Modern Architecture Meets Nature In Oslo
I fell in love with Oslo the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once. Okay, I may have totally stolen that from The Fault In Our Stars, but it’s true, the capital of Norway had slowly but surely stolen my heart and now it’s all I can think about. I was expecting to like the city, but I wasn’t expecting to come home already planning another trip to the land of beautiful landscapes and beautiful people. So if you’re curious why am I totally fascinated by Oslo, I suggest you keep reading and then let me know if I convinced you to plan a trip to this city.
The first thing I saw when I got off the bus from the Rygge airport was the stunning area around the train station, Oslo Sentralstasjon, that reminded me a bit of London. Since the area is the most central and the trams from the hotel took us there, we passed it almost daily and I came to love it. Let me tell you about their trams: there are only a few lines that quickly take you everywhere you want and they always come on time. If they are 20 minutes late, you can file a complaint and they will either pay for your taxi or give you 500 kr (around €60). That alone should convince you just how efficient the trams are.
From the train station you can easily go to the Oslo Cathedral, Karl Johans Gate (a street filled with shops and restaurants, that passes the Parliament, the National Theater and ends with the Royal Palace and the Palace Park, called Slottsparken) or you can walk like us to the Oslo Opera House.
Finished only seven years ago, the Opera House is one of the most iconic places in Oslo and attracts travellers every year. Resembling an iceberg, the best thing about it is that you can walk all over it and enjoy a panoramic view of the city (careful though, there are steps here and there and at night you could easily miss them. I learned this the hard way 😆 ). Due to the fact that it’s covered with white marble, it can get quite bright on sunny days so sunglasses are definitely needed. We had almost missed the last tram back to the hotel by admiring just how beautiful the building and the view were, as well as laughing our asses off by taking funny selfies. That first night in the city will always be my favorite memory from the trip.
We started the next morning taking pictures of the Storting building that houses the Norwegian Parliament since 1866. Designed by a Swedish architect, it is located right in front of the Spikersuppa park where you can find a nice ice rink in the winter, but during the summer it’s a lovely place to be.
We continued our walk towards Rådhusplassen, because we wanted to take the ferry to the Bygdøy peninsula where you can find the most interesting (in my opinion) museums in the city. Since it was cloudy, we decided to see the Norsk Folkemuseum (The Norwegian Museum of Cultural History) first, before it started to rain. The museum is not only the perfect place to see picturesque houses from the countryside, but you can also learn more about Norway’s customs, such as traditional dances and music, and tasting some delicious homemade bread.
Luckily, it turned out the clouds were there only to scare us, by the time we reached the next museum, the Viking Ship Museum, they were already fading away. This had to be the most popular attraction in Oslo as it was full of people (don’t imagine there were any queues though, this isn’t Paris!), because where else in the world can you see 1000 years old viking ships in excellent condition? This is a great place to learn about the history of the vikings and admire the impressive ships. Although it’s a fairly small museum, it’s rich with information and it has balconies so you can look inside the ships. This is the museum I wanted to see the most and it didn’t disappoint.
Although we could’ve walked, we took the ferry for another 5 minutes and we saw The Fram Museum, which seems small but it’s bigger on the inside (look, a Doctor Who reference from someone who has never seen a single Doctor Who episode!). Here you can find the history of the Fram ship used in the Norwegian polar exploration. It sounds boring when I say it like that, but the best thing is that the actual Fram ship is there and you can walk all over it, explore its chambers and imagine you’re on the ocean, about to discover unknown places.
Right next to the Fram museum there are another two, the Kon-Tiki Museum and the Norwegian Maritime Museum, but we only checked out the Kon-Tiki one, that houses the raft used in the expedition to the South America.
After returning from yet another ferry trip, we saw two sights I wish I had more time for – the City Hall (which has a stunning interior) and the Nobel Peace Center. Before heading to lunch/dinner (linner?), we walked a bit around Akker Brygge, the most expensive area in Oslo, saw the stunning Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art and stopped to look at the ships around the bay from the artificial beach behind the museum.
Later that evening, we saw the Ekeberg rock carvings dating from 6000BC, but they felt a little underwhelming since they were on a random rock with only a small sign a few meters away, they could easily be missed. However, we’ve also seen a high school that reminded us all of Hogwarts, as well as a panoramic view of the harbor.
The plans to visit the Vigeland Park were cut short by dark clouds announcing a storm so we took refuge in a bar nearby with decent prices for Oslo (coffee under 50 kr – €6 and beer between 60 and 90 kr, so €7 – €11, sadly I don’t know its name, it was around the Majorstuen tram station). It was a great idea to see the park the next morning, the sky had cleared up and we had one beautiful warm morning. The park was jammed with people (as it also was at the Viking Ship museum), everyone photographing the weirdly interesting statues. I also spend a good 15 minutes watching the ducks on the lake, laughing at how one of them couldn’t jump on the ground. Sometimes I’m so easily amused! 🙂
After taking the bus in the wrong direction (dammit, Vlad! 😛 Not me, my friend also named Vlad), we got back to Rådhusbrygga, to board on a two hour cruise that was incredibly lovely. We saw idyllic colorful houses, admired the inappropriately named Oslo fjord (because it’s not a fjord in the actual sense of the word, as it’s not created by glacial erosion, but by a part of the city that sunk) and enjoyed some spectacular views. There were two perfect hours and I promise I will talk more about them in a future post.
Since the waffle we had on the boat wasn’t enough, we went to have linner (lunch+dinner, hope you’re paying attention) at a cozy restaurant in the oldest area of Oslo, Christiania torv, right next to the Akershus Fortress and Castle so you can guess where we headed afterwards with our bellies full. While we didn’t go inside the castle, the fortress is a lovely area and we got to see a huge cruise ship leaving the city.
I wasn’t ready to go back to the hotel that last evening, so we went out again to see Damstredet, an enchanting street with beautiful houses. There was no one around, the whole area was peaceful and quiet and it made me think that Oslo would be a fine place to live. We went back to the hotel, putting off the packing as much as possible, while enjoying the Icelandic yogurt the Norwegians love so much. Well, only some of us actually enjoyed it. 😉
The next morning, since our flight was in the evening, we had time for a little exploring on our last day so we decided to see the Kragstotten Sculpture and Viewpoint in the Nordmarka. Oslo is a city surrounded by forests, called marka, and the Nordmarka forest is one of the most famous, because here you’ll find the famous Holmenkollen ski jump and it’s also an excellent place for hiking. I’ve read about a nice viewpoint in the area so we headed there. Getting off the T-Bane, we were surprised to see the area was quite chilly compared to the city center and the clean, fresh air made me wish I’d stayed more. After walking in a wrong direction and getting directions from some locals, we finally found the place we were looking for and the view up there was breathtaking!
I loved every minute of my short stay in Oslo and didn’t get bored for one second. The city may not have the best reputation among the Nordic countries, but it has completely bewitched me and I promise I will come back. Sooner, rather than later!
If you’re going to Oslo and you’re interested in the opening times, prices and locations of all the sights I’ve talked about (and many more), check out VisitOslo.com, the official travel guide of the city.
Let me know if I succeeded in convincing you to add Oslo on your travel wish list, if it wasn’t already there. Join me next Monday as I’ll be talking about budgeting in Oslo or how you can have the best time, not break the bank, but also not starve.
PS: All the pictures from this post will be uploaded on Facebook, so you should like my page, if you haven’t already 😉