A RELAXING WINTER WEEKEND IN OSLO
Back in January and in the throes of post-Christmas blues I got tempted by the Ryanair flights sale (could you say no to £5 international flights?) and decided to kick off 2019 with a short city trip. I needed to escape the damp, grey and miserable London weather for a bit and it’s been a while since I’ve experienced winter proper so I decided to swap the rain out for the winter wonderland in Oslo.
To be honest, I hadn’t done much research before booking the flights and I didn’t realise the airport I picked (Sandefjord Torp) was nearly two hours away from the city and the bus ticket was going to cost me more than the actual flight! If you do decide to visit Oslo (and you definitely should!) make sure that you fly into Oslo Avinor airport. Then the more research I did into potential activities and places to see, the more I wished I picked another destination in Norway instead. So overall not a great start!
But as I love exploring and never pass up an opportunity to see a new city I decided to make the most of this short trip nonetheless. After a busy couple of months I was craving some quiet alone time without deadlines to stress about so decided to keep this trip very low key and just focus on recharging my batteries and getting a feel for the city instead of cramming my schedule with sightseeing and tourist activities.
Where I stayed
Whilst I’m generally a big fan of Airbnb and staying in more residential neighbourhoods for a more authentic experience, when you’re in a city for only 72 hours a central location is key. A 24 hour hotel reception is also more convenient when your flight arrives really early in the morning. I decided to stay at Best Western Plus City Hotel mainly because it was really close to the central station (five minutes walk), bang on in the city centre and the price was really good and included breakfast. It’s a no frills operation but the bed was comfortable and there was a large walk in shower - two of the most important things I look for in a hotel. The breakfast buffet selection was also great and even included some hot options like scrambled eggs or pancakes (I pretty much lived off pancakes for the entire weekend!).
If you are looking for something slightly more upmarket, there are 10 Scandic hotels throughout the city to choose from. I stayed in their hotels previously when traveling to Sweden and they are consistently good quality and very stylish.
What I did
Oslo honestly has something for everyone including more than 50 museums from famous Munch Museum and Holmenkollen Ski Museum to the most obscure Nordic Bible and Norwegian Scout museums. But I didn’t actually make it into a single one of them during my trip. It didn’t help that in winter most of the museums shut really early (like 4pm, what’s that all about?) and I didn’t want to spend the short days indoors.
Instead as soon as I checked in and dropped my bag off I went for a walk along Karl Johans Gate up to The Royal Palace surrounded by a park dotted with a bunch of random statues. Covered in fresh white snow it looked pretty spectacular and offered a nice view of the city.
I spent the next day exploring industrial neighbourhood of Grünerløkka which is the most hipster part of the city and a kind of Norwegian version of Dalston. Here the streets are full of trendy cafes and restaurants, vintage boutiques and interior design shops. If you’re serious about coffee (and even if you’re not) make sure you stop by Tim Wendelboe cafe and sample one of their filter coffees. Even though I’m usually a sugar bomb with cream on top Starbucks girl, here I drank coffee like a true Norwegian - filtered, black and without sugar. And boy was it delicious! I tried the Geisha blend which had a warm, golden colour and tasted of papaya and honey. Luckily their coffees are also available at various coffee shops around the world (including five in London) and I’m already looking forward to getting my next fix. I also have to mention the great bluesy music that was playing in the background at the cafe. The whole set up was so cosy I could’ve easily drunk the afternoon away.
From there it’s just a short walk to the banks of Akerselva River which runs through the centre of Oslo. The river is 8 kilometres long and passes through some picturesque spots including waterfalls, bridges and traditional wooden houses. It’s mostly surrounded by parkland and makes for a nice walk even in winter (in fact it looks stunning covered in snow and with waterfalls frozen in time).
On Saturday morning, determined to tick at least one tourist spot off my list, I walked to the neighbourhood of Frogner to check out The Vigeland Park. Frogner is quite an upscale neighbourhood and full of beautiful large houses and gated developments. The park is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Oslo, but that morning it was practically empty apart from a few dog walkers and a couple of tourists. The reason: overnight the temperature jumped up and thawed all the snow turning the park into a giant ankle deep slush bath! Obviously I didn’t think to pack wellies so decided to quickly snap a few photos of the most famous sculptures and head back to the hotel to put on a dry pair of socks.
I spent my last afternoon in Oslo exploring the quayside area of Aker Brygge. This is the newest part of the city and includes a shopping centre, a seafront promenade with fancy bars and restaurants (such as Rorbua gastropub which is one of a handful places in Oslo serving whale meat) and the Astrup Fearnley Contemporary Art Museum. It is also where you catch ferries to Oslo Fjord islands and sightseeing cruises. Hanging out here made for a nice relaxing end to my trip.
I was a bit embarrassed that I didn’t really do any of the usual touristy stuff but typing it all up I’ve realised I’ve actually done quite a lot for just a weekend! It was a perfect weekend getaway, relaxing and not rushed. Plus not having ticked everything off my list is a perfect excuse to go back.
If you’ve been to Oslo before I’d love to know what you thought of the city! And if you haven’t let me know if you’d like to visit one day!