1am in Oslo in October is cold and quiet and orange-yellow with street lights. There are tunnels on main roads and surprise road works and then when you get to your hotel they don’t accept cash.
When I moved back to London I promised myself this time I was going to take advantage of living so close to Europe. I was going to show up to work on Fridays with a backpack and head off straight after work across the seas. This month, as we finally feel settled in our London life, we managed to do just that.
We had picked Oslo almost at random – there were excellent flights for the weekend we wanted to go somewhere, anywhere and thus, with a wish and a prayer, Norway it was.
Unfortunately, it turns out that hell actually is Friday night at Stansted airport. It took us 8 hours, a mess of security, running for our gate, and then an hour’s standing bus ride to get from our offices in London to a hotel in Oslo. Arriving to find the hotel wouldn’t accept our payment, and our room was probably actually only ever intended for one person at a time? I am an easily frustrated person.
Saturday dawned clear and crisp and cool. I had brought my winter jacket and I was so pleased the first time I really needed it was outside of London. We’ve travelled together now, this jacket and me, I think this bodes well.
I didn’t have any expectations for Norway and, embarrassingly, only knew how to say Hallo and Takk, but it was really quite beautiful (and everyone, of course, spoke perfect English. They’re so impressive).
The harbour is beautiful and the entire city is filled with trees. It’s the beginning of autumn so leaves were just beginning to turn and the city was a patchwork of green and brown and orange and gold.
It was grimier than I was expecting, with fewer old buildings. But that’s probably because I was thinking of Sweden. Norway was the second poorest country in Europe until they struck oil in the 1970s – it’s now the second richest and this you can definitely tell, there are beautiful modern buildings all around the waterfront. An astounding opera house and a modern art museum I wish we’d had more time to visit.
What did we actually do? We were travelling on a shoestring thanks to the hotel inconvenience, and Norway is a reputedly expensive city. Our focus is on doing a few things well rather than rushing through a checklist. That is just what we did and it ended up being a practically perfect weekend.
The metro system in Oslo is relatively painless to navigate (if uh you have someone with you who is excellent at navigating public transport (I’m so lucky)) and the ride up to the hills above Oslo to Holmenkollen allows for beautiful views right the way across the city.
What is Holmenkollen, you ask? It’s a massive ski jump metres above the city. There’s a viewing platform right at the top with ridiculously beautiful panoramic views and the ski museum inside was surprisingly diverting – even for a non-skier like myself.
I picked this iced coffee because I liked the packaging but it turned out to be “Christmas” flavoured – cinnamon and nutmeg. I think. It was delicious. I love it when judging a book by its cover works out well.
We climbed around the outside of the Akershus Festning, a medieval castle built to protect Oslo, and met a skittery police horse. The police horse was definitely a highlight.
There are two stops on the Bygdøy ferry – everyone gets off at the first stop to go to the cultural and Viking ship museums but if you stay right where you are, you can get off at the second stop and go to the Fram and Kon-Tiki museums. When you’re finishing up there, that’s when all the people who got off at the first stop will show up and crowd the place. Perfect timing. I’m guessing you could then go back and visit those other museums but we didn’t (I’m not very into Viking history tbh).
We arrived back home at 10pm on Sunday night and on Monday morning we were back at work, bright eyed and bushy tailed. Somehow, despite not taking a single moment off work, I felt like I’d been away for a week.
I am a ridiculous romantic fool from time to time so I bought secret flights. But she really does like planning things as much as I do. Keeping it a secret right to the end would not have worked out well.
(I just looked up the average temperature for the weekend we’re visiting? It’s 4°C degrees.)