We arrived in Oslo, Norway to the same weather we experienced in Stockholm: cool and rainy. But that wasn't about to deter us! We had plans for lots to do and experience.
We listened to the Norway Next podcast to learn about all the things to see during our visit so we had a list, and were ready to begin exploring. We were staying right down the street from the Royal Palace, so we decided to stroll past this beautiful building on our way to a very important task - laundry! Cafe Laundromat is a hybrid cafe, bar, and laundromat so we got our laundry done, enjoyed a few drinks, and planned out our time in Oslo while we were there.
Oslo is a very walkable city, and we could get everywhere we wanted to go easily. If you start on one side of the harbor, where the Tjuvholmen Sculpture Park is located, and just keep walking along the water you will see so much! So that's what we did, passing the Akershus fortress, which is a medieval castle that was built to protect the city and served as a royal residence. We kept going until we came to Mathallen, an indoor food market with all sorts of international fare. While there was lots to eat, nothing appealed to us so we continued walking until we reached the Opera House - there is no way you can miss it!
Located in the Bjørvika neighborhood at the head of the Oslofjord, this modern marvel isn't just a place to experience music, it's also an interactive plaza. The angled roof slopes down to ground level, creating a place for visitors to walk up and experience a panoramic view of Oslo. We headed to the top to see an incredible vista across the city, the fjord, and the islands in the distance.
Just beyond the Opera House is the MUNCH Museet, dedicated to the art of Norwegian artist Edvard Munch (of The Scream fame). With a collection of almost 28,000 works of art and 42,000 unique objects, MUNCH Museet is a must-see in Oslo.
In addition to Munch's vast works of art, the building's 13 floors also contain special exhibits for visiting artists and an interactive room that recreates Munch's villa where he lived and worked from 1910 to 1944.
We have to say, Munch's work is pretty dark, so it was interesting to learn more about the man behind the odd and sometimes disturbing works in the museum. If you make your way through the galleries and up to the top of the museum, you are rewarded with a rooftop bar with fabulous cocktails and a spectacular view of the fjord and city below. On our visit, the sun made a rare appearance which required us to peel off our outer layers for the first time in quite a while. How novel for July! Even if Munch isn't your thing, you can still enjoy this wonderful outdoor space. And you should!
Another revered Norwegian artist also left his mark on the city. Gustav Vigeland's work is present in much of Oslo thanks to a very unique deal struck with the city: In 1921 he agreed to give the city all of his work to date, and everything created thereafter until his death.
In return, the city would give him a studio (Frogner) in the outskirts of Oslo. What we get to experience are the results of that agreement.
In Vigeland Sculpture Park especially, you can view more than 200 of Vigeland's sculptures on permanent display. They are beautiful and you should plan to spend a good amount of time wandering the beautiful park and exploring his work.
With several museums to choose from, we decided to spend time in that National Museum, which contains Norway's largest collection of art. We had no idea what we were in for!! This museum has it all: paintings, sculptures, furniture, fashion, home furnishings...it was unreal! We don't think we've ever visited a museum with such a vast, diverse collection - from retro Norwegian toasters to ancient artifacts. This was a great choice to get an understanding of the art and design of Norway.
Oslo has more than 50 museums (there is a Viking ship museum, but since we'd just visited the Vasa Museum in Stockholm, we didn't feel the need for any more Viking ships! There is the Nobel Peace Center, but since we'd just visited the Nobel Museum in Stockholm we skipped that, too). The Fram Museum tells the story of the Norwegian polar expedition, and that sounded interesting but even more fun... a sauna on the fjord!
We'd been seeing floating saunas on the fjord and encountered a few saunas on land, and we were interested in our own sweat-and-plunge experience. We picked Mad Goat Sauna, in the Tjuvholmen area. We arrived at our sauna with towels and cold drinks in hand and changed into our swimsuits. The large cedar wood structures sit on a floating dock along the edge of the fjord. Smoke wafts gently from the chimneys protruding from their roofs. Our sauna was amazing, with a big glass picture window overlooking the fjord.
We added wood to keep the heat (and the sweat) going, quickly raising the temperature. When we couldn't take it any longer, we took a few steps outside and jumped into the fjord. It was so much fun we wished we'd done it every day we were there! After our sauna and fjord swim, we treated ourselves to incredible gelato right nearby at
Paradis Gelateria, definitely a must-stop in the city. They had some of the best gelato we've encountered on our travels.
On the advice of the Norway Next podcast we walked to the Grünerløkka neighborhood, which has cute vintage shops, street art, and cafés. Since we were there on a Sunday we also got to browse the street fair with local artists and street food. It was a nice little change from the hustle and bustle of the waterfront.
Oslo may be a city, but that doesn't mean people don't love the outdoors! All along the waterfront we found people lounging in the sun, swimming in the fjord, and enjoying themselves. It actually felt like there was a beach everywhere we went along the water! This city offers so much, from world-class art, to history, to all the ways you can enjoy the outdoors without ever leaving Oslo.
As our time in Oslo came to an end, it was time to travel across the country to discover another Norwegian city, Bergen.
We decided to take the train from Oslo to Bergen, a seven-hour train ride through gorgeous scenery.
Seven hours sure sounds like a lot but it went so fast and the mountains, lakes, rivers, and countless waterfalls outside our window were so captivating, this was a great way to travel and experience Norway beyond the capitol city of Oslo.
Known as the city of seven mountains, Bergen is located on Norway's southwestern coast and is surrounded by mountains and fjords, including the country's longest and deepest fjord, Sognefjord.
Bergen feels much smaller than Oslo, almost as if it's tucked between the sea and the mountains in a world of its own. We knew we wanted to explore the surrounding peaks, but the weather wasn't exactly cooperating.
So instead of the grand hike we anticipated, we decided to take the Fløibanen funicular up to Mount Fløyen (320 m above sea level), a quick 6-minute ride that provides wonderful views of the town below and the fjord in the distance. There are lots of walking trails and even a troll forest to explore, and with the sun finally staying out for a while we decided to get going! We hadn't planned to go super far but as we wound our way up and up, walking past scenic lakes and distant views of the fjord, we started to realize the sun was going to cooperate, so we just kept going.
That's how we found ourselves on our way from Mount Fløyen to Mount Ulriken, a hike called Vidden (it's one of Bergen's most popular mountain hikes). Having not planned for a significant hike, we had no water and no snacks...pretty much just our sheer will to climb, jump from rock to rock across streams, and stomp through the soggy ground that was seeping into our hiking boots.
We could see the Ulriken gondola in the distance, where we'd end up - how far could it be? It didn't appear that far at all, but we would soon learn that the only way to get there was to follow a trail that wove back and forth, up and down, around lakes and hills. The most indirect trail you could imagine.
And it gets very rocky and with all the rain it was super wet but also incredibly beautiful. We met some lovely young women along the way, and they were kind enough to offer us a few of their granola bars, which we politely declined even though we were starving at that point!
Ten miles and five hours later, we had finally reached the restaurant at the top of Ulriken that was beckoning us to order a very late lunch, which we promptly did before catching the gondola down the mountain. From there we promptly summoned an Uber ride back to town! What an unexpectedly amazing day!
There really wasn't a ton to do in Bergen in the rain, so when we saw a sign for an organ concert at Nykirken (the New Church) and figured, why not! Nykirken isn't actually that new, it was built in 1621 but since the other churches in Bergen were several hundred years old at the time, it was labeled new and that was that. The concert was part of the Bergen International Organ Festival, and we enjoyed listening to some Bach, Mozart, and Mendelssohn.
From our time in Bergen, it was easy to understand why the city is called the heart of the fjords. While we would have loved to have experienced a boat ride while we were there, the weather didn't cooperate. But, on our last night in the city, the skies cleared, and we got to experience a stunning sunset that was a great way to end our time in the city of seven mountains and a country of breathtaking fjords and natural beauty.
Now on to our last stop in Scandinavia, Copenhagen, Denmark!
Enjoy a taste of our travels with drink recipes on Instagram - Worldwide.Cocktails.