On our second day in Oslo we had a big day jam packed full of free cultural and heritage sites. There’s actually quite a lot you can do for free in Oslo, which you can enjoy all year round. Some of the highlights of day two include the Royal Palace and tranquil Slottsparken, the amazing art work at the City Hall, the historic Akershus Fortress, and the marvellous Opera House. I originally planned to also fit in the Free East Side Walking Tour (currently not on offer) in the afternoon, but I don’t think we could have possibly done it. My legs were still swollen from the flight and Octavia made it clear she was not going to be content to sit and be quiet. All in all I think we did pretty well and we also ate pretty well too.
We began our day with breakfast at Åpent bakeri at the Incognito Terrace location. Åpent bakeri is actually a chain, but each location has its own story to tell. This one was opened by two bakers in 1998 in a quiet street near the castle. Their aim was to make quality baked goods, made with a few good ingredients. This is exactly what they still deliver today. I was quiet impressed by the variety and of course the quality of everything we tried. The cafe is also very cute and there is plenty of sitting inside and out.
Marco and I both ordered coffees, mine with oats milk and his with cows milk. This was my first coffee on our trip and it was pretty good. To eat Marco preferred to have a plain croissant, but Octavia and I shared the Rosinsnegle (raisin snail pastry) and the Kardemommebolle (cardamon pastry). They were all fantastic and the higher prices definitely translated to the premium flavours. They also had some free homemade strawberry jam at the bar, which we all went crazy over.
After breakfast we made our way to the Royal Palace, but along the way I took some photos of the beautiful flowers and buildings. These flowers actually smell really amazing too.
Royal Palace and Gardens
The Slottsparken (Royal Palace Park) surrounds the Royal Palace (Det Kongelige Slott). It was opened by King Oscar I in 1847. Since then it has been open to the public all year around. The majority of the tree’s were planted in 1842 and the park has become more simplified with fewer ponds and plants. Nevertheless this park is a wonderful and tranquil place to take a stroll or relax surrounded by nature.
We entered from Henrik Ibsens gate and began our walk through to the Queens Garden (Dronningparken). This part of the park is separate to the rest of the castle park and only open to the public between 18th May to 1st October. It’s history predates the actually castle, as it was a garden since the old Christiania times. This garden is also special as it was reserved for the royals when they lived here. I’m not quite sure where the boundaries are, but I think the Queen’s pond would be within Dronningparken. This pond has houses on an island in the centre. The King’s Mirror is adjacent to this pond and is connected by a stream to the Queen’s pond. There are many statues of the royals throughout the park and also a lovely elevated platform (Abelhaugen) to watch the city below.
Within Slottsparken is Princess Ingrid Alexandra’s Sculpture Park, which was opened in 2016. The sculptures designs where created by children from different regions of Norway and were made by professional artists. They are meant to be touched and are fun for kids to climb on and take photos with.
Royal Palace (Det Kongelige Slott) is one of Norway’s most important buildings. It is a symbol for Norwegian history since 1814 and the residence of the King and Queen. King Carl Johan ordered from construction of this neoclassical building in 1824, but didn’t move in until 1849. It is located at the top of Karl Johans gate, which leads right into the centre of Oslo.
The Royal Palace offers guided tours during the summer season. However if you don’t speak Norwegian just be aware that there are only fours English tour times available daily. We decided not to do the tour since the first one started at 12 noon and we didn’t want to stick around for it. The tickets also have to be purchased online or you can try to get any leftover tickets just before tours start. Besides that you can also see the Changing of the guards everyday at 1:30 or attend the service in the Palace Chapel on Sundays at 11am. We did see a guard change that morning but perhaps the 1:30 time is a longer ordeal.
From the Royal Castle we took Karl Johan gate (road) and walked through Studenterlunden park, where we saw the Nationaltheatret and Norwegian Parliament. There as alot going on in the park this day. There were at least fifty children doing different preset activities. Across from the park there are plenty of shops and cafes, which continue along Karl Johan gate to the centre of the city.
Oslo City Hall
From the Studenterlunden park we walked south to the Oslo City hall (Rådhuset). This imposing brick building, houses Oslo’s city council, city administration and various other municipal organisations. So you may wonder why I would want to visit it. Well it has some of the most amazing artwork inside. It is completely built of Norwegian materials and features an art collection of Norwegian artists. , such as Per Krohg, Henrik Sørensen, Alf Rolfsen, Dagfin Werenskiold and Edvard Munch. There are guided tours all year around and free summer guided tours. You can wonder around for free as well, which is what we did.
First though I have to show you the Wooden friezes artworks in the courtyard. I didn’t photograph all of them, but the majority on the left side of the building. These were done by the painter and sculpture Dagfin Werenskiold. These motifs are made using the Old Nordic Tradition and depict Norse mythology. Some other interesting features on this side of the exterior include the bronze relief over the entrance and the Oslopike (“Oslo girl”) high up on the wall by Joseph Grimeland; the Swan fountain is by Dyre Vaa and gold Astronomical clock by Nils Flakstad.
Inside the Great Hall there are the most amazing paintings by Henrik Sørensen and Alf Rolfsen. These paintings are depictions of Norway and Oslo during times of war and occupation, as well as the growth of commercial activity and rise of the labour movement. The back wall features Henrik Sørensen’s Work. Administration. Celebration, which is the first thing you see as you walk in. The rest of the hall is painted by Alf Rolfsen, which includes The Occupation Frieze (eastern wall), depicting the Nazi Occupation and the large fresco of Norwegian working life (northern wall) and St. Hallvard (bottom of the staircase). The hall itself is huge and is quiet imposing and awe inspiring. It serves as a venue for many major functions, including the Nobel Peace Prize award ceremony.
We went up the stairs, but we weren’t able to see the Munch Room, which features Edvard Munch’s Life painting, which was closed. We also couldn’t get a good look at the Hårdråde Room, which has medieval tapestries, since there was a wedding taking place there. So we went straight through to the Festival gallery, which is the second largest function room in the building. The fresco’s on either end of the room are by Axel Revold. Skipsfart (Shipping) illustrates the foundrymen, foundrywork and iron fixing and shipping yard. Fiske og jordbruk (Fishing and Farming) illustrates Norway from South to north, forest and farmland in the east and fishing of Lofoten Islands in the west. The carpets on the wall were designed by Kåre Jonsborg and show scences from 1700s.
We walked through to the Banquet Hall, which is another large reception hall. It features portraits of the monarchs King Haakon VII, King Olav, King Harald V and Queen Sonja. Perhaps the most beautiful artwork in this room is the painting of Oslo Fjord by Willi Midelfart.
Next we visited the marvellous Krohg Room. This room’s walls are entirely decorated with fresco’s by Per Krohg and this work is entitled Byen og dens oppland (The City and its Environs). It south wall depicts activities in the city and the north wall depicts the countryside through the changing seasons. The north wall (top) also depicts the occupation of WW2 through imagery of prisoner-of-war camps and giant insects, which symbolise the enemy). The western wall (door) illustrates the life of men and bees through the city hive and the rosebush in the countryside.
The next room is the City Council Assemby Room, which is an open political area that can be observed by the public during City Council meetings. The room is stylised like a classic democratic semi-circular shape. The tapestry on the Major’s podium is by Else Poulsson and Else Halling and features St. Hallvard to symbolise dignity and respect.
The last room we visited was the Storstein Room. It is entirely decorated by Aage Storstein and it is entitled Human Rights and is a depiction of the roots of the Norwegian Constitution by the ideals of the French Revolution. The south wall illustrates the revolution of 1789, as a torch is lite and carried to Norway. On the left of the south wall is King Carl Johan, on his way to the Norwegian princess, the short wall illustrates the kidnapped princess and hibernating bear symbolising Norway under the Danish rule. The northern wall features the tree in the dream of saga queen Ragnhild, that she took in hope that her son would unit Norway. This room lead out to a long corridor with precious items and from there we were able to take the stairs back down.
We walked around to the other side of the City hall, called the Rådhusgata, on the Oslo Fjord. There are more sculptures on the exterior of the building and more along the harbour front. We took a few photos and had a snack at Kaffebrenneriet, which is another Norwegian coffee shop chain, before heading off to our next stop.
The Akershus Fortress (Akershus festning) is one of the main attractions in Oslo and and also one of Norway’s most important cultural monuments from the Middle Ages. This medieval castle was built around 1300 under King Hakon 5 Magnusson, when Oslo became Norway’s capital city. It was resided by the King and feudal overlord. It was later remodelled and extended in the 1600 by King Christian IV. In 1814 it became a military fort. It wasn’t open to the public until 2002 and has a museum, restaurant and concert venue. Today its free to enter and walk around and open all year around. There are guided tours available in the summer for a fee.
To be honest we weren’t too excited about visiting this fortress. I think we would of enjoyed visiting it a lot more if we had gone on a guided tour and had some more historical context. I did have a map that I followed along with and included some information, but I was confused what was open and some of the things on the map either weren’t there anymore or hard to spot. It turnout none of the buildings were open, at this time we visited, except for the museums and visitors centre. The view of the Oslo Fjord is quite nice from here, but that was about it for me.
By this stage we were really hungry and tired so we headed to a highly recommended fish restaurant. Fiskeriet is located at Youngstorget (Young Square) and is known for their fresh seafood and reasonable prices. It is quite a busy restaurant with a huge seafood bar of all the freshest catches from the morning market. Their menu includes fish and chips, burgers, fish soups, mussels etc, so my kind of place. I wouldn’t call it a cheap eat, but reasonable for Norwegian standards. We all ended up ordering the Fish and Chips with remoulade and cornichons. The fish and chips was nice and crispy and not oil and extras were delicious little add-ons.
While we were at Youngstorget (Young Square), we popped into the Folketeateret. There were some interesting sculptures, including Kate Moss by Marco Quinn. Octavia’s favourite was the Woman being looked at by Sean Henry. I was just praying she didn’t knock it over.
Afterwards we did some window shopping along Karl Johan Gate, but we didn’t stay too long because we wanted to get away from the heat and go inside Oslo City Shopping Centre. This shopping centre is near Jernbanetorget, which is where you can find the Tiger Statue. This is one of the most photographed statues in Oslo and a meeting point for many walking tours. It was a gift to Oslo by Eiensomsspar, to celebrate 1000 year anniversary of the city. Oslo is known as the Tigerstaden (Tiger city) because the symbolism of Oslo being a tiger in the poem Sidste Sang, by Norwegian poet Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson.
I was looking to cooling down and doing some much needed shopping in Oslo City, which is one of the biggest shopping centres in Oslo. Unfortunately it was pretty warm inside and there wasn’t anywhere to sit. The baby changing room had a fee and we had no coins and not all the lifts worked, which was a problem with the stroller. My companions were also not in the mood to let me shop. So all in all it wasn’t the shopping experience I was hoping for. Under normal circumstances this would be a great shopping destination.
Our last tourist stop for the day was the Oslo Opera House. This is a must-see attraction when in Oslo, because the building itself is just an amazing piece of construction. It is free to visit and walk on the roof, which gives you panoramic views of the Oslofjord. This Opera house is home to the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet and National Opera theatre of Norway. It was built between 2003-2007 and it embodies the Norwegian idea that nature is free for everyone to walk, encouraging people to combine on the roof.
On such a hot day with a toddler it wasn’t the easiest walk up to the top, but yes it was so worth it. Since we could have visited at anytime it would have probably been better to come later in the day when the sun wasn’t so strong. At least we had a clear blue sky and no cold wind.
After such a big day we decided to go somewhere close to our apartment to have dinner. Octavia had fallen asleep, so we picked up a few things for her from the supermarket and just had to worry about ourselves for dinner. I have to say that the supermarkets have plenty of fresh food and healthy options if you want to eat in, so don’t be afraid to explore.
Tonight Marco really wanted burgers and Oslo has a great range of burger restaurants. Here are some of the Best Burger Joints in Oslo. After looking at a few reviews of the closest burger restaurants we decided on Munchies. Apparently they offered one of the best burgers in the city, so we were excited to try their take on burgers.
Marco went with the Classic Beef Burger with classic dressing, cheddar, lettuce, tomato, onions and a side of Fries. I ordered the Veggie burger with mango curry, lettuce and veggie patty, with a side of fries and Aioli. I have to say their burgers were pretty delicious! They were spot on what you want in a burger, but I have to say we both thought my burger was the best out of the two. The veggie pattie was crispy and tasty and the mango curry gave a nice pop of flavour. The fries were also not to bad and the Aioli was spot on. So if your looking for a good burger in a no frills (but clean) restaurant, I can definitely recommend stopping by Munchies.
So that brings us to the end of day 2. I was going to add half of day three before we travel to Bergen, but this post was getting way to long. So in my next post I will take you to Bogstadveien for breakfast and a spot of shopping and the Oslo Botanical Gardens, before we take a train to Bergen.