Hi Oslo! Remember me? I rode your boats. I ate your salmon. I almost got flattened by your busses? We drank beer and laughed at trolls together. We mispronounced A LOT of words. I know it was brief but was it as good for you as it was for me? Let’s aim for a little longer next time though, mmmkay?
“Hammer of the gods will fly our planes to new lands!” ⇠ I’m pretty sure that’s what Led Zeppelin meant to say. They were referring to my recent first-time visit to Norway–and yes, they were light years ahead of their time.
Last week I went to the land of the ice and snow with the midnight sun where the hot springs flow. And if you think this is annoying now, you should have been with the seven of us in Europe where this is the only song we sang for 10 straight days–regardless of the fact that we were only in Norway for 24 hours.
24 HOURS IN OSLO
When planning this trip, my intended destination was Prague–another first-time stop where I could gorge myself on dirt cheap beer before heading to Munich for Oktoberfest… to gorge myself on more appropriately priced beer.
Norwegian Air offered an insanely cheap ticket from Boston to Prague (I’m talkin’ 200 USD, y’all) with the condition of a 24-hour layover in Oslo. While many would’ve used this as an excuse to whine and bitch and alienate what few Facebook friends they have left with their misguided complaints, I rejoiced at the chance to visit a new country and finally take my salmon obsession to the mothership.
Now, I’d like to veer off-course for just a second. It’ll be worth it, I promise.
I had never flown Norwegian Air before but understood it to be a “budget airline.” As in, Yes the flight itself is cheap but everything else is à la carte–meals, LUGGAGE, picking your seats, etc. Because of this I was prepared to hoard snacks the way one does before going to the movies and pay out muh butt for the chance to haul my duct-taped suitcase overseas. When your luggage fees cost more than your luggage… uh-rrrrreally.
It wasn’t until I was at the airport that I learned that since I booked my Norwegian flight through CheapOair.com I got all the perks INCLUDED FO’ FREEE. We got two meals and FOUR allotted bags PER PERSON. I even got to choose my seats the week before but thought that was just a lucky oversight. My friends who booked directly through Norwegian Air got knebøy. That’s Norwegian for squat but translated literally so who really knows what I just said…
Massive shout out to CheapOair for that one–you my plane, mane!
So if you haven’t guessed from, like, all my posts, I’m a bonafide travel slave-driver. (Can I even use that term anymore?) I set lofty goals for the short spurts of time I get to spend in places and I accept no weenies for travel buddies. There’s too much to see and life is too short for “rest” and “bathroom breaks,” pshh. The nice people at VisitOSLO understand this and are happy to help. Here’s how I planned 24 hours in Oslo where I don’t think I peed at all:
- I made a list of everything there is “to do” in Oslo based on the recommendations of other travel bloggers, TripAdvisor, and muh man Rick Steves. I just hit my chest twice and pointed to the sky if you needed a visual image of what’s happening over here.
- I then organized that list, prioritizing the stuff I actually wanted to see–sorry weird Olympic ski lift thing; you didn’t make the podium.
- I looked up and recorded the closing times of each site, all of which were way earlier than I expected… it’s fine… totally fine… we got this.
- I plugged my top sights into a Google Maps map to get relative proximity so I don’t zig-zag all over the damn place (then color-coded it in rainbow colors because I’m still a 12-year-old girl with unicorn wishes and Lisa Frank dreams). If you’d like to know how I did this map thing, leave a comment below; I can probably figure this out again… ?
- I then created a detailed minute-by-minute timeline of the day to scare my friends with.
- I got called “insane” a lot in group text messages.
- Oslo Pass
- Oslo Pass
- OSLO PASS
THE OSLO PASS
Ashley is alllll about simplicity. In cuisine: peanut butter, jelly, dinner! In fashion: jeans, t-shirt, Converse, BOOM. At the bar:
“I’ll have a Grey Goose and tonic with a splash of lime, three ice cubes and a lemon garnish.” BEER. Everything in life should be this simple.
In travel, as in life, simplicity is my ultimate goal. The simpler you keep it, the more you can fit in. Life is too short to order Grey Goose and tonics with splashes of stuff and garnishes of things. And Oslo just gets it.
When planning this 24-hour layover, I was more thrilled to find out about the Oslo Pass than I was to find this website of stuff that fits perfectly inside other things. I may have issues…
The Oslo Pass is a cheap ticket–available in 24, 48, and 72 hours–you buy once that gets you:
- Free access to all of Oslo’s top museums and attractions
- Free travel on all public transportation (including the ferry)
- Free parking
- Free walking tours
- Discounts on sightseeing, activities, restaurants, shops, bike rentals, etc.
The 24-hour Oslo Pass costs about 37 USD–wayyyy less than you’d pay for admission at each site PLUS it saves you So. Much. Time. Not having to wait in lines, buy tickets everywhere, look for ticket booths, speak Norwegian–priceless. For everyone involved, trust me. I sound like the Swedish Chef.
You can purchase Oslo Passes all around town but I recommend the Oslo Visitor Center just outside the Oslo S main train station (since you’ll be stopping here on your way into the city from the airport anyway).
Valhalla I am coming!
HOW I SPENT MY 24 HOURS IN OSLO
Let’s get the logistics outta the way…
WHERE TO STAY IN OSLO — CITYBOX
CITYBOX OSLO — For people who love the self-checkout aisle.
We chose Citybox Oslo for two main reasons: 1) its PERFECT location 2) we didn’t have much of a choice.
First of all, if you don’t already know, Oslo is EXPENSIVE. Like, Iceland, New York City, Switzerland expensive. And since we all live in the “Sort By Price: lowest to highest” lane, this makes choosing a hotel that much easier. Just go ahead and throw 2/3 of your options out the window–who’re you kidding?
1) A location more perfect than a deserted island during an election year.
Like the marathoner sporting diapers under his running shorts or the swimmer that shaves his whole body, with only 24 hours in Oslo we needed to make every second count. Luckily for us no one had to shit their pants to come out ahead; I can’t speak for my friends’ body hair though and methinks I’m happier not knowing.
Citybox Oslo is in the PERFECT location–just a 3-minute walk from Oslo’s main train station and ten minutes from the center of the city. ⇠ As long as you bring someone who can read maps. Seriously, I might as well be looking at design plans for a nuclear reactor. In Norwegian. Drunk.
2) Like an aardvark on an Ark, our options were limited.
Whatever the reason, it seems Oslo books up early. One wonders–do they lack hotel space? Are travelers to Norway collectively forward thinkers? Or did it have something to do with the 50,000 or so people in town for the Justin Bieber concert? ⇠ Real life.
I booked our rooms with two months to spare and still we were limited as to what was available… and affordable enough that we’d still be able to eat that night. I think I booked the last two rooms at Citybox Oslo and from what I can still see, they’re booked up a few months in advance.
Is it too late now to say sorry… I waited so long to book? ‘Cause I’m missing more than just your lobby…
Citybox Oslo is a hotel for those who value the absence of ludicrous small-talk in place of getting-your-shit-done. It’s the self-checkout aisle for hotel patrons. In lieu of a manned reception desk, it offers four bow-tied reception… robots? You could spend your whole stay in Oslo here and never see a hotel employee. Depending on your tolerance for human interaction, this can be quite the dream. However, should you need the assistance of an actual Homo sapien, ring the bell on the wall and one appears as if from nowhere. He just… from where?… huh?… like, appears… well, you’ll see; I don’t want to spoil the surprise.
As for the rest of the hotel stay: Clean, comfortable, rooms on the small side (but no smaller than any NYC hotel), there’s a coffee shop attached, they offer (unmanned) luggage storage, free wi-fi, the shower will flood your bathroom, an Ikea-lover’s dream. Nothing beats that location though…
HOW TO GET FROM THE AIRPORT TO THE CITY — FLYTOGET
Flytoget is the express train from the airport into the city. And thank God it is because the girls next to us were about to tell us all about traveling eight hours to see the Biebs. The trip from Oslo Lufthavn (the airport) to Oslo S (the main train station) is a swift 22 minutes and costs 22 USD. Coincidence? No idea–but thanks for keeping it simple, guys!
Follow the signs–and the color orange–through the airport to the Flytoget area. There are a handful of turnstiles, a number of ticket machines, and one lady whose job it is to make sense of it all. And since nothing she said made even a lick of sense, I’ll help you out: swipe your credit card at the turnstile and walk through it. You could buy a ticket at the machine then use that to get through the turnstile buuuut SIMPLICITY, remember? Why go through two steps when you can do it all in one? This is why you’ll often see my sliding down staircase banisters.
This train was probably the nicest I’ve been on and I’ve ridden the Hogwarts Express so that’s saying something. Also, according to their website, they guarantee their service even in the event of a T-Rex invasion. Good to know.
Sidenote: the tickets pictured above were purchased for our return trip to the airport the next day and were purchased with cash as we were trying to get rid of what Krone we had left.
BUT FIRST… COFFEE.
Cappuccino to be exact. And absolutely necessary for a time-budget adventure after being awake for 30 straight hours. But…
…don’t think I won’t be outside setting my stopwatch. Totally (sorta) kidding… I’m most likely out there swearing that the map is wrong.
Now let’s goooooo!
OSLO NATIONAL GALLERY — Nasjonalgalleriet
Walk from Citybox Oslo to National Gallery: 12 minutes
Time spent at the National Gallery: 1 hour
Saturday closing time: 5:00 pm
Admission: Free with the Oslo Pass
Photos taken for people screaming in front of The Scream: 2
I consider myself to be a leader, for the most part. A statement that comes from the fact that I stubbornly and habitually do whatever the hell I want and rarely compromise. However, there are certain times when being a follower is the only way to succeed. For me this includes: having my husband taste stuff before me, walking through haunted houses, letting my art-teacher friend Amanda choose the museums and, of course, maps–the root of all evil.
The National Gallery has Norway’s largest public collection of art and was established in 1837. Amanda chose it over the others because of the exhibition of certain works by Edvard Munch and I went along with it because I knew what The Scream was and because I like a good one-stop-shop.
The National Gallery has WAY more than an hour’s worth of art and a year’s worth of ways to get lost. It’s got works by almost all the famous people you learned about in middle school art class and currently an exhibit called “Japanomania” featuring one of my favorites, The Great Wave Off Kanagawa by Katsushika Hokusai. Do your research, figure out the top pieces you want to see, grab a map when you enter, then get someone to hold your hand and lead you around because maps.
NEED TO KNOW:
- As always, travel to Europe with an art teacher.
- Store your coats and bags in a locker at the entrance–because carrying around armfuls of stuff is for amateurs and also the large men at the front will make you.
- Photography is allowed (without flash) everywhere except the special exhibits. And while we’re on the subject, a little Photography 101 tip: The flash is unnecessary 99% of the time. Learn how to use your camera and you won’t need the flash. EVER.
FERRY RIDE TO BYGDØY — Bygdøyfergene
Walk from National Gallery to Rådhusbrygge 3 (the pier): 11 minutes
Ferry ride to Bygdøy (the peninsula with the museums): about 10 minutes
Cost: Free with the Oslo Pass
Get off on:
What a gorgeous friggin’ day it was Dronningen, the 1st stop
The ferry to Bygdøy was supposed to be just a means to an end but for someone who grew up smack in the middle of this ginormous country of ours, taking a boat anywhere becomes an adventure on the high seas. Isn’t this great? The salty sea air, the wind blowing in your face… Okay, I jacked that line from Disney’s The Little Mermaid but the sentiment is the same. On a boat, I’m equal parts Prince Eric and Lieutenant Dan during a storm. Yeah… I’m almost always a dude in these scenarios.
I think part of doing Norway is riding on a boat at some point anyway. Google “Norway” and it’s all pictures of water, pictures of Norway as seen from the water, and one picture of Singapore’s president Tony Tan.
NEED TO KNOW:
- Secure a spot outside for the best views otherwise you’re just riding in a taxi.
- Ferries run every 20-30 minutes
- 1st stop: Norwegian Folk & Viking Ship Museums
- 2nd stop: Fram & Kon-Tiki Museums
NORWEGIAN FOLK MUSEUM — Norsk Folkemuseum
Walk from ferry stop to Norwegian Folk Museum: about 10 minutes
Time spent at Norwegian Folk Museum: 40 minutes
Saturday closing time: 4:00 pm
Admission: Free with Oslo Pass
Number of farm animals I loved on: Infinity +1
My main reason for visiting the Norwegian Folk Museum was to see the stave church and the chance to add yet another Epcot pavilion to my real-life worldly adventures. We all have our priorities, ‘k? Mine just happen to be Disney related as I’ve perfected the act of living in a dream world.
The Norwegian Folk Museum is an open-air museum that presents visitors with a view of Norwegian life from the year 1500 to today… but mostly 1500. Besides the awesome Viking church, it’s full of really old shacks with grass on top, fancy old architecture, the best freshly baked bread and butter in Europe, and to my excitement, a farm… with animals (!!!!). There’s also a cat named Frost that greets you at the entrance. So yeah, I’m moving there.
There’s one thing I prioritize on my travels. Well, make that two things: cheese and getting a feel for the local historical culture. Because of this, I love places like the Norwegian Folk Museum that give you the best idea of what life was like back in an area’s most formative times, especially in a city as modern and forward-thinking as Oslo. Plus, I just really wanna pretend like I’m in the movie Frozen, godammit.
NEED TO KNOW:
- Scan your Oslo Pass inside the ticket building, not at the turnstile up front. No matter how many times you try, it just won’t work.
- If they’re making the bread while you’re there, buy a piece of it–it’s phenomenal. I wish I could tell you how much it costs, but I got so confused with the money business I just turned around and left Amanda to figure it out herself. Then I dropped half her piece on the ground.
- The restrooms are FREEEE!
VIKING SHIP MUSEUM — Vikingskipshuset
Walk from Norwegian Folk Museum to Viking Ship Museum: 5 minutes
Time spent at Viking Ship Museum: 40 minutes
Saturday closing time: 4:00 pm
Admission: Free with Oslo Pass
Length of time spent singing Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song: THE WHOLE DAMN TIME.
What do you think of when you think of Norway? Besides salmon… okay, besides fjords… yes, VIKINGS! And guess what? These Vikings won’t ruin your chances at a fantasy football championship this year!
Oslo’s Viking Ship Museum displays the two best-preserved wooden Viking ships in the world (from the 9th century) along with a collection of other Viking artifacts including smaller boats, tools, household items, and a freaking sweet cart with carvings of hilarious old men on it.
NEED TO KNOW:
- It’s hard as crap to take pictures of these boats.
- Go up to the balconies for the best viewpoints.
- Always sweep with threshing oar.
AKERSHUS FORTRESS — Akershus festning
Walk from Rådhusbrygge 3 (the pier) to Akershus Fortress: 10 minutes
Time spent at Akershus Fortress: 20 minutes
Saturday closing time: 5:00 pm
Admission: Free with Oslo Pass
Times I referenced Game of Thrones while here: 15
I initially allotted an hour for our visit to Akershus Castle and Fortress but since we self-toured ourselves we made it through in about 20 minutes. Maybe we just walk really fast? Did we actually miss an entire section? This feels kind of like when you’re the first person in class to turn in an exam. Like, this can’t be right. I must’ve missed an entire page! Dammit, I can’t get my Scantron back now, I’ll look like an idiot!
Well, whether or not we missed an incredible amount, what we did see was fascinating. The building of the castle and fortress began in the year 1299 and just 714 years later would appear as the inspiration for the castle in Arendelle… from Frozen… don’t y’all watch Disney movies?
The fortified castle was built to defend Oslo and today houses the representation rooms of the Norwegian Government. The grounds are also popular as a recreational area and for concerts, holiday celebrations, and as a venue for other major events. So… just like in Arendelle. What? I’m just saying…
NEED TO KNOW:
- Guided tours are available so you DON’T MISS ANYTHING.
- Visit on a nice day to fully enjoy the surrounding area and views from the hill.
- Make sure to study up on your GoT one-liners before visiting; it makes it more fun. For you. Probably not for your travel companions.
- Regardless of how many exams you bomb, you’ll still graduate high school, get a college degree (or two), and then go on to quit your cush job to become a blogger. You’ve got nooooothing to worry about.
VIGELAND SCULPTURE PARK — Vigelandsparken
Tram from city center to Vigeland Sculpture Park: 5 minutes (after we figured out which bus to take and where to get on it–we asked a stranger)
Time spent at Vigeland Sculpture Park: 40 minutes
Saturday closing time: Nevah!
Number of statues that just freaked me the heck out: I lost count…
Vigeland Sculpture Park is the lifework of Gustav Vigeland, a native Norwegian who also designed the Nobel Peace Prize medal. He completed most of the park between 1939 and 1949 which offers 200 sculptures and countless dropped jaws. The sculptures showcase human existence in every imaginable form starting from your beginnings as a cranky-ass baby to that time you and all your friends got naked and made a human tower.
Some of these sculptures are truly beautiful, a lot of them are borderline pornographic, but all of them are BUCK NAKED. I remember one topless sculpture in Tennessee, ONE, that we would see from the school bus on the way to the zoo for field trips. We would giggle and blush like it was nobody’s business. These Norwegian kids probably grew up with a lot fewer questions than I did…
Vigeland Park is consistently among the top things to see in Oslo and for obvious reasons. Well, the most obvious probably being that it’s a FREE thing to do in a city of $4 bottled water. But besides that, this is one seriously interesting place. Now I wonder how I can talk you out of forgetting I ever said “get naked and make a human tower.”
NEED TO KNOW:
- This ain’t yo grandmama’s sculpture park.
- Blue tram #12 is what you want.
- This park is HUUUUUGE. You should totally bring a frisbie here.
THE REST OF THE NIGHT
Given that we were approaching 36 hours without sleep, we had little gas left in us. Some souvenir shopping here, a little of seven people arguing over where to go to dinner there… finally we ended up at La Brasserie–go ahead, try to read that website.
Dinner was phenomenal. Pricey as all get out but fantastic. I finally got my smoked salmon + caviar, not to mention the most fascinating restroom experience of all time. Like, if a restroom inhaled too much nitrous oxide… Aaaaand I’m pretty sure I used the men’s room–seriously, who could tell? I should really start carrying my camera to the bathroom with me.
In the end, I feel we absolutely got our 24 hours worth in Oslo (we left a few hours for sleeping). Did we see everything? Not even close. Had we a few more days I also would have covered Oslo City Hall, the Nobel Peace Prize Center, the opera house, Karl Johan’s Gate, the Royal Palace, an actual ferry excursion, and countless others.
Norway, how soft your fields so green. We are your over lords! ⇠ Okay, Zep, take it down a notch.
WHAT’S YOUR #1 MUST-SEE IN NORWAY?
LET ME KNOW BELOW!
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