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Surrounded by fjords and mountains, the cities of Bergen and Stavanger in Fjord Norway make for an unforgettable weekend away. Packed with excellent cafes and restaurants, unmissable historical sites, numerous outdoor activities, good quality hotels and exciting culture these destinations on Norway’s west coast should not be missed. You can fly with Loganair from Newcastle to Stavanger and to both cities from Edinburgh, so if you find it hard to choose which one to visit, why not fly in to one and out of the other?
Known as the ‘gateway to the Norwegian fjords’, Bergen is the perfect base for exploring some of Norway’s most famous fjord landscapes. Seven mountains surround the city and nature is always close at hand, but that is not all – this is a modern town with art museums, a buzzing music scene, numerous shops and restaurants and cafes serving local food.
Bergen was Norway’s capital in the thirteenth century and the colourful waterfront buildings of the UNESCO World Heritage Site-listed Bryggen district hark back to a time when the city was an outpost of the powerful Hanseatic League. Many of the existing buildings date back to the eighteenth century, but their foundations are much older.
Elsewhere in the city you can find Bergen’s famous KODE art museums. Each of the four buildings focuses on a different collection: KODE 1 houses silverware, KODE 2 features Scandinavian artists from the 1980s to the present day, KODE 3 is devoted to Norwegian painter Edvard Munch, and KODE 4 is home to Modernist works by Picasso, Miró and many others. This autumn and winter the exhibition: ‘Edvard Munch: There are Worlds Within Us‘ which brings together the four largest collections of Munch’s works under one roof, will be showing at KODE 2 until 19th January 2020 – see it while you can!
You will never be bored in Bergen! To experience the city’s surrounding nature, catch the Fløibanen funicular to the top of Mount Fløien where spectacular views of the city await. Rent some snowshoes and explore the paths that fan out from the viewing plateau – or enjoy a cup of coffee and traditional Norwegian cakes in the café at the top, before catching the funicular or walking back down through the narrow streets to the city centre.
Bergen is also the start of the famous Norway in a Nutshell tour that departs daily from the main train station. Travelling by train, bus and boat it will take you to the mountain village of Voss, on the famous Flåm Railway down to the village of Flåm and on a fjord cruise on the Nærøyfjord and the Aurlandsfjord before arriving back into Bergen in the evening. For longer trips check out the Sognefjord in a Nutshell or Hardangerfjord in a Nutshell trips where you stay overnight at one of the region’s amazing hotels.
Or how about a couple of days skiing? Voss Resort is amongst the most snow secure resorts in Norway and only a short train journey from Bergen. The slopes are even closer now with a new gondola from the town centre which takes you straight up to the ski areas, so it could not be easier!
Where to stay
There are numerous places to stay in Bergen from luxury to more budget accommodation. One of the highlights is Bergen Børs Hotel, which can be found in an elegant nineteenth-century building that used to be the city’s stock exchange. The hotel has five different bars and restaurants, but the headline act is BARE, a gourmet eatery with an ever-changing menu that is consistently rated as one of the best in Bergen.
Alternatively, try the Hotel Norge by Scandic, which opened in 1885 and was fully refurbished in 2018 or Opus XVI which also opened in 2018 and is situated in a beautiful nineteenth-century building just five minutes’ walk from Bryggen.
Where to eat
The jewel in the crown of Bergen’s gastronomic scene is Lysverket, where chef Christopher Haatuft has created an innovative, witty menu that he calls ‘neo-fjordic’. “The fjords are what make Norway different,” he told the New York Times, “and that’s what I want my food to be.”
Marg & Bein, or ‘Marrow & Bone’ to give its English translation, is another of Bergen’s culinary highlights. The restaurant serves rustic, beautifully presented dishes based on traditional recipes, but with a focus on “neglected parts of the animals that we all like to eat”, and accompanied by a fine selection of craft beers and wine.
How to get there
Scottish airline Loganair flies direct to Bergen from Edinburgh. Find out more in the link below.
Stavanger is located further south in Fjord Norway and is smaller than Bergen but equally rich in experiences. It boasts a cosy city centre where old and new live in perfect harmony with gorgeous wooden houses, historical sites, first class museums and a vibrant food scene. Stavanger is the perfect destination for a winter city break.
Start your visit by taking a stroll around old Stavanger where you will find more than 170 wonderfully preserved wooden houses dating from the turn of the eighteenth century – wander along the cobbled streets and visit some of the local galleries and shops. Stavanger is also known for its excellent museums with the Norwegian Petroleum Museum, which tells the story of Norway’s oil industry, and the Norwegian Canning Museum amongst the most exciting. Stavanger Cathedral is Norway’s oldest, dating back to the twelfth century, and is also well worth a visit.
The colourful street of Øvre Holmegate is sometimes called ‘Stavanger’s Notting Hill’ thanks to its brightly painted houses, featuring hues chosen by the artist Craig Flannagan. The Nuart Street Art Walking Tour takes in these famous buildings, along with Stavanger’s other impressive examples of world-class street art.
A taxi ride outside Stavanger you will find the 10-metre-high Swords in the Rock monument. The three towering bronze Viking swords embedded in the Earth celebrate the victory of Viking chief Harald Fairhair at the Battle of Hafrsfjord in 872, leading to the unification of Norway. Elsewhere, you can join the Viking Tour to find out what life was like in the Viking Age.
Like all cities in Fjord Norway, Stavanger is surrounded by spectacular nature and cruises along the 42-kilometre Lysefjord are amongst the most popular activities for visitors. You can board a boat in the town centre and travel out to the iconic Preikestolen which juts out from the mountain wall 600 m above the water. But to get the best view, join a guided tour and hike the six kilometres up to Preikestolen which makes for a natural viewing platform – it takes about four hours but is well worth the effort!
There are also plenty of beaches along the North Sea coast near Stavanger – and if you’re hardy enough, they provide some great surfing points in the winter.
Where to stay
There are numerous places to stay in Stavanger ranging from upmarket accommodation to more budget versions. Darby’s Inn is a historic, 120-year-old house in the centre of Stavanger with a beautiful clapboard exterior, and the perfect base for a romantic weekend away. A traditional Norwegian breakfast is included in the price. Alternatively you could choose Eilert Smith – a stylish boutique hotel located in a building from 1937. It’s 11 suites are all elegantly decorated and breakfast from Renaa:Xpress is delivered to your door every morning. Other Hotels worth mentioning include the Clarion Collection Hotel Skagen Brygge and the Radisson Blue Atlantic Hotel.
Where to eat
Stavanger is home to two Michelin-star restaurants: RE-NAA and Sabi Omakase. The intimate RE-NAA seats just 21 guests at a time and serves a tasting menu based on the best produce available from the local region, while Sabi Omakase exclusively serves sushi prepared directly by the sushi master Roger Asakil Joya.
Egget is all chunky wooden tables and loud music, with rock-star food to match. The chefs create the menu based on the freshest ingredients, and this edgy, tiny bistro already has quite the following in the city.
Tango is another small but vibrant restaurant that offers fine dining in a space that fits just 30 seats. Co-founded by TV chef Kjartan Skjelde, Tango offers Nordic-style fine dining featuring local and seasonal ingredients, with a wide-ranging wine list.
How to get there
Fly direct from Newcastle and Edinburgh with Loganair . Find out more through the link below.
Discover more about Norway:
Fjord Norway – the region containing around a thousand fjords that stretches along Norway’s western coast – is home to some of the most stunning vistas on the planet. These deep valleys, carved out by ancient glaciers, provide the backdrop for some unforgettable hikes and beautiful cruises through the land of the Vikings.
The northern lights are one of nature’s greatest displays, and Northern Norway is an excellent place to see them. Cities like Bodø and Tromsø provide a great mix of cosy accommodation and next-door wilderness in which to view the northern lights without interference from man-made light sources.
Norway is a phenomenal place to visit thanks to its fantastic cuisine, bounteous nature and fascinating history – not to mention the amazing northern lights. And following an increasingly favourable exchange rate between the pound and Norwegian krone in recent years, the country is more affordable than ever.