It’s not on Top 10 Honeymoon lists, or probably even top 25, but that’s because it’s not a typical tourist destination—at all. Show up in Oslo, Norway, and most locals will wonder why you’re there. They may seem dubious about their city’s beauty, but you won’t be. It’s clear, and it makes for a wonderfully local experience, if that’s what you're after.
Norway, next to Sweden and north of Denmark, is way up there. In the winter it’s dark—a lot. In the summer the very opposite. You may see a glowing pink sky around midnight, which is just the sun wrapping up its extremely long workday. As a people, Norwegians are beautiful inside and out. They are warm and smiling in the warmer months especially, when everyone, no matter their age, are out and about enjoying sunny days that highlight the country’s many inordinately green spaces—parks, trees, mountains, forests. By night it seems the perfect environment to cozy up with your significant other and sip locally made aquavit or cider (they’re big into artisanal apple juices too).
The draws of Oslo include that signature Scando design, some incredible restaurants, historical Viking culture (experienced at amazing museums), unique only-in-Oslo cocktail bars, and an all-around embrace of nature. The opera house showcases that first point, and around that waterfront area is the city’s premiere hotel, the Thief. The contemporary boutique hotel embraces modern design in the most sumptuous way, and fills all its chic, colorful spaces with hand-selected art by the on-staff art curator. It’s also home to some of the best drinking and dining experiences in town, if you can stomach the high prices (Scandinavia is famously expensive).
Other favorite spaces to check out unique and memorable food include Maaemo, the three-Michelin-star standout, and most spots in Grunerlokka, including Mathallen Oslo for more casual roving bites (it’s like an artisanal indoor marketplace for everything edible) and its surrounding Vulkan area restaurants, Villa Paradiso for everything Italian and Delicatessen for Norwegian takes on Spanish tapas in a warm, intimate setting. At the one-of-a-kind Restaurant Fjord—decorated with chandeliers made of water buffalo horns and banquettes crafted of faux reindeer hides—you’ll get a real taste of Scandinavia in a three- to four-course menu that highlights fish (maybe portions of a 140 kilo halibut caught up north) and even proteins like minke whale. Before or after dinner it’s off to the '60s-themed Bettola or teensy Torggata Botaniske, where the ceiling seems to be growing—ivy and other green plants are draped from high, twisting around modernist chandeliers and creating a magical vibe. At both, cocktails are impeccable.
Outside the city, however, is where Norwegians feel their country truly shines. Take the Norway in a Nutshell train-bus-boat-train adventure—it sounds cheesy but it makes for a spectacular day of increasingly jaw-dropping sights—to Bergen, which is known as the city surrounded by seven mountains. Suffice to say there are lots of opportunities for dreamy, emerald-drenched hikes here, as well as two opportunities (Floyen, right in town, and Ulriken, the highest) to take a cable car or gondola up. You haven’t seen the world until you’ve climbed around the top of Ulriken and discovered its Alpine lakes and jaw-dropping views.
Finally, any tour of Norway—no matter if it’s in Northern Lights season (winter) or the time of the midnight sun (summer)—must include at least a short cruise up north. Hurtigruten’s ships go into the Arctic Circle, which is a no-brainer if it’s the time of Aurora Borealis, and even when seeing that spectacular light show is not possible, it’s a beautiful way to see something like the Geiranger Fjord, with its mind-bogglingly beautiful snowcapped mountains, and the Seven Sisters and the Suitor waterfalls, where the clear water is free-falling from 800 feet above. Alesund, made up of all Art Nouveau architecture, and other little coastal towns where one can disembark, provide an even more quaint and picturesque view of Norwegian life—excellent food, deep blue fjords to kayak, and peaks to climb for views that make you feel as if you’re at the top of the world together.