What to do in Norway
April 15, 2017 4:44 AM   Subscribe

I am going on my first real vacation in years and am flying into Oslo for a week in June. What should I do there? I'm open to things in Oslo, in Norway, and in surrounding countries​.

I'm not athletic by any means, but I love adventure and new things. I've been overseas only a few times. The catacombs in Paris were the highlight of my trip there five years ago. I like museums, but also really like exploring and doing things that are less structured. I don't really care for official tours. I like trains and I like to eat. I am not (that) afraid of heights. I only speak English, so anything that requires a command of another language is out. I'll be with my sweetie so romantic or "it takes two" suggestions are welcome. We are both Americans in our 30s. They are a much more experienced​ traveler than I am, although they've never been to Scandinavia.

I'm looking for activities and things to do. I am also looking for recommendations on where to stay, neighborhood-wise.

What can't I miss?
posted by sockermom to Travel & Transportation around Oslo, Norway (17 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
The highlights of my trip were Vigeland Sculpture Park. the Viking Ship Museum, and the day we took the metro to Sognsvann and then ran from there along the trails, through the forest and ate a picnic beside a mountain lake.

Regarding eating - eating out, and in particular alcohol, are really, really expensive. We stayed in a self-catering AirBnB and prepared most of our own meals, and that saved a lot of money.
posted by siskin at 5:06 AM on April 15, 2017

I've visited Oslo a few years ago. It's a wonderful place, but I can confirm upfront - as siskin pointed out - that eating out is very, very expensive. It really is something you have to take into account when planning your trip and looking for accommodation. I was on a conference and my expenses were reimbursed, so I stayed in a hotel and ate out most of the time, but otherwise I probably wouldn't have.

Highlight of my stay was the Emanuel Vigeland Museum - an absolutely indescribable experience which only takes about half an hour. I also visited the Ibsen museum, which is worthwhile if you're interested in his work; it's possible to take a guided tour and visit his former home, next door to the museum. I took an evening walk to the peninsula Bygdøy, which at times gives you the feeling of being in the middle of the countryside, less than ten minutes away from Oslo city center. And, to conclude, I can absolutely second siskin's suggestion to make use of the (excellent) metro system and travel to the outskirts of the city, where there are beautiful forests and lakes to be found. I made the same trip as siskin and it is an absolute must! Great views of the city and the bay, too.
posted by Desertshore at 5:36 AM on April 15, 2017

(It wasn't the exact same trip, I realize now. I took the train to Frognerseteren rather than Sognsvann, but it seems like the experience is comparable.)
posted by Desertshore at 5:48 AM on April 15, 2017

If you would like to get out and have excellent beer, I recommend the Crow brewery & bar on Torsgata. The bar snacks are tasty, and they even will roast you a whole suckling pig, given enough lead time (and sufficient money).

If you're a WWII history buff (and, honestly, even if you find it only somewhat interesting), the Norwegian Resistance Museum is worth a peek.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 6:19 AM on April 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

If you are at all, even passively, interested in coffee I would suggest hitting up Tim Wendelboe's shop. The coffees produced here are quite fantastic. Even as a coffee nerd, I would not be going out of my way to go there just for that, but it's considered one of the better coffee shops in the world (they run the coffee service for NOMA for example) if I were in the general area, I would give it a go.
posted by furnace.heart at 7:01 AM on April 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

Bergen's a very nice town, pleasant for a tourist visit. If you want to get out of Oslo it's a good choice for a couple of nights.

It seems ridiculously touristy but the Norway in a Nutshell tour is really a nice way to spend a day. It's a mix of scenic tours by train, boat, and bus. They have options coming from Oslo but the tour is really based out of Bergen, I'm guessing starting in Oslo involves some boring transit time.
posted by Nelson at 7:24 AM on April 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

Made my first trip to Norway/Oslo last fall - AMAZING country. English is all you need there - EVERYONE learns it in school and speaks it passably well to better than you :) Second siskin and Desertshore's suggestions; over by the Viking museum there is a cultural museum/reenactment center which is supposed to be great which I *didn't* do, but wish I had. Also fun: the Munchmuseet - Edvard Munch Museum; Akershus Fortress, a 13th Century fortress/sculpture garden (they're everywhere in Oslo!) as well as literally Norway's Pentagon! Grunnerloka (where Crow is) is loaded with tons of restaurants.

My colleague did the Norway in a Nutshell tour, and really liked it.
posted by scolbath at 7:44 AM on April 15, 2017

People have covered a lot of the basics here. But here's a bit of a brain dump, gleaned from my trip to Norway (Trondheim, Oslo, Bergen) last summer:

- everyone in Oslo speaks English. Seriously. And as foreign languages go, Norwegian is pretty easy to read, so you'll be able to figure out what signs say.
- the Munchmuseet does not have the Scream. That lives at the National Gallery. But the Munchmuseet is a fine small museum. (We did not make it to the National Gallery.)
- Norway in a Nutshell is "just" a series of tickets on various modes of public transportation (trains, boats, I think there might be a bus in some ways of doing it?). If you're willing to buy these tickets separately you might be able to save money. If you start in Bergen (as we did) it's a long day; if you start in Oslo you leave early in the morning and take the night train back, getting back to Oslo the next morning. The Oslo to Bergen train journey is an attraction in itself.
- it will not get dark while you're there. Yes, the sun sets, but it doesn't get dark. This is disorienting, especially that first night when your body already doesn't know what time it is because you're jet-lagged.
- buy an Oslo Pass, which gives you free public transportation and free or discounted admission to various attractions. This is only good for at most 72 hours, though; if you're there for a week keep this in mind. It might make sense to buy a transit pass. It might make sense to buy two 72-hour Oslo passes. But don't pay full single-fare price (33 kroner, about 4 USD) for public transport if you're going to use it a lot.
- 7-11 in Norway sells amazingly good sandwiches. We ate a lot of those - as mentioned, food in Norway is expensive. Norwegians, for some reason, really like sandwiches.
- AirBnB, for some reason, is not outrageously expensive. (Our AirBnB, in Grunerlokka, happened to be above a really tasty, and cheap-for-Norway, Turkish place. Going back to the language issue, our waiter there was relieved to find out we spoke English, because he didn't really speak Norwegian.)
- If you think you'll want to have alcohol at your lodgings, then when you land, stop at the duty free in the airport and buy some alcohol. It is cheaper that way. Literally everyone on my incoming flight did this. My understanding is that even people who don't drink buy and then pass it on to their friends who do.
posted by madcaptenor at 10:16 AM on April 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

Don't leave without checking out the opera house in Oslo.
posted by meijusa at 11:03 AM on April 15, 2017

Inspired by your ask I watched this: Rick Steves in Norway's West
posted by mumimor at 11:39 AM on April 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

We used Norway in a Nutshell to take the train from Oslo to Bergen, via the spectacular Flam railway (over two days). In Bergen we did a bit of hiking. It was amazing. The train journey was spectacular - just all of it and I loved the contrast between Oslo and Bergen. We travelled onwards from Bergen but I would have happily done the train journey all the way back too.
posted by kadia_a at 12:48 PM on April 15, 2017

Stockholm is amazing. See Gamla Stan and the Vasa museum.
posted by persona au gratin at 2:06 AM on April 16, 2017

If you're going for a week, the Ruter app will do you a weekly ticket (one zone was enough for me at 240 NOK) which my colleagues tell me is also good for some boat rides. Grønland has some tasty and (relatively) cheap food from around the world if you want to wander and discover.

Alcohol is prohibitively expensive and off-sales are extremely restricted so plan wine with dinner ahead of time.
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 2:13 AM on April 16, 2017

If you decide to get the train from Oslo to Bergen keep an eye out for the site of the Battle of Hoth.
posted by biffa at 7:21 AM on April 16, 2017

If you are interested in Artic exploration, the Fram is great and near the Viking Ship museum. Also, the Kon Tiki museum about Thor Heyerdahl and his crazy voyage was unexpectedly very cool.

Bergen is definitely worth a visit, as is the railway. If you have time to take a boat up along the fjords, do it.
posted by canine epigram at 7:10 PM on April 16, 2017

Are you going in the summer? My Now husband and I were there on a hot July weekend and took a ferry to one of the beaches and ate cherries and swam in our underwear- obviously we fell in love!

Holmenkollen restaurant, view is to die for- but check opening times.

There is a hipstery bar place in the square at grunerlokka that does 30 nok beer during happy hour.

I love Oslo, have fun!
posted by catspajammies at 11:23 PM on April 16, 2017

Holmenkollen restaurant, view is to die for- but check opening times.

One of the other attractions in this neck of the woods is the ski jumping hill.

It did not occur to us that after getting off the T-bane, we might have to climb a hill to get to the ski jumping hill.
posted by madcaptenor at 10:33 AM on April 17, 2017

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