Three full days in Oslo were enough to understand the city's layout but certainly not enough to grasp the city's history, architecture and mindset. Maybe I just had a different idea of what the world's most expensive city would look like.
There is something somber about Oslo. A half Norwegian half Finn I met at our hotel described it as a "post-Soviet" aesthetic. I could definitely see that. And indeed the country was one of the most disadvantaged countries in Europe until the discovery of oil in 1969. Not to mention years and years of Labor Party domination where the principles that no one should be too poor or too rich were reinforced by government regulation and taxation.
Reality today is very diverse though. I found everything extremely expensive (and mind you I live in London). The look and feel of the city mixes the old charming buildings with compound like constructions with very modern swanky areas. And while I was taking all of this in I had a blast visiting amazing museums and exhibits, drinking great coffee and tea, tasting super cods and salmon. Intriguing at least. A must come back for sure.
At the Folk Museum, original constructions, timber craftsmanship.
The fantastic Viking Ship museum, 1000 year old ships and artefacts!
Great Games exhibit at the Norwegian Science Museum, worth the 30 minute bus ride across town.
And the unthinkable combo Munch + Mapplethorpe at the Munch Museum... WOW. I am glad someone put the two - so alike - together. For me, one of the highlights of the trip.
I left with a feeling that there was still a lot to see in such a compact city. Four things to know:
- Never take a taxi to-from airport. The train is most convenient, modern, clean and cheaper than any taxi ride. As a matter of fact, don't use taxis at all.
- Check www.visitoslo.com for practicalities and for all there is to see and do. But try not to miss: Munch Museum, the Ibsen Museum, the City Hall, the Opera House (right on the redeveloped waterfront), Akershus Fortress and Castle, the Nobel Peace Center, the Viking Ship Museum, the Norwegian Folk Museum and Vigeland Park (within Frogner Park) and its hundreds sculptures.
- Download the Oslo Pass app and calculate if you would have a better deal by buying one to use for transport/museums/discounts. The app works off-line for a period of hours and you can refresh it when you find free wi-fi.
- There are plenty of hotels to chose from but we were not disappointed by the Carlton Guldsmeden. For families they offer two connecting rooms, the organic breakfast buffet is superb and the restaurant Le Manon is as fresh as it gets and dinner here was very nice!