I did a solo trip to Oslo a couple of years ago and wanted to share my travel diary with you from my weekend. Obviously a few things will have changed since my time there in this innovative city, but I hope this will give you a good insight at how you can make the most of a weekend trip.
Oslo was my first ever solo trip. Nerves really started getting the better of me as I landed at Oslo Rygge airport (now closed) and realised I have to navigate my way to central Oslo alone. However, it was relatively easy to purchase a return coach ticket for less than €10 and the journey took about an hour.
The scenery was beautiful on the drive. Just so much greenery, trees and woodland everywhere! I’d already decided the trip would be disappointing if I didn’t spot a moose.
I had an AirBnB room booked and since it was now after 2pm, I headed straight there. Had a chat with the host who offered me some good tips for exploring Oslo, and then headed out.
First job – find stuff. I walked to Karl Johans Gate, the most touristy street, and ducked into a few Norwegian-looking shops (didn’t buy anything – though almost bought a bikini that, using my poor conversion skills, I thought was £6, but actually was £60 – whoops). It’s a very long street, but I was a bit disappointed with the stock and the atmosphere. It had an empty feeling, as if somewhere bigger and better had opened up and so the crowds had flocked elsewhere. I decided shopping and street culture and street food wasn’t Oslo’s bag. So I pushed on.
Whilst wandering around I saw the impressive buildings of the National Theater, the huge university building and the Royal Palace from afar. As I headed lower down the street, I found where the crowds were – there was a beautiful park, and fountains full of people wading through with their jeans rolled up to their knees, chasing their children while mum takes photos.
At an information centre just off the main strip, I bought myself an Oslo Pass. For £30 I would get travel included for train, Metro, tram and boat, and free entry to all of the museums I wanted to go to. Seemed like a bargain and would save me having to worry about purchasing metro and tram tickets (I always seem to get things like that wrong…).
The weather was beautiful, hot and sunny. All websites reckoned this would be the only day of sunshine – the rest held rain and storms. So, wanting to make the most of the beaut weather, I headed straight to the Radhusplassen pier to catch a boat trip. Once I had purchased my ticket, I had half an hour to kill before the next cruise. Scanning my map, I realised the Nobel Peace Centre was two minutes away (free entry, thanks Oslo Pass).
Not expecting much, I headed inside, but ended up being super impressed with what I learnt. There was an exhibit focused on modern topics, such as social media and how it affects people psychologically, and how it affected freedom of speech. Another exhibit upstairs showed the awful effects of chemical warfare during different wars. The photos shown were incredibly moving. I was actually a bit gutted at having to walk through so quickly, but I managed to stop and check the exhibits that were important to me.
Next, the boat trip. Two hours of going around the local fjords and viewing beautiful, remote islands on a cruise couriered by a hilarious young Norwegian woman. It was bliss in the sunshine. We swept by some tiny islands, deserted except for the occasional group of swimwear-clad people diving into the cool water from the cliffs.
One larger island passed by us, full of spectacularly beautiful mansions (though the courier described them as ‘summer houses’). I learnt that the owner of one of these houses, annoyed at having to walk down his short flight of stairs to get to his personal boat jetty, illegally carved into the cliff face and installed an elevator going right up into his house. He had to pay the government fines for it, but he could clearly afford to do so! Absolutely living the dream.
Disembarking the boat after 2 hours, the sky was darkening and nearby I could hear cheering and shouting. It was World Cup season and an outdoor bar had opened up nearby with big screens. I brought a beer and stopped to watch – not even that interested in the Argentina and Belgium game, but more to soak in the vibrant atmosphere – until my stomach started rumbling and I knew I had to find some food.
I was told to steer clear of Karl Johans Gate – far too expensive. But I didn’t know where else to go just yet. I wanted somewhere quiet where I could chill out and read my book. Off onto a side street (I admit I did stumble down it following tattoo studio signage), I discovered a cute little American diner-themed burger joint. It’s the sort of place my mum would have run away from, as it was empty except for two people sitting outside smoking, not eating. Her theory is that if a place is empty, it’s for a reason. I shrugged and went in anyway, enjoying my secret win of rebelling.
I was glad I trusted my instincts. The diner was edgy and I loved the American decor. There was a jut into the back wall near the ceiling where there was a room set up like a 1950s rock and roll den. I couldn’t see a menu, just three different food options in chalk above the open kitchen. All in Norwegian, the hippie-looking barman/chef explained them to me. I wrinkled my nose at the vegetarian option – he must have understand my meaning, because he brought my burger out to me red and bloody. It was delicious. I would never have thought to put coleslaw in a burger before, but was it amazing. £15 burger. Worth every penny. Particularly as the only food I’d eaten all day was a hot dog. (although I’m not complaining, the ‘dog’ was spiralled in bacon).
Exhausted on only four hours sleep from the night previous, I happily gave up for the night about 8pm and walked back to the apartment, stopping to collect some breakfast for the next morning of pastries, berries and apple juice.
A storm developed overnight, I woke frequently to hear the battering rain against my room’s tiny window and flashes of lightning broke through the thin curtains. Finally it died down and I slept…
Until 10:30! Buggar! Considering I only managed one museum and a boat trip yesterday, I had a lot planned for the day and I’d already lost half of my morning. As I headed outside I expected rain but was thrilled to see sunshine again and decided I should do the most outdoorsy plans I had.
To start with, the Sunday market. I stabbed in Bla Grunerlokka into Google Maps…and it led me to the infamous Sunday Market of Oslo. Except it was about eight stalls, and half of them were only selling food. No trinkets or souvenirs for me. It was disappointing but on the way there I did come across The Pop Museum. Despite my research, I had no idea it was in this area. So I popped it…and was pleased to find everything was in Norwegian, as it meant I could just look at the photos.
The walls were lined with retro guitars and humongous brass instruments. Cool music pumped out in each exhibit and I had a blast in the dress up room. I managed to find a Marty McFly jacket and snapped a selfie in the mirror.
Akershus Fortress and Castle was on my list next. It’s at quite a height and showed me some beautiful views of the water and islands, as well as the mountains behind Oslo. The castle was, well, a castle. It was old and impressive, and I would definitely recommend doing it as is an important part of Norway’s heritage.
My weather app suggested rain in a couple of hours, so I ditched my idea of visiting the Armed Forces Museum and headed straight to Bygdoy Island, or ‘Museum Island’. It involved another boat trip and I planned on checking out the beaches whilst there alongside the museums. The boat trip was quick to the island.
The Norwegian Folk Museum was surprisingly interesting, and I learnt a bit about Samis and Reindeer Nomads. I saw some traditional folk dancing and petted some horses and other farmyard animals. It felt nice to go to an open-air museum as opposed to a stuffy indoor one.
Next, the Viking Museum. ! It had three huuuuge viking ships, and I was amazed at the brilliant condition they were still in after being dug up from the sea!
The Kon Tiki Museum was next, just a ten minute walk away. Again it was small, and I was shocked to learn that Kon Tiki actually built boats out of, well basically wicker, and sailed huge oceans on them. I stared miraculously at one of the rebuilds wondering ‘well that won’t go anywhere’, thinking of my old bathroom wicker bin. But I suppose it did otherwise they wouldn’t have made a museum out of it.
Whilst browsing the gift shop, a bus pulled up outside. Without thinking, I made a run for it and jumped on, only asking it’s destination once it had started moving. Phew, it was going to Huk Beach.
When I jumped off, a young girl was selling strawberries at the stop. I bought some, only realising after that they cost me £4.70. I’m terrible at this currency converter thing. It makes it worse that, to convert Krona to Sterling, you only need divide by 10.
I found a beach (hmmpff, actually the first beach I found was a nudist beach, it’s a sore point, I’d rather not revisit that memory..) and sat and ate strawberries, kicked at the sand and enjoyed the sunshine. The sun started dropping and I made a move.
A visit to the Polar Fram Museum (again, another big boat that sailed around the Arctic), and back on the cruise for Oslo Central.
It was 17:30 and light was fading. I jumped on the boat and headed back to base.
A quick Google showed me that my main interest of the trip, to get up in the mountains, specifically via the Holmenkollen Ski Museum, opened until 20:00. I jumped on the Metro for the first time and took the half hour uphill journey towards the mountains.
Being at the top of the ski slope, I think I was actually pretty much at the top of the city. The scenery was beautiful and you could see for miles everywhere. I enjoyed a Latte at the top, taking loads of photos, wondering if next time I visit I should stay in one of the local hotels up here in the mountains. I was thrilled to be able to see, from the top, the city of Oslo and some of the fjords in the distance. And the ski slope is incredibly impressive in itself – I’m not afraid of heights but even I got goosebumps looking down the slope – the sheer steepness is enough to give many shivers and I gained incredible respect for the skiiers who take this on. Supposedly they’ve now opened the slope up as part of an obstacle course, laying the slope with a net and tasking competitors to climb up as quickly as possible.
Food was on my mind, and I had read about a small restaurant along the beautiful Aker Brygge quayside that had some traditional Norwegian food. I wasn’t disappointed when I found it and quickly ordered the fillet of whale, with mushroom stew and lingonbery sauce. It £35 for that, a Coke and a tip, but absolutely worth it for the experience. It tasted very similar to steak, so wasn’t outrageously different, but I was glad I tried it. The other option was reindeer, but that was even more expensive! I think it previously had moose on the menu too. The restaurant was Rorbua and I absolutely recommend visiting here if you can. Best to come in summer and sit on their deck to people watch and take in the glorious views of the yachts and fjord.
It was about 10pm, and I wanted a drink with a nice, night-time view.
Silly me. It stays light until gone midnight here. My ideal night was to head up to a super high-up bar and have a cocktail whilst taking in the lights of Oslo. I found a 21st floor bar in the Radisson Blu hotel, but it was still light! Still, I enjoyed a bourbon and ginger ale cocktail overlooking the tall buildings, the ‘Corporate Oslo’. Shortly after, I found a rock bar, had a cider, then realised it was midnight, I was slightly drunk and I had a long day ahead of me.
I headed to the apartment and slept.
My final morning here, I got up quickly and headed out, again pleased it was sunny but aware storms were forecasted for later.
Renald recommended the Vigeland Sculpture Park I had dismissed, thinking it might be boring. But, with nice weather, I thought it’d be worth a shout. I’m so glad I visited as it was beautiful! Loads of weird naked statues, and some amazing grounds. I people-watched for a bit and saw some Asian ladies doing tai-chi, and a jazz busker.
Popping in for lunch and a coffee in the shop, it suddenly started absolutely hammering down with rain outside. I made a judgement call and made a run for the station – and actually thieved a tray from the cafe to use as cover. I had no umbrella! To this day I still feel like a criminal.
I headed back out to do some more sightseeing but the rain was so heavy, so I took shelter in the Hard Rock Cafe (yessss think this is the 12th European one I’ve visited? Only 27 to go..) for a coffee and read my book until it died down. I had time for one last stop – the Opera House. It’s incredible – it has a massive glass wall with a huge slanted white marble roof you can walk all over. Many photos of the building and selfies in the glass later, and it was time to go.
I packed, handed the keys back to Renald and said my goodbyes.
The journey back to the airport was uneventful, except for a terrifically annoying toddler that wouldn’t stop singing. A few hours later and I touched ground in Stansted.
It was an amazing trip – I crammed in so much in the space of just over 48 hours. Would I go again? Maybe. I think I’ve done everything I wanted to do in Oslo. If I went back to Norway, I’d stay in the mountains surrounding Oslo or I’d go to Bergen in the winter, for the spectacular views of the snowy mountains. My boss also suggested Lofoten which is meant to be incredible. Hopefully this would increase my chances of seeing the Northern Lights too.
Okay, I didn’t spot a moose on my trip. But then I didn’t go enough into the mountains to see one. It was still amazing, and definitely not disappointing.
I highly recommend Oslo as a travel destination. If not mid-winter, then mid-summer. If you can, stay in a summer house on the islands and you’ll have the whole fjord as your swimming pool!