Our plane landed on snow. On snow! I was caught up somewhere between feeling like I’d just jetted through the wardrobe to Narnia and wondering how can Norwegian airports could be so much more sophisticated than those in Britain – where they’d have been closed hours ago with weather like this. From the moment the clouds cleared and I caught a glimpse of those snow drenched trees, I was head over heels for Norway.
Oslo was the first stop on our New Year’s trip to Norway. We figured it was worth tagging a couple of nights on to our original plans, which was a week of skiing, so we could see more of Norway in one go. As someone who prefers a slow pace of travel, I’m usually a less is more type when it comes to how long I like to be away for, but I’m glad we got to see Oslo.
Scandinavia is enjoying a lot of hype right now. It’s being glamorised as the land of dreamy interiors, Hygge and the newly celebrated Lagom. If you’re expecting to dive inside one of those picture perfect coffee table books that’s doing the Instagram rounds, I’m afraid you’re going to be disappointed. Scandinavia is beautiful but on first impressions it’s city’s are very industrial and Oslo was no exception. All the good stuff you see wafted around in front of you on the internet is there, but you have to seek it out.
Getting into the city from the airport was really easy and took just 20 minutes via the express train. Once we realised how expensive the taxis were we were glad we’d opted for the train (think £40 for a 7 minute journey). The tram on the other hand seemed to be free, we never figured out where to buy tickets and nobody ever asked (update – the tram definitely isn’t free 🙈 you need to buy tickets beforehand).
My favourite thing about Oslo is how small it was. Nothing was out of reach so you could safely wander around the entire city.
Things to do
I knew spending two hours on a boat on a Norwegian fjord in the depths of winter would be freezing – but it was so worth it! The tour leaves twice a day, costs around £30 each and lasts for 2 hours. Blankets (complimentary) and hot drinks (not complimentary) are available. You set sail on the fjord and basically get to have a good nosy at all the idyllic houses that are lucky enough to have been built there.
Modern art museums like this are marmite, you either love them or you hate them. The museum houses the kind of art that will push your mind and comfort levels, which I personally love, although the Damien Hirst exhibits may have been a step too far for this animal adoring vegetarian. It’s worth noting it has a great cafe too.
We didn’t manage to make it to the opera house during daylight hours but it was equally spectacular at night. It’s one for any fellow minimal architect lovers and the showcased ballet costumes from previous performances are an additional string to its bow. The restaurants inside looked wonderful, but the prices were off the scale. You can walk up onto the roof and I can confirm the view of Oslo at night is worth braving the bitter cold for.
If only for the inspiration, fellow minimal interior lovers will love what Oslo has to offer in this department. Beautiful interior shops seemed to be dotted all over the place and are the ideal place to warm up. The Hay store was a particular highlight.
Where to stay
We stayed at the Hotel Saga and I’d stay there again. Hotel Saga is a small boutique design hotel in a quiet part of the city. It was the ideal cosy refuge to come home to after a day of battling the Norwegian winter. I’m a stickler for judging a hotel on its breakfast and theirs was delicious. There’s also no doubt you’ll come away will a camera roll full of interior inspiration.
We had a room on the 4th floor which wasn’t ideal because the slanting roof essentially cut the space in half and it didn’t a view (something else I judge hotels on). I’d try to get a room on one of the lower floors if you can.
Food and drink
The food and drink are ridiculously expensive wherever you go so this is not the place to indulge in Michelin star restaurants, unless that’s really you’re thing. It must be lovely for Norwegians when they travel – visiting London must feel like a trip to B&M bargains.
It sounds grim, I know, but trust me this train station is something different. It’s home to a wealth of decent restaurants that are on the more reasonable side of expensive and a food hall worthy of a wander. Sitting down to dinner here had a very Agatha Christie waiting for the Orient Express feel about it.
Oslo isn’t short of good coffee shops and even the chains like Espresso House were excellent, but Mocca was particularly cosy and served a fantastic cappuccino. It’s the kind of place you can spend hours just sat in the window, listening in on other people’s conversations and people watching.
Modern Art Museum Cafe
The museum is set on the waterfront, you’ll find its cafe is nestled in a corner inside and you don’t have to buy tickets for the museum to go in. It looks out onto the fjord and the view is beautiful, definitely somewhere to sit and stare at the horizon whatever the time or weather. Great coffee and snacks!
- Norway is really expensive when you get there and I’m afraid there’s no getting around it
- It’s freezing in the winter and dark what feels like all of the time.
Thanks to the lovely Instagram community for all the brilliant Oslo recommendations. If you’ve got anymore – leave them in the comments below for anyone looking to plan their Oslo trip.
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