Very clean and green city. It’s expensive, the capital of Norway – these are all things I expect you’ve heard plenty of times about Oslo. But to be blunt there’s a hell of a lot more to it than that….
Surrounded by the sea and dense forests, this city is fun, cultured and home to a vibrant art scene, great adventure and winter sports facilities and world-class museums. It’s so often overlooked by its counterpart Bergen, but you’d be a fool to miss out on visiting Oslo. Worried about spending too much? Check out my Oslo: on a Shoestring post. But here’s my low down on how you could spend 72hrs in this unique city.
Book an early morning flight, 9am ones are relatively cheap and get you to Oslo around 1pm (dependent on there being no delays). The time difference between the UK and is Norway is 1hr, so getting there at midday gives you time to travel to your AirBnB or hotel, unpack, freshen up and settle in.
For a wonderful and wacky insight into the Norwegian art scene, I have two options for you to try. They are both spread quite a distance away from each other and I would only really recommend visiting one of them during your stay, unless you are a super art fanatic or you have extra time to kill.
Either walk to the Ekeberg Sculpture Park, a 10-15-minute walk from the apartment we stayed at or jump on a couple of buses to the famous Vigeland Sculpture park (We ran out of time to visit Vigeland so my post will focus on Ekeberg instead).
The first sight that greets you is the large sculpture of a reclining woman – Chris even had a go at imitating her, pretty spot on I must say. Then as you take the step incline up to the main section of the park make sure you look out for scattered rocks that line the path. At first inspection they just look like moss covered stones but focus and you’ll spot phrases and words engraved into the aged surface.
Although the city skyline in front of you is dominated by cranes, you are standing in one of the prime examples of what makes this city so beautiful the vast green space of the Ekberg Sculpture Park. Many people mention the green and clean nature of Oslo and they aren’t wrong, holding one of the lowest carbon footprints in the world, great public transport, vast open green spaces and city planning that gives priority to pedestrians – really from this view point it’s not hard to see why Oslo has been awarded the greenest city in the world for 2019.
Now I knew before I visited that the free sculpture parks were famous and one of the must-see sights. But I didn’t realise to what extent how abstract and intriguing the sculptures are, spend a few hours strolling around the forest and you’ll stumble across something at every turn, from a large balloon like representation of the male reproductive organs (that’s penis if we’re being crude here) to another unbalanced representation of the female body, a rotating arrow and small sitting circle nestled in the middle of a lake. Take time to jump around the kid’s park (yes, I did I’m a big kid at heart) then you’ll be greeted by a bronze sculpture of a man relieving himself in the woods – interpret how you wish.
I’d recommend you stopping at Ekebergenrestauranten for a refreshing drink so you can take time to admire the breath-takingly beautiful views of the harbour below.
A great way to spend your first evening is to take a dinner cruise to the fjords at sunset. (Something we plan to do on our next visit here but sadly missed out on this time). Climb aboard a traditional wooden boat and set sail into the fjords surrounding Oslo, you’ll pass little islands home to only a few people and can enjoy a prawn buffet whilst listening to blues or jazz music. Just don’t set your expectations too high as the fjords you have in your thoughts are found in the north of Norway whereas the Oslo ones are more like gentle coastal hills.
Give yourself a nice chilled out start to the day – after all you are on holiday right? Enjoy breakfast and then prepare your pack lunch for the day (see my Oslo:on a Shoestring post). A 20-30 minute drive out of the city centre and you’ll hit the beautiful Nordmarka forests.
The impressive structure of the Holmenkollen ski jump glistens in the city skyline and really is one attraction you have to visit. Famous for hosting World Championships and the Olympic Winter Games, the site is also home to the oldest ski museum in the world where you’ll find more than 4,000 years of skiing history, Norwegian polar exploration artifacts and interactive displays on global warming.
The museum has a modern stylish decor and avoids the dull reading off boards – I mean sure you still have to read off boards but the use of screens and artifacts makes it a refreshing change from the old fashioned approach. Once you’ve sneaked past the intimidating 7ft stuffed Elk (he might be dead but he still freaked us out – read my Oslo to Gothenburg post and you’ll see why) and marveled at how far the design of skis has come its time to hit up the observation deck. As you wait you can enjoy nerding out (like Chris did) over the construction time lapse showing just how they put the new design structure of the jump together in most recent years.
And wow. What a view. With panoramic views across the city and the fjords if you aren’t amazed, I’m not sure what’s wrong with you! Take a moment to think and put yourself in those Olympians ski boots – I mean could you push yourself off from that height and do a jump (hell no I know I couldn’t). The new addition here is a zip wire where for about 5 minutes of fun you can speed down the ski jump all for £60. As you know from the Oslo: on a Shoestring post, we were watching the money pennies on this trip but it’s something I’d consider doing another time – because it looked AWESOME!!! I even managed to capture some footage…
Literally round the corner from the ski jump, is probably the coolest church you will ever see.
Holmenkollen Chapel in fact I should say. Another thing we happened to stumble across by chance, although frankly its hard to miss it. With is gothic black wooden cladding, the chapel holds a commanding presence over the hilltop, take a stroll round it (warning the hill is steep I almost had an asthma attack – inhaler at the ready!) and you might even catch glimpse of a wedding. Pretty gorgeous place to get married in the mountains, in Norway in a cool edgy chapel, right?
With Chris being into his snowboarding, we thought we might as well continue the snow sport theme from this morning into the rest of the day. Driving up to the Vinterpark we were confronted with a cyclist fayre and a whole load of fitness fanatics who take to this area during the summer months for alpine sports of mountain biking, climbing and hiking. It’s actually crazy to think that this massive ski area is just 40 minutes from the city center with at least 18 runs, beginner’s slopes and the biggest snow park in Norway, it’s even home to Europe’s only superpipe open to the public.
We sat here and enjoyed a refreshing slush puppy whilst admiring the views over the valley, it was so bizarre to see chairlifts suspended above bare forests with only a few patches of ice that hadn’t totally melted away yet. I closed my eyes and imagined the area covered in a blanket of white snow, people bustling around and embracing the après ski lifestyle – we weren’t sure why it isn’t more well known as a skiing holiday destination. Regardless you should visit this area whether you are here in the summer or winter months because its such a beautiful area.
Now, if you are here during the warmer months, grab your swimsuit and take a refreshing dip in one of the lakes nearby. We stumbled across Voksenkollen and with its pine trees, rugged rocks, colonial houses and nearby golf course this really is a gem of a find. Take a stroll round, it’s the perfect picnic or packed lunch spot, admire the views of the rolling landscapes and enjoy a round of golf or jump in for a swim or kayaking adventure. Most of all though we were fascinated by the automated lawn mower.
Dinner at home
9pm – Hit the bars of Oslo
Perhaps you are keen to experience a taste of the local nightlife. Before you hit the tiles be aware of two things, firstly alcohol is like in any major city expensive and the drinking culture is very different. You won’t find anywhere that serves you a double gin and tonic and asking for one will result in you being refused service. This stricter enforcement on drinking is in fact a good thing because it in theory keeps the city safer and tidier, I did during my visit have an unfortunate and unpleasant experience with some local guys on the streets but then what girl can’t say she’s been physically violated on a night out – so don’t let that put you off. And really you have nothing to worry about this city awesome and incredibly safe.
The best bar recommendation I have for you is Colonel Mustard, themed just like the famous board game, take your seat in the library or the drawing room with your drink of choice. Harahorn G&T’s for us and why not even sit down for a board game. And if you are looking for a loo with a view you won’t find anywhere better than the ladies toilets at Sky Bar 32.
For your final day, you still have time to fit in some sightseeing of the major sites. Have a leisurely start to the day with breakfast at your apartment, why not sit out on the balcony at the apartment I mentioned in my other blog post? Then take the bus to the Opera House and walk on the roof – wait what? I hear you cry. Yeah you can walk on the roof and no one will arrest you! It’s brilliant and the views are incredible, look out across the city or turn and face the harbour where you will see a glass sculpture ‘She lies’ mimicking an iceberg (although we interpreted it to be a shipwreck – Say what you see and all that!
Ferry to peninsula
After you’ve finished grazing take a stroll down to pier 3 to buy your tickets for the ferry over to the xxx peninsula. It’s up to you how many museums you’d like to visit including the Folk, Kon-Tiki or the Viking museum. And yes, we are nerds, but you’d be foolish to go home without visiting the Viking museum, unlike the Roman Baths where I had to drag a tad reluctant boyfriend round whilst I got all excited about archaeology we both loved taking a step back in time to the Viking age.
Take the ferry over and explore the modern and simplistic design of the Viking museum which houses a selection of artifacts and two incredibly well-preserved ships and one understandable battered ship. They were used as burial chapters and ransacked by robbers searching for gold, but honestly the condition they have been restored to is spectacular it’s so surreal having history sat right in front of you.
Another really great thing about the museum is that there is an incredible film projected onto the walls and ceiling of one of the rooms – it’s a very immersive way to transport yourself back into Viking life, with a whole life cycle played out right in from of your eyes from birth to battles to death. And the visuals were pretty awesome to say the least.
Afterwards before getting a ferry back, stop at the little café perched at the edge of the peninsula for a quick snack or drink.
Dependent on how many museums you visited you’ll have plenty of hours to spare so you could visit one of the other sculpture parks or you could sit back with a drink at Skur 33 and enjoy dinner overlooking the harbour.
Oslo is more than just a green city. It’s a foodie delight. It’s a treat for history and art lovers and the scenery is incredible. Don’t worry about people saying it’s expensive because I have a post all about that so why not visit Oslo on a Shoestring.
Stay tuned for Part 3 of my trip – our epic road trip from Oslo to Gothenburg. Are we mental? yes! But should you do it? Totally.
What do you think you’d enjoy most? Let me know in the comments!