Our first stop on our Nordic Adventure began in Oslo, Norway. This metropolitan city is the largest city and capital of Norway. It is known as a cosmopolitan hub for its architecture, arts scene, museums, great restaurants and fashion. We spent a couple of days in Oslo and it’s a city I could see myself living or revisiting.
Oslo has so many amazing museums, sites and public parks. With only a couple of days and a toddler in toe, we had to be picky to what we could see and do. Another consideration we had is that Norway has such a strong currency, making this the most expensive country we have ever visited. On the plus side, the public transport is really accessible and pretty cheap and can be purchased from 7/11. We decided against buying the Oslo pass, for this reason and also because we would not been able to see everything on offer in such a short time frame. However, we did get to see quiet a bit, so this destination needs at least 3 posts. Some of the highlights include the Norsk Folkemuseum, Vigeland Park, Royal Palace Gardens, Oslo Opera House, City Hall, Akershus Fortress, Botanic Gardens and Mathallen Food Hall.
It took us four flights to get here and when we arrived it was already well into the evening. But with the daylight savings its seems like it was only the afternoon. Considering Oslo is the most populated city in Norway it was surprising very quiet. From the airport we caught a train to the National Theatre station and walked to our apartment in the east of Frogner.
This was our first experience with Airbnb and we had no idea what to expect. Unlike staying in a hotel, most of our hosts were not present on arrival, since many were on summer holidays. This was really no issue for us, we just followed the instructions on getting our key from a special designed lock and made our way into the building. The apartment building was decorated with different artworks and the other tenants we saw in passing through were quiet young, as were most of the people in this area. Our apartment was a one bedroom, with a small kitchen and bathroom. It was modern, clean and big enough for three people. It had an extra bed in the closet, a washing machine, wifi, as well as coffee and tea in the kitchen. I was pretty happy with the apartment and would recommend if your looking for a place in Oslo.
I don’t like to spend to much time in the apartment and was dying to stretch my legs. So we made our way out to look around and find some dinner. The streets were so quiet. There were some people walking around but not many for a Wednesday night. We walked in the south of affluent Majorstuen, along the Slottsparken where we saw many beautiful large houses. From there we walked to through St. Hanshaugen district to dine at Sofies mat og vinhus or Heim St. Hanshaugen. Unfortunately both of these restaurants kitchens were closed for the night and like many restaurant in the area, were only open for drinks. I was quiet surprised their kitchens were closed so early considering they were open so late.
It was only about 9pm by now and we were getting desperate to find anything to eat for dinner. So we found the only place open on our way back, Bislett Kebab House. We weren’t the only ones looking for a late night bite. We saw many young people stopping in, so it must of been the best or perhaps only thing in the area. I’m really not big on kebabs, but we gave this Norwegian street food chain a chance. Octavia was already asleep so luckily we only had to order for ourselves. Marco got the pita with beef & lamb and I had the falafel pita. They came with special sauces that they make in Oslo and sell in store. The pita’s were pretty good. Marco really enjoyed his. Mine was yummy too, but I did feel a little icky from strong flavor of the sauce after. Marco didn’t, so perhaps it was just me. The prices weren’t really cheap at $15-18 Australia dollars, but was definitely one of the cheapest meals we found in Norway.
The next morning we got up bright and early and headed towards Solli in Frogner, where you can find plenty of public transport, cafes and bakeries.
We had breakfast at one of my favourite bakeries (and the cheapest) at Backstube on Frognerveien. Backstube is a high quality bakery chain with a few locations across Oslo. They offer a great selection of freshly made pastries, sweets and breads, using natural sourdough, wheat germ and wholemeal flour.
The location we visited had a small amount of seating, but most people were just stopping in, so we were able to comfortably sit and enjoy the delicious pastries. We ordered a brezel, kanelsnurr, pizzino skinke, brezel crossiant, and chocolate chip cookie. Marco also had some coffee from the diy machine, which he quiet liked. I avoided since they didn’t have dairy free milk that I could see. Everything was so delicious and well made. My favourite was the brezel crossiant, which was more savoury version of a crossiant. Since everything was so cheap we got a few more things to go, including pain aux raisins and børek.
After breakfast we headed to the Norsk Folkemusuem (Norwegian Museum of Cultural History) for a few hours. This is an open-air museum which showcases how people lived in different regions of Norway from 1500 to present. This museum was fantastic and I will write a post completely dedicated to this museum, since I took so many photos. We also had lunch there which I will also include on the next post.
The Norsk Folkemuseum is located on Bygdøy peninsula, which is known for its maritime history. Here you can also find the Fram Museum, Norwegian Maritime Museum, Kon Tiki Museum, Viking Ship Museum, as well as the Oscarshall castle and Norwegian Center for Studies of Holocaust and Religious Minorities (museum).
After visiting the Norsk Folkemuseum, we walked about 5 minutes down the road to the Viking Ship Museum. This museum houses world’s best-preserved Viking ships and other treasures from Viking tombs from around the Oslo Fjord. Unfortunately after by the time we got to this museum we had a cranky toddler who wanted to find a playground and we were already quiet over stimulated from the previous museum. So we ended up giving this museum a miss. However from the museum lobby we were able to see the Oseberg ship (Osebergskipet). I was a little disappointed that I didn’t get to go in and look around, but then I’m not crazy about maritime history anyway.
Next we caught a tram and head to Frogner Park. This is the largest park in the centre of Oslo and is a popular space for citizens to relax, walk their dogs and exercise. There were quiet a few people on the day we visited sitting around with friends and I can see why. Everything is so green and the air is so fresh. The park actually has the biggest collection of roses and over 14,000 plants of 150 species. It also houses the Oslo City Museum, which I would have also loved to of visited. However, this museum closed at 4pm so I ran out of time by the time we got there. Near the museum is the open air cafe, Anne på landet, which I have read serves delicious food and coffee. If we weren’t between meals I would have made the effort to stop in there.
The park also has a huge playground, Frognerborgen Lekeplass. We ended up stopping there for quiet a while to let Octavia play, cool down and rest our feet. Did I mention how hot it was today? I was not expecting Norwegian summer to be quiet so warm.
After we finally convinced Octavia to leave the playground we made our way to the centre of the park. This is where you can find one of the most popular tourist attractions in Oslo, Vigeland Park. On our way towards it we cross through this large stretch of trees and grass , which is lovely quiet place to take photos.
Passed the grass and trees we arrived at the bridge, where the sculpture park begins. This world’s largest sculpture park by one single artist, who was Gustav Vigeland. Vigeland park contains more than 200 sculptures made of bronze, granite and wrought iron. This park was completed between 1939 and 1949. If you love Gustav Vigeland’s work you can visit the Vigeland Museum, which is just outside the Frogner park. It includes Vigeland’s early work, portraits and monuments and some of the plaster models from the sculptures park. This museum does have a fee, but to see the sculpture park, well that is free!
The bridge is 100 metres long and features 58 sculptures. These sculptures just took my breathe away. They are an amazing array of the women, men and children in their natural form. Each sculpture is completely unique to the next and draw on different emotions. The most famous sculptures among them is the Angry boy (Sinnataggen), which is a golden hand from being touched by so many for luck. At the end of the bridge there are some curious granite sculptures of man and lizard people. I almost didn’t notice until I heard someone say the word reptilian. I am not sure what is they symbolise, but reptiles seem to be a theme echoed through small details in this park.
Passed the bridge, we made our way through a small garden, with beautiful flowers and towards the Fountain (Fontenen), which is surrounded by 1800 square metre black and white granite mosaic labyrinth. This fountain itself features 6 men holding up a large bowl, and there are twenty trees with figures which symbolise the life of man from cradle to grave. Unfortunately due to repairs I was not able to see the entire fountain.
Lastly, we made our way to the grand finale and the highest point of Vigeland Park, the Monolith Plateau. This circular stairs towards the Monolith features men, woman and children throughout their life cycle. There are families with babies and toddlers, father and son, mother and daughters and ageing couples. These were perhaps my favourite sculptures. The Monolith itself is a large column feature a mass of naked bodies entwined and symbolise man’s and woman’s longing and yearning for the spiritual and divine.
Here are some of the last photos we took as we left the park on the our way out. I believe these works are also by Gustav Vigeland.
Our next destination was Karl Johans Gate in the centre of Oslo, to do a bit of shopping. We didn’t have much time to linger since we were trying to make sure we got to the Mathallen Food Hall before it closed. On this strip I came across the Oslo Cathedral. However the door was locked. I did come by again the next day but again it was locked still. I’m not sure how to get it but I’m sure it would be very pretty inside.
The Mathallen Food Hall is located in Grünerløkka, which is one of the hippest parts of Oslo. I actually wanted to do a free walking tour of this neighbourhood the next day. However after the day we had with our 3 year old, it became obvious that this holiday would not be able to include free walking tours. Anyway this district is known for its food scene and street art and we just had to go, even if it was a extremely long walk. Well 18 minutes isn’t that long, unless you’ve been walking all day, with swollen legs and blisters.
Finally we made it the Mathallen Food Hall. This indoor food market has over 30 speciality food shops, cafes and eateries. I was expecting to find mostly Norwegian food, but there was many different international cuisines. This food hall is only open from 10-6pm during the June-July so that is why we were in such a hurry to get here to eat. However, many of the restaurants within and outside the food hall which are open later.
After looking up and down the food hall we ended up decided on Hungarian food at Bistro Budapest. Hungarian is not something we can find in our city and a cuisine we really enjoyed a few years back when we visited Budapest. We started with Langos topped with sour cream, cheese and garlic, which was really delicious. Next we shared the Gypsy Steak, which was pork with fried onions, with potatoes and the Sarma, which were cabbage rolls filled with meatballs and served with sauerkraut and sour cream. We both enjoyed the Gypsy steak, but we weren’t crazy about the Sarma. I’m not sure what happened, but we ended up with one cabbage roll and one meat ball, which tasted the same, so I think the cabbage casing came off. I’m not sure if this is traditional Hungarian style Sarma, but it was very different to our Serbian Sarma. Nevertheless the overall meal was great and it wasn’t too expensive compared with the other food vendors.
Last we finished our day with some delicious gelato from Paradis Gelateria. Octavia had Fragola (strawberry) and Marco and I shared Pistachio and Caramello Salato. All of which were really delicious and closes thing I’ve had to real Italian gelato since our last Euro trip.
That brings me to the end of our first day. In my next posts I will take you on a tour of the Norsk Folkemuseum and our last day and a half in Oslo before heading to Bergen.