A Day in the Norwegian Capital of Oslo

This destination trip report will cover all the sights and sounds and a couple of restaurants and bars in Oslo, the capital city of Norway.

Starting my city trip

I arrived early in the morning at Oslo’s Central Station after a relatively short train ride from Sandefjord Torp Airport located just to the south from the Norwegian capital.

After I deposited my trolley in a locker at the railway station, I was ready to discover Oslo. It only being 11am meant that I had a full day of sightseeing ahead until my overnight train to Stavanger which would depart at 10.30pm.

I made a general plan for the day during the train ride from the airport to Oslo. My plan was to start with a leisurely walk along the waterfront, then to head to the Bygdøy suburb to visiting two of the city’s top museums, and afterwards to return to the city centre for a short walk and some good food before returning to the station for my onward journey deeper into Norway.

square oslo station
The square in front of the central railway station of Oslo. ©Paliparan
oslo central station square
At the square, an outdoor theatre was built so people could watch the Olympic Winter Games. Surprisingly, the curling matches weren’t exactly a big hit with the crowd. Perhaps the rather balmy -5 degrees Celsius also played a role? ©Paliparan

Oslo opera house

The first noteworthy point I hit on my city walk was Oslo’s modern opera house, which has a magnificent setting on the waterfront. Lots of construction work was going on in this area, with many high-rise apartment and office blocks being built. It was quite a sharp contrast with the rest of the city centre which is much more low-key.

The opera had stairs on either side of the building, which allowed you to walk all the way onto the rooftop. As the stairs were super slippery, I opted out of this. Better not to break my arm on the first day of my trip!

oslo opera house
The modern building of the waterfront Oslo Opera House. ©Paliparan
oslo opera house stairs steps
You can climb to the roof of the opera house. Just watch out in wintertime as the steps are slippery! ©Paliparan

Harbour

At minus five degrees Celsius it was fairly cold today – but I still thoroughly enjoyed my walk across the waterfront watching the arriving and already anchored ships. After being seated for quite some hours in a plane and train, walking in the cold is a good way to wake up and get some feelings back in your limbs.

It is quite fun to watch the ships coming in and out of the port, whether it is an arriving ferry boat from Copenhagen or a curious little German Navy vessel anchored in Oslo harbour.

dfds ferry oslo copenhagen
A DFDS passenger ferry just arriving in Oslo from Copenhagen. ©Paliparan
oslo floating sauna
A floating sauna in Oslo harbour which you can rent per hour for those brave enough (note the hole in the ice for the after-sauna dive!). ©Paliparan
oslo german ship
Ze German navy has invaded Norway again! ©Paliparan
oslo fortress akershus
The imposing waterfront Akershus Fortress, originally built in the 13th Century to fend off ze Germans err… to fend off attacks by rival Norwegian cities and Swedish invaders I mean. ©Paliparan

Oslo city hall

One of the most famous landmarks of Oslo is the city hall. Sure, the building itself is nothing special being built in the 1930s in a decidedly functional style. It is however a symbol for the Nobel Prizes as each year the building hosts the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony on 10th December, the anniversary of Alfred Nobel’s death.

oslo city hall nobel
The Oslo city hall where each year the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded in a special ceremony. ©Paliparan

Bygdøy museums

I was disappointed to find out that in winter there are no commuter ferries going from the dock near Oslo’s city hall to the Bygdøy suburb across the water where many of Oslo’s finest museums are located. With the help of some friendly locals I found out an alternative route by bus from a nearby bus stop, with the direct bus just taking 15 minutes the reach the first museum I planned to visit.

There are plenty of highly-rated museums in Bygdøy such as the Norwegian Folk Museum (cultural history), the Viking Ship Museum, the Kon-Tiki Museum, the Fram Museum and the Norwegian Maritime Museum. All of them reportedly are worthy of a visit. As I was limited in time, I could only visit two museums at most.

In the end, I decided to visit the Viking Ship Museum and the Fram Museum. I had visited before with my parents when I was a small teenager and had especially fond memories of the Fram Museum. I was curious to see how I would view both museums as an adult.

oslo waterfront
Commuter ferries and a few sailing ships in the city centre harbour of Oslo. ©Paliparan

Viking Ship Museum

The Viking Ship Museum is located in a building in the shape of a cross which perhaps mostly resembled a weird-looking church. Yet inside, there are four historic Viking ships and various other historical viking items. While one ship has not withstood time very well and basically consists out of some pieces of flotsam, three others are in almost perfect state.

These Viking longboats were famed for their high speed, maneuverability and reliability, which allowed the Norsemen to raid coastal cities in Britain and even as far away as the Mediterranean. They were however also used as funeral ships. A body of a famed ruler would be put onto the ship, after it was released into the water and set on fire with a torch or fire arrow. The longboats on show in the Viking Ship Museum have all been funeral ships, and their history is quite interesting.

Even though the Viking Ship Museum is rather small, the items are well-exhibited which makes for an interesting visit. Without doubt it now sees a huge increase in visitor numbers due to the popularity of the TV series ‘Vikings‘ on History Channel. It surely is easy to get some visions of Ragnar or Floki the shipbuilder while walking in the museum, and overall I enjoyed my visit.

Top tip: the 100 NOK (around 10 EUR) entrance fee to the museum also allows you to visit the Historical Museum in the city centre of Oslo within 48 hours. That is a nice 2-for-1 combo deal, which given Norway’s high price level is always welcome.

viking ship museum oslo
The Viking Ship Museum in Oslo. ©Paliparan
viking ship museum oslo
One of the longboats in the Viking Ship Museum. ©Paliparan
viking ship museum longboat
The Viking longboats were famed for their maneuverability and speed. ©Paliparan
viking ship museum oslo
Besides a few longboats, the museum also features other Viking artifacts such as weaponry and tools. ©Paliparan

Walking in Bygdøy

From the Viking museum it is a short walk through the posh Bygdøy suburb down towards the waterfront where more museums are located. These are among others the Norwegian Maritime Museum, the Kon-Tiki museum (about adventurer Thor Heyerdahl who sailed across the pacific on a hand-built raft to prove that ancient civilisations could easily have made long sea voyages) and the Fram museum. I opted to revisit the Fram museum as I remembered that I absolutely loved it as a teen.

bygdoy oslo
Walking in the Bygdøy suburb. ©Paliparan
oslo bygdoy
Walking in the Bygdøy suburb. ©Paliparan
bygdoy oslo
Walking in the Bygdøy suburb. ©Paliparan

The Fram Museum

Koen

Koen

Koen works as a freelance journalist covering south-eastern Europe and is the founding father and editor-in-chief of Paliparan. As a contributor to some major Fleet Street newspapers and some lesser known publications in the Balkans, he travels thousands of miles each year for work as well as on his personal holidays. Whether it is horse riding in Kyrgyzstan’s Tian Shan mountains, exploring the backstreets of Bogotá, or sipping a glass of moschofilero in a Greek beachside taverna, Koen loves to immerse himself into the local culture, explore new places and eat and drink himself around the world.

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