Oslo isn't the obvious choice for a holiday, particularly during the height of summer. But that's what happens when your Norway obsessed, heat fearing, little sister comes to visit!
Despite my long standing love affair with Scandinavia, this was my first visit to Norway. Famous for its Fjords and natural beauty, many visitors skip Oslo to head north, but they're missing out on a vibrant little city that has a lot to offer (we did the opposite, and skipped the nature, but it's a great incentive for a return trip)!
Unluckily for my little sister, Liv, Oslo welcomed us with a heatwave - 3 days of temperatures soaring above 30 degrees Celsius and blazing sun to match. When you're that far north of the equator, the sun stays up a long time during summer too. Midnight sun is kind of crazy, but I can't even imagine what it must be like during winter without sun. The lack of sunlight during winter in London (and any season for that matter) was a struggle enough.
Just as my friends ask me for travel tips (which was the catalyst for this blog), I too rely on tips from friends when travelling to new locations. After all, you love your friends, so you should hopefully love some of the things they do. One of my best friends, Fricker, spent a year studying in Oslo, so it was great to be armed with some of her favourites.
I'd love to visit Norway again, even for a winter time visit. Hope you enjoy my Oslo tips, L x
Edit: I forgot to mention, Norwegian is my favourite low cost airline and one of my favourite airlines generally. They'll get you to Oslo from 123 destinations across Europe, USA, and even Singapore! This is not an ad; I just really love Norwegian (my friends will verify this, as I've raved about them more times than I can count)!
Oslo isn't a large city, making it super easy to get around without a car or using public transport, so staying anywhere in inner Oslo is a good choice. The Grünerløkka area is the city's hipster neighbourhood, but don't let the hipsters put you off - the area is vibrant, retaining some grit of its industrial past, but with parklands and river walks for good measure. We stayed at the southern end of Grünerløkka and I would highly recommend it, especially if you're planning to stay in an Airbnb.
ARCHITECTURE & SIGHTS
There was no debate about our first stop in Oslo - the Opera House. My first (virtual) encounter with this building (as with many others) was at Architecture School, when I took a music hall design studio and researched the Snøhetta designed building for inspiration. The Norwegian design studio has since become internationally renowned, producing stunning work, that often has strong ties with context and landscape. Snøhetta's design for the Oslo Opera House draws inspiration from Norway's mountain landscape; you're encouraged to traverse the building's roof, just as you would a mountain slope. There's a child-like joy you feel, walking on a sloped roof, and the archinerd in me loves how they've tackled the snooze-fest subjects of slip resistance, expansion joints, and the like! The Opera House is a must visit for everyone.
My friend Fricker's favourite spot to visit, the Viking Ship Museum on the Bygdøy peninsula is home to three excavated viking ships and related archaeological findings. The architecture is the perfect housing; the tall arched vaults embracing the impressive and imposing ships. It's easy to understand why this would be a favourite place to visit; it's a wonderful contemplation space (when it's not full of tourists). Oh, and obviously if like me, you're a fan of the TV show, Vikings (Ragnar Lothbrok, anyone?), then you won't want to miss this. The easiest way to get to the museum from central Oslo is on the ferry; it's the perfect first stop if you're planning a little day trip around the islands.
Just down the road from the Viking Ship Museum is the Norsk Folkesmuseum, a museum that celebrates Norwegian culture. It's not a must visit, but it is a beautiful insight into how Norwegians of the past five centuries have lived and how traditions differ from region to region.
Holmenkollen Ski Jump and Ski Museum are located a little train ride away from central Oslo, in the village of Holmenkollen. The Norwegians, understandably, are huge on skiing. This was the first time I had been face to face with a ski jump. People who jump from these things are CRAZY. During the summer months, thrill seekers can fuel their adrenalin addiction by taking the zipline from the top. The Ski Jump's gravity defying appearance was designed by JDS Architects and the views from the top out over Oslo and the fjord beyond are nothing short of sublime.
If you know me or if you've been reading the blog, then you'll know I'm a big fan of contemporary art. Astrup Fearnley Museet is part of a larger complex designed by Renzo Piano in collaboration with Oslo architects Narud-Stokke-Wiig. The collection on display isn't huge, but it's well curated, and not to be missed by the contemporary art lovers.
If Astrup Fearnley is a little too out there for you art wise, then the Munch Museet is a great alternative if you're craving some artistic culture.
Long the site of a shipyard, Aker Brygge is now a bustling commercial, shopping, and restaurant district. There are cute boutiques for the shopaholics out there, but it's also nice to spend some time in the afternoon sun sitting out on the wharf enjoying a drink or two.
FOOD & DRINK
The problem with travelling with your then pescetarian (picky pescetarian, who didn't eat much in the way of pesce), now vegan sister, is that you don't get to eat at all of the places that would normally be on your list. Thank goodness Liv wasn't vegan at the time, because otherwise we wouldn't have made it to Kontrast (Nordic cuisine doesn't really do vegan well, even when there isn't meat or seafood involved, think lots of butter). The one Michelin star restaurant serves beautiful looking plates of New Nordic cuisine, that heroes Norwegian seasonal produce. Not only is the food delicious, but the interior is also just my kind of thing - minimal, concrete floors, timber highlights, gorgeous furniture by &tradition. I'd go back in a heartbeat.
Like many Kiwis and Aussies, I am a coffee snob, and heavily rely on Beanhunter whilst I'm travelling to verify the quality of coffee in the area. Miraculously, despite the volume of coffee I drink, I am not addicted to caffeine, so I'll only grab a coffee in a foreign city if I can guarantee its quality. Tim Wendelboe doesn't need verification, winning the world barista championship before setting up his own roastery and cafe business. Located in Grünerløkka, I loved this place so much, I visited it every day we were in town. Whilst I did order a piccolo (necessary quality check), the high temperatures meant the iced coffee got a lot of air time - possibly the best iced coffee ever.
I am a fan of testing out the local fare when travelling and obviously salmon is not to be missed in Norway. But a little out of left field, comes lefse, a potato bread. Yes, POTATO BREAD, two of my favourite things combined.