Norway is a curious combination of urban cool and stunning natural beauty. While the world is becoming interested in the chic design and cutting-edge restaurants of Oslo, this Scandinavian outpost still has plenty of tiny villages where life goes on much as it did one hundred years ago. And then there are the country’s justifiably famous fjords.
Most visitors start in Oslo, the capital of Norway and the headquarters for Scandinavian cool. It’s got more than its fair share of Michelin-starred restaurants (the eclectic national dishes, from reindeer to juniper berries, have helped give Norwegian food a shot at fame), and it’s packed with high-design cafes serving up excellent coffee to warm you up against the cold. In Oslo, spend as much time checking out the new and dynamic architecture (like the incredible Oslo Opera House) and trendy boutiques as you do exploring the historic and the old-fashioned, like the National Gallery and the open-air statue park in Vigeland.
Put on your down jacket and leave Oslo for colder but sublime natural areas. The biggest fjord in Norway is Sognefjord, which drops into the North Atlantic and even has its own waterfalls. Venture into the Arctic Circle, where teams of fisherman catch the mackerel and cod that you’ll eat in the big cities, and travel up to Svalbard to spot glaciers, polar bears and reindeer. Between late autumn and early spring, the Northern Lights are an excellent reason to brave the long winter nights. There are plenty of hotels in Norway designed to offer you the best views of this enchanting phenomenon.
If you truly don’t mind the cold, be sure to visit Røros, which is a Unesco World Heritage Site. It’s a village that was once a copper mining centre, and which is now a gorgeous mix of brightly coloured historic houses surrounded by woods.