Norway’s two biggest cities are both big tourist draws. Most international visitors arrive in Oslo and spent at least a day exploring the attractions of the capital. Many then head to Bergen, Norway’s second biggest city and home to the UNESCO World Heritage site Bryggen.
While the Oslo to Bergen railway is a hugely popular mode of transport, it’s hard to beat a road trip to really get up close and personal with the dramatic fjord and mountain landscapes that separate the two cities.
Driving from Oslo to Bergen can absolutely be done in one day. The most direct route of 287 miles takes about seven hours, but plan at least one overnight stop to make the most of the journey and take in some of Norway’s best natural attractions. If time is short, flying between the two cities takes under an hour.
There are several possible routes and various good options for overnight stops. The following five-day itinerary includes a day in each of the big cities and a relatively slow pace of driving that will give you a real taste of Norway.
Day one: Oslo
Before leaving the capital, make sure to check out the city’s emerging art scene. Highlights include the towering Munch Museum and the vast new National Museum. If the weather is kind, spend some time wandering among the sculptures of Vigeland Park.
Day two: Oslo to Geilo
The journey to Gelio takes about 3.5 hours. Optional stops on the way include the memorial to the Utøya terror attacks on the banks of the Tyrifjord lake and a riverside picnic in Nesbyen or Gol.
Geilo is known as a winter sports destination and has several lodge-style resort hotels to match. Despite its top winter reputation, Geilo is also a fantastic place for an outdoor-focused summer break including hiking, biking or riding a zipline.
Day three: Geilo to Eidfjord
This leg of the journey is just 57 miles but you should allow an entire day to appreciate the dramatic and diverse landscapes from mountain plateau to fjord level.
More than half of the route from Haugastøl to Eidfjord is one of Norway’s national scenic routes, so features rest stops, viewpoints and other points of interest designed to enhance the road trip experience.
The road rolls over the mountain plateau offering views of the Hardangerjøkulen glacier, numerous mountain lakes and the possibility of wild reindeer.
As the road begins to descend, a stop at the Vøringsfossen waterfall is an absolute must. The powerful waterfall plunges down almost 600 feet into the Måbødalen valley as part of the rapid transition from mountain plateau to fjord.
Controversial architecture has improved the viewing angles of the waterfall. You can make up your own mind if it’s ruined the view of the surrounding area.
In the quaint fjordside town Eidfjord, the Norwegian Nature Center serves dual purpose as a visitor center for Hardangervidda and a museum of all things nature. It provides some interesting context into what you’ve just seen up in the mountains.
Day four: Eidfjord to Bergen
Allow three hours for the final part of the journey to Bergen. Just outside Bergen you will cross the Hardanger Bridge, an impressive 4,500-feet suspension bridge that spans the Hardangerfjord.
Optional stops on the way include the Skjervsfossen waterfall and the 13th-century stone Voss Church. As the largest town on the route, Voss makes a sensible place to stop for lunch, or you could head straight to Bergen to make more of your time there.
Day five: Bergen
Following three days in Norwegian nature, Bergen offers a wide range of dining and cultural options. Yet nature is also the biggest draw of Norway’s second biggest city.
The recently renewed Fløibanen funicular railway takes locals and tourists up to the top of Mount Fløyen in just a few minutes. From here, visitors can head out on one of many hiking trails (including an all-day hike to the Ulriken cable car) or simply enjoy the view.
Other popular things to do in Bergen include diving into the legacy of Edvard Grieg or visiting the historic Bryggen neighborhood.
An alternate route from Oslo to Bergen
One common alternate way over the mountains takes a northern route from Gol (just before Geilo on day two) and joins back up again at Voss (midway through day four).
An overnight stay in Hemsedal, which is known for its winter sports and outdoor summer opportunities just as much as Geilo, is followed up the next day with a stop at the spectacular Borgund stave church then on to Flåm on the shores of the picturesque Aurlandsfjord.
On this route, there are two options to travel between Borgund and Flåm. One uses the 15.2-miles-long Lærdal road tunnel, while the other much longer route uses the old ‘snow road’ national scenic route known as Aurlandsfjellet. As impressive as the tunnel is, it’s well worth taking the snow road if you have an extra hour or two.