This time of year, I am drawn to Oslo, my winter capital! Oslo is a welcoming port where the maritime weather is remarkably mild given its northerly latitude.
Oslo was founded by Norwegian King Harold Hardrada in 1049. King Harold would later invade England and be killed at Stamford Bridge in the fateful year of 1066. After starting as a small trading post, Oslo grew to become the capital of Norway under Haakon V in 1300. Then, however, it lost some influence, even if it never fully lost its status, until 1925 when it was rededicated as the capital of the independent Norway.
Oslo Skyline from Ekebergparken
- Frogner Park with its classical gardens on the grounds of the former Frogner Manor
- Bygdoy Park on the Museum Peninsula of Oslo
- Toyen Park that stretches behind the current Edvard Munch Museum
- And, my favourite, Ekebergparken Sculpture Park with its fabulous statues (including one by Salvador Dali) and its incredible panoramic view of the city
Here’s a pro-tip: During the winter, the weather in Oslo can be cold but there are times when the season brings warmer water to the North Atlantic and Oslo can be quite comfortable. Use these milder days to visit the parks and see them in winter!
Salvador Dali in Ekebergparken
During the colder months, the city provides access to its great cultural treasures including:
- The Oslo Opera House which performs beautiful opera and ballet performances.
- The Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, one of my favourites when it plays Grieg’s Peer Gynt Suite.
- The Holmenkollen Ski Museum is the oldest museum dedicated to the sport and is located right at the base of the Holmenkollen Ski Jump
Munch’s “The Scream”: Me on Mondays!
- The Vikingskiphuset (Viking Ship Museum) that contains a fully reconstructed Viking longboat that was found under water but intact, as well as a fantastic collection of Viking era artefacts.
- The Edvard Munch Museum which contains his iconic “The Scream”. Note that the Munch Museum is moving into a brand-new facility in 2020.
During the winter, Oslo’s residents enjoy being in public to keep cheerful when there are only about six hours of sunlight during the day. They occupy the bars, restaurants and shops around Oslo City Centre and offer a welcoming and curious attitude.
Oslo has excellent public transport including surface trains, an efficient underground metro to the suburbs and trams downtown. Gardemoen International Airport, which serves Oslo, is a convenient modern facility but it is 47 kilometres (29 miles) from Oslo. So, hop on the train, hail a taxi or ride-sharing service and enjoy the scenery during the ride into town. Despite the public transport being excellent and inexpensive, you can also find a wide range of ride-sharing services throughout the city environs.
Here’s another pro-tip: Oslo is beautiful and friendly but it can be expensive. In 2018, Oslo was rated as the second most expensive city in the world behind Tokyo. While housing is less pricey than London or Manhattan, food, services and similar commodities are expensive which can directly impact a visitor.
Hotels in Oslo are comfortable and offer a wide range to satisfy any style or budget. Service is excellent, as being welcoming is important in the Nordic culture. Some of my favourite hotels include:
- The Grand Hotel which is a classic property in the city centre about half kilometre from the Palace.
- The Amerikalinjen is a comfortable hotel also centrally located in the city centre
- The Clarion Hotel Oslo is the nicest of that brand where I have stayed. It is in the Barcode District which is convenient for the new Munch Museum opening in 2020.
The Thief is a boutique hotel with cool Scandinavian style and efficient service
slo City Centre – very compact and walkable in good weather
Because of the influence of the migrant cultures, the food options in Oslo are particularly varied. None the less, the traditional Norwegian foods are great, featuring incredible fresh, tasty seafood and other unique local ingredients:
- Kolonihagen is for those looking to experience Viking tastes with excellent locally sourced and sustainable ingredients.
- Maaemo with two Michelin stars has an incredible tasting menu. Maaemo is not just dinner, it is an experience!
- Hos Thea has fabulously fresh seafood and my favourite cloudberry jam.
- Sofies Mat og Vinhus makes local favourites in a more relaxed atmosphere.
After enjoying a wonderful dinner, you should sample Oslo nightlife by visiting one of the local unique and fun bars including:
- Torggata Botaniske has an array of botanical plants that add aroma and atmosphere to their cool cocktail creations.
- Bla is a live music venue that offers Scandinavian rock groups in a comfortable venue.
- Aku-Aku Tiki Bar is a fun and eclectic bar that brings a tropical feel to the chilly Oslo nights.
If you are wondering what to bring back from Oslo, think about these unique items that are widely available:
Lucky Trolls are good souvenirs!
- Lucky Trolls – Trolls are a part of the Nordic culture that some still consider real. The Lucky Troll dolls are an authentic and fun souvenir from Oslo.
- Cloudberry Jam – These wild berries are rare and offer an incredible taste when made into a jam.
- A Viking Drinking Horn – these are great fun to use at parties!
- Akevitt – the local version of Acquae Vitae, the ‘Waters of Life’ that is strong and best served very cold.
I hope you visit Oslo and enjoy its Nordic hospitality!