Milos and I recently both had some time off between tours for a few days (at the same time!), and it made more sense for me to head up to Norway to meet up with him, as his tours are taking him through Scandinavia this season.
We had three full days to explore and spend time together. (I got there late in the evening on day one, so I’m not counting that, and on day five, we both flew to Copenhagen so he could get ready for his next tour.) But days two, three, and four were just for us! 🙂
I had never been to Norway before, and was excited to see what Oslo had to offer. With our limited time, we wanted to focus strictly on the city itself and not try to venture out on any day trips out of town.
First, a few things about Norway and its capital, Oslo.
Due to its far-north latitude, we certainly didn’t have to worry about the heat, despite it being the end of July. During our few days there, it averaged in the upper 60’s to around 70 degrees fahrenheit. In the evenings, we definitely needed our jackets. Bear in mind that Oslo is “southern Norway.” Milos goes all the way to the north cape on one of his tours, where he needs his heavy winter coat even in summer.
There really were an enormous amount of blonde people – everywhere. I read that about 80% of Scandinavians are blonde. And after my visit to Norway, I totally believe it. Except for my short height, I really felt like I blended in there. Haha!
Almost EVERYONE speaks English, making it easy for tourists.
The country has a great deal of wealth due to its oil industry, which is also the reason Norway is not in the EU. (It IS a member of the Schengen, however.) It is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, which is a downside for tourists, as everything is EXTREMELY expensive. Plan for this if you’re making a trip there! $$$$
There are SO many electric cars in Norway! If you purchase an electric car there, you don’t have to pay tax on it, you get free parking, you can drive in bus lanes, and there is an amazing infrastructure of charging stations. As a result, over 22% of new car sales in Norway in 2015 were electric cars. Pretty impressive!
Oslo is also the home of the Nobel Peace Prize, which is given out in the city’s town hall every year in December. (The only one not awarded in Stockholm.)
The city is very modern, with just a few examples of old structures. Much of Oslo has gone through some destruction during its history, most recently in WWII. As a result, most buildings are very modern-looking. Overall, Oslo is very clean and the people were friendly.
What are some of the sites we explored in Oslo?
We walked around the city to get a feel for its orientation. There is a big main street going through town with lots of shops and restaurants, called Karl Johans gate. As you approach the area near the royal palace, the area opens up with a park running along the side of the street. The palace itself is surrounded by green areas where everyone is free to walk around and enjoy the space. We spent some time wandering through the gardens, just relaxing and enjoying our time together.
Along the water, there’s an area called Aker Brygge, which is also full of restaurants and shops. (But mostly restaurants!) It is bookended by the Nobel Peace Center on the city end and the Modern art museum (Astrup Fearnley Museet) on the other end. We walked this area each evening, and had dinner there twice.
Opposite the bay/marina from there is the Akershus Fortress; a medieval castle that was built to protect the city. (Disney fans will recognize the name, as it is used at the Norway pavilion in Epcot in Disney World!) It is well preserved and fun to explore. You can get a great view of the coastline and the city from up there!
We visited the Viking Ship Museum, which is home to the remains of three viking ships from approximately 1100 years ago! Amazing! We got there via the Hop On Hop Off Sightseeing Bus.
We also visited the famous Vigeland Gardens, renowned for its sculptures. Vigeland wanted his art to be timeless, so the figures are all nudes. Clothing represents specific eras in time, so the artist decided to forego dress of any kind in his creations. One of the most famous sculptures is that of the “angry boy,” who is stomping his feet in protest to something he doesn’t like.
And while at Vigeland Gardens, we stumbled upon a Bruce Springsteen Concert! The concert was scheduled for the evening, but Bruce was doing an initial soundcheck, which we got to hear. I thought it rather funny that a musician who I consider “local” to back home was there half way around the world at the same time as me!
We also paid a visit to the National Gallery, home of Munch’s “The Scream.” I won’t pretend to be an art historian or expert, but we enjoyed our time taking in the paintings and other art on display. Milos and I had a few shared favorites among the paintings, and I especially liked the fairy tale room, with the painting of the young princess in front of the castle being my top favorite. (Called “Prinsessin” by Hanna Pauli.) A plus side to the National Gallery (besides all that awesome art, of course) – free admission!
Here are some photos of our adventures in Oslo!
General Pics Around Town:
The Akershus Fortress and Castle Complex:
Royal Palace and Queens’s Garden
Viking Ship Museum!
Vigeland Park and Sculpture Garden
National Gallery. Some of our favorites:
Some fave dinner/lunch spots:
And a farewell pic from the airport! Troll!