Besides the Christmas walks and fun experiences around London that I have written about earlier, one of my favorite things to do each December before Christmas is visiting Oslo. My husband and I have discovered Oslo first time in 2014 in search of a snowy destination and have been going back every year since then. The city fits the bill for winter holidays for many reasons: there is lots of snow (which we love!), there is plenty to see and do both sporty and culturally, it’s efficient and safe, and it’s very cosy and welcoming.
As you know, 2016 has been a year of ‘hygge’ – a new word/concept that has been introduced to our vocabularies. Even though it’s Danish for ‘cosiness’ and represents a certain lifestyle filled with comfort and content, the term actually comes from the Norwegian word ‘hugga’ or ‘to comfort’ or ‘to console.’
It is this sense of Scandinavian cosiness and comfort and balanced lifestyle that lures us to Norway. In my 72-hour guide I introduce top things to do around Oslo based on my experiences in the last 3 years – from visiting a magical forest to Christmas shopping and snuggling up with a warm drink in a local hipster bar.
Day 1 – Christmas shopping
Catching an early Easyjet flight and then a super efficient express train from the airport to the center of the city (Oslo Central Station) usually means we get to Oslo early afternoon. We always stay at the same hotel – Best Western Karl Johan. It’s simple but super clean and cosy with lovely complimentary breakfast bar. And location…well, you can’t get more central than Karl Johan’s Gate, which is just few minutes walk from the Central Station, Royal Palace, Opera House, National Theater and main shopping centers.
After settling in and getting a quick nap, we ventured to check out our beloved Christmas market across the hotel.
This year it was particularly impressive with a Winter Wonderland set up around the ice rink with wooden chalets, Christmas pyramid, merry-go-round, alpine lodge and even a Ferris wheel.
With Christmas music playing in the background and everyone in good mood, the whole Christmas market was filled with festive spirit.
This is a great place to get souvenirs, traditional Norwegian food, such as homemade jams and cured sausages, and Christmas ornaments.
If you are interested in designer and high street brands, Karl Johan’s Gate has plenty of designer boutiques, like Michael Kors, and more affordable stores, like H&M.
There are also several shopping centers and department stores between the Karl Johan’s Gate and the Central Station. However, if you want to avoid tourist crowds, head to Majorstuen that offers plenty of shopping choices.
After Christmas shopping I suggest you stop for drinks at Fuglen, a hipster café during the day and cool cocktail bar at night.
We first heard of Fuglen that serves best coffee in the city, craft beers and one of a kind cocktails on a TV travel program and wanted to check it for ourselves. Although we aren’t coffee connoisseurs and can’t vouch for this claim, this tucked away place is really cool. My husband went for the craft beer, while I chose one of their exotic tea blends. They are pricey but then again – you pay for quality and ambiance.
Fuglen is a perfect combo of junk yard, interior design studio and a museum, showcasing some of the best examples of Scandinavian design from the 1950-60s.
And don’t be surprised if you see price tags on the chairs you sit on as café also serves as a vintage design shop and you can buy various pieces of furniture and homeware.
Day 2 – Winter Experience
The next morning after a powerful breakfast at the hotel we set off to our favorite spot in Oslo for some snow fun. We call it a ‘magical forest’ at the Frognerseteren, the last stop on the metro line 1. But before we got there, we stopped at Holmenkollen, a station on the same line and a site of the 1952 Winter Olympic Games and several Nordic World Ski Championships.
The ski jump hosts annual ski festivals since 1892 attracting thousands of spectators. It makes a great visit for skiing enthusiasts. The ski jump tower, which you can visit at impressive 134 meters, leaves you breathless.
Holmenkollen Museum unveils history of skiing in Norway and covers years of ski jumping competitions and victories in an interactive and fun way.
The gift shop is a good place to check out wool knitwear, souvenirs and get a cup of hot tea.
And if you worked up some appetite, grab hearty dinner at the Holmenkollen restaurant at the bottom of the hill leading to the ski jump.
After some time at the Holmenkollen, we jumped back on the train and headed to Frognerseteren (just few stops away).
We discovered this forest with a frozen lake by chance during our first visit, following a group of skiers. And boy, we were happy with our discovery as the train took us up into the foggy mountains and forests covered deep in snow. It’s such a beautiful place where locals go to for cross-country skiing and walks on the weekends. The air is so fresh and crisp, and the whole place looks like Narnia.
We easily spent several hours here just walking around, following different paths, and playing in the snow.
The trip to Holmenkollen and Frognerseteren took much of the day and after some major snow fun, we headed back to central Oslo for early dinner and a movie back in our hotel room in our pajamas and with a cup of tea. Mmmm, how hyggelicious!
Head to Part II for the rest of my journey and useful tips.