It might be hard to fall in love with Oslo at first sight. After all, this is not Rome, Venice or Paris, but a small Scandinavian capital and port town. But to help you on the way, we asked three people who actually did fall in love with this place for their best tips. All three are expats that have been living in Oslo for a while, and here are their recipes for a true OsLove Potion!
… comes from Spain and works as a volunteer at the national office of HI Norway. In the past three years, she has lived in four different countries. She loves travelling (in time and space) and taking pictures.
It wasn’t exactly love at first sight. It took me a while to understand the essence of Oslo (even more to love it). But once you start exploring on your own, you find these little corners that make it special and unforgettable. One of the things I like the most of Oslo is that there is a plan for everyone. You will never be bored, you will always find something to do. And I love the fact that no matter where you are, in a couple of minutes you can find yourself in the middle of nature. You don’t have this chance in every city.
You can for example go to Sognsvann, a lake located in the north of the city. In the long summer days, you will find hundreds of people chilling in the sun, swimming and barbecuing. In winter, the area is a paradise for cross-country skiing lovers. The landscape is magnificent no matter the time of the year. Take some time and go into the woods to find hidden and unexplored spots! To get there, just take the metro to Sognsvann (line 5).
If you are looking for the best spot to watch the sunset over the Oslo fjord, go to Huk beach, in the Bygdøy peninsula. Just sit, look to the horizon and be amazed by how the sky changes color. To get to Huk, take the bus number 30 to Bygdøy (Huk is the last stop).
A good example of the perfect fusion of city and nature in Oslo is the Akerselva. Did you ever see a waterfall in the middle of a city? This is possible in Oslo! One of my favourites things to do is walking by the riverside, all the way from the Maridalsvannet Lake to the city center (in Grønland). Take your time, keep your eyes open and stop for a coffee on your way. Depending on the season, you will find veery different sceneries: rushing waterfalls in the spring, people swimming in summer times, leaves turning red and yellow in autumnn and a snow and ice landscape during the cold winter days.
My favourite thing to do on a Thursday afternoon, right after work, is to go to the National Gallery. Why on Thursdays? Because the entrance is for free! I like to take my time and escape from the hordes of tourists desperate to take a selfie in front of ‘The Scream’. There is an interesting collection of Impressionist art ready to be explored.
In the middle of the city are hidden two pretty narrow streets that look from another century. Damstredet and Telthusbakken are located close to the medieval church Gamle Aker kirke. The colorful, charming and pictoresque wooden houses from the 18th and 19th century breathe joy even in the dark winter days.
… grew up in Belgium and lived a couple of years in Amsterdam before moving to Oslo. He studied Scandinavian Languages and works at the national office of HI Norway.
Oslo has a perfect combination of city life and nature. The surrounding hills, forests and islands play an important role the Oslo way of life: during weekends the city people flee from the centre to get to their personal hidden place in nature to get the «alone on the world»-feeling for just one moment.
North of the city lies the Maridalsvannet Lake for example. It’s here Oslo’s drinking water comes from, and around it you’ll find protected nature and some few farms. My favourite Sunday afternoon activity is to take my bike and cycle around it, following beautiful sykling paths through the forests and the fields. To get there from the city, take the bus or tram to Kjelsås. Another great escape to nature are the islands in the Oslo Fjord. You reach them by taking a ferry from the kays in front of the City Hall. Go to Hovedøya for wild sheep, monastery ruins, old canons and rocky beaches. Or go to Gressholmen for forests, sandy beaches and old ship wharfs.
In June, July and August, the temperatures in Oslo can reach up to 30 degrees. The ideal way to survive that heat is to go swimming! The water of the fjord is extremely clean, that’s why you don’t even have to leave the city centre to get some water fun. Head to Sørenga Sjøbad, behind the Opera, or to Tjuvholmen, at the end of Aker Brygge. If you want to keep it dry while cooling down, you can head to the Botanical Gardens, at their most beautiful during summer. Here you can enjoy the shade under the rare trees from all over the world, or go inside in the little museum to look at the giant dinosaur skeleton they have there. For a nice and historic evening walk, head to the streets of Gamle Oslo, and explore the medieval ruins that are spread between the charming 19th century houses and parks.
…comes from outer space and is still looking for a planet to settle on. Most of her life she spent here on Earth, in a small country called Slovakia. Communicates through the frequencies of sound and melodies and interacting with humans usually brightens up her days. She loves everything that involves melted cheese and has been living in Oslo 9 months as EVS at the national Office of HI Norway.
To me it sort of feels as if Oslo was 2 cities in one. Oslo in Summer and Oslo in Winter. It’s insane how one city can transform its’ vibe so drastically between the seasons, seems like it all happens so suddenly. Even though I was always a bigger fan of the warmer months in the year, Norway has somehow taught me that there is something real beautiful in all seasons of the year.
When the dark winter months arrived, the biggest gamechanger for me was the discovery of the world of Norwegian libraries – Deichmanske bibliotek. In Oslo alone, 19 of them are scattered around the city, open for everyone curious enough to take a trip into the world of knowledge. Great selection of literature in all languages you could possibly imagine, whole floor filled with just comics in Grünerlokka or a fantastic music section in Høvedbiblioteket where you can get lost in for hours (or days) and more. Much recommended.
Seeing the city from above is always a good idea. Some of the places that offer you a nice perspective and a bit of peace of mind is a place called Grefsenkollen, on top of a hill overlooking Oslo. It has an incredible view, probably the second best after Holmenkollen, minus the tourist crowd involved. Surrounded by forests and as a bonus there is an option to treat yourself to a coffee and waffle on top. In Oslo’s eastside lays Ekebergparken, another spot with a fantastic view over the city and Oslo fjord and it’s THE place to escape reality while strolling in the woods with surrealistic and bizarre art instalations, and sculptures of famous artist such as Salvador Dali, Damian Hirst and Rodin scattered around the area. There is also a screaming point – Marina Abramovic’s homage to Edvard Munch’s famous painting The Scream – designated area to scream your heart out while overlooking the landscape of the city from above.
Not too far of a walk from Ekeberg you can easily climb up the roof and watch a sunset from Oslo Opera House building overlooking the fjord, the barcode buildings and the little houses over the hills of the city. There is definitely something magical about this place.
Oh and of course. Sundays in Oslo are the best. After a long and lazy breakfast, I like to head down to the city for a coffee, walk by the Akerselva river and check out some flea markets. On Sunday there’s a bunch of them all over the place, especially during the spring and summer months, but the regular stops are definitely Birkelunden with a large selection of solid second hand vinyls and also good deals on kitchen utensils, knits, books, furniture, jewellery and all kinds of bizarre objects you can imagine; and then there’s Blå, treasure filled Sunday market with loads of hand-made products, street food and very relaxed atmosphere by the river. Everytime there’s a live music performance by Frank Znort Quartett at 16.00 and 20.30 at night with free entrance and a dose of smiles and good vibes to keep you going for the next week.
And you? Have you discovered your special spot in Oslo? Let us know 🙂
(photo top: Henning Klokkeråsen)