Oslo is the capital of Norway and a short 2 hour flight from London. My daughter Zoe and I recently visited and spent 3 nights staying in a city centre hotel.
With a population of just over 1 million, Oslo is a relatively small and compact city and as such, is easy to get around. We were fortunate to have sunny weather and spent all of the first day wandering around exploring the city. We didn’t have any plans, or agenda, or ‘must see’ places. We decided to simply meander around the city streets to see what we would find… perhaps something a bit unusual and quirky in particular…
First up and a short distance from the main central train station we came to the Oslo Opera House, above. This was an impressive building of geometric angular shape. You can climb the wide slopes on either side until you find yourself on the slanted roof with impressive views of the Oslo Fjord. Free of charge, you can venture inside the opera house which is equally impressive with its glass walls and oak panelled central area.
Yep! The first quirky and typically Scandinavian thing was a sauna boat! “A unique way of experiencing what Oslo has to offer!” A bunch of women were excitedly clambering on board and making their way inside the little hut to the sauna! So you can sail around Oslo Fjord and take in the views while you are all hot and sweaty and gently detoxing…
Moving swiftly onwards we came across Salt a bar/(another) sauna/art project… we spent a few minutes wondering exactly what it was but it turned out to be a really cool eco place with one bar made from driftwood, another was an old container and the seating was made from pallets!
As we made our way around the edge of the fjord we came to the Akershus Festning which is Oslo’s mediaeval castle. The grounds are open and the public are free to roam around. We had almost finished walking around the castle when we came across a band randomly playing in the carpark behind! I’m not sure why… they were all dressed up so maybe they were practising?
Scenic view of the Aker Brygge marina which is lined a string of quality bars and restaurants. This was crowded in the warm April sun and had a fantastic buzzing atmosphere. There are a few designer shops located just behind the restaurants too. It was a bit ‘Canary Wharf’ too with dozens of smart, modern apartments in the area.
From the marina we made our back towards the city centre and came across a cute little vegan cafe which was lovely for a pit stop.
The central square of Oslo was buzzing on the first day of our visit as it was hosting a 10K race. The area was packed with runners decked out in all manner of colourful running gear together with the usual array of drinks and snack food stalls.
The first song I heard playing over the loud speakers was ‘Take on Me’ by Aha… to which I had a chuckle as this 1985 song, the one where the girl is in the cafe and the guy suddenly pops out of a comic book… is probably still Norway’s most famous music export!
The above picture was taken the following day when all traces of the race with its fun and frivolities had quickly disappeared! No rubbish lying around, no plants uprooted, no bins overturned but all clean and orderly.
Day trip to Drøbak
For a change of pace and scenery we decided to visit Drøbak, a small town 35 kms to the south of Oslo. The journey takes about an hour by public bus and you can buy bus tickets from the tourist information office at the central station. Or alternatively I believe you can get them from the bus driver.
One of the main attractions of Drøbak is the ‘Christmas shop‘ which is Norway’s only permanent Christmas shop. The lady in the information office excitedly told us all about it but failed to mention it is closed on Sunday’s in April!
We walked around Drøbak and found a lovely traditional bar where we enjoyed a glass of wine in the sunshine. Other than that, we couldn’t find anything else to do so decided to get the return bus to Oslo.
Throughout our 3 days we sampled some of Oslo’s bars and did indeed find some a little on the quirky side. For example, we sat on seating around the edge of the bar pictured above feeling we were on a pedestal watching over everyone! This was in a covered courtyard which was uncovered as it started to get dark.
Another (above) was full of flower power as it nestled hidden away in an alleyway!
And another had a spiritual feel one evening with its soft music and ceiling choc full of lampshades…
We both enjoyed this 3 night break exploring Oslo at our leisure. Oslo has a great deal of museums and one could spent days just visiting those. However on this occasion we were quite happy soaking up the young and trendy Oslo vibes, sampling some of the bars and without feeling the inclination to visit museums or rush around with a tick list.
With its stunning fjords, mountains and scenery Norway does have a ‘New Zealand’ feel to it and Oslo definitely reminded me of Wellington, NZ’s laid back capital.
One word of warning: Oslo is hideously expensive! If you are there for any length of time you may just need to re-mortgage your house or sell your granny… or both…