In an overpopulated world, Norway remains one of the most sparsely inhabited nations. Yet despite its relatively low profile, Norway has entered the post-millennium world with more glitter and polish than ever. Its cities, especially Oslo, are taking on a new look, with daringly avant-garde office buildings and hotels. Foreigners continue to pour in at a rapid rate, waking up the sleepy taste buds of old Norway with spicy fare that relies heavily on Mediterranean foods. And Oslo, Bergen, and other cities no longer shut down at 9 in the evening; young Norway flocks to bars and clubs until the early hours.
Here are some new developments for you to consider while you plan your Norwegian itinerary.
Oslo Hotels -- Thon Hotel Gyldenløve ("The Golden Lion" in English), Bogstadveien 20 (tel. 23-33-23-03), has emerged from a dowdy little second-rate hotel into a bright, well-run, and desirable address, lying only 10 minutes from the Royal Palace on a tree-lined street in the West End. Nordic designs and light Scandinavian pastels prevail.
Oslo Restaurants -- Not only do you get good food at Ekeberg, Kongsveien 15 (tel. 23-24-23-00), but also a panoramic view of the Oslofjord. The view from here is said to have inspired Edvard Munch to create his masterpiece, The Scream. A finely honed Norwegian and international cuisine is served here, including such dishes as marinated venison with a juniper berry sorbet.
In the trendy Grünerløkka district, Südøst, 5 Trondheimsveien (tel. 23-35-30-70), has become a casual chic place where young Oslovians like to dine on its fusion Norwegian and international cuisine. In summer, its terrace is one of the most popular in town, great for people-watching. Market-fresh ingredients are used in such dishes as grilled swordfish with risotto.
In the vanguard of Norwegian cuisine, Madserud Gård, 34 Madserud Allé (tel. 22-54-54-22), lies on the western fringe of Oslo. The cuisine is inventive, and the chefs turn out such delights as sautéed scallops with fresh Norwegian caviar on a champagne sabayon.
In the major ski resort of Norway, locals and visitors are flocking to the Big Buffalo, in the Quality Hotel Astoria (tel. 62-70-70-00), for the tastiest and most tender steaks in this part of the country. Some of the fare is Tex-Mex, including a pepper steak with three kinds of pepper. The interior is decorated with dark woods and scenic photos of Old Mexico.
The newly reorganized airline, SAS Scandinavia Airlines Norge (formerly known as Braathens), flies to Stavanger from Oslo, Bergen, and Kristiansand S.
The hot new dining choice in Stavanger is Setra, Eiganesveien 8 (tel. 51-52-86-26), serving first-rate Norwegian and international cuisine. The cuisine is also called "New Nordic," using such Mediterranean ingredients as olive oil, foie gras, sun-dried tomatoes, and garlic. Excellent foodstuff is rounded up from the surrounding Rogaland region, and other products are flown in from the North Atlantic, including king crab.
Bergen Hotels -- Operated by the management of the Bergen Congress Center, Scandi Hotel Bergen City, Hakonsgate 2-7 (tel. 55-30-90-80), is stylish and inviting, with midsize and well-furnished bedrooms. It's a convenient stopover for those interested in the Bergen cultural scene, as it lies near Den National Theater and Grieghallen.
A reasonably priced choice in high-priced Bergen, Rica Travel Hotel, Christiesgate 5-7 (tel. 55-36-29-00), has emerged, attracting vacationers and business travelers alike. Bedrooms are only standard, yet they are comfortable and well maintained. The hotel is more for those seeking a good bed for the night; it's not a place to hang out, because there are few facilities.
Bergen Restaurants -- Bølgen & Moi, Rasmus Meyers Allé 9 (tel. 55-59-77-00), has opened in the Bergen Art Museum, making a great place for lunch. Its food is good and affordable and gets even better if you want to return for a more formal dinner, including such dishes as braised pork belly with an apple marmalade.
Catering to the influx of Swedes who have moved to Bergen in recent years, Naboen, Neumannsgate 20 (tel. 55-90-02-90), serves the cuisine of Norway's neighbor, Sweden. In addition to such Swedish specialties as ping-pong sized meatballs, the chefs here prepare many classic Scandinavian dishes, even some based on recipes from Norway itself.
Another new restaurant to appear on the scene is Mago, Neumannsgate 5 (tel. 55-96-29-80), featuring a Norwegian and Mediterranean cuisine. The chefs successfully blend different flavors and textures to create a fine-tasting array of meat, poultry, and lamb dishes. The best item on the menu is the homemade ice cream, available in many flavors.
West Coast Fjord Country
It's now possible to enjoy the fjord country's most elegant B&B at Norway's only barony, Baroniet Rosendal at Rosendal (tel. 53-48-29-99). The castle, bequeathed to the University of Oslo, is surrounded by a rose garden and some of western Norway's most dramatic scenery. Summer concerts are presented here, and it's also possible to arrange for an elegant lunch, with some of the produce coming from the estate gardens.
South of Åndalsnes, you can visit Norsk Tindemuseum (Norwegian Mountain Museum) along Hwy. E139 (tel. 71-22-12-74). The museum honors Arne Randers Heen (1905-91), one of Norway's most famous mountaineers.
In the center of the city, Comfort Hotel Park, Prinsensgate 4A (tel. 73-83-39-00), stands near Nidaros Cathedral and the river. This well-run, red-brick chain hotel offers sleek, streamlined, and midsize bedrooms. On the top floor, a special feature is a sauna and an outdoor hot tub.
In this city in the far north of Norway, there has been a big shake-up at one of the town's leading hotels, the Radisson SAS Hotel Tromsø, Sjøgata 7 (tel. 77-60-00-00). The hotel was not only expanded to 269 accommodations, but also all existing rooms were massively renovated. Today you can ask for rooms in two distinct styles -- "Arctic" or "Chili." The Arctic rooms come in soothing white, orange, and green tones; the Chili units are imbued with hot colors such as Mexican red.
As part of the renovation, the Radisson's upscale restaurant is now the Aurora. It's become one of the most preferred places to dine in the area. The chefs specialize in classic dishes of the Arctic, and we're talking reindeer and coldwater fish. Other market-fresh ingredients of the far north of Norway and its chilly waters are also featured.
A lot of management changes in hotels occurred in 2008. Expect improvements in some properties during the life of this edition. For example, in Hammerfest, a city in the far north, the Quality chain has moved on, making way for the Thon Hotel Hammerfest, Strandgt 2-4 (tel. 78-42-96-00), which stands right in the heart of town, at Town Hall Square. The hotel remains the same good choice it always was, but expect some rejuvenation.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.