Finding it in me to start writing this series of Scandinavian posts took a while. First, because there was so many pictures to look at, to sort, to pick from. And second, because looking back on this trip means that it is now behind us. And that is one hell of a sad realisation!
In numbers, Norway for my BF and me was: 13 days, 4 stops, more than 10,000k spread over 7 flights, 3 train rides, 2 boat trips, a few buses and two shuttles! 4 “days” in the Arctic night, 2 hotels, 2 airbnb stays, 1 hostel, 45kg of clothing and gear, 3 down jackets, 6 beanies, 1 suit case, 1 travel bag and 1 backpack. 2 bengal cat, 6 husky dogs, 7 whales, 2 orcas, 4 seals and a buch of seaguls. A dozen restaurants, too many Starbucks, a couple of gallons of cider Bulmers. Somewhere around 3,000 pictures, hundreds of “wows”, 1 steep taxi ride, 1 elusive set of keys, 2 baggage lockers, tons of love and smiles… And unfortunaly, no northern lights. Too bad, we’ll have to go back!
GENERALITIES – WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
- Norwegian, the airline company, was named best company this year in the low cost and long haul categories. And having flown with thel 6 of the 7 times we took a plane, we can tell you this is well-deserved! Prices are very affordable in a country where everything is super expensive, schedules are interesting, frequent flights, wide choice of destinations, great service (despite a few delays) with a very convenient and efficient check-in system. And, to top it off, WIFI on board! Fly Norwegian, you won’t regret it!
- Speaking of wifi, I realised how far behind on the matter in France. They have wifi everywhere, even on trains! Passwords are easy to find, you just have to login. Quite convenient for tourist who need information!
- Norwegian trainstation have secure, well-thought locker systems, adapted to the size of your luggage and not that expensive. It can become handy if you have a last minute hiccup.
- Norwegian people all speak fluent English. It makes things easier for those of us who do not speak the language!
- Like in France, tips are included in the bill, but you can still leave one if you are satisfied with the service. Which you can do with your credit card when paying the full bill (you then need to add yourself how much you cant to leave as a tip), very convenient if you’re short on change!
- This is no myth, eating in Norway is (very) expensive! Hard to have a decent meal for two in a mid-range restaurant for less than 60-70 euro. You will really need to include food in your budget if you don’t want to have Burger King everyday. You can also go grocery shopping in supermarkets, Kiwi looks like a good chain.
First stop : Oslo.
WHAT (NOT) TO SEE AND/OR DO
First thing first, you should buy the Oslo Pass, which grants you unlimited access to all the city transports and museums. A good investment, even if you’re only staying in town for a couple of days.
- The Norwegian National Opera and Ballet (designed by Snøhetta). A true architectural iceberg diving into the sea (although Thomas still thinks it looks like a ski slope). Walking on the outside and up to the roof is well-worth the 5-minutes it will take you. The view from up there is breathtaking. Still, be careful not to slip on your way down, especially is there’s a bit of frost. And no, none of us fell! I can fell your disappointment from here…
- The Akershus Fortress. Another gorgeous view on the Fjord and the islands on the other side, a museum and a royal crypt. Beautiful light in the late afternoon, and all in all a lovely walk between the opera and the harbor.
- The Aker Brygge docks. A modern, hype neighborhood with shops, bars and restaurants, the perfect place for an afterwork drink! We particularly loved the mixture of old brick, harbor warehouses and modern architecture. You will undoubtedly find a place you like there, if you’re willing to spend a bit of money that is!
- The Astrup Fearnley Museum. This is modern art, so not for everyone, but the building in itself is beautiful. Located at the end of the above-mentioned docks, the view is absolutely amazing, especially at sunset (3 or 4pm in late November)!
- Bygdøy : a peninsula located west of city centre, Bygdøy is home of some of the most visited museums in Oslo, although it is mostly a residential (super cute) neighborhood. You can take a ferry in the summer, you can only go by bus (30) in the winter, which isn’t so bad as it allows you to go through some other areas and do a bit of sight-seeing! – The Norwegian Museum of Cultural History. Our Airbnb host, Anne, suggested we should go (and I suggest you stay at her place, link below). A great visit to dive into the history of the country. Old restored buildings, including an impressive old wooden church, a whole village. A superb walk which you can follow with…
– The Viking Ship Museum : A very small museum that we were actually almost reluctant to visit. Just one room with a few ships, but they are very well restored and quite impressive. We left with some great fun facts and anecdotes!
- The Nobel Peace Center. If you cant to learn more about the great names associated cith this prize, and leave a piece of your own wisdom in the Dalai Lama room. For some, wisdom might be a bit of stretch…
- The Museum of Design. A box that I really wanted to check. And it was a mistake. Maybe because of the programm at this time, or just the set up… But all in all, it isn’t taht good and certainly not wasting a couple of hours. Surprising for a Scandinavian museum, but you can’t get it all right I guess!
WHERE TO SLEEP – WHERE TO EAT
- Convenient accomodation: We tried for you, and because it was convenient; a hostel only 5k from Gardermoen airport, Hi Hostel. When you know which shuttle bus you need to hop on (not necessarily an easy thing to figure out), it is the best option for those who land late at night or take off early in the morning. You need to take the S-44 shuttle bus, don’t waste time asking the drivers as they only know the bigger hotels. Get off at the Clarion Hotel, the hostel is almost next to it. The rooms are very simple but clean, pretty much what we expected and needed!
- Sleeping in town : Thanks Airbnb! An apartment in the middle of the hipster neighborhood, full of life and good places, I give you, Grünerløkka! The interior was very cute, cosy, very clean with plenty of space. Anne, our host, was lovely and gave us many great tips. If you’re looking for a place to stay in Oslo, this is it! One piece of advice though, make sure the keys will be waiting for you the day before!
- A good burger in Grünerløkka : That place was suggested to us by Anne, and it got our seal of approval: Ryes Bar. A Norwegian-American looking diner/pub, a bit kitsch maybe but the food is good!
- Get in the Aker Brygge vibe : That area quickly became a favorite of ours: the Aker Verkstedhallen (something like the Aker workshops if I had to translate), and old industrial building formerly owned by the eponym mechanical firm in the late 1800. This old dockyard, closed in 1982, is now the symbol of the neighborhood, is now home to offices, restaurants and shops. Olivia is one of those restaurants, which gave us a good reason to get inside the building. In the end, it was just as beautiful as the food was good, pricy as you would expect but good value for money nonetheless.
- Easy eating : The Oslo central station, Oslo S, is full of little restaurants, fast food and all. Including Burger King, with a surprisingly cosy atmosphere. It can be a cheap solution if needed, although not the healthiest one!
SAVE IT ON PINTEREST !
Feel free to pin the picture below, that I created specially for Pinterest… for you to find your way back to this article more easily!