For me, again, Oslo didn’t really spark my interest. Every time you think of Norway, the first thing that comes to mind is the Fjords and snowy capped mountains and hiking trails. And then there’s Oslo, a very southern point in Norway with no Fjords or snowy capped mountains. So then why go to Oslo? Oslo is one of the smallest capitols in Europe but with that it packs amazing museums and vibrant neighbourhoods with street art galore, and not to mention some very interesting architecture.
For those of you who don’t know, Oslo is the 2nd most expensive city in the world after Tokyo. For me, Oslo was just a day trip (~7 hours) so i didn’t stay the night there and am not too sure about the costs. The food was really expensive, and so were the public transit options, however, I found the admissions into the museums to be average and every place had a student rate.
One thing I did get and I would encourage everyone who’s traveling to Oslo to do, is purchase an Oslo City Pass. This pass was relatively cheap (student*/senior 33€), comes in 24 hrs, 48 hrs, 72 hrs, etc. and allows entry into all museums for free, use of all public transportation for free (even including the ferry) and allows discount on few restaurants and some tours. Since I was only here for a few hours, this pass also saved me a lot of time of having to buy transit tickets from I don’t even know where and the fumbling that comes with having to pay for various museums. Highly Recommend.
*Note: You can only get the student discounted Oslo City Pass at the Oslo Visitor Center which is inside the Østbanehallen
I feel like I pulled off the impossible with seeing so much in Oslo within 7 hours. I started off with the museums since surprisingly, even in high season, have short hours. The museums closed at 5pm or 6pm. I was also surprised with the amount of high quality, interesting museums Oslo had to offer. I’m usually not too much of a museum person, i’d rather explore a city by foot, but i was really intrigued with the museums they had and would have loved to explore more.
The whole time I was in Oslo, it had the lightest rain I’ve ever seen. Not mist, just a light rain that last the afternoon. It was enough to think, do-do I need an umbrella? Should I put my rain coat hood up? It wasn’t all that horrible, but enough of an annoyance to leave rain drops on my camera lens.
My favourite museums were located on Bygdøy, which is a peninsula across the main harbour of Oslo. You could get here by bus (25 mins from city center) or ferry (10 mins from city hall). This was where a majority of the cultural/ship museums were.
The Norwegian Museum of Cultural History/Norsk Folkemuseum
The Norsk Folkemuseum (Norwegian Museum of Cultural History), is a museum of cultural history with extensive collections of artifacts from all social groups and all regions of the country. It also incorporates a large open-air museum with more than 150 buildings, relocated from towns and rural districts.
I loved walking around in the 13th- century style buildings which originate from the country side. It really reminded me of How to Train Your Dragon. Like I was walking around a movie set. Some of the buildings you could enter and they’d have some of their rooms on display. Not to mention seeing the Gol Stave Church, which was just astonishing, and you could even enter it! It was really dark but you could really smell the wood.
Not only was it buildings residing from the medieval times, but also buildings from the 1800s which were meant to show case the working class life in Oslo. These included a grocery story and a pharmacy, which are still functioning and can buy transitional pastry and whatnot.
Viking Ship Museum/Vikingskipshuset
The next museum, and the smallest out of the 3 we visited here on Bygdøy was actually within walking distance of the previous museum. The Viking Ship Museum displays 3 wooden, 9th-century Viking ships, plus artifacts recovered from burial chambers. Here you will find the world’s best preserved Viking Ships – Oseberg, Gokstad, Tune and Borre – and the unquie artefacts they were found to contain. All of these ships were used as ocean-going vessels before they were hauled ashore to be used as burial ships.
This was also the busiest museum out of the 3. In the parking lot we saw 5 tour buses and was packed and not to mention really warm inside.
The Oseberg Ship (built c. 820 AD) is decorated with exquisite carvings and was used as a burial ship for two powerful women. For their final journey to the realm of the dead, the two women were given a plentiful selection of burial gifts, including five carved animal head posts.
The Gokstad Ship (built c. 890 AD) was used as a burial ship for a powerful man. The ship was highly sea worthy and well suited for voyages across the open sea.
Carved animal heads were mounted – probably for protection – on buildings, ships and even on high seats.
I found the viking ship museum to be a little over rated, yes, it was amazing seeing these viking ships in perfect conditions, but i found the amount of information on these ships and artifacts to be a little lacking. The museums could easily be done in 20-30 minutes.
The Fram Museum/Frammuseet
The Fram Museum was my favourite museum out of all of them. I found the presentation/layout of the museums to be highly engaging and I loved the in depth information they gave about the ship, the passengers and their expeditions.
The Fram was the first ship specially built in Norway for polar research. She was used on three important expeditions: with Fridtjof Nansen on a drift over the Arctic Ocean 1893-96, with Otto Sverdrup to the arctic archipelago west of Greenland – now the Nunavut region of Canada – 1898-1902, and with Roald Amundsen to Antarctica for his South Pole expedition 1910-12.
It really is a remarkable story and journey that this ship had went on as it occupies a unique position in the history of exploration, being the ship with the record of sailing both furthest north and furthest south of any. These records were achieved during the First and Third Fram expeditions.
I really could go on and on about the story of the ship and her expeditions, but one little cute story stood out to me. While going to Antartica, they brought A LOT of huskies with them. I think the original count was around 80 and they arrived in Antartica with almost 120. Could you imagine being stuck on a ship with that many dogs and puppies? They said it was great companionship.
Since we took the bus to Bygdøy, we decided to take the ferry back to City Hall and the main city center of Oslo. The ferry also provided nice views of the main harbour.
Once we were in the main city centre, instead of exploring it, we decided to go to another neighbourhood that was off the beaten path.
Grünerløkka is now considered the hipster neighborhood of Oslo. And I liked it so much more than the neighbourhood of Haga in Gothenburg, Sweden. This area was lively with store fronts that entered into the streets. I didn’t have any coffee, but the coffee shop that line the main street were adorable and hipstery to say the least.
Another reason why I wanted to come to this neighbourhood was obviously because of the street art. And yes, that is a chandelier hanging in the middle of an alleyway outside.
National Gallery of Norway/Nasjonalgalleriet
Coming back into the city center, we decided to try and see the National Gallery before it closes. We got here 20 minutes before it closed and went to the pieces of art that we wanted to see. This, of course, includes The Scream by Munch
Surprisingly enough, Oslo has a museum dedicated to Munch but The Scream is not located there, instead it is here in the National Gallery. They also had other work done by Picasso and Monet. I love seeing original paintings. I always try and get a close look to see the brush strokes and globules of paint the brush left behind. This gives it a 3D effect for me and a treasured moment I’d be able to associate with the painting. However, I found The Scream’s colours to not be as vibrant as I had pictured in my mind. It was very grey in my opinion, despite the colourful orange sky.
Finally hitting off all the museums I wanted to see for the day, we ventured into the City Centre of Oslo and made our way towards the water front
Fun Fact… Oslo, Norway awards the Nobel Peace Price annually (with some exceptions) at their City Hall. They also have a Nobel Peace Center which is a museum that showcases everyone who has own the Nobel Peace Price along with a biography. They also tell the process when deciding who gets to win along with some examples as to why certain people have won it.
And with the last view of the city with the Opera and Ballet House, that ends my journey of Oslo. I was totally surprised by Oslo and found a day or ~7 hours were not enough time to explore this city. There were also a ton of other things I wanted to do but was able to do the highlights.
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