If you ever get chance to explore Scandinavia, you’ve got to go by train. Not only is it a really inexpensive and easy way to travel, but it’s an amazing opportunity to see the landscape. We added Oslo to our Scandinavian tour as our third and final option and boy was that a great decision – especially when we’d been toying with the idea of going to Helsinki instead.
We arrived in Oslo via the 5-hour high-speed train from Stockholm and checked into the Comfort Xpress. The hotel was quirky and modern, and in a great location; it was the perfect choice. Once we’d dropped our suitcases and freshened up, we ventured out to explore nearby and grab some food.
After walking down Karl Johans Gate – one of the main central streets full of shops and eateries – we took the opportunity to visit the tourist information office. We were really interested in visiting the Holmenkollen ski jump and wanted a little help navigating Oslo’s public transport.
The staff were lovely and provided maps and instructions on how to get there, plus their own recommendation on the best way to see the city.
Visiting the Holmenkollen ski jump
The next day, we bought ourselves a Metro ticket and followed the instructions we’d been given by the tourist office. We boarded the Number 1 and rode it to Frognerseteren at the end of the line. Technically, you can get off a five stops early to visit Holmenkollen but we’d been told the extra stop was worth it.
We stepped off the train and entered the beautiful Norwegian forest. There was a path that led through the trees and past a café with incredible views over the city. It was a little too early for it to be open but there were plenty of BMXers making the most of the quiet time.
Every now and again the trees would part enough to see the city and the view was amazing. We were high enough that we could see the entire harbour and the islands in the water.
We finally made it to Holmenkollen, at least we thought we had. The ski jump was huge, and terrifying. We climbed to the top and looked out at the view. The thought of whizzing down and then jumping from the end was crazy; how did people do this?!
There wasn’t much else there so we decided to head to the underground station, and came across a few people enjoying their regular Sunday morning roller biathlon…
A biathlon is the combination of cross-country skiing and rifle shooting. In the summer months, this becomes a roller biathlon where the skis have little wheels on them and move like rollerblades.
We followed the roller biathlon road round a bend and then realised we’d been visiting the test jump, because holy mother was Holmenkollen huuuuuuugeeee.
It turned out we’d inadvertently followed the biathlete too because there were quite a few people shooting on the rifle range near the entrance. Every now and again, you’d see one of them finish, get up, and skate away – definitely one of the more unusual sports I’ve ever watched, but it did look fun.
Now let me try and put the size of Holmenkollen into some sort of perspective: the hill is 134m and can cater to 70,000 spectators (that’s 3.5 times the size of the O2 Arena in London).
I was surprised by how much there was to do; there was a mini museum, and a ski jump simulator, and you could also pay to go up to the very top of the jump where there was a zip line company catapulting people to the bottom…
We walked out onto the viewing platform about half-way up where you can look down the jump and feel giddy. And then we climbed down the steps right next to the jump – not something I’d recommend if you suffer from vertigo.
Wandering around Frogner Park
On our way back to the city centre, we stopped by Frogner Park which was huge and really popular. In the centre if the park was the Vigeland installation where there were over 200 sculptures created by Gustav Vigeland made from bronze, granite and cast iron.
We could easily have spent all day at the park, wandering through the green spaces, visiting the Oslo Museum and Frogner Manor. It was such a beautiful place and I would highly recommend a visit.
Visiting old Oslo
After visiting the park, we took the tram across the city to visit Damstredet, one of the oldest streets in Oslo. Originally an impoverished shanty town, Damstredet is now a must-see tourist attraction featuring well-preserved 18th century wooden houses.
We wandered down the residential street and felt like we’d been transported to a completely different time. We’d stepped away from the modern architecture and were surrounded by cobbles and colour; it was magical.
A 5-minute walk from Damstredet was Mathallen Oslo, a huge indoor food market. Featuring more than 30 specialty shops, cafes and eateries, Mathallen Oslo was an assault on the senses – in a good way. The place was alive with hustle and bustle. We wandered between the cheese stalls and the butchers and all the other Norwegian producers before making our way to Christiania Mini Golf.
The staff at the golf course were really friendly, and we had a great time – I mean, who doesn’t love a game of mini golf? Plus, it was really affordable and the perfect activity for a summer’s day.
Right in the middle of our competitiveness, the skies clouded over and we got caught in a rainstorm.
So after the rain, we headed back to our hotel to dry off and change our clothes before going for a bite to eat at the Hard Rock Café on Karl Johans Gate and then taking a walk up to the Royal Palace where we saw a changing of the guards. You can’t go in the Palace as it’s still a royal residence, but you can get pretty close.
Exploring the waterfront on our final day
We started our final day in Oslo with breakfast in an Espresso House in one of the Barcode buildings. Part of the redevelopment of former dock and industrial land in central Oslo, you can’t miss the striking black and white structures.
From there, we walked down to the Opera House; definitely one of the most amazing buildings I’ve ever seen. The roof of the Opera House has been built in such a way that you can walk all the way to the top and have a great view of the city.
Top tip: Make sure you take sunglass as the sun will bounce off the bright white building, making it almost impossible to see!
We climbed down from the top of the Opera House and walked along the waterfront until we found ourselves at Askershus Fortress. It was free to enter, and once again we found ourselves transported in time. It was like we’d entered a completely different city. We wandered the cobbled streets and took a break to sit by the pond where a family of ducklings were playing.
From there we climbed the fortress walls where you can see across Pipervika Bay to where Aker Brygge is, and decided to explore more.
Previously a shipyard, Aker Brygge is a popular shopping, dining and entertaining area with some high-end residential apartments. It’s a great little area, and we took a walk from one end to the other before looping back on ourselves.
It was then we discovered the 24-hour travel card we’d purchased to ride the tram was also valid on the boats leaving Pipervika Bay. We boarded the B2 boat and decided to visit the island of Langøyene.
Island hopping in Oslo
This was definitely my favourite activity in Oslo. The boat docked at a couple of small islands before reaching Langøyene where we disembarked with no idea what to expect.
Langøyene is an ‘H’-shaped island with a nudist beach at one end and a camp site at the other. In the middle is a bay where children were running in and out of the water and building sandcastles. You’d never know we were just off the shore of Norway’s capital.
There wasn’t much on the island; a little chip shop that sold an assortment of ice creams and a public toilet. But the simplicity of it was part of the charm.
I felt like we’d discovered the real Scandinavian summer and it seemed like the perfect final activity for our trip.
When we made it back to the mainland, we enjoyed a wonderful meal at the fine-dining New Dehli Indian near Karl Johans Gate before heading back to the hotel to pack for our journey home.