Thinking of a Norway in a Nutshell DIY tour? Although there are bigger…much bigger…countries, Norway’s lengthy expanse plus its coast of twisting fjords and waterways can make it difficult to figure out how to get where you want to go.
Thus, the tourist gurus there have come up with a package tour deal called “Norway in a Nutshell” (NiN) that gets you from Oslo to Bergen via the historic Flam Railway and along famous Aurlandsfjord and Naeroyfjord. The journey involves a collection of trains, buses and ships and a puzzle of coordinating schedules. The NiN package means you don’t have to think for yourself about what is a bit of a frenetic trains-buses-and-boats travel day (Note: NiN is not a guided tour. It is simply booked for you in one fell swoop).
The packages are more expensive than doing it on your own, despite having been told the contrary. Yes, you really can do your own so-called Norway in a Nutshell DIY tour with relative ease – and you’ll save hundreds of kroner if you book early.
Why did we bother? For one, HI Travel Tales found the Norway in a Nutshell packaged schedules to be a bit limiting and wondered if a Norway in a Nutshell DIY tour would cost less. Curiosity needs fulfilling so we did just that. For two, isn’t saving a little money a grand idea?
The result: For our November trip, the cost on our own came to approximately 1100 kroner per person (approximately USD $161) – or about 450 less (USD $66) than the price for the Fjord Tours package. OK, maybe that’s not a huuuuge difference – and for some people the comfort of knowing it’s being done for them may be worth the cost. But we are independent-minded and curious sorts….
We found all of the Norwegian-based representatives with whom we emailed at various tourist agencies, city tourist bureaus, or transportation companies to be very responsive and very helpful.
So here’s the 411 for creating a Norway in a Nutshell DIY adventure:
- Oslo to Myrdal (train): Start planning your Norway in a Nutshell DIY itinerary with your train ticket with the Norwegian state railway to go from Oslo to Myrdal on the westward Oslo-Bergen line. The NSB has so-called “minipris” tickets for one rail journey (no stopovers) between any two cities. At the time of this writing, the lowest minipris price was 249 kr per person (an amazing USD $36). Think of them as an early-purchase discount and, yes, they are not refundable so be verrry sure of your plans. Those early-purchase prices slowly eke upward by about 50 kr as quotas for the lower prices are gradually sold out. But these specials can save you hundreds of kroner per person. www.nsb.no/en/.
- Myrdal to Flam (train): Next up is the steep, historic Flåm Railway that drops you from Myrdal on the main line to Flam on the water. You have two choices: Either you can also book this trip with NSB (indeed, booking as one journey, Oslo via Myrdal to Flam). Or you can book it directly with the “Flamsbana” railway. The cost is the same (300 kr per person at this writing, for this leg). And the Flam Railway portion is fully refundable up to 24 hours before departure no matter where you book it (and refundable minus an administrative fee up to departure).
- Flam to Gudvangen (ferry): OK, you’re in Flam, which is more of a jumping-off point for ships, hikes, trails and skiing than much else. You can choose to stay there for such adventures, or you can skedaddle onwards. Click here to explore accommodations in Flam. Here’s the dilemma: If you take the reasonable 8 a.m. train from Oslo, you don’t get to Flam until about 1:50 p.m. after your transfer in Myrdal. That connects you to the scenic cruise at 3:10 p.m. along the fjords, which will ultimately get you to Bergen as late as 9:00-10:00 p.m.! WHEW, that’s a day! Aren’t we on vacation? To avoid the “If it’s Tuesday, it must be Belgium” frame of mind, you can instead choose to stay the night in Flam and take a morning ferry onwards. Which works fine, except between Oct. 1 and April 30 when the ONLY ferry onward is the one at 3:10 p.m. Which means the last part of your fjord cruise from Flam to Gudvangen will be in total darkness, depending on the time of year. What? It’ll be dark? And I won’t be able to see the UNESCO World Heritage fjords? You got it. So choose wisely as you plan your Norway in a Nutshell DIY itinerary. The Fjord1 company site is where you can check out schedules and buy advance tickets.
- Gudvangen to Bergen (bus and/or train): Now, from Gudvangen onward to Bergen you have a few choices although it may be a matter of personal preference since the cost is the same. You can take a bus from Gudvangen to Voss, then transfer back to the Oslo-Bergen train line in Voss to get to Bergen. OR you can continue with the bus from Voss to Bergen. You may still have to change buses in Voss so the choice comes down to preference. The schedules change a bit with the time of year so you’ll need to consult online schedules and compare them to figure out your best connection. The country’s transport collective website at gives you overall travel info for many areas, while the NOR-WAY Express Bus website will also give you route information and also allow you to buy tickets at a slight discount in advance online.
If all this Norway in a Nutshell DIY planning sounds difficult and complicated, it’s not really. Our suggestion after spending a lot of time researching these sites and schedules (which seem to change a bit year to year and season to season) is to find the routes that apply to your journey and then print them out so you can compare what segments connect to what to avoid errors. Nearly everything is available in English also.
Now lose the fear and take charge of your independence!
Oslo Main Train Station
Think of Norway train lines somewhat like an x-y axis – one major line goes north-south, and another goes east-west, both with a few offshoots or onward connections to, say, Sweden. Click here to download a PDF map. Once you know this, it’s easier to get around. The Oslo main station, Central Station (more commonly known as Oslo S), has several departures/arrivals daily on the east-west Oslo–Bergen route, considered one of the most beautiful in the world. We took it from Oslo to Bergen on an early winter day and can confirm that the route is certainly gorgeous, not to mention convenient and affordable. Of course, there are frequent departures to all points in Norway from Oslo’s Central Station. Read our What To Do In Oslo planning guide here.
Bergen Main Train Station - Bergen
Myrdal Train Station
Flam Train Station
Gudvangen Ferry Terminal
Roros Visitors Center
Sleggveien - Roros
Idrettsparken Hotel - Roros
National Museum of Decorative Arts - Trondheim
Ringve Music Museum - Trondheim
Trondheim Museum of Art
Old Town Bakklandet - Trondheim
Nidaros Cathedral - Trondheim
Archbishop's Palace and Museum - Trondheim
Old Town Bridge - Trondheim
Kristiansten Fort - Trondheim
Sverresborg - Trondelag Folk Museum - Trondheim
Stiffsgarden Royal Residence - Trondheim
Medieval Church Ruins in the Library - Trondheim
Alesund and Sunnmore Tourist Office
Centre of Art Nouveau - Alesund
Fjellstua Viewpoint - Alesund
Theta Museum - Bergen
Theta Museum — It was a secret room then and, for many, it still remains a secret museum and hidden room today. It is the itty-bitty Theta Museum, a minute 170-square-foot (16 square meters) low-ceiling room hidden away on an upper floor of the Bryggen wharf area in Bergen. The museum was the headquarters of the Theta Group, an important part of the Norwegian Resistance during WWII. Its hours are quite limited to plan around them to not miss this gem! Click here to read our What To Do In Bergen travel planning guide.
Bergen Maritime Museum - Bergen
Bergen Maritime Museum — The Bergen Maritime Museum presents the history of shipping, its development and importance to Bergen and Norway. We loved the museum’s vast collection of ship models – including Viking ships. Getting There: The museum is situated 150 meters from Johanneskirken (the red church), in the middle of the University campus.. Admission is NOK 50 or free with a valid Bergen Card. Click here to read our What To Do In Bergen travel planning guide.
University Museum of Bergen
University Museum of Bergen — Although the Natural History Museum is undergoing restoration and will not reopen until 2018, the History Museum is well worth a look, containing some of the largest cultural collections in Norway. Since it is adjacent to the Maritime Museum, time your visit to enjoy both on the same day. Admission is NOK 50, or free with a valid Bergen Card. Click here to read our What To Do In Bergen travel planning guide.
Bryggen - Bergen
Bryggen — This is what you likely think of when you think of Bergen. In 1360 the Hansas – a German guild of merchants – set up one of their import/export offices on Bryggen and dominated world trade for the next 400 years. Though destroyed many times by fire, each time it has been faithfully rebuilt, on top of foundations that were created in the 11th century. Now on UNESCO’s World Heritage list, Bryggen is made for wandering, slowly. Meander through narrow passageways and enjoy the myriad of tiny shops, offices and artist studios. Click here to read our What To Do In Bergen travel planning guide.
Fløibanen Funicular - Bergen
Fløibanen Funicular — Do not miss the breathtaking view from atop Mt. Floyen, 320 meters (1,050) feet above sea level). Certainly one of Norway’s most-often mentioned attractions, the Funicular runs every 15 minutes from early morning until 11 p.m. The journey lasts approximately 8 minutes up or down. We watched for Northern Lights from the summit one evening during a recent visit, though swirling mist obscured a view of the sky, but not the twinkling lights below. Admission is NOK 85 round trip or NOK 43 one-way. Bergen Card is valid for a 50% discount May 1 through September 30 and gives you a free ride the rest of the year. Click here to read our What To Do In Bergen travel planning guide.
Bergenhus Festning - Bergen
Bergenhus Festning – A bit further up the road from Bryggen Historic District, take the time to visit the historic fort, Bergenhus. Here you will see the Rosenkrantz Tower, considered one of the most important renaissance monuments in Norway and, when open, offering an impressive view of Bergen. Plus, there is Hakon’s Hall, built by King Håkon Håkonsson as a royal residence and banqueting hall in the 12th century – granted you won’t need a lot of time there. Bergenhus Festning, 5003 Bergen. Admission to each is NOK 70 or free with a valid Bergen Card. Click here to read our What To Do In Bergen travel planning guide.
Hanseatic Museum - Bergen
Hanseatic Museum — One of the best-preserved buildings in Bergen, the Hanseatic Museum shows how the German merchants from The Hanseatic League lived and worked. From 1350 to 1750 these merchants traded stockfish (chewy, dried fish) and grains from their office in Bergen. It is the only house on Bryggen that has kept its original interior. In summer, there are daily guided tours in Norwegian, German, French and English. Admission NOK 90. Click here to read our What To Do In Bergen travel planning guide.
Bergen Aquarium - Bergen
Bergen Aquarium – The Bergen Aquarium claims to house one of the largest collections of North Sea fish and invertebrates in Europe. The aquarium features indoor 60 tanks, a shark viewing tube, and two outdoor pools with seals and penguins. Cost – From March 1 to October 31, entrance runs NOK 200. A Bergen Card discounts that by 25%. The rest of the year, entrance is NOK 150 or free with a Bergen Card. Since the aquarium website is only offered in Norwegian, click here to find aquarium information on the official Tourist Information website, thankfully in English. Click here to read our What To Do In Bergen travel planning guide.
Det Lille Kaffekompaniet - Bergen
Bergen is made to get lost in on foot because it’s so compact and so walkable, albeit hilly. Explore narrow side streets, particularly those around the base of the funicular’s lower terminal off Lille Øvergaten. Just follow your nose. Take the time to sit and enjoy a coffee and delectable in one of the many small cafes you will encounter … we loved Det Lille Kaffekompaniet in the Lille Overgaten. Click here to read our What To Do In Bergen travel planning guide.
Skottegaten - Bergen
Bergen is made to get lost in on foot because it’s so compact and so walkable, albeit hilly. Explore narrow side streets, particularly those around the base of the funicular’s lower terminal off Lille Øvergaten. Just follow your nose. Also worth exploring is the hilly area all around Skottegaten just west of the main part of the old town and between there and the Hurtigruten terminal. Your nose and your feet will be your guides. Click here to read our What To Do In Bergen travel planning guide.
Bergen Visitors Center - Bergen
Hurtigruten Terminal - Bergen
Shipping and ferry services are Bergen’s connection to the outside world as well as much of Norway. You will arrive or depart from here by ferry for part of the Norway in a Nutshell tour, if you choose that version. And this is also where the well-known Hurtigruten (the Coastal Express) ferry tours depart daily for trips up to Kirkenes in the far north (stopping in numerous Norwegian coastal towns and villages along the way). Click here to read our What To Do In Bergen travel planning guide.
Hurtigruten Terminal - Kirkenes
Hurtigruten Terminal - Trondheim
Vigeland Park - Oslo
Don’t miss the Frogner neighborhood and the Vigeland Park with its spectacular lineup of Gustav Vigeland’s works. If the weather is nice – remember, this is Scandinavia – the park is a popular destination for jogging, walking and picnicking. Read our What To Do In Oslo planning guide here.
Royal Palace - Oslo
Take the time to wander down Karl Johans Gate, starting at the Central Station. Karl Johans Gate is the main street in central Oslo and features a tree-lined promenade bordered by restaurants, cafes and upscale stores. There is, naturally, great people watching and at the end of the walk you will find yourself at the Royal Palace, home of the Norwegian royal family. Read our What To Do In Oslo planning guide here.
Old Aker Church - Oslo
Oslo Domkirke - Oslo
Edward Munch Museum - Oslo
Edward Munch Museum — Edvard Munch – probably best known for modern painting known as “The Scream” — has a unique position among Nordic painters and is considered a pioneer in expressionism. The Munch Museum’s collection, left to the city of Oslo by the artist, consists of paintings, graphical prints and drawings. By constantly changing the exhibitions, the museum presents the variety in his life. Be sure to visit the museum website prior to planning your trip as the museum does close for short spans due to exhibition changes. Admission: NOK 100. Free with valid Oslo Pass. Read our What To Do In Oslo planning guide here.
Norwegian Museum of Cultural History - Oslo
Norwegian Museum of Cultural History — Located on Bydgoy next to the Viking Ship Museum the Museum of Cultural History is a large open-air museum that is full of wonderful replicas of traditional Norwegian buildings throughout Norwegian history. The most famous building is the intricately carved stave church – which is truly stunning. Admission is NOK 80 or free with a valid Oslo Pass. Read our What To Do In Oslo planning guide here.
The Viking Ship Museum - Oslo
The Viking Ship Museum — The Viking Ship Museum presents historic Viking ship discoveries discovered during excavations at Gokstad, Oseberg and Tune as well as other finds from Viking tombs around the Oslo Fjord. Most significant are the displays of the world’s two best-preserved wooden Viking ships, built in the 9th century. Admission is NOK 80 or free with a valid Oslo Pass. Read our What To Do In Oslo planning guide here.
Akershus Fortress - Oslo
Akershus Fortress — Akershus Fortress, located in the city centre overlooking the Oslo fjord, is a great place to take in wonderful views of Oslo as well as the surrounding fjord. The building of Akershus Castle and the fortress began in 1299 under King Håkon V. The medieval castle, which was completed in the 1300s, was strategically located at the end of the headlands overlooking the fjord. King Christian IV (1588-1648) modernized the castle and had it converted to a royal residence. Admission is free. Read our What To Do In Oslo planning guide here.
Resistance Museum - Oslo
Norway’s Resistance Museum — The Resistance Museum is located in a 17th century building on the grounds of Akershus Fortress, right adjacent to the memorial for Norwegian patriots executed during the war. It is a fantastic museum – plan on a couple of hours (or more depending on your passion) to view the displays covering five years of occupation recreated with pictures, documents, posters, objects, models, original copies of newspapers and recordings. Read our What To Do In Oslo planning guide here.
Clarion Collection Hotel Bastion
Honningsvag is a small fishing port far up the northern coast of Norway, nestled in a pocket among islands and fjords north of Tromso. From the Hurtigruten ship heading north, the town is uber-cute, hugging the base of a hill. Aside from fishing, it is the capital of the “North Cape” area. Read our Photographer's Diary story on Honningsvag here.