48 hours in Norway

You need a break - and a short-cut to the soul of a city. Each Saturday, `The Independent' provides a prescription for the perfect long weekend. This week, Hilde Syversen heads for Oslo
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The Independent Culture
Why go now?

To join the celebrations in the capital of the country that shocked the world; in Oslo they are still celebrating Tuesday's victory over World Cup favourites Brazil. And you'll arrive to see the endless summer: Oslo is too far south for the midnight sun, but it is still light almost all night.

Beam down

Fares have fallen steeply because of the increased competition.

In July, expect to pay around pounds 150-pounds 175 for the lowest return fare; the exception is on Ryanair (0541 569569), which flies from Stansted to Torp airport, an hour or two south of Oslo. The lowest fare is pounds 109 return, plus an additional pounds 10 return for the bus to the city.

Scandinavian Airlines (0845 607 2772) flies from Manchester and Heathrow, with some services from the latter airport operated on its behalf by British Midland (0345 554554). British Airways (0345 222111) flies from Gatwick and Heathrow. Braathens (0800 526938) flies from Newcastle and Stansted.

Get your bearings

The capital of Norway, Oslo is home to half a million people. It sits at the top of the Oslo Fjord, a rather flatter version of the fjords you see in cruise ads. The city is surrounded by islands and islets, beaches and large forests.

Check in

The cheap option is a room in a boarding house (pensjonat), which is rather more comfortable than it might seem. At Ellingsen's Pensjonat, located just north of the Royal Palace, at Holtegata 25, you get a double room sharing a bathroom for 390 krone (pounds 32), or pay an extra pounds 8 for an en-suite bathroom.

Hotel rooms tend to start at around twice that price.

Take a ride

An Oslo Card will give you free access to a lot of the sights and free public transport for NOK 150 for one day or 220 for two days. The energetic can rent bicycles at Vestbanen, near the Information Centre.

Lunch on the run

BSE-free burgers with all the trimmings at the mega-popular Beach Club at Aker Brygge are a must. The food is reasonably priced - around pounds 8 for a large burger. Remember to bring your trendiest sunglasses.

Other cool, reasonably priced eating places include Kjokkenhagen and Fru Hagen at Grunerlokka, to be found a short tram ride to the north of the city centre. At Gronland, east of the Central Station, the cafe Asylet is housed in a 300-year-old wooden house.

Cultural afternoon

The Scream is the main attraction, and the Munch room in the National Gallery, located in the city centre, is the most guarded room in Norway, after its famous resident was illicitly removed in 1994 - and safely recovered.

Window shopping

Try the arcades behind the Cathedral (Oslo Domkirke), for arts and crafts, or the department store GlasMagasinet for Scandinavian crystal. The small entrance of Norway Design, next to Nationaltheateret station, hides a large shop of interesting arts and crafts.

Traditional jumpers are pricey if you want hand-knitted ones. You will find them in the tourist shops, but try Husfliden behind the GlasMagasinet, or Heimen in Rosenkrantzgate.

Night moves

Cafe life doesn't stop with lunch or dinner. Amsterdam Cafe in Kristian Augusts gate bustles till late at night, and around the corner is the Savoy Hotel, home to a crammed bar. A quieter choice is Clodion Art Cafe in Bygdoy Alle, to the west of town, where you can see the locals at play. Move on to the watering-holes Palace Grill and Skaugum behind Aker Brygge, via Lille at the bottom of Bygdoy Alle. Next to Skaugum is Bollywood, one of Oslo's newest and trendiest clubs.

Sunday morning: go to church

An 800-year-old stave church has been installed as part of the Norwegian folk museum, out on the Bygdoy peninsula, a short bus or boat ride from the Town Hall. On Bygdoy you also find Viking ships, Roald Amundsen's ship Fram, the Kon-Tiki and the Maritime Museum.

If you stay on the bus till its last stop at Bygdoy, you will find a stretch of beaches. Huk, to the left, has the most tanned and muscular clientele; in the middle is the nudist beach; and to the right is a wooded path to the more relaxed Paridisbukta. Norwegians are not particular about bikini tops.

Bracing brunch

Across from the old Akershus castle, through a new tarted up roundabout in Radhusgaten, find the small door to Cafe Celsius' tourist-free courtyard. Nearer to Karl Johan, try Coco in Ovre Slottsgate for wonderful cakes.

Coffee bars have mushroomed in Oslo in the last two years, with good quality coffee - at a price - scrumptious muffins and sandwiches. And don't forget to try a bakery for the sweet buns (bolle).

A walk in the park

Frognerparken is confusingly also known as Vigeland Park, after the sculptor whose 200 granite works populate its fine open spaces. Combine it with a trip to the open-air swimming-pool next to the park.