48 Hours In Oslo

From Viking remains to modern sculpture, ancient churches to chic shops, this vibrant city is a visual feast. And in summer it becomes a laid-back venue for open-air events and café culture
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The Independent Travel



The Norwegian capital is the perfect destination in summer, when the weather is warm and the days are never-ending. There are also plenty of open-air events. For example, this weekend sees start of the Norwegian Wood Festival, an annual rock music extravaganza held in Vigeland Park.


British Airways (0870 850 9850; www.ba.com) and SAS (0870 607 2772; www.scandinavian.net) both fly from Heathrow into Gardermoen airport, 30 miles north of Oslo; BA also flies from Manchester. Taxis charge a fixed price of Nkr420 (£34) for the ride into the city. A cheaper option is the high-speed train which takes 23 minutes to reach Oslo S, the central station. Tickets cost Nkr150 (£12) each way; trains depart every 10 minutes. There is also a bus connecting the airport and Oslo S in about 35 minutes; this costs Nkr110 (£9) one way, Nkr160 (£13) return. Anyone travelling to Oslo from Stansted or Prestwick with Ryanair (0871 246 0000; www.ryanair.com) should note that the airline flies into Torp airport, some 70 miles from the city. Buses meet each flight, and the fare to Oslo's central bus terminal is Nkr230 (£19) return.


The centre of Oslo curves around the bay at the top end of the Oslo Fjord. The narrow grid of streets behind City Hall, which faces the harbour, formerly made up the old city of Christiania. Nearby is the tourist office at 5 Fridtjof Nansens Plass, (00 47 24 14 77 00; www.visitoslo.com), open 8am-11pm daily and a convenient place to buy an Oslo Pass. This card is valid for 24, 48 or 72 hours, and as well as allowing free travel on the underground, buses, trams and scheduled boat services, it gives free entry to most of the city's museums and attractions, and discounts on sightseeing boats. The pass costs Nkr195 (£16) for 24 hours, Nkr285 (£23) for 48 hours, and Nkr375 (£31) for 72 hours.


The Continental, at 24-26 Stortingsgate (00 47 22 82 40 00; www.hotel-continental.no), is an elegant, friendly establishment a block from the harbour. Weekend rates for double rooms start at Nkr1320 (£108), singles at Nkr995 (£81). Breakfast is always included in the price of hotel rooms in Oslo. The Hotel Karl Johan is located in the middle of the main shopping street at 33 Karl Johans Gate (00 47 23 16 17 00; www.norlandia.no/karljohan). Double rooms here start at Nkr890 (£71), singles at Nkr745 (£61). The Frogner Hotel at 33 Frederik Stangsgate (00 47 23 27 51 50; www.rainbow-hotels.no) offers excellent value within walking distance of the city centre. Doubles start at Nkr735 (£59), singles at Nkr585 (£47). Rates go down in summer, and may also be cheaper than those quoted if you book an Oslo Package through the Tourist Office on 00 47 23 10 62 62 or www.visitoslo.com. The package includes an Oslo Pass.


Hire a Citybike to tour the city. These cost Nkr50 (£4) for 24 hours - plus a returnable deposit of Nkr500 (£41) - and are available from stands around the city, at any time between 6am and midnight. Bookings can be made by phone (00 47 22 02 34 88); online ( www.adshel.no); or at the Tourist Office.


Start your walk at City Hall (00 47 23 46 16 00; www.rft.oslo.kommune.no), a red-brick building on the waterfront. On 10 December every year, the anniversary of the death of Alfred Nobel, the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony is held in its grand function room. City Hall opens 8.30am-5pm daily from May to August, and until 4pm from September to April; entrance costs Nkr40 (£3). From here, walk along the waterfront and up the steps into the Akershus Fortress (00 47 23 09 39 17), which sprawls along the cliffs overlooking the harbour. The grounds are open 6am-9pm daily and entrance is free. From here, head to the Lutheran Cathedral (00 47 23 31 46 00; www.oslodomkirke.no), which is open 10am-4pm Monday to Friday, and 10pm-midnight Friday and Saturday. Continue along the main street, Karl Johans Gate, making a detour to the National Gallery at 13 Universitetsgaten (00 47 22 20 04 04, www.nasjonalgalleriet.no) to see an impressive collection of paintings, including the original of Edvard Munch's The Scream. The gallery opens 10am-6pm Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 10am-8pm Thursday, 10am-4pm Saturday, and 11am-4pm Sunday. Entrance is free. Continue your walk through the gardens of the Royal Palace, finishing at the harbour.


There are plenty of restaurants and cafés at Aker Brygge, a complex of shops and eateries that overlook the harbour. Try Druen at 1 Stranden for sandwiches and soups, or Albertine, the café next door, for burgers and salads.


Oslo's most important museums are located across the harbour on the Bygdoy peninsula. During the summer, boats (00 47 23 35 68 90; www.boatsightseeing.com) leave pier 3 several times an hour and cost Nkr20 (£1.60) for a single journey. At other times of year, take bus 30 from the city centre. Norway's most visited attraction is the Viking Ship Museum at 35 Huk Aveny (00 47 22 13 52 80; www.ukm.uio.no/vikingskipshuset), a purpose-built structure that houses three Viking ships, lifted out of the Oslo Fjord at the end of the 19th century and pieced together again. The museum is open 9am-6pm daily from May to September, and 11am-4pm at other times of year; entrance costs Nkr40 (£3). Nearby is the Kon-Tiki Museum at 36 Bygdoynesveien (00 47 23 08 67 67; www.kon-tiki.no), which commemorates the life and achievements of Thor Heyerdahl. It contains the raft on which he undertook the Kon-Tiki expedition in 1947, proving that the ancient Peruvians could have sailed west and colonised the south Pacific. One look at the craft - trunks of balsa and strips of bamboo lashed together with rope - is enough to make anyone wonder how it was strong enough to make the 4,300-mile journey from Peru to Polynesia. The museum is open 9.30am-5.45pm daily; entrance costs Nkr40 (£3).


The two main department stores are GlasMagasinet (on Stortorget, which is especially good for Norwegian crystal, and Steen and Strom (on Nedre Slottsgate. Karl Johans Gate contains the upmarket shopping arcade, Paleet. Since Norway is not a member of the EU, tax can be reclaimed on purchases within a single store worth more than Nkr310 (£25).


At the outdoor Tostrup bar on Stortingsplass, the locals like to sit in the sun and enjoy a glass of Ringnes beer - and a cigarette (smoking in bars and restaurants was banned at the beginning of June).


One of the most popular restaurants in town is Magma at 53 Bygdoy Alle (00 47 23 08 58 10, www.magmabarogrestaurant.no), on the first floor of the Rica Hotel, which serves an appetising selection of European dishes. Det 11 Bud (at 34 Kirkegate (00 47 22 33 335 70) is one of the newest additions to the restaurant scene. Food is served in small portions, all priced the same; the bill depends on how many dishes you eat.


Gamle Aker Kirke at 26 Akersbakken (00 47 21 93 81 85; www.gamle-aker.no) is the oldest stone church in Scandinavia and the oldest building in the Norwegian capital. It was built during the 12th century, and is an austere, imposing structure with little adornment other than a vivid stained-glass window behind the altar table. Services are held at 10am every Sunday. It is officially open - staff availability permitting - from 12noon to 2pm, Monday to Friday.


Clodion at 63 Bygdoy Alle (00 47 22 44 97 26) is a bohemian, friendly place that serves eggs and bacon, or omelettes, from 10.30am every morning.


Vigeland Park (at 32 Nobels Gate (00 47 23 49 37 00), is a short ride on tram number 12 from the city centre, and contains an astonishing collection of sculptures by Gustav Vigeland. His statues line the bridge over the lake and hold up the fountain, and a series of writhing figures forms the obelisk that dominates the park. Entrance is free and the park is always open throughout the year.


For a unique experience - and a stunning view - take underground line 1 from Majorstuen to the Olympic ski jump at Holmenkollen. From the station it is a 15-minute walk up to the base of the jump at 5 Kongeveien (00 47 22 92 32 00; www.holmenkollen.com). The jump is open 9am-8pm daily from June to August, 10am-5pm in May and September, and 10am-4pm at other times of the year. Entrance costs Nkr60 (£5).