So why Norway?
My new husband and I (still feel so excited when I’m able to call him that!) decided we’d prolong the joys of being newlyweds (and spread the cost so we didn’t have to pay for wedding and honeymoon all in one fell swoop!) by taking our honeymoon a few months after our wedding. We knew we’d feel some post wedding blues and we thought having a honeymoon on the horizon for a few months would help us to get through it! We also knew we wouldn’t want to head straight back to the real world after the wedding day so decided to jump on the ‘minimoon’ bandwagon.
What started as a ‘perhaps we’ll just pop to somewhere in Europe for a few nights in an Airbnb’ turned into a week in one of Europe’s most expensive countries; eating, drinking and exploring to our hearts’ desires and dipping into our ‘maximoon’ savings. Well…you only get married once, right?
Norway was the perfect place for our minimoon. We first met on a ski season and wanted to head to the snow but you can’t guarantee white powder in many European countries in mid-November. A quick Google told us Norway would have some great snow and we stumbled across a place called Geilo where we’d be able to ski that early in the season. A quick look at the map showed me Bergen would be the best place to fly to and I’d heard such great things about the city it seemed to be the perfect trip – a city break and mini ski trip all in one.
Days in Bergen
One of my favourite long weekend breaks we’ve done was Copenhagen and I was hoping Bergen might be similar. I wasn’t let down. Small (easy to roam in a couple of days), breath-taking (lots of stunning views to be seen on the water and from the land), foodie (we had some of the best meals we’ve ever had here) and rainy – they are very similar! We were quickly told it rains 360 days a year in Bergen and the locals weren’t lying. It was wet. And it was cold. But it was beautiful and romantic and we’d come prepared.
Where to Stay
We chose an Airbnb in the city centre that offered views over the harbour. In order to get those views, of course, there were a few flights of stairs involved! But once we reached our apartment in the eaves of a traditional Norwegian house – charming with its white wooden panels and slate roofing – we knew it was worth it. We arrived as the sun was setting over the fjords and quickly ran to the balcony to soak up the view. This was why we had come here.
On our final night, we moved to a hotel as a treat before we headed home – The Clarion Hotel Admiral. We chose it based solely on its location to be honest, right on the harbour overlooking Bryggen and the fjords beyond. While the rooms are compact, they’re perfectly formed and we only needed it as a place to rest our heads after a final day of exploring. If you want somewhere central with a good breakfast buffet and a nice bar and restaurant area, then this one is worth looking up.
What To Do
One of the highlights of our trip was a 3-hour boat ride through the fjords. As we flew into Bergen we had a spectacular overhead view of the fjords and couldn’t wait to get closer on our boat trip. Given the time of year we chose to go, we had to wrap up really warm to brave the deck on top of the boat to take some snaps and experience the magnificent scenery. Despite being blown around, and almost off, the boat, it was truly breathtaking. With peaceful silence all around us, we felt a million miles away from life in London. I’ve been fortunate enough to experience Halong Bay in Vietnam and the Sounds in New Zealand, and the fjords of Norway didn’t disappoint. One of the best parts of the trip was my husband being picked as one of three to wear rather fetching overalls to collect water from the waterfall for us all to drink. A touristy gimmick, but much fun and the water was so pure to drink!
Unfortunately, the cable car was closed while we were in town, so we opted to take the Funicular instead to rise up Mount Floyen above the city to get the best view overlooking the houses and the fjords. It was such a different view from that on the fjord tour and I’d definitely recommend doing both if you have time.
You can’t miss the fish market in the heart of Bergen’s wharf. A large, modern building overlooking the water, it houses a fantastic selection of fresh fish that you can buy to take away or to eat from one of several mini restaurants housed within the market. We spent a long time perusing the options, amazed at the choice on offer. After tasting such an array of fish during our trip, we both opted for fish burgers – bliss!
This strip of ancient wooden colourful houses will be the view you know from TV programmes and articles on Bergen. Picturesque, traditional and endearing, this is the main part of the wharf and one you’ll want to visit for the pictures alone.
If you happen to visit Bergen in November or December, Pepperkakebyen is a must-see! This small exhibition features the world’s largest gingerbread city. Local schools and families contribute each year to create a gingerbread-size version of Bergen – complete with houses, trains and cars all made from gingerbread! Magical.
Where To Eat
Some friends of ours had previously visited Bergen and raved about this place. They’d gone in the summer and showed us pictures of eating fresh fish, drinking crisp white wine while looking out over the stunning views over the fjords sparkling in the sunshine. I think I’ll have to go back one day as we chose the wrong season for this one – choosing an evening meal meant we missed the views and the cold encouraged us to stay firmly inside, but the food and the wine were the perfect introduction to our Bergen adventure.
A small boat picks you up from the Bergen harbour – we had a pre-drink at the Radisson Blu overlooking the historic wharf front while we waited and takes you on the 30 minute trip through the fjords to the hidden gem of Cornelius. Here you are treated as the only guests in the restaurant, despite us in reality being joined by a large business group from China, and several other couples, with a private tour of the wine cellar and a detailed introduction to each course, with wine pairing if you wish. The food is simple, elegant and delicious. With the fish caught fresh each day by the chef team from the water above which you are sitting, it is a truly authentic Bergen experience. Highly recommend!
Our Airbnb host recommended this local Norwegian tapas restaurant before we arrived and we’d seen it tagged in a few posts on Instagram (where we do all our foodie research before arriving anywhere new). Before we arrived I imagined Norwegian food to involve a lot of pickled vegetables, fish and rye bread and although this is true, the food we experienced far exceeded our expectations. We shared 5 dishes at this tapas place and were blown away by the presentation, quality of ingredients and taste. A divine introduction to the local cuisine.
I’d read about this place in a few guide books and we happened to stumble across it one evening and thought we’d give it a go. A far more traditional Norwegian restaurant than the more trendy place we’d visited on our other nights, this was our opportunity to try local comfort food, hiding away from the cold and rain outside in a comfortable, cosy setting. We opted for the Plukkfisk, a classic Norwegian dish which consists of pieces of fish, potatoes, and onion cooked in a bechamel sauce. It sounds simple, the reality was delicious. I’ve even since made it for us at home as we liked it so much. If this is traditional Norwegian fare, we liked it!
Where To Drink
This beer haven reminded me of the beer halls of Prague. A wooden den hidden upstairs on a residential street, it offers 54 beers on tap – my husband’s heaven! The wide range of local and craft beers were served by friendly barmen who were happy for us to try a selection. The perfect start to a rainy evening.
We loved this gem – a bar in a record shop! I bought a couple of records while we waited for our order and we pulled up some stools surrounded by young music lovers. A live band arrived just before we left for dinner. Such a cool venue.
After dinner one evening we searched out No Stress – a casual cocktail bar hidden in the cobbled streets surrounding the harbour. With a wide range of cocktails on offer, good music, and a laid back vibe, it was the perfect place to while away our night.
Days in Geilo
As serendipity would have it, I picked up a travel magazine a few weeks before we booked our Norway trip and found a two-page feature on Geilo, a ski resort in the centre of Norway (halfway between Bergen and Oslo) surrounded by national parks. It was fate! Only a three-hour train journey from Bergen, it offered us a distinctly different experience from our city break, surrounded by Norway’s beautiful nature and thick snow. We were there the third week of November, officially a week before the ski resorts open. This allowed us the luxury of quiet slopes – at one point we were the only two skiing down a red run, and a peaceful respite in our luxurious hotel. I imagine that once the bus loads of skiiers arrive it’s quite a different story!
Where To Stay
We decided to treat ourselves to a premium hotel in the area for this part of our trip and chose Vestlia Resort. It was recommended in the article I’d read and Instagram showed me it would offer us the calm we were looking for after the madness of planning our wedding! Complete with Christmas songs and decorations, Vestlia welcomed us into its warm surroundings with charm and cosiness, and a touch of winter magic. Nestled between the mountains, it was a world away from the buzz of Bergen and exactly what we’d hoped for. We didn’t have a car but it was an easy taxi ride from the station and we enjoyed a snowy walk to and from the centre on our first day to get our bearings. One of the highlights of the hotel had to be its pool – complete with flume, we’re still big kids at heart!
What To Do
Not at a lot – exactly as requested! Skiing is the key activity here and the resort is centered around the sport. The charming town was quiet, with a couple of stores and a handful of restaurants to occupy an afternoon away from the slopes.
Where To Eat
We ate both evenings in the hotel as the restaurant was so good. With amazing views out to the slopes, fresh modern ingredients and at a reasonable price, we didn’t feel the need to try anywhere else! The bar even served Aperol Spritz, my favourite. What more could we need?
We had planned to visit this place in town but decided after a day on the slopes to eat at the hotel instead. That said, reviews were good for this place and I imagine the traditional Norwegian restaurant would be lovely with warm and comforting food, especially after a day of walking or skiing.
We saw a few of these around and it was the perfect chain lunch we needed in the centre of Geilo on the day we walked there. Good quality pizza, well priced with lots of choice – does what it says on the tin!
Have you ever been to Norway and experienced Bergen & Geilo?