As you may have seen on social media, and from my previous post (here), last month I headed to another new country and visited the Norwegian capital, Oslo. From the airport there is a choice of trains, with express services operated by Flytoget and regional services operated by Vy, the Norwegian national rail operator. I had a look at both, and if I’m completely honest, can’t see the point in paying extra for the express trains.
A one-way ticket on a Flytoget train costs 196NOK for an adult (so 392NOK for a return), whereas a 24hour all zones Ruter ticket costs 248NOK, less than two thirds of the express. The added advantage of the Ruter ticket is that it includes all trains (metro and mainline), trams and buses within the Ruter zones and will therefore cover pretty much all your travel needs for a trip to the city. Whilst the Flytoget trains are faster and a headline journey time of just 19 minutes, the regional train I caught took just 23 to cover the same journey.
Unfortunately, due to flight timings I wasn’t able to do a walking tour like I usually do and so after arriving at Oslo’s Sentralstasjon (or Oslo S as it’s known), I followed my vague plan of heading towards the Royal Palace. The first landmark on my walk was the Oslo Domkirke, Oslo’s 17th century cathedral. I’ve visited a plethora of churches and cathedrals on my travels, and many have been stunning both inside and out, however this was the first time I have literally been wowed as I walked inside.
No photos that I took will be able to do it justice, however the ceiling artwork by Hugo Lous Mohr are absolutely stunning and I spent most of my visit looking up. The Cathedral has been rebuilt/restored three times in it’s history and the ceiling artwork was installed during the second of these between 1935 and 1949. Surrounding the lower end of the cathedral is the Basarene ved Oslo domkirke or Cathedral Bazaar, a curved structure built in a similar style to the cathedral which contains independent shops and restaurants.
After exploring the cathedral, I decided to make use of my day ticket for public transport and jumped on one of Oslo’s trams for a couple of stops towards the Royal Palace. The six lines of tram network are currently undergoing a 10billion NOK transformation which includes infrastructure improvements and an entire new fleet of trams to replace the current examples from the 1980s and 90s. The upgrade is taking place whilst the trams remain operational and is due to be completed by 2024, with the first new trams entering service in 2020.
After hopping off the tram, I had a short walk to the Slottsparken, or Palace Park, a 54-acre public park which surrounds the Royal Palace. The palace was constructed during the first half of the 19th century and is the official residence of the Norwegian monarch. During the summer months, the palace is open to the public for guided tours, so unfortunately due to my November visit, I had to settle for looking at the exterior and the view down Karl Johans Gate.
Despite my first view of Norway as we descended through the clouds was of the ground covered in snow, the weather in Oslo itself was bleak with constant rain since I had stepped off the train. Feeling cold, soggy and in need of a coffee, I decided to get a bus from the National Theatre to Aker Brygge, a popular shopping, dining and entertainment neighbourhood located on an old shipyard next to the Oslo Fjord.
From my spot by the side of the Fjord, I was able to get a great view of Oslo’s imposing Akershus Festning fortress on the other side of the water. Having warmed up and had my caffeine fix, I headed for the nearby tram stop to head back to the city centre and the burger restaurant I had found in the guide book. Illegal Burger offers a range of burgers with most options having the choice of a Beef, Fish or Vegan burger.
Considering how expensive Scandinavia can be (it later cost me over £3 for a bottle of Pepsi at the airport), Illegal Burger was reasonably priced with it costing me about £20 for a burger, fried potatoes and a drink. I went for the BlueCheeseBacon burger which was absolutely delicious and I’d certainly recommend heading to Illegal Burger if you’re in Oslo.
After grabbing some lunch, I decided it was time to check out the fortress and see what it had to offer. First impressions were great as it certainly looked the part and wasn’t a ‘Castle’ that is more of a stately home. The Visitor Centre within the fortress complex has a shop and also an exhibition on the Great Northern War, a war in the early 18th century between Russia, the Swedish Empire and Denmark-Norway amongst others.
This is a period of history and a region I know very little about and so it was very interesting to read about what had happened and the political and military alliances in play at the time. I went around the exhibit quite quickly so I could explore the rest of the fortress, however, would certainly go back to have a longer look. Just outside the visitor centre is one of the open areas of the fortress, which looked like it hosted events during the warmer months as a stage was in place below some of the fortress walls.
Continuing upwards, I headed towards the original 11th century castle from which the fortress grew. Just before this is reached, there is a 17th century building which now contains the Norwegian Resistance Museum, which documents Norway’s domestic history during World War 2. The museum is the only part of the fortress complex for which there is an admission fee, however at 60NOK for an adult this seems reasonable, although I didn’t have time to enter and look around the museum.
With time running out before I needed to head back to the airport, I headed to the walls adjacent to the original castle which tower over the side of the Fjord and enjoyed the (somewhat rainy) view out over the Fjord towards the islands. Even with the poor weather I was amazed by the view and can imagine this is absolutely stunning on a clear day.
Despite my brief visit to the Norwegian capital, I thoroughly enjoyed the bits of Oslo I was able to get around. My highlight has got to be the fortress, mainly because it’s a very ‘castley’ castle, but also because there’s so much info provided and its free! When I come back I hope to time the trip better so that I can do a walking tour of the city as well as see the Changing of the Guard at the Palace. Considering it’s less than two hours away, Oslo is definitely a place to go for a weekend!