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Lillehammer Travel Guide: 148 reviews and 349 photos

Lillehammer bias?

Yes, I still consider Lillehammer my home town, having lived here most of my life. Now, however, suburbish Asker near Oslo is my main anchorage. The info you get here is from a local, really, not a casual visitor.

What I hope my pages and tips here can offer you are experiences and activities with a slightly adventurous slant, on a budget. Things you can also do without necessarily depending on a car.

Lillehammer is not an old town, the designation as a trading town was first given in 1827. Most of the historic buildings that frame Storgaten main street are mid- to late 1800s. The town was very compact, but now spilling over its old frame as it attracts new industries and continue to grow as the focal trading and public sector centre of Gudbrandsdal and Gausdal valleys, and at a strategic location at the northern end of Norway's largest lake, Mjøsa.

The town is a curious mix of the introvert, Norwegian style with and international edge to life here. Since organising the 1994 Winter Olympics, the university and businesses with an international outlook have grown considerably. Tourism has levelled out after the Olympics, but remains a strong component to the atmosphere of the town as it has been since the beginnings when Lillehammer was a resort and reconvalesence town because of its ozone-rich air.

Lillehammer is generally a very quiet place, with periods of the year featuring different festivals, activities and events that punctuate the quiet. Especially the annual sports events like the Birkebeiner mountain bike race, the Birkebeiner and Inga-Laami ski races and the World cup in ski jumping cause a stir. But also the blues festival, the jazz festival, and the literature festival, add to the seasonal flavours of town. There are university students and military recruits that flock to town and put their mark on town as well.

Outdoors Lillehammer and surroundings

Get into the forests and mountains of Lillehammer's east side by a quick bus ride. Just a couple of kilometres from the city centre you find wilderness areas, forests, marshland and a bit further away, open mountains.

Along the Mesna River, from town all the way up to the Lake Mesna, you can enjoy pools, waterfalls, forest and some good hiking. Fishing is also possible (licence). On the forested plateau behind the Olympic ski jumping hill and just south from the ski stadium there is a small lake "Abbortjernet", totally and deliberately undeveloped, great for picnicing and swimming, away from it all. Warm water in the summer, opposed to that of the glacier-fed lake Mjosa and river Laagen.

The river Laagen that enters Mjosa Lake at Lillehammer has extremely good conditions for several species of fish. The greyling, in particular, is a good catch. You need a licence from one of the sports goods stores in town. Fishing from land is ok, best on the western bank. A boat or canoe is ideal in the delta, try to get hold of a boat via the tourist office or a sports gear shop.

In the winter, much more land is accessible, with the 400-kms ski trail network east and west of town. Again the best option is to take the bus from town east to Sjusjoen or Nordseter or north to Hafjell and set out from there. Skiing back to town can be good fun when you're done with the mountain trails. Easy skiing and you can make your own combinations according to your own speed, mood and physique - and the weather, of course. At the settlements mentioned there are hotels, more rustic pensions, restaurants and small shops catering for skiers and people who use their mountain cabins. I have one up there, too, and that keeps me locked on to Lillehammer!

Urban experience

Did you hear CBS during the '94 Olympics talk about the mountain village of Lillehammer? Here's the down side: the city center is only about 170 meters above sea level... But, come on, it's more than a village, it's a decent, two-street town!
Focus on the main street, Storgaten, and the parallel street closer to the railway station, Kirkegaten, and you've got it. Then there are some intersecting streets. Most of the "action" is on Storgaten, which is for the most part a pedestrian zone. Here you find most things of visitor interest, such as some key shops, restaurants, cafes and benches to sit on to just watch the Lillehammerians paddle on with their lives. There are some nice museums and galleries to see.
On the next level up from town - like a terrace, also in walking distance, are the Maihaugen and the Undset museums and two of Lillehammer's Olympic venues - for ice hockey and ski jumping.
Lillehammer is also a good place to stock up on sports gear, food and things for your hiking/ skiing/ mountain cabin tour, if your next stop is, say, Jotunheimen, Gausdal or Rondane mountains. If you are heading from the south (Oslo and the airport) you can forget shopping in Oslo, as most gear will be available in Lillehammer, and definitely more easily available. But, people here value their time more than extending service, so the town closes early for shopping. A shopping mall at the river side (down from the railway station) may serve you in a crisis!

Lillehammer is a student town, which means there is a comparatively lively retaurant and cafe scene. The side street to Storgaten, Elvegaten and generally around that area of the bridge and square you will have some of the cheapest eateries in town. The park in the southern part of town has a nice cafe.

If you look and head for the ugly landmark of the hospital, you are on straight course for the Maihaugen outdoor museum. There are several exhibitions, permanent as well as temporary, and a Maihaugen visit is always rewarding. What else? Check my tip section as it develops!

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Small-town, quaint Norway with a hint of an international flari
  • Cons:Closes early, winter is a month longer than on the coast, can be quite cold during winter.
  • In a nutshell:Well worth a couple of days' stop on an around Norway trip.
  • Last visit to Lillehammer: Jan 2010
  • Intro Updated Feb 2, 2010
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Reviews (79)

Comments (6)

  • hunterV's Profile Photo
    Jan 13, 2008 at 3:30 AM

    Yes, the Winter Olympic Games were great there!

  • littlesam1's Profile Photo
    Jul 31, 2007 at 7:26 AM

    Fantastic page. I was in Lillehammer two years ago and had a wonderful time.

  • Joeplaboem's Profile Photo
    May 22, 2006 at 7:12 AM

    We were at the Maihaugen Museum on Mid summernight a few years ago. i expected a long party but everything was quit just after midnight. The museum is worth a visit Erwin

  • May 13, 2005 at 11:46 AM

    very interesting indeed! Is fishing good in late July?

  • dejavu2gb's Profile Photo
    Mar 30, 2005 at 3:40 AM

    Great page on your hometown... looks very nice... Good pics too!

  • Maria_75's Profile Photo
    Nov 22, 2004 at 12:21 PM

    Wow! A really great and informative page. Kjempebra! :)

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