Long nestled in happy obscurity 85 mi/135 km north of Oslo, Lillehammer, Norway, was host to the 1994 Winter Olympics. Visitors can see the ski runs—there are two Olympic downhill ski slopes and more than 200 mi/322 km of marked cross-country trails—skating rinks and the Olympic village.

Lillehammer also has the Maihaugen Open-Air Museum (, a living-history exhibit of 150 buildings (we think it's one of the country's best museums). You can spend hours browsing the old workshops—there's one for practically every occupation, from frame maker to gilder to gunsmith. Each is highly detailed: It's as though the craftsman had stopped in the middle of his work to get a cup of coffee. As you move through the centuries, you can taste local cheeses and potato bread, watch soap being made and be shown around meticulously decorated homes by English-speaking actors in period costumes.

Set on the shores of Lake Mjosa, Lillehammer is easy to reach by train from Oslo. If time permits, take a tour of the city's stave churches or explore the rock carvings in nearby Drotten. In the same region, between Lillehammer and Lom, the Gudbrandsdal Valley is called Peer Gynt Country (the legendary Norwegian folk hero is said to have lived there) and merits a day's drive to see beautiful pine-clad slopes, northern meadows and picturesque streams.

In the nearby valley of Gausdal is Aulestad, home of the famous Norwegian author Bjornstjerne Bjornson.

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