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48 Hours in Oslo: An Insider’s Guide to the City’s Quirkiest Spots

May 17, 2017

It was a rainy and cold day in London when the plane took off – Oslo bound.

I belong to a small group of travel enthusiasts who think “if I’m already cold, why not brave colder.” This little mantra rarely disappoints.

Armed with a wooly hat, pink gloves and a return Ryanair ticket (which cost less than a Hackney Cab from Heathrow to central London, priority boarding and all!) I landed in Oslo to a pretty sprinkling of snow and the cleanest airport train I have ever boarded.

First let me clear up a widespread misconception.

It’s really easy to have a great time in Oslo and nowhere near as expensive as people often say. It’s important to know that before being put off.

What follows is a fun way to spend 48 hours exploring not all, but certainly a good enough flavor of an incredibly pretty and frankly cool (weather pun intended) city – in an affordable and accessible way. The great news is, as summer approaches, Oslo becomes even more enjoyable and simply being outside in the gorgeous public spaces will prove it is a perfect city weekend break.

Must Do’s in Oslo

Buy an Oslo Pass

I can’t stress this enough. You can get 24 hour and 48 hour versions (the 48 hour one proves the best value for money) and best of all, you can download the app to your phone, which makes everything super easy.

The pass not only gives you FREE travel on all public transport (including island hoping through the fjords on the public ferries!) but it also gives you free entry into more than 30 museums and galleries, free walking tours, decent discounts on so many attractions (including ski rental, climbing and concert tickets!) invaluable special offers in restaurants, bars and shops and in the summer, free entry into the outdoor swimming pools.

Discovering this pass made Oslo more affordable than staying at home in London for the weekend!

Get up early and go to bed late

As soon as the summer months come around this is made even easier with up to 18 hours of daylight in a given day. If you don’t dilly dally you can see an awful lot of Oslo in a small but concentrated period of time.

Relax

Even if you do take the above advice and decide to get busy, make sure you also enjoy soaking up the moment. There are many places in Oslo where just sitting on a bench or in a café/bar can be the best hour you will spend in your day.

Get a bit silly

If you have an opportunity to don a Viking helmet, just do it. It’s fun.

If you’re off to Oslo and looking for some inspiration, check out what we got up to in this magical Norwegian city…

48 Hours in Oslo, Norway – The best quirkly little finds around!

Friday Evening

Ice, Ice, Baby

I arrived and made my way quickly into town thanks to Norway’s efficient train system.  After ditching my bag, I went straight out for a proper cold drink at the Magic Ice Bar, where glasses are made of ice and they lend you giant overcoat to keep you warm.

I don’t think it is possible for a vodka based drink to taste better than when it is drunk directly from ice!

The ice bar’s theme this year is in celebration of Edvard Munch so all of the sculptures were based on his paintings and I couldn’t resist creating my own version of the Scream taking a selfie through the ice wall!

Sweet Surprises

We decided to take a stroll through this incredibly walkable, safe city which led to the discovery of a great little bar, Bar Lardo.  This bar specialises in natural wines served with delicious meats and cheeses (the meat is sliced in front of you upon order) which proves the perfect compliment to the wine you will inevitably have one too many of.

I tried a Sicilian orange wine and a natural red which was just a little fizzy, a curious but excellent discovery. The atmosphere here was buzzy, friendly and utterly local – exactly what we were looking for!  It was impossible to feel like a tourist sat at this bar.

There is no-nonsense, no-pretence, no-airs-and-graces feel about the place – just good honest knowledge of what will surprise and delight you mixed with a perfect Friday night atmosphere.

I highly recommend it.

Warning:  It is very easy to while away hours here, luckily walking home a little tipsy isn’t a bad thing and can lead you to discover that in Oslo, even the pavements have existential thoughts.  There is art scattered all over this city. It is a joy to behold!

Saturday

Soaking up Oslo’s Culture

I was up early to make the most of the glorious sun streaming in through my window.

Off I went, straight to the harbour and the brilliant Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art. Split across two buildings at the very end of the increasingly hip and trendy harbour area, you not only get a great dose of art but also a pretty spectacular view. In the summer there is even a tiny but glorious beach where you can sit or bathe depending on your inclination.

You can take your pick from the multitude of bars and restaurants on the harbour-side, many of which will welcome your Oslo Pass. I stopped into Døgnvill where I had one of the best vegan burgers I have ever had – order the Vegan Viking – you won’t be disappointed.

See Oslo Like a Local (only better!)

Once fuelled, my next stop was to the wonderfully named Viking Biking where I embarked upon a 3 hour bicycle tour of Oslo. This is a really fantastic way of getting your bearings on the city, and with Oslo aiming to be car free by 2020 this bike tour feels like you are part of the solution, not part of the problem.

Our guide provided an unbelievable array of brilliant information whilst we enjoyed pedalling and taking in the vast array of sights.  Patrick, our Oslo-born touring mastermind was a fountain of knowledge and even pointed out (what was to become one of my favourite things from the entire trip,) the City Hall bells.

These ring on the hour but they were not playing boring old scales – they play real songs! At 3pm, when I was there, the played the ‘80’s classic, Twist in my Sobriety by Tinita Tikaram – a somewhat random, but delightful sound!

Best of all, the tour gives you plenty of time to stop and explore once you get to many of the destinations and if like me, you arrive on what seemed to be international ice cream day (in spite of the cold, everyone seemed to be eating one) you’ll even have time to enjoy a Cornetto whilst admiring the art scattered amongst the Vigeland Sculpture Park.

Whilst on your tour, it is also possible to wear a safety helmet with Viking horns on it. Do it. It casts a magnificent shadow on the pavement and where else can you pedal around a gorgeous city looking like a modern-day viking?

Post cycle I felt a little righteous, so where better to go than to a cocktail bar ranked one of the best in the world – Himkok.

Moonshine Magic

The enjoyment of this bar with its own distillery begins before you even get there – seeking it out is part of the fun. I will say no more other than look for a sign that gives away one of the building’s former incarnations and push the unmarked door.

If you need a little more guidance, keep a look out for an old fur shop which reads ‘Pels Pels’ in Norwegian.

Once inside you’ll see where they make their own gin, vodka and aquavit and if you explore further (which we’d certainly recommend doing) you will discover it is like the Tardis; there are outside drinking areas, a cider only bar, a taptail bar (they put their best house cocktails on tap so that everyone can enjoy a cocktail without the wait!) and a barbers no less.

For pure indulgence, sit at the bar in the cocktail lab; explore the beautiful menu (a piece of art in itself), watch the cocktail makers create their seasonal cocktails with grace in front of you and then sit back and taste.

Each one I tried was frankly sensational.  I took advice from one of their knowledgeable bar staff (Tomas) who recommended each of my cocktails and didn’t let me down once.

If you’re lucky you will be shown their special collection of unusual and interesting spirits from around the world – it is behind lock and key, but even just pressing your nose against the glass case is good enough!

They have live music on weeknights and a blanket ban on electronica (so as to not put off the older clientele).

The lack of pretension in this bar was an absolute delight – everyone was genuinely there for a great time.

Somehow, with all of its fancy drinks and hipsteresque qualities Himkok ultimately is a bar to welcome one and all. Pretty much how I am feeling about all of Oslo at this point.

Sunday

Diminutive Delights

When you have spent an evening sampling cocktails you wouldn’t necessarily think that surrounding yourself with tens of thousands of miniature bottles of spirits would be ones first port of call the next morning, however the Minibottle Gallery proved to be the most wonderfully surreal hair of the dog!

The museum has a total of 53,000 bottles, most are guarded in a safety vault (?) but 12,500 are exhibited in over 50 unique installations. This museum is so fantastically curious that I don’t really want to give much of it away, suffice to say there is a slide to get to the basement installations and a fascinating erotic parlour where you have to tweak a nipple to enter!

I don’t think my eyes have ever witnessed so many ‘things’ in one viewing, unless you count grains of sand on a beach. And I don’t.

This place should be on everyone’s visit list. What began as a 7 year old boy’s collection has become a man’s enthralling obsession, and I’m glad it has!

Ice in Oslo – Year Round

Next, following a short boat trip I arrived at one of my nerdy pilgrimages. The Fram Museum. The whole building is built around Roald Amundsen’s polar expedition boat and for someone that always dreamt of visiting the biggest white wonderland, it was always going to be a hit with me.

Having recently returned from Antarctica I felt an overwhelming desire to stand atop another boat that had been there too.

It is a deeply fascinating and well thought out museum, whether you have an interest in Polar expeditions or not  There is an Antarctic simulator where you can experience what it must have been like to be trapped in the ice (basically, if it’s a hot day you can really cool down in there), an area where you can test out your strength and artifacts galore – that’s not even mentioning the two gigantic ocean-going ships housed inside.

Setting Sail for Warmer Climates

A hop, skip and a jump away and you are in the Kon-Tiki museum – another building housing a vessel which has survived the Planet’s seas, only this time it’s a raft!

This hand built raft was used by Thor Heyerdahl to demonstrate the way in which ancient people could have made long sea voyages and contacted different cultures.  With his crew, they used it to sail 5,000 miles across the Pacific Ocean. Successfully!

Norwegian mariners are clearly a curious bunch and I felt terribly ordinary simply boarding the public ferry back to the city centre.

Golf (with a Twist of Lemon)

With a few hours before the flight home there was one more pit stop on my list. The Oslo Camping Bar.  I had no intention of pitching a tent, but every intention of playing a round of mini golf whilst sipping another brilliant Norwegian local bevvy. This time, beer.

This bar is awesome!  The mini golf course threads its way under, over, behind and between tables, upstairs, downstairs and finally up and over the bar. There are 18 holes, a maximum 7 par policy to keep things moving smoothly and enough variation to keep you on tenterhooks throughout.

If I could have teleported a bunch of my friends here to help me while away a lazy Sunday afternoon I am pretty certain I would have missed my plane. As it was, I found myself leaving Oslo with an absolute certainty that this was a city I would visit again and with each season so distinctly different.  I know I will experience it differently each time and that’s a great thing.

If you crave the endless summer sun or the glittering majesty of a city blanketed in snow, Oslo will not disappoint you. It encourages you to be outdoors no matter the weather and there are more statues and sculptures per square metre than I have seen anywhere else on my travels.

It’s grown up and eco conscious, sophisticated yet decadent.  It has just the right amount of Scandinavian oddness and is a fantastic way to spend 48 hours.

I highly recommend that you go! Go, go, go to Oslo!


Oslo's quirkiest, most memorable attractions all in one easy-to-read guide. 48 hours in Oslo have never been more interesting with mini-golf bars, secret entry pubs, viking cycling and more! Find out what makes Norway's capital the place to be...

Thank you to VisitOSLO and each of the spots that Zena visited for making her feel so welcome.  As always, all thoughts are our own.

Europe Norway Scandinavia/Nordic Countries

Norway by RV: Day Three and Four – Røros, Oppdal & Trondheim

January 26, 2017
Norway RV Oppdal Trondheim Røros Touring Cars

We recently returned from the most amazing week touring Norway in an RV and whilst on the road, I documented our travels, diary style.  We highly recommend travelling Norway by RV – not only was it a fantastic way to see the country but it provided us with tremendous flexibility and would easily be the most cost effective way of travelling the country independently.

If you’ve not read our first two posts, be sure to read about picking up our RV and our day spent in Lillehammer (where we had the best fun tobogganing!) before starting on this one…

Getting a Few Kilometres Under our Belts

These past two days have been fairly uneventful – lots of driving and plenty of time to admire the spectacular scenery.

We’ve covered a fair few miles as we decided to take the long way around to Røros rather than risk another road closure up in the mountains. There’s no doubt that getting around in Norway would be faster in the summer time but the beauty of the snow all around us, the glow of Christmas lights and the low numbers of cars on the road just can’t be beaten, even if it does mean we have to avoid the smaller roads due to snow.

Heading to Røros

Most of yesterday was spent driving the roundabout way to Røros with on beautiful stop at Oppdal, a little skiing town not far out of Trondheim. It reminded me very much of Queenstown back home in New Zealand but has two ski-fields sitting right there on the mountain beside the village. It was a beautiful spot and one that in retrospect we’d love to have spent more time at.

Instead we continued though to Røros, a traditional little mining town. By the time we arrived at 8pm, everything but a few restaurants were closed for the day. The town itself was beautifully lit and decorated for Christmas and with snow spilling over awnings and icicles dropping from rooftops, it was the epitome of what I’ve always imagined when I think of a ‘white Christmas’.

It may have just been the time of year but we did find the town to be incredibly sleepy; I imagine in summer when the days are longer and the national parks at their glorious best, it would be quite a different story.

Regardless we enjoyed a wander through town before heading off and parking in a quiet spot in the forest, just out of town – our fingers firmly crossed for a moose sighting. We had no such luck but the road signs keep telling us that they’re around so we live in hope!

Snuggled up nice and warm in our RV we drifted off to sleep and awoke to the gorgeous sunrises to which we’re becoming accustomed.

A New Day and the Hope of Dog Sledding

We contacted a number of dog sledding operations a few months back and never got a reply. Though we knew it was a long shot, we fired off one last email to each company and unfortunately for us, they were either fully booked or no longer running day trips.

If you’re keen to go dog sledding in this part of Norway, we’d definitely recommend locking your tour in before you arrive in Røros. If you’re not intending on sledding in winter, we’d probably recommend saving yourself the driving time and foregoing Røros, opting instead to stay in Oppdal.

Instead of sledding, we packed up the RV and backtracked through Trondheim to Oppdal (on the E6), before turning off on highway 70 headed for Stryn.

The scenery though this part of the country is absolutely spectacular – massive fjords and mountains, punctuated by rapids and river are all covered to varying degrees in snow. Today it’s been raining when has made driving a bit easier, melting the ice and snow off of the road, though our RV seems to be able to handle whatever conditions are thrown at it with ease.

Onto Stryn tomorrow – the adventure capital of Norway we’ve been told – bring it on!


What Would we Have Done Differently?

Knowing what we know now, we would have changed one of two things.

  1. Realising how much we actually wanted to go dog sledding (sometimes you just don’t know how badly you want something until it’s ruled out!) we would have pushed to lock in a booking, ensuring a spot with one of the few providers.
  2. Had we not been able to make the booking, we would have left Røros and Trondheim out altogether, instead opting to stay in Oppdal where we would have enjoyed the ski-resort vibe, gone swimming in the hot pools and headed up the mountain for some snowboarding.  It was such a gorgeous little town and as it directly services the ski-fields, would stay awake much longer into the evening.

As it turned out, we spent the best part of each day getting to and from Røros without gaining much from the experience.  With that said though, half the fun of Norway for us was the journey itself and every step of the way was absolutely gorgeous!


An RV-ing Tip

Though we saw others driving RVs there weren’t many of us on the road – because of the relative lack of RVs (and obvious lack of people camping in tents) there were very few campsites open.  Though this wasn’t a worry (free camping, yes!) it did mean that filling up with fresh water and dumping our grey and black water became quite the event.

The excitement we experienced the first time we found a dump station was far beyond anything I’d anticipated.  Driving around with full grey & black water tanks and empty white water tanks was starting to become a little bit of a worry but just outside of Oppdal we struck gold!  Oppdalsporten Rasteplass ended up having the best dump station that we found anywhere in Norway – having fresh water and a place to rid the RV of our waste water (all for free) meant we could continue on our journey, absolutely stress free.  It’s hard to believe now, but if you’d seen the look on our faces as we drove away, you’d have thought we’d won the lottery!


Feeling inspired?  Grab an RV and head to Norway this winter for an adventure!  Oh and don’t forget to pin this post…

Røros, Oppdal & Trondheim, Norway in an RV

Thank you to Touring Cars Norway for providing us with a fantastic RV for the purpose of a review.  All thoughts are always our own.

Europe Norway Scandinavia/Nordic Countries

Norway by RV: Day Two – Tobogganing in Lillehammer

January 6, 2017
Toboggan Lillehammer Touring Cars Norway

We recently returned from a fabulous week exploring Norway in a Touring Cars RV and decided to document our experience for others looking to travel this beautiful country in an RV or camper.  If you’ve not read our first post, you may like to do so first.  Otherwise, read on to find out about our incredible day in Lillehammer.

After waking up to this amazing view on our first morning in Norway, any sadness we felt about moving on from Iceland was well and truely gone!

Without even needing to leave our RV we got ourselves ready for the day ahead and made a move for the supermarket.  After stocking up on supplies we relaxed in the carpark and made ourselves lunch – the freedom we have in the RV is amazing!  Whenever we’re hungry, wet from the snow or need a toilet stop, everything’s right there.  I can only imagine how convenient it would be for a family with young kids!

Watching the Ski-Jumpers

Lillehammer was used for two Olympic games and because of this is incredibly well set up for snow-sports which were to be the focus of our visit.  We’d hoped to catch some ski-jumpers practicing on the massive jumps but due to high winds, it wasn’t to be.  Standing beside them I have a whole new respect for those athletes – the jumps looked terrifying!

From just below the ski-jumps I spotted what looked like toboggans and with time on our side, we decided to walk up for a look.  What we found proved to be, by far, the highlight of our day.

Tobogganing Fun

For only 180 krones each (approx NZD30 or USD20) we were given helmets, googles and free reign to race down the mountainside for an hour.  It was hard to comprehend just how much speed we picked up on the big drops (or just how much damage you could do to yourself if you came off the toboggan on one!) but it sure was a lot of fun!

The T-bar would hooks onto the handlebars and pulls both the toboggan and rider up to the top of the hill, ready for another race down to the bottom.  If you timed your speed properly, you could scoot all the way into the T-bar station, completing a full loop without having to get off the toboggan – too easy!

Flying over the bumps and around the turns, I don’t remember the last time we experienced such pure joy.  If you do nothing else in Norway, make sure you go tobogganing!

Initially we didn’t think we’d hang around for the full hour but it proved to be so much fun that we easily filled the time and would have continued if it wasn’t for our aching muscles (those T-Bars were hard work but entirely worth it).

Back Tracking

Though two nights in Lillehammer were suggested, we decided to move onto our next destination – that’s the beauty of being able to park anywhere to sleep of course.  With our sites set on Røros and the hope of going dog sledding, we plugged our destination in and followed the instructions up into the mountains.  

Late December gets dark by 4 or so and I must admit, we had reservations about heading up with looked like a fairly minor road with snow underfoot, but we trusted our navigation system and charged on… that is, until 45 minutes later when we hit a barrier signalling that the road was closed! 

Fortunately there were a couple of locals who explained that that particular road is always closed in winter and though we may have made it through an alternative mountain road the following day, we wouldn’t that evening.

Feeling a little less confident in our navigation abilities, we eventually managed to reverse down the road and find a spot to turn around (honestly, the number of turns required to turn this beauty around on a narrow snowy road is beyond belief) and made our way back down the mountain.

Finding a Place to Sleep

We searched for a rest stop on the TomTom (this time a little more hesitant in blindly following its instructions) and made our way to ‘rasteplass ringedu’ for the night, not too far out of Otta.

It was a great little spot, quieter than the night before (aside from the odd train) – the airplugs that we picked up in Iceland easily fixed that though.  When we were faced with longdrops that weren’t in the best of condition though, realised what a godsend it was to be self-contained with our own bathroom!

Our day was tremendous fun but also a learning curve for us.  If you’re travelling Norway in the winter time, learn from our mistake and don’t trust that roads will always be open or that closures will be marked in advance – it’s not a problem but having a flexible itinerary and a positive attitude will help ensure you have an awesome trip.

We had an incredible time on the toboggan at Lillehammer too – if you’re passing through this part of Norway, allow yourself time to stop there and head up the mountain.  It’s an absolute blast!

Accommodation Europe Mid-Range Norway Reviews Scandinavia/Nordic Countries Travel

Hello Norway – Hiring a RV and Hitting the Road

December 29, 2016
RV Hire in Norway Touring Cars

After the most amazing week in Iceland it was time to begrudgingly pack up our things and make a move.  Of course we didn’t have anything to complain about as we were off to a new destination for us both – beautiful Norway.

After an uneventful flight (which is exactly what you want in a flight!) we arrived in Oslo and were promptly picked up by Touring Cars.

For the next eight days we’ve been entrusted with an absolute beauty of an RV.  Before hitting the road, there was a fair bit to learn though and Touring Cars did an amazing job of ensuring we understood the ins and outs of both driving and camping in Norway.  After watching an introductory video, having everything demonstrated to us and trying our hand at the tricky parts, we felt relatively secure in our ability to keep her ticking over the next week.

Fortunately for us, Kris at Touring Cars Norway put together a suggested itinerary and differing to his expertise, we made a move for our first stop.

After a quick snack at a service station we continued on for about an hour and a half until we reached the gorgeous hill-side town of Lillehammer.  This quant spot was home to the Winter Olympics in 1994 and more recently the 2016 Winter Youth Olympics and thanks to its sporting heritage, there are plenty of wintery activities on offer, including ski-jumping, tobogganing, bobsledding, skiing and snowboarding.

Though we had plans to camp under the ski-jump, we decided to head back down to the lake and in the morning awoke to this spectacular view.

Does it get any better?

In Norway, you’re allowed to camp pretty much anywhere – there are rest stops just to the side of the road all over the country and you’re welcome to park on public land as long as you’re not preventing access.  

As we’re self-contained in our RV, we can just pull into one of these rest stops for the evening, cook our dinner and wake up to the most spectacular views in Norway, all at no extra cost!  I think we’re well and truely being converted to #vanlife.

Are you considering a trip to Norway?  Stay tuned for information about the cost of visiting this beautiful country.  You can check out the fun we had in Lillehammer here too!

Thank you to Touring Cars for loaning us our gorgeous RV for the week so we can experience camping in Norway’s winter.  As always, all thoughts are our own.

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