When I first landed in Oslo, what immediately struck me was how happy everybody looked. To look happy in an airport is no mean feat so even then, I knew I’d arrived somewhere special.
Getting from Oslo airport to the centre of the city is incredibly easy – there’s a direct train called Flytoget which gets you there in under twenty minutes. You also don’t even need to buy a ticket, you just scan your bank card at the barrier. Yes I know this is how people use the tube every day in London but at an airport, when the one thing you really want to do quickly is leave the airport and get your holiday started, this is a very handy little feature.
One thing I will say now though is that if you want to have a drink at any point when visiting Oslo, and do not wish to remortgage your house or sell of a few vital organs to do so, pick up a bottle of something on the non-Scandinavean side of duty free.
First stop was the visitor centre to pick up an Oslo pass. This costs roughly £70 for a 72 hour pass but it’s money which is seriously well spent. You get free admission to loads of the key sights and museums, use of all the central public transport and you can ride on the boats.
Next stop, The Norwegian National Opera and Ballet. This is an incredibly beautiful building, and particularly cool as you can climb onto the roof of it and look out across the fjord.
Having spent some time looking at all of the boats (and eating my packed lunch because I will always enjoy the school trip/picnic novelty of this), I wanted to actually be on the water.
Oslo has a “hop on hop off” boat service which is delightfully named Batservice, free to use with the Oslo pass. Worth noting here though that in order to use this for free you need to have bought the 72 hour pass.
I’m rarely happier than when I’m on the water, and this trip was no exception.
I’d been told, by my Nan of all people, that the Kon-tiki was a must-see museum so that’s where I headed next.
The permenant exhibition here tells the amazing story of Thor Heyerdahl, who crossed the Pacific Ocean on a hand-built balsawood raft with a crew of just five other men.
The original raft, built in 1947, is housed in the museum. When you think that this was built with a determination stemmed solely from curiosity, the incredible nature of Thor really makes itself known.
He managed to get military support, acquired men for his crew who had been on the front line defending their countries from Nazi attack and completed a voyage every professional maritime expert said was entirely impossible.
In addition, Thor was afraid of the sea and couldn’t swim. Impressive doesn’t even begin to cover it.
My next stop was the renowned museum Fram. This place tells the story of the polar ship Fram, which successfully sailed through the trans-Atlantic passage, and reached points further south and North than any other wooden ship before or after it. Designed specifically to be able to battle it’s way successfully through polar ice, the vessel is a testament to engineering of the time.
Entry to the museum also includes a fifteen minute film depicting the journey of some of the most famous polar explorers and expeditions, which as well as being educational, made me hope to continue to develop my curiosity about the world as countless others have done before me.
Final museum stop for the day was the Viking Ship museum. In a discovery of maritime excellence Vikings always deserve a mention because not only did they travel across vast oceans to discover settlements and civilasitions apart from their own, they rowed there.
The museum itself it supremely cool, housing three of the oldest original Viking longboats in Scandinavia.
All three ships, Oseberg, Gokstad and Tune, were originally ocean-going vessels but ended up as burial ships in the final journeys of their lives.
Blame either the hit television show Vikings or simply a natural fascination with these most barbaric of farmers and land owners, but the Vikings are some of the most powerful people I’ve ever learned about.
As a final point, the Vikings seemed to have a pre-emptive notion of the fact that women are able to do more than simply sit pretty and produce offspring. Yes they still play that role and on the whole, women were not always best treated by their male counterparts in Viking society but some of them, named Shield Maidens, were championing an equality that wasn’t even close to being named let alone set into motion in most other parts of the world.
Of those three remaining Viking ships, one was found with the remains of a woman who, if she deserved a send-off of this level of state, was almost certainly a warrior. Feeling more than a little tempted to buy myself a shield from the gift shop, I left the museum feeling undeniably happy.
Mind you, that happiness could also have come in part from my chosen afternoon snack (I’m sorry, I can’t survive on picnic alone!), a waffle with Norwegian brown cheese.
That cheese is like nothing I’ve ever tasted, sweet and salty and the perfect accompaniment to the soft, dense waffle.
I wound up my Saturday night with some delicious pasta at a local restaurant, then retreated into my book and my bottle of rum. Perfection.
Sunday morning started with a spontaneous trip to the Oslo Reptile Park. I’m nothing short of fascinated by these creatures and there were so many amazing species to look at here, including the following:
Micro gecko, green bottle blue tarantula and a pink-toed tarantula…
A more grown up Quentin, always exciting…
A Williams dwarf gecko and a rhino rat snake…
And a highly inquisitive pygmy marsupial…
Entry is free with your Oslo pass so it becomes a sort of, “why not?” experience.
A short walk later and I was able to get to the National Gallery, via the Royal Palace and through the beautiful gardens surrounding it.
The gallery is home to the much revered Edvard Munch which is all over brochures but I was thrilled to discover this place also houses Rodin’s The Thinker, which has long been a favourite of mine.
I also discovered Pader Balke, whose work was filled with deep rooted feeling mostly conveyed by various types of weather.
Next up, mega tourist trap Hard Rock Cafe for lunch. I’ve always loved these places, not for the food which is just Americanised crap with cheese but for the musical history displayed all over the walls.
To be fair though, I did have a moose burger so there was at least a hint of Scandinavia on my plate…
I wiled away much of the rest of my afternoon in the sunshine by a fountain which was excellent, but mostly because I had plans to make it out later that night.
Selected venue for the evening came recommended by a friend who had recently visited Oslo and she was bang on the money.
Sunday night at Bla is spectacular. Just go. Trust me on this one.
Live music, beautiful surroundings and a teeming mass of happy folks.
The band, the Frank Znort quartet, are buried in the middle of that crowd – music doesn’t get much more up close and personal than this.
My last day in Oslo dawned bright and sunny and even though I had a flight looming, I was determined to make the most of it.
I’d heard a lot about the Vigeland Sculpture Park and since I still had plenty of time left on my Oslo pass, meaning the tram was free, thought I might as well.
I’m so glad I did because it’s amazing, truly.
A beautifully landscaped, bronze and stone study of the human body. Fantastic.
On the tram again for a few stops and to the Nobel Prize Peace Centre, which is reason in itself to visit Oslo.
Celebrating not only Alfred Nobel and the events in his life which led to him creating this well-known award but also, every single winner to date in a beautiful and moving permenant exhibition.
Final stop for the day, mostly because I’d read that there was a view to die for, Ekebergparken.
To get here you need to take the number 18 or 19 tram up into the hills (around seven stops from the centre) then walk up through a forest for about 15 minutes.
There are sculptures along the way and the whole place feels wonderfully remote, nicely removed from the hustle and bustle of the city centre.
That view that I’d heard so much about? Worth it and then some. This was the best way I could have chosen to end my trip as it allowed me to reflect on all of the places I’d visited, as well as take a few minutes to really let those experiences settle in.
The city of Oslo is outstanding, beautiful and friendly and has soared to the top of my list of favourite places to visit.
Shout out here as well to the hosts of my Airbnb Henrik and Hilde – their apartment is the perfect base to explore and has a lovely terrace which gets the sun all day, perfect for a wind down after all those activities.
I’m not ashamed to say that I’ve fallen in love with Oslo, and the below are my summary points of the whole experience:
1. This is not a city in which to get drunk, there’s just too much to see for it to be worth having a hangover
2. It’s the easiest city to get around as the public transport is incredible
3. Get an Oslo pass, it’s the best money I spent all weekend
4. Never, ever, underestimate a wooden boat.