Our brief visit to Oslo marked our first-ever trip to Norway and allowed me to tick another country on my long bucket list. It was the start of a 10-day Scandinavian trip with our two daughters aged four years old and three months. Although only there for 36 hours, we managed to see a fair few sights and get a feel for Oslo.
It isn’t a large city and we were able to do most of our exploring on foot. Buses and trams are abundant though with plenty of room for buggies.
We flew into Oslo with Norwegian, an above average budget airline with plenty of leg room. As soon as we got off the aeroplane, Oslo welcomed us with a clean, chic, Nordic-style airport with the longest luggage conveyor belt I have ever seen, snaking around the baggage hall. There were plenty of staff on hand to help when we arrived around 6pm and the train was easy to catch although we did have to navigate a few steps inside the carriage. Fortunately we had some help from fellow passengers as we hadn’t exactly travelled light!
We got to the hotel around 8pm and despite our tiredness decided to head out for some sushi. The baby slept while Mrs T managed to keep her eyes open as we tasted some of the most delicious sushi we have had. With Norway’s reputation for fresh fish it was a good choice and Alex Sushi is apparently one of the best sushi restaurants in Norway. Price wise, it was expensive but around what we would have paid in a top sushi restaurant in London for food while the wine was around £15 for a glass (ouch)!
We woke up the next morning to sunny, blue skies and headed to the Royal Palace. Built in the 19th Century for the French-born King Charles III of Norway, it is the official residence of the reigning Norwegian monarch. Not that you would know it. You can get extremely close to the palace and wander around it without any fuss. During the summer months it is possible to see inside as part of a guided tour, English ones are available.
Guards wearing funny hats stand to attention outside the palace. Their faces partly obscured by what looks like long black horse hair sprouting out of their helmets. As the Royal Palace was close to our hotel (we stayed at the Radisson Blu), it was our first stop so we missed the changing of the guard which happens daily at 1.30pm.
The regal building is surrounded by parkland which was filled with joggers and families on the sunny, Saturday morning. Close to the palace there are some beautiful gardens which are also open to the public and are worth a look. Mrs T thoroughly enjoyed exploring its flowers, sculptures, lake and ducks.
She was also keen to check out a statue. Upon closure inspection I saw it was of Camilla Collette by the Norwegian sculptor Gustav Vigeland. Collette is described as Norwegian’s first feminist and was involved in the suffragette movement. Four years old and my daughter is already a supporter of the women’s equality movement. That’s my girl.
Once finished at the palace, we headed down Karl Johans Gate, the main pedestrianised road which runs from the Royal Palace through to the heart of Oslo.
Not far from the palace is the National Gallery containing Edvard Munch’s Scream painting. As it was such a sunny day, we skipped the museums and simply admired the buildings from the outside, walking the cobbled streets filled with cafes and passing some of Oslo’s other landmarks such as its university and the Norwegian parliament building.
Karl Johans Gate eventually turns into the main shopping street and suddenly it was filled with Saturday shoppers. We stopped off at Oslo cathedral which is worth a glance. By this time our tummies had begun to rumble and we decided to try to find the Mathallen indoor food market following a recommendation. It took around 10 minutes to walk there from the cathedral taking us along Oslo’s canals as we glimpsed a different side to the city.
Mathallen Food market forms part of a trendy area which reminded me a little of London’s Shoreditch. We passed what looked like pop-up shops and restaurants and there was a music festival going on at a nearby park. The market is a good place to try different foods and buy fresh produce with alfresco dining available too.
After filling up on tapas, I took the opportunity to use my selfie stick – rather badly – but it’s not often we get photos of all four of us.
We then headed to the harbour area, hopping on a bus to get there. The harbour was filled with families enjoying the sunshine and activities there. In the shadow of Oslo’s City Hall, a tractor event was going on which was a hit with the children.
We also passed the Nobel Peace centre which showcases the annual prizes awarded every year and is open to visitors.
I then had a wander up to the Akershus Fortress stopping short of going right around it due to the pushchair (I’m sure it possible but I didn’t fancy navigating it). The medieval castle was built in the 1290s to protect Oslo and has also been used as a prison.
There are great views from the top looking out onto the fjords. From where I climbed up, I still managed to get a good view of the sea and harbour area.
At around this time, our four year old started to flag after waking up around 6am (Norway time, so 5am UK). My husband took her back to the hotel for a sleep while I walked past the fortress with a sleepy baby in her pram to the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet building which was around a 10 minute walk. On the water opposite the opera building is the unusual She Lies sculpture designed by Monica Bonvicini which rotates on its axis depending on the tide and wind.
The unique design of the Opera House was the result of a public competition and opened in April 2008. You can walk up its sloping roof which is great in theory but with a pushchair and sandals I got about an eighth of the way up before deciding it wasn’t a good idea. I recommend taking it in turns with a partner to go up as it is not buggy friendly.
It was then time to go back to the harbour to meet the others. A bubble man had become a focal point with my daughter chasing after the giant bubbles while my husband indulged the woman selling candy floss by getting a banana flavoured stick for £4! Along the harbour edge, a car convention was taking place showing off some rather impressive cars.
The quay area of Aker Brygge is one part of Oslo’s waterfront which has gone through a large, regeneration project. Judging by the amount of cranes I saw around Oslo (and which kept getting in my photographs!), there is clearly a lot more work going on.
We ate at a good, fairly up-market fish place, Lofoten Fiskerestaurant, along the waterfront then headed back to the hotel through the redevelopment, a pedestrianised area boasting office space, art sculptures and alfresco dining. Further along there are architectural features such as the Bar Code buildings.
We could have done with another day in Oslo to have a nose at some of its museums, visit the Vigeland sculpture park and the forest and even gone on a Fjord cruise but I felt like we got a good overview. The city is pretty expensive so you probably don’t want much longer than a weekend there! Read my post on how to save money in Oslo here.
I felt very relaxed in Oslo. Unlike many city trips, it really felt like a break (despite doing lots of walking). As a small city of around only 700,000 people, it has a calm vibe and it’s a clean and safe city. Some of the tourist sights are busy but nothing like our home city of London. Most of the people we met were friendly and willing to help and as a family we felt welcomed even late at night in restaurants. There were many buggy-friendly ramps and paths and lots of families out and about in the city which is always a good sign. We went in late August and got some really good weather – it was around 22 degrees.
I would like to revisit Oslo as part of a larger trip exploring Norway, its fjords and natural beauty. One Norwegian we spoke to told us we have to go north, try out the skiing there and, of course, the Northern Lights are firmly on our list. Norway, we shall return.
Like this article? You can download it to your phone so it can be read when you are offline via GPSMyCity.
Pin for later
You may also enjoy reading
10 Ways To Save Money in Oslo
12 Things To Do In Copenhagen With Kids
I’m joining the linky #fearlessfamtrav with Wandermust Family