Chelsea and I recently returned from our tour of Oslo, Stockholm and Copenhagen – it was the trip of a lifetime and I’m so excited to share what we did with all of you!
It was a bit of a challenge to plan the Oslo portion of our trip, as most of my searches led to more “nature” oriented itineraries, and we were planning on spending all of our time in the city proper. But with the help of Pinterest – and a morning spent with the private tour guide our travel agent arranged for us – we had a very full and memorable visit.
Though my heart is deeply entrenched in Rome, I have dreamed of going to Norway for a long time. The Vikings, the mythology, the whole Scandinavian culture is one that has fascinated me, and I was thrilled to land in the city and see it up close.
We spent the morning with our tour guide Kristin, who – without a doubt – made the experience of everything we saw (or might have even missed!) so much richer.
For example, this:
The playwright Henrik Ibsen spent the last 11 years of his life in Oslo – and walked from his home (now a museum) to the same cafe each day. The art project SitatIBSEN consists of 69 Ibsen quotes in stainless steel that have been placed on the sidewalks that follow his route to the Grand Cafe.
We visited the Royal Palace – which is right in the middle of the city, and provides a lovely view of the long pedestrian street Karl Johans Gate – which is lined with shops and outdoor cafes.
We also might have missed seeing the inside of City Hall.
A most unimpressive building from the outside, I would have definitely passed it right by had Kristin not insisted we go in. It is truly worth it.
The interiors – comprised of materials completely sourced from Norway – are magnificent. Large murals – commissioned by famous Norwegian artists – cover the walls of the Great Hall (where the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony is held each year), along with several other rooms, and we were lucky to have such a knowledgeable guide to explain all of the stories and symbolism. There is a 49-bell carillon in the eastern tower, which rings on the hour throughout the day.
We then hopped a ferry for a quick 5-minute ride to the Bygdoy peninsula – home to several unique museums.
The Viking Ship Museum contains ship discoveries from Gokstad, Oseberg and Tune, as well as other finds from Viking tombs around the Oslo Fjord.
It also displays the world’s two best-preserved wooden Viking ships built in the 9th century, as well as small boats, tools, textiles and household utensils.
Right next door is the Norwegian Folk Museum.
It is one of Europe’s largest open-air museums, with more than 100 traditional houses from all parts of Norway, including a stave church from the year 1200.
We were lucky enough to visit in summer, where we saw several demonstrations and performances, and tasted some freshly baked “lefse” (a traditional Norwegian flatbread).
The other two museums on the island are The Fram Museum and The Kon-Tiki Museum. The Fram Museum is devoted to polar exploration, and houses the world’s most famous polar ship – the Fram – which you can actually board. The Kon-Tiki Museum exhibits vessels and maps from the Kon-Tiki expedition – a 1947 journey (by raft) from South America to the Polynesian islands, led by Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl.
Note here: If you are planning on going to all 4 museums – and taking advantage of Oslo’s public transportation system – you should consider purchasing an Oslo Pass. It will grant you free admission to all of the above – plus many other attractions – and free access to all public transportation.
We returned to the city and explored the Oslo Opera House.
Built in 2008, this stunning building is one you can “experience” both outside and in. Walking on the roof is not only permitted, but encouraged, and doing so offers a 360 degree view of the landscapes, wooden cottages and modern skyline of the city. The interior is just as beautiful.
We spent a lovely morning exploring the neighborhood of Grunerlokka. Once a gritty industrial area, it has transformed over recent years into a lively spot containing loads of galleries, independent stores, vintage clothing shops and great coffee and pastries. Spots to hit up for coffee (and this country takes its coffee SERIOUSLY) are Supreme Roastworks (purportedly the best in Norway), and Tim Wendelboe.
Note: I was excited to snap that picture of flowers with what I assumed to be a charming little Norwegian message. When I plugged it into my translator back at the hotel it said “We Have Gift Certificates!”. #awkward
As our mission was to eat all the pastries, we asked our wonderful tour guide for a suggestion, and found it also to be in Grunerlokka.
Godt Brod (“good bread”) serves up delicious, freshly baked breads, rolls and pastries – all locally and mostly organically sourced. This way-of-life – of using only the best, freshest, seasonal ingredients – is one we encountered all throughout our trip.
Two more things to check off your list while in Grunerlokka are the most charming streets you’ll ever see, and a fabulous food hall.
Damstredet & Telthusbakken are two tiny streets containing a collection of beautifully preserved wooden houses from the late 1700 – 1800s.
We died just a little.
And right nearby is Mathallen Food Hall – an indoor food hall with about 30 specialty shops and cafes selling products from Norway and elsewhere.
The afternoon was spent about 20 minutes outside the city, at the Holmenkollen Ski Museum & Tower.
The museum is dedicated to the more than a century of skiing competitions that have taken place here – as well as centuries of skiing history, Norwegian polar exploration artifacts and an exhibition on snowboarding and modern skiing. In the summer you can actually zipline down the jump tower.
The area offers killer views of the city, and is home to the Scandic Holmenkollen Hotel, built in 1894. Be sure to take a look inside if you go.
Located right in the heart of the city, it is comprised of buildings and structures dating as far back as the Middle Ages.
We left Oslo feeling like we really experienced the city – but of course there was much that we missed. Here are a few more sites and attractions that we didn’t get to, but that you should check into if you go (you can also explore the links on my Pinterest board for other Oslo itineraries!):
Vigeland Sculpture Park – the world’s largest sculpture park created by a single artist. Gustav Vigeland not only designed the 79-acre park, but also completed the 212 sculptures it contains.
Munch Museum – home to more than half of the artist’s paintings and prints, including “The Scream”.
Aker Brygge – located along the inner harbor, this shopping and dining district is a mix of converted shipyard buildings and new construction. Great for a stroll, with pretty views of the marina and the Oslo Fjord.
Is there anything I missed? Please add it in the comments!