We find much exciting accommodation around the country. Some have an atmosphere of historical character and a high degree of hospitality and generosity.
This is the first of several articles. Here you first get to know what kind of establishments we are looking for. We start with nine in this article, eight in the next and then gradually fewer. The sample represents the ones that Sandalsand has visited and wants to highlight. This means that there are several good candidates around the country, but they will come on later trips.
This article was first published in Norwegian, on Sandalsand Norge.
Expectations of a distinctive accommodation
- The place should be proud of its history, and showcase memories of it, although today’s exterior architecture and interior environment may include elements from recent periods of time.
- It should also be a hotel or guest house that allows the guest to feel welcome and provides an opportunity for relaxation. Hospitality is very important, and of course it should be nice and clean.
- Besides, it should be a place to experience good food and drinks – preferably based on local specialities – in an exciting setting. An additional plus goes to places where the close surroundings are appealing and where other attractions can be easily accessed.
Hardly any of my chosen hotels are perfect at everything, some compensate for the weaker scores on some criteria to lift up to the heights on others. You are not offered a definite score because the accommodations are different and serve different needs.
The order of the establishments in each article is alphabetical, and what is presented in each article is somewhat random.
1. Augustin, Bergen
We are in the centre of Bergen, on the opposite side of Vågen and the World Heritage Site of Bryggen. Here we find the city’s oldest family-run hotel. The oldest part was built in Art Nouveau style in 1909, but what makes the hotel deserve a place in this list is the Altona cellar.
The farm Altona had one of the oldest inns and hostels in the one-time capital of Norway, dating back to the 17th century. Within the hotel itself, we enter into what is reminiscent of an old cellar. The bar and restaurant have old beamed ceilings, while the small rooms adjoining the side have whitewashed walls. The latter is so low that we have to bend to move on. The Middle Ages is to be touched.
We find Bergen’s most exciting wine list in Altona, and they even boast of being the city’s most romantic place for a date. Very cosy, and the food is exquisite in the restaurant. The rest of the hotel is also good, with artistic features that make one rather choose to take the stairs than the elevator. The hotel is a member of the Historic Hotels and Restaurants in Norway.
2. Dalen, Telemark
“There are few of the hotels that distinguish themselves as topics for their own articles, but in Dalen we find a completely unique version of this type of establishment.”
So begins my special article about the beautiful and traditional crow’s castle from 1894. It is so far up in Telemark as the boat trip up through the locks at Skien and over long lakes leads you. The place is exceptionally exciting to stop and watch. If you stay a little longer, you will find that the food is brilliant, the service very pleasant, and the atmosphere simply cannot be improved. Perhaps most exciting is that no developments have taken place since the late 1800s. The hotel is very authentic. It just has to be experienced.
Emphasis is placed on ensuring guests something to do when you are here, with culture paths right outside and other attractions a short car ride away. The park and arboretum of the hotel also provide plus points. The hotel is connected to the Historic Hotels.
3. Fleischer’s, Voss
At traditional Voss in Western Norway we find another of the country’s most beautiful and characteristic old hotels in wood.
Fleischer’s Hotel writes about itself that they have always been diligently visited by people from all walks of life. From royal and noble to ordinary tourists and travellers. The hotel’s history dates back to 1864, and today it is run by the fifth generation Fleischer. In my opinion, the hotel has had a pretty lucky hand with the developments over the years, and emphasised putting its proud history with it. We find it in the small living rooms, but also the bedrooms appear to be good. I’ve only been here at conferences and then the service immediately becomes something less personal. That is the downside to this type of big hotels.
The location along the E16 makes it easily accessible to motorists, and the Oslo-Bergen railway has a stop just behind the hotel. In front of the hotel, the large Vangsvatnet lake stretches out, and just beyond the road we find the town of Vossevangen with its somewhat modest selection of attractions. It is primarily physical activities in a natural context that characterises Voss, but we do not find it in the immediate vicinity of the hotel. The hotel is connected to the Historic Hotels.
4. Fretheim, Flåm
It was in 1879 that visiting English salmon fishing nobles were offered a suitable accommodation by Christian Fretheim. Since then, repeated modifications, developments and so on have taken place. Still, we find a historic wing, but most of it is of newer vintages.
Inside, most will only get acquainted with some older artefacts, but much of the interior decoration has also taken aim of reproducing Norwegian handicrafts in newer artistic forms. See one of the pictures below. I came here during winter and there were few other guests. This meant that the kitchen had to improvise a bit, but they did well. Nice service.
We are in Flåm, a village in Aurland municipality in Western Norway. The village is located by a natural environment protected by UNESCO as a lasting World heritage for humanity. There is a lot of tourists to the small village at the bottom of the fjord, with cruise ships or smaller tourist boats on the famous “Norway in a nutshell” round trip. Flåm also includes the country’s most famous train route, Flåm Railway. The end stop and the quays are just a stone’s throw from Fretheim, the same with a museum. A small culture trail is set just behind the hotel, and it is fine for the one who wants some view and get the food to sink before the next meal. If you come by car the E16 applies. The hotel is connected to the Historic ones.
Go to the hotel’s website, book a room, and read (in Norwegian) Sandalsand’s articles on attractions in the municipality of Aurland.
5. Per Amundsagården, Røros
Røros is also a World heritage site, and as early as 1923 this empty townhouse was protected by law. It was still in danger of being removed, and was packed and stored at the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History in Oslo. In 1969, it came back, was set up in the same place, and if you are lucky you can stay overnight here.
Per Amundsagården is from the end of the 18th century, and is described as a typical Røros home where the family of a person working in the copper mines would keep livestock as well. Inside, the National Trust of Norway, which owns it, has furnished an apartment with space for up to six people. The rooms are decorated according to the tradition of Røros. Rentals are for members of the trust. You must therefore register or be travelling with someone who is a member.
We are in the middle of the small town of Røros, high up in the mountains south of Trondheim. When I spent the night here in winter the natives would rush by on their kick-sledges. I could buckle the skis just outside the house, walk up past the slag heaps and head south until I met a reindeer flock. Røros gives memories for life.
6. Sogndalstrand, Sokndal
We are in the Southwest where the once bustling, but tiny old seafaring town today is turned into a slow city. The Cittaslow movement has also come here, and Kulturhotellet has for many years been central in developing Stronnå to today’s exciting tourist destination.
The hotel is really a series of old houses along the city’s only street. The whole place is legally protected, and emphasis has thus been placed on preserving the 18th and 19th century in terms of building style and other design. Here the food is good, the service excellent and the surroundings wonderful.
The may walk through the street fast if you want. You shouldn’t, but rather enjoy the buildings, the details of the window sills, the old stone bridges and the ship pilot’s small cabin up on the rock. There he would sit down to wait for new ships seeking port – in the old days. This is a place to take it easy, totally calm. The hotel is connected to the Historic ones.
7. Solstrand, Os
We are back in the group of large conference hotels, this one with magnificent views out the fjord. The hotel, built in 1896 in Swiss style, is still in use for its original purpose. The extensions take pretty good care of the original and at the same time add something new.
It was Norway’s first prime minister, Christian Michelsen, who built the hotel for recreation for the Bergen merchants. With such a clientele, there was never a question of offering the next to best quality. It is the Schau-Larsen family who since 1929 have run the place with “strong commitment and care for the guest”, which they themselves write. I agree with that. The hotel is of a high standard, the bath and spa area is superb and the food is divine.
We are in Os a few miles south of Bergen, close to the Bjørnefjord and not far from the E39 road. It is not particularly easy to walk behind the hotel, neither down in the centre of Osøyro nor further up. On the other hand, the park in front of the hotel down to the fjord is absolutely beautiful. This is a place to stroll, it is highly urban and highly bourgeois. The hotel is connected to the Historic ones.
8. Utne, Hardanger
“A hotel full of charm and history: This very old hotel offers a nice mix of historic atmosphere with modern amenities, great food, attentive and knowledgeable management.”
This I wrote on Tripadvisor and Sandalsand after the visit. We are right behind one of the last ferry quays in Hardanger, and it will most likely receive ferry calls for many years. The hotel, in turn, has been standing for much longer. In fact, it was in 1722 that it was first granted a license to run a guest house here. Admittedly, much has happened to the building since then, but one has managed to hold on to the small, and not least cozy, place in the middle of a very photogenic village.
Do not be surprised if you are invited by the management to a round of, not wine tasting, but cider tasting. It is great that the hotel is committed to this, located as it is in the country’s premier fruit growing area. This is an excellent hotel and is a destination in its own right. Moreover, this part of Western Norway is exceptionally beautiful. The hotel suggests hiking trails nearby, up the slope towards the mountain, but you can also take a more relaxed walk in Utne. The hotel is connected to the Historic ones.
9. Walaker, Solvorn
We finish with another gem. Not only does the hotel have a history of over 370 years, it has also been in the same family since 1690. The hotel is exceptionally charming, has an exquisite location, and is, in short, a necessary destination in Norway for both Norwegians and foreigners.
We very much appreciated the English-inspired garden, taking a glass of sherry on the front porch and an exquisite multi-course menu in the restaurant. Think about it: A sorbet of Norwegian brown cheese. Lovely. We stayed in one of the historic rooms, but there are also newer ones in an elongated annex of a slightly dull appearance. All rooms have great views though. One should visit the art gallery. An American couple decided during breakfast to stay a couple of nights more.
On the other side of the fjord is the Urnes stave church, a World heritage site. The ferry over there goes just beyond the hotel and is a must when you are on these parts of the country. In addition, we also greatly appreciated the walk into the old building environment along the beach. Accompanied by a magnificent summer weather it was highly photogenic. Walaker is family run and independent of the chains, but is affiliated with the Historic ones .
As mentioned, this is the first of several articles about distinctive Norwegian hotels and guest houses. Some of them are historical (and a member of the same name association), others are free-standing or part of a chain. The map below shows in this series, randomly scattered around in the articles.
However, we should be aware of the following when it comes to this type of accommodation:
Many of the most exciting hotels are in the countryside and they keep winter closed. In the countryside we also find many of the attractions attracting tourists. Unfortunately many of them are open only in the summer season. If you want to discover the whole of Norway, I advise you travel in the summer months, from May to September. Between October and April, you are often left to the cities (and mountain resorts) for all practical purposes. It is partly understandable, but also a pity. Given an ever-increasing flow of tourism, it may be that more owners would see business opportunities in widening the season.
A closing remark
This is not a sponsored article. My own journeys and stays form the basis of the reviews. If you click on the booking link and book the accommodation, the booking engine will give a few pennies of their commission back to me.