Often rated as one of the world’s best (and most expensive) places to live, Oslo was one of the locations that my husband and I both wanted to visit for a long time. Oslo is the capital of Norway and was founded over 1000 years ago by the famous Harold Hardrada. The city sits at the northern tip of the Oslo Fjord and is surrounded by beautiful mountains and green hills with 40 islands and 343 lakes within the city limits. The city has temperate climate with mid 20s temperature in the summer months, but as we visited in the middle of their winter and it was super cold!
After trying the British Airways lounge for the first time (eeek, thanks AMEX!), we landed in Oslo airport. Earlier research directed us away from the over-priced Express train into the city and towards the local train. It was only an extra 10 minutes but was half the price. Within 40 minutes, we exited Oslo S Station in the late afternoon and checked into Anker Hotel. As we only had two days in Oslo, we quickly dropped off the bags and made our way to our first stop – Oslo Opera House. With sunset being around 3:30pm, we had to get as much done as we can during the day time.
Oslo Opera House
Oslo Opera House was our first stop and was something my architect husband was super keen on seeing – and it was worth it! This is home to the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet and is unique in the sense that it is the only Opera House in the world where you can walk on the roof. Its angled exterior surfaces are covered with Italian marble and white granite. It looks stunning in the photos.
This contemporary Opera House is relatively new, only opening in April 2018. Designed by Snohetta, it won numerous awards including the Culture Award at the 2008 World Architecture Festival and the 2009 EU Prize for Contemporary Architecture.
When you look at the Fjords, you will see the She Lies (Hun Ligger) Sculpture by Monica Bonvinci which is made out of stainless steel and glass which is meant to represent an iceberg. It sits on a concrete platform and is meant to move with the tides and wind which then offers changing reflections of the water and the opera house. See behind us:
We actually came back the next day later in the evening to see the lobby. Its one of those things where I am so glad my husband loves architecture as I wouldn’t have been too fussed if I missed it. But boy am I glad I went in! The lobby is absolutely beautiful and contemporary. It was minimalistic but well thought-out. I loved how the lobby is surrounded by 49ft tall windows and to ensure the views of the water are not blocked, they had very little framing.
We then walked 15 minutes to the Akershus Fortress. This was built in the 1290s and is used as a Palace, royal residence and a prison. We didn’t go on an official tour but just walked around this Medieval Castle grounds which is free to do. The fortress was mainly built to protect Oslo and holds a good position for combat because of the immediate proximity to the sea. During World War II, Norwegian resistance fighters were executed by Nazi firing squads here while the same happened to collaborators after the war.
Its definitely worth the visit and you can enjoy panoramic views of the harbour and city from here.
Oslo City Hall
We then walked a further nine minutes to the horrible City Hall. Im sorry (or am i?) but it really is an ugly building that just doesn’t seem to fit in with the rest of the stylish and hip architecture. It was constructed in the 1930s and houses the city council and lots of the administration services of Oslo. It also hosts the Nobel Peace Prize Awards. At least move it from the waters edge…
Moving very swiftly on, we walked past the Nobel Peace Centre to the upscale neighbourhood of Aker Brygge that was developed on the site of a former shipyard. The boardwalk is full of yummy (and extremely expensive) restaurants, quirky cafes and unique little boutiques.
It’s a cool place just to wander and explore the lively pier. We walked to the Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art whilst watching the colourful and dramatic sunset
Just as the sun set, we walked 20 minutes to the Royal Palace (I know, we love walking!). The Royal Palace dates from 1840 and is the official home of the Norwegian monarch King Harald V. Interestingly, King Harald is the first Norwegian born monarch for over 640 years! Unbelievable. The palace looked fantastic in the late afternoon sunset – it also looked like its been taken straight out of a Wes Anderson movie with its majesty and delicate shade of primrose yellow. The palace is surrounded by a huge park and path leading to the main shopping street. Its quite interesting how close you can get to the front door considering the King still lives there!
When we went on 26th December 2019, there was a vigil outside the palace as the family of Princess Martha Louise’s ex-husband, Ari Behn announced that Behn had “taken his own life”. It is quite unusual that these reports came out considering that Norway has always been a country that’s been reluctant to report or otherwise publicly acknowledge suicide. Either way, there were swarms of people weeping by the column outside the palace which was filled with candles and flowers.
We walked down the infamous Karl Johan Street and accidently (but thankfully!) walked straight into their Christmas market! I LOVE European Christmas markets and this one did not disappoint. As always, there were lots of little stalls selling handicrafts, sweets and hot drinks. There was a busy ice-skating rink in the middle. We walked around and sat by the fire with a hot drink. I just remember turning to look at my husband, who in turn was staring into the fire and just smiling and appreciating life. Its strange the small things that you remember in these holidays. By this point, we were so hungry and in the borderline of being hangry. We both had our heart set on eating pizza and luckily there was Peppe’s Pizza a 3 minutes walk away from the market! We also wanted to try this as it’s a highly popular chain of pizza restaurants across Oslo. We shared a large pizza and it was so delicious but I think we also just appreciated taking our layers off and being indoors in the heat! We then went back to Anker Hotel which was conveniently a 16 minutes’ walk away.
We woke up and hit the breakfast buffet hard, ready and fuelled for the day ahead. Our first stop was Kortetrkkeren
Korketrekkeren Tobaggan Run
We spent half a day sledging! As we just had such a blast, I wanted to write about this detail – especially as there wasn’t that much information about it online. See the blog post here.
Viking Ship Museum
After one crazyyyyyyy morning sledging, we went to the Viking Ship Museum. After learning about Vikings in primary and secondary school, I was so fascinated by them. The structure of the museum itself was built to house two remarkably well-preserved funerary Viking ships. These ships data back to the 800s but it was only in 1903 that the world’s largest Viking grave was discovered on the Oseberg Farm, a short distance south of Oslo (thus the name Oseberg Ship). When a prominent figure died, the Vikings would build an entire ship to bury the bodies along with their worldly possessions. Archaeologists say that this particular ship was the women’s grave and that they were powerful during their time.
I was mesmerised at the excellent condition and perfectly preserved the ship was – its detailed carvings and dark, thick planks looked like something from a movie set!
Norwegian Museum of Cultural History
Right next to the Viking Ship Museum was the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History. Due to time constraints, we didn’t actually have enough time to go inside but to be honest, we weren’t too bothered. We did pop our heads in and discovered some collections of artifacts from all social groups and all regions of the country.
We then took bus 30 to Vigeland Park and boy did this park amaze me. It is one of the most visited sites in Norway and the largest sculptures park in the world. Located inside Oslo’s Frognerparken, it is definitely unique.
The Vigeland Park is filled with art instalments designed by Gustav Vigeland, a Norwegian sculptures (same guy who designed the Nobel Peace Prize). These instalments covers 80 acres of Frogner Park and features 212 bronze and granite sculptures. The first thing I noticed is that all of them are naked. Vigeland said “it is only when you put clothes on people, that religion and origin are identified. When you are naked you can be anyone, anywhere and at any time”. I was so impressed with how accurate the statues are as all ages and genders being represented. The main theme is the circle of life. The highlights of this park are:
The bronze fountains – From the centre of the square basin, six men support a large basin from which the fountain water flows
The monolith’s terrace which houses a 17-meter high column showing 121 intertwined human figures. The column is called monolith because it was carved in a single piece of granite.
The granite bridge – This has 58 life-size bronze statues of men, women and children represented. The Sinnataggen (the furious child) is the most famous statue, which has become one of the symbols of Oslo. My favourite was the women dancing while pulling her long hair (Khaled says she looks like me on a bad day – cheers)
We were almost going to call it a day, but my husband was keen to check out the controversial Barcode project. Located to the west of the centre of Oslo, next to the Opera House, this consists of 12 narrow high-rise buildings of different heights and widths and with some space in between them (this looking like a barcode). Now it houses leading national and international businesses and 10,000 people work here on a daily basis.
It is controversial in the sense that almost 70% of Oslo’s population was not in favour of the project and try to campaign against it. They thought it was an architecturally provocative project, at least for the traditional standards of the Norwegian capital. It is in stark contrast of the city which has low houses, is open with lots of green areas.
We just walked around there and went up to the bridge connecting the buildings before we called it a day and wanted to grab some dinner.
Dinner at Rice Bowl Restaurant
As we wanted something cheap and cheerful and very filling, we went to this high recommended and very popular restaurant that just happened to be around the corner from the Barcode Project. They serve tasty, affordable Thai food in huge portions. Just look at the smile in Khaled’s face was when the food came!
Accommodation Review: Anker Hotel
I would definitely recommend this hotel. It was a slick, almost business-like hotel which is well located in the city centre. Everyone knows how super-expensive Oslo is but this hotel was extremely affordable (£30 per night for the both of us!). It also included a buffet breakfast which we hit quite heavily each morning. This was my FIRST plate of my buffet selection. It was so fresh and delicious. I loved the smoked salmon!