Oslo, Norway: Norway, which means the north way, is one of the Scandinavian countries up above the North sea in the map. It was united with Denmark for about little more than 400 hundred years, then was untied with Sweden for about a century before it was completely independent in 1898. It is the country where vikings roamed around many many years ago, a country of beautiful fjords, and also a country where people eat their burgers and pizzas with forks and knives. This was the first thing we noticed while having lunch at the airport.
While in Oslo, we noticed statues and sculptures everywhere and in every corner of the city. These sculptures are simple yet resemble basic pictures of our lives. The city is very neat and tidy. People are very friendly and in most of the places people speak very good English.
Our flight from Brussels, Belgium was only for 2 hours. We stayed there 3 days and 3 nights. I personally thought, it was enough to visit almost everything that we wanted to see in Oslo. One thing we didn’t do and may be we should have done was taking a cruise on Oslofjord. It costs about 150 Norwegian kroner for a 2 hours ride. It would have been nice taking a boat ride and watch the sun go down.
Time of Travel: We went to Oslo in the 1st week of October. Since it is way up north, it can get very cold around this time of the year. We got medium shower on our last day there. Better to carry winter clothes and an umbrella with you all time. The best time to visit Oslo is during the summer months. That’s when most of the places are open for tours. During our visit we couldn’t go inside few buildings because those are only open during summer.
Hotel we stayed in: We stayed in “Scandic Hotel – Edderkoppen” which was only 5 minutes walk from Karl Johans Gate. There is a Best Western on Karl Johans Gate along with many other up-scale hotels. Hotel prices here are very expensive compare to other European countries. Try to book your hotel way ahead of time, if you are lucky you may just get a good deal.
There is a high-speed train, flytoget, that runs from the airport. We got off at “Nationaltheatret” station (takes 30 minutes) which is about 3 minutes walk to Karl Johans Gate. The ticket for flytoget is 170 Norwegian kroner per adult for one-way and kids under 18 ride free when accompanied by an adult. When you are reserving your hotel try to get it near Karl Johans Gate. You won’t need to rent any car, everything is within walking distance.
Things to buy from Oslo: Oslo is known for its warm, woolen sweaters and winter hats with traditional designs. These may be a bit expensive but worth every penny especially if you can use those during winter. Also you can pick up decorative viking ships and other viking items, trolls, Scandinavian violin tunes in CDs from any souvenir shops around.
Here are the places we’ve visited during our stay in Oslo:
1) Nationaltheatret: This is the biggest theatre of Norway. It is situated between the Royal Palace and the parliament. You will see it as soon as you get out of the train station. We didn’t go inside the theatre. But from the outside it sure is a pretty building with a nice garden around it.
2) Universitete i Oslo (University of Oslo): This is the oldest and the largest university in Norway. It was founded in 1811. Pictured below is the main hall or “Domus Media”. This building also contains offices for the Faculty of Law and University auditorium. This part of the university is situated right across from the Nationaltheatret and the train station.
3) The Royal Palace: This palace was built-in the first half of 19th century as Norwegian residence of Norwegian and Swedish king Charles III (Carl Johan, Charles XIV of Sweden) and is the official residence of the present Norwegian Monarch. Although it is the official residence of the present monarchy, the Royal Family live in other Royal residences. Good to know, flag on top of the building means the king is in the country.
The palace is located at one end of Karl Johans Gate, about 5 minutes walk from the train station and the Nationaltheatret. We couldn’t go inside the palace since its only open during summer time. But you are more than welcome to take pictures with the royal guards in front of the palace. There is also a beautiful garden behind and around the palace.
4) Vigelandsparken (Frognerparken): This is the world’s largest collection of sculptures executed by a single artist, that is Gustav Vigeland. The park is commonly known to locals as “Frognerparken”. It covers 80 acres and features Vigeland’s lifework with 212 bronze and granite sculptures. The park was mainly completed between 1939 and 1949.
In the center of the park is the Monolith, which is 46 ft (14 meters) and consists of 121 human figures rising towards the sky. “This is meant to represent man’s desire to become closer with the spiritual and divine. It portrays a feeling of togetherness as the human figures embrace one another as they are carried toward salvation.” (wikipedia.org). It stands on the highest point of the park, overlooking the rest of the sculptures. Monolith applies that the totem has to be fabricated from one (mono) solid piece of stone (lith). Construction of the massive monument began in 1924 when Gustav Vigeland himself modeled it out of clay in his studio. The design process took him ten months, after that transferring of the figures began in 1929 and took 3 stone carvers and 14 years to accomplish.
Tram # 12 goes to Vigeland park from Karl Johans gate and you need to get off at station Vigelandsparken. The park is only 1.5 miles from city center. There is also Vigeland’s studio and home (now museum) at another side of the park, where you can spend about an hour and half to appreciate his dedication in making these sculptures. The entrance is free for both the park and the museum and is open to visitors year-long.
5) Akerhus Castle and Fortress (Akerhus Slott og Festning):It is a medieval castle that was built in 1299 to protect Oslo, but its modern look is due to an upgrade to a Renaissance palace in the 17th century when the city was rebuilt after a fire. Akerhus has also been a prison where it has housed many rebels and well-known criminals through Norwegian history including Ole Hoyland and the “thief of the people” Gjest Baardsen who spent his 18 years here and wrote a biography.
Akerhus fortress is still a military area. Norwegian Royalty have been buried in the Royal Mausoleum in the castle. Its primary function today is to house the representation rooms of the Norwegian Government.
The castle is very close to the city center, only about 10 minutes walk from Nationaltheatret. It’s free to enter the fortress and is open to the public daily until 9pm. But if you want to visit the castle room/museum, there is a fee of 70 Norwegian kroner per adult which includes an audio tour. It takes about an hour to 90 minutes for the whole tour. Strollers are not allowed inside the castle if you are traveling with kids/babies. Another FYI, there is no cafe or snack bar here since it still is an active government place. The Norwegian Armed Force museum and the Norwegian Resistance museum can be visited here as well. There are several excellent viewpoints of the Oslofjord and surroundings areas. The stone walls, tight passages and staircases sure create an exciting place to visit.
6) National Art Gallery: Features Norwegian art from the national-romantic period, as well as some art by international artists. If you appreciate and understand paintings, then this is your heaven. Its located near the university, 5 minutes walk from Nationaltheatret. Free on Sundays.
7) Oslo City Hall: Oslo City Hall is best known for being the place where Nobel Peace Prize ceremony takes place every year. On December 10 of each year, Oslo City Hall hosts the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in which the annual laureate gives his/her lecture and is awarded the medal and diploma. It’s an interesting building with a lot of artworks inside and outside. It is situated in Radhusplassen by Oslofjord at Akerbrygge and Nobel Peace Center Museum, may be about 10 minutes walk from Royal Palace.
8) Oslo Domkirke (Church): This is the main church for the Oslo bishopric of the Church of Norway. The present building dates back from about 1694. The pulpit, altarpiece and the front of the organ are still original, that means from the end of the 17th century. This cathedral saw the celebration of many Royal events like the marriage of King Harald and Queen Sonja as well as the one of Prince Haakon Magus and Mette-Marit. The admission to the church is free and is open everyday between 10 and 4pm. It is also very close to the city center.
9) Karl Johans Gate: This is the main pedestrian street of Oslo and was named in honor of King Karl Johan, King of Sweden and Norway. You will find tons of cafes, restaurants (including a T.G.I.Fridays and Hard Rock Cafe), convenient stores, gift shops and boutiques, and many more interesting places for shopping. Day or night, this place is packed with tourists and locals. At one end of Karl Johans Gate is the Royal Palace. It is very close to the Parliament, Nationaltheatret, the University and the City Hall. There is also an open market that sits every saturday, where you can find items like shoes and clothes, also bakery and household goods. You may not get any cheap deal in this market, but its awesome to just walk around and enjoy the atmosphere if the weather is good.
10) The Nobel Peace Center: This is located right by Oslofjord at Akerbrygge and the City Hall. The museum is open til 6pm and I think charges about 80 Norwegian kroner. We couldn’t go inside the museum since it was about closing time. But as I have heard it takes about half an hour to 45 minutes to tour the museum.
11) Oslo Opera House: This is the home of the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet, and the national opera theater in Norway. It is one of the most interesting buildings I have ever experienced. Its located by the waterfront, very close to Oslo Domkirke. It is free to enter but we couldn’t go in since there was a performance and big party to celebrate 150 years of maritime history in Norway on going that evening in the opera house. But even if you cannot go inside make sure to take a stroll on top of this white building. The view of Oslofjord and rest of the city from the top is very pretty. This building has won couple awards for its unique design and shapes, so don’t miss this even if you don’t like opera.
12) Aker Brygge: This definitely has to be one of the most popular places in Oslo for shopping, dining and entertainment. It is very close to the City Hall and the Nobel Peace Center. It is a harbor in Oslofjord. This place looks even better during sunset. On one side you can see the Akerhus Castle and Fortress on the distance, another side is packed with cafes, restaurants, and shopping malls. There are beautiful sail boats, cruise liners, private boats that are docked on the water. If you have spare time don’t miss the chance of taking a cruise on the fjord. This the best place in Oslo to hangout and chill at any time of the day.
13) National Parliament (Stortinget): It is located on the main street, Karl Johans Gate, in the city center. It has a guided tour but we couldn’t go inside because the Parliament was in session during that time.