Travel: Inspector Norse reports from Oslo
Have you ever been lured by cheap flights to travel somewhere you wouldn’t normally go? Ryanair are currently offering good fares to Oslo from Dublin for about €20 each way. But with only eight Krone to the Euro, be prepared as you may need open wallet surgery on arrival.
We set off en famille on the short two hour flight to Rygge airport. Norway is outside the EU zone which was worth noting at Dublin Duty Free. With a transfer time of one hour to central station we were in the city very quickly.
Our first stop was at our hotel which was centrally located next to the Main Street, Karl Johans Gate and the palace. The King and Queen don’t seem too fussed about home security as there are no gates or walls around the palace so anyone can rock up and knock on the front door.
The Radisson Blu chain has five hotels in Oslo and we stayed in the Scandanavia. Our room was spacious with a private balcony and the children slept on a couch that converted into a double bed. When travelling with children a hotel swimming pool is a must and the Radisson Scandanavia has a small pool, sauna and gym. The rooftop bar on the 21st floor also boasts one of the best views of Oslo.
City breaks with kids can work very well or be a total nightmare, but Oslo is more than just a city offering culture and museums – in the winter months there is the added attraction of snow. In the summertime there is the newly acquired city beach.
Our first and most important acquisition was the Oslo Pass which entitled us to all travel on public transport and entry into most public museums, galleries and exhibitions. The passes come in 24 hour, 36 or 72 hour cards and you activate them by writing the time and date in an allocated space. It costs roughly €200 for four family passes that last 72 hours.
Good value if you consider most museums can charge up to €40 entrance for a family. Oslo has a good transport service so there’s no need to use taxis.
We travelled with a nine and 13-year-old who were keen to see snow, so we set off to the Holmenkollen ski area and enjoyed a spectacular view of Oslo en route.
The ski jump is impressive and the ski simulator got the whole family in the mood for skiing. Holmenkollen houses the Ski Museum which honours famous Winter Olympians and explorers.
That evening our hotel receptionist directed us to a gorgeous little Italian restaurant called Boletini about 100 metres from our hotel which we found to be unbeatable value as all restaurants are expensive. A cup of coffee averages about €5/6 and a bottle of beer can cost anything over €10.
The next day we set off for Vinterpark in Tryvann. After a half hour train ride out of the city a bus was waiting at the train station to bring us to the slopes which were less than five minutes away.
Don’t expect the same choice of slopes you find in the Austrian or French Alps as Vinterpark is only about 1500 feet above sea level. But there are plenty of green runs for the kids to get their ski legs and for the more proficient skiers there is a black run and variety of reds to choose from. As with everywhere we went the staff were friendly and laidback, speaking perfect English.
There are so many museums in Oslo that it is impossible to see them on a weekend break but the National Gallery was close to our hotel. The children didn’t have to walk through too many rooms before finding The Scream by Edward Munch. We were only a few minutes walk from there to the Nobel Peace museum.
An interesting photographic exhibition documented the average amount spent on food by citizens in different countries around the world and this enthralled all our family members. The museum wasn’t very big and after passing through the room of Nobel prizewinners we had plenty of time to take a walk along the picturesque harbour front to Akershus fortress – one of the city’s most visited attractions.
Next day was sunny and warm so time to explore the fjords. The best way to see the Oslo Fjord is on a river cruise. Batservice Sightseeing AS run several different cruises all year around. The fare is discounted with the Oslo pass.
The sun appeared as we set off from pier three, in front of city hall. Our tour guide talked us through the harbour area and out into the countryside with wonderful views of the wooden summer houses. They were painted beautifully in bold colours and it felt like we were gliding through a picture postcard.
We hopped off the cruise 15 minutes from the end at Bygdoy pier, where some of the most important museums are situated including the National Viking and Folk museums. Bygdoy is a suburb only 15 minutes from the city centre by bus and home to the famous Fram ship which is the only vessel to have made it to both the North and South Poles.
There is so much else to see in Oslo, like the museum of technology and the stunning new modern art museum. I sadly had to pass by Ibsen’s house, which was of special interest to me as a writer, because we simply didn’t have time.
There’s never been a better time to visit Norway and with the celebrations of 200 years of their constitution about to kick off this summer it might be time to start saving now for a special and very different city break for all the family.
Michelle Jackson is the author of Six Postcards Home published by Poolbeg Press. See www.michellejackson.ie