When we booked our trip to Oslo, it was done on a whim. It was one of those ‘where’s cheap to go’ Skyscanner search bookings. You know the ones I mean, you put your dates in and click the ‘everywhere’ button. For £30 each return from the UK we surely couldn’t go wrong? As I had never been to Norway before, let alone Oslo, I was excited to see what it had to offer. Normally I am super organised and ready to hit any city from the second I hit the ground.
However, due to planning 3 other trips at the same time, Oslo was put on the back burner. It wasn’t until 2 days before our flight that I started looking into things and planning our itinerary. It dawned on me quickly that I’d left it too late, so instead decided to just go with the flow. Now, if you are a regular reader of our blog, you’ll know how far removed from my comfort zone that made me feel. Therefore, I didn’t really know what to expect from Oslo, but I was eager to find out.
Of course, there are all the practical things you need to know about Oslo. For example, the currency is the Norwegian Kroner, Oslo uses the Europlug, it’s hot in summer, cold in winter etc. However, there is so much more to the city than just the practicalities. Therefore, I have put together a list of the other things you need to know about Oslo. Hopefully, it will help you when deciding whether or not to visit Norway’s capital.
It Has 2 Airports
The city’s main (and closest) airport is Oslo Lufthavn, located in Gardermoen which is only 50 km from Oslo city centre. This journey takes around 35 minutes. We, however, flew into Torp Sandefjord Airport, which is 2 hours from Oslo City centre. In fact, the bus journey from the airport is actually around the same duration as the flight from London to Norway itself. Therefore, if you are only in Oslo for a short period of time, it’s important to factor in the 4-hour return journey to the airport. We used the Torp Ekspressen bus for our transfer, which was fantastic. It was clean, comfortable and more importantly on time.
The fact that the bus from Torp airport to Oslo city centre cost nearly £50 each was an early indicator as to just how expensive Oslo is. With the average pint costing £10 and not getting much change out of £100 for a meal for two, we quickly spent out budgeted cash. Therefore, what we thought would be a cheap weekend away – £30 flights and less than £300 for a central 3-star hotel turned into quite an expensive break. Therefore, as soon as we arrived, we started hunting for cheap and free things to do in the Oslo. Luckily we found loads and had a thoroughly great time; I just wish I had been more prepared.
There is something for everyone in Oslo; you just need to know where to look. If you like a traditional city break, then the city centre is the place for you. With a fantastic mix of architectural styles, great traditional restaurants and more museums than you can shake a stick at, there is more than enough to keep you occupied. However, if you like a more laid-back bohemian vibe, the hipster hangout Grünerløkka is the place to head. With numerous markets, chilled out café bars, vintage shops and an abundance of street art, this neighbourhood located in the east of Oslo will be more your cup of tea.
It’s Packed Full of History
Founded in the year 1040, Oslo has a lot of history. Therefore, if you have an interest in history, especially Norwegian or Scandinavian history, Oslo is a great city to visit. One of the most important historic sites in Oslo is the Akershus Fortress or Akershus Castle, a medieval castle that was built to protect the city from invasion. The walk up to the castle is well worth it, not only is the castle itself beautiful but so are the views over the Oslofjord and the city. Also, a visit to The Viking Ship Museum is located at Bygdøy in Oslo, is a must to see real Viking Ships and The Fram Museum tells the story of Norwegian polar exploration.
It’s Perfect For Art Lovers
Art is a big thing in Oslo, from world famous painters, playwrights and sculptures to the street art in the Grünerløkka neighbourhood. If you are an art lover, Oslo is the place for you. The National Museum houses Norway’s largest collection of art, architecture and design, including one of (there are four) Scream paintings by Edvard Munch together with works from his collection. If sculptures are more your thing, you’re in luck. Oslo is home to the impressive Vigeland Sculpture Park which has more than 200 sculptures by Gustav Vigeland made from bronze, granite and cast iron, and the best part – it’s free to visit.
It’s Got Its Own Cheese
As a cheese lover (ok, addict), when I found out that Oslo has its own cheese I was very excited to try it. Norway’s brown cheese (Brunost) is made from a mixture of milk, cream and whey. It is certainly an acquired taste (Mr ESLT liked it, unfortunately, I didn’t). You can find it in a number of shops and it features in various dishes on most menus across the city. We visited Fenaknoken cheese shop on the free walking tour we took using our Oslo Cards and were given the opportunity to try the local delicacy. It’s very rich and hard with an almost caramel-like taste, making it a great topping on Norwegian waffles.
It’s Got Lots of Green Space
Even though it is a busy and relatively built-up city, Oslo is home to a number of green spaces. Which are perfect places to escape to when the hustle and bustle of the city centre become too much. Frogner Park, which is home to Vigeland Sculpture Park, is a great example. You can hang out for the day, admiring the views and wandering through the flower gardens. Many parks and nature trails can be found along either side of the Akerselva River that runs through the city. And, if cemeteries are your thing, a visit to The Cemetery of Our Saviour is a must. It is the resting place of painter Edvard Munch and playwright Henrik Ibsen, amongst others.
It’s Got A Lot of Saunas
I love a sauna. Especially after a swim at my local leisure centre. However, the Scandinavians take saunas to a whole new level and there are loads to enjoy in Oslo. We found lots of fjord side raft saunas located on the water’s edge opposite the Opera house. People can sauna here and then jump straight in the fjord to cool down. These saunas are operational all year round, although maybe only the brave use them in the winter months when the Fjord often ices over? We also visited SALT which is a nomadic art project on Langkaia and is home to 3 different saunas. You can book a private sauna or a communal sauna session – don’t forget your cozzie!
It Has Its Own Fjord
Oslo has its own Fjord – the Oslo Fjord. It was not what I imagined when someone says fjord. However, the term fjord can refer to a wide range of waterways. Therefore, this qualifies. There are so many activities you can take part in on the Oslo Fjord including kayaking and swimming, especially during the summer months. However, the more popular activities are island hopping on the public ferries or taking an organised boat tour, which is what we did. A couple of hours exploring the fjord was enough for us, particularly as it was a cold, wet day when we did it, but very worthwhile, if only to see the cute toy town fjord front wooden houses.
As far as cities go, it is a lovely one. It’s not too big, therefore almost everything is walkable. It’s not overly built up, meaning you don’t feel like you are in a concrete jungle. And it is clean, especially for a capital city, which always gets a massive thumbs up from me. I do have a love of Scandinavian cities, Oslo certainly did not disappoint and I’m really glad we took the gamble on the £30 flights. We were in the city for 4 days and I think we did everything that we wanted to do while we were there. In fact, I think we would have done it quicker if I had not have sprained my ankle on our first day. It’s a beautiful city and one we do recommend visiting.
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