48 Hours In: Oslo
Culture, cuisine and late-winter skiing – what more could you ask from a weekend break? Chris Leadbeater has the lowdown on the Norwegian capital
Saturday 12 February 2011
Oslo has a ski zone within the metro network. Tryvann (00 47 40 46 27 00; tryvann.no) hovers near the north-west terminus of Line 1. Skiers should catch a T-bane train towards Frognerseteren, alighting after 35 minutes at the penultimate stop, Voksenkollen, and taking the shuttle bus to the ski park. Though not vast, with 14 slopes (green, red and black), Tryvann will fill a day. The resort is open 10am-10pm on weekdays, to 5pm at weekends; a day pass costs 340 Norwegian kronor (NOK340/£34). On the way back, stop at Holmenkollen, four stations down the line, where a 210ft ski jump will be the centrepiece of the Nordic World Ski Championships later this month (22 Feb-6 Mar). You can go to the top as part of the NOK100 (£10) entry to the Ski Museum (00 47 22 92 32 00; holmenkollen.com; daily 10am-4pm).
Forty miles west of Oslo, accessible by train in 80 minutes from Sentralstasjon (NOK352/£35 return; nsb.no), Kongsberg (00 47 32 71 70 70; kongsberg-skisenter.no) has a small ski area – three runs and a snowboard park. A one-day ski pass costs NOK340 (£34). Varingskollen (00 47 67 07 56 49; varingskollen.no), near Hakadal, 35 minutes north of Oslo by train (NOK140 /£14 return), has five slopes, largely for beginners. A one-day ski pass is NOK300 (£30).
Venture 100 miles north, and a behemoth awaits. Lillehammer (00 47 61 28 98 00; lillehammer.com) has five separate resorts (Hafjell, Skeikampen, Gala, Kvitfjell, Sjusjoen), all close to its busy centre. The same pass covers 100 pistes, and costs NOK340 (£34) for one day or NOK1,575 (£158) for a week.
With so much terrain available, and the train journey from Oslo Sentralstasjon lasting two hours and 15 minutes (NOK398/£40) return), it may be worth staying at least one night. The First Hotel Breiseth (00 47 61 24 77 77; firsthotels.com), a Lillehammer institution dating back to 1898, offers double rooms starting at NOK998 (£100), which includes breakfast.
Why go now?
As an option for a late winter/early spring break, Oslo is an attractive city. The Norwegian capital is wonderfully located at the top of the Oslofjord – the 70-mile inlet that juts up into Norway from the open sea – and is a place that has long been defined by its waterfront. Yet it is also a hotspot of culture and cuisine – and excellent transport links mean that it lies within easy reach of some of the country's best winter sports areas, where you can enjoy the snow well into April.
Oslo's Gardermoen airport – 25 miles north-east of the centre – is the obvious point of arrival. You can fly in from Heathrow on British Airways (0844 493 0787; ba.com) and SAS (0871 226 7760; flysas.com); SAS also flies from Manchester. The leading low-cost airline, Norwegian (020-8099 7254; norwegian.com), flies from both Gatwick and Edinburgh.
A taxi from the airport costs a fixed 870 Norwegian kroner (NOK870/£87). A cheaper option is provided by the Airport Express train (00 47 81 50 07 77; flytoget.no), with departures every 10 minutes to Sentralstasjon (1) (taking 19 minutes), and three times an hour to Nationaltheatret station (2) (25 minutes) – the latter placing you closer to the centre. The one-way fare of NOK170 (£17) applies only if you buy the ticket from a machine. There is a NOK30 surcharge for buying at the booking office.
The SAS Flybussen (00 47 22 80 49 71; flybussen.no) departs once every 20 minutes, and takes 40 minutes to drop you at Oslo Sentrum Bussterminalen, close to Sentralstasjon (1), for a single fare of NOK140 (£14).
Ryanair (0871 246 0000; ryanair.com) flies to Oslo Rygge, 40 miles south of the city, from Gatwick, Stansted, Liverpool and Newcastle. A train ( nsb.no) serves the centre in 50 minutes for NOK144 (£15) each way. Ryanair also flies to Oslo Torp, 70 miles south of the city, from Stansted, Liverpool and Edinburgh. A similar train reaches the centre in one hour, 45 minutes – NOK199 (£20).
Sentralstasjon (1) is on Jernbanetorget square, adjacent to the main tourist office (00 47 81 53 05 55; visitoslo.com; 8am-7pm weekends, 7am-8pm from Monday to Friday). This is a good spot to buy an Oslo Pass, which covers public transport within the four central zones and entry to over 30 museums (NOK230/£23 for 24 hours; NOK340/£34 for 48; NOK430/£43 for 72). However, the city is easily explored on foot, and its transport network is simply priced. Single journeys on all buses, trams and T-bane (metro) trains are NOK26 (£2.60).
The Grand Hotel (3) is an elegant 292-room property, poised and pristine at 31 Karl Johans Gate (00 47 23 21 20 00; grand.no). Barack Obama stayed here when receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009, and Norway's finest playwright, Henrik Ibsen, put pen to paper in its cafe in the 1890s. Double rooms start at NOK2,410 (£241).
The Rica Hotel G20 (4) at 20 Grensen (00 47 22 01 64 00; rica-hotels.com) – unpretentious but comfortable – offers double rooms from NOK1615 (£162). The boutique Hotel Folketeateret (5) at 21-23 Storgaten (00 47 22 00 57 00; clarionhotel.com) has double rooms starting at NOK1,790 (£179). All hotel rates include breakfast.
Take a hike
Start by the fjord, at the Operahuset (6), on Kirsten Flagstads Plass (00 47 21 42 21 21, operaen.no). Norway's home of opera was inaugurated in 2008 and is a striking structure of granite, marble and glass, resembling two slabs of ice. Visit from 11am-11pm on Saturdays, noon-10pm on Sundays and 9am-11pm on weekdays. Tours in English run on Saturdays at 12.05pm and Sundays at 12.30pm – NOK100 (£10).
From here, cut through Christian Frederiks Plass to Jernbanetorget, and turn west along Karl Johans gate. The city's main drag is dotted with landmarks such as Stortinget (7), Norway's Parliament, and Oslo University (8). Walk to Slottsparken, where the Slottet (9) is home to the Norwegian monarchy ( kongehuset.no).
Bogstadveien and Hegdehaugsveien are the two major shopping streets that spear back to the centre from Majorstuen. The latter has the Moods Of Norway Super Duper Store (10) at number 34 (00 47 46 74 77 10; moodsofnorway.com) – the flagship branch of the Norwegian fashion brand. Elsewhere, GlasMagasinet (11) is a department store that has stood on its site, at 9 Stortovet, since 1739 (00 47 22 03 20 80; glasmagasinet.no). And Aker Brygge (12) is a modern shopping mall at 3a Stranden that ranks as one of the shining lights of the revitalised waterfront (00 47 22 83 26 80; akerbrygge.no).
Dining with the locals
Grab a beer at Oslo Mekaniske Verksted (13), a popular drinking den in a former mechanics workshop, at 34 Toyenbekken in the up-and-coming Gronland district (00 47 45 23 75 34; oslomekaniskeverksted.no). Around the corner, at 3 Rubina Ranas Gate, Vognmand Nilsen (14) (00 47 22 05 92 00; vognmandnilsen.no) does a fine deer fillet for NOK285 (£29). Delicatessen (15) at 8 Sondre Gate, in the Grunerlokka area (00 47 22 71 82 84; delicatessen.no), serves tapas with a Norwegian twist for NOK72 (£7.20).
Sunday morning: go to church
A big brick presence on Stortorvet square, Oslo's 17th-century Domkirke (16) is – at first glance – more sturdy than spectacular. But its broad doors open on to a bright interior where a frieze of biblical scenes is daubed across the entire ceiling (00 47 23 62 90 10; oslodomkirke.no). The opening hours are unusual: 10am-6pm on Sunday, 10am-4pm on other days except Friday – when it opens at 3.30pm and stays open right through to 8.30am on Saturday.
Out to brunch
Cafe Bacchus (17) at 27 Dronningens Gate (00 47 22 33 34 30; cafebacchus.no), serves excellent open sandwiches for NOK148 (£15). Litteraturhuset (18), an arts centre at 29 Wergelandsveien (00 47 21 54 85 71; litteraturhuset.no), has a welcoming cafe that does a hearty fish soup for NOK98 (£10) and spicy herring with potatoes for NOK125 (£12.50).
The main shrine to Edvard Munch is north-east of the centre, in the Gamle Oslo area: the Munch-museet (19) at 53 Toyengata (00 47 23 49 35 00; munch.museum.no). It contains 1,100 works by Norway's most iconic painter. Open 11am-9pm on Sunday, 10am-4pm Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, 10am-9pm on Thursday, 11am-5pm on Saturday, NOK75 (£7.50). Alternatively, his greatest hits (versions of Madonna and The Scream) are at the Nasjonalgalleriet (20) (National Gallery) at 13 Universitetsgata (00 47 21 98 20 00; nasjonalmuseet.no; free; weekends 11am-5pm; Tuesday to Friday 10am-6pm, Thursday to 7pm), alongside pieces by Picasso and Van Gogh.
Ibsen, too, has his moment, at the Ibsen-museet (21), within his old home at 26 Henrik Ibsens Gate (00 47 22 12 35 50; ibsenmuseet.no). It opens 11am-4pm daily (Thursday to 6pm) except Monday; NOK85 (£8.50).
The Nobel Peace Centre (22) occupies an old railway station on the fjord at Radhusplassen. It hosts an exhibition on the current laureate, and offers insights into previous winners (00 47 48 30 10 00; nobelpeacecenter.org). Open 10am-6pm daily except Monday, NOK80 (£8).
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