Today Ryan and I are celebrating our third wedding anniversary! YAY! But the real celebration happened over the weekend when we went to Oslo, Norway.
A while ago we had taken the days off for a long weekend, but we hadn’t planned on what to do or where to go. After lots of brainstorming, we decided to go on Skyscanner and choose a cheap option. We decided on Oslo in part because we spent only £65 for two round trip flights. The other reasons we chose Oslo is because we wanted to see some Viking ships, but more on that later. The thing though about cheap flights is you have to go through secondary airports which are always farther away, and so add a little more time and expensive to the trip. But really, it’s not a bad thing. The original cheap fare got us to visit a place we hadn’t ever considered before.
Ryan and I left on a Friday. We took the Stansted Express from Tottenham Hale and then took RyanAir to Oslo Torp. From Torp airport we took the Torp Ekspressen Bus. That bus from Torp was more expensive than our flight, which was sort of painful but necessary as Torp is about 90 minutes away from the city center. Also, that bus schedule corresponds with Ryan Air flights so it’s super easy to take.
But while we’re talking money, let’s get it out there. Norway is expensive. For our London frame of minds it wasn’t too terrible, but it is expensive. The Norwegian currency is called a Krone (NOK) and £1 equals slightly more than 12.5 NOK. So, for reference I bought a lemon Fanta for 36 NOK, which equals about £2.88 – so expensive but not completely awful. Although convert that to US dollars and it will hurt your brain a bit. Don’t despair though! If you’re thinking of visiting Norway throughout this post I will give you some recommendations on low cost options. Ryan and I were able to have most meals at under 500 KOR for the two of us and we ate pretty well. Also, if you’re planning on doing intense site seeing check out the Oslo Pass which gives free entry to museums and public transportation as well as discounts on many other things. Ryan and I chose not to do that as the things we wanted to do added up to less than the cost of the pass – but check it out it’s a pretty good option.
We were staying with Bjørvika Apartments in the eastern part of the city near the Opera House. This area of town is clearly a business district full of new beautifully designed construction. We had fun just wandering between the buildings looking at the design, the art, the sculptures, and the plants. Our visit proper tourist visit was to the Oslo Opera House, which is a really cool building and free to visit. The slope of the building rolls right into – or alternatively bursts right out of – the water. And then people can walk all the way up the slope of the buildings front, which then winds around to the roof. In short, you can walk up the Opera House and stand on the roof. It’s gorgeous. You can see the water, you can see the city, and you can see the sunset. It’s a unique building with lovely views into different elements of the city.
After that we walked into central Oslo and wandered on Karl Johans Gate, which is the main commercial street. There are lots of restaurants and shops and if you continue far enough down you’ll get a great view of the Royal Palace (photo below). Walking around this street was a great way to get an introductory sense of the city. We saw people eating outside, we saw people shopping, and we saw people just sitting and relaxing in nearby parks. Oslo is very walkable and not very big. As we wandered around we saw some people who had been on our flight! But we immediately liked the city. It was busy but not too full, clean, and charming to look at. That first night we had dinner at Wurst, where we had beers and sausages loaded with toppings all for about 450 NOK.
Saturday was a rainy day so we decided to be low key and simply wander the city and visit the National Gallery. Before the museum we toured the Norwegian gifts sections of GlasMagasinet Stortorvet, a high end department store. We saw troll figurines, beautifully carved wood decorations for kitchens, cheese slicers (the Norwegians invented a particular cheese slicer – it’s the bottom right photo below), and lots of cozy looking sweaters. I was especially taken with some wooden pigs and the felt and leather slippers. I had never seen felt so thick and dense before! With those slippers my feet would never get cold!After that we went to the museum. Entry is just 50 NOK regularly and it is free on Sunday. You also get to use a locker for free so that’s awesome too. The museum is just one floor, which is wonderful because then I never felt stressed about missing anything. It’s also the most efficiently informative and organized museum I’ve ever visited. The artwork is arranged chronologically and each time period is given a color which you can see on the walls of the gallery. Labels for each room were just two paragraphs and about 10-12 sentences total. Enough text so I get an idea about the stylistic period and it’s specific tie to Norway, but not so much that I get tired of reading it.
And each room had the right amount of paintings that I felt I could look at everything and take it all in. I wasn’t getting inundated with paintings of old men or Madonna and child. It was the right amount to get an idea but not feel overwhelmed. I really loved the one gallery that lets visitors get involved. Inside this room was a big sculpture with tables, paper, and pencils. Visitors could sketch and then hang their art on the wall. How awesome is that?! It was cool to see the variety of skill and styles in these visitor drawings. I also think it’s cool that visitors have the chance to hang their art in a museum.
But the biggest draw for this museum is Edvard Munch’s Scream. Did you know there are four versions? One in this museum, two across down in Oslo at the Munch Museum, and one was sold by Sotheby’s to a private collector. Although all the same content, the color and materials used were different between the four. There were other Munch paintings in the museum as well, but the Scream is the one I knew the best. It’s haunting and beautiful all at once.
After we went to Kaffistova to eat and tried reindeer cakes with potatoes (175 NOK for each of us). It was rich and filling and tasted like the most nourishing and delicious meatloaf I ever had. Kaffistova had a cafeteria vibe to it. You order at a register, they serve you, then you sit and relax in the dining area. The staff was nice and the clientele was a mix of tourists and old Norwegian men hanging out. After we wandered around Oslo a bit more. We walked by City Hall, admired the Akershus Fortress, stumbled upon a dockside flea market, and enjoyed watching the boats pass by. I found Oslo a fun place for wandering.
Sunday the weather was glorious so we set off for a more ambitious day of site seeing. We walked back towards City Hall and took the ferry to the Bygdøy a peninsula on the western side of Oslo. The ferry is 35 NOK one way (which we did) and 55 NOK round trip. Buy your tickets at the little kiosk next to the boat. Tickets are more expensive on the boat. You can also take a bus there, but why do that when you can enjoy wonderful sea breezes and views? Bydgøy is home to a number of museums and we chose to visit the Viking Ship museum and the Folk Museum.
We started at the Viking Ship Museum (80 NOK for adults). The museum has four ships, most of which are in really great condition. They are burial ships so there were also other objects aboard the boat. We were able to see cloth, objects for food preparation, sleds, and other ornately carved wooden objects. It sort of reminded me of objects from Egyptian tombs because the objects are all the things a person might need to function in the afterlife. I also enjoyed that in addition to showing objects the museum talked about how they conserve the objects.
Some objects are deteriorating because of methods that used to be state of the art, but now are no longer used. I liked that the museum discussed the dilemma of how to preserve and whether or not current methods will really last. The museum also talked a lot about the people who were buried on the ships and who they might have been, and what could be told about them from their bones. It’s amazing you can tell about diet and ailments from bones! Overall so interesting.
After that we walked over to the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History. We had lunch at the museum’s cafe because there wasn’t a ton of dining options in the area. Ryan and I were fully prepared for it to be super expensive, but it wasn’t at all. Very affordable (mains under 150 NOK) and the café itself is brightly lit and decorated with wild flowers and light colored wood furniture. It was a nice place to eat. Ryan had a salmon and shrimp sandwich and I had a salmon and vegetable pie. So yummy.
The museum is an open air museum showing Norwegian life from 1500 to the present. It costs 120 NOK to enter, but it’s worth it for a big site. I found the museum really enjoyable and also a bit all over the place. There are log cabins with roofs made of bark and peat and there is also a 1920’s gas station. They aren’t next to each other, but it’s all there and it’s pretty easy to wander between time periods. I loved the wooden buildings best though. The wood is dark and ornately carved. They were the physical embodiment of how I picture cottages in fairy tales.
Throughout the place there are costumed interpreters and educators ready to talk about the buildings, how things were used, and how things were made. We saw children being taught how to card wool and make yarn. Ryan and I also tried some traditional pancakes made with “soured milk.” They were hot off the griddles, slathered with raspberry jam, and very delicious.
Also, we saw pigs. I love pigs so I was very excited. I took about 20 pictures of the pigs rolling in the mud, snorting around, and pestering the mother pig for a suckle.
The real reason we went to this museum was because I wanted to see Stave Church (photo below). It’s originally from Gol and was moved to Oslo to preserve it when the Gol was going to tear it down to build a new church. It’s a medieval wooden church and it gets its name from the structural design of the building. Using the rings on the wood, the church is dated to 1212. There aren’t that many of these churches left, and apparently most of them are from Norway. It’s a cool structure and visitors can even go inside.
After this museum, Ryan and I went for a bit of a hike up to Frogner Park to see the Vigeland installation. Norwegian sculptor Gustav Vigeland created over 200 sculptures of people and they are a permanent part of the park. Here’s the path I recommend to take it all in. Walk in the main gate, which has ornately designed gates. Keep walking straight and go over the bridge. On the bridge there are sculptures of people in what my guide book called “all stages of life.” There are babies having tantrums, people fighting, old people, people in love.
Don’t forget to look over the bridge and look at the birds fluttering about on the water. Keep going until you come up to the fountain which has more sculptures of people lifting up a giant bowl. The water crashes and flies all over and looked especially beautiful in the sun. Just beyond you can see the big monolith. Hike the stairs and check out this big sculpture. It’s made of 121 people struggling to get to the top. Take your pictures, then sit on the steps and look over the park and where you’ve come from.
We relaxed in the park for a bit before taking a giant walk back to Oslo. Seriously it was over an hour we walked. However, I recommend it. We got to a bit more of the neighborhoods and shops during this epic trek than we would have if we’d taken the bus or the metro. We ended the trip with a dinner at an Italian restaurant. Ok, not very authentic but I like pizza. Deal with it. Monday we took the long trek back to London.
It was a wonderful long weekend beautiful sites, interesting museums, and good food. It was a great way to celebrate our anniversary too. There’s nothing better I like better than exploring a new city with Ryan. It’s always nice to relax and spend lots of time together. I highly recommend this place!