Lillehammer was the home of the 1994 Winter Olympic Games in Norway. With that history behind it now it feels just like a small mountain town again with all it’s charm.
We snagged £65 flights from Gatwick in the UK to Oslo. It would have been £55 if I had prioritised booking over cooking dinner. Luckily the lamb racks turned out alright! We booked just a week before in the last week of August.
Oslo airport was by far the most comfortable airport I have ever slept in. It’s heated and the couches at Peppes Pizza were more comfortable than any hostel bed. Plus it saved us going into and out of Oslo.
In the morning we got a bus with Lavprisekspressen from Oslo Lufthavn (airport) to Lillehammer for just 229NOK each. Book direct with them rather than Norled to save money.
Where we stayed
We got a ridiculously good deal at the 4-star Lillehammer Hotel for 1000NOK/n. Just 50€ each for a luxurious hotel and an epic buffet breakfast which is fricken amazing given that hostels are often 40€ pp. I guess they don’t get as much business at the start of Autumn being a winter resort.
I think we ate one of everything twice and got very fat. We even got to try Norwegian brown cheese which I really didn’t think was that bad. It seemed more like pâté than cheese to me. In hindsight I should have tried more.
Maihaugen, The Open Air Museum
The most interesting site in town is Maihaugen, Europe’s biggest open air museum. I thought it was really interesting and I think it would be a really cool place to visit it all seasons.
The Norwegian wooden houses are stunning and their woodcraft skills seem to only be matched by the Japanese. There’s so much detail and the wood just blends into the forest. As do the grass roofs!
Maihaugen is also home to, Garmo Stavkirke, one of the few remaining wooden stavkirkes (stave churches) built in Viking styles. It was unlike any church I’d seen before. The smell of wood was very strong – I think they pre-burn the wood for fire retardance.
During the day actors go about the villages in traditional dress, emulating the daily routines and traditions. Walking through the open air museum is really peaceful and gives you a sense of what life in Norway was like – now imagine the freezing ass winter!
Entry will cost you 130/170NOK (low/high season), but if you go before the museum opens or after it closes (and before gates close) then it’s free. You’ll miss out on the actors though, but if you’re early enough you can still see into all the houses before they are locked for the night.
The gates to the open-air museum is closed during the museum’s opening hours. It is always possible to exit through spinning gate.
The gate closes for the night at. 22:00 and opens at. 07:00.
From June to September is the opening hours of the gates at. 7:00 to 8:30 in the morning.
Entry can also be combined with the Olympic Museum for a saving.
The Norwegian Olympic Museum
Linked with Maihaugen is the Norwegian Olympic Museum (130NOK for adults). I was a little worried that it would be solely focused on Norwegian history only, but it had a nice little bit on the history of the Winter Olympics including the past conflict with the Scandinavian Winter Games.
It only took about an hour and includes a fun simulation of the winter biathlon which shows how damn hard it is. Not only is it intensely physical, but try shooting straight at 180bpm in the snow!
The museum also shows what we already knew, Norwegians are freaks when it comes to winter sports.
There’s also a whole section of the museum on Norwegian history too which seemed to be free as it was outside the ticket gates.
The Lysgårdsbakkene Ski Jump
If you want to see a relatively “small” ski jump you can pretty much see Lysgårdsbakkene from anywhere at the bottom of town. Unfortunately, I didn’t grab a picture, but you can go all the way to the top.
As I mentioned, Lillehammer really has that ski town feel to it, but at the same time you aren’t overwhelmed by high density accommodation. As you walk around town you’ll see plenty of nice houses like these.
Just remember that it’s a ski town after all so it will be hilly.
We had a couple of options to go to northern Jotunheimen National Park via Otta or head all the way up towards Trondheim.
Instead though we headed west to Fagernes and north to Gjendesheim in southeastern Jotunheimen.