Norway’s Highways: The E16 Between Bergen & Oslo

If you are planning a road-trip to Norway, you’ll notice there are many different highways between Bergen and Oslo. In fact, there are at least four different roads you can take. Which one is best? What makes them different? What’s quickest?

It can be a little confusing, I get it. 

I’ve decided to break down each highway, highlighting what you can see and do on the way, what the tolls are, what the conditions are, if they close in winter, etc. 

About the E16

The E16 (European Highway 16) is the main west-east road through Northern Ireland, Scotland, Norway and Sweden. There used to be a ferry from Edinburgh to Bergen that was part of the E16, but it’s no more. 

The E16 is considered the main highway between Bergen and Oslo as it is the one with the highest guarantee of being open all year round, Unlike the other mountain passes, this one does not go above the tree line and therefore is safer in winter. The E16 rarely closes in winter, unless there is a blizzard. 

The Historic Highway

While the E16 is new, the path it follows in ancient. In fact, this is the oldest path between Bergen and Oslo; it’s mentioned in the Norse Sagas and was a popular road in the Middle Ages. The royals were known for travelling on it. The road had a reputation for being the most difficult and dangerous in the country. However, because this was a royal road, there were many important sites along the way. Some of them remain today, such as the numerous stave churches and runestones. 

Eventually the road was developed into the postal road between East and West Norway – this was in the 17th century.

In the 18th century, it was decided to build a better road for the public servants who worked for the Danish king and had to travel often. The work of Kongevegen, as it was called, was done by soldiers by hand. Originally, a boat connected you to Bergen from Gudvangen, but eventually the road through Voss was complete. The road was finished in the 1790s. It was the first road between Bergen and Oslo that could be used by horse and cart. 

Today the road is much safer. There are tunnels everywhere, including the world’s longest tunnel at Laerdal. Part of Kongevegen is gone, part is covered with the modern highway, and the rest has been converted into hiking trails for all levels of difficulty. Most hikes are between Vang and Laerdal; about 100km of hiking trail follows the actual road from the 1790s. 

Today Kongevegen is considered one of the finest historical cultural monuments in Europe. In 2017, the road was awarded the EU’s most important cultural heritage award, the Europa Nostra award. 

About My Guide

For my guide, I’ve outlined all the stops between Bergen and Oslo. I’ve included places to stay, eat, shop and visit. I’ve included attractions you can visit quickly or you need a few hours for. I’ve also included longer detours, in case you are looking to do things a little off the beaten path.

I’ve divided the drive into three parts: Western Norway (Part 1), the mountains (Part 2), and Eastern Norway (Part 3). I recommend breaking the drive up and spending the night somewhere on the way. 

Disclaimer: I’ve never done the drive in one complete go, but I’ve done all of it at different points in time.

If you have any recommendations for what to see and do on the road, please let me know! I love building this with your suggestions.

In each box, you’ll see the travel times for Bergen and Oslo. This is to be used as a guide only; the drive always takes much longer than the times suggest. 

My guide goes in the direction from Bergen to Oslo as this is a blog about Bergen. Of course, it can be done in either direction. 

The Map

Part 1: Bergen to Lærdal

Coming soon

Part 2: Lærdal to Fagernes

Valdres Valley

Welcome to Valdres! Once you are in Vang, you have arrived in this traditional valley. Here we will see many churches, historical markers, and traditional farms. 

Click here for my page about Valdres. 

Short detour

Øye Stave Church

Quick Facts:

  • Norwegian name: Øye stavkirke
  • Type: Stave Church
  • Opening Hours: Not open to the public
  • 3 hours 52 from Bergen; 3 hours 52 from Oslo

By the highway

Vang Stone

Quick Facts:

  • Norwegian name: Vangsteinen
  • Type: Rune stone
  • Opening Hours: Always open
  • 4 hours 2 from Bergen; 3 hours 41 from Oslo

Short detour

Høre Stave Church

Quick Facts:

  • Norwegian name: Høre stavkirke
  • Type: Stave Church
  • Opening Hours: Open during the summer (late June to mid August)
  • 4 hours 21 from Bergen; 3 hours 23 from Oslo

Lomen Stave Church

Quick Facts:

  • Norwegian name: Øye stavkirke
  • Type: Stave Church
  • Opening Hours: Open during the summer (late June to mid August)
  • 4 hours 25 from Bergen; 3 hours 18 from Oslo

By the highway

Slidre Church

Quick Facts:

  • Norwegian name: Slidredomen
  • Type: Historic Church
  • Opening Hours: The church opens as a museum in the summer months. 
  • 4 hours 30 from Bergen; 3 hours 15 from Oslo

Slidre Church is from some time in the 12th century, and during the Middle Ages it was the deanery for Valdres. This is where you’d find the Dean – the most important local representative for the bishop in Stavanger. 

On the south main entrance, you’ll find medieval fittings in wrought iron. On the northern wall, there is a painted coat-of-arms that is today used as the coat-of-arms for the municipality, Vest Slidre. 

The altar is impressive; it was gifted by Salomon, the Bishop of Oslo. He was the only bishop to survive the Black Death, and gifted the altar to his old church as a way to say thank you. 

Barn in Valdres Valley. On the top of the barn you can see the characteristic Valdres rose – a symbol of the valley. 

By the highway

Ulnes Church

Quick Facts:

  • Norwegian name: Ulnes Kirke
  • Type: Historic Church
  • Opening Hours: The church opens as a museum in the summer months. 
  • 4 hours 46 from Bergen; 2 hours 58 from Oslo

Ulnes Church was built some time around 1265, however it has undergone many changes since then. The church was in serious need of repair by the early 18th century; one bishop famously described the church as ‘a pile of stones’. Today the choir is original, as are some of the paintings inside. There’s also a statue of a woman, likely Mary, from the 13th century.

Rest stop

Fagernes

Take a break from the drive at Fagernes, where you’ll find a large hotel (Scandic Valdres), many cabins for rent, and plenty of food and shopping options. There’s an excellent open-air museum here plus several popular hiking trails. 

Part 3: Fagernes to Oslo

Coming soon

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