Norway is one of the most beautiful countries on earth (it’s not just
me that thinks this, my trusty Lonely Planet agrees!). It’s a
once-in-a-lifetime travel destination for one simple reason: apart from a dearth of all-year-round sunshine, it is a country that has it all.
But when visiting a country that offers its visitors so much, how do you decide which
activities and sights to cram into your
ever-so-precious-and-always-too-scarce vacation time? Cue this little series of
guides containing must-do things to do and see in Norway, starting with the country’s spectacular capital city.
1. Visit Oslo
its well-frequented Scandi neighbours in Denmark and Sweden, Norway’s
capital has received considerably less interest from the throngs of
tourists that flock to Europe every year, and within hours of my arrival
I felt like I could take a reasonable guess as to why. Take Oslo at
face value, and at first it can seem quiet and grey, and dare I say it,
even a little dull! But scratch beneath the surface, and allow yourself
to explore and you’ll soon discover a city that is overflowing with art,
character and history.
Its main allure, of course, is
its proximity to nature. Surrounded by hills and forests, scattered with
green spaces, and permeated by the beautiful Oslofjord, this city offers
its visitors ample opportunities to enjoy natural landscapes and
stunning vistas, and partake in associated leisure pursuits.
While you are there, you must…
2. Visit the Royal Palace
Royal Palace sits proudly at the top of a hill overlooking the city
centre, and happily, unlike most royal residences around the world, you can walk
right up to the front door. There are guided tours of the interior in
the summer months, but a walk around the pretty exterior of the palace can be just as agreeable.
3. Have a stroll around one of the city’s pretty parks
you’re at the Palace, the Slottsparken (Palace Park) is one of the best
of the city’s green spaces, with hills, duck ponds, and, if you happen
to visit in spring like we did, carpets of spring flowers and canopies of pink blossom.
Alternatively, the views of the city from the top of Ekebergparken are exquisite.
also reliably informed that the sculptures in Vigelandsparken are
well-worth seeing…but hey, we had to save something for next time!
4. Visit the Norwegian National Opera & Ballet
modern, minimalistic piece of architecture juts out of the ground like a
shard of glass…or ice if you will. Tourists throng to it to enjoy the
pretty city reflections on its glass exterior and to hike up the steep incline
either side of the building to its roof, from which spectacular views of the city can be
5. Take a trip to the Holmenkollen Ski Museum and Ski Jump
4000-year Nordic history of skiing (and skis!) can be discovered in
this well-curated museum, but take some time to admire the impressive ski
jump first, which was used in the 1952 Winter Olympics, and still draws crowds for
the annual ski festival in March.
6. Have lunch in Aker Brygge
trendy, upmarket neighbourhood fringes the Oslofjord, with direct
access to Oslo’s harbourfront and the ferries which regularly frequent
the islands of the fjord. The area has a seaside feel, with a wooden
cladding promenade and pier, several boutique shops and restaurants
which are constantly bustling with Oslo’s socialites.
Our top restaurant picks include Lekter’n, which is built out into the fjord, with a bridge across to a permanently-moored boat…
And Louise Restaurant & Bar, which combines chic al-fresco dining with contrasting cosy and characterful interiors.
7. Visit Akershus Festning
to my brother-in-law, this medieval castle and fortress is one of
Norway’s archtectural highlights. Built in 1299, it has a grim history
which can be discovered within the museums inside.
8. Get a boat to Hovedøya
Oslofjord island which is closest to the city also happens to be one of
the best for discovering nature, exploring beaches and uncovering an
exciting cultural history. A five minute ferry ride from the harbour,
and measuring only 800 metres across in any direction, it’s possible to
explore the island with time to spare before lunch.
9. Stay in a historic hotel
Hotel Continental, Oslo has been owned by the same family for four generations, and they have built it into one of Norway’s finest luxury five star hotels. With a prime city centre location, lavish breakfast spreads and luxuriously comfy beds, it’s my top pick of places to stay within the city.
10. Have a drink in an Oslo institution
to the hotel, and just across the road from the National Theatre, this
restaurant has been a favourite with families and tourists alike for
several decades. The Viennese interiors, Norwegian-inspired food and
immaculate service make it a place that has to be visited, if only for a
glass or two of prosecco to celebrate your time in this wonderful city.
Of course, this list is not exhaustive, and as we are lucky enough to have family in Oslo, we will definitely be back to explore more of the city in due course.
Have you visited Oslo? What can I add to my to do list for next time?