by Deirdre Frost
In so many ways, Lillehammer is a favorite destination for Norwegians and for those with a passion for outdoor sports. Popular with tourists is the exhilarating luge ride down the Olympic-grade toboggan track. Other exciting activities are visiting the ski jumping arena or bobsledding and cross-country skiing in the Olympic Park.
Those with time between outdoor activities, can see the exhibits at the Maihaugen and the Norwegian Olympic Museum which features an extensive collection of Olympic memorabilia, especially the 1994 Winter Games in Lillehammer. The museum also highlights the history of the Norwegian people providing a fascinating insight into their traditions and culture.
Overlooking the museum is a beautiful Stave Church. This iconic church plays a communal role in the rural countryside since medieval times.
Lillehammer is just over two hours north of Oslo. On the way is Norway’s biggest lake Mjøsa, which is even longer than the Oslo fjord. Along its shores lie rolling hills with forests and farmlands. Lillehammer is situated on a river with mountain surroundings that distinguishes this town as a top destination for both sport and culture.
The snow-covered mountains provide plenty of options for both alpine and cross-country skiing. Hafjell Alpine Center is a popular destination of Norwegians who love outdoor experiences. Skiers can have an exhilarating day riding the gondola and lift for great views from the summit.
There are further challenges on the Olympic slopes at Kvitfjell for ski-in and out access from the main hotel.
For a more aesthetic experience, visiting Sjusjøen is not to be missed as it Is considered the best cross-country ski location in Norway. As outdoor enthusiasts interested in a Nordic experience, we choose to cross-country ski at the family-owned Rustad Hotel to experience some of the best snow conditions around Lake Sjusjøen. The scenery along the lake is superb and captivating. At 830 meters above sea level, we even spotted a white peace dove perched high in the trees.
We discovered an excellent choice in our accommodations at Scandic Victoria Lillehammer Hotel in the town center. The hotel proved to be at a high, consistent standard as the staff was very attentive to our needs. The hotel provided a great breakfast offering a wide assortment of Norwegian breakfast favorites.
This recently refurbished hotel features rooms with modern decor that are nicely furnished and comfortable. The personable and high level of hotel service made our stay pleasant and relaxing.
For entertainment, Hunderfossen Adventure Park, is just on the opposite side of Hafjell. This was a major highlight on our visit. The live theatre and animated displays of Norwegian fairy tale characters delighted both children and adults alike. Tucked inside a giant looming troll, we wandered passed colorful exhibits to view the fascinating creatures of these fairy tales. The tales come alive and reveal the deep cultural roots of Norway through oral storytelling. Another special attraction is the ice cathedral that dazzled us.
For the grand finale, fireworks filled the sky, marking the end of an enchanting evening in the adventure park.
Apart from enjoying sports and other activities, Lillehammer is known for its café life. A popular spot is Nikkers that includes a restaurant, sports bar and nightclub. Located just off the bustling main street, the restaurant offers not only great service, but also a fun atmosphere for enjoying special local entrees including freshly-cooked cod and moose burger. The casual ambiance attracts a lively crowd enjoying the wonderful food and camaraderie. Strolling along the main street, we also discovered a number of high-end restaurants, cafes and bars that specialize in a variety of cuisines, as well as an array of Norwegian dishes.
The Netflix series “Lilyhammer” is set and filmed almost exclusively in Norway, mostly in picturesque Lillehammer.
Lillehammer Tourist Office https://www.lillehammer.com/
Scandic Victoria Lillehammer https://g.co/kgs/HHKe1C
Maihaugen Open Air Museum https://lillehammermuseum.no/
Norwegian Olympic Museum https://eng.ol.museum.no/
Garmo Stave Church https://www.visitnorway.com/listings/garmo-stave-church/180870/
Hafjell Alpine Center https://g.co/kgs/ouZSBN
Kvitfjell Ski Resort https://www.kvitfjell.no/
Rustad Hotel https://www.rustadhotel.no/
Hunderfossen Adventure Park https://hunderfossen.no/