15 AUGUST 2022


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Article from BTNews 15 AUGUST 2022

ON TOUR: Southern Norway *

There is still time to visit Southern Norway and the fjords this summer before the long nights and the winter trips for the Northern Lights.  Alternatively go next Spring, with the long days and virtually no hours of darkness.

I am just back from a fine family holiday around the fjords on Cunard’s Queen Victoria writes Malcolm Ginsberg, but other cruise companies offer similar trips.  A seven-day cruise is the minimum with a sea day at either end.  The report that follows is in the order of the visits.  For trips towards the North Cape and Tromso you need longer.

See also BTN AUGUST CRUISE NEWS: On Tour – Queen Victoria.


In a wonderful summer there have been very few damp days, Queen Victoria’s visit to Bergen one of those.  It was not wet, but misty and the popular ride on the Mount Florien Funicular, a five-minute journey to the top, a journey into the clouds. Nothing could be seen.

Bergen is a popular port of call for cruise ships on their way to and from the Norwegian fjords.  It is Norway’s second largest city, after Oslo, and was once part of the German inspired Hanseatic Trading League.  

The Funicular is just a few minutes' uphill walk from Torget Square and the open-air fish market (and tourist information centre) at the very centre of the city.  It is over 100 years old.  Impressive was the way that wheelchair bound visitors were loaded into a special area.  Around one million visitors are hosted every year.

Edvard Grieg, the composer (he of the piano concerto that Eric Morecambe could not play in the right order) was born and died in Bergen.  His home is called Troldhaugen and now is a museum and his and his wife's last resting place.  Grieghallen, a 1,500-seat concert hall was named in his honour.  The building was designed in modernist architecture style by the Danish architect Knud Munk.  Grieg knew, and was respected by many of the great composers of the late 19th century, including Franz Liszt and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.  Greig, a Unitarian, cancelled all his concerts in France in 1899 due to the Dreyfus Affair.  He suffered hate mail in France as a consequence.

On offer was a Segway Tour taking visitors around some of the most interesting Bergen sites including the Bergen Aquarium considered to be the largest and most modern aquarium in Northern Europe.  We took an open top bus and were able to see perhaps a little more than our friends, mastering the self-balancing battery-powered single operative units.  

The colourful Hanseatic wharf in Bryggen was the heart of medieval Bergen and although it suffered from fires the remaining high gabled buildings are still in use.  The area is listed by UNESCO as one of the world’s most significant examples of the history and culture of a medieval settlement.  It is a fascinating honeycomb of active workshops, where one can observe painters, weavers and craftsmen at work.   Also here, in one of the oldest and best-preserved wooden buildings, is the Hanseatic Museum, furnished in the style of the 1700s to give an intimate picture of the life and times of a Hanseatic merchant.

All close together, near the main cruise terminal was the Rosenkrantz Tower, dating from the 13th century, destroyed in WWII but now rebuilt.  It has a colourful history and sits close by King Hakons Hall, once a royal residence when Bergen was the capital of Norway.


Perhaps the highlight of the whole trip was the visit to the Briksdale Glacier a strenuous exercise but well worth the effort.  

Our docking station, the hamlet of Olden, is over 60 miles from the open sea at the end of the Nordfjorden, a simply breath-taking slow journey early in the morning as the sun rose along a glorious, simply gorgeous fjord, with the occasional habitat sitting by the water.  It is nearly 2000ft deep in places.  

For the glacier we took the ship’s tour, a 45min coach ride through some exhilarating scenery, expensive, but it did include a fine tea, needed at the end of the climb to a small lake, very cold but swimmable for some hardy cruisers.

From the car park, you can walk to the glacier or take a mini moke style trolley car to get closer and reduce the walking time. The terrain is sloping and requires some effort. It will take you between 45min and an hour to reach the glacier depending on your pace and the number of photo stops. Wear a raincoat or a poncho, as the trail passes at the foot of a waterfall that throws a drizzle pushed by the wind. 


Perhaps not as well-known as Bergen or Tromso, Alesund is the fishing capital of Norway.  It is a very easy place to get around.

A tourist bureau is by the dockside with free wi-fi (as in most places on the trip).  It is an easy walk into the centre virtually surrounded by water.  

One of Norway's most beautiful towns, renowned for its Jugend-style architecture and art nouveau style.  It is built on islands extending to the sea, and offers scenic views of fjords and the Sunnmore Alps.  Once a chemist shop Jugendstilsenteret is a national interpretation centre, where visitors can learn more about the town fire 1904, the rebuilding of the town and the Art Nouveau style.

Alesund is also the home of the Atlantic Ocean Park, dating from 1998, one of the world’s finest aquariums 15min by taxi from the dockside and on the inevitable hop-on hop-off bus.  It is both an indoor and outdoor exhibition with the centre a one million gallon tank supplied (as with all the other displays by seawater) featuring cod, conger, halibut, and salmon and the local, not aggressive sharks.  Inside is the activity room where children are encouraged to touch the sea creatures.  In the spacious outdoor area there is a separate penguin park and also Europe`s biggest seal pool.  The spectacular headland is part of a scenic recreational area including hiking trails, fishing, and beaches for those that have time.  Even if you are not really into aquariums Ocean Park is worth a visit.

A free alternative is the 418-step climb to the Aksla viewpoint, difficult in places and not for the fainthearted. There is a restaurant at the top (and you can always take a taxi) and the views are magnificent.   The starting point is 15min from the quayside.




Claiming  to be “The Homeland of the Viking Kings”  Haugesund is, as with most of the other ports on the trip,  a very walkable small town, spotlessly clean with locals very friendly and for the most part able to converse in English.   

Arriving at 08:00 and a quick disembarkation means that it was a bit sleepy at first but came to life later in the day with a film festival imminent.  Marilyn Monroe’s family was reputed to come from the locality and a statue of the screen idol sits on the waterfront.  

Worth the walk is a visit to the Haraldshaugen memorial erected in 1872 during the millennial celebration of Norway's unification into one kingdom under the rule of King Harald Fairhair Haraldshaugen.   The monument consists of a large mound surrounded by a granite memorial stones with 29 smaller stones, one from each of the historic counties of Norway. At the top of the mound stands a 17m high granite main obelisk, with four bronze panels around the base. Each panel depicts important scenes from the life of King Harald.  You can climb the steps

There are two alternatives after three days of strenuous off ship activities.  You can take the Haugesund City Train on a 70 minute tour which includes Haraldshaugen (see image), or 20-minute scenic fiord to the Arquebus Defence Museum telling the story of the Norwegian resistance to the Germans in World War II.



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Andrew Sharp, St Albans

Norway is easy to get around by bus and train (and ferry!) too. Highly recommended.