Viking Long Ship

An Oslo Layover On The Way to Oktoberfest

On our way to Oktoberfest, we decided to spend a few days in Oslo, the capital city of Norway. This layover was prompted, in no small measure, by the very inexpensive fares Norwegian Air was offering direct flights from our local airport, Oakland International (OAK) to Oslo Gardermoen Airport (OSL).

Neither my DH nor I have been to Norway before, so we think a small sample will be fun. We had a blast on our Oslo layover; here’s what we did…

Oslo Layover – Day 1 Arrival!

This international flight was an overnight transit, and we arrived at the Oslo Airport just after 2:00 pm. Going through passport control was a breeze. I think we were the only non-Norwegian, non-EU passengers around, no line! Also, no customs … An extraordinary circumstance when you are in the brain fog of no sleep and time changes.

We purchased tickets on the express train to Oslo Central Station in advance. It was easy to find the train, all the signage is in English, and everyone we met spoke English. The train takes about 40 minutes from the airport to the center of town, very efficient.

Oslo Layover - Central Train Station

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A Centrally Located Hotel Is a Must For An Oslo Layover

We booked the Comfort Hotel Grand Central, which is located right in the train station (Ostbanehallen). Getting from the train to the hotel is a short walk through the station. The hotel is a cozy and affordable little space, especially by Oslo standards. And we soon understood why.

The staff at the “barception” (the reception desk is also the lobby bar) are welcoming and courteous. The free in-house breakfast is in a large dining area, and there are plenty of hot and cold dishes to accommodate any preferences.

The room is comfortable with a nice bed and sitting area but somewhat lacking in in-room amenities. For example, there is no wardrobe (closet) dresser, or in-room safe, just a simple hanging rack and shelf. The bath also lacked any amenities, except for soap. The linens were clean but thin and minimal.

A Quick Walk and Dinner

All right, we’ve arrived! What to do next…!!! Our room overlooks the front of the station and directly down Karl Johans Gate, the street in central Oslo, which is mostly pedestrian. We decided to go for a walk to shake off jet lag and orient ourselves to town.

We stop about a mile up the street at … you guessed it, the Hard Rock Cafe… for a quick beer and to get our “City Pins.” We have quite a collection of Hard Rock memorabilia from our travels. Refreshed by the beer and pins in hand, we head back out to look for some dinner.

As our hotel is at the train station, and this being Europe, there are many dining choices available. Bella Bambina is located in the station just outside the door of our hotel and was the winning choice for dinner.

Excellent start for our stay in Oslo.

Oslo Layover Day Two – A City Walking Tour

Bright and early the next morning, we meet up with our guide, Lisa Tonya, in the “Barception” of the hotel. We found Lisa, who is a free-lance guide, in a search on the internet. With Lisa leading the way, we head out to see the sights!

First, we head over to the Norwegian National Opera House, which is quite a contemporary building, having opened in April 2008. On the plaza of the Opera House is a larger-than-life bronze of Kirsten Flagstad, the legendary Norwegian Soprano who many called “the voice of the century.”

I didn’t realize yet that Oslo was famous for its sculptures. As we continued our walk, I began to realize how important this art is to Oslo.

It is early morning, and obviously, there is no performance underway. But from the steps of the building, you are afforded a great view of the harbor. Art is everywhere in Oslo, out in the middle of the harbor, is a beautiful piece, “She Lies,” created by Monica Bonvicini. While many look at this artwork and see a sailing ship, it represents an iceberg floating in the water, moving with the wind.

Oslo Layover - "She Lies" made from glass and stainless steel, depicts an iceberg floating in the Harbor.

On To Akershus!

From here we double back a bit to get around this small harbor, through some of the City, and over to Akershus Fortress (Castle).

As we start this part of the walk, it occurs to me to start up an app I have called “Map My Walk.” (the link here is to the app store, this app is also available in Google Play) This app follows you on GPS, plots it on the map, and calculates your speed, distance, and calories burned! Yay!

Oslo - Walking Tour mapped on MaypMy Walk

The map you see above is from the app. But this was only about half of our walking for the day. When we finished up in Aker Brygge and caught a bus, I turned off the app.

As we walk, Lisa points out notable buildings and good restaurants. The Engebret is a charming restaurant, serving local specialties, that dates back to the mid-1800s.

Oslo - The Engebret Cafe

And of course, sitting right outside the cafe is another bronze…

Oslo - Girl Sitting on the Steps with phone

We finally arrive at Akershus Fortress, also known as Akershus Castle. The original building on this site was a medieval castle from 1299 and served as the royal palace. As time went on the castle was turned into a fortress (around 1592) and later back into a Renaissance-style castle in the mid-1600s.

Part of the Fortress contains the Hjemmefrontmuseum, which roughly translates to the Home Front Museum. This museum includes exhibitions and documents from the “Resistance” in World War II. Unfortunately, the museum was closed, so we were unable to view the exhibits.

Around the Harbor to Aker Brygge

Aker Brygge is a hugely popular neighborhood in Oslo. There are eateries all along the pier where the Oslovians love to enjoy great food and good friends on the warm sunny summer afternoons. Here you can catch one of the many local ferries for a day tour of the Fjords, tour the Nobel Peace Center, or visit the Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art.

For us, Aker Brygge was the breaking point between the morning walk and the afternoon’s visit to the Viking Ship Museum and the Fram Museum. After nearly 2 and 1/2 hours of walking, we caught a bus and headed over to the Bygdoy Peninsula. It was great to sit down for that brief half-hour.

The Bygdoy Peninsula

Bygdoy is an excellent place to visit, there are many things to do and see here. You can visit the Norsk Folkenmuseum (aka the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History), the Holocaust Center, or the Kon-Tiki Museum.

You could choose to spend a day lounging at the beach or bicycling around the peninsula. There is a great bike route that takes you through the woods and out to the shore for great sea views.

On our schedule, were checking out history and local culture, the Viking Ship, and Fram Museums. Viking Ship speaks for itself, but unless you are quite the Maritime Scholar, you probably haven’t heard of the Fram.

The Viking Ship Museum

This museum is home to some of the best-preserved ships and artifacts found in burial mounds around the region. The Oseberg ship (pictured below) was most likely buried around AD 834, but the ship is thought to be much older. Like many Viking ships, this ship is built almost entirely of Oak.

Strolling through the museum and seeing the various artifacts, along with the ships, takes you back in time. I was awestruck by the beauty in the carvings and the time and effort that went into building these ships and their decorations.

The Fram Museum

While the Viking Ship Museum had been on my list, I had never heard of the Fram. The Fram is a more contemporary sailing vessel, built and first sailed around 1893. The Fram is a wooden “polar explorer” that sailed in both the Arctic and Antarctic regions.

Oslo - The Fram a 19th Century Wooden Sailing Ship built to sail in the polar regions.

This type of information is one of the reasons why you always want to choose a knowledgeable guide. I can’t begin to do the story of this vessel justice. I recommend you head over to Wikipedia and read about her construction and travels, it’s amazing.

The museum is fantastic, not only is the whole ship here, and you can walk on the decks, but there are many exhibits and photographs of her builders and crew.

There is a whole exhibition room set up to simulate the freezing temperatures the crew endures during the Fram’s voyages. When you are on the deck of the Fram, there are audio and visual effects to give you a feel for the harsh seas and climate.

Seeing the Viking Ship and Fram Museums was a great way to end our second day in Oslo. We’d walked for miles and were ready to head back to the hotel for some rest and dinner. After all, we had to figure out a plan for the next day and our visit to Frogner Park to see the Vigeland Installation.

Oslo Layover Day 3 – Frogner Park

After getting some much-needed nourishment and rest, we spent some time reviewing the City maps and public transit routes for our trip to Frogner Park to see the Vigeland Installation.

Frogner Park was originally a manor house and gardens built in the 18th century by a noted military officer. Over time large parts of the estate were sold to the City for expansion. By the early 20th century, the estate was entirely bought by the City and turned into a public park.

Oslo Layover: Frogner Pond Surrounded by the Beginning of Fall Colors

The previous day had been chilly, but sunny. Unfortunately, the rain decided to take over. Most of our last day in Oslo is spent dodging raindrops and trying to get good photos despite less-than-optimal light.

The Vigeland Installation

Vigeland is the reason most tourists come to Frogner Park. Locals come to enjoy the acres of trees, sporting fields, the pond, and wildlife. Tourists come to see the statues.

Frogner Park - Relief on Base of Fountain

The park contains an installation of 212 bronze and granite sculptures covering more than 80 acres, all designed by Gustav Vigeland.

All in all, we spent a good couple of hours wandering the park and enjoying the art despite the rain. Eventually, we want to get dry and warm. We head out to find the streetcar and make our way across town hoping to see the Natural History Museum.

Vigeland Gate with 3 Women

We don’t yet have a good feel for the City or its public transit, and this results in overshooting the stop we should have taken to get to the museum. Once off the streetcar, we start walking, stopping about every 10 to 15 minutes for a way-finding check on the less-than-perfect map we brought along. We eventually found the museum, but with less than 30 minutes to go till closing, we decided to forgo the visit.

This Quick Oslo Layover Was A Fantastic Introductory Tour

Visiting the capital of Norway may not be a bucket list destination. But we found there is much more to Oslo than we originally thought. With a combination of Grand Neoclassical and modern architecture, this city knows how to shine.

Our Oslo Layover was three days packed full of sites and information. We barely scratch the surface of this beautiful city. We will plan a return trip soon with a plan to spend more time. But for now, we are off to Munich and Oktoberfest!

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