Hey all! This is my last post about my August trip to Norway (for real? Almost 3 months have passed!). While next week I will have a post on how is it really possible to travel to Norway on a budget, seems we are saying goodbye so that I can post about other exciting travels. So yes, after seeing all the beauty in the Sognefjord and Hardangerfjord areas, we moved over to the Norwegian capital where we had our flight back to Portugal. I feel Oslo is a city that many people do not like because it does not look like the idylic Norway beauty we all imagine, but it’s an awesome city with lots of culture nonetheless. Let’s find out more?
After the long but amazing train ride from Bergen to Oslo, we settled at our AirBnB at Agnette and Andreas flat. This is an amazing house and they are really nice hosts. It is located in Gamle Oslo, about 30 minutes walking distance from the Opera House and other city centre attractions. The neighborhood is really cool and it looks like a former industrial area.
I woke up in the morning with a HUGE pain in my left arm, especially around the elbow. I barely could move the arm without feeling like screaming. This day at some point was some kind of torture when the effect of the painkillers passed. I could have gone to the pharmacy to buy a patch but I am really stubborn and pharmacy in one of the most expensive countries of the world seemed a big no-no. Don’t follow my advice! Fortunately I had a scarf that I could use as an arm support and it provided some relief. I looked like I had a broken arm, seriously :p
Speaking of better things, the first thing we did was walking towards the Opera House since the weather was good. Since I like contemporary architecture, I was really amazed by the buildings. Many of them are offices for consulting companies, but all the different shapes make for an interesting walk.
One of the attractions I was the most excited to be at was the Opera House and it did not disappoint! This architectural wonder was opened in 2008 and was designed by Snohetta office. The building is the largest cultural building built in Norway since the Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim was built in the 14th century, which is amazing!
From the Opera House you have also nice views to the Oslo Fjord. It’s definitely worth it to spend about 15 minutes walking around the building and exploring the best viewpoints. Probably you’ll find plenty of cruises.
After this first stroll, the next step was getting to the most crowded street of Oslo, the Karl Konows Gate, which leads up to the Royal Palace. This is a very lively street, full of international stores and bookshops, and also where the Oslo Cathedral is. The Oslo Cathedral was finished in 1697 and underwent a restoration in 1950. The Cathedral is used by the Norwegian Royal Family for their religious events. The ceiling paintings date from the 20th century and I like the simple interior with wood and vitrals.
Strolling up the street led us to the Royal Palace. We arrived to the Palace at around 12 PM, therefore we managed to see the Changing of the Guard. The costumes are not as interesting as in London but it was a nice surprise nonetheless!
The Royal Family lives in this palace and you can visit the garden. There are guided tours to the palace itself in the Summer too. In the garden two cabin logs caught our attention. It seems these cabin logs are places that you can stay for free at and they are celebratory of the 25th anniversary of King Harald V and Queen Sonja in the throne. The free cabins are a testimony of the Norwegian culture of hiking and staying in cabin logs in the mountains. Queen Sonja herself is an avid hiker and skier still to this day.
The next point in our stroll around Oslo was the neighborhood of Akker Brygge. We didn’t know much what to expect of it, just went there randomly, and ended up being one of my favorite spots in Oslo! This seems like a residential neighborhood with trendy restaurants and nice contemporary architecture by the sea. I already mentioned I love contemporary architecture, right? So yeah, this is me again proving my point. We used this area to eat our salads for lunch and we drank a Hansa beer. I am not super fond of the Ipa brew, it’s quite sweet, but it’s always nice to try a local beer!
The good part of being in Akker Brygge is that you are also close to other important cultural attractions, such as the Nobel Peace Center and the City Hall. I did not go in the Nobel Peace Center since it was a quite pricey attraction and we had other paid attractions in mind, but went just to the ticket selling booth and it’s incredible right in the entrance to see so many Nobel Peace Prize winners displayed. What better way to finish these Nobel Peace Prize inspired moments by going in the City Hall, where the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded every year? The paintings inside this building, which looks a bit dull on the outside, are amazing! The City Hall also has an Astronomical Clock which slightly resembles the ones in Prague and Bern that I had seen before. Now the goal is to go to Stockholm and check all the places where the other Nobel Prizes are awarded! Best of all, going inside the City Hall is completely free!
After a short 5 minute walk we found ourselves inside the Akershus Fortress. The fortress and its castle date back from the 14th century and the castle was also a royal residence. The fortress is a military area, in line with the purpose this structure had throughout the centuries, being involved in the defense during several wars, particularly against Sweden. I have no idea why we didn’t enter the castle, maybe that was because we were going to enter other paid attractions and just wanted to stroll around a little. Anyway, going into the Fortress is free and from there you get great views from the city. I would recommend using this spot for a nice picnic on a sunny day!
It was getting a bit late, like 3PM, so it was time to go to Bygdoy, the Museum Island of Oslo. This peninsula has five of the most well known museums of Oslo and some of them are free when you buy an Oslo Pass. However, we chose to go to one of the museums not included in the pass, therefore we only bought a 24h card for transportation. The museum we chose was the Viking Ship Museum since we were really looking forward to learn more about the Viking lifestyle and history. This was also influenced by starting to watch the Vikings TV show while in Norway. The museum admission cost 50 NOK for students and it was totally worth it. The museum has in display 3 very well preserved Viking ships found in the Oslo area that were used as burial grounds. Within the ships a myriad of belongings was found, such as animals, travel utensils, clothes and other rich fabrics and even sledges and beds! The Vikings provided the burials with all these goods since they wanted to provide the buried persons with a good life after death. I also learned that the Vikings were the first to reach North America, having established themselves in the Newfoundland (today in Canada) around 1000 AD. Despite the small size of the museum, it is very informative and you can collect all the guides just by scanning the QR codes throughout the building (my smartphone QR code reader is awful so this didn’t work for me). Don’t you love when you go to museums and actually learn more than what you expected? This was the case!
The next step in our adventure was going to the Vigeland Park, an awesome free park with cool fountains and very thought provoking sculptures. This is actually the largest sculpture park with sculptures from a single artist in the world! The park contains over 200 sculptures of nude men, women and babies in a multitude of situations by Norwegian sculptor Gustav Vigeland. Some of the sculptures are really comical and inspired memes as you’ll see below. The most impressive point of the park for me was the 17m monolith carved from a single granite block. Apart from the crazy sculptures, what I really liked about this park was seeing so many people strolling and doing sports such as running and skiing on roller skiis, practicing for when they’ll be able to get on real skis. I would love to have such a large and pleasant park near me!
And now get ready for the most thought provoking sculpture and its meme! Don’t mind the swearing though 😉 My boyfriend randomly found this and it was on point, we were really confused by this sculpture back then.
In our initial plan, our day exploring Oslo would be over. However, I am a huge sports fan and when I was younger I used to watch several Winter sports, such as Biathlon, Ski Jumping and Figure Skating. Well, figure skating stayed and I am enjoying the Grand Prix season! I have watching a figure skating competition live on my bucket list but that’s another story. When I learned that Oslo had a ski tower and museum and that the tower was used for the 1952 Winter Olympics, I basically dragged my reluctant boyfriend to the tower in the outskirts of the city (Holmenkollen Metro Station). This is a great attraction for a late summer afternoon since it only closes at 8 PM. The Holmenkollen Ski Museum and Tower is a quite pricey attraction (11o NOK for students) but it was an highlight for me! You feel a bit of vertigo up the tower but the views over the city and the fjord at sunset are unbeatable. For those with no fear of heights you can go down the tower by ziplining! You have to pay an extra ticket for this though. Even though my arm was hurting like crazy at this point, I felt so relaxed and like a champion for having accomplished to see so much in a day. The Ski Museum has two floors and, albeit small, it was awesome to learn how skiing is so engrained in the lifestyle of Norwegians since a very long time and how skiis were fundamental for winning wars against other troops that took horses to such extreme weather conditions, duh! I also learned that each Norway region had their specific type of traditional wood skiis and the differences between the skis used nowadays in the different competitive Winter sports. Learning about Winter sports is awesome for me since in Portugal we have none. Speaking of Winter sports, Holmenkollen is also a training facility for biathlon and was quite active back then!
I already told my arm was hurting like mad right? I had to take another pill and we had planned to have dinner out. I made my research for cheap typical Norwegian cafes and found Dovrehallen in the center. This is a “brown bar” and has a somewhat vintage and dark atmosphere that was really interesting! The food was also really delicious. I ate halibut with potatoes and cucumber salad and paid 180 NOK for the dish. I was waiting to find salmon there but they didn’t have, but I was satisfied nonetheless.
The day after we had our flight back to Portugal so there’s not much to say! Just saying that Norway instantly became my favorite country ever and I want to go back like every year. I know that maybe I’ll find a new favorite country (especially cheaper), but it really stole my heart!
P.S. Huge thanks to Pedro Martins for, among other things, the photos when my camera ran out of batt! The pictures in this post are a mix of mine and his photos.
What are your favorite places in Oslo? What would you like to add for a 24h visit?
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