Often rated as one of the world’s best places to live Oslo was one of the locations that we have both wanted to visit for a long time and even featured on our ‘Email that changed our lives‘. So it was the obvious place to head to from Utrecht.
From the Netherlands to Norway
They may seem fairly close on a map and many people believe that you can drive but there is the small matter of the Baltic Sea between the Netherlands and Norway. So we obviously needed to catch a flight and that required an early morning departure from the Stayokay hostel in Utrecht and a train into Schiphol airport in Amsterdam. We love those double-decker Dutch trains and the half hour train trip was a breeze.
Amsterdam Schiphol is amazingly over 100 years old, is the third busiest airport in Europe, and handles over 63 million passengers a year. Huge. Even so it was simple to navigate from the underground station to our gate and before we knew it our Norwegian Airlines Boeing 737 was on its way to Oslo.
Like everyone else we had heard a lot about Norwegian Airlines and how they were revolutionising the European air travel market so were keen to see what they were like. Not bad is my honest answer. They are a low-cost airline so there aren’t a lot of bells and whistles added to your flight but they were on-time and well organised and reasonably comfortable. Much better than Ryanair but not as good as Easyjet would be my honest assessment. You get what you pay for don’t you?
Welcome to Norway
It’s not that far north, just an hour and a half flight, but the weather was dramatically different. We left Holland in the low 20s with people in t-shirts and shorts and arrived in Norway with it around 9 degrees and everyone in coats and hats. Quite a change.
Earlier research directed us away from the Express train into the city and towards the local train. Taking an extra 10 minutes but being half the price made it the obvious choice and within 40 minutes we were exiting Oslo S station in the dark late afternoon. Being further north the days are a fair bit shorter in Norway.
The Anker Hotel
Only 15 minutes walk to the east of the city and we found our home for the next few days, The Anker Hotel. We had a quiet room up on the 7th floor but as we checked in Jo happened to ask if there were tea and coffee facilities in the room. The guy behind the desk said there were and then proceeded to disappear through a door and reappear with a tray containing a kettle, 2 mugs, spoons, tea, and coffee. It felt a little weird carrying a full teatray up in the lift especially as we were still in coats and backpacks. Never heard of that before and it was a little odd.
Oslo facts and figures
So a few things about the city if you didn’t know. Oslo is the capital of Norway and was founded over 1000 years ago by the famous Harold Hardrada. The city sits at the northern tip of the Oslofjord and is surrounded by mountains and green hills with 40 islands and 343 lakes within the city limits. Although Oslo has a temperate climate with mid 20s temperatures in the summer months it gets very cold over the winter with record lows of minus 26 degrees.
Now everyone knows the stories about Norway being super-expensive and we were well prepared for this. Eating out and particularly drinking out is prohibitively expensive so we decided that we just wouldn’t do it. We had a buffet breakfast booked at the Anker Hotel which we planned to hit quite heavily each morning and we planned to find a local supermarket to prepare rolls and sandwiches the rest of the time. Seemed like a good plan.
Talking of breakfast, here’s the first plate of my buffet selection. It may look a bit sparce and I wasn’t totally sure what each item actually was but it was delicious! Three plates of this each day was a great way to power-up ready for some serious JWalking.
Did you know?
Oslo is know as ‘Tiger Town‘ to the locals which is rather confusing as there are not, and have never been, any tigers in the city or anywhere near it. Apparently it was referred to as ‘tiggerstaden‘ by the Danes and others foreigners which means ‘city of beggars‘. This was due to Oslo being a relatively poor area at the time. Over the years the pronounciation of ‘tigger‘ changed and the locals started calling the city ‘tigerstaden‘, tiger town. There is even a statue of a tiger outside the main station.
Our historic buildings tour
After seriously demolishing several plates of everything at breakfast we set off on our very own HBT (historic buildings tour) and headed down Storgata towards the Domkirke. This is the Church of Norway city cathedral and dates from 1695 although there were a couple of previous buildings on other sites. It’s not a beautiful building, more practical really but impressively commands the surrounding area and seems to look down Grensen towards the Royal Palace.
Karl Johans Gate is the main shopping street in Oslo and boasts a multitude of boutique type of shops but very few big chain stores thankfully. Lots of windows displaying colourful jumpers, hats and scarves, and all sorts of other warm clothing line the street. It seems obvious that some cold weather is on its way and the locals look well prepared. Further along was the impressive Storting, the seat of the Norwegian parliament, that had stood since 1866.
Then through the Storting gardens, past the ice skating rink, past Henrik Wergeland‘s statue, and past the National Theatre. With the Oslo University on the opposite side of Karl Johans gate there were impressive buildings on all sides but every person walking up the street only had eyes for what was situated right at the end. The Royal Palace.
The Royal Palace
Dominating this part of the city completely, the Royal Palace dates from 1840 and is the official home of the Norwegian monarch King Harald V. Interestingly King Harald is the first Norwegian born monarch for over 640 years, can you believe that? Just seems unbelievable to us. The Palace sits right in the middle of the Slottsparken and looked absolutely fantastic in the early afternoon sunshine.
Walking around the Slottsparken we forgot for a moment that we were in Norway in mid-October as it was just so sunny and warm. The colour of the trees and fallen leaves was just beautiful.
After checking out the ceremonial soldiers guarding the palace we headed down towards the harbour area known as Aker Brygge. As we headed across to the edge of the Oslofjord we passed the absolutely horrible City Hall. It was constructed in the 1930s and just seems completely out of step with the rest of the city’s architecture. It houses the city council and lots of the administration services of Oslo but it’s a shame it has to be right there on the waters edge.
Style is only in the eye of the beholder I suppose but it didn’t do much for us. Impressively it does host the annual award of the Nobel Peace prize so we shouldn’t be too critical.
The area to the west of the main harbour in Oslo is called the Aker Brygge and is an area full of modern waterfront apartments and trendy bars and restaurants. Previously the shipyard area it is now one of those desirable, cool places to live and great for a wander. It must be a sight in the height of the summer but as we walked all the way to the end the weather started to change and some big black clouds began to move in.
We’d been warned that the weather here can change in a matter of minutes from sunny and warm to bitterly cold and very, very wet but it was a bit of a shock to see our sunny day being over-run by a massive bank of black clouds. Maybe it was time to beat a hasty retreat back to the hotel?
Budget Dinner at the Anker
After a long day walking and sightseeing we detoured over the Trondheimsveien bridge to our new favourite supermarket Extra where we picked up a shedload of food for our budget dinner (or BUDNER as we now call it).
With our special coffee-making equipment and culinary purchases we sat back, enjoyed our Budner, and recharged the batteries ready for another day of exploration.
15/10 – 16/10/2018