Hello there! For my first post ever, I wanted to share my absolute amazement with the city of Oslo. My trip to Oslo was a spur-of-the-moment decision. Literally, this was the single most last-minute booking I have ever made in my life.
Let me take you back a few days before I bought the ticket to Oslo. It was the end of October and I was feeling quite overwhelmed with my daily administrative duties that I had to do (teachers, you feel me) and a bit fed up with the routine and mental strain of the past few months. And, I don’t know about you, but when I feel like the stress of everyday life has me backed in a corner, I try to find my escape in travel planning. And as it happened, that week we had a couple of days free and, to my absolute happiness, the remaining two days were declared to be carried out online. Therefore, I was able to work from home. Or in my mind, from anywhere in the world!
Hopping on to Skyscanner to see what Ryanair flights were available from Zagreb, I went through all 10 destinations it seemed. However, one destination had the outgoing and returning flight on perfect dates for us, and that was, you guessed it- Oslo. I was happy with this destination because I’ve always wanted to visit Scandinavian countries, however, I had no clue of what Oslo had to offer. The only thing I connected with Oslo was Alexander Rybak and it being the host city of the Eurovision Song Contest in 2010. (Have I mentioned I’m bit of a Eurovision fan?)
And you know what? That was a great thing. Not knowing anything, and thus not having any expectations, made my experience that much better. For I couldn’t recommend Oslo enough to you! It is an urban city with every single building working together, modern office buildings on one side, historic buildings on the other. But on the other hand, what amazed me most about this city was this tranquility and sense of peace that overcame me anytime I was near the sea. Looking over the pier of Aker Brygge, looking at the sea from the top of the magnificent Opera House, or looking at the Oslo Fjord from Ekeberg Park filled me with some unspoken energy and peace that didn’t leave me throughout this trip.
On the other hand, this trip was a lot of fun and so special because at the time we went, November 2021, Norway had absolutely no restrictions in place. That meant no masks in public transport, shops and all closed spaces which took some getting used to, but we adapted pretty quickly. It was nice to live a few days as there were no global pandemic, and thanks to these measures (or lack thereof) we were even able to have a night out at London pub and it was one of the greatest nights out ever.
In this post, I will share the places I visited in my 2 days (2 full days, day 1 and 4 were mostly spent on travelling) in this underrated capital, and recommend you visit as well. I was surprised to realise that 2 days was more than enough to see everything I wanted (albeit there is always more to see) and that this was actually the perfect amount of time, especially because money runs out quick here! More on that later.
This guide is a recreation of events as it happened on my trip. The order of some sights might seem confusing at times, but this was tried and tested and it happened to be a great pace to see everything in two days. Of course, you can always rearrange the order and sometimes you will bump into something from the list when you’re not looking for it, but I stand by this guide as a good resource for spending two magical days in Oslo. I really hope you get to visit Oslo some day and experience its beauty and tranquility.
Accommodation/ Where we stayed
As my occupation might have had you guessing, I am a budget traveler. And especially in a place as expensive as Oslo, I opted for the budget hotel. Mind you, cheap in Oslo is still not cheap, but you gain a new definition of affordable. When in Oslo, right?
We stayed at P-Hotels Oslo budget hotel. Staying at our hotel was the best decision ever because its location was incredible. It took one minute and crossing a road (by the way, I love how the pedestrian lights turn on a second after the red light for cars come on-small pleasures) to get to the main, and perhaps the most beautiful road Karl Johans Gate. But before going there, we actually went the opposite way in search of a famous street, for it is the only thing from the list on that side.
Day 1: Damstredet- Graveyard – Karl Johans Gate – Parliament House- Royal Palace-Opera House-Ekerberg Park-Munch Museum
When booking the ticket, a photo of Damstredet and picturesque houses was the chosen background that represented Oslo. I remember this being the only image of Oslo in my head and imagining what it would look like in person. It looks really nice, yes, though I imagined it would be a bit longer. Even with a cheeky photosession, you can only spend 10 minutes here to see it all.
Maybe that’s a good thing because it means you can admire the architecture and design without worrying about hurrying off to the next thing. I liked imagining what this street was like a hundred years ago.
Our Savior’s Cemetery (Vår Frelsers Gravlund)
Right next to Damstredet, you might even see it before you turn into the street, stands a beautiful graveyard. As far as graveyards go, this was definitely the most beautiful and well-kept graveyard I have ever seen.
The tombstones have a gothic feel, you can find a lot from 19th century and even the newer ones are in the same style. I loved that they keep track of how it all looks and that there is a lot of green space everywhere. Tall trees, fallen leaves and the tombstones completed a beautiful scene. It is basically a park. You follow the footpath and exit on the other street which you follow back down to the centre.
Karl Johans Gate
As soon as you step foot onto the cobbled street of Karl Johans Gate, you will be astonished by its grandioseness and beauty. Over a kilometer long, it stretches as far as your eye can see, and it will probably see the Royal Palace in the distance. It’s bustling with people and, to my surprise, cars. I think there is no such thing as a pedestrian area in Oslo, or so it seemed to me.
Parliament House – Stortinget
About halfway on your stroll on Karl Johans Gate, you will see a magnificent round building guarded by a sitting lion which is the Parliament House or Stortinget. On Saturdays at 10 a.m. you can take a free tour, which we unfortunately couldn’t do. If you’re visiting in summer, tours are held Monday through Friday.
Then stroll along until you reach the end and climb uphill to the Royal Palace. Buy a souvenir in the souvenir shop, or an authentic Norwegian Freia chocolate and just admire the beauty that surrounds you. I mean, have you ever seen a fancier Hard Rock Cafe?
The Royal Palace
And finally, you reach the end of Karl Johans Gate, cross the street and climb uphill to see the Royal Palace. While you’re there, why not see the changing of the guards? Be sure to make it there by 13:30.
Here I suggest taking a little break, having something to eat or taking a quick rest in your hotel. It is really close. For a tasty and fast vegan meal, I suggest MAX burgers located at the top of Karl Johans Gate, right below the big Freia sign. I am still dreaming about their chickenless burger and plant-based milkshakes!
And now for the most stunning architecture you will ever see, head to the Opera House. Make sure to climb on top and take in the views of Oslo. We had luck that it was particularly sunny that day, so the views were amazing all around. I forgot to mention this – one of the things that were really striking about Oslo was that you can find art at almost every corner. You will probably see many art installations on the sea! This is less surprising when you realise that the great painter Edvard Munch was from Oslo, whose museum is right behind the opera house.
However, I recommend you don’t visit it just yet, but head on to Ekeberg Park to catch the sunset. Especially if you’re visiting in the autumn/winter months when the sun sets really early (in our case 4 pm). There’s another great reason to come back to the museum later, and you will find out why a bit later!
I must admit that this was the part of the day I looked forward to the most. In my research, I’ve read that this is the spot where Edvard Munch watched the bloody sunset that inspired his famous painting The Scream.
I was walking down the road with two friends when the sun set; suddenly, the sky turned as red as blood. I stopped and leaned against the fence, feeling unspeakably tired. Tongues of fire and blood stretched over the bluish black fjord. My friends went on walking, while I lagged behind, shivering with fear. Then I heard the enormous infinite scream of nature.Edvard Munch
Naturally, this was at the top of my list. It was quite the drama getting there actually, for Google Maps was sending us to a non-existent tram stop which was actually a bus stop. The sun was setting, time was running out and my heart was sinking at the thought of missing that view.
Thankfully, after refreshing it a hundred times, it pulled itself together and pointed us to the right tram station just in time. That tram ride was one to behold, especially when it reaches the point where you are split between the urban city skyline and nature’s glorious skyline (also a treeline). You can feel the air changing and becoming clearer. And thanks to our navigation mishap, it was completed with the start of a magical sunset which made the sky colour absolutely magnificent.
We got off the tram at the right stop, which is right below the entrance to Ekeberg Park, but also below a beautiful hill with a bench made for this kind of moment, and a magnificent historic building with four turrets. At first I thought it was a castle, but on closer inspection, it turned out to be a school (later found out it used to be a school for mariners). I loved it! Definitely take some photos and a breath here and just take it all in. Then cross the street and prepare for another uphill climb to the park’s viewpoint. Only this time you will be accompanied by some interesting (to put it mildly) statues. Admire the beautiful houses and secretly wish this was your summer house. Turns out it’s a restaurant. Shame really, it’s just my style!
After basking in glorious views, take the tram back down to the city. To be more specific, the Opera House. Now that it got dark, it will look stunning in a whole different way so you wouldn’t want to miss snapping a photo or two. And then, I recommend visiting the Munch Museum. This activity is not free, but I definitely think that the price of admission was well worth it. This museum spreads on ten floors, all having a different theme connected to Munch.
And it’s not just the inside that’s great. The whole building is in line with the stunning architecture of the area, and is completely transparent! You can see people going from one floor to the next on the escalator, and if you’re one of the lucky people on the inside, you see amazing views of the city and the pier. This is why I think it’s better to go at nighttime, you can’t beat those city lights views.
One of the amazing things about this museum (besides seeing the Scream and all the thought-provoking art) was an interactive table with stencils of Munch’s motifs. You have crayons and white paper at your disposal to cover the stencils with and trace them. And of course, you get to take your art home with you! I thought this was the most original souvenir from Oslo.
Day 2: Frogner Park – Museum of Folk History – Aker Brygge -Town Hall -Akershus Fortress
Continuing on the artistic note we finished our last day on, we now head to Frogner Park which is a park filled with sculptures by the artist Gustav Vigeland. The sculptures are very thought-provoking and captivating.
You will definitely not be unphased but what you see. All the statues are life-like, life-sized and the detailing on each is captivating. Every face tells a different story, and you will very likely be wondering about what their story must be.
The park is quite large, and besides admiring the sculptures, you can also relax, sit on one of many benches, have a stroll or look at the nearby pond and count all the different types of birds you can find.
Norwegian Folk Museum
This is the only other part of this guide where you have to pay to see it. However, seeing the picture of the Stave church online and me being fascinated by Scandinavian folklore, I knew I just had to visit the Folk Museum.
The Museum consists of different sections. You start by entering a building with exhibits consisting of clothing items, furniture and other things from people who influenced Oslo becoming a powerful trading route. One thing I particulary loved about this exhibition was the recreated enclosed rooms from prominent people’s houses. There is a little nook where you stand and look through the glass into someone’s bedroom or living room. This part was also very informative and I learned a lot about Norway’s history and its relation to Denmark and Sweden.
And then besides this more classical museum, you go and explore the open-house museum which is really set up to look like a village with authentic houses, farmhouses, summer lodges, schools… You can also enter some buildings or just peer through to see what’s inside. I found the schoolhouse particularly interesting (of course) because next to the classroom was a small bed chamber where the teacher would sleep! Talk about not having a healthy work-life balance.
I think that this part of the museum, where you are really inside of how people in Oslo used to live, was worth the price of admission alone.
After all that sightseeing, I found that taking a stroll along the Aker Brygge pier after returning from the museum was the perfect thing to do. As I’ve mentioned Oslo being a really artistic town, of course we found an art installation on the water. The sunlight hitting through the material of these balls was a sight to behold.
I wasn’t sure what this building was exactly, I thought it was perhaps the venue where the Nobel prizes are held each year. It is just that magnificent. I know I’ve used this word quite a lot in this post, but this was really something else. I could have just stood there for an hour looking up (it is a very tall building) and noticing every little detail of its facade. It is right opposite Aker Brygge so you won’t miss it. Just be careful not to get hit by a skateboarder who is practicing in front of it while you admire it.
And to end the perfect day, climb up to Akershus Fortress to catch another sunset. The fortress is really like a small city in itself, and you can take in the stunning views from every part of the fortress you stop at. Just be careful of where you step, as it can get pretty steep and the railing isn’t the highest at some places. Take in those views and think about how grateful you feel to have visited such a magical place.
Things to note
- Getting there by plane, you don’t really land in Oslo. If you’re also flying with Ryanair, keep in mind that the bus ride from Sandefjord Airport takes 1 hour and 40 minutes one way. Yes, almost the same as the duration of the flight.
- Finances-Right off the bat, this was probably the most expensive city I’ve ever visited. Your perception of what’s “affordable” will change. Suddenly, anything with a double-digit price (under 100 NOK which is approximately 10 euro) is affordable. Never mind you’re paying 6 euro for a candy bar. A beer in a pub? 90 NOK. We were vaguely aware of this, and this is why this guide has mostly free activities, but you still end up spending way more than you wanted. So make sure you have some extra money, but not cash. I can name maybe two places where they accepted cash, the majority of the time you will be asked to pay by card.
- Transport– getting around the city is very easy, everything is connected and your ticket for public transport is valid for buses, trams, metros, trains and ferries (save for the Bygdøy). However you can’t buy it on board, but at certain shops, I found it easiest to buy them at a 7-11 (like in an American movie!) which are never too far away. But be warned; they won’t sell you a lot of one hour tickets. I asked for six of them trying to think ahead and not having to constantly buy them, but the guy said that their system wouldn’t allow that many tickets. Who can tell. There is also the Ruter app which you can top up and use as a card.
- Don’t be averse to getting lost in Oslo’s city streets. You really see something beautiful on every corner. One of my favourite moments was when we accidentally took a longer route to Frognerpark on foot (thanks to Google Maps again) and ended up walking through residential buildings, a school with a huge park (it was great seeing kids playing outside during school hours) and seeing the most amazing houses that looked straight out of a movie.
- The Viking Planet- I’ve heard great things about this one-of-a-kind digital VR museum. Unfortunately, they were closed for a private event on the day we came, but I wanted to mention it here in case you want to visit. Let me know if you have visited in the comments!
- I didn’t put everything I saw as this post would be much longer and because this was meant as a guide doable in two days. For more points of interest (some are really very close to each other) I recommend this post that I used in my research before I knew anything about Oslo.
And that concludes my 2-day guide! I hope you found it helpful and enticed you to put Oslo on your bucket list. Do you have any recommendations? Please share them in the comments below.
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