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Balestrand with kids in August?

Our first trip to Scandanavia! We arriving at Copenhagen airport the morning of August 1st. Flying out of Oslo early on August 12th. (Flights are paid for and non-changeable.)

We are a family of 4, with 2 kids, ages 11 and 8. The kids are good travelers and enjoy museums, touring old houses, strolling through cute towns, and ABBA. Churches and castles are lower on their lists. They like art museums, but max out at one every few days.

I have Rick's book and really like his recommendations.

Does this itinerary seem reasonable?

Day 1 Land at CPH. Settle in. Tivoli.
Day 2. Copenhagen: National museum, Rosenberg castle, Tivoli
Day 3. Copenhagen: Day trip to Roskilde: Viking ship, Land of Legends
Day 4. Copenhagen: Morning train to Stockholm. Nobel and Swedish history museums
Day 5. Stockholm: Skansen and Djugarden museums
Day 6. Stockholm: More museums or archipelago tour
Day 7. Stockholm: Morning flight to Bergen. 4:30pm Express boat to Balestrand
Day 8. Balestrand: Relaxing, hiking around Balestrand
Day 9. Balestrand: Express boat to Flam, Nutshell boat and bus from Flam to Voss. Train to Oslo.
Day 10. Oslo: Fram, Viking ship
Day 11. Oslo: Folk Museum
Day 12. Oslo: Early morning flight to US.

Specifically:
Is this enough fjord time?

Are my days couple of days in the big cities enough?

Any recommendations for kid attractions?

Any advice is gladly accepted!
Thank you!

Posted by
970 posts

Overall I think it's a bit rushed, but I undertsand that you only have limited time.
Personally I think you are short changing Copenhagen a bit, but I am biased of course. i would substitute a day in Oslo for a day in Copenhagen. The Folk museum, viking ships and Fram museum are all on the same island and could be done in the same day. The viking ship museum won't take up too much time, it's pretty basic. The viking ships in Oslo are better preserved than the ones in Roskilde, but the museum in Roskilde is much better, especially for kids.
In Copenhagen consider doing a boat tour in the harbour and canals. The kids might also enjoy climbing to the top of the Round Tower or the spire on the Church of Our Savior in Christianshavn. You could also check out the newly built Amager Bakke, it's a waste incinerator plant with a ski slope on top! www.copenhill.dk
In Stockholm I really hope the Vasa Museum is included in Djurgården Museums. That place is awesome!

Posted by
842 posts

If the flights are already booked, the point of replying might be smaller. But for your own sake I hope you booked a direct flight from Stockholm to Bergen and not one via Oslo.

But I agree with Morten, this looks rushed and you're really not doing the cities justice. 1.5 days in Copenhagen is very short. 2.5 days in Stockholm is better, but still a short visit. The Abba museum is probably a good place to visit though if you are Abba fans.

Posted by
1424 posts

We took our kids to Norway last summer and we had 2 nts in Flam and 1 in Balestrand. What we enjoyed the most was the Fjord safari out of Flam with a hike to a goat cheese farm and the Flamsbana train from Flam to Myrdal and then we rented bikes at the train station and coasted downhill all the way back to Flam through some of the most jaw dropping scenery I have ever seen!!! Highly, highly recommend!
Balestrand while lovely, was less exciting.

Posted by
31 posts

Morten: Thank you for your kind advice. We are very rushed, and in retrospect I wish I could have carved out more time. Yes, I am excited for the Vasa museum! Thank you for the tip about the Oslo museums as well. We will put the cruise, round tower and Amager Bakke on our list!

Posted by
31 posts

Badger: Yes, I am sad that it is too rushed. I was able to get a morning direct flight from Stockholm to Bergen on Finnair!

Posted by
31 posts

Diveloonie: Thank you for the tips! I interpreted Rick's book as suggesting that Flam is bustling with tourists (like me), but that Balestrand was more sedate. Would you say that Fam was a pleasant place to base yourselves?

Posted by
1424 posts

While Flam is a busy connection stop for many tourists, it is at the bottom of the most beautiful valley I have ever seen. I lost count at 50 waterfalls. If you get out of the central town, it is beautiful. Take the fjord safari-so much fun!
There was nothing to do in Balestrand except stare at the lovely fjord from our balcony at the Kviknes Hotel.

Posted by
31 posts

Tammy: This is extremely helpful. Thank you! It will also save us a lot of commuting hassle. You are a life-saver!

Posted by
842 posts

Odd, Finnair is usually the most expensive choice on the route. But I guess they can sometimes have cheap offers as well.

However, I really think you should reconsider your plan, because I'm not sure this will be enjoyable. The first thing that comes to my mind is to only spend one night in Balestrand (or Flåm), and add that night in Copenhagen instead.

Posted by
237 posts

I think your original itinerary sounds wonderful. We were in all these same places in July, also a 12 day trip, and had even less time in Stockholm, Copenhagen and Oslo than you've planned, as we also had overnight stays in Bergen and Aeroskobing. We saw and did plenty in each destination and had a fabulous time. Honestly, it doesn't sound too rushed to me. If you were retired with unlimited amounts of time, sure, you'd want to add a few nights to each of these places. But you've identified a good way to see a lot of Scandinavia in your limited amount of time. This pace is fine for people with active kids. In Copenhagen, consider a bike tour for the a.m. of day 2 or 3. We did one by a company called Nova Fairy Tales and it was a really fun way to get a 3-hour overview of the city. To make room for the activity you'd have to cut out to do a bike tour, you can eliminate one of the visits to Tivoli. It's small and one visit should be enough. Rick's guidebook mentions a couple of companies that offer canal/harbor cruises. Our bike tour guide suggested a company that was not in the book, Hey Captain. Their boats are small, holding 12 people maximum. Do this in the evening.Our young captain made it a very fun, social experience. When we planned our itinerary, we were going to spend a night or two in Flam but I changed it to Balestrand. When we arrived in Flam while doing the Norway in a Nutshell journey from Oslo, I was SO GLAD that I had not chosen it for our fjord stay. We had an hour to browse around town while waiting for our cruise. It was one souvenir shop after another and a bunch of restaurants with un-interesting menus. A huge cruise ship was docked there and loomed over the town, ruining any ambiance. In contrast, we absolutely loved Balestrand. It's quiet and beautiful and we found the people so friendly. You can hike and bike, take an excursion to walk on a glacier, visit a stave church. Fabulous scenery. Consider this the "nature" part of your 12 day trip. Since our trip, I've ranked Balestrand in the top five of all places I've ever stayed in Europe. It's that charming. I recommend the Balestrand Hotel.

Posted by
1424 posts

It’s true what Vicki said......if you only see the town of Flam, it is tourist/transport central. You must get out of the town to see the valley behind the town. I guarantee, you will not be disappointed. We did explore Balestrand, not sure where you would see the Stave church? That in my understanding, was a boat/ferry ride away.

Posted by
31 posts

Thank you all for your replies!

Thank you for the encouragement to go to Balestrand. I emailed the people at visitflam.no and was able to sort out the summer ferry schedules; so it looks like we will be able to pack in what we want in Flam and the Naeroyfjord while still staying 2 nights in Balestrand!

We will fly on a midmorning flight on Finnair (not the cheapest, but definitely the best timing) from Stockholm direct to Bergen. A few hours in Bergen, then express ferry to Balestrand, arriving at 2030h. Then the next day in Balestrand (morning ferry to Vik for stave church; afternoon maybe going fishing). Then the following day, 0830h ferry to Flam, Nutshell cruise through Naeroyfjord, bus back to Flam, Flamsbana to Myrdal, train to Oslo. Phew!

Posted by
31 posts

Badger: I really appreciate your thoughts about giving more time to Copenhagen. We may try to make a few adjustments so we can see more there.

Posted by
31 posts

Vickie: Thanks for the tour suggestions. I will look them up and try to add them in. And thank you for the validation on our preliminary itinerary!

Posted by
1424 posts

Wow, ok, I didn’t say stay away from Flam. I said to go there. Hmmm, perhaps you need to re read.

Posted by
31 posts

Tammy: Haha! I guess I misinterpreted your advice about getting away from the town of Flam! Upon re-reading, I now understand you advice. Thank you again for your comments and your follow-up. I will keep thinking on this.

Posted by
276 posts

In Oslo the Viking Ship museum and the Norwegian Folk Museum are located quite closely to each other and are easily done in a day. They are also near the Fram (the ship used by Amundson in his explorations) Museum. These are all on the Bygdoy peninsula. The Kon Tiki museum is across the street from the Fram.

Posted by
3 posts

Rashley...I am planning a Scandinavian vacation in August. We are a family of 3 with a 7 year old. Your itinerary is serving as a great starting point for me. We are traveling from Boston. I have a couple of questions and appreciate your and others feedback....

1) Instead of taking the train from Copenhagen to Stockholm and then a flight to Bergen, did you consider flying into Stockholm--taking the train to Copenhagen and then taking the overnight ferry from Copenhagen to Oslo...
2) I was thinking of 3 nights in Copenhagen & Stockholm, 2 nights in Balestrand, Flam & 1 night in Oslo....does this seem appropriate

I am still very early in my planning....and want to finalize # of nights/days in each city/town and then start with flight and train bookings...

Thanks
Amit

Posted by
31 posts

Amit:

  1. If we could have gotten a non-stop from LA to Stockholm, I think that would have been a great idea. I definitely would have liked to include an overnight ferry, but the best inbound flight we could get was to Copenhagen and the rest of the planning cascaded from there.

  2. From my perspective, your itinerary sounds great. It seems like you have limited time just as I do. I with I could take a month and do it right, but with a short vacation, it makes sense to me!

Posted by
2053 posts

I think your itinerary is good and not too rushed for me. It will not be super relaxing, but you will see a lot and have a great time. The only think I would change is to spend at least 24 hours in Bergen. I liked it far more than Oslo, so I would cut a day from Oslo. Or you could cut a day from Balestrand.

Posted by
31 posts

Carroll: It had not occurred to me that Bergen would be a worthy stop for a whole day. I will read more about it and reconsider.
Thank you!

Posted by
3 posts

Ashley (assuming Rashley stands for Ashley R)....

Thanks for clarifying. While I was researching, I also came across an itinerary that started in
Bergen-->Flam-->Oslo-->Copenhagen-->Stockholm-->Helsinki (overnight ferry Oslo to Copenhagen & Stockholm to Helsinki)....seems like a lot of ground to cover and if I was to consider it...I am thinking at least 14 nights ....would appreciate feedback from experts....

Regardless of the ultimate itinerary, I am still unsure about # of nights in Flam and/or Balestrand. From Tammy's review--It seems like Flam is a place to stay and from Vickie's review--it seems like we should stay in Balestrand. We are not into hiking per se but certainly enjoy the outdoors and beautiful scenery....appreciate some assistance in sorting this dilemma ...

1. Can we stay in either Flam or Balestrand and cover the other? It seems like they are at least 2.5 hrs apart ...
2. Would it be silly to spend 2 nights at each Flam and Balestrand?

So far, I am considering the following....is this realistic or too ambitious?

arrive in Stockholm (2n and 2.5d)
overnight train to Copenhagen (2n and 2.5d)
overnight ferry to Oslo (2n & 2.5d)
Balestrand (2n & 2.5d) OR Flam (2n & 2.5d)
Bergen (2n & 2.5d)....leave for Boston

Thanks in advance and appreciate everyone's feedback

Amit

Posted by
842 posts

Rashley...I am planning a Scandinavian vacation in August. We are a
family of 3 with a 7 year old. Your itinerary is serving as a great
starting point for me. We are traveling from Boston. I have a couple
of questions and appreciate your and others feedback....

I think you have a pretty good plan. No non stop flights from Boston unfortunately, but a couple of one stop options.

If we could have gotten a non-stop from LA to Stockholm, I think that
would have been a great idea. I definitely would have liked to include
an overnight ferry, but the best inbound flight we could get was to
Copenhagen and the rest of the planning cascaded from there.

If it's already booked there is not much to do, but an open jaw ticket flying to Stockholm and home from Bergen is a good way to travel this route in an efficient way.

It had not occurred to me that Bergen would be a worthy stop for a
whole day. I will read more about it and reconsider.

It is a nice town, the old hanseatic town centre is on the world heritage list. But with limited time you have to prioritize.

Thanks for clarifying. While I was researching, I also came across an
itinerary that started in
Bergen-->Flam-->Oslo-->Copenhagen-->Stockholm-->Helsinki (overnight
ferry Oslo to Copenhagen & Stockholm to Helsinki)....seems like a lot
of ground to cover and if I was to consider it...I am thinking at
least 14 nights ....would appreciate feedback from experts....

As a local, for someone who wants to see Scandinavia in 10-14 days, we usually recommend the route Stockholm-Copenhagen-Oslo-(Flåm-)Bergen. Get an open jaw ticket to Stockholm and home from Bergen, or vice versa. If you have a bit of extra time you can add stops along the way or maybe an overnight cruise to Helsinki or Tallinn.

  1. Can we stay in either Flam or Balestrand and cover the other? It seems like they are at least 2.5 hrs apart ...
  2. Would it be silly to spend 2 nights at each Flam and Balestrand?

In my opinion, two nights at each is a bit too much. If you want to spend that much time in the nature I'd suggest going a bit further to somewhere less touristy.

So far, I am considering the following....is this realistic or too
ambitious? arrive in Stockholm (2n and 2.5d) overnight train to
Copenhagen (2n and 2.5d) overnight ferry to Oslo (2n & 2.5d)
Balestrand (2n & 2.5d) OR Flam (2n & 2.5d) Bergen (2n & 2.5d)....leave
for Boston Thanks in advance and appreciate everyone's feedback

Looks reasonable, but I'm not sure about the reasoning behind 2 nights in each, some places are worth more than other. How much depends on your interests. But I'd start by adding an extra night in Stockholm to have some time to deal with jet lag. Maybe cut one day in Oslo. Personally I like Oslo, but it seems to be the least popular of the Scandinavian capitals (and the most expensive).

Also note that there are no overnight trains all the way to Copenhagen, they only go to Malmö where you have to change to a local train across the sound.

Posted by
31 posts

Amit,

I believe Badger is the real expert here, but I will give you my thoughts as an American with a very short vacation to spend in Scandinavia. It looks to me like your itinerary is much more logical than mine, in that you will be largely traveling in one direction as opposed to backtracking the way I will be doing. From the feedback I've gotten here and from my reading, it seems like spending four days in Flam and Balestrand would be really maxing out that experience.

Please let me know what you decide. And please post any thoughts you have on my itinerary as well!

Posted by
85 posts

We stayed in Balestrand for 3 days in August a couple of years ago, and it was one of our favorite places. However, as with everything, it depends on what you like. It's a very small town, relaxing, no crowds; but has many fun things to do if you are active about seeking them out.. If you haven't found it yet, check out this link: https://www.balestrandadventure.no/
We took the Fjord Adventure Tour by RIB boat (info in the link) and it was one of the highlights of our trip. The Ciderhouse was fun, as was the hike up the mountain behind town. I wish we could have had time for the nearby glacier tour, too. Also, although it is not advertised, there is a small area for swimming (no lifeguards, though) in the fjord at the western end of town. Our b&b host took his grandson there every day, and my nephews thought it was a great opportunity for a dip in the cold water!

Posted by
3 posts

Folks,
I am getting close to finalizing my plans…as of now, below is what I am considering.

9/5 – arrive in Stockholm around midafternoon. Settle in and get organized
9/6 – spend day & night in Stockholm
9/7 – spend day in Stockholm & take overnight train to Copenhagen
9/8 – spend the day in Copenhagen
9/9 - spend day in Copenhagen and take overnight ferry to Oslo
9/10 – spend day & night in Oslo
9/11 – start “Norway in nutshell” from Oslo. Spend the day and stay a night in Flam or Balesterand
9/12 – spend day and night in Flam or Balestrand
9/13 – leave for Bergen, overnight in Bergen
9/14 – leave and arrive in Boston on same day…

Some questions: -

  1. I am looking to travel in first week of September as tickets are less expensive due to shoulder season…plus overall crowds and prices maybe reasonable. BOS-STOC and BER-BOS $375PP RT
  2. Appreciate any insights & info on how & where to go about booking for the Fjord tour from Oslo? Ashley - did you manage on your own or through a tour company? Any recommendation for hotels/BnB in Flam/Balestrand and also any suggestions on how to go about rail bookings from Oslo to Flam.
  3. I am still debating, if I should add 1 additional day to be used at either Flam/Balestrand or Copenhagen or Stockholm....any suggestions....Badger/Ashley/Others..

Thanks
Amit

Posted by
842 posts

I believe Badger is the real expert here, but I will give you my
thoughts as an American with a very short vacation to spend in
Scandinavia

It's always great to have an "outsider's view" as well!

Amit:

  1. Sounds like a good idea.

  2. Train tickets in Norway are (for the moment at least) best booked at www.vy.no

  3. When will you arrive in Stockholm? It can be a good idea to have an extra day if you are easily affected by jet lag. Two nights in Flåm or Balestrand might be a bit too much, but might also be perfect. Depending on what you are looking for. All in all, I think you have a great plan. Maybe a bit too rushed, but if you only have 10 days I think you are using them wisely.

Posted by
31 posts

Thanks, Badger!

Amit: from my perspective it looks terrific. I would say that you should double check the travel details around the Nutshell tour and the boat to and from Balestrand:

Flam Express:
https://www.visitflam.com/globalassets/pdf/rutetider/rutetider-2020/flam-express-2020.pdf

Norled:
https://www.norled.no/contentassets/dda9d4d3d61d4b158bc23c5692747de5/bergen---sogn---flam---bergen-2019-2020.pdf

I found all of this a tiny bit confusing, but have sorted out a way to make it fit my schedule.

Posted by
31 posts

Also, you are going to do a lot of sleeping in moving vehicles! I'm sure Rick would say that you are being amazingly efficient with your time, but I agree with Badger that after an overnight flight from Boston, you might need more rest. Obviously you know you and your family better than I do. Just a thought.

Posted by
31 posts

Amit: I forgot to answer your specific questions:
I chose the Hotel Kviknes in Balestrand.

Given the way my plans are set up, I plan to book the train tickets etc. myself (once the tickets are released for sale).

Posted by
31 posts

Amit: It seems to me that doing the Nutshell from Oslo and then taking a 2 hour boat to Balestrand might be a lot for one day. I believe one of the commentors above recommended staying in Flam and that seems lime it might be best for you, given your timing.