WAVEJourney Travel Tips for Norway – Exploring Oslo

WAVEJourney Travel Tips for Norway – Exploring Oslo

Exploring Oslo, Norway

Exploring Oslo, Norway

Situated at the head of Oslofjord, Oslo touts itself as the Capital of Culture and Nature. As Norway’s capital, it is the largest city with a population of approximately 600,000. Including the greater Oslo region, the population bumps up to around 1million. Oslo is both the country’s financial and political center. With more than 50 museums, the new landmark Opera House, festivals, concerts and events, Oslo succeeds on the cultural front as well.

Oslo

Oslo

Oslo is surrounded by hills and mountains and claims 343 lakes within its boundaries. Much land is dedicated forest, parks and open areas. Recreational opportunities are wide-ranging and year-round due to location and temperate climate thanks to the Gulf Stream and nearby mountains. Water sports in Oslofjord or on one of the many lakes rank high on the list in the summer months, as well as, hiking and biking. Winter enthusiasts are treated to great skiing, both cross-country and downhill.

Thon Hotel Oslo Panorama

Thon Hotel Oslo Panorama

WAVE Journey experienced Oslo with a three-night stay in late June 2012, allowing for two full days of exploring. Our basecamp was the Thon Hotel Oslo Panorama, just a 5-minute walk from the Oslo Central Station. This particular Thon Hotel happened to be a “Junior Thon” with special emphasis towards children in the common area. Totally cute to see little ones climb the steps attached to the front desk and register themselves. The ping pong table was a hit, too. But the  adults weren’t overlooked, as the lobby was equipped with a Nespresso machine and the breakfast buffet was superlative. Pleasant, helpful staff and a clean, comfortable room were definitely appreciated during our stay at this centrally located hotel.

First things first on a visit to Oslo: Buy the OSLO PASS. So many doors are opened to a visitor with this pass, from free access to more than 30 museums to free public transport. It doesn’t take much effort to get your money’s worth out of this purchase… available at tourist information centers, hotels or online. The pass is available in 24-hour, 48-hour or 72-hour options. And, as usual, WAVE Journey recommends a quick overview to any new city with a circuit on the Hop On-Hop Off bus to kickstart your visit.

Oslo Opera House

Oslo Opera House

After we did our once-around with HMKs Hop On-Hop Off tour, we roamed the Opera House which was buzzing with pre-performance activity. This venue, covered in white granite and white Italian marble opened in 2008 and is a popular attraction. The roof angles towards the ground creating a huge plaza, perfect for panoramic views of Oslo. So enjoy a show (home of Norwegian National Opera and Ballet) or take a stroll… on the roof!

Akershus Castle

Akershus Castle

Next we were off to put our OSLO PASS to work. The Akershus Castle is a medieval castle which was remodeled in the early 1600’s to a renaissance castle. We toured the many ballrooms, chapel and Royal Mausoleum. Right next door we discovered the Resistance Museum — what an education this was! This is a fascinating collection of documents, artifacts and models demonstrating the five years of occupation during WWII. Around the corner, our next visit was to the Museum of Architecture, a collection of Classical and Modernist architecture, as well as, special exhibits. We cruised through and enjoyed the exhibit: “Views. Norway seen from the road 1733 – 2020”.

Tjuvholmen

Tjuvholmen

It was time to re-group back at the hotel where we took in the scenery from the balcony and toasted with local beers. It certainly had been a full day so far, but next up was dinner at the new harborfront ~ Tjuvholmen. This hip, architecturally energized district featuring shops, restaurants and galleries, creates an exciting live/work area in the heart of the harbor. We strolled from the hotel to the restaurant for our 7pm reservation.

Tjuvholmen Sjomalgasin in Oslo

Tjuvholmen Sjomalgasin in Oslo

Tjuvholmen Sjomalgasin was our dinner destination for a set 3-course meal complemented with a nice bottle of white wine. This restaurant, ideally located on a harbor canal, has a spacious feel with plentiful windows and an open kitchen.

Grilled Pollack with Squid Ink

Grilled Pollack with Squid Ink

The chef treated us to an amuse bouche, and our set meal of corn chowder with King crab, followed by pollack with squid ink and then finished with a yummy rhubarb ice cream dish left us satiated and smiling.

Jill and Viv at Icebar Oslo

Jill and Viv at Icebar Oslo

After our delectable dining experience, we carried on with our stroll… many tourists out and about and a Regent ship was in port. Walking away from the harbor, we meandered down side streets and stumbled upon the Icebar Oslo! What a hoot. We donned ruffed parkas and mittens and crossed over to the cold blue of the bar. Ticket price included one drink in glass made of ice. Logically, we chose the regional liqueur, Aquavit. We weathered the arctic chill with some of the crew from the Regent ship we had seen docked, took a few photos and then called it a night. It had been a very successful day of adventure!

The Viking Ship Museum

The Viking Ship Museum

Our second full day in Oslo gave us the opportunity to once again put our OSLO PASS to work. We kicked off the morning with a ferry ride (free with Pass) to the boat museums . Yes, plural… you see Norwegians take their boats seriously! Our first stop was The Viking Ship Museum with a fabulous display of three preserved Viking Ships. Viewing platforms allow for excellent perspectives on these fascinating and beautifully carved structures. We walked about 20 minutes (riding a bus is an option, too) to the other three nautical museums grouped together in one locale.

Kon-Tiki Museum

Kon-Tiki Museum

Here we toured The Kon-Tiki Museum which houses Thor Heyerdahl’s famous Kon-Tiki raft upon which he crossed the Pacific in 1947. His reed boat, Ra II, can also be examined here along with some great memorabilia from his journeys. We thoroughly enjoyed watching the film in the cinema at the museum about Heyerdahl’s adventures.

The Polar Ship at Fram Museum

The Polar Ship at Fram Museum

Next door at The Polar Ship Fram Museum was yet another opportunity to see a vessel that accomplished remarkable explorations. Fram was a polar explorer and it is possible to actually walk about on the ship ~ very cool. We concluded our boat museum tour by popping into the Norwegian Maritime Museum where we enjoyed both artwork and a display of small fishing boats. All entrance fees were covered with our OSLO PASS! We took the bus back to the city center for our next leg of exploration.

The National Gallery in Oslo

The National Gallery in Oslo

Norway’s largest public collection of paintings, sculptures and drawings is housed in The National Gallery. Here we were treated to Munch (The Scream 1893 and Madonna) works by El Greco, Picasso, Monet, Manet and Cezanne to name a few. We noted super-tight security at this museum and actually took turns wandering the space as we didn’t want to stow our PacSafe backpack loaded with all our cameras and laptop.

Ibsen Museum

Ibsen Museum

At the Ibsen Museum we enjoyed a private tour of his apartment. A prolific playwright, Henrik Ibsen called this apartment home from 1895 until his death there in 1906. We learned about his quirky behavior and idiosyncrasies. He was a prominent sight on the streets of Oslo back when he was a daily fixture at the cafe of the Grand Hotel. It is said one could set their watch by Ibsen’s daily ritual.

Nobel Peace Center

Nobel Peace Center

From here, we continued to pound the pavement and made our way to the Nobel Peace Center. We arrived on the heels of Aung San Suu Kyi’s lecture — 21 years after being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize (she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for her non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights). Unfortunately we missed this event, but were very much moved by the exhibits honoring “SHEROES” -Nobel Peace Prize heroines and laureates. The gift shop is a great source for an inspiring gift or memento.

Aung San Suu Kyi Exhibit at Nobel Peace Center in Oslo

Aung San Suu Kyi Exhibit at Nobel Peace Center in Oslo

After a bit more wandering in easily walkable Oslo, we made our way back to the hotel. Time to slumber, then rise and shine, pack up, walk to train station and say hello to a new country…. and so it goes.

 

If You Go:

Visit Oslo

Visit Norway.

Follow more of WAVEJourney’s June 2012 travels in Norway:

WAVEJourney Explores Norway’s Fjord Region | Explore Bergen | Bergen to Flam | Flam to Solvorn | Solvorn to Geiranger | Geiranger to Alesund | Explore Oslo |

 

 

 

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