We spent the day exploring the city of Oslo — a truly underrated city that really impressed us. Sure, it may not have the history and architecture of places like Rome or Paris, and it’s not a huge financial hub like London, but it punches way above its weight in terms of being a mid-sized European capital. There’s a nice mix of old and new, and plenty of things to do–and maybe it could have been the pleasant weather, but people seemed much nicer and more open than we’ve seen in other parts of Scandinavia! The only downside is the price — Oslo is definitely not easy on the wallet.
See & Do
- Opera House(Operahuset): A beautiful modern looking opera house that’s located near the main train station and the Barcode district. The all-white exterior and waterfront location remind me a bit of the Sydney opera house (although the similarities pretty much end there). You can walk to the top of the building for nice views of the city and surrounding fjords. Free admission.
- Bar Code: Bar Code is a controversial new district in Oslo located directly south of the train station. Lots of modern mid-rise buildings with a kind of experimental architecture. The reason it’s controversial is that people feel this kind of architecture is a bit out of place in a historical European city, it seems to cater only to large corporations (many of which have their headquarters here), and most importantly it blocks the view of the fjords for many people directly north! As a visitor, the architecture looks pretty cool and it has revitalized an area that was otherwise undeveloped, but I can definitely sympathize with the residents who are unwillingly forced to look at it everyday.
- Akershus Castle(Akershus Festning): We walked along the promenade from the Opera House over to the Akershus Festning–directly across the harbor from the Akers Brygge area that we visited the previous day. You can walk around the grounds for free and enjoy the architecture and nice views of the water and surrounding area, since it’s located on a hill. This seems like a great place to enjoy the sunset if you’re here in the evening (of course, depending on the time of year you visit and the position of the sun). Free to walk around castle grounds.
- City Hall(Rådhuset): The Oslo City Hall, primarily used for ceremonial purposes when heads of state come to visit. Architecturally it’s nothing too special, but the art work inside is definitely worth the visit. Most of the murals depict Nordic mythology, but I particularly enjoyed the mural depicting the difficulties that the city/country faced during World War II–what makes it powerful is that the construction of the city hall was halted during the war so this depicts a lot of the struggles that the workers and artists faced first hand. The public art in Oslo is consistently excellent–the only other European city that I’ve seen that comes close to its caliber is Florence. Free admission.
- The National Gallery: Free on Sundays. I was expecting a rush due to the fact that we came on the free day, but everything was still nice and orderly, and not too crowded. This museum is only one floor with ~20 rooms, and the highlights are Munch’s Scream and Madonna paintings. (Somehow I was also pretty fascinated with a painting of Delft, Netherlands depicting the city in the late 1800s as I took a picture from the exact same spot. Looks pretty much the same after over 100 years except for guardrails protecting the canals and the fact that the trees have grown a lot).
- The Vigeland Park (Frogner Park): An outdoor sculpture museum that’s located just west of the central district of Oslo. The easiest way to get here is by tram, but it’s also only about a relatively easy 3km walk from the Royal Palace through some residential neighborhoods (which is how we got there and back). The park consists of sculptures in various poses, some of which are normal (such as standing around and laughing), and others which are bizarre (such as a group of babies suckling their mother like baby calves on a mother cow). One thing they all have in common is they’re all completely nude. Entrance is free and I can’t overstate how amazing this park is–whether you’re into art or not, some of these sculptures are just downright genius and/or hilarious. This park is open all day so you can come by in the evening when there’s still light out and everything else is closed. Free admission.
- Damstredet: A small street near Grunerlokka that has lots of 18th century wooden buildings, which stand in stark contrast to the rest of the modern city. Free admission.
Eat & Drink
- Grunerløkka Bakeri: Nice little place to stop by for breakfast. Rosinboller is a cardamom and raisin bun that’s considered a Norwegian specialty. Cappucino-38NOK Latte-42NOK Rosinboller(Raisin Bun)-30NOK
- Lunch at Akershus Castle cafe: Nothing too special, just a typical museum cafe…we were actually going to try out Festningen but somehow stumbled in here by mistake thinking this was it (we were hungry!). Probably wouldn’t come back here again, but it’ll do in a pinch. Luna Pesto-50NOK, Vaffle-25NOK, Juice-16NOK.
- Restaurant Schrøder: We’re zero for two now, because we originally intended to eat at Smalhans. But it turns out they took a nice long summer break and weren’t due back for another week or so. But it was ok, because Restaurant Schroder was just around the corner. If you’re a Harry Hole fan (of Jo Nesbo fame), then you’ll be intimately familiar with Restaurant Schroder. A dingy little place, it consists of a strange mix of grouchy looking locals mixed along with touristy fans of the book (guess which group we were in). We ordered the special and didn’t expect much, but it was surprisingly tasty, and went down well with a pint of lager. Entrecôte-149NOK Beer-72NOK
- Kaffebrenneriet: It started pouring the second we stepped out of Restaurant Schroder so we ducked into Kaffebrenneriet for a quick coffee to wait it out. Latte-40NOK Cappuccino-37NOK
- Blå: We caught the house band, the Frank Znort quartet (there are way more than 4 people in the band) and had a beer. Super chill place, this is one place that we regret not being able to spend more time (since we had to wake up super early the next day). After the band finished their first set, everybody filtered out to the outdoor cafe/bar area for some fresh air. Norwegians really know how to appreciate good weather when it comes around. Free admission.
- Cafe Di Roma And…we’re zero for three today in terms of meals. We were originally headed for Villa Paradiso, but they were closed by the time we got there–interestingly enough they let us browse the menu without saying a word until we were ready to sit down, THAT’S when they finally decided to let us know the kitchen was closed. Anyway, what fun is a trip without a few missteps along the way — it’s probably for the best that we ended up eating at Cafe Di Roma. Nice little place that is reminiscent of Italy, pretty good pizza and super cheap beer (seriously, probably the cheapest on the entire trip). And hey, they’re open late. Margherita Pizza-99NOK Vegetarian Pizza-119NOK Hansa Draft Beer-58NOK
- our feet