Emily, being the flight expert, discovered low airfare on Norwegian Air, and we booked direct flights for a four day trip to Oslo, with a Friday night flight that had us waking up in Europe the next morning. Overall we had a great time in Norway, experiencing a smaller capital city (600,000, all of Norway five million) that seemed to be teeming with energy, downtown growth (lots of cranes in the sky), signature buildings and museums, and a revitalized food culture we took full advantage of – all of this with bluebird skies, nine hours of daylight, and temperatures in the mid-30s.
Saturday February 13th
After arriving late that morning, we took the express train from the airport (located well outside the city) directly to the train station, located in the center of downtown and a mere five minute walk to our lodging. After dropping off our bags it was back out into the city for our initial exploration.
We grabbed a quick bite on our walk to Akershus Fortress, centered in downtown on the water and built in the late 1200s to protect Oslo. Within the fortress was a castle, and we took an interesting audio-guided tour covering the 700+ years of history, from a castle to a prison to a royal residence. Within the grounds was the Resistance Museum, which focused on the invasion and subsequent occupation of Norway by Nazi Germany in the Second World War. The museum was an ideal size, something one can get through in an hour or so (unless you are Garret of course…it closed/we got kicked out before he could finish).
Following Akershus we walked past city hall and into downtown, soaking in the Parliament building, National Theater, the Grand Hotel, and a retail stop for some Norway-renown Dale sweaters. With our appetite building we walked over to the Aker Brygge area (revitalized part of the port filled with numerous shops and restaurants) and dove right into the Norway seafood at Louise Restaurant & Bar. The tasty salmon and char were complimented by a unique desert one should try if in the area – Gudbrandsal Brown Cheese Ice Cream with cheesecake, chocolate and berries.
For our home base we booked a spot at the MyCityHome, a mix of regular and simple-hotel style apartments. Location, as previously mentioned, and price (three nights for ~$300 USD), were the winning combo, with payment being taken care of beforehand so you don’t have to deal with checkout or anything (plus they will hold your bags for free). They came in each day just to tidy up and make sure we didn’t need anything. We would definitely recommend.
Sunday February 14th
To get a perspective of the city and surrounding area from the water, we embarked on a mid-morning cruise around Inner Oslofjord. While we did not see one of the narrow, more well-known type of fjords, it was a great to see the surrounding islands demonstrate the strong ties of the Norwegians and the sea, shorelines full of cabins and bath houses. While this tour was targeted more for a spring/summer time of year, we had blankets, hot drinks and a cloudless day to keep us warm.
Towards the end of the fjord cruise there was an option to disembark on a peninsula containing a couple of Oslo’s museums. We decided on checking out the Viking Museum, which turned out to be very interesting. While small compared to most museums in terms of size and artifacts, the items it does possess are incredibly unique, consisting of three Viking ships built in the 800s and then converted to grave ships, not to be disturbed (besides grave robbers) until the late 1800s/early 1900s with full excavations. After a little more than an hour we had soaked it all up and took a taxi downtown to the Royal Palace.
Viking belief in needing supplies for the afterlife meant a trove of preserved goods, including these small boats and tent poles.
One of five incredibly rare decorative pieces discovered in the three burial ships.
The Royal Palace
The Royal Palace, located in the heart of Oslo, comes across almost as humble, in an oxymoron kind of way – a palace simple in design, small compared to other European palaces, and the grounds are treated like a public park. The children, as though they wanted to firmly drive that point to home, had turned a large snow pile before the entrance into their own 40 foot long Slip N’ Slide.
Oslo Opera House
The architectural highlight of the trip was the Oslo Opera House. Built in 2007, this opera house’s design was inspired by icebergs, and placed right next to downtown and just on the harbor. We joined the hundreds of people were walking around, and on, the building – what we enjoyed about the architecture was how interactive the public could be with the building, almost literally crawling all over the structure.
To celebrate Valentine’s Day we had dinner reservations at Albert Bistro, also located in the energetic Aker Brygge district. There we had some of the best seafood of our lives, finishing the meal off with mousse as light as clouds.
Numerous old warehouses being repurposed from top to bottom, with new restaurants anchoring the buildings.
Monday February 15th
Beitostølen – Dog Sledding ★
One thing we try to do on every trip is some kind of “away day” or excursion outside of the city. For this trip Emily had found a group three hours north of Oslo offering dog sledding, something neither of us had experienced before. We woke up early and went to the train station for an 8:45am bus departing to Beitostølen (the bus station being accessed through the train station). Along the way we were able to soak up the beauty of Norway, reminding us of the numerous lakes and mountains of the Rockies. We arrived in Beitostølen, which also has a popular ski resort, just after noon. The extremely friendly tour guides from Beito Husky Tours AS picked us up and drove down to their grounds just above Øyangen, a frozen lake surrounded by beautiful mountains. After gearing up we went and met the dogs while learning how to drive the sleds. It was great how interactive prepping the sled was for us, taking the dogs from their kennels, putting on their gear, and strapping them up to the sleds ourselves. The dogs would not stop howling in anticipation after they were strapped in, ready to sprint as fast as they could.
Then we were off! Out of the woods and across the frozen lake, the experience was fantastic. We took turns driving the sled, which required a lot of attention to the other sleds, our dogs, and staying on the path, while the other sat on the front of the sled and took pictures. It was funny how we quickly became attached to our dogs, with one of them, the runt of the whole pack, attracting our attention before we were even assigned our dogs. Another, which we gave a not-so-Norwegian name of “WTF?!”, would constantly turn around and give us questionable looks when we applied the brake, basically front-seat driving our decisions.
Over an hour and a half later, we returned to the grounds and showered our dogs with ear-scratches of appreciation before removing their equipment and getting them put up for some rest. We continued our celebration with hot drinks and a venison stew cooked over a fire. Before long it was time to head back to Oslo (we declined the overnight stay option of the package), so we shed the gear and hitched a ride back to the bus stop. Late that night we arrived back in Oslo, exhausted but extremely pleased with our excursion.
Ready for launch!
They provide warm onesies, gloves, and shoes, which is preferable to using your own jacket.
We took turns driving, with the other riding on the sled in front of the driver.
The driver had to always be on alert for braking, steering and the dogs not getting tangled.
Tuesday February 16th
For our final day in Oslo we focused on the Majorstuen district, the main feature being Vigeland Park, zipping there in minutes on the subway system. This 80-acre park, designed by Gustav Vigeland, is filled with over 200 of his sculptures from the early 1900s, some of these being completed by Vigeland in a building next to the park set aside by the city for the artist. The park is laid out extremely well, and one can closely examine all of Vigeland’s work, the sculptures less classical and more modern, capped off by the Monolith in the middle, 121 individuals carved on a 45 foot single piece of granite (14 years for the carving). Taking the tram back to the central part of Oslo gave us the opportunity to see some of the beautiful European neighborhoods and appreciate the many aspects of what makes it such a beautiful city.
After gathering our bags we walked to the train station, grabbed a coffee/people watched, then jumped on the airport train for a quick and easy ride to the airport (highly recommend this mode of transportation) and a direct flight back to NYC, another extended weekend trip in the books.
(De)parting words of advice:
- On Sunday almost all stores are closed. It is a good day for an activity outside the city or diving into the museums.
- Price-wise Norway is slightly more expensive than NYC (but less than Iceland, for example), and is not on the Euro, so budget accordingly.
- Credit cards are accepted everywhere we went, just not always American Express.
- There is an Oslo Pass covering public transportation, most museums, and discounts on shops and restaurants.