Narvik is a small city of about 20,000 people and is located on the coast of Norway. It is just south of the famous Lofoten peninsula and couple hours drive south of Tromsø. Narvik is home to one of the largest shipping ports in Norway. This port is being expanded and in 2005 was given the EU classification as a “Motorway of the Sea”. Once the expansion is completed it will be twice the size of the largest port in Oslo. The port was historically important for the transportation of iron ore from Sweden, and this function persists today. The waters near Luceå, a port along the Gulf of Bothnia in Sweden, are frozen in the winter. But because of the warm water brought by the Gulf Stream to the coast of Norway, the water does not freeze in Narvik. Ore is mined in Kiruna and Gällivare and transported by railway to the port in Norway.
Narvik is most Northern area in Norway with a rail system, although it does not connect with other railways in Norway. We crossed the rail lines on our short trip. Outside of being an major transportation hub there is a ski area walking distance from the city center. Jesse and I neglected to bring our downhill skis, but we did take a ride up on the gondola. From the top of the gondola there was a double chairlift that went a little bit higher into mostly windblown rocky terrain, and there were also a few T-bars on the lower part of the mountain. There was a restaurant at the top of the gondola, but it wasn’t open when we were there. There was also a very large picnicking area at the top, and many people had come up with their backpacks and blankets. While the views were just incredible, it was too windy that day to spend long on the top of the mountain, so we hiked back down along a “toboggan” run. We didn’t see anyone on sleds though, it was more a nice leisurely ski trail something like Juggernaut at Killington or Chisholm at A-basin. So there were more hikers than skiers on it.
Along the way we stopped at the lodge on the mountain. It was a little nicer than we were used to, with fireplaces, leather chairs, china cabinets and a small private conference or party room. The mountain foods were similar, but the lodge was overall quite small and empty. I guess that’s probably because the mountain is smaller and there are so many fewer skiers. As far as I can tell it’s not that there are many people who don’t ski, it’s just that there is no nearby Denver or NYC where all the weekend skiers come from. It’s definitely a different pace and quite pleasant!
We explored the city a little more and drove past the Narvik Church (Narvik kirke), which seats 700 people. We also drove past the futball stadium, the hospital and the airport within a short time. Overall it is a small city and felt somehow empty. This again could certainly be because of the Easter holiday when many Norweigians go out into the countryside. I imagine it is much busier during the summer months. Outside of the city there are monuments about the battles that occurred here during world war II and the bombing of Narvik by the Germans in June of 1940. This was all because of Narvik’s importance for trade and transportation in the area and with neighbouring countries.
Towards the end of the day, we went to our hotel, the Best Western, which was right at the base of the mountain. At checkin they made sure we wanted 1 double bed and not 2 singles. When we got to the room we realized they basically wanted to know if they should push the 2 beds (with 2 separate duvets) together for us or not. The other interesting thing is that Norwegians use duvets but they don’t tend to drape over the sides of the bed, and there is only 1 sheet, the fitted sheet on top of and the duvet. But it was comfortable and warm. It is uncommon to have bath tubs, so it was no surprise that there was not one in the hotel. But I was caught off-guard when I accidentally turned on the extra heat in the shower. It basically made the shower into a sauna, it was pleasant to warm up in but became overwhelming very quickly. Everything was very nice and we were happy to be so close to the mountain!
In the evening we tried to got out to dinner. We drove around the city center and saw 2 pizza and a Chinese restaurant that were open. There was another gourmet restaurant that was closed… this was of course Saturday of the Easter holiday. But I still somehow expected to see more restaurants and things open for vacationers. We ended up having the buffet dinner at the hotel, and it was actually quite excellent. We had lamb with potatoes and mixed vegetables (zucchini, eggplant, carrots and onions), smoked lax (salmon) and cream cheese, bread and butter, salad, and tried several desserts (rhubarb cake, blackberry cake and chocolate pudding). We were very happy and full. For breakfast we were treated with lots of eggs (soft or hard boiled and a cook your own eggs station), bacon, smoked lax, pickled herring, various potato and vegetable salads, cold cuts and cheeses, and of course waffles.
Overall Narvik was beautiful and quite interesting! I would recommend having some outdoor activities planned though since the city center is somewhat dispersed and feels very industrial. Taking the gondola or hiking the nearby mountains provides spectacular views of the fjord and surrounding mountains. Next time we go we’ll have to bring our downhill skis too!