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. This is Part II of my blog post on Oslo, following earlier Part I.
Day 3 – Culture Vulture
Even though our main mission for Oslo is always playing in the snow, we do enjoy the city scene as well. There is plenty you can see and do and here are few of my suggestions.
I suggest to start your journey with a Royal Palace. Even though it’s closed during winter, it still makes a lovely leisurely walk.
From there catch tram 12 to Vigelandsparken, which is probably one of the most unusual parks I have ever visited.
As it website states, it is the largest sculpture park by a single artist, Gustav Vigeland, who created over 200 sculptures in the period of 1939-1949. The bridge, for example, features 58 bronze statutes of children, men and women in different, sometimes bizzare, poses. They also include a famous Angry Boy.
In the meantime, the fountain is really impressive capturing human life through its cycle – from birth to grave and birth again. It’s stark and genius at the same time.
Art fanatics, next should head to the National Gallery (free on Sundays), which since 1837 has been home to impressive art collection by leading international and Norwegian artists, in particular Edvard Munch. If you are looking to see his The Scream, this is where you will find it! However, if you want to explore his artistic legacy, including less known works, in more detail I suggest you check out Munch Museum. If you enjoy gardens, you can also visit nearby Botanical Gardens which feature over 5,000 species from the arctic to the tropical climates.
Heading back to Karl Johan’s Gate we usually walk by the Oslo Opera House, one of the coolest buildings in Oslo in a shape of an iceberg.
It is an impressive combination of glass, granite and marble on the outside, while it is airy yet cosy space inside thanks to enormous glass windows and wooden paneling throughout. We particularly liked walking up the steps on the sides of its angled roof to enjoy the panoramic views of the harbor and city center.
Lastly, pop into the Oslo Cathedral, spiritual center of the Church of Norway dating to 17th century. This seemingly unpretentious building hosts a range of national, royal and parliamentary events. Its current design represents hundreds of years of history and changing architectural styles, executed by leading architects and features works by renowned painters and sculptors.
We finished the day with traditional Norwegian dinner at the Kaffistova, a cosy café with a great choice of Christmas platters. A traditional platter of boiled potatoes served with two giant meatballs, sausage, sauerkraut and gravy costed 175 krone, which by the local standards was a steal. It was really yummy and filling, a perfect combination for a cold winter day.
If you have more time, I would definitely suggest visiting Akershus Castle and Fortress, Museum of Natural History, Oslo City Museum, Nobel Peace Center, Vigeland Museum and Viking Ship Museum. These are on my to-see list for the next trip.
- Clothing: Oslo even at -2/-5 °C can feel very cold, and it gets even colder if go into the mountains. So, I suggest you bring a down parka or a puffer coat, plenty of wool jumpers, thermal leggings, scarf, hat and gloves, and warm and comfortable waterproof boots with good traction on snow/ice. Layers are the key to staying warm in Norway.
- Transport: Oslo has a great efficient public transportation system and it’s reasonably priced compared to other things. 24-hour metro ticket costs 90 krone (about £9) and covers all public transport (trams, metro, bus, ferry) and whole of Oslo.
- Money saving tips: Oslo (and rest of Norway) is pretty expensive compared to the UK. So, if you are looking to save money, there several things you can do. For example, book a hotel that includes breakfast. In Best Western Karl Johan where we always stay, they serve amazing buffet breakfast until 11am, powering us up until evening. Or you can book a self-catering accommodation so you can cook meals yourself.
- Local cafés and eateries are typically cheaper than proper restaurants. You can stop at the supermarket to get some snacks and fruits to take with you during the sightseeing. Also, look for free events around the city (e.g. open days at museums) or places with free entry (e.g. parks).