Thinking of Taking a Road Trip in Norway? Read This First

How does the old saying go? “Do as I say, not as I do?”

We had been on the road for nearly five hours when my dad, sister, and I pulled into Fløro, Norway’s westernmost town. Back in New York, I had chosen Fløro on a whim—partially because I was swamped with planning my upcoming wedding and partly because I had been in the throes of finalizing the manuscript for my travel memoir.

I’d opened Google Maps, picked a random waterfront town, looked at images revealing a city with snowcapped mountains in the distance, and decided that Fløro would do. In our multi-city tour of Norway, I was least concerned with Fløro. The city was meant to be a stopover, a seaside town where we could rest up before we continued on to the charming port city of Ålesund.

In reality, Fløro proved little more than a highway pit stop—a small town that seemingly consisted of only a gas station, the Norwegian equivalent of a Domino’s Pizza, and a sad-looking motel with faded nautical posters and an overpowering smell of cleaning products. The fact that we had mistakenly overlooked Norway’s National Independence Day, which left all the businesses closed, allowed us little chance to discover Fløro. As my family and I sped out of town, desperate to drive the additional five hours to the next town over, I could feel their palpable frustration in the car, hanging thick like a fog.

As the professional traveler in my family, they had taken a comfortable back seat to the trip planning, leaving the logistics and itinerary largely up to me. I could practically see their thoughts unspooling on the car’s floor, wondering why I hadn’t done more research into Fløro. As my dad and sister looked at me with thinly veiled annoyance, I couldn’t help but think how even travel editors aren’t immune to making travel mistakes. How does the old saying go? “Do as I say, not as I do?” Well, this is one of those stories.

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Starting the Trip in Oslo Is Always a Good Idea

When I first set out to plan my father-daughter trip to Norway, starting in Oslo was an obvious choice. A modern and stunning metropolis on the edge of the Oslofjord, the country’s capital is a perfect introduction to Norwegian culture, architecture, and cuisine. I had visited Oslo twice in the past, making planning a visit more seamless.

Once we landed at Oslo Airport, we skipped the cab and opted for a ride on the uber-efficient Airport Express (Flytoget), Norway’s only high-speed train connecting Oslo Airport to downtown Oslo. The train runs every 10 minutes and takes only 19 minutes to whisk you to Oslo’s Central Station, placing you in the city’s heart and within walking distance of various accommodations and attractions.

Whenever he travels, my dad is the type to strive for full cultural immersion, which, to him, means looking for accommodations that allow him to live like a local. While Oslo is home to myriad hotels ranging in style and pricing, I opted to book our stay with A-One Rentals. In light of Airbnb’s rising problems, other platforms have stepped forward to offer bespoke stays. A-One is one such platform boasting unique luxury apartment rentals that come with the perks of a hotel, such as luxe amenities, round-the-clock concierge services, and daily housekeeping (a Godsend when sharing a room with my little sister).

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As my dad and sister sat on our “Dance of Life” apartment balcony, beaming at the view of the Oslofjord, I began to look ahead to the activities I had planned for our brief stay in Oslo. There are a plethora of cultural institutions worth visiting while in Oslo, such as the vibrant Munch Art Museum. But, for an activity that is truly Nordic, you need to sauna. Saunas are purported to promise a myriad of health benefits, from lessened muscle and joint pain to alleviating stress. In Norway, the act of sauna is typically complemented with a polar plunge—a shock to the system that promises to give you more energy than that third cup of coffee. For the best sauna experience in Oslo, I booked a floating sauna cruise with KOK.

KOK offers a literal floating sauna that you can either enjoy docked or take out into the Oslofjord. The latter is the better option, giving you gorgeous views of the Oslo skyline and the unique chance to jump into a Norwegian fjord. My family and I walked from our A-One apartment to the waterfront, hopping aboard a KOK sauna that took us on a private cruise out onto the fjord. As my dad fumbled with his drone—much to the chagrin of the flustered seabirds—my sister and I took turns flinging ourselves into the icy waters while filming our reactions for her TikTok.

Afterward, I took my family to Sommerro House for drinks and dinner paired with 360-degree city views. Found in one of Oslo’s oldest neighborhoods, Frogner, stunning 19th-century buildings stretch from Frogner Park to the Royal Palace. Sommero House is a historical 1930s landmark that was once an old electric office building. Today, it is a destination in itself with a hotel, a stunning art deco pool, and, of course, restaurants, one of which is Tak, a Nordic Japanese rooftop restaurant from award-winning chef Frida Ronge. So far, no problems. Oslo was a good idea. What came next was not.

A City Where the Fjords Meet the Mountains

From Oslo, my family and I traveled towards Bergen, where we planned to spend a few days before renting a car and hitting the road, slowly making our way towards the Northern city of Trondheim, the jewel of Norway’s Trøndelag region.

Nikki Vargas

There is a train that takes you from Oslo to Bergen, affording travelers enviable views of the Norwegian countryside, but the train can take over six hours versus a 50-minute flight. With limited vacation time, my family and I hopped aboard a Norwegian Airlines flight and landed in Bergen, a city where the mountains meet the fjords, soon thereafter.

We opted to stay at Hotel Norge by Scandic, a comfortable four-star hotel in the city center that is just 10 minutes walking from the historic Bryggen wharf, where old, colorful wooden homes line the waterfront with the Fløyen Mountain rising in the distance. I booked a Rødne fjord cruise out of Bergen’s wharf, a 3-hour excursion that took us out onto the fjords, well beyond the city, to bask in the raw beauty of Norway’s wilderness. From misty waterfalls to dazzling vistas marked by colorful homes contrasting with the verdant greenery—the Rødne cruise allowed us our first taste of Norway’s wild nature.

After the fjord tour, we docked in Bryggen, where we grabbed dinner at the fantastic Fjellskål Seafood Restaurant. Found inside the iconic Bergen Fish Market, considered one of the most visited outdoor markets in all of Norway, this is where you’ll find the absolute freshest seafood caught in the nearby fjords.

During our stay in Bergen, my family and I kept coming back to the fish market, which offers various dining concepts from sit-down restaurants (like Fjellskål) to more casual dining at the street stalls selling everything from sea urchin to lobster. While stellar views and fantastic seafood marked our time in Bergen, our best dining experience was at the extraordinary Cornelius.

Cornelius Seafood is considered the best seafood restaurant in all of Norway (which is saying something). It is only reachable by boat as it sits on a private island, a short sail from the city of Bergen. Surrounded by shimmering ocean views, the restaurant largely inspired the film The Menu, but don’t worry—the similarities between Cornelius and the murderous restaurant depicted in the movie end at the setting.

When my family and I left Bergen, I was pretty pleased with myself. By this point in the trip, I had planned a multi-city Norway tour that immersed us in the country’s cuisine, culture, and gorgeous vistas. I had managed to pull together a family trip that had been marked by comfortable accommodations, unique activities, and exceptional meals. Planning a visit to both Oslo and Bergen had taken little effort; both cities are easily navigable, and the attractions to see are plentiful. Unfortunately, all of that went to hell once we hit the road.

Nikki Vargas

What to Consider Before You Hit the Road

Let me start by saying that our ill-fated road trip was largely due to our mistake. We had opted for an electric rental car, which, in hindsight, should have been an obvious error. While Norway has its fair share of charging stations, we were unfamiliar with electric cars, unaware of where to find said charging stations, and had failed to factor in the distance between charging stations and how much battery it would take to get there. We hit the road with a semi-charged car battery (mistake #1) and without downloading the necessary car charging apps (mistake #2).

Here’s the thing about renting an electric vehicle in Norway: there are multiple charging stations throughout the country, many of which belong to different companies. When you pull up at a charging station and plug in your car, you’d think it’s as simple as sitting back and waiting while the battery gets juiced, an experience akin to charging, say, your iPhone. But, if you don’t have that specific charger’s app pre-downloaded, plugging in your car does absolutely nothing.

This was our biggest mistake of the trip, one that found us stranded at a gas station for at least two hours, with limited Wi-Fi, waiting for an app to download so we could wait another hour for the car to charge as we watched valuable sunlight slowly fade. I had wanted to avoid driving at night, especially when our drive consisted of winding highways alongside the fjords, but our mistake found us with flaring tempers and raging car sickness, driving well past midnight along precarious roads.

My second mistake of the trip? Fløro. In planning our road trip between Bergen and Trondheim, I had decided on two cities to stopover: Fløro and Ålesund. While I knew Ålesund to be a tourist destination and a major port city for cruise ships, I knew nothing about Fløro. Ålesund is over 7 hours driving from Bergen, so I had looked for a city that could break up the drive, leading me to pick Fløro on a whim. The original plan had been for us to spend the night in Fløro and then leisurely continue on to Ålesund the next day, taking our time with the gorgeous views. Instead, we drove from Bergen to Fløro (a rather unremarkable drive) and continued on to Ålesund after dark, missing the vistas and making a mad dash for the ferries that connect drivers to Ålesund.

While I’m sure there is plenty we missed while blazing our way from Bergen to Ålesund, I did feel that our road trip was salvaged once we pulled into the charming port city. After checking into the four-star Hotel 1904, we explored this cute seaside town for a day or two, taking in the little cafés and the oceanfront views, before hitting the road for the last portion of our road trip, the 5.5-hour drive towards Trondheim, which proved spectacular.

When driving from Ålesund to Trondheim, don’t skip the Atlantic Ocean Road. This stunning and dramatic stretch of highway curves over the turbulent North Atlantic Sea. Along the road is a visitor center (with restrooms and a concession area) where you can park the car and walk along the coast. Just make sure you drive this highway when the weather is clear—while the Atlantic Ocean Road is considered one of the most beautiful in Norway, turbulent weather and large waves can make the drive perilous. 

Nikki Vargas

Why Trondheim Makes for the Perfect Last Stop

When my family and I pulled into Trondheim, we felt we had emerged from a year spent in the Norwegian wilderness. The days spent driving between Bergen and Trondheim were as exhilarating as they were stressful. We had had our share of mishaps contrasted by moments of resounding beauty, leaving us exhausted but blissed out by the time we checked into the luxurious Britannia Hotel, where my sister and I quickly swapped our boots and windbreakers for dresses and heels.

Checking into the Britannia felt like collapsing into the lap of luxury after days spent navigating Norway’s backroads. Nestled in the heart of Trondheim and walking distance from the city’s main attractions, the 5-star hotel boasts a stellar spa, fantastic fare, and comfortable rooms that spare no effort in accommodating its guests.

As my family and I sipped wine on our last dinner in Norway, we looked back on the whirlwind trip that had taken us across the country, from Oslo to Bergen, Fløro to Ålesund, and finally to Trondheim. We had explored the fjords by land and sea, eaten our fill of seafood, enjoyed the ease of travel in the main cities, and watched as our best-laid travel plans crumbled somewhere in Norway’s countryside. But between the beauty and chaos, we had somehow managed to do what we had set out to do: enjoy a memorable father-daughter trip while navigating the wilds of Norway.