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Surprising Oslo

Author: Tim Campbell (More Trip Reviews by Tim Campbell)
Date of Trip: October 2013

Trip review for International Traveler.com
February 2014 – trip taken in October 2013

royal palace osloOslo has a reputation: Friendly, clean, orderly and easy to get around, but expensive; and it doesn’t disappoint; but if you know where to go, even the most budget conscious can have a great time and save money. The most northern of the three Scandinavian capitals, this 1000 year old city is filled with museums, shops, cafes, bars and parks. Buildings are colorful and bright and the city is peppered with several pedestrian precincts and wide open people areas. Landmarks are within range of the efficient transportation system, and if you get tired of walking, there are numerous cafes to soothe those aching feet and enjoy a Norwegian’s favorite pastime; Afternoon coffee and cake. Slightly further afield from the centre are the ski jump, boat rides and a peninsula with lots of hiking trails, but if you only have a couple of days there’s plenty to see and do in the middle of town.

Situated at the head of the Oslo Fjord, Norway’s capital is home to the Nobel Peace centre, the Holocaust centre, the Royal palace, Munch museum, Frogner Park, Vigeland Park, the opera house and Akershus fortress. So many attractions, but easy to get around if you purchase the Oslo pass, about 300 krone ($45 or 30 pounds), which affords you free travel on every bus and tram, as well as discounts on most of the museums and sights. If you arrive into Oslo by train the railway station is at the heart of the city centre. However, arrival by air to Gardemoen, Oslo’s newest airport means a 30 minute train ride. There is an express train to the city, which leaves approximately every ten minutes, which costs 400 krone and speeds you into the centre within 15 minutes, but just as comfortable, and costing only 90 krone, is the regular NDB train. This slower 30 minute ride transits the airport from Lillestroem and is every half hour. It’s a little more crowded being on the local commuter, but why pay more when you really don’t need to?

ATTRACTIONS – Trip advisor lists 212 attractions in and around Oslo. These are my top ten.

The Royal Palace
Home to the Norwegian royal family, the palace is situated in the centre of town and a focal point for all other attractions. Guided tours are available when they are not home and there is a changing of the guard every day at 130pm. The historical tour is well worth the visit.

Akershus fortress
Free to walk around the outside with stunning views of the city and Aker Brygge, the harbour area. An audio tour is available and worth seeing the resistance museum within the walls regarding the Nazi occupation, but even if you don’t go inside the walks around the fortress are uplifting. Built on the banks of the fjord the castle has several neat soldier guards placed amongst the buildings. Opposite the fortress is a military museum with cannons from various centuries, plus an armored tank.

Nobel Peace centre
nobel peace centre osloNext to Aker Brygge and a huge pedestrian area the Nobel peace centre has its own tours with exhibits that change on a regular basis. There are interactive displays for the children, and the mission and message clear to all about getting along together.

Aker Brygge
A walk along the docks here is bracing. Full of restaurants and bars it’s easy to see why it is so popular with tourists and locals alike. With views across the Oslo fjord it is entirely possible to spend an entire day here just enjoying a stroll and people watching.

Frogner / Vigeland Park
Named Frogner park but also known as Vigeland park from the sculptor of the same name, this attraction will take you at least half a day to get around. Beautiful in the summer but even more striking in the Autumn / fall when the colours of the park make it come alive. Full of unusual male and female torso statues there are numerous trails that lead off around this recreational area, intermingled with different lakes and seated areas for private reflection. There are over 200 statues to see plus the Vigeland museum within the park.

National Museum
The national museum is a short walk from Karl Johans gate. Full of changing exhibitions, there is plenty to see from the European and Scandinavian art on display, but the one real attraction is the Munch exhibit featuring it’s most famous painting, the Scream. It’s the Norwegian equivalent of the Mona Lisa.

Opera House
oslo opera houseThe opera House is new by all standards and an architectural masterpiece. Right next to the Railway station this imposing building has an area where you can walk on the rooftop. Tickets for concerts are hard to get so book well in advance but entrance is free to walk on the rooftop and go into the building. Great views of the harbour and an amazing glass sculpture in the water just 100 metres from the shore based on the shape of an iceberg, as is the opera house.

Bygdoy Peninsula
Take the ferry ride to the Bygdoy peninsula, it’s well worth the fare and the time spent looking at the expensive houses, but also checking out the five museums they have there. This is old Norwegian money living in this quiet corner of Oslo. If there are no ferries the number 30 bus goes to Bygdoy. Remember to get the Oslo pass then the bus and many of the museum entrances are free. The ferry leaves from behind city hall.

Fram Polar Ship Museum
The Fram is the famous ship that Raould Amundsen took to the South pole and became the first person to place a flag at that most southerly point, just beating the British explorer Sir Walter Scott by days. Historically it’s one of Norway’s most famous attractions so well worth the visit to see the artifacts brought back from the trips to both the arctic and the Antarctic.

Holmenkollen ski museum and ski jump
The last, but not least, of my top ten attractions to see in Oslo is the Holmenkollen Ski Jump. There’s a tram right from the City centre to Holmenkollen so it’s easy to get to. Breathtaking views of Oslo and the surrounding area from the top are reached by a funicular, and even if you don’t go in the museum the trip to the summit is well worth the visit.

Other Museums and attractions worth going to see are:
Viking ship museum
Ibsen Museum
Kon Tiki museum
Norwegian Folk Museum

Comfort Hotel Express $$
Hotel Bristol $$$
Carlton Oslo $$$$
Grand Hotel $$$$
Thon Hotel oslo $$$
Frogner House Apartments $$
Hostels are cheaper if you’re on a budget, or consider airbnb where you stay with a family who will rent you a room for half the price of a hotel. www.airbnb.com.

Flights – Hipmunk, Norwegian Airlines. Expedia, farebuzz.
City- Oslo pass, Viator
Hotels – Expedia, Hotels.com
Alternative accommodation - Airbnb

Hos thea – Scandinavian food and rated number one in Oslo.
Elias Mat and Saant – local Norwegian fare – try the Moose stew.
Café Fedora – Good value – all sorts of Sandwiches and specials.
Ruffino Ristorante italiano – basic Italian menu but worth the visit.
Ra Sushi – Some of the best Sushi in Oslo.
Brasserie France – French brasserie. Quite expensive but good choice of meals and wine.
Dockside café and bar – right on the waterfront ideal for a drink or meal at sunset looking across the Oslo fjord.

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