How it Happened to Me to Visit Oslo in Winter
As I decided to visit Oslo for the first time in winter, I didn’t expect much from this journey. You will not find orchestras giving concerts on the top of the opera house in such a period, yet those shows are just amazing. Only one ferry route is available, which will take you solely to the islands near Oslo (in summer, you can also reach Bygdøy by ferry), which works only for several hours in winter. Indeed, skiers will have plenty of fun skiing down from the hills within and outside of Oslo, but I am actually not that much into skiing. Luckily, I was mistaken.
My Arrival in Oslo
As soon as I arrived at the central railway station of Oslo after taking a train from Gardermoen, the Oslo airport, I have immediately recognized the typical Scandinavian weather, since the Norwegian capital met me with a strong wind and dazzling sunshine. Anyone who decides to visit Oslo strives to walk immediately towards Oslo’s seashores, and I was not an exception. Located within 5 minutes of a relaxed walk from the central railway station, the coast along Oslofjord had a large number of benches. It was the place where both locals and newcomers could relish in the soothing atmosphere. I took a seat.
In front of me, just over a moderate inlet of Oslofjord, there was a modern, extraordinary building of the opera house, also known among locals as Operahuset, which has turned into a real tourist attraction since its construction in 2008. The blinding sunshine deprived me of sight as the sun was moving closer to its zenith, so I decided to take a walk and approach the edifice. While moving in the direction of the opera house, I got stunned by the amazing view of the fjord.
The life around Operahuset is constantly, all year round, vibrant since myriads of tourists come to that place to look at the extraordinary, peculiar building and, literally, climb it. You really make a sin if you come to visit Oslo and miss seeing this place: after reaching the top of this edifice, I got an impressive view of the fjord, bay, and the central part of the city.
I spent 40 minutes in the opera building, and it was really great fun, yet I decided to move further. After descending from Operahuset, I headed to the city center while trying to walk in parallel to, more or less, the city’s seashore.
Major Attractions in the Center of Oslo
All in all, there are three major inlets of Oslofjord by the city of Oslo. While the first inlet mentioned previously is located near the opera house, the second bay is situated by Aker Brygge, a popular venue for locals with lots of restaurants and shops. Opposite Aker Brygge, a remarkable attraction is Akershus Fortress, a medieval castle built back in 1290. I was lucky enough to pass by Akershus Fortress at the time when the canons were firing in the air, and it was really memorable!
Just a little bit below Akershus Fortress, there is a monument to Franklin Roosevelt, erected by thankful Norwegians for the help of the United States in the Second World War. Between the road and the fjord, there is a cozy park with interesting sculptures. However, each person who visits Oslo cannot miss one building for sure – Oslo City Hall. Its construction finished only in 1950 and lasted for 19 years, yet it appears to be a quite imposing edifice made of red brick that narrates the history of the Norwegian folk. Visiting this attraction, not just a municipal building, is a must since you will find the history of Norway to be depicted in the building’s paintings and sculptures.
In proximity to the Oslo City Hall, memorable attractions are also as the Royal Palace of Oslo and Karl Johans Gate (street), the National Theater, the University Building, the Storting (the Norwegian Parliament), and the Nobel Peace Prize Center, and the National Gallery. I relish the exterior of these marvelous buildings every time I visit Oslo. Interestingly enough, though, that the Norwegians built the Royal Palace of Oslo for Karl Johan, Swedish King, who conquered Norway, yet he had never had an opportunity to live in the palace – he died earlier than the construction was completed. Even though Karl Johan forced Norway to enter the union with Sweden, the Norwegian people have been thankful for granting Norway the status of autonomy (except the military and foreign policy issues).
You can also find the monument to Haakon VII, the first Norwegian King after the union dissolution, placed in the center of the city. The famous Vigeland Sculpture Park, which is a part of the greater Frogner Park, is located somewhat farther from the city center: you can reach it by taking the metro to the station of Majorstuen. It is definitely worth a visit, as Vigeland’s sculptures display the essence of humans and their interaction with each other as well as with nature.
An Indispensable Part of the City Under the Name Bygdøy
Bygdoy is a peninsula near the city Oslo, which actually appears to be a part of the city nowadays, yet it was connected to the city by a decree of the king. Since the royal residence was built on the peninsula, it was important to provide a good, comfortable connection to the rest of the city. This way, the isthmus between the peninsula and the city center was created. Nowadays, you can reach Bygdoy by taking bus No. 30 from the city center within 15 minutes.
If you visit Oslo without actually seeing the peninsula, then one may count that you have never visited the Norwegian capital. Whereas the view of the city is indescribable from the peninsula, Bygdoy is home to a large number of must-see museums and royal residences. By the way, the residence is constantly protected and under surveillance, so don’t expect to access its territory. But museums are a completely different story.
When I just planned to visit Oslo and thought about what I should see, Bygdoy’s museums have always been on the list. As a result, I can surely say that it was a totally correct decision. The peninsula houses 5 museums: Fram Museum, Norwegian Maritime Museum, Viking Ship Museum, Norwegian Museum of Culture History, and Kon-Tiki Museum.
The first museums, located on the peninsula, to attend, as you visit Oslo, are the Viking Ship Museum and the Norwegian Museum of Culture History, known as Folkemuseum. The reason is simple: location. The other three museums are located on the coast while standing on which you can observe the entire city. The Viking Ship Museum houses artifacts left from the Viking times, and the brightest and most impressive exhibits are three Viking ships, two of which have been well-preserved! Though, beautiful and well-adorned sleds and a chariot impressed me as well.
Norsk Folkemuseum is an open-air museum, which collected real houses from all the Norwegian regions and different centuries and placed them on its territory. Actually, there was a little contest between the Norwegians and the Swedish in creating such a museum, and the Norwegians were the first to create it. Yet, a similar museum exists in Sweden nowadays, too. The museum is, indeed, very interesting. Yet, it is not recommended to visit it in winter, the way I did: its territory appears to suit climbers and skiers rather in such a season, so it was quite difficult to move throughout its territory.
After visiting these museums, I took the same bus and reached the place with the remaining three museums located near each other. At first, I took a snack – some sandwich with fish – along with a tea in a cozy café housed in the building of the Maritime Museum. I spent only some 20 minutes exploring the maritime history of Norway and headed to the Fram Museum.
As for me, the Fram Museum is a real treasure. First of all, it houses the only ship in the world that has been to both the North Pole and the South Pole! Such famous explorers as Fridtjof Nansen and Roald Amundsen led the famous expeditions aboard this legendary ship. The museum’s atmosphere, with its semidarkness and frequently emitted sounds that one can hear on the North Pole, makes the experience of visiting this museum just unforgettable.
You can actually step aboard the ship, then get inside of it and reach the ship’s bow! Inside the ship’s cabins, you can view different artifacts from those expeditions. Also, there is a “mini” horror room that you can enter on the second floor, so anyone attending the museum with kids will like it too. Then, there is a passage leading to another room, where you can have a look at another famous ship: Gjøa. Roald Amundsen utilized it in his three-year journey. It is difficult to describe all you can find in this museum, so you should dedicate at least a couple of hours to it when you plan to visit Oslo and what to see.
The remaining museum – Kon-Tiki Museum – may also be of great interest to anyone, as it tells the story of Thor Heyerdahl and his team crossing the Atlantic on a simple wooden vessel housed in the museum by the museum way. There is another vessel of Thor Heyerdahl, known as Ra II, which is quite famous too. This museum is a must for attending as well, yet the overwhelming emotions somewhat repressed my feelings after my visit to the Fram Museum. Yet, both museums are really unique and out-of-outer, so it would be irremissible not to look at them.
A Finishing Touch of My Trip
As my time in Oslo was approaching the end, I was looking at what I should do on my last morning in the Norwegian capital. The idea that came to my mind was exciting enough: reach Holmenkollen, visit Oslo ski museum, and have a look at Oslo from the highest place in the city. As a result, I can only suggest this option to anyone who intends to visit Oslo.
So in the early morning, I took a metro train from the National Theater Station, and it brought me to the Holmenkollen Station. Since I had some free time, I also spent some time on the final station of the second lane, as it is located on the top of the hills, among lots of trees and some rare routes and paths. By the way, lots of the capital’s skiers take a fancy to this place. So after getting back to Holmenkollen, I walked upwards and headed to the museum. Frankly speaking, it was not that easy to find it but, eventually, I entered the museum, which looked rather like a café from the outside. While walking to the museum, you will definitely pass and have a look at the Oslo ski jump tower, known as Holmenkollenbakken.
The museum tells the story about the development of Holmenkollen and skiing in Norway as well as it houses many interesting exhibits. By the way, the monument to Fridtjof Nansen is placed right near the museum – he was not merely an explorer and humanitarian but was also renowned for his passion for skiing.
Once you have used an elevator and reached the third floor, you can access a lift that will take you up to the highest point of Oslo. You will be able to observe the entire city of Oslo there. I spend there a good hour and, thankfully, I was among the first people to access that observation deck that day. As I used the lift to get out of there, I noticed a large queue of people waiting to access that place. So, here is a tip for you: enter the museum as early as you can.
Tips for People Who Want to Visit Oslo
Here are some tips that may stand in good stead for anyone who wants to visit Oslo for the first time:
- As you are going to visit Oslo, you can buy a train ticket from the airport to the central station of Oslo right in a special ticket machine (they are placed near the passage from the airport to the railway station) or by using the NSB apps.
- Take advantage of the Oslo Pass when you visit Oslo. It will save you a lot of money if you are up to visiting lots of museums, particularly those recommended in this article.
- Visiting the National Gallery is a must for every Oslo visitor, as it houses a lot of valuable and genial paintings. Edward Munch Museum is recommended for all fanciers of the Norwegian culture or art in general.
- As you visit Oslo, you can also consider buying opera tickets: they are not expensive, and there are subtitles provided in 8 languages.
- It would be better to book a hotel in proximity to the city center, so then you can access the majority of the city’s places of interest by taking a short walk.
- If you want to buy some souvenirs for your friends, one of the best choices is, definitely, to buy magnets in the form of trolls in a souvenir shop, located near the Oslo City Hall (souvenirs’ there are among the cheapest ones).
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