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Effortlessly cool and down to earth, Copenhagen is a contemporary, clean and classy highlight of Scandinavia. A city built to be liveable, Copenhagen has refused to compromise, resulting in a forward-thinking metropolis that’s green and clean. Swim in the waters of Havnebadet Islands during summer, or shelter from winter’s bite by snuggling in beside a roaring open fire during winter. You can even hop on a train to Sweden, traversing the famous span of a Nordic Noir star – the Öresund Bridge.
It takes just a touch over half an hour to step off the train in Malmö. There’s only one way to truly explore Copenhagen and that’s on two wheels. Easy bike hire schemes will get you moving across this flat city, designed with bikes at the forefront of the mind. Choose a model with electronic assistance to take the strain out of any journey, giving you the freedom to whizz around and explore the modern angular architecture of the centre, and the pastoral colours of Nyhavn waterfront. Head out to the Little Mermaid statue, inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale – the strikingly-restrained statue is the perfect landmark for Copenhagen; unshowy, self-assured and utterly irresistible. The Danish concept of hygge is very much alive here, and you’ll feel that warm cosy feeling as you visit cafes illuminated by the warm glow of hanging filament bulbs, and stuffed to the brim with thick, dusty books. Home to mega-brewer Carlsberg, Copenhagen is also a city for hop enthusiasts, and there is a thriving craft brewing scene to sample. Danish Smørrebrød sandwiches are a must try, or for something a little more substantial, settle in for a culinary voyage and try a taster menu – the city’s restaurants are littered with Michelin stars.
If we haven’t said it already, Norway’s luxury is its sheer natural beauty. And at the very top of the pile is the all-inclusive Flam, a destination that is home to Glacial waterways lined by evergreen forests amidst jagged mountains and sheer cliff walls. Situated inland, on the arm of the 204-kilometre Sognefjord, the village has just 400 inhabitants. Its little size does not belie its gigantic heart, and Flam’s expansive loveliness knows no bounds.
In fact, UNESCO has dedicated the Sognefjord as a World Heritage Site for its exquisite natural beauty. There are many ways to imbibe in the beauty of this destination. Some of the more peaceful among you will enjoy just drinking it all in from the veranda or deck of your ship, while adrenaline bunnies will most probably want to jump in a Zodiac and gain first-hand experience that way. But beware! Travelling the shores of one of the deepest fjords may be exciting but it is also fast, wet and bumpy! Most visitors will not want to miss out on a one-hour train journey that has been describes by more than one source as being “the world’s most beautiful”. The Flam railway is iconic and will have you holding your breath as your travel through steep, winding roads, around massive mountains, and past gushing rivers and waterfalls. Scary? A little. Picturesque? No question. Worth it? Most definitely.
Decorative turrets, pastel-coloured paint and elegant buildings reflect in the glass-smooth harbour waters of Ålesund, welcoming you to one of the world’s finest havens of Art Nouveau architecture. A perfect complement of natural and man-made beauty, the city’s distinctive jugendstil style is enhanced by a thrilling location amid colossal fjord scenery. Geirangerfjord World Heritage Site of is one of Norway’s most spectacular fjords, and it comes alive in summer with gushing meltwater falls plummeting from steep banks to pristine water below. View less
Undoubtedly one of the most beautiful towns in Norway, practically every building in Ålesund boasts fantastical flourishes and eccentric quirks. Rebuilt from the ashes of the devastating fire that swept through in 1904, the town is now a unique historic treasure trove. Wander fairy-tale cobbled streets, and admire endless dainty turrets and decorative swirls, before reaching the Aksla Viewpoint and letting the true majesty of the town’s dreamlike setting wash over you, while gazing over its archipelago. Enjoy a sugar-kick with a bite of folded svele – an indulgent, buttery Norwegian pancake – or settle in to a cosy restaurant for something a little more substantial. Ålesundis a town built on sea trade, and a regular haul of fjord cod is brought ashore before being distributed right across the world. Dried, salted cod – known as klipfish – is a particular speciality, with Ålesund producing an incredible two thirds of the world’s supply.
A colourful, historic capital of Norway, Trondheim’s history reaches back to 997 AD, when it was founded by Viking King Olav Tryggvason. It may be Norway’s third-biggest city, but there’s a welcoming and intimate feel here, with a photogenic waterfront, and glowing wooden warehouses adding old-time charm. The history runs deep, but nowadays Trondheim is also a leading technology centre, and home to 30,000 students, who inject youth and vitality into the city’s streets. View less
Museums dedicated to Norway’s musical heritage will strike a sweet chord, while the endless wilds of central Norway and the Trondheim Fjord unveil themselves close by. A destructive fire laid to rest to old Trondheim’s narrow wooden alleyways, but a flavour of the old city survives in the Bakklandet neighbourhood. Traditional timber houses and colourful wharves line up along the waterfront, painting a pretty picture with pistachio-green and turmeric-yellow licks of paint. Vibrating cyclists rattle along the cobbled old streets, while flowers spill down from window ledges in this quaint, but lively area of cafes, restaurants and curiosity shops. Head to the Old Town bridge – Gamle Bybro – to enjoy the colourful lines of houses on both sides of the river, on your way to the gothic Nidaros Cathedral, which towers above the city, with its pointed, emerald-green spire punctuating the sky. The most northerly Gothic cathedral in Europe, aim to visit during one of the organ performances that rattle the beautiful stain-glass windows. Built on the burial site of King Olaf, in 1070, you can test your knees by taking on the narrow ascent of the tower, where glorious views of Trondheim await. Take in the beauty of the city with a trundling tour aboard the most northerly tram in the world – Gråkallbanen.
Åndalsnes is located at the mouth of the river Rauma, at the shores of the Romsdalsfjord, one of the fjords protected as a UNESCO world heritage site. Famous in the 19th century for salmon fishing, the Rauma flows through the Romsdalen Valley widely considered some of the most breathtaking scenery in all of Norway. Although the river’s salmon stocks are now being replenished, today Andalsnes is better known as a centre of excellenece for Norwegian alpine sports. Mountaineering, climbing, hiking and even base jumping are all readably accessible.
A newly opened Norwegian Mountaineering centre boasts Norway’s highest indoor climbing wall. Some 15 kms out of Andalsnes is the Trollstigen (Troll Road), a mountain road that climbs the pass between the Isterdalen and Valldal valley. It’s one of Norway’s major attractions due to the steep inclines and eleven hairpin bends, only open in the summer months. Equally exciting is a three hour round rail trip from Andalsnes to Dombas on the Rauma Railway line. A feast for the eyes from the comfort of a carriage, mountains, valleys and waterfalls come into sight, as the route follows the Rauma river. Trains thoughtfully slow down at the most photogenic spots. A feat of civil engineering the track passes over countless bridges and through tunnels, the train even performs a 180 degree turn underground. Easily missed, look out at the train station in Andalsnes for a chapel converted from an old red “Intercity Special” railway carriage. The only train chapel in Norway and perhaps the world!
Nordfjordeid is the administrative centre of the municipality of Stad in Vestland county, western Norway. It is located at the end of the Eidsfjorden, an arm off of the main Nordfjorden, west of the large lake Hornindalsvatnet
The crooked, pastel-coloured warehouses of Bergen’s World Heritage waterfront lean together charmingly, welcoming visitors to this city at the heart of Norway’s most extraordinary cinematic landscapes. It may be the country’s second largest city, but the villagey feel here always provides a warm welcome – even when the weather is living up to its famously damp reputation. Bergen’s colourful waterfront, Bryggen, is a ramshackle line-up of incredible Hanseatic warehouses, built following the devastating fire of 1702, which ransacked the city.
These iconic warehouses have stood proudly ever since, with Bergen growing and expanding around the colourful facades. Behind them, a labyrinth of narrow alleyways and wooden decking waits, alive with artisan craft shops and bustling galleries. Fløyen mountain watches over the city, and you can take a short but steep hike up to the panoramic viewpoints, or jump on the funicular, which trundles visitors up and down the incline. At the top, spectacular views of Bergen jutting out into the dark seas below unfold before your eyes. Wait until evening to see the sunset painting glorious golden light across the city and waves, and Bergen’s lights flickering into life. Nærøyfjorden, a deeply etched fjord nearby, is perhaps Norway’s most photographed and iconic piece of scenery. A cruise through the base of this spectacular narrow fjord, parting the glass-smooth inky waters, is an utterly humbling experience, as the claustrophobically-close slopes rise imposingly over you. Sognefjord also stretches out nearby, and is Norway’s longest fjord, adorned with plunging waterfalls and vibrant farms during summer.
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