My brother and I decided to take a short break to Oslo, as we wanted to encounter a Scandinavian city break. Norway as a country had always been way up there as somewhere I’d love to discover and still is, so spending three nights in the capital of Oslo was a fantastic introduction to this striking and picturesque country.
Oslo is considered a global city with a population over 1.5 million, it is ranked as the fastest growing city in Europe and also has recently been listed as the world’s most expensive city. This is no surprise! Weather is good, quite a humid climate throughout the year due to the Gulf Stream. Because of the cities northern latitude, daylight varies greatly, from more than 18 hours in midsummer when it never gets completely dark at night to around 6 hours in midwinter. Do not worry most hotels have black out curtains, so you are not affected as we discovered!
Flying from Manchester, UK to Oslo taking a quick 2 hour flight was ideal. We found it very easy to pinpoint the ‘flybussen’ bus stand outside the airport and purchased a ticket from the driver. This bus service was unbelievable, so frequent and accessible, buses leaving bus stops every 20 minutes and it took us straight in to the city centre and dropped us right outside our hotel. Easy! A return ticket was 250nok (Approx. £27), cheaper than buying two singles. It took an hour to get from the airport to our hotel.
We stayed at the’ Radisson Blu Scandinavia hotel’ which looked very impressive on Expedia when booking, but not as glamorous in real life I’m afraid. It was very cluttered inside and the staff’s customer service was disappointing. Our room was on the nineteenth floor, very small but what I anticipated for a city hotel room. The room had everything we needed apart from tea & coffee making facilities. But it did have a great view out across the residential and university area; we could even spot the ‘Holmenkollen ski jump’ far in the distance. Breakfast was interesting; it was buffet style, find a table and help yourself. The variety of food was so bizarre; there were all the usual cereals, toast, jam and juices. But there was a large, table with raw vegetables on, whole radishes raw potato and carrots. Is this the norm? The hotel did have a lovely tranquil, basement pool and small gym area and an amazing 21st floor summit bar with panoramic views looking out across the city, which concocted great cocktails. One major positive for this hotel was its location! Every think was within walking distance and within easy reach…
Two minutes’ walk away at the top of Karl Johans gate was the remarkable ‘royal palace’. Built in the 19th century; as the residence of the Norwegian and Swedish king Charles III. The palace has a very modern-day look about it and was very unprotected and accessible with no giant fences or gates surrounding it – You are able stroll right up to the building, it however does have guardsmen surrounding it 24 hours. Having 173 rooms and open in the summer months to the public for a fee. This is an impressive year round tourist sight to visit, being totally free to view and walk around through the pretty, palace gardens. You can even witness change of the guards.
From the palace we strolled for about 15 minutes through the streets lined with extravagant houses and embassy buildings, following a map given to us at the hotel to find the ‘Vigeland Sculpture Park’. It was pretty straight forward, even for the worst of map readers! Situated in the Frogner Park; being the largest park in the city. The Vigeland sculpture park is the world’s largest sculpture park made by a single artist ‘Gustav Vigeland’ and being the most popular tourist attraction in the whole of Norway which is clear to see why. We entered in to the park as it began to lightly rain; it was like walking in to a church. Quiet, calm and you instantly knew respect needed to be shown. There were masses of tourists ahead of us but the never ending views of gardens and sculptures were incredible. There was a composed, calm atmosphere still felt with enough space to explore and reflect on each sculpture despite the thousands of visitors. The park features 212 bronze and granite sculptures all designed by Gustav with a human condition theme. The highest point in the park in the far distance lays the most popular attraction, ‘The Monolith’. The Monolith towers 14.5 metres high and is composed of 121 human figures all sculpted from one piece of granite rising towards the sky, meant to represent mass desire to become closer with spiritual and divine. Portraying a feeling of togetherness! Highly recommend the park as a must see destination whilst visiting Oslo!
In the evenings we ate out at a different café or restaurant every night followed by a few drinks. One of our favourites was ‘Tullins café’ just behind the hotel; the food was fantastic with lots of choices and prices were quite cheap compared to most places to eat around the city. You could sit inside or outside overlooking the street watching the world go by. The staff were friendly and very helpful… I had the surf and turf pasta which was the best pasta I have ever tasted and yes I have been to Italy! It was fresh tagitelle with a combination of chicken and prawn in a light, garlic cream sauce served with toasted herb bread. My brother also went for a pasta dish being chilli based and said it was truly scrumptious. We also visited a popular Norwegian restaurant with a Caribbean twist called ‘Lemongrass’, located not far from the national gallery. We didn’t book a table but were seated immediately; the décor was beautiful being dark red and purple, candles and crystal curtains everywhere. We were a little shocked by the prices and skipped a starter and went straight to the mains, they all sounded excellent and we were spoilt for choice. I decided to go for the Norwegian reindeer and my brother went for the jerk chicken. We were glad we only went for a main when the meals arrived the portions were massive, both meals were delicious. Highly recommended as a treat! All main meals were 250nok upwards but well worth it! The third night we ate on the main Karl Johans street at the busy ‘TGI Fridays’, food was excellent, service was excellent and music was excellent too. We tended to get lunch out and about where ever we were, there were plenty of sandwich shops, local corner shops and food stands scattered around the city! We did wander out in the residential area and found a fantastic small sushi café; we had never tried it before and didn’t really know what to order as the waitresses English was limited and couldn’t help us. So we randomly chose a few things each, it was hit we loved it! Defiantly a fan now and it was the cheapest meal we had in the city.
Alcohol was our biggest issue when it came to Oslo – Eeeek! The prices of alcohol was extortionate and I’m not sure why!?! It was too expensive to get drunk, almost. I think the locals drank at home as you only ever saw them drinking coffee even at night. Drinks in the hotel bar were some of the cheapest being £10 a cocktail, £8 a small glass of wine and £8 a beer! I would definitely top up at the airport next time.
I had made a reservation online before arriving to Oslo to visit the Ice bar, located in downtown Oslo. It looked so close on the map, but we got terribly lost and had to jump in to a taxi as we didn’t want to be late. We were only about 5 minutes away from the bar, but the taxi cost us over £20 – oh well! We arrived and we were the only people there, so much for rushing. You paid a fee to go in, which included a drink. We got given shiny, blue gowns with a hood to keep us warm and a pair of gloves. Escorted inside the giant freezer, was really special, sculptures everywhere all made from harvested ice from the Torne River, Northern Norway. The entire bar was made from ice and kept at -5 all the time; apart from the floor it was very strange! There was loud music pumping and disco lights the man behind the bar gave us a menu of drinks, we chose one each which was served to us in a carved ice glass – good job we had gloves, my lips were sticking to the glass with every sip! We walked around weaving through the amazing sculptures or should I say danced around to keep ourselves warm. We lasted 30 minutes and left. It was a great experience, like nothing before and really glad we visited as got some great photos!
Day 2, we headed first thing to the marina, being very modern and clean. It was easy to get a sightseeing boat tour or as we did caught the local 91 tourist ferry over to Bygdog. Taking approximately 20 minutes whilst passing other boats and taking in the amazing views of the marina, fjord and Akershus fortress on the hill the ferry ride was an experience in itself.
Bygdog was like something out of desperate house wives, pristine, large houses, perfect gardens and I got the impression no body worked here. We also discovered it was the home to the king during the summer months. Not surprised! Easily signposted we firstly made our way to the Viking ship museum. The museum was quite small and didn’t take very long to get around, but the place was spectacular there were two real life dramatic ships still in very good condition. The feeling you got in the museum was extraordinary, imaging the ships in action full of Vikings. The entrance fee was 60nok and the information leaflets were a good resource to the history.
We next slowly walked around to the ‘Fram museum’ on the water’s edge; it was a lot further than I thought taking about 20 minutes. But well worth the hike, having over 18,000 visitors a year. This was one of our favourite places we visited, such a fascinating museum, we learnt all about Captain Scott and other polar explorers and their journeys reaching the poles. ‘The Fram’ is the breath taking centre piece of the museum being the first ship specially built in Norway for polar research, it really is enormous. The ship was used on three expeditions and is now based at the museum with three floors of interesting artefacts and information boards around the ship. There is a fee of 80nok to enter.
When back at the marina we had a delightful walk along the coast lined with bars, shops and restaurants there was loads of activities going on it was marvellous. There were people paddle boarding in the water. Music being played in the street, we also stumbled across the ‘Nobel Peace Centre’. Queues were really big to enter, so we decided to just admire the building from the outside and talk about the peace prize and the ideas it represents. Walking further along the marina we came to the city hall and government buildings. The city hall was an impressive large building. We walked back through the main streets and passed the cathedral; Oslo is such a beautiful, unpolluted and safe place to be walking around. Just a shame how expensive every think is…
We also visited the ‘National gallery’ with so many highlights. We got to see the famous Edvard Munch room featuring the haunting ‘Scream’ painting and also the legendary ‘Van Goch’s self-portrait’. A few Picassos, Impressionists and an excellent exhibit by Christian Drogan. We did believe the entrance fee was free, but discovered it was 60nok on arrival. Quite a small museum easily covered in a few hours.
The Opera house is a piece of art in its self, we weren’t lucky enough to get tickets to actually watch any think, but we did climb up on to the roof an take in the vistas out to sea and back towards the city. Typical tourist’s I’m afraid, peering down through the glass window in to the lobby from the roof. You can actually walk in to the lobby and have a look around there is a small café and outside seating area. Well worth a look!
Our jam packed, energetic three nights in Oslo were amazing! Exploring the easy going city all on foot – OK apart from one expensive, short taxi ride because we were lost, the city boasted great museums; we got up close with the haunting ‘Scream’ image, learnt about the unforgettable Viking ships, and witnessed beautiful scenery – plenty of culture and sights to keep us busy all day, leaving us just enough energy to lift a cocktail at the end of a long day at the stunning summit bar. It was a great introduction to a stimulating country which I can’t wait to see more and try some of the wild, outdoor activities it has to offer. Totally suggest it for a short city break, it competes with the best of them!
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