Oslo is a fantastic weekend city break; even the public toilets radiate style, there’s plenty of pretty town to wander through or fascinating museums to dot into when the cold gets too much. Autumn and winter are chilly but atmospheric times to visit and seem to be how the city was built to be appreciated. Notoriously a pricey location, there is an alternative to make Oslo an affordable getaway without returning to your backpacker days of by-gone. Read on and make your bank manager happy!
We stayed in an AirBnB because all Norwegian homes are hella chic and having a kitchen meant we could avoid high restaurant costs. The Grunerlokka area of town is young, artistic and where you’ll want to be. Luckily, there are a tonne of great AirBnB options to pick from.
PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: If you share our dramatically disgusted reaction to the idea of a weekend sans gin, duty free is your best friend as be warned of the high alcohol prices at your weekend destination. [Our current favourites often available at duty free are Bloom and Caorunn, but mini bottles of the major brands are great if you’ve only got hand luggage.]
An excellent starting point for your Saturday explorations is Oslo’s magnificent and modern Opera House on the waterfront in Bjorvika. After climbing the encircling ramp to the top and making friends with the seagulls, be sure to venture into the lobby and ogle the avant-garde costumes on display. Of course the costumes and set design in Norway are like nothing you’d be able to conjure up. *Sighs at the lowkey coolness*
From the Opera House it’s possible to wander into the delightful city centre, using Oslo’s main shopping street, Karl Johans gate, as your plumbline. The Cathedral and its accompanying coffee shop are worth a brief visit. Don’t hold back popping into a Fjallraven Kanken shop, if anything to admire the rainbow display of bags available. EVERY. DARN. COLOUR.
From here, we walked up to the Royal Palace, however with experience of numb extremities under my belt, I’d say it would be far more sensible to jump on the tram from Stortinget to the National Theatre, and get a far more pleasant view of the city from the warmth of a carriage. The main attraction at the Palace is all the pomp of the changing of the guards and if you can time it right (1.30pm at time of writing), it’s well worth the trip.
There are many galleries and museums on every topic from the resistance, so choose to suit your taste. We opted for the National Gallery, enticed by the offer of seeing The Scream by Edvard Munch. Once there, I loved the series of paintings by the naturalist artist, Christian Krohg, as well as the diversity of the museum and creative spaces for sketching and trying out displayed techniques.
We also chose the Nobel Peace Prize museum, which now ranks amongst my all-time favourites. The interactive design could keep the attention of someone with only the most of shaky of interests and it was fascinating to read and watch the stories of inspirational peace-makers, some well-known, others brand-new to me. And of course, there’s a fabulous gift shop, which puts to shame souvenirs in all other museums, period. I’m still using my epic Nobel Peace Prize Winners gift wrap.
Did I mention our AirBnB had an awesome TV room, complete with a huge screen with Netflix on? So essentially, we just made food, binge-watched Elementary and drank our imported gin. Ideal.
A perfect Sunday brunch or lunch spot is Mathallen, a foodhall close to Grunerlokka. Though set in a trendy renovated warehouse, Mathallen maintains good natural light and high ceilings, so it’s a relaxed and buzzy environment to wander through. Atelier Asian Tapas, seafood at Froya Sjomat or the confit duck sandwiches at Ma Poule are excellent choices, but really just walk around until you spot something you can’t resist / get too hungry to walk anymore. Alternatively, pick up some deli items for your home cooking. Reindeer sausages with a side of sriracha popcorn, perhaps?
Your Sunday afternoon must include a visit to the Vigeland sculpture park in Frogner Park. Gustav Vigeland was a much-lauded Norwegian sculptor and his work in the park in particular is something to behold. His creations link human bodies in realistic, tender and often comical ways, for their playfulness and reflection of relationships. The bodies don’t just sit on plinths but make up an obelisk, bridge and wheel.
Finish your weekend with another of the plethora of Oslo museums. Wanting a relaxed afternoon, we selected the Doga – Norwegian Centre for Design and Architecture – housed in an old power station. We whiled away the afternoon, geeking out on the kind of well-made documentaries that have you obsessed with a topic you didn’t know existed, and lusting over exhibit rooms filled with design items throughout the modern age. There’s a great little organic / vegan café next door called Funky Fresh Foods.
So there’s your affordable weekend to Oslo on a design-conscious plate! Go, enjoy and give your tips and feedback below!