Review: Bergen to Oslo on a Norwegian Intercity Train (Bergensbanen Railway)

In this review, we will travel by train from Bergen to Oslo on the Bergensbanen railway line, which is considered to be the most scenic rail journey in Norway.

Rail journeys in Norway

Norway is home to two railway lines widely considered being among the most beautiful in the world. One of them is the Bergen railway line (called the Bergensbanen in Norwegian), which runs between Bergen on the western coast of Norway to the capital of Oslo.

The other famous train ride is the Flam railway line (Flåmsbana). This is effectively a branch line of the Bergensbanen, as the Flåmsbana starts at Myrdal, one of the stops on the Bergen to Oslo railway services. From Myrdal this branch line runs down a mountain towards the terminus of Flåm down on the shores of the Aurlandsfjord.

With a bit of advance planning you can easily do both railway lines in a single day, which was exactly what I intended to do after my enjoyable stay in Bergen. First I would take the Bergensbanen between Bergen and Myrdal, get off at Myrdal to hop on the Flåmsbana to Flåm and back again to Myrdal, and then continue the original journey on the Bergensbanen from Myrdal all the way to Oslo.

Bergensbanen

Even though the Flåm railway is probably considered as Norway’s most scenic one due its great fame among tourists, the Bergensbanen certainly gets close when it comes to great views and has the additional benefit of having proper intercity trains with restaurant wagons.

There are several services covering the route between Bergen and Oslo, including an overnight train with comfortable sleeper carriages similar to the Oslo to Stavanger night train which I took at the beginning of this trip. Although this can be a highly convenient option on a trip, saving daylight hours for sightseeing and the costs of a hotel, you’d be mad to miss out on the great scenery on this route.

Frequent flyers might know the Bergensbanen because footage of the journey once featured on the in-flight entertainment system of British Airways. Yes, the full seven hours of the journey that is, as seen from the locomotive. Apparently it was a huge success as people found it relaxing to watch, with some saying it even helped to combat their fear of flying.

To get a first idea, watch the YouTube video below of some of the footage on the soundtrack of Chris Rae’s fabulous song ‘Looking for the Summer’. No matter which season you travel in – the scenery will be breathtaking!

 

Departing Bergen

Bergen to Oslo takes around seven hours if you do the journey in one go, with non-refundable second class saver tickets costing around 30 euro for a 2nd class ticket if booked in advance. This is highly recommended, as the walk-up fare is close to 100 EUR (the same price as a fully flexible ticket booked in advance).

Second class is perfectly acceptable, although those who have a larger travel budget may want to opt for a first class seat for more comfort and space. Besides the better seat, there is no difference between the two classes when it comes to service or benefits.

All passengers can use the restaurant wagon which serves snacks, microwaved meals, hot drinks such as coffee tea and chocolate, as well as beer and wine. Given how expensive Norway can be, prices are actually quite decent! If you are on a budget or want to play it smart, there is nothing wrong with stocking up on your own food and drinks and consuming this at your seat.

I ended up taking the early morning train, which departed Bergen’s lovely station at dawn at 7.57am on this beautiful day at the end of March. This is a great month for travel as you are likely to still have a lot of snow at the highest parts of the line, but have increased chances of blue skies and sunshine compared to the other winter months.

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Arriving at Bergen’s railway station at the crack of dawn. ©Paliparan
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Bergen train station. ©Paliparan
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A Norwegian intercity train at Bergen railway station. ©Paliparan
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Comfortable second class saloon style seats in a Norwegian intercity train. ©Paliparan
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The counter at the restaurant/bar wagon of a Norwegian train. ©Paliparan
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Unreserved seats in the restaurant car of a Norwegian intercity train. If you sit down, you will be obliged of course to order something when the waiter comes by! ©Paliparan

On which side to sit?

All seats on Norwegian intercity trains are reserved and you can select your place in advance if you book online at the website of the Norwegian Railways. For most of the journey the best scenery will be on your right hand side when travelling from Bergen to Oslo, such as the great mountain and plain views at higher altitudes.

However, there are also some scenic views on the left hand side when travelling from Bergen to Oslo, especially the views of a fjord just after departure from Bergen.

I would personally recommend to sit on the right hand side and to simply walk over to the vestibule in between the carriages to shoot pictures from the other side if you spot something scenic on the left. After all, the great advantage of the train over the plane is that you can roam around freely!

Nothing stops you from taking any of the empty seats in the train carriages, although be prepared to move again if somebody enters the train who happens to have that empty seat reserved. Another option is simply going to the restaurant wagon and take a seat there at any side of the carriage as none of these seats are reserved (you are however expected to buy a drink or a snack if you sit down in the bar wagon).

Fjord views

The first 15 minutes or so of the journey are rather boring as most of the line leading into Bergen proper is tunneled. Once you get out of the darkness, you are however treated with some spectacular views over the Sørfjorden on the left hand side of the train.

If you are seated on the right hand side and are an avid photographer, I recommend hopping over to the vestibule to shoot some pictures from one of the train doors as it is a particularly scenic stretch of the line.

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There are lovely views over a fjord on your left hand side after leaving Bergen. ©Paliparan

River views

Leaving the fjord behind,the train passes picturesque little villages full of colourful wooden houses as it runs along a small river. Do watch out for the waterfalls here! In winter, they will be completely frozen creating some spectacular icicles.

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Having left the fjord behind, the Bergen railroad line follows a river upstream into the mountains. ©Paliparan
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Crossing the river. ©Paliparan
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The journey follows a river valley and has some nice views over small villages existing solely out of old wooden houses. ©Paliparan
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This stretch of the railway line is known for its waterfalls, which in the winter are frozen over completely. ©Paliparan
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The railway line follows the course of a river upstream. ©Paliparan

Reaching Voss

Shortly before reaching the town of Voss, the river gorge widens into a broader valley. There are some great views over a lake and the surrounding mountains here.

Voss is one of the most important stations on the Bergensbanen and is the final stop of most of the commuter trains running from Bergen. To the Norwegians, Voss is best known as one of their favourite winter sports destinations. Others might know this town from the mineral water brand named after it.

There were indeed plenty of skiers and snowboarders disembarking or entering the train here with full equipment in tow, making this stop one of the longest on the route.

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Just before Voss, there are some nice views over some lakes. ©Paliparan
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Voss railway station is popular with with skiers and snowboarders. ©Paliparan
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Views from the train after departure from Voss. ©Paliparan
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Views from the train after departure from Voss. ©Paliparan

Into the mountains

After departing Voss (which is located 56.5 metres above sea level), the train slowly climbs more as it heads toward Myrdal station.

The Bergen line was opened in 1909 and is 496 kilometres long. Being the highest mainline railway line in Northern Europe, it reaches an altitude of 1,237 metres (4,058 ft) above sea level at its highest point.

Riding on this particular stretch, there is very little evidence of any human life as the train runs through broad valleys and thick pine forests with the mountains visible in the background.

Slowly climbing up into the mountains, you surely start to appreciate how difficult it must have been in those years to build this line, especially in the cold, snowy winter weather.

The cloudy skies of Bergen slowly give way to some clear blue skies as it turned out to be a great winter day to admire the different landscapes.

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From Voss onward, the mountains come in sight. ©Paliparan
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Scenery between Voss and Myrdal. ©Paliparan
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Scenery between Voss and Myrdal. ©Paliparan
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Besides the odd houses along the railway line, there aren’t any villages of size to be seen. ©Paliparan
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Mountain views between Voss and Myrdal. ©Paliparan
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Mountain views between Voss and Myrdal. ©Paliparan
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Lone house somewhere on the line between Voss and Myrdal. ©Paliparan
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Even the snowy roads are devoid of any traffic. ©Paliparan
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The snow layer only increased in size with each minute passing by. ©Paliparan
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View from a Bergen to Oslo intercity train on the stretch between Voss and Myrdal. Just mountains, trees and snow – with no sign of human activity. ©Paliparan
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Close to Myrdal, the mountains get even higher. ©Paliparan

Myrdal station

Our intercity train arrived at Myrdal on the dot at 9.48am and lots of people disembarked to make the change for a connecting train on the Flåm railway line.

I also got out at Myrdal station, which is located at an altitude of 866.8 metres above sea level and is right in the middle of some gorgeous mountains.

There are no roads leading to the village of Myrdal, making the station basically its only transport link. The village really consists out of its island station and a few small hotels and cottages built around it.

On arrival, the train to Flåm was already waiting at the opposite side of the platform. It was waiting not only for the arrival of our train from Bergen, but also for the arrival of a train coming from the direction of Oslo heading in opposite direction back on the Bergensbanen towards Bergen.

After a great journey to Flåm and back, I had a bit of a longer wait at Myrdal station before the next train to Oslo arrived. Fortunately, Myrdal station has a warm waiting room and a small kiosk serving decent coffee. The time waiting passed by fast.

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Myrdal station, with a Flåmsbana train visible on the right side of the island platform. ©Paliparan
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A Norwegian Intercity train arriving at Myrdal station. ©Paliparan

The plateau

My train from Myrdal to Oslo was of the exact same type as the train I took in the early morning from Bergen to Myrdal. Basically, it was the next direct IC service from Bergen to Oslo after the early morning departure which I took.

After Myrdal, the Bergensbanen climbs up even more until it reaches the highest point at the line at the bleak Hardangervidda plateau at 1,237 metres (4,058 ft) above sea level. The train also passes by Finse, which at 1,222 metres (4,009 ft) above sea level is Norway’s highest station.

There are plenty of avalanche barriers at this part of the line. At many points, the railway is built inside a covered gallery carved out half into the hill for protection against the winter snowfall. At this part of the Bergensbanen, the best views are on the right side of the train when travelling from Bergen to Oslo as the left side hugs the side of a cliff and doesn’t have much of a view at all.

This part of the journey is my favourite as the views – especially in winter – are just so desolate.

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Avalanche barriers on the bleak Hardangervidda plateau. ©Paliparan
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Scenery on the desolate Hardangervidda plateau. ©Paliparan
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A lone house on the plateau. ©Paliparan
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Hardangervidda plateau. ©Paliparan
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The Hardangervidda plateau was by far my favourite part of the train journey. ©Paliparan

Emptiness

It was truly astonishing to see how bleak the landscape was here. This is really middle of nowhere Norway with barely any signs of human life visible.

There are however a few “stations” on the plateau which are actually nothing more than an invisible platform buried under a layer of snow. The train does not automatically halt at these stops, but you can make a request to the conductor if you do need to get out, as in that case the train will make a stop.

This is the way how the very few locals who live here get in or out the area. It is also a popular with a handful of trained cross country skiers to embark on a multi-day trip.

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Cross country skiers getting out of the train at the Hardangervidda plateau. ©Paliparan
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Scenery on the Hardangervidda plateau. ©Paliparan

Into the valley

After the plateau the train heads down again into a valley. At this side of the mountains, the terrain is clearly more hospitable and smooth, consisting mostly out of forested hills, rivers and lakes.

As it was getting hungry, I decided to hit the restaurant wagon for a snack. It being Norway, the prices in the dining car weren’t cheap, although compared to normal restaurant prices it wasn’t outrageously expensive so and actually fairly priced. A microwaved pizza (which was surprisingly good!) and a craft beer set me back around 10 EUR each.

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After a while, the terrain levels out as the railway line runs high above some villages, rivers and lakes down in the valley. ©Paliparan
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Approaching one of the many gorgeous lakes on this part of the line. ©Paliparan
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Lake on the Bergen to Oslo railway line. ©Paliparan
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Pizza and craft beer in the restaurant wagon. Both were surprisingly good! ©Paliparan

Sunset

Even though the landscape was getting more flat with every minute passing, the views from the window were still very pretty. If you like the nature and love some good views out of the window, this is a train journey which will have you glued to the window every single mile of the track.

Due to the light of the setting sun reflecting on the snow, water and ice, the colours were just fantastic during sunset.

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Sunset view as seen from the Bergen to Oslo intercity train. ©Paliparan
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Riding along an icy lake. ©Paliparan
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Closer to Oslo, the terrain became more flat. ©Paliparan
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Sunset over the lake. ©Paliparan
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View from the Bergen to Oslo train. ©Paliparan

Arriving at Oslo

The train arrived exactly on time at Oslo Sentralstasjon (central station, abbreviated as Oslo S in all the train timetables). From here, it is a short walk to most city centre hotels.

If you are curious about a bit of history about this interesting station and want to know more about all the facilities, do read the chapter as well about the Norwegian Railways overnight train from Oslo to Stavanger which I wrote before.

oslo central station
Oslo’s modern central railway station. ©Paliparan
Østbanehallen oslo station
The beautiful Østbanehallen previously housed all railway tracks of Oslo’s central station but is now home to some station shops and an upmarket food court. ©Paliparan

In short

The Bergen to Oslo journey was absolutely stunning from start to finish and is a must for everyone visiting Norway. Yes, there are plenty of flights linking Bergen with Oslo. Yes, the overnight train is a convenient option as well. But honestly, would you want to miss out on such unique views if travelling between these cities?

Whether it are the amazing fjords upon departure out of Bergen, the mountain views between Voss and Myrdal, the desolate but gorgeous Hardangervidda plateau or the beautiful lakes closer to Oslo, this is one hell of an amazing train journey which will have you glued to the window from start to finish.

The Norwegian Railways intercity train also makes for a comfortable way to travel through Norway with perfectly comfortable 2nd class seats and a restaurant wagon serving reasonably priced food and drinks.

Trip report index

This article is part of the ‘Siberian Shuffle – A Crazy Winter Trip Around Eurasia‘ trip report, which consists of the following chapters:

1. Review: Wizz Air Bucharest to Oslo Sandefjord Torp (Airbus A321)
2. A Day in the Norwegian Capital of Oslo
3. Review: Norwegian Railways Night Train Oslo-Stavanger in a Private Sleeper
4. Review: Radisson Blu Royal Hotel, Stavanger
5. Stavanger – A Great Norwegian City Trip Surprise
6. Review: North Sea Lounge Stavanger Airport
7. Review: KLM Cityhopper Business Class Stavanger to Amsterdam (Embraer RJ-175)
8. Guide to the Carnival Celebrations in the Netherlands
9. Review: KLM Crown Lounge (Schengen) Amsterdam Airport
10. Review: Air France Business Class Amsterdam to Paris (Airbus A319)
11. Review: ‘Salon Paris’ Business Class Lounge Paris CDG Terminal 2C
12. Review: Aeroflot Business Class Paris to Moscow (Airbus A320)
13. Review: Aeroflot Domestic Business Class Lounge Moscow Sheremetyevo
14. Review: Aeroflot Domestic Business Class Moscow to Irkutsk (Boeing 737-800)
15. Review: Matreshka Hotel, Irkutsk
16. Irkutsk Trip Report: Exploring the ‘Paris of Siberia’ in Winter
17. Review: Mayak Hotel, Listvyanka (Lake Baikal)
18. A Winter Trip to the Frozen Wonderland of Lake Baikal
19. Review: Ibis Irkutsk Center Hotel, Irkutsk
20. Review: Domestic Business Class Lounge Irkutsk Airport
21. Review: Aeroflot Domestic Business Class Irkutsk to Moscow (Boeing 737-800)
22. Review: Pushkin Hotel, Moscow
23. A 24 Hour Stopover in the Russian Capital of Moscow
24. Review: ‘Moscow’ and ‘Jazz’ Business Lounges Moscow Sheremetyevo Terminal D
25. Review: Aeroflot Business Class Moscow to Paris (Airbus A320)
26. Review: TAROM Business Class Paris to Bucharest (Airbus A318)
27. Review: TAROM Business Lounge Bucharest Otopeni Airport
28. Review: Air France Business Class Bucharest to Paris (Airbus A320)
29. A Short Overnight Stopover in Paris
30. Review: Sheltair Business Lounge Paris CDG Terminal 2D
31. Review: Azerbaijan Airlines Business Class Paris to Baku (Airbus A320)
32. Review: Old City Hotel and Apartments, Baku, Azerbaijan 
33. Destination Baku: An Intriguing Mix Between Old and New
34. Guide: Train Travel in Azerbaijan
35. Sheki: Azerbaijan’s Most Lovely Town and Springboard to the Caucasus
36. Must Be the Ganja! A Visit to the City of Ganja in Azerbaijan
37. Review: Shah Palace Hotel, Baku, Azerbaijan
38. Review: Azerbaijan Airlines Business Lounge Baku Airport
39. Review: Azerbaijan Airlines Business Class Baku to Paris (Airbus A320)
40. Review: Air France Business Lounge Paris CDG Terminal 2F
41. Review: KLM Business Class Paris to Amsterdam (Boeing 737)
42. Review: KLM Business Class (Boeing 737) Amsterdam to Bergen
43. Blissful Bergen – Is It Really Norway’s Most Beautiful City?
44. Review: Bergen to Oslo (Bergensbanen Railway) on a Norwegian Intercity Train (current chapter)
45. The Flamsbana Railway – From the Myrdal Mountains to the Fjord at Flam
46. Review: SAS Economy Class Oslo to Brussels (Boeing 737-600)
47. Review: Diamond Lounge Brussels Airport Pier B Non-Schengen
48. Review: TAROM Economy Class Brussels to Bucharest (Boeing 737-800)

Koen

Koen works as a freelance journalist covering south-eastern Europe and is the founding father and editor-in-chief of Paliparan. As a contributor to some major Fleet Street newspapers and some lesser known publications in the Balkans, he travels thousands of miles each year for work as well as on his personal holidays. Whether it is horse riding in Kyrgyzstan’s Tian Shan mountains, exploring the backstreets of Bogotá, or sipping a glass of moschofilero in a Greek beachside taverna, Koen loves to immerse himself into the local culture, explore new places and eat and drink himself around the world.

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