Top 10 Shore Excursions Sweden and Norway

Are you booking a cruise to visit beautiful Scandinavia? We have the top 10 most popular shore excursions in Sweden and Norway to help you plan.

The best thing about a cruise vacation is that you visit many different destinations in one and the same holiday. That means experiencing a mix of different cultures, landscapes, and cuisines- All while traveling in luxury onboard your cruise ship.

The easiest thing about a cruise vacation is how to spend your days at sea. Your cruise is your floating luxury resort. And you can do exactly as you please. Be entertained by the numerous activities available onboard. Relax with friends by the pool, see a show or try a new restaurant or bar.

The hardest thing about a cruise vacation is deciding how to spend your time at each port of call. You want to make sure you get to appreciate what your destination has to offer in just one day.

It’s a matter of choice and what you want out of your vacation. Are you a city person looking to see a place’s art, culture, and history? Do you love nature and what to spend the day exploring the landscape of the land you visit? Or are you looking for a memorable family day on a beautiful beach?

Ask yourself what kind of shore excursion you want:

- Do you want to follow a group and have the security of a shore excursion booked by with the cruise line? 
- Or do you want to grab some maps from the local tourist information office and do your own thing? 
- Perhaps you've researched the destination and know exactly what you want to do, and you book an excursion, tour or transport with an external provider such as Viator. 
- You can even book an unique excursion with the cruise line, completely tailormade to suit you and your family or group.

Either way, there are some stops where we think specific shore excursions are a must-do. We have put together the best and most popular shore excursions at ports in Sweden and Norway. These are all based on personal experiences or cruise customers’ feedback.

We call them bucket list stops. Ports offer unforgettable experiences you will want to describe to friends back home. Which one will you pick?

Tried and Tested – The best shore excursions in Sweden and Norway

For a cruise that includes Scandinavia and the Baltic region, you will love the great outdoors. Shore excursions in Sweden and Norway offer mesmerizing landscapes in one of the cleanest and brightest regions of the world.

Cruise Port: Bergen, Norway

Cruise excursions in Bergen after MSC Cruises dock
MSC Cruises docking in Bergen Norway

Located in the prettiest mountainous surroundings you can imagine, Bergen is known as “The Heart of the Fjords.” It’s a large city with a small-town charm. The historic pier welcomes you with colorfully painted warehouses, and the historic fish market offers the catch of the day. It’s just a short walk from the port into the town.

In Bergen, you need to do it all. Find the shore excursion that combines the city with riding the Ulriken Cable car up to Mount Ulriken. On the viewing platform, there is a restaurant where you can relax in the clouds.

In the town, shop the outdoor markets, which are packed full of handicrafts and nordic souvenirs. And for more retail fun, start on the shopping street of Skostredet. Pick up authentic Norwegian knitwear and outdoor wear, some of the best quality in the world.

Visit Troldhaugen, once the home of the composer Greig and now a museum. Or the open-air Bergen museum with reenactments from 18th century Bergen. If you have time before you walk back to your cruise ship, ride the funicular railway (Fløibanen funicular). During the 6-minute ride, the views are breathtaking and worth it. 

Finally, visit Gamlehaugen, a residence of the Norwegian Royal Family in Bergen. This is the place where the Norwegian Declaration of Independence was written in 1905.

If only the cruise ships stayed overnight in this place. It’s wonderful. 

Cruise Port: Flåm, Norway

The pretty port of Flåm is a well-visited stop on a cruise to the Norwegian Fjords. The village of Flåm sits at the very end of Aurlandsfjord, a branch of the vast Sognefjord.

The long, slow arrival at the port of Flåm is breathtaking. You will want to be up on the top deck of your cruise ship to experience this.

Take the excursion that enables you to take the Flåm Railway. It’s a 20km long railway line that takes you to the town of Myrdal, 864 meters above sea level. It is possibly one of the prettiest rail journeys you will ever do with valley and waterfall views. The journey is a hair-raising 45 minutes of twists and turns around the mountain.

This excursion will most likely be combined with a bus trip. Driving past Lake Oppheim, you will stop at Tvinde waterfall. Climb part the way up to take postcard-worthy photos. Onwards to the viewing point from Stalheim, you will have a breathtaking view of the Nærøyvalley, the “Sugarlump” mountain.

To get back down again, be prepared for a breathtaking drive along the hairpin bends of Stalheimskleivane. This is the steepest road in Norway and indeed one of the steepest in Europe.

Indeed a shore excursion is not for the faint-hearted, but you’ll be so glad you did it.

Cruise Port: Geirangerfjord, Norway

Port: Geirangerfjord, Norway
Port Geirangerfjord, Norway

You may recognize the port of Geirangerfjord even if you have never been there. It is one of the most photographed views by tourists and professionals alike. And is featured on many cruise websites and brochures. Sailing into Geirangerfjord is nothing short of dramatic.

As there is only one pier, your cruise ship will most likely tender you into the port, and from there, you can walk into the village. However, the selection of excursions is excellent. The firm favorite here is a scenic hike which is not for the faint-hearted. With your guide, a walk with outstanding views will take around 4 hours. If your kids are 12 or over, then they will be able to join you. Otherwise, when traveling with younger children, we recommend a bus excursion.

When looking at the shore excursion that offers hiking, ensure it includes a visit to a traditional herdal goat farm; you will feel like you have stepped back in time to a simpler life.

For those who prefer transportation with stops for photos, choose the excursion which takes you past Eidsdal Lake and around Eagle’s Bend, viewing the Seven Sisters and lake Djupvatn. In the distance, you will see the magnificent Dalsnibba mountain range.

Before returning to your cruise ship, drop in at the Hotel Union Øye. Dating back to 1891, this is an old fjord castle. Fully renovated but keeping its Norwegian old-world charm, this hotel is popular with tourists looking for the perfect spot to salmon fish in the summer months.

Cruise Port: Nordfjordeid, Norway

In port at Nordfjordeid, located at the end of Eidsfjorden, you will find Eid, a small town north of Nordfjord. Your bus tour will take you via Eid and the Olden valley until you reach the Briksdal mountain and a little further on the Briksdal glacier.

The 40-minute hike to the glacier is relatively easy, with good paths in front of you. The Briksdal glacier is one of the arms forming the Jostedal glacier, the longest glacier in continental Europe.

After climbing the glacier, there will be time for a lunch stop at the peaceful Birksdal Mountain Lodge. From here, the amazing emerald color of Lake Olden is unforgettable.

Cruise Port: Tromsø, Norway

Bridge of city Tromso, Norway
Aerial photography of the bridge of the city of Tromso, Norway

Located in Europe’s most northern region, just north of the Polar Circle, is the port city of Tromsø. Best known for its display of the Aurora Borealis, or the Northern Lights as we know it, during winter, Tromsø offers the cruise visitor clean, crisp air and a journey up to the Mountain ledge called Storsteinen.

You reach this by cable car. It’s a perfect way to spend your morning on shore with breathtaking views on a clear day.

In the after, we recommend you experience a reindeer sledding tour. You may never get the chance to do this again,; it is just fantastic. Following this, participate in a meal at a Lavvu (a traditional Sámi dwelling) and meet and talk to the friendly indigenous people of Northern Norway. Take this opportunity for a unique insight into the culture and traditions of the people whose homeland you are visiting.

The Northern Lights are most visible during the winter months. This lively light show above the North Poles magnetic field is a once-in-a-lifetime experience on a clear night, most often in January and February. So if you are cruising in the summer months, you may have to return to the region between November and April to catch this miraculous site. A visit to the museum in Tromsø will help you understand how this phenomenon occurs.

Cruise Port: Olso, Norway

Oslo is a fantastic city, and this stop has always posed a dilemma for the cruise guest visiting for just one day as the surrounding areas are also beautiful.

But the most popular excursion while in port is to explore the city while visiting local favorites that are off the beaten tourist track. That means listening to the history, tasting traditional cuisine, and meeting the locals.

Step off the cruise ship, and you’re already in the city center, so you are ready to start immediately. The port is right by Akershus Fortress, a medieval castle and now a Royal residence. Your guide will take you through a historical tour of the city, including a visit to Vikingskipshuset. This museum houses three well-preserved Viking ships from the 8th century and many treasures of the Viking period.

You’ll visit fantastic eateries along the way. You will meet the local fishermen who will tell you more about life on the water.

In the afternoon, be sure your tour includes time for shopping. Well-made traditional Norwegian sweaters and winter clothes will not be found anywhere else.

Cruise Port: Visby, Sweden

Visby is the capital of Gotland, an idyllic island known for its peaceful and beautiful landscape. It is the largest of Sweden’s islands, around 125km long, and situated southeast of the capital of Stockholm.

Dating back to medieval times, the earliest Viking relics have been found here. The coastline is dotted with fishing villages. The town of Visy dates back to the 13th century and has one of the best-preserved city walls in all of Europe. If you are lucky enough to be visiting in August, join in the week-long festivities of the medieval fete.

Combine a city tour with a tour of the west coast to see the best of Visby, with a tour guide who will bring the heritage of Viking times to life. You can’t get more authentic than that.

Cruise Port: Stockholm; Sweden

When you either start your cruise or if you are visiting Stockholm as a port of call, you need to explore this city both on water and on land. The best excursion is a combination of both.

The Drottningholm Palace, Drottningholms Slott,  is the main residence of the Swedish Royal Family. Built in the 1600s and on UNESCO’s World Heritage list, it is located on the island of Lovön, west of the city.

The best way to visit this fabulous castle is by ferry. That way, you can cruise through Lake Mälaren and see Stockholm from the water. The journey is about 1 hour, taking all the time in Stockholm’s beautiful archipelago – the Venice of the North.

Follow this up with a guided tour of the city’s historic center, Gamla Stan, which also includes a walk to the Vasa museum.

The Vasa warship, which sank in Stockholms harbor in 1628, was triumphantly raised from the harbor bed in 1961 and has been carefully preserved. It’s a fantastic example of a warship and simply a must-see while you are in Stockholm. The story of the ship, its extraordinary relics, and the people’s history are expertly told and depicted in the surrounding displays.

Cruise Port: Molde, Norway

The most popular excursion in the port of Molde is a journey over the Atlantic Ocean Road Connecting the municipalities of Averøy and Eide; the road has eight bridges connecting each islet.

Visit the village of Eide, and from here, the bus follows the Kornstadfjord to the spectacular Atlantic Ocean Road.

You will eventually reach Bud, a charming fishing village facing nearby World War II fortifications, today a restored war-memorial museum. You will have a beautiful view over to the Bjørnsund Islands, where there are now private summer houses, and eventually, follow the Malmefjord over the hills back to the Port of Molde.

It’s a comfortable, breathtaking excursion suitable for all the family and guests of all ages.

Meet the author: With more than 20 years experience from the travel industry, Mattias offers tips, expert advice and a unique perspective anchored in having worked with market leading cruise lines, tour operators, consolidators, airlines and hospitality suppliers. Read more..