When people ask me how was Oslo, my first thought is expensive as hell. This thought comes out as actual words, and then I am followed by the question “so, why did you go there?”. Well, I don’t think there will come a time when I’ll be in a place in life to afford the expensive living, so why would I stop going to those places? I was able to survive, I just need to be honest about it.
The true reason lies behind the fact that the flights were very, very cheap. I was bombarded with a Ryanair sale back in May, and looked into cheap destinations for August bank holiday. And there it was, Oslo, Norway. A country I have never been in, part of a world that I only had heard of – Scandinavia.
Norway wasn’t on top of my list and therefore my expectations were basically inexistent. I wasn’t expecting to fall in love or to be in some sort of enchantment about the city. And I didn’t.
Some of my previous thoughts about the city were correct: 1. Incredibly expensive; 2. Very clean; 3. Modern and sophisticated.
Now, the weather was really nice, and we weren’t expecting it. I would never imagine I’d be sunbathing by the ocean in Oslo, enjoying the sunshine like a lizard. Some days before the trip, the forecast predicted rain and temperatures around 15 degrees, so therefore I packed an umbrella and jumpers that weren’t necessary. Quite the opposite: I wished I had brought with me proper summer clothing.
I am far from being an expert on Oslo after only spending a weekend there. However, I’ve decided to list a few things that might help any fellow travellers thinking about going to Oslo for the first time.
F O O D
We need to eat in order to survive, especially if you’re avoiding public transport and walk everywhere (which you can do is Oslo, as the city is quite small). As I am always on a budget, and time is also limited, I tend to prefer to eat in fast food chains, buy sandwiches or pizza slices, eat in the park or by a river. I’ll invest in a restaurant meal to try something typical when it’s possible, which usually is. Not in Oslo. Not for me. I’d love to have tried a proper cod or salmon meal – no reindeer meat, as that’s deeply disturbing for me. However, eating in a restaurant wouldn’t cost me less than 200 NOK (at least £20 per person).
Even eating Subway, Mcdonald’s or Burger King won’t cost you less 80 NOK ( £8), so you can imagine how the thing looks like. However, they have a chain called Deli De Luca where you can find affordable baguettes, pizza, noodles and pastries.
If you want to try something typical without spending too much money, I’d say try their unique waffles with their special caramelised cheese, called Brunost. You will find the taste odd, but I ended up liking it quite a lot!
W A T E R
Buying bottled water in Oslo is way too expensive. A small bottle can cost you about 30-40 NOK, the equivalent to £3-£4. Eventually, you’ll have to buy one but make sure you reuse it. Tap water is drinkable and recommended!
F R E E T H I N G S
- Free walking tour! It lasts 2 hours, and our guide was really good. You end up going through all the main places and listening to the history behind the most important event that moulded the city to what it is today. I strongly advise you this if you’re on a budget and actually interested in learning about the city. You can find more info here.
- City Hall: Oslo’s city hall may not look very interesting from the outside. However, look inside. Its walls are decorated with beautiful paintings telling a bit of the values governing the city. Interesting fact about the bells: they play a known song every single hour. Things like Harry Potter’s or Game Of Thrones theme songs have been played, or David Bowie and Michael Jackson. Unfortunately, is really difficult to distinguish it… but isn’t it lovely?!
- Vigeland Park: sculpture park that explores the vulnerability of being human. It’s quite freudian and I have never seen anything like it. All sculptures are naked, which is not abnormal – renaissance and classical sculpture was pretty much focused on describing every single detailed of the human nakedness. This is a different nakedness: it intends to reveal our most deep emotions and fears. Strongly advised!
- Oslo Museum: a small museum which explores the history and traditions of Oslo. I wouldn’t-t describe it as incredible interesting, but it is free!
- The Opera House: it’s a pearl of modern architecture, free entrance. Walk along its rooftop for amazing views.
- Arkershus Fortress: really nice place to go, with fantastic views to the ocean. Don’t miss it!
I S L A N D H O P P I N G
This could almost be classified as FREE, but you obviously need to pay for the ferry journey. However, if you buy the day pass (93 NOK, around £10), you can go on any public transport as many times as you want throughout the day. I recommend the island hopping, as it is an excellent opportunity to explore the Oslo Fjord. We only visited two islands, as our time was already quite limited at this point: Hovedøya and Gressholmen . In Hovedøya there are the ruins of medieval monastery, which makes it much more interesting. Nature walk are also a good way to spend some time in islands specially if you’re blessed with good weather.
V I K I N G S H I P M U S E U M
Now, moving on to the paid things we invested on. Being in the land of the Vikings, I had to learn a bit more about this ancient culture. The Viking Ship Museum is a very good place to start. It has the remains of this era and we cannot stop being amazed at the boldness of humankind in a time where anything beyond you’re little village was so completely strange and unknown.
N A T I O N A L G A L L E R Y
As a art lover, couldn’t stop myself from visiting the national gallery. The most famous piece is obviously The Scream by Munch. However, you’ll find an incredible collection of modern art, from impressionists to expressionists, even some Picasso’s. But what I found most amazing were the works of Norwegian artists I haven’t heard of, such as Dahl, Fearnley or Sohlberg, and landscape painters.
I am strong believer that the best is there for you to enjoy for free. Do choose walking to public transport and enjoy all the different aspects of Oslo. Pay attention to the details, enjoy the freedom you were given to be able to walk on those streets,
Have you been to Norway? Which other Scandinavian cities would you recommend?