This post is dedicated to the international dancers visiting Norway for Winter White West Coast Swing this year.
If you’ve never been to Oslo, and have a few extra hours, or up to a day, to get a feel for the city, here is what I suggest you do:
I recommend starting your city center exploration from Stortinget metro station or alternatively Nationaltheatret train or metro station.
From Stortinget, walk up Karl Johan, the main street. You will pass the Norwegian parliament, Stortinget, and the street will take you up to the Royal Palace. (If you start at Nationaltheatret station you can have a look at the palace and then walk down Karl Johan.)
Walk from Nationaltheatret, via the town hall Rådhuset and the Akershus fortress to Aker Brygge and then out to Tjuvholmen. You will experience the contrasts between the 700 year old fortress, and the brand new buildings surrounding the contemporary art museum Astrup Fearnley. You will also get nice views of the fjord and plenty of opportunities for good photos.
This walk will show you the nicest parts of the city center, in my opinion.
The area around Oslo Central Station (Oslo S or Jernbanetorget) will not give you the best first impression of Oslo. Like most central stations, it’s a chaotic, stressful place, and it is currently surrounded by roadwork.
However, the Opera House and the strip of new buildings known as Barcode right by the Central Station are the kind of new architecturally interesting developments that have given Oslo international press over the past few years. If you have some extra time while you’re at Oslo S, get out of the station and take a look.
The Opera House is one of my top three Oslo summer attractions. But you can’t walk on the roof in winter. For this reason, (in addition to construction, road work and traffic) I prefer seeing this area from above right now. If you have time, you can take the tram 18 or 19 to Sjømannsskolen or the 34 bus to Utsikten (which literally means the view). Or take the elevator to the top of the Plaza Hotel’s Sky Bar.
You can get a different view of the city, this one from the west, at the Summit bar at the top of the Radisson Blu Scandinavia.
If you have more time, you can see another one of my favorite attractions in Oslo: Vigelandsparken/Frognerparken. This park by Majorstuen metro station goes by two names. Technically, the first refers to the sculpture park by Gustav Vigeland, also known as “the park with all the naked statues”, and the second is the rest of the area. Vigelandsparken is a unique art experience. Also, it’s free, and you can climb on the art. In summer, this is a good chance to do a touristy thing that real Oslo people actually do, as the sculptures will be surrounded by beer drinking locals enjoying the park.
One of the best things about Oslo is that it has so much variety between neighborhoods, and it’s compact size allows you to take in all those contrasts without traveling long distances. Neighborhoods like Tjuvholmen, Frogner, Grünerløkka and Grønland look and feel very different from each other, and from the city center. With a public transport day pass, or a good pair of shoes, you can explore all these areas if you have a full day.
If you have an evening in Oslo and want to explore a new area, I recommend Grünerløkka. Take a tram to Olaf Ryes plass or Birkelunden and explore the great selection of bars. Drink beer at Grünerløkka Brygghus or Schouskjelleren, wine at Dr. Kneipps, and cocktails at Bar Boca. Expect to be shocked by the prices for these drinks, but remember that they are much more expensive in the center or western parts of Oslo. Another alternative is Torggata, where I recommend Crow Bar and Café Sara. The beer selection in Oslo’s bars has become pretty interesting over the past few years, thanks to several Norwegian micro-breweries. Advertizing for alcohol is illegal, but here’s a vintage ad encouraging you to drink Norwegian beer:
All photos are borrowed from photographers who post their work on Flickr, under CreativeCommons licensing. The photos link back to the photographers’ Flickr photo streams.
Related post: 4 things you should know if you are visiting Oslo