Norway is the land of the Midnight Sun and deep fjords, the birthplace of the sport of skiing and great polar explorers. The Vikings sailed from here, getting as far as North America. Its artists--painters, composers and writers like Edvard Munch, Henrik Ibsen and Edvard Grieg-- plumb the depths of human fears and soar to the heights of their spiritual aspirations.
Norway travel’s main attraction is it beauty, the fjords in the southwest and the North Cape, which is also a great spot for seeing the Midnight Sun of midsummer, the often untamed wilderness of its mountainous inland and the contemporary charms of its cities. Its terrain ranges from alpine mountains, to picturesque fishing villages and arctic tundra. Nature reigns supreme in Norway, even in its biggest city and capital, Oslo, where you can shop for designer names on Karl Johansgate, its main shopping district, or take boat trip among the islands in the Oslo fjord, and still be within city limits. It’s a city of great museums--the Munch Museum is most famous--as well as monuments like the royal palace and entertainment centers.
Bergen, one-time port of the Hanseatic League, a northern European trading alliance, is the gateway to the fjords and is a destination unto itself because of the 17th century Hanseatic harbor district, a waterfront of narrow, steeply peaked buildings and old wooden houses tucked into the countryside. Be sure to visit its fish market.
The fjords are probably Norway’s biggest tourist attraction and you can see them on a coastal cruise such as with Hurtigruten (the Norwegian Coastal Voyage). The most famous fjord is Sognefjorden, because it’s the longest and deepest. Near here are some of Norway’s famed stave churches, cathedrals of wood with a fairyland feel with their multiple peaked roofs and detailed woodwork. Urnes Stave Church in Luster, beside the Sognefjord, is the only stave church in the world to be included on UNESCO's World Heritage List. Lillehammer, site of the 1994 Winter Olympics, is Norway’s biggest ski center, for both Nordic and Alpine skiing and is situated on Mjøsa Lake, Norway’s largest. Here too is the he Norwegian Olympic Museum, the Maihaugen Open Air Museum (which features a collection of over 170 historic buildings from the Gudbrandsdal area), and the Art Museum, with its extensive Norwegian collections.
Its cities are cosmopolitan, with theater, music, and film. You’ll find clubs and an increasing number of pubs in Bergen, Oslo, Stavanger and Trondheim. Most villages have at least one cafe or restaurant where you can go for food and drink. Seafood, fish and game are popular in Norway. Breakfast in Norway can be a major affair, with a buffet of fish, meat, cheese and breads, along with coffee and boiled or fried eggs.
Norway’s transportation system is an efficient one; its extensive network of electric and diesel-electric trains runs beyond the Arctic Circle. It offers excellent bus lines and ferries. Rental cars are widely available. The best time of year to visit is May through September; winter is high season for skiing.