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Welcome back travel buddies!
If you’ve been following us for a while, you probably know that our family loves packing our summers with travel. For the last several years, we’ve included at least one trip to Europe during our kids’ summer break. Last year, we took an Adriatic Cruise and then spent a week on Italy’s Amalfi Coast. The year before that, we spent about three weeks in Italy and Switzerland.
For this summer’s adventures, we actually planned two separate European trips. In fact, we recently concluded our first trip – a 16-day journey to Scandinavia – and lemme tell ya…it was AMAZING!
Since we know you love reading our trip recaps, here’s a brief overview (complete with photos) of our time in Norway and Denmark. Enjoy!
The Radisson Blu in Bergen, Norway
After flying overnight and meeting up with my parents in the Reykjavik airport, we spent the first several days of our Scandinavian journey in Bergen, Norway. Located on the southwestern coast of Norway, Bergen once served as the capital of the region.
Personally, I think it’s a wonderful little city that is easy to navigate. Plus, it makes a perfect launching point for exploring the Norwegian Fjords.
Upon arriving in Bergen, we took the Airport Bus (aka the Flybussen) from the airport to the city center. The bus costs roughly $12-15 USD per person and takes about 30 minutes. You can also use the city’s light rail (aka the Bybanen). This route takes about 45 minutes and costs about $4.50 per adult and just $2.25 per child.
We made our home right along Bergen’s famous harbor at the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel. Our rooms were a very good size for a European hotel. Even the showers were nice!
Especially when traveling with the kids, we love it when our hotel offers a free breakfast in the morning. This allows us to get a good meal in before we hit the road for the day. Since food is particularly expensive in Norway, we made sure to take advantage of the breakfast buffet at the Radisson Blu…and it didn’t disappoint. The breakfast featured a wide selection of really good food – including eggs, cheese, smoked salmon, freshly squeezed juices, and more.
Most importantly, the Radisson Blu Royal offers the perfect location for visitors to Bergen. Tucked right into the heart of Bryggen, Bergen’s quaint old town, staying here means you are literally steps away from the most important sites the city has to offer. Honestly, I highly recommend a stay here if you are in town.
Our Favorite Bergen Attractions and Side Trips
OK, enough about the hotel!
During our three days in Bergen, we drank some good beer, ate some great food, and generally enjoyed the atmosphere. In addition to souvenir shopping and strolls along the waterfront, we also hit up some of the city’s best attractions that I think you would enjoy.
The Bryggen Walking Tour was an interesting and informative walking tour through Bergen’s historic old town. The tour lasts just 90 minutes and leaves from the Bryggen Museum, which is literally about 30 steps from the front door of the Radisson Blu.
While on the tour, you’ll walk through some of the old wooden buildings you see along the Bergen waterfront. You’ll also get a brief historical primer of the city, including some info about the Hanseatic League. Personally, I love these types of tours because they help you know the importance of the things you’re looking at and provide a basic understanding of the history of the area.
One of my favorite things we did in Bergen was taking the funicular to the top of Mount Floyen. Riding the funicular itself is fun, but the views from the top of the mountain are spectacular! Seriously, if you’re looking for the best views of Bergen, this is the spot. Learn more about the funicular here.
In addition to the views, there is plenty to do once you arrive at the top of the mountain. There, you’ll find several hiking trails, mountain bike rentals, ziplining, and a nice playground for kids of all ages. For more beautiful views served with a side of peace and quiet, take the short hike back to the lake. If you’re hungry, there is even a restaurant and a little snack shop that is also open.
Or, if you’re like our family, take some time to pose with the mountain goats.
Our Rental Car Excursion
When we travel, one of our favorite things to do is to leave the tourist areas inside the city and get out where real people live. More times than not, this involves using a rental car…and we were able to do it again in Norway!
If you’re up for an adventure, I highly recommend taking a trip out to Borgund Stave Church. Built over 800 years ago, this is one of the most well-preserved stave churches in existence. While over a thousand of these wooden churches were once in existence, only a few dozen remain.
The 3+ hour drive from Bergen may seem a bit daunting, but it is extremely scenic and well worth it. We saw dozens of waterfalls and gorgeous landscapes along the way. You’ll also get to travel through the world’s longest road tunnel, the Laerdal Tunnel, measuring at 24.5 km!
On the way back, instead of driving through the tunnel, consider taking the Aurlandsfjellet National Route. This mountain road provides some incredible views, including a stop at the Stegastein viewpoint which towers over the dramatic Aurlandsfjord several thousand feet below. Trust me, it’s amazing!
The Bergen Card
As always, we recommend checking out area sightseeing passes to see if they can help you save money. The city does offer the Bergen Card. Depending on the time of year you visit, this card provides (mostly) discounted admission to several different Bergen attractions.
After doing the math, it wasn’t a good bargain for our particular trip so we decided to pass. However, that doesn’t mean it will be a bad deal for you. You can learn more about the Bergen Card here.
Norwegian Fjords and Glaciers: Geiranger, Flam, & Stavanger
The second part of our trip saw us hopping on a ship and taking a 7-night Norwegian fjords cruise. Quite frankly, the views from our balcony cabin provided some of the most breathtaking scenery I’ve ever seen. In fact, I’d rank the Norwegian fjords right alongside Switzerland as the most beautiful places I’ve ever been – except they are far more remote. If you ever get the chance, I highly recommend going.
For our cruise, we sailed on the MSC Meraviglia. As you probably know, we love cruising with MSC anyway. However, prices for this cruise were less than half as expensive as with most of the other cruise lines. I can’t even imagine what would have made a cruise twice as good as this one because it was absolutely incredible!
Anyway, if you’d like more details about the ship, Holly wrote a great MSC Meraviglia review. With that said, I wanted to talk about our ports of call in Norway.
Our first stop was in the cute little town of Hellesylt. One of my dad’s requests was that we go and see a glacier, so we booked a tour through the ship to see Briksdal Glacier. It was amazing and one of my favorite things we did on the trip. In addition to a nice lunch, the tour also included a very scenic bus drive through the highlands. We then jumped back on our ship in Geiranger and enjoyed the views as we sailed out of the fjord that evening.
Next, the ship stopped in Flam. There, we took a 2-hour trip down the beautiful Naeroyfjord before walking through the small but lively market near the port. That night, we again enjoyed the views as we sailed out of the incredible Sognefjord, Norway’s largest fjord.
Our final stop in Norway was at the port town of Stavanger. This was by far the largest city we had visited since we’d been in Bergen several days before.
Stavanger has a very lively port area filled with restaurants, bars, and shopping. The city also boasts one of the oldest churches in Norway, which we of course visited. While in Stavanger, we also sailed down the Lysefjord for a view of Pulpit Rock…although the rain and clouds made it a bit difficult to see.
Copenhagen and Vicinity
With our fjord cruise over, my parents flew home and we spent a few extra days in Denmark. This time, we shacked up in an Airbnb located in the Indre By neighborhood. This put us just a 10 minute walk from Copenhagen’s famous Nyhavn area and about the same distance to Tivoli Gardens.
Let’s talk about the elephant in the room right away: We found Scandinavia to be pretty expensive…but Copenhagen was exceptionally so. When it comes to dining, we really couldn’t find a meal that was under $150 for the four of us…and we were ordering like veggie burgers and fries. Drinks ran about $12-15 each, and that was on the low side.
On top of that, there is a 25% tax on everything, making it that much more expensive. So, while we liked Copenhagen, I’m not in a huge hurry to head back.
With that said, my favorite day in the city was the day we spent at Tivoli Gardens. This is one of the oldest amusement parks in Europe, and it has a great vibe that we all loved. Lines to get on the rides were short, there were plenty of food options, and the park was very clean. Even better, we used Chase Ultimate Rewards points for our admission tickets, so that was a huge win!
We also rented a car, got out of town, and hit up some really fantastic sites. Our stops included Kronborg Castle (aka the “Hamlet Castle”), Frederiksborg Castle, and Rothskilde Cathedral. All three are worth a visit, and I wish we had spent a couple of days doing it – probably one day for the castles and one day in Rothskilde.
On our final day, we also took a trip across the bridge to Sweden. There, we hung out at Ribersborg Beach in Malmo for a few hours. The beach was good, there were public toilets on hand, and the beach was full of dogs having a wonderful time – which my kids loved. We also stayed for dinner that evening, and the reasonable food prices were a welcome relief.
Overall, we had an absolutely wonderful time on our trip!
Norway was easily one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been, and I know that we’ll visit again in the future. We’ll likely do a longer fjord cruise that goes even further north across the Arctic Circle.
As far as Copenhagen goes, it was fine. There are a lot of interesting things to see and do, but the price tag was a little hefty for me. Worse, our apartment wasn’t particularly great, which meant that we had to go out and spend money in order to get away from it. So, while I enjoyed it, Denmark isn’t at the top of my list of places to go back to.
If you made it through this entire trip review, thanks so much for reading! Please let me know if you have any questions. Until next time, happy traveling!
Have you been to Norway or Denmark? What did you think? Let us know in the comments below!