Norway by motorhome
Places to explore, from the natural magic of the Fiords to the dynamism of the capital.
Those who love to travel in motorhomes are usually hungry for spectacular landscapes, unspoiled nature and time to explore. Norway offers all this and much more: incredible waterfalls, impressive glaciers, the myths and history of the Vikings and – especially in the capital Oslo – culture, technology and art. There are many possible routes in this magnificent land... here are some trips you’re sure to enjoy. Ready to set off?
The most lively port city in southern Norway is fascinating, and a good place to start your visit is the oldest district, called Bryggen. The colourful facades of the old wooden houses overlook the port and are the doorway to an area with 58 wood and stonework buildings, now on Unesco’s World Heritage list. From the year 1200 it featured a mix of warehouses, private houses and merchant offices, and every building facing the port had a crane for loading and unloading docked boats. Today, its multicolored alleys alternate select design boutiques and quality craft shops, while still maintaining the sober atmosphere of its origins.
One of the liveliest and most densely populated areas is the port, offering visitors the spectacle of its busy fish market. A whirl of porters and street food vendors share the spaces on the pier with crammed stalls selling fruit and fish. The whole place is a triumph of mighty salmon and marinated herrings, meatballs with blueberries and sour cream, pan-cooked onions and potatoes, dried cod and trout, and cream desserts or blackberry semifreddo. A paradise for food-lovers, with a festive and relaxed atmosphere that makes it hard to tear yourself away.
Cultural opportunities abound in Bergen... the Kode Museum, for example, is well worth a visit, as is the home of the composer Edvard Grieg, now transformed into a fascinating combination of home, museum and auditorium, celebrating the great Norwegian composer.
Ålesund and its islands
Ålesund and its islands
Alesund is a town of 23,000 inhabitants, built on a narrow strip of land, joined to the mainland but surrounded by a myriad of islands. The city extends around a historical centre intensely inspired by Art Nouveau. Walking through the streets it’s impossible not to stop to admire the elegantly animated architectural lines of the buildings. The contrast with the city's port is remarkable: the lines of these buildings seem to be strangely out of context: less like Norway and more like early 20th century Austria. Meanwhile, large fishing boats, boaters on holiday and cruise ships compete for space on the sea. The reason for this strange stylistic mix goes back to 1904, when a fire destroyed the whole city in a few hours.
From then on, wooden buildings were banned and the city was rebuilt with buildings in Art Nouveau style, whose predominant materials were stone, marble, iron and steel. The only space granted to traditional wood was as exposed beams in the most elegant cafés.
Shifting our gaze from architecture to engineering, we observe how the latter has boosted contemporary Norway's economic progress. In the two kilometres of road that connect the city, we find ourselves with 150 metres of sea above our heads: two clever tunnels slide below sea-level for almost ten kilometres.
Another point of interest, especially for those travelling with children, is the Atlanterhavsparken, a fine aquarium occupying a small bay further north... a chance to relax while getting to know the population of the cold seas of this corner of the Atlantic.
Naturally, our Norwegian tour can hardly not visit the capital! It’s a fascinating and lively city which boasts an extremely high quality of life. The completeness of its cultural offerings mean that it can cater for the interests of every visitor, making it a pleasant and enjoyable holiday experience for everyone, and perfect for campervan travellers.
Visiting Oslo by motorhome is easy and comfortable, even though Oslo does not offer parking devoted exclusively to recreational vehicles: you can stop in many municipal parking lots, not far from the centre, and then continue on foot, thanks to efficient public transport – by bus and underground – which allows you to reach even the most distant destination.
The City Centre
Oslo is a modern, vibrant and lively capital offering original activities in all artistic and cultural sectors... so it’s no surprise that one of its most famous citizens was the painter Edvard Munch, and that the largest collection of his works is here. Knut Hamsun and Sigrid Undset, both awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, and Henrik Ibsen, the father of modern dramaturgy, also lived in Oslo, which today has just over 650,000 inhabitants.
A visit to Oslo offers visits to the distant past of Norwegian, Viking and Scandinavian culture, while also reminding the visitor of the important role it has played in the history of international relations... and not only because the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony is held in its town hall. Alongside modern culture, the museums of the Bygdøy peninsula demonstrate how passionate Norwegians are about the country’s history and traditions.
The most boldly modernised area of the city is that of the port, entirely renovated by the construction of the new Opera House, the Tjuvholmen district and the Lambda project for the new Munch museum... plus various centres dedicated to design, architecture and contemporary art.
The main historical areas are situated inland of the port and the Akershus Fortress, whose beautiful gardens are open to the public as are its Great Hall – used for state occasions – its chapel and its mausoleum. The rear entrance to the castle overlooks the alleyways that lead to the Museum of Architecture and the Museum of Contemporary Art.
Closer to the main city centre, set along parallel main roads, in the area between the Royal Palace and its elegant gardens and the Opera Ballet Theatre, we find the Town Hall, the House of Parliament, the ice rink in the Spikersuppa Park, the National Gallery, the History Museum (with its “Viking Treasure”, illustrating the historical events and the everyday life of the warlike navigators) and the nineteenth century Roman Catholic Cathedral of Saint Olaf. Taking tram number 12 from the port quays, you reach the Frogner Gardens, which contains the Vigeland Sculpture Park, a highly suggestive landscape filled with bronze and stone sculptures. Or you can take the subway to the Munch Museum, offering the world’s largest collection of works by the great expressionist painter.
The other high density cultural and museum area is the peninsula of Bygdøy, which closes the gulf to the west of the port and can be reached either by motorhome or by boat, with a tour of the fjord. At the highest point of the small promontory is the Norsk Folkemuseum, an unmissable collection of historic buildings that includes an extraordinary twelfth-century wooden church plus traditional shops, which in summer offers a rich programme of performances in historical costume. A few steps away is the Vikingskipshuset museum, which displays the extraordinary finds of three ancient Viking ships and illustrates the techniques and navigation skills of the Vikings.
Moving closer to the sea, in a square overlooking the port, we can visit the Maritime Museum, named after the polar ship Fram - with fascinating reconstructions of its Arctic expeditions - and the Kon-Tiki Museum, which recounts the famous voyage of Thor Heyerdahl, displaying the raft on which he crossed the Pacific Ocean in 1947.
The right to "Allemannsretten"
One feature of Norway, much appreciated by all those who love open air travel, is that here, during the summer, you can walk and pitch a tent almost anywhere. "The allemannsretten" has an ancient history and guarantees everyone the right to live in contact with nature, even on large areas of private property, provided that they contribute to keeping the land clean. Being outdoors, in the countryside, in unfenced land is not only legal, it is strongly recommended "as a healthy free time activity, respectful of the environment and generating a sense of well-being". This phrase comes from the text of a 1957 law, named the Allemannsretten, or ‘everyman’s right’, which codified the ancient right of access to nature. Thanks to this law, anyone can serenely sleep under the stars in open land or forests, on condition that they do so at least 150 metres from the nearest house. They can also pick berries, mushrooms and wild flowers and fish in salt water without a license, as long as this is only for personal use. The basic rules are simple: respectfulness and care. A sign of concrete and enlightened civilisation that every camper and campervan owner will deeply appreciate.
Parking and Camping Sites
In addition to free parking solutions, generally accepted in Norway, so long as they respect the local environment, here are some of the camping sites on the itinerary:
- Lillehammer (Dampsagveien 47, Lillehammer, www.lillehammer-camping.no),
- Sæta (Otta, saeta.no)
- Hageseter (Gautåsætervegen 84, Dombås, www.hageseter.no)
- Skottevik Feriesenter, Høvåg, 4770 Kristiansand, open all year, Tel. +47 37269030
- Preikestolen Camping, Jørpeland, Preikestolvegen 97, Strand, open all year, Tel. +47 48193950
- Bratland Camping, Bergen, Brattlandsveien 6, 5268 Haukeland, Bergen Tel. +47 55 10 13 38
- Geiranger Camping, Geiranger (Geirangerfjord) 6216 Geiranger, open 10 May - 20 September, Tel. +47 70 26 31 20