Last weekend, I visited the Norwegian capital Oslo for the first time. Oslo was established by King Harald Hardråde in 1048 and today it is a lively and diverse city of around six hundred thousand people. Norwegian, Swedish and Danish are mutually intelligible dialects of the same language and most Scandinavians speak English as well.
Like most tourists, I flew into Oslo Airport at Gardermoen, about twenty-five miles north-east of the city centre, which has direct flights to more than a hundred international destinations. From here a high speed express train will whisk you to Oslo Central Station in under twenty minutes. Trains leave every ten minutes and a ticket costs 170 kroner (US$30).
Oslo Central Station is the main hub for public transport in the city centre with all train lines passing through the station. There are a number of services from here to destinations in Sweden, including Gothenburg (four hours) and Stockholm (six hours). You can also travel by ferry from Denmark and Germany to Oslo. As for accommodation, you can find affordable and budget friendly hotels if you search in advance or online- the city is very expensive and planning pays off.
Oslo has many grand buildings, especially around the Norwegian Parliament and Royal Palace but also in the inner city suburbs of Frogner and Fagerborg.
The Royal Palace itself can be visited on a tour as can the Parliament building. Other places to see include the University in Oslo, between the Royal Palace and Parliament, which has some of Edvard Munch’s pictures on display, the modern Opera House which is built in the shape of a ship and Oslo Cathedral, recently restored after the terrorist attacks of July 2011. Oslo City Hall (Rådhuset) on the waterfront is where the Nobel Peace Prize is presented.
Oslo has lots of museums too, including the Henrik Ibsen Museum dedicated to the great Norwegian playwright and the Munch Museum which houses a collection of pictures by the country’s most famous painter Edward Munch (although not his best known work The Scream which is to be found in the National Gallery). The Kon-Tiki Museum is centred on the balsa raft on which the Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl crossed the Pacific in 1947.
Like most Scandinavians, people in Oslo like outdoor activities and there are parks throughout the city. You can swim in Frognerpark, which has three outside pools with diving towers and a water slide and walk, cycle, picnic or play games in any of the other green spaces which are abundant in Oslo. From the quay at Vippetangen you can catch boats to one of the many islands in Oslo Fjord such as Hovedøya, Gressholmen or Langøyene which are truly wonderful to visit, especially in summer with their sandy beaches and swimming.
Norwegian food isn’t very well known internationally but is worth trying if you go to Oslo. As you’d expect in a country with a long coastline, fish features on many menus with dishes including rakfisk (trout salted and fermented for two to three months before being eaten raw), torsketunger (cod tongue), lutefisk (dried cod soaked in lye) and fiskesuppe.
Without it being a huge city Oslo does have quite a few attractions to offer, and if visiting during the summer months (which I highly recommend you do) you’ll find it easy to get around and a perfect getaway for a day or two. Don’t miss those sunsets at the waterfront!
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