5 Ways to Enjoy Oslo Like a True Local
08 May, 2017, by Ivy Thompson
Going to Norway’s capital Oslo as part of your Norway tour and have your CityPass organised? Take advantage of the easy and well-built public transport system to experience the sights just like a true local:
1. Hike around Lake Sognsvann
Growing up in Oslo myself, Lake Sognsvann was the destination for annual school sports-days, end-of-year BBQs and hikes. And no wonder- the magnificent beauty of Oslo is it’s close proximity to nature. The lush forest surrounding the capital is lovingly referred to as ‘Marka’ (the ‘Field’) by the locals who make the most of it rain, hail or shine.
How to get there: Lake Sognsvann is easily accessible by catching the west-bound ‘Number 5 Sognsvann’ Subway/ T-bane from the city. Ride it till the final stop, get off and follow the path down to the walking-trail that goes round the lake. The hike is a scenic and easy 3.5 km. In summer locals bring their bathers for a dip in the refreshing water, or simply wade in the shallows. Icecreams and refreshments can be bought at one of the 2 local kiosk.
Image credit: lukasz.ptak/Foap/Visitnorway.com
2. Enjoy a picnic in the Vigeland Sculpture Park
Most tourists visiting Oslo schedule a visit to the famous and spectacular Vigeland sculpture-park. This gorgeous park has to be seen to be believed: Locals love and use the park frequently, and for good reason. I highly recommend you take the trip and stroll around the park in your own time if your Oslo itinerary allows for it. While a guided tour is interesting and gives you the story behind sculptor Gustav Vigeland’s vision, this park is best enjoyed slowly. There are many areas, gardens, sculptures and fountains to explore. Have your pick from the many steps and benches, sit down and take in the view. We always stop by a nearby supermarket or bakery for provisions to enjoy in the park.
Travelling with kids? They’ll love the enormous adventure-playground located near the main-gates inside the park. How to get there: Tram #12 stops right in front of the main-gates, and so does the 21-bus. You can catch either from the city centre.
Image credit: Terje Borud - Visitnorway.com/Vigeland-museet/BONO
3. Take a stroll along Aker Brygge, Tjuvholmen and Akershus Festning (Medieval Fort)
Aker Brygge is where the action is at during the spring and summer months in Norway’s capital city. The shopping centre located along the inner part of the blue Oslo-fjord is buzzing with life from morning through to the small hours: it’s the place to see and be seen. Aker Brygge is much more than just another shopping strip; it offers bars, cafes, restaurants, speciality shops, an upmarket supermarket, and a fantastic opportunity to spend a few hours people watching by the pier. If fjord-watching is more your thing, Aker Brygge has you covered: it’s a lovely spot to sit and watch boats, ferries and cruise-ships pass by.
Floating Sauna near the Oslo Opera House, Image credit: VISITOSLO/Didrick Stenersen
Continue to walk along the pier till you hit the very end, cross the narrow walking-bridge, and you’ll find yourself in the newly constructed borough called Tjuvholmen (translates to ‘The Thief Islet’). The home of art installations, sculptures, world-class restaurants, the trendy Thief Hotel, coffee, shiny apartment-buildings, the acclaimed Astrup Fearnley-Museum and it’s very own inner-city Sea Baths (bring bathers and a towel!); the 2017-version of Tjuvholmen is a far cry from the shipping container dock we used to walk past in the early 90s.
Image credit: VISITOSLO/Tord Baklund
You can’t miss the striking medieval fort Akershus Festning directly across the fjord from Aker Brygge and Tjuvholmen. The stone-castle was built in the late 13th century, and is located in front of what was once Old Town Oslo. Walking around the castle grounds is relaxing, albeit steep at times. The magnificent view over the harbour is well worth the hills though.
How to get there: Several buses and trams will take you down to the square called Vestbaneplassen in front of Oslo Town Hall, which marks the start of Aker Brygge/ Tjuvholmen to your right, and the Akershus Fort to your left (if you face the fjord). It’s also a very short walk from the Nationaltheatret railway/ subway/ bus- and tram stops.
Image credit: CH - visitnorway.com
4. Visit the beaches on the Bygdoy Peninsula
You probably don’t associate Oslo with beaches (and neither do I) but let’s embrace the concept: us Oslo-locals flock to the Bygdoy Peninsula during the summer school-holidays or any sunny day for that matter. It’s a gorgeous area west of the city. The peninsula is also the home of famous museums such as the Viking Ship Museum, The Kon-Tiki Museum, The Fram Museum and The Norwegian Museum of Cultural History.
But museums aside; for us locals Bygdoy offers cliffs, rocks, small sandy beaches, volleyball courts, forest, walking tracks and plenty of lush grass where we can embrace nature and those unpredictable warm summer-days. The two beaches are called Huk and Paradisbukta (Paradise Bay). Do as the locals and make the most of the light summer evenings by bringing a rug and good company. It’s hard to find a lovelier spot to enjoy our capital.
How to get there: Catch the #30-bus from the city and get off at the very last stop (it's a large car-park). There are clearly marked signs to both Huk and Paradisbukta.
Evening fjord boat tours will pass this area. Image credit: VisitOSLO/Thomas Johannessen
5. Walk from The Majorstua Building to the Oslo Central Station
While Oslo is the biggest city in Norway, it’s still small in comparison to most capital-cities worldwide. But small does not a boring city make: Oslo offers amazing shopping and sights, especially if you decide to tackle the city-centre by foot. Start your inner-city walk from the main-hub of the Inner West; The Majorstua Building (this is also a major subway-stop). It marks the very beginning of Bogstadveien; the main-shopping strip of the inner-west.
Full of shops with the latest in local design, fashion and homewares it offers something for everyone. Follow the road till it changes to Hegdehaugsveien, a road known for it’s bustling cafe-, restaurant and nightlife. When you get to the very end of Hegdehaugsveien you’ll find yourself across the road/ corner of the Royal Palace and its surrounding gardens. Walk the path through the relaxing castlegrounds, watch the National Guards on duty, and look ahead past the statue of Karl Johan: Oslo’s car-free main street, the Karl Johan’s Gate, is lying ahead of you.
Karl Johan St, Image credit: VISITOSLO/Didrick Stenersen
The main-street goes continues all the way down towards the East of the city, and ends in front of the Oslo Central Station. While the street and its side-streets are always buzzing with life, it’s particularly busy in summer, when people flock outside to catch up over cold drinks under the trees in the many cafes, pubs and restaurants.
Christmas/ Winter brings a different kind of charm when the large water-feature outside the Paleet Shopping Centre turns into an ice-skating rink. It’s open from November through to March and is free to use- skates can be hired at the venue. I find it particularly magic around Christmas-time when the Karl Johan Street is dressed in seasonal lights, enhanced by the darkness of the short days and long nights.
How to get there: Depending on the location of your accommodation, you can either walk to The Majorstua Building and walk south towards Oslo Central Station. Alternatively you can flip it around and start south, and walk towards Majorstua instead. Both starting-points are centrally located and easy to get to.
Image credit: Tord Baklund / VisitOSLO
Christmas in Oslo, Image Credit: CH/visitnorway.com
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