an enormous amount of second-hand books, a beautiful hotel, and serves as a base for various outdoor adventures. Stay at the beautiful Fjordstove hotel . Things to do in Fjærland: Explore the numerous second-hand bookshops. Relax in the floating sauna, ' Dampen .' Join Fjærland Guiding for mountain excursions and kayak tours on the fjord. Agatunet A gem of medieval fjord culture, Agatunet consists of perfectly preserved medieval buildings, offering an excellent glimpse into the past. Located near Odda, why not stay in Woodnest ? Things to do in and around Agatunet: Go on a cider tour, a specialty of Hardanger. Hike to Trolltunga , the iconic rock formation even featured in an IKEA poster. Explore the entire Hardanger area, it's gorgeous! Lærdalsøyri One of the most beautiful fjord villages, Lærdalsøyri is also home to the world's longest road tunnel. Moreover, it has become a destination for lovers of (vintage) sports cars, with several meetings taking place, especially during the summer. Stay at 29 | 2 , one of Norway's most beautiful boutique hotels. Things to do in and around Lærdal: Drive along the Aurlandsfjellet Scenic Road. Visit the Stegastien viewpoint . Explore the Borgund stave church , one of the most beautiful and famous ones. Vardø Home to a world-famous monument, Vardø is worth visiting just to see it. The village itself feels like a frontier, incredibly remote, which makes it a unique destination in itself. Stay at Vardø Hotel . Things to do in and around Vardø: Explore Hamningsberg, a beautiful secluded fishing village at the end of the legendary Varanger road. Visit Drakkar Leviathan . Explore Vardøhus Fortress. Enjoy the view from Domen Viewpoint. Uttakleiv When you think of Norway, you might not immediately think of a surf culture. However, there are plenty of beautiful sandy beaches that become surf destinations in both summer and winter. Lofoten is dotted with accommodation options, so you'll find something suitable. Husøy (Senja) One of the more remarkable places to build a village, Husøy is a tiny island, fully exposed to the wind. It's difficult to imagine what it's like to live here year-round, especially during the months of darkness. While you don't necessarily have to stay here, I recommend booking a night at Tranøya for one of the most unique accommodations in and around Senja. Things to do in and around Senja: Explore Senja, one of Norway's most beautiful islands. Drive along the National Tourist Route. Visit Senja Coffee Roasters. Explore Ånderdalen National Park. Havøysund A tiny fishing village at the end of the world, Havøysund boasts the oldest evidence of permanent settlement dating back to the Neolithic Age. Stay at the Arctic View Glamping & Restaurant and enjoy excellent seafood dishes during the summer. Røst One of the most remote islands in Norway, Røst offers breathtaking views in all directions. It's also home to a huge colony of puffins, making it a mecca for nature and bird lovers. If you're tired of screen time, this is the place to be. Stay at Telegrafen or Bryggehotel . Things to do in and around Røst: Visit Skomværkroa for a refreshing drink. Rent a stand-up paddleboard or join a fishing excursion. Å The name alone conjures up images of wonder. Å is also one of the most photographed places in Lofoten, and for good reason. It's almost mandatory to stay in one of the characteristic Rørbuer . Things to do on Lofoten: Explore Lofoten! Brekkestø One of the most beautiful and charming coastal villages on the southern coast of Norway. You'll hardly encounter any tourists here, just Norwegians enjoying their holidays, mooring their boats to enjoy an ice cream. If I were to build a house somewhere, it would be here. If you decide to stay, I recommend the Lillesand Hotel . Things to do in Brekkestø: Visit Brekkekjærhaven Kulturkafé . Explore downtown Lillesand. Røros Røros is one of two towns in Norway designated as "mining towns" by the king, along with Kongsberg. The town has preserved its old wooden houses and cultural landscape, earning it a place on the UNESCO World Heritage List. With its unique and well-preserved wooden workers' houses, Røros has a distinct character, especially charming and romantic in winter. Stay at the Erzscheidergården hotel . Things to do in Røros: Visit Røros Church. Explore Røros Museum. Attend the winter fair. Sogndalstrand An adorable little coastal town hidden away in southwest Norway. This beautiful village has hardly been discovered by the masses, leaving it beautifully preserved. Although it looks quaint, life on the southwest coast of Norway was tough in the past. You don't see much of that now. If you're spending a night here, Sogndalstrand Kulturhotell is your best option. Things to do in Sogndalstrand: Explore Brufjellhålene. Visit Helleren i Jøssingfjord . Solvorn One of the most picturesque fjord villages, Solvorn has a long history as a trade center, church site, and courthouse site. It's also the place where the ferry crosses to Ornes, home to the famous 12th-century Urnes Stave Church. Naturally, you'll stay at the oldest hotel in Norway, with a history dating back to 1650; the Walaker Hotel . Things to do in Solvorn: Visit Urnes Stave Church . Explore Galleri Walaker. This comprehensive guide should provide you with an excellent overview of some of the most enchanting places to visit in Norway, along with fantastic accommodation options and activities to enjoy during your stay. Enjoy your journey through the breathtaking landscapes and charming villages of this Scandinavian gem!

  • Stay: you've chosen to visit Flåm in Norway (Flam). But where to stay?

    Where to stay in Flåm (Flam), Norway is a question that can only be answered with a sense of ambivalence. Because Flåm (you say 'Flohhm' not 'Flaehm') exerts a rather captivating allure on the average visitor and finds its place on most (American) itineraries. This is both just and unjust. Just, because Flåm boasts a terminus for a cul-de-sac train journey, a uniqueness within the Norwegian fjord landscape. One can experience a significant elevation difference by train from Myrdal station at 867m to Flåm at sea level, an experience inherently remarkable. Yet, unjust, for Flåm itself has evolved into a tourist hotspot, replete with ubiquitous sportswear shops, over-crowded terraces, and restaurants offering mediocre dishes at substantial prices. The parking lots are dotted with tour buses, and, with a stroke of misfortune, three or more colossal cruise ships may be moored, obscuring the view and diffusing a scent of burnt bunker fuel through the valley. Moreover, I can imagine more charming fjord villages. Therefore, I advise against overnighting there, at least not within Flåm itself. For after the legendary train ride and an hour of nosing around, the village exhausts its novelty. Therefore, allow me to recommend a few lodgings in close proximity, possessing unique character and, importantly, unburdened by hordes of tourists. 29|2 Aurland is a small-scale boutique hotel, family-run, and strategically positioned. Nestled in an elongated valley with a deep blue river and stunning steep slopes, it's a mere fifteen-minute drive from Flåm. The hotel boasts an incredibly tasteful décor, marked by meticulous attention to detail. The hospitality extends to guests with a sense that each arrival is the first. Culinary offerings are nothing short of artistry, with beautifully presented dishes featuring fresh, top-tier ingredients. If you possess a musical talent, feel free to inquire about playing a piece by Chopin on the grand piano gracing the communal dining hall. And beware, due to limited availability, rooms have a tendency to sell out long in advance and for good reason. In a wholly different category lies the Lindstrøm Hotel in Lærdal. The wondrous blend of tradition and modernity bestows upon the hotel a uniquely captivating character. The breakfast is sumptuous and outstanding. However, the reason for singling out this establishment lies primarily in its location. Lærdalsøyri is a beautiful small former trading post with roots deeply embedded in the medieval era. The charming sight of wooden houses along Øyragata sparks the imagination, standing in stark contrast to the moored cruiseships in Flåm. For those seeking more privacy, eschewing the standard hotel routine, I present an excellent recommendation—a remarkable 'treehouse' named the Raven Nest , inspired by traditional stave church architecture. Sleep amidst the treetops, equipped with all comforts. Breakfast arrives in a box, crafted by a local caterer, featuring locally sourced and exceptionally high-quality ingredients. Utterly romantic. Overall, I would advise you to book a fjord cruise that includes Nærøyfjorden and the Stegastein lookout. In that sense one covers the most exceptional highlights of the area. And I speak from first-hand experience!

  • Read: salmon on your sushi and 13 other Norwegian inventions you didn't know about

    Once upon a time, there was a Viking... That's how I could easily introduce this article. Indeed, there was once a Viking who discovered that when you look through a piece of moonstone under a cloudy sky, you can still see where the sun is, making navigation and course-keeping much easier when the sky above the Atlantic Ocean is covered with dense clouds. Although there is no direct evidence, this seemingly simple invention appears to be the reason Vikings successfully sailed the previously unknown seas and discovered entire continents, such as present-day North America and Greenland. This very invention inspired me to write a small tribute article about inventions made by Norwegians, or inventions made in Norway...or inventions with a Norwegian origin. Yes indeed, I need to widen the criteria a little bit but that makes the list more entertaining. Let it be an encouragement to do some exploring on your own. Here we go! 1. Cheese Slicer (Ostehøvel) : The modern cheese slicer was invented by the Norwegian carpenter Thor Bjørklund in 1925. It has since become a widely used kitchen tool worldwide. Occasionally, a rather shouty Dutch person may stand up and loosely claim it to be a Dutch invention, but that cheesehead can take a seat again because it's truly a Norwegian invention. Sit please! 2. A-ha's "Take On Me" Music Video Technique : The groundbreaking animation and live-action combination in A-ha's famous "Take On Me" music video from 1985 was developed by Norwegian artist and animator Michael Patterson. While the song itself stormed the global charts, the music video made an equally significant impression for those with a refined taste. 3. Oil Platform Technology : Norway is a pioneer in offshore oil and gas extraction. The country has developed advanced technologies for deep-sea drilling and platforms, significantly contributing to the global oil and gas industry. As this is a blog, and I'm allowed to express opinions, I hope these technologies will soon be used to halt the dramatic warming of the planet. However, according to the Norwegian government, we should continue burning fossil fuels because 'it's not that bad.' 4. Salmon Farming Techniques : Norway is a leading country in salmon farming and has developed innovative techniques for aquaculture. The country's expertise in fish farming has had a significant impact on the global fishing industry. However, this technique is controversial, to say the least. The industry around farmed fish is quite repugnant. Ecosystems suffer tremendously from the hormones, heavy metals, and antibiotics that end up in the seawater. Additionally, the living conditions for the salmon are deplorable. Furthermore, the health effects of these heavy metals on humans (NOT HEALTHY) are questionable. 5. Sonar Technology : In the early 20th century, the Norwegian scientist and inventor Carl August Bockish made significant contributions to the development of sonar technology, essential for underwater navigation and communication. 6. The Paperclip (not the one that became a massive succes) : Although the invention of the paperclip is often attributed to Johan Vaaler, a Norwegian patent officer, it should be noted that the design he patented in 1899 wasn't the one that became popular. Nevertheless, his contribution to the early development of the paperclip is acknowledged. I wouldn't mind being remembered for doing an almost legendary invention. 7. Kongsberg Target Systems : Kongsberg Gruppen, a Norwegian defense and aerospace company, has developed advanced target systems for military training. These systems are used worldwide by armed forces for shooting exercises and simulations. 8. Norsk Hydro's Aluminum Production Process : In the early 20th century, the Norwegian company Norsk Hydro developed an innovative method for aluminum production. This method, known as the Birkeland–Eyde process, has been of great importance to the global aluminum industry and, in retrospect, of enormous value. 9. Moonstone navigation : As I mentioned earlier, the evidence is not entirely conclusive. But there is a strong suspicion that moonstone helped the Vikings navigate on the open sea when it was particularly cloudy. You can locate the sun when it's cloudy, which is extremely useful when trying to sail across the Atlantic Ocean. Moonstone is actually a type of gemstone that belongs to the feldspar mineral group. It is known for its distinctive adularescence, a phenomenon where the gem appears to display a milky glow or shimmering light, reminiscent of the moon's soft glow. This optical effect is caused by light scattering between microscopic layers of feldspar within the stone. Voila! 10. Bluetooth : This is pure clickbait, of course. Because I'm talking about the Bluetooth symbol. Bluetooth itself was invented by a mishmash of inventive companies from Sweden and Finland. But the symbol comes from Harald Bluetooth. He was a Viking king known for uniting Denmark and parts of Norway during his reign. The Bluetooth symbol, a bind rune merging the initials of Harald Bluetooth in Nordic runes, was created by combining the runes 'Hagall' (H) and 'Bjarkan' (B). It's a bit of cheating, but you'll have to deal with it. 11. Kon-Tiki : It can't be considered a true invention, but it's noteworthy. In 1947, Thor Heyerdahl demonstrated that it was possible to cross the Pacific Ocean using ocean currents with a reasonably simple raft, thereby proving that pre-Columbian South American cultures could have settled in Polynesia, contrary to the prevailing belief that the islands were originally populated by people from Asia. 12. Salmon on Sushi : Sushi has been around for a while, but salmon on sushi is a different story. The introduction of salmon in sushi is often and rightly credited to a Norwegian named Bjørn Eirik Olsen. In the 1980s, he worked in the seafood industry and recognized the potential of Norwegian salmon in the Japanese sushi market. He introduced the concept of using salmon in sushi to Japanese chefs, and it was met with approval and became popular. And now, the whole world enjoys 'Norwegian' sushi. Well, the salmon, at least. 13. Rottefella Binding : A Norwegian invention that may not be well-known globally is the Rottefella binding. Rottefella is a Norwegian company founded in 1927, and they developed the first ski binding with a toe binding that could be opened with a pole. This binding revolutionized cross-country skiing, making it easier for skiers to manage descents and asc ents. The Rottefella binding became a standard for cross-country skis, and the company continues to develop new technologies for ski equipment. 14. The Ski : The origin of skiing dates back to ancient times and is believed to have originated in the region spanning modern-day Norway, Sweden, and Russia. Skiing was not so much invented as naturally developed as a form of transportation in snowy and mountainous areas. It's somewhat challenging to connect a direct geographical location to 'the invention.' But since the word "ski" itself comes from the Old Norse word "skíð," referring to a piece of wood or a ski, I'm inclined to believe that the development primarily took place in what is now Norway. Early evidence of skiing dates back to prehistoric times, and ancient petroglyphs and ski fragments have been found in the Nordic region. Skiing was crucial for hunting, transport, and communication in these snowy landscapes. While skiing as a practical skill likely predates recorded history, the modern sport of skiing began to take shape in Scandinavia. Norway, in particular, played a significant role in the development of skiing, and the word "slalom," used in ski racing, has a Norwegian origin.

  • Destination: Norway on a shoestring; how to travel on a budget

    Scandinavia has an image problem among many visitors, particularly when it comes to expenses. Hence, it seems apropos to impart a few refined suggestions for keeping the costs under control. Transportation In the event of contemplating the rental of a camper or car to traverse the landscapes of Norway, it would be judicious to initially scrutinize the current exchange rate of the Norwegian crown. As of the present writing, it registers modestly in relation to major global currencies. Consequently, opting to procure transportation within Norway often proves more economically prudent. Nevertheless, a discerning approach to price comparisons is advisable. For instance, one might opt to fly to Gothenburg (SE) and secure a rental car  or campervan there, a choice that frequently yields considerable savings, especially when one plans to travel through Norway for more than a week. For those planning a sojourn in Oslo, the acquisition of an Oslo pass is a commendable consideration. This pass not only grants unfettered access to the city's public transportation but also extends privileges encompassing the majority of museums, select shops, restaurants, and various cultural performances held within the city, including those at the opera. In the case of air travel to Norway, diligent inquiry into airports serviced by budget airlines is recommended. Notably, carriers such as Wizzair and Ryanair facilitate direct routes to Oslo TORP. Accommodation For those possessing a penchant for adventure akin to my own, the prospect of free camping with a tent may be a tempting proposition. It is noteworthy that Norway, by law, allows camping virtually anywhere. Prudent familiarity with the pertinent regulations is advised of course. Alternatively, the option of effortlessly renting petite caravans presents itself, affording the opportunity to forgo opulent hotels while still enjoying accommodations in the most breathtaking areas. Otherwise, campsites often provide basic rental cabins. Food & Drink The realm of sustenance, in particular, is notorious for its potentially exorbitant nature, a phenomenon extending to both my own experiences and those of the average Norwegian. Major supermarkets unveil a section where items on the cusp of expiration are generously discounted. Additionally, the discerning traveler may wish to take note of the Holdbart stores, where products boasting extended shelf lives yet nearing their expiration date are offered at significant markdowns — an ideal solution for those embarking on familial camping escapades. En route in a van or camper, investing in essentials at such establishments is a prudent move. At petrol stations, resist the allure of snacks and sundries, as prices there tend to scale lofty heights. Instead, navigate towards the nearest village for a more indulgent experience, partaking in the delights of cinnamon buns, skoleboller, and hotdogs. For those undertaking journeys during the balmy summer or early autumn, a delightful encounter with roadside signage and stalls awaits. Frequently peddling fresh fruits, vegetables, or eggs, these makeshift markets present an opportunity to economize, all while imparting an ineffable charm to the gastronomic exploration. It is advisable to keep a modest sum of cash on hand, as these stands often operate on the honor system, allowing patrons to leave remuneration before claiming their selected goods.

  • Stay: The 20 most distinguished luxury hotels in Norway

    To commence, let me elaborate on the title. When one envisions a luxury hotel, the average reader might promptly think of 5-star establishments, towering structures in Dubai where a Rolls-Royce chauffeurs you to the entrance, and room service that knocks on your door within 5 minutes to deliver a vintage bottle of Krug Clos du Mesnil. I understand. But let us calibrate a bit here. Because I wish to take a slightly different approach. Norway truly is a different type of country, and I would like to redefine luxury because filtering based solely on star ratings will cause one to overlook the most extraordinary hotels on the most breathtaking locations. For me luxury is about a splendid location, attentative staff, amazing interiors, excellent food and a certain overall uniqueness. Therefore, I wish to present this splendid list that precisely adheres to my definition of luxury. In no particular order: 1. Hotel Union Øye 2. Juvet Landskap Hotel 3. Hotel Brosundet 4. Hotel Sommerro 5. Dalen Hotel 6. Eilert Smith Hotel 7. 29/2 Aurland 8. Hardanger Fjord Lodge 9. Tuddal Høyfjellshotel 10. Herangtunet Boutique Hotel 11. Britannia Hotel 12. Amerikalinjen 13. Hotel 1904 14. Erscheidergaarden 15. Storfjord Hotel 16. Hotel Mundal (currently under renovation) 17. Bergen Børs Hotel 18. Fjærland Fjordstove Hotel 19. Øyna Kulturlandskapshotel 20. Grand Hotel Oslo

  • Destination: 4 yoga retreats in Norway amidst stunning surroundings

    I confess. The title is a bit of an obvious choice, considering Norway's vastness and a population of only 5 million (and beautiful nature basically everywhere). No wonder most yoga retreats are situated in breathtaking locations. In this post, I'll take you through yoga retreats in Norway, each with its own character and identity. Allow me to introduce: Nøsen Yoga og Fjellhotel, Meretes Garden, Attme Have, and Venabu. Valdres It's no coincidence that I start with Nøsen Yoga and Fjellhotel . That's because I know the area where the hotel is located very well. Countless hikes and cross-country skiing afternoons in the area have left me somewhat biased towards the location. Valdres, as a region, is magical and diverse. Vast forests, marshlands, and impressive mountain ridges give this area a mysterious feel in any season. Nøsen has become a bit of an epicenter for the Norwegian yoga scene. The facilities are excellent, and there are numerous opportunities for organizing yoga events. They also have a well-filled calendar with various yoga-related activities throughout the year. Ålesund In the heart of one of the most spectacular areas of Norway lies Meretes Garden . You may have heard of Trollstigen or the Juvet Landskaps Hotel; they are all a stone's throw away. Merete has done it wonderfully; a huge greenhouse converted into a serene place where a large group can practice yoga. Accommodations are in beautiful glamping tents. And of course, there's that stunning rural setting with minimal distractions, allowing you to focus excellently on body and mind. This place is almost too good to be true, but it is true. Bardufoss It was challenging to determine if Attme Have is the world's northernmost yoga retreat. It could very well be because it is quite far above the Arctic Circle. As the name suggests, this yoga location is right by the sea. Not long ago, Leikny and Tom Edvardsen started their retreat, and it has since become a destination in itself. In addition to yoga classes and courses, you can thoroughly enjoy the breathtaking nature of Northern Norway here. Recently, you can stay in Aurora cabins. From your bed, you have a beautiful view of the sea, mountains, and sky (and the northern lights if you're here during the dark months). Additionally, Senja is not far away, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful islands in Norway. Rondane In the shadow of the beautiful Rondane area, you'll find Venabu . And something special is happening here. Because here, you can combine yoga and horseback riding. It's more natural than it sounds. Whether you're an experienced or a novice rider, you connect with the beautiful surroundings in a unique way. When you return after a few hours of riding, it's delightful to start a yoga class with a cleared mind. Venabu also offers Tai Chi and Qi Cong. If you want to send both your body and mind on vacation, this is the place. Are you running any yoga activities in Norway yourself? Let me know!

  • Stay: 3 breathtaking out-of-the-ordinary boutique hotels in Norway

    The term 'Boutique Hotel' has become a somewhat ubiquitous buzzword. Let us, therefore, promptly cast it aside, especially since we're in Norway. What truly captivates me is the incredible endeavor of those passionate individuals who, independent of major hotel-chains and in alignment with their distinctive vision and determination, venture to establish hotels. It is with great enthusiasm that I dedicate this article to three (Boutique) hotels in Norway, each having stolen my heart for essentially the same reason. These establishments are unequivocally unique, exuding exceptional hospitality and, not least, adorned with a profound sense of aesthetic allure—a sentiment articulated from the perspective of a former interior designer. Let us set off! 29 | 2 The narrative unfolds in a rather epic fashion. Within close proximity lies one of Europe's most awe-inspiring train journeys, a fjord of unparalleled beauty, the Lærdal Tunnel, the world's longest, and a myriad of other captivating features. It becomes evident that reserving a night at Hotel 29 | 2, named simply after the plot of land it graces, places one in the realm of a somewhat legendary levels. Commencing with the interior, it is best characterized as eclectic. Dispensing with the clichés of Scandinavian minimalism and stereotypical use of design classics, it presents a tasteful amalgamation of exquisite objects, textiles, and furnishings. The ten rooms, in total, represent a harmonious blend of colors, patterns, and materials, creating an ambiance that evokes an undeniable sense of homeliness. The same discerning eye for detail and refinement extends to the culinary offerings. Artfully presented dishes, predominantly sourced from local ingredients, transcend the gastronomic experience one might encounter in the finest dining establishments Norway has to offer. Strangely, the context enhances the flavors, rendering the dining experience even more exquisite. This hotel, naturally, boasts an array of modern amenities. Whether one chooses a brief sojourn or an extended midweek retreat, monotony is alleviated by a plethora of possibilities—stand-up paddleboards, a bubbling hot tub, and a charming menagerie of farm animals. The infectious enthusiasm and attentiveness of the staff contribute to an unforgettable experience. Formulating a conclusion proved to be a deliberative process. Yet, I find myself steadfast in the belief that Hotel 29 | 2 represents one of the most superlative sojourns available in Norway. This assertion is not predicated on the number of stars, gilded embellishments on culinary offerings, or ostentatious displays of pretentious wine bottles. Rather, it is the realization that 29 | 2 splendidly encapsulates the essence of Norway—modesty, warmth, groundedness, and loyalty. Hardanger Fjord Lodge To renovate, grow, blossom, harvest, ferment, grill, preserve, salt, and smoke – these are the (culinary) arts practiced at Hardanger Fjord Lodge. Beyond this, it also stands as a testament to the elevation of hospitality to an art form. Once again, I find myself immersed in a place so uniquely characterized that it transcends quantification in stars, existing only within the realm of experiences. In my estimation, this constitutes true luxury—not defined by stars or the dimensions of a room's television, but by the presence of a bed within an environment so unparalleled that no other establishment can rival it. The habitual considerations of star ratings and budget constraints, which often preoccupy travelers when selecting accommodations, find no relevance at Hardanger Fjord Lodge. With a mere nine rooms, the lodge remains perpetually uncluttered. Anticipate mingling with fellow travelers during set dinner times, thereby contributing to the singular charm of the experience—momentarily becoming part of an exclusive assemblage in an extraordinary setting. Attempting to articulate the tastefulness of the hotel's interior leaves me momentarily at a loss for words. The classic and historical attributes of the venue have been subtly elevated, eschewing nostalgia for a contemporary aesthetic. Sustainability, a prevailing ethos, permeates not only the fundamental elements within the rooms but extends to the meticulously curated breakfasts and dinners. In stark contrast to chain hotels with lofty sustainability proclamations, often discarding a significant portion of their breakfast buffets after 11:00 in the morning, Hardanger Fjord Lodge adheres to a principled approach—local products supporting the indigenous economy and society. In accordance with the lodge's ethos of savoring life's moments, the pace is deliberately unhurried, affording due attention to every detail. Åmot Should one aspire to luxuriate in rural splendor shielded from prying eyes, a correspondence with the proprietors of Åmot is in order. If, perchance, the producers of the forthcoming season of "The White Lotus" seek an 'exotic' locale, this setting is to be suggested. An even more sublime experience awaits those planning to celebrate with an intimate circle of friends or family. Åmot, exclusively available for reservation, does not readily accommodate the casual wanderer seeking impromptu sleepovers. A minimum reservation of three nights is required, and for good reason. The proprietors, Steinar and Yngve, distinguished by impeccable attire and manners, tailor each visitor's experience according to individual preferences. The spectrum of offerings knows no bounds—yoga classes, massages, private concerts, or chamber music performances are at the guest's disposal, if desired of course. The culinary offerings, masterfully crafted by an exceptional chef, and the libations, served with precision and care, contribute to an indulgent experience. I can't call it anything less. The indulgence at Åmot is not confined to the physical realm; it extends to the enchanting Norwegian landscape. Åmot orchestrates an idyllic dream vacation, with a plethora of meticulously organized activities and experiences. And then there is the interior—an endeavor to articulate it leaves me nearly speechless. The spaces at Åmot embody a rugged rural luxury seamlessly aligned with the surrounding landscape and local culture. Far from ostentatious, it is, in fact, the epitome of understated elegance. I venture to assert that Åmot transcends the conventional definition of a boutique hotel, yet I include it here owing to the sentiment expressed in my introduction. Because that's where it fits perfectly.

  • Destination: the Swiss connection; how to get to Lofoten islands from... Zürich

    It is tempting to jest about the multitude of Norwegian millionaires and billionaires who, in recent years, bid farewell to Norway, seeking refuge in Switzerland. Besides the Swiss flag, also the allure of favourable tax climates seems a big plus. For those fortunate individuals, news of direct flights from Zürich to Harstad in the summer of 2024, courtesy of 'Edelweiss Airlines,' may be little interest, because Norwegians with such means might prefer chartering private planes. Nonetheless, it's a boon for the Swiss , because how to get to Lofoten islands is no longer a question (and of course Germans, French, Americans, Chinese and Koreans are more then welcome too). Hence, I extend a warm welcome to the Swiss to this remarkable region. Keeping it simple, I dedicate this article to ten splendid accommodations across various price ranges and categories. By the end of this piece, I hope you find yourself making a choice, though it's doubtful, given the breathtaking allure of each and everyone of them (and no, it's not allowed to stay neutral). Here we go, in no particular order: 1. Svinøya Rorbuer These cabins have achieved legendary status, propelled by the rise of Instagram over the past decade. Everything you imagine about Norway is encapsulated here – red-painted wooden cottages in a rugged landscape with steep slopes and an icy blue sea. Traditional fishing sounds surround you – the lapping of water, seagull cries, and the clinking of anchor chains. Authentically immersed in the lifestyle, a stay at Svinøya Rorbuer introduces you to this captivating existence. Moreover, it serves as your one-stop-shop for a myriad of Arctic activities, from Northern Lights safaris to sauna visits, golf surfing (yes, you read that right), and fishing excursions. 2. Trevare Fabrikken Essentially a converted carpentry factory, this place buzzes with creative activity. What makes it special is, first and foremost, its location – right by the sea, with Bergen in the distance and an expansive sky overhead. It has become somewhat of an institution in Arctic Norway, a cultural hub hosting numerous concerts and events in the summer. The food is fantastic, and the entire atmosphere finds no equal in Norway. I've developed a bit of an affection for this place, and I believe you will too. 3. For big families For those traveling with a large family, sometimes a hotel may not be the ideal choice. If you desire relaxation without worrying about your children inconveniencing other vacationers, and you appreciate stunning nature and architecture, then this is your place. I sense a tinge of jealousy at the thought of your stay here next summer. 4. Spectacular Architecture Picture-perfect. That's what comes to mind for an architecture and interior enthusiast like me when I take in this place. The warmth of wood and the subtle minimalist design of this holiday cottage are impressive. But ultimately, it revolves around the surroundings, which are possibly even more breathtaking. Laupstad itself is a tiny hamlet on a calm bay. Don't spread the word, but there might be a pirate ship docking. 5. WonderInn Arctic For those seeking more privacy, I highly recommend the recently opened (September 2023) WonderInn Arctic. This tried-and-tested concept of beautifully furnished secluded cabins, boasting fantastic beds and, more importantly, enormous glass walls offering a splendid view of the polar night from your bed, is worth considering. Here, you sleep with your curtains open, so you don't miss a minute of the celestial spectacle. 6. Back to Basic and Cheap It's something humanity seems to yearn for more and more – a return to the essentials. What do you truly need? A roof over your head, a wood stove, some food, clean water, and good company. Maybe a cold beer after a long hike through the incredible wilderness. In all honesty, that's pure happiness for me. If you feel the same, then this is the place for you. 7. End of the World And by that, I mean the following. When you sail west, the first land you encounter is Greenland. When you sail north, it's Spitsbergen. Here, you immerse yourself in the coastal culture that has existed for thousands of years in this part of the world. The location is incredible in every way – the view, the tranquility, and the beautiful surroundings. Moreover, the guesthouse is cozy and intimate. 8. Tranøya Fate led me to discover Tranøya in the summer of 2023 – a small island just off the coast of Senja. Here, against the backdrop of an old church, stands a unique old farmhouse managed by two sisters who practically grew up here. They have transformed the island into a destination in itself. Besides blissful sleep accompanied by the gentle lapping of waves, this serves as your base from which to explore the breathtaking surrounding nature, embark on boat and fishing trips (did you know the world's best fishing waters around Senja?), partake in guided or independent ventures, and delve into the island's history. 9. S urfin' The cottage is situated near a pale white beach. And believe it or not, but this part of Norway is a genuine surfing destination. In fact, Unstad is the most northern surfing destination in the world. This imparts a uniquely pleasant atmosphere. There are always a few campers by the beach, and in the evenings, stories are shared around campfires. It is precisely for this reason that life has returned to Unstad. There has even been a documentary made about it. 10. A pearl in no-mansland Almost nobody lives here. Not unique to Norway, but unique in how you can be a part of that. This holiday home is not only wonderfully designed but also situated in a unique location. The panoramic view in all directions is stunning. Here, you stay in complete privacy with your family or a group of friends. But on one condition: that you occasionally refrain from touching your phone for an hour and only focus on the incredible nature and each other.

  • Destination: you're leaving Oslo...with an original souvenir

    It occasionally leaves a little skratch on my soul, yet comprehension accompanies it—the magnetic pull in Oslo shopping streets of plastic souvenir trolls manufactured on the other side of the planet, whimsical beanies with the Norwegian flag embroided on it, helmets bedecked with cow horns, and portions of Freja milk chocolate. You might find yourself in Oslo for just a day, pressed for time, and still desiring to procure a thoughtful and original souvenir for your malevolent stepmother in the optimistic anticipation that she might temper her unkindness in the future. Allow me to advise against it. Step-mothers, as a rule, remain unaltered. Therefore, reserve such considerate gestures for those genuinely warm-hearted stepmoms. Now, you foresee the trajectory of this article. I shall impart three recommendations for mementoes that distinctly embody Norwegian essence, eschewing any association with the prolific production of plastic trolls. My aspiration extends to fostering connections between you, the reader, and the exceptionally talented local Norwegian artists and producers. To commence, I direct your attention to Majorstuen—a sprawling district replete with dignified apartment blocks dating back to the late 19th century. Here, brandnew BMWs line the the sidewalkes. That's not due to the residents' lack of covered parking cellars but rather to the fact that covered parking is used for hibernating exclusive sports cars, sheltered from the terrors of snow and ice during winter. Teenagers meander the sidewalks with dangling Louis Vuitton bags, an acquisition incongruous with their presumably modest paper route earnings. Here you have it; a demographic snapshot of Majorstuen. Contrary to expectations, this locale does not embody an unpleasant milieu; quite the opposite. Abundant charming eateries, lunch spots, and Bogdstadveien, one of the nation's lengthiest shopping avenues, adorn the vicinity. Concealed in a secluded alley, distanced from the reverberating sports cars, lies a delightfully enchanting boutique: "Too Many Prints." Herein lies an extensive array of exceedingly original prints, frequently produced in limited quantities. Ranging from graphically stylised depictions of iconic city landmarks to abstract monochromatic compositions, the assortment caters to diverse tastes. My personal sojourn, embarked with the intention of finding a print for my new apartment, transpired over approximately 1.5 hours, marked by a perpetual grin. Regrettably, I departed empty-handed, paralysed by indecision. Too many prints! If Majorstuen seems a considerable distance, reconsider! Chances are, you're already in proximity to explore the imposing Frogner Park (that park replete with statues). So do pop by there and be amazed. Subsequently, we venture towards a whimsical shop situated on the periphery of one of Oslo's most congenial neighbourhoods—Grunnerløkka, or colloquially referred to as 'Løkka.' Here, an assortment of amusing t-shirts, handmade soap, charming prints, hoodies, and more beckon. Moreover, Skaperverket nestles amidst an array of beguiling (vintage) stores, coffee establishments, and lunch venues. Half a century ago, it might strain credulity that this area was Oslo's most destitute and dodgy quarter, characterized by rampant poverty and pervasive public alcohol abuse. Such a scenario is almost unimaginable today, with the contemporary tableau featuring stylish dudes donning rolled-up beanies and complicated sneakers, sipping latte-frappe-drinketies-with-vegan-milk with an effortless and elegant nonchalance. Nevertheless, it undeniably stands as the city's most congenial neighbourhood, day and night. Our final recommendation lies in proximity to Skaperverket—a fervent endorsement for the Sunday market at Blå . Beyond its association with ingeniously repurposed industrial heritage, the environs surrounding Blå warrant exploration. Crossing the bridge leads directly onto the terrace of Blå, a delightful spot for summertime repose with a refreshing pint in hand. This locale also hosts captivating concerts on occasion. However, Sundays bring forth a vibrant market experience. What awaits you here? Virtually everything. Superb ceramics, exquisite handcrafted items, soap, jewellery, gastronomic delights, (vintage) clothes, art—each item a testament to the artistry and craftsmanship of Norwegian creatives. One could easily invest an hour here, if only to marvel at the impeccably attired visitors. Should the desire for that plastic troll persist, you have my blessing. Nonetheless, my intent is to perhaps spark a desire for something else. Have fun and do share the contents of your suitcase with me...or the souveniers you're brining home. I'm curious (.. and on Instagram ).

  • Destination: the capital city of a country you probably know very little of; Oslo

    You've landed here because you might know very little or perhaps nothing at all about the capital of Norway, Oslo. As a writer, it's a bit challenging for me to fathom. I've lived in Europe my entire life, and for the past eight years, I've called Norway my home. That's why I'd love to offer you a brief introduction to this small yet remarkable capital city; Oslo. Let's start with some historical tidbits: Viking Age : Oslo's origins date back to the Viking Age, known as "Kaupangen," serving as a marketplace and meeting point. Apart from documented sources, our knowledge is enriched by numerous excavations done during recent upgrades on the city, unearthing artifacts from the 10th to 12th centuries. Founded in the 11th Century: King Harald Hardrada laid the foundation of Oslo in the early 11th century. By the year 1300, it had evolved into the capital of Norway. Akershus Fortress: Construction of the Akershus Fortress, a medieval castle, began in 1299 to shield the city from external threats, playing a pivotal role in Oslo's defense throughout the centuries. The Black Death: Like many European cities, Oslo faced the devastating impact of the Black Death in the 14th century, leading to a significant population decline. Union with Denmark: In 1397, Norway joined the Kalmar Union with Denmark and Sweden, lasting until 1814. During this era, Oslo's influence dwindled, and the city endured fires and plagues. Fires and Rebuilding: Oslo experienced destructive fires in 1624 and 1686, prompting a decision to relocate and rebuild at its present location. The new city was named after King Christian IV of Denmark; thus, Christiania was born. Union with Sweden: Post-Napoleonic Wars, Norway entered a union with Sweden in 1814 after the Treaty of Kiel, with Christiania retaining its status as the capital during this period. Independence and the Name Oslo: Norway peacefully dissolved its union with Sweden in 1905, gaining independence. In 1925, the city officially reverted to its original name, Oslo. World War II: Oslo faced German occupation during World War II. The resistance was active, and the Norwegian government sought refuge in London. As in many European cities, little remains of the once-thriving Jewish population, with a significant influx in the late 19th century fleeing increasing antisemitism across Europe. Post-War Reconstruction: After the war, Oslo underwent extensive reconstruction and modernization, reshaping its skyline with new buildings and infrastructure. Contemporary Oslo is, by Norwegian standards, a sprawling city. Yet, in an international context, it's more akin to a borough. When you're there, it feels cozy and inviting. Here are some facts about modern Oslo: Population: Oslo is Norway's most populous city, with over 700,000 inhabitants, rising to around 1,000,000 when considering the suburbs. It's also the fastest-growing city in Europe. Government: Oslo serves as the political and economic hub of Norway, housing the Norwegian government and monarchy. Government meetings take place in Stortinget , and the monarchs reside in a grand palace in the heart of the city. Cultural Hub: The city is a vibrant cultural center, boasting numerous museums, galleries, and theaters. Tons of amazing restaurants, eateries and bars make Oslo a very enjoyable place to spend a number of days. Notable institutions include the Munch Museum , dedicated to the renowned Norwegian painter Edvard Munch and the newly opened and rather spectacular Nasjonal Museet . Green Spaces: Oslo is renowned for its abundance of greenery. Numerous parks dot the city, with Frogner Parken , featuring the iconic Vigeland Sculpture Park, being one of the most famous. Additionally, wooded hills surround the entire city, providing a popular retreat for locals. Holmenkollen: The Holmenkollen Ski Jump stands as a prominent landmark and hosts international ski competitions. The adjacent Holmenkollen Ski Museum delves into the history of skiing, and offering a lift to the top for a breathtaking view of the city and surroundings. Harbour and Waterfront: Oslo's harbor and waterfront buzz with trendy restaurants, bars, and shops. Over the past decades, Oslo has added several architectural landmarks, including the Opera House, the new library, the Munch Museum, and the iconic 'Barcode'—a collection of striking modern buildings that have permanently altered Oslo's skyline. A large number of public saunas are floating around the harbour, having revived the sauna culture in the capital. Royal Palace: The Royal Palace is a significant landmark and serves as the official residence of the Norwegian monarch in the city. Additionally, the royals own several estates just outside the city, including those on Bygdøy , an island adjacent to Oslo. Education: Oslo houses prestigious educational institutions, including the University of Oslo, Norway's largest and oldest university. The education system in Norway is well-structured, with affordable higher education accessible to all. Economy: The city boasts a robust economy, driven by industries such as maritime trade, finance, and technology. Norway's exports of oil, gas, fish, and electricity contribute to a thriving tech and financial sector. Transportation: Oslo features an excellent and efficient public transportation system , including buses, trams, and a metro network. While the city is known for its extensive cycling infrastructure, Norwegians primarily use public transport due to the city's significant elevation changes. I sincerely hope you'll visit us someday. It's precisely the reason I've taken to writing about my beloved country, Norway.

  • Destination: street art and the best pizza in Oslo; and plenty more reasons to spend a day in Tøyen

    The name 'Tøyen' finds its roots in Old Norse, connoting 'manure' or 'natural meadow,' a nod to the farm bearing the same name. Some remnants of this farm still endure and likely constitute Oslo's oldest preserved wooden structures, now nestled in what we presently know as the botanical gardens. Present-day Tøyen is an assorted tapestry of edifices spanning nearly every decade of the prior century. This district, interwoven with industrial heritage and typical late 19th-century apartment complexes, exhibits the most varied aesthetic, mirroring its diverse demographic. Tøyen plays host to a diverse array of residents – students, seniors, creatives, immigrants, drunks, and even the less salubrious characters, courtesy of a substantial prison. Despite outward appearances, it exudes an uncommonly agreeable ambiance, and I would be delighted to guide you through some of my cherished spots worth exploring (having resided in Tøyen for about a year). Embark on your Tøyen day with a sojourn to Håndbakt (Hand-Baked). They graciously open their doors as early as 8:00 AM, presenting delectable breakfast and lunch offerings. Arguably, the city's finest coffee may be found here, though I'll leave that for open discussion. Situated in one of the ancient factory structures erected during the industrial revolution, amidst the contemporary urban idyll, it's challenging to envision the erstwhile smoking chimneys. Regardless, this venue is an exemplary choice for breakfast and lunch. For those daring souls, consider complementing your (early) lunch with a glass of exquisite, unfiltered natural wine. As they say, you only live once. On a summery day, the botanical gardens offer an oasis of serenity and verdancy. It's a delightful locale to unwind amidst myriad splendid trees and plants, taking respite from urban adventures while sipping coffee beneath centuries-old trees. Alongside the venerable plant greenhouses lies the Natural History Museum . Among its treasures, my preferred exhibit showcases thousands of minerals, gemstones, and fossils – truly captivating. I was unaware of the immense diversity of unearthed and sculpted treasures throughout history. A culminating visit within the botanical gardens is the Klimahuset , unveiled a few years ago, serving as a pivotal space where impressive and interactive exhibits underscore the monumental challenges confronting humanity. If ruminating on these challenges has whet your appetite, allow me to suggest Pillefyken for a simple yet exquisite lunch. Their menu features modest, shareable dishes crafted with unparalleled quality, predominantly embracing greens, legumes, and various other vegetarian delights. The ingredients are of the highest calibre, and their eclectic wine selection beckons you to partake in daytime indulgence. Recently, the Munch Museum relocated to the banks of the Oslo fjord, housed in a building that spurred significant discourse. Some say the interior resembles Copenhagen Airport. The erstwhile Munch Museum perseveres in Tøyen, having, until recently, drawn swarms of tourists. Now, Gamle Munch (former Munch) has diversified into various artistic expressions, rendering it more enthralling. Furthermore, the air of exclusivity has waned. It encompasses everything from exhibitions to music and theatre. Check their calendar to discern if any event piques your interest. Behind the prison walls (geographically spoken) lies Njokobok Restaurant , distinguished by three characteristics. Firstly, it stands as a Senegalese restaurant, a rarity in itself, let alone in a Scandinavian capital. The menu unmistakably reflects West African (Senegalese) cuisine, featuring grilled or fried fish and delightful vegetables. The ambiance evokes the imagination of a coastal setting, with wooden fishing boats, a fleeting sunset, and bustling activity. If you can order freshly squeezed baobab juice, consider me already transported to a different realm. Njokobok is presided over by a charismatic figure – a charming man sporting a greying beard and a black bowler hat. I possess a particular fondness for such establishments, and I ardently hope Njokobok remains a gem for years to come. For the most delectable pizza in Oslo, venture to Postkontoret . As the name implies, it once functioned as a post office during the time Oslo was dreary and shadowy. Now, it has metamorphosed into a communal space, perfect for enthusiasts of board games, Tinder dates, pub quizzes, performances by obscure bands, and, of course, those exceptionally tasty pizzas – with the Burrata Puttanesca standing as my perennial favourite. Having exhausted the offerings at Postkontoret, one of Oslo's cosiest pubs awaits just across the street. It epitomises the local pub you might have dreamt of having in your neighbourhood. No prolonged queues, no bouncer exuding testosterone with a shaved head – none of the stereotypical trappings. The ceiling is adorned with thousands of 'Wunderbaums.' After an evening dulled by alcohol, a decision was seemingly made by happenstance to embrace a Soviet-like theme, and calling the bar 'Glasnost' after Mikhail Gorbachev's policy changings. And it makes sense. It's transperant what they do! They're a bar! The two lads behind the bar are always up for a jest, and they proffer homemade infused vodka – vodka with a unique flavour for the uninitiated. Delish! Further enhancing Tøyen's appeal is its street art. 'The Treasure Hunter' from 2012 holds my utmost favour. Most of the artworks are splendidly illuminated, imparting a wholly different dimension to an evening stroll through Tøyen. Immense gratitude to Visit Oslo for crafting an exceptionally convenient map, ensuring no outdoor artwork goes unnoticed. Should your sojourn in Tøyen extend to an overnight stay, the only recourse may be a clandestine stint in the cell of the brutalist police station meaning one would have to break the law somehow. Oddly, Tøyen lacks noteworthy accommodation options. Nevertheless, within walking distance lies Barcode, a relatively recent addition to Oslo's skyline, delineated by angular and architectural 'stripes.' Hence its moniker 'Barcode.' Evenings here are eerily tranquil, affording a restful night's sleep in one of the many apartments with breathtaking views available for rent. It's certainly worth a look ! Otherwise, pick one of Oslo's 10 best hotels .

  • Eat: My favourite Asian restaurants in Oslo

    Sometimes, I still yearn for Amsterdam, particularly for its immense diversity. Especially in Amsterdam East, where I resided for years, every 10 meters you'd encounter a different eatery. From Javanese to Jordanese, and from Cantonese to Iraqi—packed within 130 nationalities; what opulence. Yet, I must confess, nearly all my favourite dishes hail from Asia. Thankfully, in Oslo, multiple migrant groups have settled, unlocking the door to 'the East'. To somewhat elevate immigrants and the cultural and culinary richness they bring along, it seemed fitting to guide you through my favourite Asian restaurants in Oslo, listed randomly as they're truly all worthwhile. Listen to Baljit Baljit, son of an Indian immigrant, acquainted Norway with the vast richness and variety of Indian cuisine in the late 1980s. Continuing his father's tradition, he honed his skills as a chef. 'Listen to Baljit' became the moniker of his restaurant. Opting to focus on street food—dishes purchasable directly from food stalls—he crafted an extensive menu featuring diverse small dishes sourced from various regions of India. I emphasize this because the diversity within India is immense; failing to acknowledge it would do the Indian cuisine a disservice. I dare say this is one of the finest Indian restaurants in Oslo. At least, I've dined there thrice, and each time was superb. The ambiance is informal, prices somewhat manageable. The dishes boast excellent quality, taking the concept of comfort food to another level. Izakaya Navigating the fine line of aligning aesthetics with cuisine can often lead to a themed restaurant. However, the opposite holds true at Izakaya. Although I've never been to Japan, the credibility emanating from this tiny basement eatery is impressive. The dark wooden ceiling, decorations, and an overall curated shabbiness immediately transport you to another realm. The youthful servers exude friendliness, suggesting they're all part of an indie band in their spare time, evident from the uniquely dressed twentysomethings with challenging tattoos and canvas bags populating the bar stools. The menu is compact, each dish, in its simplicity, a masterpiece. Noodles so firm they could bounce back if dropped. The shiitake is delightful, don't overlook the spinach cheese pancake. And don't forget a glass of warm sake and sesame ice cream for dessert. If you're not convinced yet; it's always bustling, no reservations accepted. So, arrive early, or enjoy a beer at the bar while waiting. Yum Cha Hong Kong conjures up fantastical imagery. Again, a place this humble blogger has never set foot in. Yet, I feel somewhat acquainted through Yum Cha, an outstanding restaurant specializing in typical Hong Kong dishes. Firstly, the interior is stunning. Dim sum is naturally popular in Hong Kong and is served at Yum Cha. However, the precisely prepared Cantonese dishes are truly masterful. I made the mistake of ordering too much when dining with another couple. Underestimating the satiating quality, the table was laden with steam baskets, bowls, and plates. Miraculously, everything was devoured. My favorite was the garlic pak choi and the fried shrimp balls. Yes, and of course, the amazing dim sum. Yum Cha is somewhat concealed in a street rarely frequented by tourists. However, believe me, it's worth taking the metro or tram to Majorstuen. Golden Chimp Situated at a corner of two streets in the Grønland district, embodies the most 'international' essence of Oslo, subtly reflecting the rich diversity of ethnicities shaped by past armed conflicts. Personally, I find solace in such areas, though I understand not everyone shares this sentiment. Inside Golden Chimp, a wondrous experience awaits. The walls sparingly adorned with kitschy artifacts, peculiar images, and the occasional odd primate. This brings me to the name: Golden Chimp. While unsure of its origin, it brought to mind that (perhaps ugly but groundbreaking) artwork by Jeff Koons, featuring the likeness of Michael Jackson and that peculiar little monkey, found in the Astrup Fearnley Museum in Oslo. Overall, it somewhat resembles a fusion of a senior citizen center in a Chinese city suburb and a roadside eatery in a Soviet country. In essence, here you dine on the most delightful and extraordinary dumplings. The ingredients used are excellent and sometimes surprising. I would say these are the best in Oslo, if not in Norway. While unafraid of experimentation, they firmly stay within the boundaries of what I'd describe as comfort food. Dalat Absolutely fantastic. Let's start with that. If you're acquainted with Vietnamese cuisine, this will be a feast of recognition. If not, you'll never desire anything else after Dalat. What's splendid about Vietnamese cuisine is the marvelous mix of fresh and raw vegetables, herbs, and savory flavors. The blend of taste, aroma, and texture renders it incredibly satisfying. Thankfully, a relatively large Vietnamese minority resides in Norway, ensuring a constant demand for excellent Vietnamese fare. The eatery itself hardly garners attention, despite its prime location in the city center. But that's alright. Those who frequent here know of its existence as they've been here for the 8th time. Expect no influencer-friendly ambiance; it's truly about the food here. The interior feels somewhat bare but certainly adds to the authenticity. The people running the place are just the sweetest you'll ever meet. Opt for classics like Pho and fresh spring rolls. Oh, and it's not overly pricey. Also pleasing. Koie Ramen There's a stark difference between ramen and ramen. With the popularity of the Japanese noodle dish, numerous ramen shops have emerged, some with questionable quality. However, what's crucial with ramen are the noodles. Particularly that they're fresh and firm. In fact, entire Netflix documentaries are dedicated to the perfect noodle. Let them deal with that; the point is, Koie Ramen has consistently surprised me with the quality of their ramen. I dare say they make the best in Oslo, perhaps evidenced by the recent opening of a second branch. And precisely that second one appeals to me greatly. It's never crowded, the kitchen always bustling, perfect for a quick bite. The new branch is near the new Munch Museum, yet despite the prime location, few are aware of its existence. As mentioned, excellent ramen and swift service! Happolati Perhaps a tad pricey, but worth every penny, considering this might be one of Oslo's premier Asian fusion restaurants. I have no vested interest, having dined there only once, but it was an experience. Surprising dishes, excellent service, and a stunning interior, though subject to debate. As a former interior designer, I have a penchant for beautiful places, and this is one such gem. Andersen & Voll crafted the design, offering a splendid interpretation of Japanese and Scandinavian design while maintaining the grandeur of the establishment. Nonetheless, you're here for the menu. Presented in 6 or 8 courses. For me, 6 courses are more than sufficient, especially when paired with a wine package. Head here for a date; you'll be pampered. Katla Finally, we come to an exceptionally unique restaurant that scarcely fits within any typical category. The proof of this can be found immediately on TripAdvisor, as this establishment is not everyone's cup of tea. Complaints range from informal service to graffiti in the restrooms and an unusual taste in music. However, this is not a place for businessmen in suits or a certain type of tourist who expects everything to be served on a silver platter. In my view, the service here is actually quite brilliant. It is highly personal, exceptionally skilled, and indeed very laid-back but in a positive manner. Each dish is a highly creative explosion of flavours, inspired by Asian cuisine. Call it fusion if you like; I don't mind. I enjoyed a seven-course meal and was blown away just about seven times. The restaurant itself looks fantastic, boasting impressive artwork, large glass panels, and an overall raw character. And yes, hip-hop was playing. If you appreciate (pleasant) surprises although I blew most of them by now, do dine at Katla.

  • Destination: a stay in Oslo during winter; incredibly romantic and not what you would expect

    Oslo in winter. Allow me to attempt to wild-guess the image that befits your expectations, and do feel free to correct my musings if one could even say it like that. Picture this: a realm of cold, where snowflakes pirouette gracefully, ice glistens, darkness descends, grim conrete buildings and life seems to hibernate. Wrong! And permit me to unveil the veracity of these assumptions. Indeed, in the heart of winter, flanking the festive season, daylight comes limited in Oslo. Concerning temperature, yes, it can plummet, but this isn't the icy expanse of Russia. January averages around -4 degrees celcius, occasionally colder, sometimes milder. Snowfall graces the city, albeit sparingly, for Oslo finds itself sheltered, shielded from Atlantic whimsies pestering the western parts of the country. It is, in essence, not as daunting as it sounds. In this exposition, my endeavor is to ardently underscore why Oslo is a splendid haven for winter get-aways, in this case focussing especially on a romantic weekend for two. The article might seem rather long, but if one realises it serves as a one-stop-shop, you then come to the realization that I am, all of a sudden, saving you a considerable amount of time. Let us set off! Sleep Commencing with your residence, let me introduce a locale that paradoxically defies its nomenclature for the season – Hotel Sommerro , or 'Summerpeace'. Should your weekend inclinations lean towards the proposition of a heartfelt proposal of some sort, then this is the place to do so. Words, alas, fall short in encapsulating the opulence and lushness that this establishment bestows upon its patrons. A personal favorite within its confines is the resplendent bar (Ekspedisjons Hallen), an artifact resembling the roaring '20s, where an ambiance of elegance unfolds without veering into the obscene. The art deco interiors transport you to a different era, amplified by the live jazz, an auditory treat that propels you into a cocoon where time seems hard to get out of. Imagining an evening spent there, with your beloved, leisurely allowing ice cubes to waltz in your frigid amaretto sour, Hotel Sommerro, I posit, transcends into a splendid tableau for any romantic narrative; faithful or unfai...no stop it! Next stop! Venture an hour from Oslo, and you'll discover Wonderinn , a retreat that beckons with stark contrast to Hotel Sommerro. A rustic abode nestled by a river in the countryside, The 'Lush' cabin offers an exclusive escapade featuring a glass cube solely yours, a jacuzzi stationed by the river, and a complimentary hour of sauna indulgence. Here, amidst the winter landscape's arresting beauty, you and your companion are offered an uninterrupted rendezvous, a canvas painted with the hues of romance. For the third night, let me guide you skyward, facilitated by a metro journey to Holmenkollen. In Oslo, of all places, the metro unveils an ascent to a historical and breathtaking locale. Beyond the Olympic ski jump stands a world-class hotel , seemingly transplanted from a winter sports haven. Secure the tower suite (or Tårn suite) for an experience that defies its proximity to the bustling city center. As you recline in the bath, gazing over the Oslo Fjord where the sun has just bidden 'adieu', Holmenkollen Hotel unfolds as a fusion of tradition adorned with a luxurious, modern veneer. This, indeed, promises to be a night in Oslo that remains etched in your memories. What a panorama! Dinner Now, to the culinary realm. Oslo's gastronomic panorama transcends mere sustenance; it is a city of world class when it comes to gastronomy. First, we're off to Geita, where the intimacy of a small Michelin-starred establishment converges with culinary sophistication. Fear not the Michelin star; it merely attests to their mastery, not a plunge into a theatrical 'Menu'-esque drama. In case you haven't seen that movie, please do so. Ralph Fiennes playes a marvellous role as headchef in this parody on modern fine dining and the people being attracted to it. By the way, I've written about Geita before , so please feel free to take in my enthusiasm. If you fancy a more laid-back approach, as opposed to a 7-course extravaganza, then consider Nektar Vinbar (that is if you have an affinity for wine). Here, they serve the most exceptional wines from the tiniest, unique wine nooks of Europe. Many natural wines, unfiltered as such, yet you'll also find your familiar Burgundy here. Additionally, they boast an excellent menu featuring smaller bites, akin to tapas if you will. This makes your evening considerably less formal. It's a delightful tasting experience in an immensely relaxed setting, with both smaller and heartier dishes on offer. You'll depart entirely content. The ambiance is snug, a crucial factor in this season. Furthermore, it's nestled in one of Oslo's most picturesque neighbourhoods, for Damstredet is a must-visit while you're in Oslo. Not much of a connoisseur but still crave the very best comfort food in town? Then head to Smalhans . What they do here is exceptional, a feat accomplished by only a handful of chefs. They elevate relatively ordinary comfort food to something sublime. As for what that 'something sublime' precisely entails, I'll leave that to your imagination. However, the quality and price here are truly top-notch. A prime steak, a splendid catch of the day — it all sounds straightforward, but at Smalhans, they manage to turn it into something extraordinary. And all of this is delivered with a sort of homely warmth. It's casual here; jokes are welcome, and nothing has to follow the rulebook. If you prefer starting with dessert, go ahead. But truly, the ingredients they use and how they use them make the reasonably modest price for a menu more than worthwhile. Embark on a culinary adventure housed in a former adult store transformed into a gastronomic haven (they kept the name: Hot Shop ). No lube, but steaming seafood making it a sensual gastronomic experience. No really, utterly de-li-cious! Truly world-class, shifting the epicenter of exquisite dining in town a tad northeast. Anyway, a fusion of classic and groundbreaking Scandinavian dishes. This is genuinely thrilling and a dinner you'll never forget. Moreover, a thoroughly laid-back atmosphere, which I personally find particularly delightful. Cocktails Within the artistry of libations and cocktails, I have to point enthusiasts towards establishments like Bettola (meaning tavern). Within an Italian-inspired setting, charm intertwines with meticulous craftsmanship, presenting impeccable drinks. Upon entrance, the tiles feel Italian, the bar looks Italian made, the gents behind the counter have a (southern) charm and the noise is as Italian as it gets in cities such as Napels. But that's all fine. The drinks are great, and the setting embracing. And come one, the nicest sportscars ever were made in Italy...in the 70s. Amerika Linjen is not for ordinary mortals. At least, that's how I felt when I stepped inside for the first time. It exudes grandeur; the waitstaff spent three years at the academy to guide you through the beverage menu. Speaking of which, the cocktail list is the most exceptional in Oslo. Each cocktail tells a story in terms of taste, aroma, and appearance, interwoven into the entire atmosphere of emigration towards the land of unlimited posibilities. Over the past centuries, quite a few Norwegians ventured to America, a fact now boasted by Americans on Reddit claiming 12% Scandinavian ancestry. Consequently, embarking on quests to explore their roots to determine if they have any legitimate claims on anything (a lost sense of identity mostly). You can indeed lay claim to one of the fantastic cocktails at Amerika Linjen, if only for the captivating narrative accompanying each drink when it's served. Concealed beneath the flooring of yet another splendid restaurant, a topic I have regrettably yet to commit my thoughts to paper, lies the discreet enclave of Krongods . This diminutive cocktail haven, a closely guarded secret, manages to elude the casual observer entirely. Ideally suited for a romantic rendezvous, one can indulge in the sophisticated allure of a classic cocktail, cradled in the palm. The ambiance is intimate, the space modest, and the patron is afforded the undivided attention of the adept barman, should such desire arise. Here, there is no cacophony nor clamor; only the pleasure of a refined libation in an atmosphere of ease and amiability. Let not the presence of two bright pink flamingos in the window dissuade you. This is not such a place. If you find yourself pondering how Norway amassed such wealth, I would recommend tuning in to the excellent series "Lykkeland." For the bewilderingly attractive twenty-somethings who populate Kastellet on Saturday evenings seem blissfully unaware. Louis Vuitton bags are carelessly flung into corners, funded by daddy or whoever that man might be that goes to his office and sometimes shoes up. Well, I might be embellishing a tad (or massively actually), but it must be acknowledged that Kastellet exudes an air of expensive looking sophistication. Stepping in for the first time, I discerned it immediately in the furnishings (speaking as a former interior designer). Abounding in design classics, it could very well pass for a James Bond-esque loft nestled somewhere in a European metropolis. Yet, they concoct remarkably fine cocktails, and the ambiance carries a hint of allure. Have a drink or two for the ambiance, and then make your discreet exit! Activities If you happen to visit Oslo in early December, you might find the city, or its immediate environs, adorned with a plethora of bustling Christmas markets. Christmas, in and of itself, can be a tad kitsch, but here in Norway, they truly elevate it. Everywhere you turn, there are fire pits, hay bales, warm hot chocolate, and the dulcet tones of festive music. I dare say the Christmas market in Bærums Verk is genuinely romantic, but venture to Drøbak , and you'll be overwhelmed by the incredibly cozy atmosphere Norway exudes in winter. The latter, in particular, is well worth an afternoon's exploration. Certainly, Oslo boasts a plethora of incredibly fine museums. As a fervent admirer of modern art, I find ample satisfaction in my visits, with Henie Onstad ranking among my favourites. However, to maintain a romantic ambiance, I suggest you venture to the open-air museum at Bygdøy . Beyond transforming it into a winter wonderland adorned with twinkling lights, fire pits, and other convivial elements, the experience of leisurely strolling in an unpretentious manner adds a particular charm to the visit. If you're in the mood for some physical activity, that's certainly an option too. Depending on your prowess on skis or a snowboard, feel free to allocate a day to conquer the halfpipe or the slopes at Oslo Winterpark . The facilities are excellent, catering to both the seasoned and the unseasoned winter sports enthusiast. However, if all of that seems a bit too much of a hassle, you might want to consider tobogganing. Rent a small sled , and then you can traverse an incredibly enjoyable course (PARCOUR, PARCOUR!) together. Truly delightful for a twosome experience. Laughter guaranteed! I wholeheartedly recommend a visit to one of the public saunas, a pivotal aspect of Norwegian and Scandinavian culture that one ought not to overlook. I've previously penned an article detailing the experience, which you can peruse for a comprehensive understanding of the proceedings and etiquette. Adjacent to the city lies a veritable enclave of saunas. SALT is the most accessible, though KOK and PUST are equally exceptional. Alternatively, you could consider renting a floating sauna with a skipper to navigate you across the Oslo Fjord for a few hours. Yet, in keeping with Norwegian tradition, it's imperative to immerse yourself in the frigid waters. No, seriously, after repeating this cycle a few times – 15 minutes in the hot sauna, a bracing dip, and back into the sauna – you'll attain a kind of 'natural state of high.' Truly, post this ritual, you'll find yourself thoroughly relaxed and brimming with renewed energy. I partake in this monthly with a group of friends, though truth be told, it should ideally be a weekly pursuit. If I haven't managed to convince you of the sheer splendor of Oslo in winter, then I'm at a loss. No, in all seriousness, don't be deterred by the temperature or weather conditions. The coziness that accompanies winter here is unparalleled in Europe, or the world for that matter. If you require more tips, do get in touch. I typically respond within an hour. You can send me a message on Instagram or opt for the charm of an old-fashioned email . Equally delightful, whichever you choose.

  • Destination: where the elves live, and a moose (close to Besseggen)

    This recommendation a bit unusual amidst the vast expanse of this esteemed blog. It's nothing more than a leisurely stroll lasting a mere hour and a half. Yet, if I were to skip sharing it, you would surely miss out on this hidden gem without a second thought and drive right past it. Most tourists head to Besseggen, a place that needs no introduction for good reason of course (and please do go there and enjoy the remarkable views). But when one continues from Beitostølen and make your way across the lofty Valdresflye plateau—an adventure in itself—you'll eventually descend into a lower area. Surrounded by ancient, weathered summer farms, lush pastures, and clusters of evergreen groves, you'll spot a small car park on the right side, beyond which a bridge awaits. This is the place you're looking for: Hulderstigen. The reason I want to capture this destination in words is that its allure has left an indelible mark on my consciousness, even though it's hard to describe. I first witnessed its wonders during the summer, as twilight gently descended, and we decided to go on a leisurely walk. The light had a golden hue, and the atmosphere was wonderfully calm. The paths wind through diverse landscapes, and the flora showcases an abundance of variations. There are rivulets and streams flowing, as well as peat bogs and peaceful ponds scattered across the scenery. Because of its topography, nestled in a valley of sorts, the woodland creatures there seem to stand taller than their counterparts elsewhere. It brings to mind the realm depicted in Tolkien's masterpiece, The Lord of the Rings. As we ventured through this expanse, we felt like lone adventurers, hoping for a fleeting glimpse of a majestic moose. These magnificent creatures usually appear in the fading hours of the afternoon to feed and quench their thirst. Sadly, we didn't come across one on this occasion. We spent around 2.5 hours in sheer awe, marveling at the unimaginable beauty embraced by this small haven of nature. It's a detour that absolutely deserves your attention. I want to back, really. **Getting there: it is most likely you'll arrive at Oslo Airport (OSL). Public transport doesn't really get you there, so it is most wise to reserve a car in advance. Since Norway has one of the best fast-charging networks in the world, I would advise you to rent an electric car. Better for the environment, cheaper to charge and it gets you everywhere. Check here for availability.

  • Destination: southern charm; what to do in Kristiansand if it was up to me

    Norway you've heard of. Because that's why you're here. But Kristiansand might not ring a bell for you. I'll admit, it didn't exactly occupy a prime spot in my mental map either, despite being the largest city in the historical Sørlandet region (Southern Norway). With around 70,000 inhabitants, it's not exactly a bustling metropolis. But everything changes in the summer. It turns into a lively town buzzing with activity. I spent a good three years living and working there, and I'd be thrilled to elaborate on what I'd do if I had just one day to revel in Kristiansand. First things first; breakfast. To get your fill, you've got to make your way to a tucked-away corner of the historic center known as Posebyen. This charming grid-shaped neighbourhood is dotted with delightful old wooden houses that have miraculously withstood the ravages of the countless city fires over the centuries. The Odd Bakery is the crème de la crème of bakeries in Kristiansand. Their sourdough bread is a thing of legend, and their cinnamon buns and pastries are pure perfection. The Odd Bakery is nestled within Posebyhaven , a shared courtyard boasting a terrace and a stage where concerts regularly grace the airwaves, especially in the summertime. And don't miss out on the adjacent retro-style cocktail bar for a refreshing tipple. Surprisingly, despite all the modern gadgets at our disposal, this hidden gem still manages to elude many tourists. In my humble opinion, the most enjoyable shop in town is Design Kollektivet . Brace yourself for a kaleidoscope of treasures, including second-hand clothing, local artwork, and an eclectic mix of curios from various eras that are guaranteed to bring a smile to your face. Located on the bustling main shopping street, this hidden gem resides in a capacious basement that you might easily overlook. Buying a souvenir from here is way more fun than snagging one of those mass-produced trolls from some far-flung, (with all due respect) low-wage country. The KunstSilo , is most certainly one of the new cultural landmarks of the entire southcoast of Norway. It was opened in May 2024. This ambitious project, spearheaded by the municipality of Kristiansand, was about refurbishing an old grain silo by the harbor into a sensational museum. The Southern Art Museum has been closed for a while now, which has left art enthusiasts feeling a bit forlorn. It's well worth a visit, especially because of the jaw-dropping music building next door that has already put Kristiansand on the architectural map. When it's time to dine, I would like to hand you two very different recommendations. If you're in the mood to indulge or have something special to celebrate, book a table at Smak&Behag . The menu is out of this world, the staff are simply fabulous, and the building itself (a former gymhall), not to mention the decor, will take your breath away. Oh, and be prepared to get a little greedy when you set eyes on their magnificent wine cellar tucked away in the basement. On the other hand, if you're after a more laid-back and affordable experience, head on over to Bønder i Byen (Farmers in the City). Their chicken salad is a known classic, and the rest of the menu is equally fantastic. They serve up honest, delicious dishes crafted from the finest local ingredients, and their enthusiastic staff will make sure you have an absolutely delightful evening. For a pint in the sun, there's no place I'd rather be than Vaktbua . The last time I visited, the founder herself still ran the joint. That energetic lady had an uncanny knack for booking the most phenomenal international artists to grace the stage of this tiny and cozy little bar. Trust me, it's the most chilled-out spot in all of Kristiansand. Some folks might label it as "alternative," but what does that even mean, really? Kristiansand is teeming with bars and cafes, but the best-kept secret, and also the most delightful, is Vinbaren på Mølla . Tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the city center, this wine bar resides in an old building that's been proudly designated as industrial heritage. Not only do they serve up fantastic wines, but they also host a range of regular events, from crab feasts to live performances by local artists. Oh, and if the terrace gets a bit chilly and you're not quite ready to retreat indoors, fear not—you can borrow a cozy woolen sweater. That's southern charm, the very best version of it. After your final glass of wine, it's time to hit the hay. Having lived there myself, I only had to book a hotel once, and it wasn't exactly a roaring success. During the summer season, the room rates skyrocket and don't quite match the value you receive in return. Steer clear of overcrowded family-oriented hotels like Bystranda. My solid advice? Book your accommodation at least 3-4 months in advance. And if I may be so bold, I highly recommend the Radisson Blu hotel Kristiansand . It might not be the most cutting-edge establishment in town, but it offers the best value for your pennies, having undergone a complete renovation just a few years back. The view from the hotel is breathtaking, and their rooftop bar is an absolute must-visit for a couple of well-deserved drinks in a beautifully decorated mid-century style bar. The optimal time to visit Kristiansand, in my opinion, is between May and September. During this period, the city is vibrant, and numerous delightful events take place. However, it's essential to note that hotel prices, particularly in the high season, can be exorbitant due to Kristiansand being a popular holiday destination for Norwegians, coupled with a relatively limited number of hotels. So, you have two options: either book your accommodation at least three months in advance or plan your visit to Kristiansand in June or late August. Simple, isn't it? Kristiansand Norway; five minutes ago, a mere dot on the map, and now, all of a sudden, you have an itinerary that will pleasantly surprise you in almost every conceivable way. Wishing you loads of enjoyment, and do let me know on Instagram where your travels have taken you.

  • Stay: a hidden gem of a restaurant in Kristiansand that Norwegians prefer to keep for themselves

    What springs to mind when you contemplate Kristiansand? Presumably, naught at all. When I disclosed my intention to move there to my friends, their countenances remained quite... devoid of expression. Ah yes, Kristianstad (SE), indeed. Delightful. Moreover, one friend who had planned to visit me, in an unfortunate twist of fate, mistakenly bought a ticket to Kristiansund; a difference of one solitary letter, yet an entirely different place 400 kilometers away. To a certain extent, it is comprehensible. With the exception of the summer months, Kristiansand is rather introverted and appears unconcerned with the rest of the world, as the world seems equally unconcerned with Kristiansand. The summer entirely transforms the city's character though. Norwegian, German, Danish, and Dutch tourists populate the numerous terraces in great numbers, while multiple festivals concurrently take place. However, once you venture beyond the city center, tourists are virtually non-existent. This brings me to the subsequent point. Situated approximately 20 kilometers from the city center and merely 5 kilometers from Kristiansand Airport, lies an extraordinarily unique piece of land, nestled alongside a vigorously flowing river, where scarcely any tourist ever treads. And upon this parcel of land stands an ancient manor farmhouse and Michelin-star restaurant; Boen Gaard. Primarily a restaurant, it also offers accommodations. I first discovered it in 2018, a birthday surprise. In the heart of Kristiansand, I was instructed to embark upon a taxi van (later discovering that Boen Gaard has a deal, allowing one to avail oneself of the taxi at a fraction of the price, thus reducing the threshold). It being mid-February, visibility was severely hindered. Departing from the city center, we traversed the highway, ostensibly heading towards what I presumed to be the airport. However, we swiftly veered right onto a narrow country lane. Subsequently, I discerned, in the distance, an illuminated driveway adorned with torches. Our destination had been reached. Upon entering, I found myself cascading from one astonishment to another. The initial surprise was that we were the sole two patrons, indicating that a lone chef, a solitary dishwasher, and a solitary waiter had roused themselves solely for our presence that day. The second surprise was the fact that, despite residing in Kristiansand for four years, I had never heard of this place, undeniably the finest restaurant in Kristiansand. Moreover, one steps into a sort of oasis emanating 17th-century grandeur (despite Boen Gaard's royal history stretching back even further). The attending waiter graciously provided us with a comprehensive tour of the entire edifice, thus augmenting the entire experience. Boen Gaard prides itself, almost without exception, on locally sourced produce, with the salmon even caught directly from the river coursing alongside the farmhouse. The dishes are unpretentious yet exquisitely presented, embodying honesty. Furthermore, the staff possesses an exceptional wealth of knowledge regarding the ingredients employed. The wine selection, too, appears to have been painstakingly curated. Nonetheless, it remains a source of amusement to hear a Norwegian utter the name of a French vineyard; Buuurrgooenge. Be that as it may, discourse concerning food never truly captures its essence. Instead, ensure to reserve a table with accommodations long ahead of your visit to Kristiansand and experience it yourself. It constitutes an unforgettable experience that irrevocably alters one's perception of Norwegian gastronomy. And have them inform you about the taxi-deal. Boen Gaard really is a hidden gem in Kristiansand that Norwegians rather keep for themselves, in which they almost succeeded. Going there? Read the piece I wrote on what I would do having to spend one day in Kristiansand.

  • Destination: the Truman Show; when in Sørlandet

    The first time I was in Sørlandet, I couldn't help but recall the Truman show. Especially when I began exploring the coastline. The small sleepy coastal villages with white wooden houses where time seems to have stood still are so picturesque that it sometimes appears too beautiful to be true. Especially after just immigrating, I had to pinch myself occasionally to ensure I wasn't dreaming. One of these places where I still have that feeling is the archipelago off the coast of Lillesand and Grimstad. On one of these islands lies Brekkestø . Brekkestø is a mini-village with fewer than 100 inhabitants. There is a particularly popular ice cream shop that is always busy, some local art is sold, and it is mainly the cute fishermen's houses, rose bushes, and the view of the numerous small islands that give this place a touch of magic. When you've had your fill and are in need of a cup of coffee, I highly recommend Brekkekjærhaven Kulturkafe . The café is housed in a beautiful white wooden house, with a large lawn in front adorned with tables, a few picnic benches, and some quirky artworks. There's a good chance that a red cat will be lounging at the entrance, willingly accepting pets. The cakes here are homemade and taste absolutely fantastic. Take a look at the shop as well. They have lovely local souvenirs. If you wish to stay in Brekkestø, I wholeheartedly recommend booking a few nights in this wonderful holiday cottage on Justøy . The romantic location near the sea will make you never want to leave. That also means it's often booked in the summer, so make sure to book well in advance. If everything is fully booked, you'll also feel right at home in this tiny house in Grimstad , just a village away. It's incredibly picturesque and equally romantic situated on a 'småbruk' which means something like small farm. **Getting there: it is most likely you'll arrive at Kristiansand Airport (KRS). Public transport really takes forever to get you there, so it is most wise to reserve a car in advance. Since Norway has one of the best fast-charging networks in the world, I would advise you to rent an electric car. Better for the environment, cheaper to charge and it gets you everywhere. Check here for availability.

  • Destination: when in Arendal; brawls and Disney whispers

    Allow me to dispel a myth right from the start. If you've watched Disney's Frozen and decided to Google the origins of the name "Arendelle," you'll find that, indeed, the name (!!!) is derived from the nearly identical name of the coastal town. However, the comparisons pretty much end there. Despite Arendal's picturesque charm, with its beautiful centuries old wooden Sørlands houses scattered across rolling hills, the Disney resemblances are minimal. But as strange as the world can be, it still seems to be an impulse for hordes of tourists arriving in grand cruise ships mooring at Arendal's docks. In previous articles, you might have read that I'm not a fan of cruise ships for various reasons, so I fervently hope that cruise ships will soon sail into the history books. While I do understand the boon they bring to local businesses, the environmental damage in terms of food wastage, toxic emissions, and shops filled with hideous mass-produced troll figurines doesn't bode well for the world in my view. Moreover, they mar the charming view one would normally have from the old town. And oh yes, mentioning fistfights in the title was mostly for clickbait; however, it seems that occasional disagreements do occur on Saturday nights on the streets. And Arendal even having a bit of a reputation. But honestly, where in the world doesn't that happen? That being said (after all, it's a blog, not a scientific paper, and thus allows for outspoken opinions), it's time to delve into the highlights of Arendal. Because the internet loves lists, and I'm no stranger to them either, here's a sumup in random order of my favorite places in Arendal: Arendal Jazzklubb : The mere existence of this place fills me with joy. It's a tiny stage tucked away behind the central square. But behind the unassuming entrance door, magical things occasionally happen. Such as today while writing, Nils Petter Molvær takes the stage there. One of my all-time favourite Norwegian musicians. I first stumbled upon it in the middle of winter, with Arendal covered in about 20 centimeters of snow, turning it into a fairytale scene (no, not like in Frozen). I had previously attended a concert by Mathias Eick in Kristiansand and was so enthralled that I wanted to experience the exact same concert again. Luckily, there were a few tickets left for his Ravensburg album tour, and that's how I ended up at the Arendal Jazzklubb. I highly recommend attending a one of his concerts if you have a chance. Besides being one of the country's most gifted trumpet players, he strikes me as a remarkably sympathetic individual. Just the fact that he drives a green Saab from the 1970s tells me enough. The concert itself was incredibly charming. Knowing that his album was inspired by his family life made it even more special when it was revealed that a significant portion of his family was in fact in the audience (apparently, some of them live in or around Arendal). So, it's well worth checking out the Arendal Jazzclub's program if you're in the vicinity. The cream of the crop of the Norwegian music world performs here in the most intimate setting. Even if you're not as much of a music enthusiast as I am, you won't escape a bit of starstruck feeling. Tromøya: While it's not officially part of the city, it's a stunning island. Especially the wide pebble beach is incredibly beautiful. It's picturesque in every season. Numerous burial mounds dating back to prehistoric times have been discovered here. For a cup of coffee and some treats, you can visit the most charming café on the entire island. Housed in an old farmhouse, surrounded by wild blooming rose bushes, it feels like a little paradise. Apart from locals, very few people know about this place. It's one of those spots you only discover through word of mouth. And what makes it even more exclusive are the opening hours, which are quite specific – a few weeks in June, the entire month of July, and a few weeks in August. So, be sure to check the opening hours in advance to avoid finding a closed door. If you have any wedding plans, Bjellandstrand Gård can turn your romantic ideas into reality. Otherwise, you come to Tromøya mainly for the stunning nature and the Southern Norway idyll. Plenty of campsites and outdoor activities for those who seek them. But you'll figure that out on your own, I assume. Unwrapped Butikkafé : Just the thought of it makes my green heart skip a beat. It's by far the coziest place in town for a cup of coffee, but also for your breakfast or lunch, I can't think of a nicer place. They don't just serve coffee; they also sell handmade soap, various kitchen utensils, and, most importantly, a lot of locally produced food. I sincerely hope that this sets the blueprint for future retail – locally produced, minimal to no plastic packaging, and run by passionate people with their hearts in the right place. Really, I can hardly put into words what a charming shop this is. If you're reading this blog post and are inspired by the courageous and inventive people running Unwrapped, you're obligated to pay them a visit... and take a bar of soap for your loved one. Kuben Museum : If you're into museums, Kuben is an absolute gem. Here, you can immerse yourself in the history of Agder. Within walking distance of Arendal's center, you'll find KUBEN, where you can experience the rich history of Aust-Agder through exciting exhibitions. The "LIVSTEGN" exhibition, new in 2022, takes you on a journey through the Stone Age, Bronze Age, and Iron Age in Agder. From the arrival of the first people in the region to the end of the Viking Age – a span of about 10,500 years. In our exhibition, you can see some of the fantastic artifacts found in Agder during this period and learn how society transitioned from the Stone Age to the Viking Age. The exhibition offers various fun and educational activities for children, from meeting the fearsome serpent Nidhogg, gnawing at one of the roots of the world tree Yggdrasil, to feeling antlers, bones, fur, and tendons and guessing the animal they came from. For the little ones, there are also a few adorable sheep to play with and help care for, so the wolf doesn't snatch them away. The "Enslaved" exhibition especially moved me. A three-part exhibition with slavery as its overarching theme. For Arendal, the story of Fredensborg is both local history and world history. The ship sank off the coast of Tromøy in 1768, and the wreck was discovered in 1974. The Fredensborg is considered the world's best-documented slave ship found as a wreck. The exhibition showcases many objects found during the excavation of the wreck. The final part of the exhibition deals with modern slavery, shedding light on various forms of slavery that still exist today. Old town: Of course, taking a stroll through the old town of Arendal is a must. The buildings bear witness to the bustling activity that once thrived here. In fact, this was one of the most important ports on Norway's southern coast. Enormous fleets of sailing cargo ships must have brought a vibrant atmosphere to the town. However, with the advent of steamships, Arendal From here, vast quantities of timber were shipped to the rest of Europe. The colossal fleet of sailing cargo ships must have brought about a tremendous vitality. However, with the advent of steamships, the relevance of Arendal quickly waned, and the town lost some of its vigour. Yet, this is precisely what gives the town its charm. The beautiful wooden cottages and street names transport you back in time. (Take "Gibraltarbakken," for instance. A group of Norwegian sailors found that there was quite a bit of bickering in Gibraltar. Apparently, the same was true in Tyvholmen. That's why it's now called Gibraltartoppen. Whether it's true or not, who can say.) Naturally, you can also take a lift to the viewpoint for a splendid panorama of the town and the islands off the coast. Boarding one of the many ferries is another delightful way to view the town from a different perspective. But, of course, these are self-explanatory activities. Even in the summer months, you might chance upon a festival. This is one of those places buzzing with activity during the summer. Additionally, the Arendals uka takes place; it's the country's foremost political spectacle, with all the captains of industry, significant PR firms, and, of course, politicians doing their utmost to make an impression. However, as a casual passerby, you may not be overly concerned with that. To truly have yourself 'caught' by Arendal's hospitality, I wholeheartedly recommend reserving a night at the prison hotel . Of course, I have no knowledge of all the obscure types who may be reading my articles, but I'll assume for convenience that you've never spent a night in prison. Well, that's about to change. It's a bit of a gimmick, admittedly, but a very enjoyable one. And all this in Arendal of all places. Naturally, you could opt for the usual path and enjoy a night's sleep in one of the ordinary hotel chains . However, what's even more enjoyable is renting a charming little microhome in Grimstad (just under a 20-minute drive from Arendal). Besides Grimstad being well worth a visit (and I promise to dedicate a separate blog post to it), this is by far the most original accommodation you can afford in the vicinity of Arendal. The birds will serenade you awake. I must acknowledge that I've only scratched the surface of Arendal as a whole. But I did promise to share my favourite spots with you. And as you may have gathered by now, I've been quite enamoured with Arendal for quite some time. I hope you'll share my sentiments after spending a day or two there. Let me know on Instagram , alright?

  • Destination: a personal story on the benefits of regular sauna visits

    I've previously compiled a rather extensive list of fantastic saunas in Norway . However, I'd like to delve a bit further into the benefits it brings to your physical and mental health. I visit the sauna at least 2-3 times per week, in sessions of about 1,5 hour. To answer the question on how long you should stay in a sauna; it's a bit personal and depending on the heat. I usually take between 10-15 min before I jump into the ice-cold waters of the Oslo-fjord. Much longer than 15 min is not recommended. I actually wrote a rather personal story for PUST on how the sauna helped me to recover from a burn-out. But I'd understand if you're not here for any personal notes. So here's a concise overview of what regular sauna visits could mean for you and your health. Of course, everyone reacts differently, so it's essential to assess beforehand whether the sauna is right for you. If you have asthma or heart conditions, it's advisable to consult your doctor first. Generally, though, sauna visits offer a myriad of physical and mental benefits. Let us set off! Physical Benefits 1. Improved Circulation: Sauna heat widens blood vessels, promoting circulation. This can enhance blood flow to various body parts, potentially aiding in muscle recovery and reducing muscle pain. Better blood circulation is crucial for overall health, including brain function. 2. Muscle Relaxation: Sauna heat helps relax muscles, alleviating tension and promoting a sense of well-being. If you're into regular gym sessions, strenuous work, or frequent cycling, a sauna visit is brilliant for muscle relieve. 3. Detoxification: Sauna-induced sweating helps eliminate toxins, primarily through the skin. This process can contribute to a sense of cleanliness and purification, removing substances like fine particles, microplastics, and cosmetic residues, while shedding dead skin cells faster. 4. Improved Cardiovascular Health: Regular sauna use may have cardiovascular benefits, including potential blood pressure reduction and overall heart health improvement. It can also contribute to better endothelial function, providing a gentle way to train and maintain a healthy heart. 5. Boosted Immune System: Some studies suggest that regular sauna sessions stimulate the production of white blood cells, crucial for the immune system. With regular sauna visits, you reduce the likelihood of colds and flu. 6. Pain Relief: Saunas can provide relief for various pains, including joint pain and discomfort associated with conditions like arthritis or fibromyalgia, offering relief as you age. 7. Improved Skin Health: Sauna heat and sweating contribute to healthier skin by opening pores, promoting circulation, and potentially aiding in the removal of dead skin cells. Mental Benefits 1. Stress Reduction: Sauna sessions induce a state of relaxation, reducing stress levels. The combination of heat and the calming environment contributes to an overall sense of well-being. 2. Improved Sleep: Sauna-induced relaxation can enhance sleep quality. The drop in body temperature after leaving the sauna can mimic the body's natural sleep-inducing process, lowering cortisol levels and addressing sleep disorders. 3. Mood Enhancement: Regular sauna use is associated with the release of endorphins, the body's natural feel-good chemicals. This can contribute to an improved mood and a sense of euphoria. 4. Cognitive Benefits: Some studies suggest that sauna use can positively impact cognitive functions, including memory and attention, with improved circulation to the brain playing a role in these cognitive benefits. 5. Social Interaction: Saunas are often communal spaces, providing opportunities for social interaction and forming connections, contributing to mental well-being. I am fortunate to be in Norway, where I can fully enjoy icy seawater and temperatures well below freezing. However, even in a more temperate climate, the positive effects of the sauna remain unchanged. No sauna nearby? Consider a weekend trip to Oslo!

  • Destination: Norway in autumn; 5 remarkable and distinctive stays to savour this beautiful season

    You may find it hard to believe, but I firmly regard autumn as one of the most delightful seasons. The landscape undergoes a transformative change, preparing for the impending winter, which tends to be quite long here. This creates a unique atmosphere, one that fills me with a touch of melancholy. Nonetheless, the air is imbued with a wonderful scent, and I can indulge in foraging for blueberries and mushrooms. Moreover, the sauna season commences in autumn, a particular joy for an avid sauna enthusiast like myself. Additionally, the cultural season kicks off, offering an array of performances, concerts, and more. My enthusiasm is evident, and I am utterly convinced that Norway is at its most splendid during this season and is well worth a visit. Thus, I am eager to introduce you to five enchanting locations across the country, perfect for contemplation, excellent outdoor activities and amazing culinairy experiences as autumn unfolds. An Intimate Hideaway in the Mountains: Tuddal Høyfjellshotel Nestled at the foot of one of Southern Norway’s most spectacular mountain formations, this quaint mountain hotel offers a truly romantic retreat. The breathtaking views over forests and a lake make it a splendid place to spend a few nights. The hotel, built entirely of wood, exudes charm, with every stair creaking gently underfoot. The rooms, traditionally decorated, often share the same fairy-tale views as the dining hall. Speaking of which, the multi-course dinner here is a notable event. All guests are invited to dine simultaneously, and the excellent staff ensure a memorable experience with superb service and exquisite dishes. The hotel’s secluded location makes one feel blissfully isolated from the world, and their sauna is a delightful treat on a crisp Sunday morning. This is the place for nature walks, a trip to Gaustatoppen, a sauna visit, and, of course, an exceptional multi-course dinner. The Rugged Coastal Life: Stokkøya Strandhotell The sea has an immense allure for us, which makes this unique beach hotel a must-visit. Situated directly on a white sandy beach on an island about two hours’ drive from Trondheim, the hotel offers captivating views over the sea from its restaurant and beach bars. The ever-changing light, clouds, and wind constantly alter the sea’s colour and texture. What makes this place extraordinary is the meticulous attention to detail, from the locally sourced ingredients for breakfast and dinner to the impressive selection of beers, and the accommodations themselves. Choose from ingeniously designed hotel rooms with a small sitting area, fully equipped holiday homes, or even glamping tents. Additionally, there are hot water baths and a sauna right on the beach. This is the place to embrace the rugged coastal life: fishing, kayaking, a sauna or hot tub session, and finally reading that book you’ve been meaning to get to. Woolly Jumpers and Fine Dining: Hotel Brosundet Renowned in Norway for its legendary and monumental open fireplace, Hotel Brosundet is housed in a stunning building in the picturesque town of Ålesund. Situated midway up Norway’s coast, Ålesund is an ideal autumn destination, and Hotel Brosundet is the quintessential autumn hotel in Ålesund. They serve an excellent high tea, and intimate concerts are regularly held by the aforementioned fireplace. Brosundet also offers an abundance of fantastic excursions in the spectacular surroundings of Ålesund. Pack a woollen jumper, a raincoat, and some elegant outfits, as the number of excellent restaurants in Ålesund is impressive. Imagine this: the natural landscape is transforming its colours as you sail from Ålesund to the spectacular Geiranger Fjord. Pure magic. Ålesund, and specifically Hotel Brosundet, serve as an excellent base for this enchanting journey. T he Northern Lights in Full Glory: Wonderinn Arctic Norway might have caught your eye because of the Northern Lights, and for good reason. I first witnessed this breathtaking natural phenomenon from my own kitchen window. Pouring myself a glass of water, I suddenly saw a sweeping curtain of white-green light dancing above the valley. Turning off the lights, I stood transfixed for ten minutes, gazing at the sky. Autumn is an excellent season to chase this phenomenon, and I have the perfect location for you. Imagine lying in bed with a 180-degree view of the sky and landscape. Even if it’s cloudy or there’s no solar activity, this location remains spectacular (and incredibly romantic, if you wish). Wonderinn Arctic also serves as an excellent base for day trips to Senja and Lofoten. Without hesitation, I can claim this is one of those bucket-list destinations you’ll remember for a lifetime. King of the Fjords: The Bolder Lysefjorden attracts for many reasons, not least the famous tourist spots like Preikestolen and Kjeragbolten, but also for its breathtaking landscape. This fjord is marvellous, with some sections being perfectly straight with steep rock walls on either side. The proximity to the open sea makes the weather a significant factor in how you experience the surroundings. The light here is often magnificent, especially in autumn when the landscape becomes more rugged. At The Bolder, you can fully appreciate all the beauty Norway offers in this season. The architecturally designed cabins are equipped with all the comforts, making it feel like a retreat and home when you return from a splendid hike to Preikestolen.

  • Destination: the dark Norwegian spirit; the akevitt festival in Gjøvik

    In the bustling modern world, it seems people are navigating multiple challenges simultaneously. Practically every YouTube video comes with a plethora of disclaimers: 'Do not try this at home,' 'This is not financial advice,' 'Do not microwave your cat,’ etc. Well, I shall venture into this territory as well. Let it be known that I do not endorse alcohol consumption. Under the influence, one may find themselves falling in love with hideous individuals, grossly overestimating one’s own abilities tenfold, or even plunging their car into a pond. So, exercise caution with alcohol, alright? Also when visiting the Norwegian Akevitt Festival. The Norwegian national spirit is known as Aquavit (or akevitt), which can freely be translated as 'water of life.' It is most certainly not water, but it does add vivacity to the proceedings. What Aquavit is to Norway, tequila is to Mexico. The only difference lies in how it is consumed here, as if it were whisky. So, calmly. I still vividly recall my first encounter with Aquavit. I was on a long weekend trip with a group of Norwegians. As evening descended upon our holiday cabin, a variety of Aquavits made its way to the table for a tasting. I must confess that I wasn't immediately blown away, but perhaps it depended on the specific kind. About six months later, I was presented with another one, featuring more pronounced citrus and anise-like notes. And I believe that's when I was won over. In fact, whenever I now arrive at a Norwegian airport from abroad, I often can't resist bringing a bottle back from the duty-free shop (yes, the rumors are true: alcohol is expensive here). You can, of course, order an Aquavit or 'akevitt' at a bar, but it's even better to make your way to Gjøvik. In September, the Akevitt Festival takes place there, promising a delightful weekend brimming with culinary delights, cheerful company, and, of course, that beloved libation. This event truly stands as one of the annual highlights in Gjøvik, and I wholeheartedly recommend it. Gjøvik itself is a somewhat sleepy spot but holds a rich history concerning Akevitt. An important distillery once stood here, and the area was known for its lively smuggling trade across the nearby lake. If you decide to attend the festival, it's wise to book a hotel well in advance. Many people flock to the event. The most obvious choice is the Clarion Hotel in the vicinity. I’m going this year! Can’t wait really. On Friday, a special Akevitt train departs from Oslo , offering a delightful preview of what awaits you in Gjøvik. Once aboard, you'll be treated to samples of aquavit, delightful beers, and local delicacies to whet your appetite. As if that weren't enough, captivating lectures are even conducted during the journey. Furthermore, this presents an excellent opportunity to acquaint yourself with fellow visitors. This is Norway at its coziest! **If the train isn't your thing, an electric car is your second best option. But do not drink and drive! It's only a two hour drive away from Oslo. Since Norway has one of the best fast-charging networks in the world, I would advise you to go electric. Better for the environment, cheaper to charge and it gets you everywhere. Check here for availability.

  • Drink: where to taste the mythical Viking after-work-drink 'mead' (or mjød)?

    Let us embark upon dispelling at least one myth; mead was not invented by the Vikings. The identity of the pioneering brewer of the initial litre of mead remains somewhat shrouded in mystery. Were it the Chinese? The Ethiopians? The Egyptians? Or the ancient Greeks? Perhaps it is one of those phenomena that mysteriously and concurrently arose in several locations simultaniously, just like cave art, shipbuilding, agriculture and dating-apps. Regardless, this mythical elixir has firmly embedded itself in Norse mythology and was imbibed with gusto by Vikings during festivities and, perhaps, following a day of hard labour. In contemporary times, mead is still consumed in moderation by a cadre of connoisseurs and, conceivably, a handful of black-metal rockabillies dressed in black. Nonetheless, beer and the ubiquitous latte macchiato have, of course, surged in popularity. Yet, I can well imagine your inclination to taste a sample of this illustrious libation. And, to divulge forthwith, you can indeed do so. For this purpose, you may visit Vinmonopolet , the state liquor store, of which I previously penned an article. Fortunately, there are also a handful of bars and restaurants where your desire can be fulfilled. I have endeavored to ascertain which obscure bars most certainly maintain a stock of mead. Here's where you can most likely have a taste of mead: Oslo: RØØR , Schouskjelleren , Brygg Trondheim: Øx Bergen: Lucky , Apollon , Pingvinen , Henrik Øl og Vinstove Stavanger: På Kornet Sandnes: Melkebaren Tromsø: Agenturen Missing a place I do not know about? Please, find me on the socials and point it out for me.

  • Destination: Oslo; it is not hard to survive an expensive city on a tight budget

    Oslo is fighting with a reputation for being an expensive destination, but fear not – exploring this vibrant coastal city can be done without burning a hole in your pocket. In this guide, I'll share some savvy tips to keep your visit budget-friendly. It might require a bit of reading, but trust me, afterward, you'll confidently plan a long weekend in this beautiful city. Let me commence with your accommodation, as this is where the most significant opportunities lie to economize on your budget. Accommodation For the utmost budget-friendly stay in Oslo, consider camping. Thanks to Norway's allemansretten (right to roam), you're allowed to camp in nature, including activities like bathing, resting, traveling, and harvesting. In a nutshell, you can bring your sleeping bag and hammock , set up camp in the forests around Oslo, ensuring you don't disturb others or harm the environment. Numerous spots in the wooded areas north of the city are suitable. If wild camping isn't your style and you crave a bit more comfort you can pop your tent on one of the campsites in Oslo. But Bogstad Topcamp also rents out rather affordable cottages. Perfect when you're a small gang. They offer proximity to the city and a chance to connect with fellow solo travelers. Oslo boasts several hostels, with Haraldsheim and Anker Hostel standing out for their location and facilities. Choices range from mixed dorms (the most economical) to double rooms. While the city is abundant with Airbnbs, hotels, and other lodging options, you're here for the most cost-effective choices, right? Food Kick off your culinary adventure with supermarkets, especially Coop and Meny . They often feature a discounted section for products nearing their expiration date, offering substantial savings on items ranging from milk to fresh produce and meats. Saturdays, especially late afternoons, are ideal for snagging quality items at 40-70% off. Whether you're backpacking or embarking on a camper adventure, stocking up here is worthwhile. For a slightly more upscale experience, consider Jacobs. It's an exceptionally expensive supermarket but boasts an exceptional and extensive selection of seafood, often available at a significant discount. A personal favorite of mine is Toogoodtogo , an app-based service originating from Denmark that connects users to establishments offering heavily discounted items nearing closing time. Expect to find heave discounts on everything in between bakeries, supermarkets, restaurants and hotels. If you're driving through Sweden to Norway, consider stopping at Vestby to visit Holdbart , a supermarket selling products approaching or past their expiry date at significantly lower prices, always maintaining quality. For affordable dining, explore Grønland, a district with diverse demographics and a variety of restaurants, including Indian, Pakistani, and Turkish options. Kinabolle, La Vila, and Golden Chimp are personal favorites. Drinks Enjoy the most budget-friendly beer in Oslo at Mastermind (opposite the bus terminal). The atmosphere is convivial, and the terrace is an excellent spot for a few refreshments, especially in summer. Additionally, within about 5 minutes, you can stroll over the bridge to Bjørvika, the strip with intriguing modern architecture right along the coast. At Rabalder bar, student discounts are available, though you'll need valid student identification. If you're arriving by car or plane, consider stocking up on a few bottles of wine before entering the country. Ensure you're aware of the allowed quantity , as border inspections are conducted. Activities Oslo is blessed with a stunning surrounding landscape easily accessible from the city through an extensive public transportation system. Start with my favorite parks. Of course, a visit to Frogner Parken is a must, known for Vigelandsparken , the life's work of sculptor Gustav Vigeland, and its abundance of beautifully cultivated flowers from June to September. Ekeberg Parken is another favorite, a sculpture park situated on one of the higher parts on the east side of the city. Reach it by tram or use the long staircase from the old part of the city for your daily workout. Tøyen's botanical gardens provide a peaceful retreat with unique plants and trees, including tropical exotics in the covered greenhouses. Summer is the perfect season to take one of the electric ferries from Aker brygge to the islands. In just fifteen minutes, you'll find yourself in a sort of oasis of peace and nature. Gressholmen , in particular, is my personal favorite, a slightly smaller island with excellent swimming opportunities, especially when the warm summer sun drives hordes to the city's quays and beaches. If you plan to spend multiple days in Oslo, consider getting an Oslo Pass . This pass grants you free access to all public transportation in the city, as well as entry to all museums, and there are quite a few. Especially in late autumn or winter, it's almost a no-brainer. Moreover, you'll get discounts on a variety of offerings, including events at the opera house, meals, and numerous other activities. The Oslo Pass costs around 45 euros or dollars, and I dare say you'll recoup this investment within a day. Oslo is nestled in a sort of valley, surrounded by numerous fantastic viewpoints accessible with relative ease. These are my favorites: Kolsås toppen , Frognerseteren , and Ekeberg . Throughout all seasons, there's a plethora of free festivals and events, from second-hand markets to music festivals and performances. If you have specific questions, drop me a message on Insta , and I'll be happy to help because it's honestly too much to list. Enjoy your time!

  • Destination: a beautiful city in Norway.. close to Hell

    The title doesn't lie. However, it conceals a cheeky wordplay, because I refer to the town of Hell (Norway), which is situated about a 30min drive from Trondheim. Of course, the English word 'hell' means something different in Norwegian. It translates to something like 'fortunate' in modern Norwegian, but the name Hell originally stems from the Old Norse word "hellir," which signifies a 'hollow under an overhanging cliff,' likely used as a shelter in ancient times. 'Hell' is situated right next to Trondheim Airport and has evolved into a tourist attraction. Visitors, (almost exclusively) from abroad, come to Hell train station to capture a photo of the sign with the place name and the sign reading "Hell Gods Expedition." This is the old spelling for goods expedition, and it holds a special meaning in English, namely "the expedition of the gods." It has become a bit of a gimmick, but judging by the significant number of visitors, apparently enjoyable enough to stop for a few quirky photos while on the way from Trondheim Airport to the city center. Therefore, here's a list of places where you can capture a hellish photo: 1. The station in Hell and the adjacent building 'Hell Gods Expedition.' The station itself opened in 1881 and is still in use. 2. Blues in Hell . An annual blues festival that has attracted a roster of legendary blues artists, including Johnny Winter, who also performed at the iconic Woodstock festival (the original one from the 60s). About 4000 visitors attend, which may sound modest, but given the location and annual lineups, it can rightfully be called a sizable blues festival. In fact, in 2010, Blues in Hell was declared one of the best Blues festivals in Europe, quite an accomplishment. 3. For a hearty lunch, you can head to Hell Grill . It's a tiny blue stall in an unassuming parking lot, and it won't surprise you that Hell Grill sells hundreds of thousands of euros worth of hamburgers annually. 4. If you fancy staying in Hell for a laugh, you can. In fact, it's about a 10-minute walk from Trondheim Airport to the Hell Hotel . It's an excellent hotel with modern rooms and a fantastic breakfast and everything one would expect from a modern accommodation. If you're on a road trip and want to visit Hell, input the postcode '7517' into your navigation system. You can rent a car at both Trondheim Airport and in the city center . Since Norway has one of the best fast-charging networks in Europe, it's highly recommended, both in terms of cost and comfort, to rent an electric car. It's cheaper, as a liter of petrol costs about 2.50 euros here, and of course, it's better for the environment because you don't have to refuel at (S)hell. Have a hell of a time!

  • Drink: the state has the monopoly; where to buy alcohol in Norway

    Due to persistent amazement and a plethora of questions from both friends and visitors regarding Norwegian alcohol policy, I've found it necessary to venture into this topic. If, like me, you're a lover of wine (preferably red and preferably German) and regularly enter Norway through an airport, then the following scenario is all too familiar. Tourists stand waiting by the baggage carousel, while Norwegians dart into the duty-free shop like salamanders to stock up on alcohol. Due to towering taxes, alcohol is indeed expensive here, but also because its sale has been tightly regulated by the Norwegian state for well over a century, creating a perception of it as a scarce commodity. To just immediately answer the question of where to buy alcohol in Norway; wine, spirits, and beer with a certain alcohol content are only purchasable at Vinmonopolet , and only during specific hours (Monday to Friday from 10:00 to 18:00 and on Saturday from 10:00 to 16:00). This might sound downright communist to you if you're accustomed to Berlin kiosks selling liter bottles of beer or Amsterdam night shops selling whiskey at 4:00 am. Therefore, I'd like to take this opportunity to offer you a brief history lesson because, trust me, understanding a bit more about why things are the way they are here will give you more appreciation and insight into the country. Let's dive in! Vinmonopolet was established to secure trade with wine-producing countries in Europe. However, mitigating the harmful effects of alcohol has always been at the core of Vinmonopolet's activities since its founding in 1922. The roots of Vinmonopolet's history can be traced back to the time of the union with Denmark. During Danish rule, there were strict restrictions on the production and sale of alcohol. When the union dissolved in 1814, alcohol taxes were lowered, and rules for the production of spirits were liberalized. Alongside technological advancements in the production sector, this contributed to an increase in spirit consumption, peaking around 1830-1840, where each adult consumed an average of about 13 liters of pure alcohol per year in the form of spirits. Mainly, it was men who consumed alcohol. In cities, the working class consumed spirits and beer. The primary drinking days were Saturday and Monday. On Saturdays, wages were paid, and on Mondays, people drank to prepare for a heavy workweek – hence the name 'Blue Monday.' Even the upper and middle classes didn't hold back. They often gathered in 'social clubs' where they sang and debated. The escalating abuse of alcohol reinforced the temperance movement, which had a central role in both the labor movement and church circles. In 1871, the very first cooperative was established, a municipally controlled liquor store whose proceeds went towards "common beneficial work." In 1913, the sale of wine and spirits was only allowed in major cities and some municipalities in East Norway. In 1916, a ban on wine and spirits was introduced, supported by the population, partly due to food shortages during World War I. Grain and potatoes had to be used for food production. After the war, there was a referendum on whether the ban on spirits should be maintained. In 1919, Norwegians went to the polls, and the abstainers won with a whopping 61.6 percent of the votes. However, maintaining a ban was detrimental to trade policies. Norway relied on exporting various goods to countries like France, Portugal, and Spain. These countries threatened a trade boycott if Norway imposed restrictions on alcohol sales. Especially Portugal and Spain were crucial markets for Norwegian stockfish. It was also important to maintain good trade agreements regarding shipping, machinery, and wood processing. After difficult negotiations with France, it was agreed that Norwegians could order wine directly through a central monopoly. On November 30, 1922, Vinmonopolet was established. The goal was, therefore, to ensure that as many people as possible would have access to wine, not to restrict sales, as many might think. The ban on spirits was lifted in 1926. During the 1920s, issues with smuggled alcohol, home distillation, and clever ways to bypass the spirits ban increased. For example, one could obtain half a bottle of cognac as a cough medicine with a doctor's prescription. The ban had played its part. In 1926, Norwegians went to the polls again, and a majority voted for the legal sale of spirits. The prohibition era was over, and Vinmonopolet began selling spirits the following year. However, there were restrictions on who could buy spirits. Sales were not allowed to individuals under 21 years old, intoxicated individuals, or alcohol abusers. In 1930, a blacklist system was introduced. Certain individuals were put on a blacklist and were not allowed to buy spirits. This system was maintained until the mid-1970s. Vinmonopolet was closed between April 9 and June 10, 1940. Nevertheless, Vinmonopolet managed to keep operations reasonably stable during the war years. A massive production complex in Hasle was completed in the early 1930s, ensuring that Vinmonopolet could produce and remain open during the war. To prevent empty stocks, Vinmonopolet implemented rationing. There was also a ban on forming queues during certain periods. If someone queued before the morning opening, they received a fine and lost their rationing card for a specific period. So, people often walked 'accidentally' by just before the 8:00 am opening, ready to dash to the entrance as soon as Vinmonopolet opened. Imports from Europe were limited during the war. To address shortages of cognac and whisky, Vinmonopolet began blending Norwegian homemade potato brandy into these drinks and sold them as "pre-cut spirits." In 1941, plank brandy was introduced, producing spirits from waste products of the cellulose industry. This saved Vinmonopolet during the war because grain and potatoes had to be used for food. When peace came in 1945, there was an explosive increase in alcohol consumption. However, during the 1950s, alcohol consumption remained stable and relatively moderate. It was a time of thrift and the country's reconstruction. At Vinmonopolet, there was a gradual modernization. The stores had to be larger, brighter, with improved logistics and queue systems. There were relatively few Vinmonopolet stores throughout Norway; there were no branches in the former Akershus and areas like Lillestrøm, Jessheim, Asker, or Bærum. It was also not possible to buy spirits between Larvik and Kristiansand or in the Møre og Romsdal county. In total, Vinmonopolet had around 46 stores nationwide by 1955. The temperance cause was revived in the post-war period. Among other measures, taxes were increased, strict opening hours were imposed, and blacklists were maintained. There were also limited numbers of new stores, and existing stores often had to be somewhat hidden with an anonymous facade. Alcohol policy and Vinmonopolet underwent slight modernization, and in the 1970s, dissatisfaction with Vinmonopolet increased. In addition to sales, import, and production of wine and spirits, Vinmonopolet was also responsible for controlling the serving of spirits. Inspectors from Vinmonopolet visited restaurants and bars to ensure they charged the correct price and served the correct amount of spirits. Nightlife grew in the 1970s, and society gradually became more liberal regarding the sale and serving of alcohol. Vinmonopolet was seen as a hindrance to the liberalization of alcohol policy. The prosperity and education level of the population increased, cultural life flourished, and Norwegians slowly became more refined in terms of food and drink. However, we were still far from the European drinking pattern, and total alcohol consumption increased with prosperity. In 1975, a ban on alcohol advertising was introduced. This means that actors associated with the sale of alcohol cannot advertise their products. This still exists today. Discontent with Vinmonopolet increased during the 1980s, in line with the wave of liberalization in Norwegian society. A new CEO, Einar Joyce, introduced a new, more market-oriented business approach. The bag – the anonymous gray, so-called shed bag – had been heavily criticized. Now it turned burgundy with the Polet logo in gold. A marketing plan was introduced with products focused on what Norwegians actually asked for, and the extensive price list received a more modern look with colors, images, and information about beverages with food. A large, beautiful store opened in Klingeberggaten in Oslo with disco mirrors on the ceiling, benches where customers could sit while waiting in line, and wines displayed in glass showcases. Nevertheless, there was still trade over the counter and no self-service as we know it today. A new director in 1992, Kjell Frøyslid, would face significant challenges: a sales decline due to recession after the 1980s, increasing border trade, and, especially, great uncertainty about whether Vinmonopolet could be maintained under the EEA agreement. Vinmonopolet was an essential part of the political and legal negotiations with the EU on the EEA agreement. At that time, Vinmonopolet effectively consisted of five monopolies: production, export, import, distribution, and sales. In 1994, the ESA concluded that a monopoly on export and import had no impact on public health or alcohol consumption in Norway and, therefore, was not essential to the main purpose of an alcohol monopoly. It was also concluded that production and sales could not belong to the same monopoly company. The production part became Arcus, while sales with the stores remained with Vinmonopolet. Room was given for private parties to start importing alcoholic beverages for sale through Vinmonopolet. Today, over 500 small and large import companies supply wine and spirits to Vinmonopolet. The new Vinmonopolet implemented significant changes in the purchasing system, tax system, and product range to adapt to the EU, forming the basis for much of what we know today as Vinmonopolet. At the end of the 1990s, public and political resistance to Vinmonopolet increased, and more and more people advocated for the abolition of Vinmonopolet and the sale of alcohol in supermarkets. Much of the dissatisfaction was due to the few stores, and many people had to travel far to shop. In 1996, Vinmonopolet had a total of 114 stores, compared to about 340 today. The business operations also seemed outdated and old-fashioned with trade over the counter, long queues – often for hours, limited opening hours, and a relatively limited choice of products. Norwegians also started to travel more, and sales at duty-free airports and border trade increased. There was a need for modernization of the Polet, and a transformation was initiated under the leadership of the then CEO Knut Grøholt. In 1996, the Vinmonopolet board gave input to the government that they wanted more stores, longer opening hours, and experiments with self-service. They were allowed to open 50 new stores over five years and slightly longer opening hours, but the government did not allow self-service stores. In 1998, the government finally approved a self-service trial. Discontent with the Polet in the population was still significant. Two decades of liberalization of Norwegian society, along with increasing travel and experience with wine in foreign stores, led to 8 out of 10 people wanting wine in stores in 1998. There were also extensive challenges with the smuggling of spirits, and Vinmonopolet sold less than half of Norwegian distilled spirits consumption. Something had to be done to prevent the closure of Vinmonopolet. The self-service trial would be conducted in 14 stores and evaluated after two years to ensure it did not lead to a significant increase in alcohol consumption and contributed to greater legitimacy for Vinmonopolet. The trial was successful, and Vinmonopolet began a historic process of converting all stores to self-service, parallel to an ambitious expansion of the number of stores. This, along with a greater focus on customer service and expertise over the past two decades, has ensured that Vinmonopolet stands very firmly in society today. You're still here? That's amazing. Anyway, it still sparks discussion. And it always will.

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