The next stop on our Scandinavian adventure was Oslo (you can read about our time in Stockholm in my last post). We found Oslo to be another wonderful Scandinavian city – clean, pleasant, and easy to get around, albeit also very expensive! The transport system in Oslo is superb – buses and trains run frequently and it is easy to navigate. There are even phone charger plug-ins on the buses. We took the Oslo Airport Express Train, Flytoget, to and from the airport. The train departs every 10 minutes, gets you to the city center in 20 minutes, costs 160 NOK, and has free wi-fi. You really cannot beat that for transportation to the city!
Our hotel, the Clarion Hotel Bastion, was conveniently located about a 6 minute walk from the central station. Not only was it easy to access the airport, but it was simple for us to catch a bus or tram to go anywhere in town. Aside from the location, Clarion Hotel Bastion was a wonderful place to stay and included a large breakfast buffet, afternoon pancakes, and dinner (tacos were served the night we stayed). Coffee, tea and fruit are provided 24 hours a day and there is a small gym and sauna available for guest use.
After dropping our luggage at the hotel, we walked back to the central station to join the 10 am free walking tour with Free Tour Oslo. Oslo is quite compact, so the tour isn’t very long (about 90 minutes). Major sites that you’ll see on the tour include the Oslo Opera House, Oslo City Hall, National Theatre, Karl Johans Gate, and the Norwegian Parliament. Oslo City Hall is one of the city’s most famous buildings and the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony occurs here annually on December 10. Make sure to visit on the hour so you can hear the unique songs played by the 49-bell carillon! The tour was informative, but it was easily the biggest group tour I’ve been a part of, even larger than the one in Stockholm. Also, our guide was from Ireland and while definitely knowledgeable about Norway, he had only lived in the country for a few months. Typically, I think you get a better tour from someone who is a local and knows the area and culture very well.
After our walking tour, we visited Elias Mat & Sant for lunch. The intimate restaurant offers Norwegian cuisine made with high quality organic ingredients. Just take a look at their Instagram account and you won’t want to pass up their beautiful and natural dishes!
After lunch, we took a bus to the Viking Ship Museum on the Bygdoy peninsula. From Oslo City Hall, you can take bus number 30 from Radhuset towards Bygdoy where you’ll get off at the Vikingskipene stop to access the Viking Ship Museum. The museum is home to three Viking ships, along with other items used during the era, including sledges, a horse cart, household items, and other carved wood items. The wooden ships are very well-preserved because they were excavated from Viking ship burial mounds. All three ships can be viewed from both ground level and viewing platforms. The museum also has two videos that show how Vikings lived and how ships were made during that time. Museum entry is 100 NOK, or free with the Oslo pass. You can easily get through the entire museum in under 2 hours, making it a unique destination that won’t take up your whole day.
After eating afternoon pancakes back at our hotel and taking a short siesta, we walked to the top of the stunning Oslo Opera House. The building is made from marble and granite and appears to rise from the fjord like a glacier. It is said to be the best place to see a sunset in Oslo, although I cannot confirm this since the sun set way after our bedtime. I can say, however, that it provided beautiful panoramic views of the city and fjord and would be a great place to share a bottle of wine.
From the Opera House, it is a short walk to the Havnepromenaden, which is a wonderful promenade along the seafront in downtown Oslo. It is the perfect place to take a stroll, enjoy dinner at one of the many cafes, or to soak up some sun with the locals. If you bring a bathing suit, there is even a small “beach” where you can swim.
The next morning, we took a bus to Grunerlokka, a hip neighborhood that I had recently read about in Vogue, thanks to my in-the-know mother-in-law. The neighborhood was trendy indeed, filled with vintage shops, baby boutiques, coffee shops, restaurants, and even a store devoted entirely to travel. Some of my favorite shops were Dapper, a menswear store/barber shop/bike shop; Fransk Bazar, a second-hand collector’s dream; Chillout Travel Store, home to all of the backpacks and travel books you can imagine; and Flying Tiger, the best place to pick up fun Scandinavian souvenirs for a reasonable price. Babyshop, a popular Norwegian baby store, is also a short walk away from the neighborhood. If you want to get away from the many tourists, spend an afternoon in Grunerlokka.
Before we knew it, it was already time to take the train back to the Oslo Airport to catch our flight to Bergen to visit the fjordlands. Oslo has a fantastic airport. The security is very efficient; for example, each person takes their things out at an individual pod so you never feel like you are holding up the line or waiting for a less experienced traveler to get through ahead of you. Employees use electric scooters to travel around the airport. And if you have time while waiting for your flight, there are several great restaurants, including a Jamie Oliver deli with build-your-own salads and artisan pizzas. Other favorites are Humle and Malt, which serves Norwegian food and local beers, and Cafe Ritazza, which offers smoothies, juices, and bakery items.
If we had more time in Oslo, I would recommend visiting the Nobel Peace Museum, which highlights Nobel Peace Prize winners throughout history. The museum is located near Oslo City Hall. The Peace Prize is the only Nobel Prize awarded outside of Sweden, so the Oslo museum is limited to Peace Prize winners. It is said to be a fantastic and unique museum. I also would visit the Kon-Tiki Museum, which is located in Bygdoy near the Viking Ship Museum. I think the story of the Kon-Tiki expedition is fascinating! Both museums cost 100 NOK to enter. Finally, if you are an art aficionado, Edvard Munch’s famous painting, The Scream, is located at the Nasjonalmuseet.
Thanks for reading! I look forward to sharing about our time in the fjordlands next time. (Spoiler alert: it includes the famous Trolltunga hike!) If you’ve been to Oslo, I would love to hear what you did. Please comment below!
Clarion Hotel Bastion, Skippergata 7, 0152
Elias Mat & Sant, Kristian Augusts gate 14, 0164
Viking Ship Museum, Huk Aveny 35, 0287
Oslo Opera House, Kirsten Flagstads Plass 1, 0150
Dapper, Nordre gate 13, 0551
Fransk Bazar, Grüners gate 5, 0552
Chillout Travel Store, Markveien 55, 0554
Flying Tiger, Markveien 44, 0554
Babyshop, Ullevålsveien 11