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Oslo

Travel Guide to Oslo Norway OsloTucked away at the end of one of Norway’s most spectacular fjords, Oslo offers history, culture and adventure set against one of the world’s most scenic backdrops.

No matter what your pleasure, Oslo is a dynamic Scandinavian capital that has something for everyone. The city embodies the convergence of historic grandeur and modern day functionality. Take the downtown wharf area as an example. On one side of the harbor, the 700 year-old Akershus Fortress stands guard, reminding visitors of Norway’s once-tumultuous history; on the other side, the Aker Brygge retail and entertainment district offers the best shopping, dining and nightlife in the city.

The harbor area is the perfect place for visitors to begin their exploration of Oslo. Perched on the hill overlooking the Oslo fjord, visitors can walk around the grounds of the city’s oldest and most beautiful sight, Akershus Castle and Fortress. The fortress was first constructed in the late 13th century and has resisted many invaders over the years. Inside, visitors can view the church, banquet rooms, royal mausoleum and the medieval dungeons. Also onsite is the Norwegian Resistance Museum, which displays the history of Norway’s resistance movement against Nazi Germany, the attack of 1940 and the somber times that followed during the five-year occupation.

Travel Guide to Oslo Norway Akershus CastleLocated down the hill from the Akershus, situated in the center of the wharf area, are City Hall, where the Nobel Peace Prize Award Ceremony takes place, and the Nobel Peace Center, which displays exhibits about the Peace Prize Laureates. Nearby is Aker Brygge, located on the site of a former shipyard, with its mix of old and new buildings housing over forty restaurants and sixty shops. There is also an indoor mall with a movie theater as well as a vast open-air dining and shopping area, offering something for everyone.

From the wharf area, travelers can catch Ferry 91 to the Bygdøy Peninsula, which houses a number of must-see sights, including the renowned Viking Ship Museum, which showcases three massive ships dating back to 800 A.D. that were once used by Viking chieftains. Additionally, the Kon-Tiki Museum is a fascinating showcase for the famed Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl, who made a number of historic sailing voyages on rafts made of balsa leaves to test his theories about the discovery of the New World. Another worthwhile stop is the open-air Norwegian Folk Museum, which features 14th-century buildings, historic wood homes and an ornate wooden stave church. Keep in mind, this museum usually closes by mid-afternoon, so you may want to make this one of your first stops in Bygdøy.

While the wharf area and Bygdøy Peninsula offer incredible sightseeing, shopping and dining, Karl Johans Gate is the main street in Oslo and considered the heart of the city. From Oslo Central Station to the Royal Palace, Karl Johans Gate is always abuzz with activity because it’s home to a number of bars and restaurants with inviting open-air patios, dozens of shops and boutiques, as well as improvisational street performers. In addition, it is centrally located near landmarks such as the National Gallery, the National Theatre and Norwegian Parliament, making it a great jumping off point for a day of sightseeing.

To the east of the downtown, in Tøyen, you will find the Munch Museum, which is dedicated to the life and works of the world-famous artist Edvard Munch. This museum is a very popular attraction among visitors and can be reached by foot or by metro (take any line east from Oslo to Tøyen). The Munch Museum displays hundreds of paintings, prints, and other works by the artist, but the most visited are The Scream and The Madonna, which were stolen at gunpoint in 2004 but since recovered and restored. Unfortunately, some damage is still visible on both pieces. Travel Guide to Oslo Norway Holmenkollen Ski Jump

If you’re looking for a great way to spend an afternoon in Oslo, consider a visit to the world-famous Holmenkollen Ski Jump.  To get there, take the twenty-minute metro ride from the National Theater towards Frognerseteren, using line 1, and get off at the Holmenkollen stop. The ski jump, which was also the site of the 1952 winter Olympics, is just a short walk up the hill. After you’re done marveling at the incredible height of the jump from the ground, you can take the elevator and a few steep flights of stairs to the tower at the top to see the death-defying views that professional skiers see before they take off. The tower is so high up that it features magnificent views out to the Oslo Fjord in the east and the snow-capped mountains in the west. At the bottom, you can visit the Ski Museum, which tracks the evolution of the sport from 600 A.D. or try out the ski jump simulator, which gives visitors the experience of soaring headfirst off the ski jump at 80 mph, just like the pros. The best way to end a fulfilling day in Holmenkollen is at the Holmenkollen Restaurant, which looks out over Oslo and serves traditional Norwegian fare.

Whether you’re looking to explore history, experience culture or enjoy everything in between, Oslo is truly the kind of place that has something for everyone. Oslo makes a great jumping off point but is also an enjoyable final destination. Travelers won’t be disappointed with the wide variety of activities and attractions Oslo has to offer. Just be sure to allot enough time in your itinerary to see everything.

What Oslo Is

While a relatively small city, Oslo is a tremendous cultural and historical experience. With sites like Akershus Fortress, the Royal Palace, the National Theater, the National Gallery and many more, Oslo has enough cultural attractions to satisfy any traveler.

Oslo is a place to drink beer. No matter what part of the city you’re in, there’s a lively pub nearby. Ringnes and Frydenlund are just two of the local beers you’ll find on tap throughout the city. Regional beers in Norway are generally served in a special glass with the name of the beer on the front and diagrams on the back that measure each beer’s sweetness, fruitiness and bitterness.

Centrally located in Scandinavia and reachable by direct flight from most major countries, Oslo is a great jumping off point for longer journeys. You can head north to Trondheim or Tromsø, west to Bergen, southwest Kristiansand or Stavanger, south to Denmark or east to Sweden and Finland.

What Oslo Is Not

Oslo is not the cold, dark city many imagine. In fact, the weather in Oslo is comparable to that of the mid-Atlantic United States; spring is comfortable with temperatures ranging from 50-70°F and summers can hit the upper 80s with 20 hours of sunlight each day.

While the dollar has made gains against the Krone, Oslo is still not cheap. Norway itself is one of the most expensive European countries to visit and Oslo is one of its priciest destinations. Be sure to take advantage of cost-saving programs, like the Oslo Pass, which gives you free or discounted admission into most of the city’s attractions, and the Global Refund Program, which allows you to get refunds on the value-added taxes charged in stores.

Oslo is not difficult to navigate for non-Norwegian speaking travelers. In fact, nearly everyone in Norway is fluent in English. Also, many signs, maps and guides feature English translations.

Practicalities

Time to visit: The best time to visit Oslo is May to August, especially if you enjoy warm climates and an abundance of sunshine. Temperatures are cool in May, ranging in the 50s-60s, while July and August temperatures rise to the mid-80s. During the spring and summer months, the sun shines for about 20 hours each day. If you are in Oslo on May 17th, there are celebrations throughout the city to commemorate Norwegian Independence Day. Winters in southern Norway are more temperate than you would imagine, with only a couple days of snow each year. The hardest part about winter is the limited daylight. While Oslo and other southern cities get about seven hours of sunlight each day during the winter months, some northern cities don’t get any at all.

Currency: Norwegian Kroner

Tipping: Tipping is appreciated in Norway but not required. For restaurants, it is common to round up the check, tipping 5 to 10%.

Language: Norwegian and English are spoken throughout Norway. Since Norwegians begin learning English at the age of six years old, Norwegians often speak fluent English and are more than happy to converse with you.

Getting There: Getting around in Oslo is easy with several modes of transportation available within the city. Oslo’s metro system has six lines with east-west connections that make it convenient to travel to sights outside the city limits. Additionally, there are six tramlines with dozens of stops throughout the city, making it easy for travelers to cover more ground. Buses are available for inner city travel and ferries run to the different islands and hotspots in the Oslo fjord. Tickets can be purchased at the station, at kiosks located throughout the city and at most convenience stores. Travelers can purchase a single ticket ($5), a day card which gives you unlimited rides for 24 hours ($12), a flexi card which allows for 8 rides ($32) or a weekly pass which gives you unlimited rides for 7 days ($42). All rides have one-hour free transfers. There is also a bike share system that allows travelers to rent a bike at one location and drop it off at any other location. The cost for this is about $15/day. Taxis are another option, however they are extremely expensive because drivers typically charge high fares (the meter starts at $6 USD for a hailed taxi and $10 USD for an ordered taxi). Plus, additional tariffs are charged between 5pm – 10pm. If you have any questions about public transportation in Norway, you can pick up any phone and dial 177, or visit www.177.no to obtain additional information on how to get around.

From the airport

Oslo Airport is located about 30 miles north of the city and there are a number of transportation options available to travelers. Buses operate daily from 7:30am – 11:30pm (11pm on Saturday night) and make airport pick-ups every 20 minutes. The trip to Oslo via bus will take about 45 minutes and will cost about $18/person for a one-way trip or $27/person for a roundtrip. A more expensive, but faster, option is the Oslo Airport Express Train (Flytoget), which transports you from the Oslo Airport to downtown Oslo Central Station in just 19 minutes. The Express Train runs from 4:40am – 1:16am with trains leaving every ten minutes. The cost is about $24/person one-way. The most expensive option is to hire a taxi to take you from the airport directly to your hotel. The drive into Oslo takes about 50 minutes and will cost you approximately $100, with surcharges if picked up after 5pm. Taxis are typically lined up and waiting in front of the airport.

Immigration: Americans and EU citizens do not need visas to visit.

Insider Tips

While traveling to Norway is the experience of a lifetime, it is not a cheap destination. In fact, it has long been one of the most expensive countries in the European Union, though the recent weakness of the Krone has lowered prices for Americans by around 20%. Luckily, there are a number of ways for savvy explorers to stretch their dollar. For example, children, students and senior citizens often enjoy substantial discounts on transportation and admission fees, so make sure to bring your identification cards.

Since dining in Norway is so expensive, many people often pack a lunch. Depending on the food that’s offered at your hotel’s breakfast buffet, you may have the opportunity to make a sandwich that you can bring with you and eat at lunchtime.

Bottled water is very expensive to purchase in Norway and not worth the price. The tap water in Norway is not only safe to drink, it’s some of the freshest water in the world, so don’t be afraid to refill your water bottle with tap water.

Here are some other cost-saving programs to consider:

Oslo Pass: The Oslo Pass is a wise investment for a day of sightseeing because it gives you both admission to all the museums and sights and free access to all public transportation. This includes attractions like the Viking Ship museum, Vigeland Sculpture Park, the Munch Museum and the Holmenkollen Ski Jump. The price for a 24-hour pass is approximately $32/adult and $14/child. Longer time frames can also be purchased and are a better deal – the 72 hour pass is about $61/adult. Sales points can be found here.

Global Refund Program: In order to get the most value for your dollar, be sure to take advantage of the Global Refund program. In Norway, VAT is included in the retail price of items you purchase. By shopping at participating retailers, you can receive a 12 – 19% VAT refund when you spend about $60 or more at that location. Participating retailers display a Tax Free Shopping sign on the storefront. For more information, visit the website.

 Where to Stay

Hotel accommodations in Oslo are generally of a very high standard because Norwegians pride themselves on cleanliness and comfort. In addition, many establishments feature complimentary continental breakfast, free Internet access, and health club amenities. Oslo features a wide range of accommodations and prices, depending on your needs.

The Thon hotel chain has a number of locations in Oslo and their three-tier classification system (budget, city, and conference) allows you to choose not only where you want to be but how much you want to spend. The Thon Hotel Spectrum (Brugata 7, (47) 23-36-27-00, website) is situated about 3 miles from the Central Railway Station and is considered one of the chain’s “budget” hotels, offering low-priced rooms for travelers on a budget (a double occupancy room costs approximately $130- $140/night offseason and a generous breakfast buffet is available for an additional $10/person). With the same rates and centrally located only five minutes from the rail station, The Thon Hotel Astoria (Dronningensgate 21, (47) 24-14-55 -50, website) is a good value.

The Norlandia Karl Johan Hotel, located at Karl Johans Gate 33, (47) 23-16-17-00, website, is a great choice because it features relatively low-priced, recently renovated rooms in the heart of Oslo. Room rates are as low as $150 USD/night for web rates.

The Radisson SAS Scandinavia Hotel (Holbergsgate 30, (47) 23-29-30-00, website) is a pricier option but offers many of the amenities that American travelers have become accustomed to, including a pool and health club. Rates start at $200 USD/ night for standard rooms.

Eat & Drink

Gastronomy is an important part of Norwegian culture and Oslo is the capital of great food. While traditional Norwegian cuisine focuses heavily on game and fish, international fare can be found throughout the city as well. Service is included in restaurant bills but it is acceptable to leave a tip for good service, generally by rounding up the check or adding at most 10%.

Aker Brygge features dozens of open air bars and restaurants with stunning views of the Oslo fjord and delightful cuisine. Whether you are in the mood for American, Japanese, Indian or Italian, Aker Brygge has a restaurant for you. Toro Toro (Ruseløkkv 14, (47) 22-83-25-50) specializes in gourmet Spanish cuisine. In addition to main courses, the menu features both cold and hot tapas, such as gazpacho and fried calamari. Tapas start at $7 and entrees at $30.

The Beach Club (Bryggetorget 14, (47) 22-83-83-82, website) specializes in American cuisine and reflects the feel of a traditional American diner. The menu includes everything from breakfast omelets and BLTs to jalapeño poppers and burgers. Prices start at $20.

For excellent seafood, Rorbua (Stranden 71, (47) 22-83-64-84, website) serves large portion sizes at mid-range prices. The menu is filled with native favorites like mussels, salmon and whale beef. Be sure to try “The Fishing Village Owners” Fish Soup. Main courses start at $35.

In the center of town, Angus Steakhouse – The Scotsman (Karl Johans Gate 17, (47) 22-47-44-77, website) offers the atmosphere of a pub with the menu of a steakhouse with dishes such as monkfish pepper steak, bacalao, reindeer and spareribs. Entrée fish and meat dishes start at $28. They’ve also got an “Easy & Tasty” menu that offers up Angus burgers, chicken wings, lasagna and penne with prices that start at $18.

Holmenkollen Restaurant (Holmenkollveien 119, (47) 22-13-92-00, website) features views out to the Oslo fjord and a menu of hearty Norwegian fare such as fried trout, dover sole and reindeer, making it the perfect end to a beautiful day in Holmenkollen. Main courses start at $39.

The Lanternen Restaurant (Huk Aveny 2, (47) 22-43-78-38, website) is a great choice if you are in the Bygdøy area. The menu offers a wide variety of food from Norwegian fish soup and entrecôte to pasta bolognese and pizza. Prices range from $20 – $55. Dine on the waterfront patio for views of the Oslo fjord and enjoy an extensive wine menu.

The Farmers Market (Markveien 56, (47) 40-00-58-82), located in the trendy Grünerløkka section of the city, is a great place to pick up lunch because it offers everything from gourmet salads and deli sandwiches to organic baked goods, fruits and vegetables. Prices start at around $8-10. Open daily from 11am to 7pm.

Sights

Akershus
Castle and Fortress (located on the harbor)
(47) 22-41-25-21, website
Hours:
Grounds: Daily 6am – 9pm; Castle: (May – August) Mon – Sat: 10am – 4pm, Sunday: 12:30 – 4pm; (Sept-April) Guided tours only: Thursdays 12pm (Norwegian), 1pm (English), 2pm (Norwegian).
Admission: adults $10, students $6.75 and children $2.25

Norwegian Resistance Museum
Akershus Fortress, (47) 23-09-32-80, website
Hours: (June-August) Monday – Saturday: 10am – 5pm, Sunday: 11am – 5pm, (September-May) Monday – Friday: 10am – 4pm, Saturday -Sunday: 11am – 4pm
Admission: adults $4.50, children $2.25

Nobel Peace Center
Rådhusplassen, (47) 48-30-10-00, website
Hours: Tuesday – Sunday: 10am – 6pm, Closed Mondays
Admission: $12 adults, $8.25 students/seniors, children: free.
Travel Guide to Oslo Norway Viking Museum

Viking Ship Museum
Huk Aveny 35, (47)22-85-99-12, website
Hours: (May-Sept) 9am – 6pm, (Oct-Apr) 10am – 4pm
Admission: $7.50 adults, $4.50 children (ages 7-16), kids under age 7 are free, $5.25 students/seniors, $18.75 family (2 adults + 2 children under age 16)

The Kon-Tiki Museum
Bygdøynesveien 36, website
Hours: January – February: 10:30am – 3:30pm, March: 10:30am – 4pm, April – May: 10am – 5pm, June – August: 9:30am – 5:30pm, September: 10am – 5pm, October: 10:30am – 4pm, November – December 10:30am – 3:30pm
Admission: $9 adults, $3.75 children, $6 students/seniors, $18.75 family (2 adults + 2 children under 16)

Norwegian Folk Museum
Museumsveien 10, (47) 22-12-37-00, website
Hours:
May 15 – September 14: 10am – 6pm, September 15 – May 14 Weekdays: 11am – 3pm, Sat-Sun: 11am – 4pm
Admission: $10.50 adults, $7.50 students and retirees, $3.75 children (over age 6), children under 6 are free, $22.50 families

Munch Museum
Tøyengata 53, (47) 23-49-35-00, website
Hours: (June-August) Daily: 10am – 6pm, (September – May) Tuesday – Friday: 10am – 4pm, Saturday – Sunday: 11am – 5pm, Closed Mondays
Admission: $11.25 adults, $6 students, seniors, and children (over age 7), children (under age 7) free

Holmenkollen Ski Jump
Kongeveien 5, website
(The ski museum and jump tower are closed for renovations, no reopening date has been given, the welcome center remains open)
Hours: Oct-Apr: 10am – 4pm, May: 10am – 5pm, June – August: 9am – 8pm, September: 10am – 5pm
Admission: adults $14, children $7, students/seniors $12, family $28.

Travel Guide to Oslo Norway Karl Johans GateShopping

GlasMagasinet (Stortorvet 9) has been Norway’s most famous department store since 1739. It seems to have everything – clothing, fine jewelry, glassware, china, souvenirs, toys, and much more.

Aker Brygge (located on the wharf) features dozens of clothing stores, restaurants and even a movie theater. For European fashions for girls and women, try H&M and Bik Bok; for boys and men, try Jack & Jones and Dressman.

Basarhallene (Dronningensgate) is the semicircular-shaped area behind the cathedral, which once served as the old bazaar halls but now features a variety of shops and cafes. This is a great place to visit if you’re looking for handmade crafts, antiques, and jewelry.

What to Bring Back

Norway is famous for its knitwear and nothing makes a nicer gift than a handmade wool sweater (try Maurtua Husflid located on the wharf beneath Akershus Fortress). Unfortunately, even the cheapest sweater is going to cost you a couple hundred dollars.

If you’re looking for a less expensive gift option, children and adults alike will get a kick out of the wooden Norwegian trolls carried by shops across the country.

Additionally, Norwegian glass, pewter, and silver make beautiful gifts for the home (try the shops at Basarhallene in the semicircular-shaped Old Bazaar Halls behind the cathedral).

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