Travelling from the rest of Europe to Norway on the water is a popular option as part of a longer road trip.
For some, ferry travel conjures up images of days long gone. But smaller ferries are still a vital part of the Norwegian transportation network. Larger vessels remain a viable option for travelling to the country.
Easier that is, depending on where you are travelling from. If you are already in the Netherlands, Germany or Denmark, there are direct ferry routes. Things are a bit more tricky from the UK. Let's start there…
Ferries from the UK to Norway
Travelling between the UK and Norway by ferry used to be a breeze. Unfortunately despite its relatively close proximity and the shared North Sea / Norwegian Sea interests, things aren’t so easy from the UK.
You’d drive to Newcastle, roll-on, and then a few hours later, refreshed from the bracing North Sea air, roll-off again in Bergen or Stavanger. But since 2008, when the last ferry departed on the route for the final time, it hasn’t been quite so simple.
Until 2014 there was the Harwich to Esbjerg, Denmark ferry route, which got you to Scandinavia, albeit still many miles from Norway, but alas this too was deemed uneconomical and since then, no passenger ferry link has existed between the UK and Scandinavia.
Read more: Driving to Norway from the UK
The rise of cheap flights around Europe, along with the Channel Tunnel, have made ferries the least attractive option for many people. As passenger numbers have dwindled, so routes have found it harder to break even.
There are occasional signs of a revival, which never seem to amount to anything, and the Scottish Parliament is actively looking into how such a route could be re-established – possibly from Dundee or Rosyth.
Since this article was originally written, startup company Bergen Cruise Line has announced plans to launch a direct route to Bergen and Stavanger from Newcastle in northeast England.
Freight ferry from the UK to Norway
If you’re planning a very long stay or you're moving to Norway and wish to take your car, then one option could be to ship the car as freight on the Immingham to Breivik freight service. This doesn’t have the option of personally travelling by ferry, so isn’t for everyone, but it could be a simple option for some.
You’ll have to get your car to Immingham – near Hull – and then get yourself to Breivik to collect it but, all in all, this could work out economical for a long visit, especially if you get the cheapest flights available.
To include a personal ferry journey, however, you’ll need to get yourself to mainland Europe. You can do this through the channel tunnel or, perhaps better for ferry enthusiasts, on the Dover to Calais ferry route.
Netherlands to Norway by ferry
Launched in 2022, the Holland Norway Lines route connecting the Netherlands’ Eemshaven (Groningen) with Norway’s Kristiansand takes 18 hours. It provides a rare new option for travelling between northern and western Europe without flying.
Passengers will be on board the MS Romantika, a vessel previously used on the popular Riga-Stockholm route. It was also used to provide extra accommodation during the COP26 climate summit to provide extra accommodation for the Glasgow event.
We tested out the service in August 2022. You can read the full review here.
Germany to Norway by ferry
Kiel is about an 8-9 hour drive from Calais so you might want to consider overnighting along the way – maybe Antwerp in Belgium or Essen in Germany could be a suitable point to break the journey.
The Color Line Kiel ferry calls in to Oslo and is far and away the longest ferry journey we’ll be talking about but, as it’s also the least driving, it’ll save you the most time behind the wheel, which is an important consideration for some.
At 20 hours it’s not for the feint-hearted but if you love the sea then this may be the route for you.
There are ferries sailing once per day in each direction, leaving at 14:00 from both ports and arriving at 10:00 the following day. All tickets include a bed and optional extras such as meals can be pre-booked to save money.
Denmark to Norway
If you fancy getting yourself to Scandinavia a little sooner, then continuing the drive into Denmark could be for you. Denmark also offers the most routes and the shortest journeys so if you’re looking to minimise your time at sea then it’s the best option.
There are three departure points in Denmark:
From Copenhagen: A 17h15m service to Oslo operated by DFDS
From Fredrikshavn: A 9h15m service to Oslo operated by Stena Line
From Hirtshals: A service calling at Kristiansand, Stavanger and Bergen by Fjordline, services to Kristiansand and Larvik operated by Color Line, and another Fjordline service to Langesund near Porsgrunn.
All routes have one sailing daily apart from Larvik with two daily and Kristiansand with five daily. The longer journeys will include sleeping options but the shorter ones won’t.
The drive to any of the Danish ports will add another four hours onto your journey from Calais compared with Kiel running at around 12h30m. Driving to Copenhagen can be quickest if you take the Puttgarden ferry to Rødby.
Sweden to Norway
This certainly counts as the long way round but if you fancy a very long drive – probably over two or three days – then this could be the one for you.
The drive to the port of Stromstad will take you around 16.5 hours from Calais so unless you live your life with a caffeine drip then you’ll certainly want to take your time and enjoy some of the beautiful scenery in the six countries you’ll pass through.
Once you arrive in Strömstad, you’ll find the ferry across to Sandefjord taking about 2.5 hours. Sandefjord is about 90 minutes South of Oslo so this is the quickest sea option to get near to the Norwegian capital.
The crazy traveller route
If you’re feeling extremely adventurous, or crazy, and really want to maximise both your time on the road, time on the sea and number of countries visited then you could consider Tallinn to Stockholm (Tallink Silja & St Peter Line) as your ferry route of choice.
Clocking in at 17h15m, this isn’t the longest ferry crossing on our list but it’s certainly up there with the best. And with a 26 hour drive from Calais, adding in Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia to the mix, this is a road-trip of dreams… or nightmares depending on your point of view!
Seriously though, if you’d like to take a tour of Northern Europe all through the Baltic states and including Scandinavia then why not give it a try? Drive from Stockholm into Norway, or take the short ferry from Strömstad to Sandefjord, and then maybe get yourself to Kristiansand for the quick hop back to Denmark.
Take your time and enjoy all of the many different cultural and culinary delights that northern Europe has to offer and create amazing memories as you clock up the miles.
Pick a handful of stopping places and stay for as long as you like. After all, you’ve brought your car so you’re the architect of your own destiny.
Why take the ferry to Norway?
Aren’t ferries slow, prone to choppy weather and liable to cause sea-sickness, as well as being much more expensive than flying?
Well… it depends on your point of view. A lot of people simply like life on the ocean waves – evidenced by the continued popularity of cruising as a holiday choice.
Some people just can’t abide flying. Whether it’s the fear of the consequences of an accident or simply not liking the feeling of being pressurised and blasted with recirculated air and germs for a few hours, flying is not everyone’s cup of tea.
Additionally, some people can’t fly. Be it medical reasons, travelling with beloved pets and not wanting to risk them in the hold, or any other reasons, for some people it’s completely out of the question.
Then there are people who like the journey to be part of the holiday. Some like to take their time arriving at a destination and have the freedom to check out other places along the way. You can kinda get this with flying and hiring a car but there’s nothing like having your own car to give you the confidence to feel at home when you’re away.
And finally, but important to some people, if you have your car you can take a lot more luggage with you than if you are flying – or at least a lot more cheaply and safely.
You can have camping equipment for impromptu overnight stops en route, plenty of toys to keep the kids entertained and as many ball gowns and dinner suits as you might need if you’re planning on visiting the social scenes of the high society!