Do you know the best way to get to the world’s northernmost brewery in Norway? Read on to find out!
This post is over 2500 words! If that’s too many for you, just scroll through the 11 photos and you’ll get the picture 😉
What do they say about the journey and the destination? Well I have to admit that definitely applies here. In fact if getting to the world’s northernmost brewery was your only goal in Norway you could do it directly by plane and skip the train and ferry! But take it from me, you’d be skipping one of the most beautiful journeys of your life, guaranteed! Whatever happens to be on your list to see in Norway, make sure you take your time over the journey, you’ll find it to be the part you remember the most favourably of all! Read on for our suggested itinerary to explore Norway by plane, train and cruise to get to the world’s northernmost brewery!
Getting to the World’s Northernmost Brewery by Plane
We flew into Oslo to begin our Norway journey. As Norway’s capital it was obviously an unmissable stop and one of the easiest places to fly into. Or so we thought, but in fact our flight with Air Norwegian was delayed by a whole day and so our two days in Oslo was reduced to just one. Normally this could be the sort of thing that might start a trip on a rushed if not slightly sour note, but this was not our experience for Norway at all. Surprisingly after a little list culling and rejigging we felt that we’d seen enough of Oslo! Oslo is not a very big city with a population of around 600,000 and those typical European height buildings of around 6 stories maximum on the inner city blocks. The city centre has a pedestrian mall called Karl Johan’s Gate, which is an attraction in itself, running from the main railway station up to the Royal Palace. Having explored the area from the Oslo Opera House (where you can walk on the roof of this modern building) up to and through the palace grounds, we felt we`d seen all we needed to see! Now this decision may have been affected by the bitter cold weather on the day we visited: we very much enjoyed the Oslo Central Station and attached mall the most due to the super levels of indoor heating it had! Or perhaps we had just been a bit spoilt by some of the previous destinations we`d just been to, so rich in history and sights you couldn’t walk for tripping over yet another notable spot, but we felt quite content with ticking Oslo off our list at this point, and felt in no way had we missed out.
With night approaching it was time to get fed and watered and here we felt maybe we saw a bit more of Oslo. Oslo is quite multicultural due to a large proportion of immigrants making up the total population (one quarter). Using google maps user reviews we visited a brewery (Crow and Bryggeri – staffed by Australians – strange to hear this accent so far North!) and then an incredible Lebanese restaurant (Habibi Restaurant and Cafe) serving the largest Meze set-menu selection I`ve ever seen in my life! This eating and drinking culture was lively, fun, reasonably priced (for Norway) and on-foodie-point. In this same area (near Storgata) every other sort of cuisine was available too including Italian, Vietnamese, traditional Norwegian cuisine and so on. Guinness was easily sourced too, I should note! My take-away was that Oslo is perhaps not a sightseeing city but more of a cultural city, a place to visit and enjoy amongst the locals including the many who migrated here for good reason!
Getting to the World’s Northernmost Brewery by Train
The next morning it was time to revisit my favourite spot in Oslo, the Central Station with its ace heating, to catch a train down to Bergen, from where we would board our cruise North. Bergen is a harbour town in Norway famed for its UNESCO World Heritage Site: Bryggen. Bryggen is an incredibly picturesque quay of 15th & 16th century dockside wooden buildings with pointed roofs. Unfortunately due to our plane delay we now were reaching Bergen later than originally intended and it was too dark, and too close to our cruise departure time to go and visit Bryggen. However remember our focus here is the journey, not the destination.
The train ride from Oslo to Bergen is around six and half hours. The trains are modern, functional and comfortable, the windows are from armrest to ceiling. Which is good, as this train ride without doubt had the MOST spectacular scenery I have ever seen. I cannot even describe how wondrous it was to see the changes in the countryside over this six hour span from leaving a populous area, through the centre of Norway and back out on the coast to a populous town again. Around the midpoint of the journey everything seen through the train window was white – it was snow everywhere on the ground, completely covering the scattered houses and thick white snowing clouds in the sky! As we approached the coast again the snow lessened and there were large reflective lakes and mountains all tinged in hues of purple and rich royal blue from the setting sun. As I said, I cannot hope to do justice to this incredible scenery – so look to the photos instead should you require convincing. If you go to Norway you absolutely must cross the country by train! If you only have a short time you can do a sort of `Norway Lite’ by train and ferry via a company called Norway in a Nutshell. Over the course of a long day or overnight they take you across some of the country by train, to Bergen and up a Fjord. (This came recommended to me by my late grandfather who did this trip approx a year before I visited Norway.)
Getting to the World’s Northernmost Brewery by Cruise
We went to Norway with the intention of getting good and North to fail-proof the possibility of seeing the Northern lights, having missed them in Iceland due to our many mistakes made in under-planning that trip! We had zero intention of repeating history and so we’d booked a 4 night cruise to go from near Norway’s southern tip: Bergen up through the Arctic Circle to one of the more northernmost cities: Tromsø – home to the world’s northernmost brewery and largely touted to be one of the consistently best spots to catch the aurora. Our cruise was with Norwegian company Hurtigruten, who do double duty as a ferry for locals (including having a proper brig onboard their ships for the occasions where they transport prisoners to their court dates!) So when I say cruise, it’s sort of cruising-lite. This boat was definitely smaller, the cabins not so luxe, less organised activities and only one bar and restaurant onboard. That said, they did a really excellent job of bridging the two worlds of tourism and functional infrastructural transportation.
Now to get to Tromsø a cruise ferry is not the only option. If you just want to get there you can fly in just over 2 hours from either Bergen or Oslo. If the scenic route is your thing (as it should be!) then you can also drive, theoretically speaking. I say theoretically as in winter there are major delays and road closures due to wild weather which make a 26 hour (all driving no breaks) trip much, much longer, if completed at all. Quickly we realised the import of the ferry in Norway to Norwegian residents in the seaside towns along Norway’s coast. Many are actually only accessible by boat. This really shouldn’t have come as a surprise given Norway’s rich seafaring history from their viking origins. But surprised we were, as this incredible country`s geographical features were put into perspective for us onboard our cruise with an easily digestible if not astounding fact: the length of Norway’s coastline when all the fjords plus more minor inlets and islands are taken into account is 63,000 miles which if stretched into a straight line would circle the planet two and a half times!
Now although our goal was to get to Tromsø we had planned a four night slow journey (some of the port stopovers are for up to six hours as the Hurtigruten ferries pick up not only passengers but also cargo) because we had heard that the Northern Lights could be easily caught from the boat pretty much as soon as the arctic circle had been crossed, and indeed they were! In fact on our second night before we`d reached the arctic circle a very weak aurora was spotted and announced over the PA to the cruise passengers, the majority of whom were at dinner. This was most amusing to see everyone rush outside and do a fair effort of testing the boat’s ballast by all crowding onto the starboard deck. It was rainy and cold out, and a weak aurora is typically not much more than a spectral silvery gray. So we returned inside before our food got cold. However once the arctic circle had been crossed, as promised on a nice clear sky night we got the aurora you see in everyone’s otherworldly photos: green and dancing over the dark mountains that lined the shore of the fjord.
So tick in the box of seeing the Northern Lights. Now what to do? Well fortunately, just like the train, but in a completely different way, the scenery from the ferry cruise along Norway’s coastline is simply stupendous. So although this is cruising-lite with very little activities other than making port or drinking when the onboard bar opened at 3pm daily, just taking in the journey was more than activity enough. Our advice bring a pack of cards and park up near one of the ships many windows on the upper deck and just take it all in. Tip: when booking the cruise you can do it via the Hurtigruten website (here) but we couldn’t find the times we wanted or the cheaper cabins this way, but somehow a travel agent we visited could.
The World’s Northernmost Brewery
Having reached Tromsø it was time for the main event: the world’s northernmost brewery: Mack. We did the brewery tour, enjoyed the included free beer samples, then enjoyed a few more samples in the attached Ølhallen pub next door. The pub itself is also the oldest pub in Tromsø, dating from 1928 and still very much original looking in it’s interior. This pub was a warm and welcome respite from Tromsø’s cold winter streets: it’s so cold in Tromsø in the wintertime and snows so frequently that only the main street is de-iced daily, be careful walking around the rest of Tromsø’s very icy sidewalks. We were glad we did the pub tour on our first day of having reached Tromsø as unfortunately we were then struck down with a typical post-cruise malaise: dodgy stomachs. This unfortunately took out us out of action for taking the Fjellheisen cable car up the Storsteinen mountain ledge, which on a clear night can be a good spot to see the Northern Lights over Tromsø city. We were luckily able to pull ourselves together after a full day out of action to take a booked husky dog sledding tour a day late on the day of our departure from Tromsø. This activity was good fun, if a little pricy and smelly.
Leaving the World’s Northernmost Brewery by Plane Again
And plane delays again! Remember how I said you can just fly into Tromsø? Well a report from May 2017 has Air Norwegian as one of Europe’s worst air carriers for punctuality with only 60% of their flights into the UK arriving on time. Now I’m sure this can just have a lot to do with ill luck and then no doubt all kinds of flow on effects, but again we were delayed now as we left Norway on Air Norwegian out of Tromsø. This delay was only a couple of hours this time and after a fourth announcement that we were cleared for take off and subsequent fourth plane de-icing we did successfully take flight. With this couple of hours up my sleeve to reflect I supposed that the delays Air Norwegian seems to suffer may be due to the weather they are dealing with in some of their airports (at home particularly). Outside on the tarmac there was heavy sideways snow gusts that sometimes turned to sleet then back to snow again. To a warm-weather Aussie this seemed to basically be a full-blown blizzard although hubby assured me it was nowhere near that bad. Norway is blessed with it’s surreal scenery due to it’s very northern location, jagged coastline and cold-winter climate. But with the blessing comes the side effects of impassibility, delays and difficulty. Norway is not a destination to be rushed therefore. Its best to sit back and take it as it comes, and enjoy what has to be on all fronts (land, sea and sky) one of the most unique journeys in the world.
Norway is a journey, not a destination, best enjoyed with copious glasses of craft beers (of which Norway boasts copious amounts!) If you’ve journeyed through Norway before we would love to hear from you in the comments section below! Until next time, Skål! Erin and Ryan