What if you could go to a tourist destination when hardly anyone else was there? The flights are cheaper, you could take one of the best train rides in the world with hardly anyone on it, and still see all the best sights in two different cities? That’s Norway in March.
Norway is a great place to visit in summer and winter. Summer for hiking the amazing Fjords, and winter for the snow and in the north, the chance to see the Northern Lights.
Visiting Norway in March or April is a bit of an in-between time to go, but I really think that the offseason is one of the best times to travel in Europe. At that time of year in Norway, you’re a little early to travel to the Fjords, but there is still so much to see and do at this time of year, leaving you free to explore the Fjords more extensively some other time.
There are less other tourists to contend with in March for the main sites, and flights at this time of year can also be cheaper than at others. Since Norway is one of the more expensive European countries to visit, it’s a good chance to have a weekend away in Norway on a budget!
When visited Norway and I travelled to both Oslo and Bergen within a 4 day weekend, so here are my tips on what to see in Norway in March and how to get around.
Top Things to do in Oslo
Oslo likes to sleep in. Like many other European countries I’ve been to a lot of places don’t open until around 10 am, so when I headed out on my first morning I was greeted by mostly empty streets. The only other people out were weighed down by their ski gear, heading off for a day on the nearby slopes, an option for anyone who’s in Norway in March. It wasn’t for me, however, as my budget meant I was happy to just wander the streets and take in the sights in Oslo with no one else around.
I also discovered my favourite food of the weekend, cinnamon scrolls! I’ve lived in the US and I know a good cinnamon bun when I have one, but these were something else! A cinnamon bun, known as Kanelboller in Norwegian, and coffee would set me back about 50-70NOK, which is the equivalent of around €5-7Euro.
Not bad when compared to other prices in Norway and a great on the go option for a budget food in Norway. Of course, you’ll want to sustain yourself on more eventually, but I lived on those cinnamon buns for breakfast and snacks.
So what is there to do in Oslo in March?
Bygdøy or Museum Island
There’s something really cool about putting all your main museums on an island in the harbour, and five of Oslo’s museums are located on one. Well, technically it’s not an island since there is a bus, but the ferry is a great and easy way to get to “museum island” from central Oslo, and have the fun of being on Oslo Fjord at the same time!
There are also parks and forests located on Bygdøy so you could spend a whole day wandering around the island if you wanted to. We went over in the morning to see the Viking Museum and the Open Air Museum, and took a walk around to see how locals live in the area.
Visiting Oslo in March meant that there was quite a bit of snow around and much of the harbour was frozen, which was awesome to see.
The Viking Ship Museum in Oslo holds some of the best Viking artifacts you can see anywhere. Before visiting the Viking Shop Museum I thought all Vikings were buried at sea or cremated since that’s what the movies and media seem to show us. It is true in some instances, but there have also been discoveries of fully intact ships buried with the remains of people and a wealth of goods inside.
The consensus seems to be that a ship was a person’s way to the afterlife, although no one knows quite why some people were buried in this way, and not others. For us, it means an insight into the lives of the Vikings that we wouldn’t otherwise have.
The Oseberg Ship is one of the ships at the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo, and it was recovered from the largest Viking burial site in the world. Two women were buried with the ship and a number of animals. Although the area had been ransacked at some point before it’s rediscovery, there was a lot to be recovered from the Norwegian site.
Learning more about the Vikings, seeing these ancient and mostly intact Viking ships and imagining when the sea was full of them was one of my highlights of Norway.
Vigelandsparken or Vigeland Sculpture Park
Take a short bus ride from the centre of Oslo to Viglandsparken, a sculpture park that showcases the work of Gustav Vigeland. I’m not normally one to go out of my way to visit parks unless there’s something else to see there, and I really enjoyed seeing the different sculptures on display here. Plus it gives you a chance to enjoy the snow if you’re visiting Oslo in March!
Oslo Opera House
The Oslo Opera house is next to Oslo Fjord and it’s built to look like ice rising out of the sea. This unique design means you can wander all over the roof of the building and see Oslo from all different angles. In the summer it would be a great place to spend some time relaxing in the sun. In the winter it gives you a chance to see Oslo from a different point of view, just be a bit careful of any ice!
This medieval castle and fortress are located right next to Oslo Fjord in the centre of the city. It was built around the 1290s and was used to protect Oslo, and later as a prison. It’s free to enter and you can discover more about the history of Oslo and see a part of the city how it used to be.
The waterfront area near downtown Oslo is also known as Fjord City, and it has been renovated into a great area with restaurants, museums, and public spaces. Much of the time I spent in Oslo in March was sunny, if cold, so walking along this area was a great way to get a bit of sun!
Eating out in Norway is expensive in comparison to other European destinations, but the food is good, with lots of fresh fish options and different styles to try. There are a lot of restaurants along this stretch of the waterfront and it’s worth checking the menus to see if you can find one within your budget.
Cruise of Oslo Fjord
Visiting Oslo in March means you’re just in time for the reopening of the Oslo Fjord cruises. In winter ice forms on the Oslo Fjord right up to the harbour and icebreaking ships have to make way for the regular ferry from Denmark, while smaller boats stop sailing altogether. When the ice is thin enough again the Oslo Fjord tours start.
I went with Fjord Tours on a 2 hour Oslo Fjord cruise open from late March to September that leaves from the Rådhusbrygge port. It was the first weekend of the year that the Oslo Fjord Sightseeing Cruise was open, which was lucky for me since this and the Viking Ship Museum were my favourite things to do in Oslo by far.
I’ve never been on a boat that had to break the thin layer of ice as it sailed before, and that was cool enough, but we also sailed around the archipelago, looking at the summer houses on the islands and places where people live all year round. I added hiring a house on a Norwegian Island to my list of things to do in the future…
Oslo to Bergen Train by Day and Night
If I visited Oslo at a warmer time of year then I might have considered visiting the fjords as a way to get out of the city and see more of Norway, however, in March there aren’t any fjord tours available and it’s too difficult to go by yourself. Instead, I decided to take the train to Bergen to see Norway’s other major city in the south.
The train from Oslo to Bergen on the west coast of Norway takes almost 7 hours and has been voted one of the best train journeys in the world. During the train journey, you cross over Europe’s highest mountain plateau and the countryside changes dramatically from greenery to mountains, lakes, and fjords.
The train itself has great facilities and you can choose from many different upgrades for things like powerpoints and unlimited coffee.
It might sound like a long journey, but we definitely weren’t bored with the views to take in on the way! Travelling in Norway in March meant the train wasn’t too busy, even on Easter weekend when we were there.
Many of the people on the train were travelling to different ski resorts and dressed in their ski gear for the journey since as they got off the train they started skiing to their accommodation straight away. The lack of people meant we were able to hop from side to side and change seats multiple times to take in the best views. I can imagine if it’s busy in summer you would miss some!
You could spend a few days in Bergen and then fly out from there, but since we booked return flights to Oslo we need to get back somehow as well. Although the journey from Oslo to Bergen was fantastic we didn’t want to spend another day of our trip on it so we opted for the night train from Bergen to Oslo.
Travelling by night was another experience altogether! You can just sit/sleep in the aeroplane style seats, but we opted for a cabin for not much extra cost.
I’ve travelled on overnight trains in South-East Asia, but this was another level. We had our own small cabin that contained a small bunk bed, places to store our luggage and room to get ready in the morning. It was a really fun way to get back to Oslo!
Fares for the Oslo to Bergen and back train are definitely cheaper the further you book in advance, so check out the NSB website for fares and times.
Top Things To Do in Bergen
Bergen is located on the west coast of Norway, and it seemed worlds away from Oslo. If you have to choose between the two then I would say Bergen is the best place to go in Norway, because while Oslo has some great sights and museums to see it feels more like a business area than the more relaxed and arty Bergen. There are plenty of things to do in Bergen in winter, and some other great alternatives in summer too.
So what is there to see in Bergen in March?
Bryggen UNESCO World Heritage Area
Bryggen is Norwegian for ‘Wharf’ and this area on the Bergen Fjord was historically the commercial area of Norway. The warehouses here now date back to around 1754 when they were rebuilt after fires, although some cellars are from the 15th century and the actual site has been used for much longer. The building now houses various restaurants, museums, and shops.
Bryggen is one of the highlights of visiting Bergen and a great place to just wander and check things out.
Mount Floyen Funicular
From the middle of Bergen, you can take a cable car up Mount Floyen to see incredible views of Bergen and the Fjord. There are lots of walks in the area, and here you can find traces of Norwegian folklore, with carvings to trolls peppering the landscape.
For those in Norway on a budget, you can walk up Mount Floyen instead of taking the cable car, or you can opt to walk one way and cable car the other. This was the snowiest place we found in Bergen in March, with lots of ice and snow about!
Like most places, the Bergen Waterfront has many restaurants and pubs, although once again you’ll find the food on the expensive side. Soup is generally the cheapest option and a cold night a generous bowl of was delicious and filling, especially the fresh seafood chowder option. The cost is around €10 which makes it one of the cheapest meals out you could have in Norway.
Eating Norwegian food at Pingvinen
Trying local foods is one of my favourite things to do in a new country, and while the cinnamon rolls were awesome I couldn’t live in Norway on those alone. In Bergen, we headed to a restaurant called Pingvinen, Norwegian for penguin. It’s a really cute little restaurant featuring traditional Norwegian food cooked homestyle.
I loved the lingonberries with the meat and fresh vegetables, and while I didn’t try reindeer here it is sometimes on the menu for those wanting to try something different.
An impluse decision to visit Norway in March because the flights were cheaper turned out to have even more benefits. We were able to visit the most popular places at a less busy time and take advantage of all the top things to do in Oslo and Bergen during winter.
If you have more time and it’s warmer then the Fjords near Bergen would definitely be a great addition, but the best thing is, it’s possible to have a weekend away in Norway in March on a budget!
Do you travel in the offseason? Do you think there are benefits in doing so, even if you miss out on some things?
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