48 Hours in Oslo Norway
Euromentravel.com is lucky to have travel writer Torgeir Holmen provide us with Oslo (Norway) as the latest episode in the 48 Hours In travel guide series.
Torgeir will share his insights on his hometown Oslo, Norway with all the single male travelers planning to set foot in one of the most expensive cities in the world. Let’s get right into it.
Named the “Tiger City” among locals, Oslo has a certain lure among travelers. As a city it is famous for Nobel peace prize awards (the only Nobel prize not awarded in Stockholm, Sweden), cross country skiing and, of course, beautiful women.
Oslo is different from the rest of Norway, simply because it’s the country’s only major city (pop. 500.000, almost 1 million if you include the suburbs). While the rest of the country is rather homogeneous in terms of people and culture, Oslo is culturally and ethnically mixed and thus has more kebab shops than those selling traditional Norwegian food. The stereotype of blonde & teutonic Norwegians is by far not just a stereotype, but don’t expect everyone to be blonde in Oslo.
The main attraction with Oslo is nature. A 20 minute metro ride will take you to great places for hiking or skiing. The negative thing about Oslo is, obviously, that it is incredibly expensive for anyone who isn’t making a living in Norwegian Kroner (NOK; 1 €uro ~ 9 Norwegian kroner).
How do you get to the capital of one of the richest countries in the world without spending a fortune? Let’s have a look at some cheap flights to Oslo as well as the great alternative of traveling to Oslo by ferry.
How to get there
Oslo has three airports and it is very important you check which one you arrive to/ depart from as you can end up far away from the city.
#1 Gardemoen (OSL): Located 50 km north of the city center Gardemoen is Oslo’s main international airport. There are several shuttle services that will all bring you to the city center in about half an hour.
The flytoget shuttle train is the fastest one of them and will take less than 20 minutes. At a hefty price of 20€ (180 NOK) it is also the most expensive one. The flybussen bus service comes in second in terms of speed and convenience, but also charges almost 20€ (175 NOK) for a simple 30 min drive to the city center of Oslo.
Compare the 20€ for the short ride to the center of Oslo to the 10€ you will pay for the 400km ride from Berlin to Wroclaw Poland via blablacar.com and you get a first idea of what living (and spending) in Oslo will be like.
Luckily, here is some good news: Norway’s national railways offer a cheap train shuttle for only 90 NOK (10€) that runs every 10 minutes. They even advertise the fact that they cost half of flytoget and flybussen on their homepage. Gardemoen’s website offers a forecast for your waiting time during security control. You can check out the airport’s webcam to see how crowded things are down on the ground. Most major airlines use Gardemoen, and if you arrive from outside Europe, you will definitely arrive here.
RyanAir has some cheap flights going to this airport, especially from London (Gatwick), Brussels and anywhere in Poland (Warsaw, Kattowice). Norwegian Airlines has Rygge as its main hub, although they are also among the cheapest airlines for a direct flight to Oslo’s main aiport of Gardemoen.
Rygge airport is 30-40 minutes from Oslo by car and 1 hour by bus. Bus departures correlate with flights. The price for the bus fare with Rygge Express is not much different to the transfer from Gardemoen to the center center via Railway, it costs 9,50€ (170 NOK).
#3 Torp (TRF): This airport is very far away from Oslo. You really shouldn’t be flying here unless you save a lot of money by doing so. The bus service from Torp airport to Oslo costs 27€ and takes more than 2 hours. So if you find a flight to Rygge which costs up to 27€ more take that one instead as you will save a lot of time.
Here are some sample prices for airfare to Oslo from major European airports:
- Warsaw – Oslo (RYG) Round-trip with RyanAir: 169€
- London-Stansted– Oslo (RYG) Round-trip with Ryanair: 318€ (!)
- Brussels – Oslo (OSL) Round-trip with SAS Scandinavian Airlines: 305€
Another way to get to Oslo is by train. Many travelers arriving from Sweden come this way. You will arrive at Oslo S (Oslo central station) which is in the middle of the city. If you are a fan of picturesque sights then ask the conductor if the train goes to the national theatre. It’s only one stop more, and you will arrive right next to the royal palace that will look like this:
There are ferries going from Denmark and Kiel, Germany. The ferry takes about 10 hours, and for many going to Oslo by ferry is an attraction in itself. Because they go into international water ferry rides are a place for boozing, tax free shopping and light gambling all of which you find aboard.
Many of the passengers are senior citizens looking to buy cheap cigarettes, but there are also younger people looking to party. However, the party crowd on the ferries are not really Scandinavia’s most educated people.
If you are interested in a ferry ride to Oslo then check out the three companies Color Line, Stena Line, and DFDS. Keep in mind that only DFDS offers a connection from Copenhagen to Oslo which will be the most relevant route for Euro-travelers. These boats are referred to as Danskebåten (the Danish Boat), and Norwegian people will love you for having arrived/ departed this way.
The prices for the ferries highly vary:
- If you book a one-way-ticket with Color Line just 2 weeks in advance you will be charged 448€ for your cabin on board. The price drops to 218€ if you book at least 2 months in advance.
- Stena Line offers a cheap alternative if you leave Denmark from Frederikshaven instead of Copenhagen. Frederikshaven is 3 hours north of Copenhagen which will lead to additional costs, but be advised that the 10 hour-trip to Oslo can be had for as little as 28€ with Stena Line even if you book a ticket for the next day
- DFDS is steering a middle course in regard to prices. If you book on short notice a ticket from Copenhagen to Oslo will cost 208€ while the price will go as low as 88€ if you book at least one month in advance.
In case you were wondering what these cruises are like have a look at the video below that shows you all of the seven decks of Color Line’s biggest and most prestigous ship, the MS Color Fantasy:
Where to stay
Like everything else, accommodation in Oslo is pricey. Because Oslo hasn’t been on the backpacker radar until recently, there are very few hostels. These hold very poor quality, and are often frequented by African migrants (especially notable of Anker hostel and Sentrum Hostel). Exceptions are Haraldsheim and Oslo Hostel Central.
The hotels hold better quality than the hostels. There are plenty, and you can often find a room that very same night. Hotel prices range from 600 NOK and up.
If you’re comfortable with staying at strangers’ places, couchsurfing, or staying with a friend of a friend, is a good option. Because Norwegian people can be quite “cold”, this can be a way to meet people.
Here are my personal recommendations for hostels & hotels with prices ranking from low to high:
- Haraldsheim hostel
Located 4 km from the city centre the Haraldsheim hostel is perfect for those who want to enjoy Oslo’s nature Bed in a 4-bed-room: 29€. Single room with ensuite bathroom: 58€. Wifi and free breakfast included.
- Oslo Hostel Central
More like a hotel with dorms than a hostel. Clean. Good location, although a couple of pick-pockets in the surrounding neighborhood. Book in advance. Dorm bed for 42€, single room with shared bathroom for 78€ (yes, almost $80 for a room in a hostel). Nearest train/metro stop: Central station/ Jernbanetorget
- Scandic Hotel Vulkan
Very nice budget hotel. Good value for money. Extremely good location close to Grunerløkka, Oslo’s hippest neighborhood. Prices: 85€ to 131€ per single room. Address: Maridalsveien 13A. By public transport: Take tram 11 to schous plass and walk from there. Phone: 21 05 71 00. E-mail: email@example.com
- Cochs pensjonat
Relaxed guesthouse located behind the Royal Palace. No single rooms. Prices: 75€ for a single room with ensuite bathroom, 102€ for a double and 129€ for a triple room. Address; Parkveien 25. Nearest train/metro stop: The national theatre.
- Smarthotel Oslo
4 star hotel. Very clean, with friendly staff and they have everything you need. It’s classy but it’s also a good place to party. The staff is never disrespectful no matter how drunk you get. Nice place to bring a date or friends. Prices start at 93€ for a single room. Address: Nearest train/metro stop: National Theatre. Phone: +47 415 36 500. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Radisson Blu Plaza
High class hotel. One of Oslo’s few Skyscrapers, with a good view over the city. Frequented by business travelers. Has several bars and restaurants. Located in a central, but dodgy location. Price: 150€ NOK and upwards. Address: Sonja Henies plass 3. Nearest stop: Central Station/Jernbanetorget. Phone: +47 22 05 80 00.
If you come to Oslo to party then I recommend you stay at no. 3 or no. 5.
The city of Oslo Norway
Before anything else, let me take you on a virtual mini tour through downtown Oslo that tells more than text and pictures ever could:
When the title of this travel guide states that Oslo is insanely expensive then let me now reinforce my statement by telling you that Oslo really is insanely expensive.
Norway’s high prices really stand out in any product that is only distantly related to alcohol or tobacco. If you can then do buy them tax free at the airport or on a ferry. However, in 2015 there has been a drop in the oil price and the Norwegian Kroner has dropped by as much as 20% in comparison to other major currencies such as the US Dollar. Respectively, 2015 is a very good time to visit Norway (especially if you’re British or American).
Norwegians barely use cash anymore. Everything is paid for by card, be that by credit card or by debit card. Every single establishment accepts debit cards, and 95% will also accept credit cards. Most of them will accept your foreign card without problems and without charging you extra. However, double check this with your own bank.
I take that you have already heard about the one advice that will always save you money when you travel. If you haven’t then now is the time to read about this must-have item when traveling.
If you still refuse to take our advice then here is the usual spiel for you:
There are ATMs everywhere in Oslo. They will charge you 2,50€ for using a foreign card. For currency exchange, go inside a bank and ask for their exchange rates or go to one of the many changing booths around the central station.
If you’re a student, bring your student card as most places give discounts regardless of nationality. Because of its heavy prices Oslo Norway is probably the only city in the world where having an ISIC Card will let you save good money instead of the measily 0,50€ discount that usually comes along with it.
Before we get to daytime activies and nightlife in Oslo let me give you a brief summary of what to expect in terms of prices, fees & expenses. I am comparing the prices to other European cities to give you an idea about how expensive Oslo really is.
- 1 pack of cigarettes: 10€ (3€ in Poland)
- 1 Beer at the supermarket (cheap brand): 2,50€ to 3,00€ (0,69€ in Germany)
- 1 Beer at the pub: 6,50€ to 10€ (2,50€ in Barcelona)
- 1 meal at a restaurant, without drinks: minimum 17€. Most likely 23€ for just the meal.
- 4 slices of salmon fillets in the supermarket: 6,50€ (1,49€ in France)
- 1 can of soda at the supermarket: 1,50€ to 2,50€ (0,50€ in Prague)
- 1 Hour public transport (zone 1): 3,30€ (2,30€ in Berlin that is almost eight times as big as Oslo)
- 24 hours public transport (zone 1): 10€ (Berlin: 6,90€)
- 1 hour train ride to another city/town: 13,50€ (7,50€ in the Netherlands)
- 15 minutes in a taxi: 38€ to 55€ (2,10 € in Kiev)
- 1 museum ticket (no discount): 6,50€
- 1 double espresso Americano: 4€ (2,50€ in Wroclaw, Poland)
- One day pass for a downtown gym: 17€ (Kiev: 1,50€)
- 1 day skiing (alpine): 38€ to 83€, depending on the day
- Renting equipment at the ski resort: 55€
- 1 day ticket to Øya festival: 95€ (Sziget festival, Budapest: 55-65€)
- Single room in a centrally located hotel: 85€ and up (44€ in Wroclaw Poland)
Right in the heart of Oslo Norway at the Sentralstasjon (Central Station)
You can get almost everywhere in Oslo by public transport: Metro, trams and buses. Within Oslo, these are all are run by the same company and thus are covered by the same ticket.
You can buy a public transport ticket at any kiosk such as 7-Eleven or Narvesen and Deli De Luca, which are just Norwegian versions of 7-Eleven. A 1-hour ticket costs 3,30€ while 24 hours is 10€. These prices are for zone 1, and seeing as most of the city lies in zone 1 you will most likely never leave it. If you do, just add another 2,20€.
If you take the train out of Oslo, the prices are different. This obviously depends on where you’re going, but if you think 13,50€ per hour of train ride, you get an estimate.
The metro stops running shortly after midnight, however, there are busses running all night. Warning! Oslo taxis are crazy expensive, especially on the weekends. Try to plan your route home with buses or even walking before you go out. Alternatively try Uber that has a growing number of participants in Oslo.
Oslo is a great city for outdoors activities, such as hiking, island hopping and skiing. It is my personal opinion that these activites can be more fun than nightlife. If your preferred activity is to go clubbing, be prepared to spend lots of money for a below average night out.
There are many islands all over the Oslo fjord, and during summer, people flock there to swim, barbeque, play volleyball and generally hang out. If you are in Oslo on a warm summer day this would be the best thing to do. Boats depart from Aker Brygge, and are considered public transport. This means they run all day until 23:00h and are covered by the zone 1 public transport ticket.
Alternatively, there is a beach called Huk, situated in the ultra-rich suburb of Bygdøy (also home to the Viking ship museum) (bus no 30). This beach has great facilities for barbeque, volleyball and swimming.
If you’re in Oslo during winter, Alpine skiing is a great option. There are several resorts within 3 hours of Oslo, making them suitable for a day trip. The best is Norefjell (1.5 hours by car, up to 3 hours by bus). The resort has a bus which takes you directly there. They have a great offer of a return bus ride and a 1 day ticket to the resort for 550 NOK. Renting equipment is around 500 NOK. If you want to stay closer to the city, go to Hurdal.
Hiking, cross-country skiing and sledge riding
Holmenkollen: Rich suburb with a great view of the city. Home to the iconic ski jump. Great place for cross-country skiing in winter and hiking in summer. Metro line 1.
Frognerseteren: Even greater areas for hiking and skiing. There’s also a very long hill called Korketrekkeren where people go sledge riding. Metro line 1.
Nordmarka (the northern forest): If you go north of the city, you will find a protected nature-reserve. This area has the best hiking and cross-country skiing Oslo has to offer. Sognsvann is a popular area, although a bit crowded.
City sightseeing and tourist attractions
If you want to see Oslo in one day let me give you a brief Oslo Walking Tour:
Get a city map from a tourist info and get going: Central station – Operah house – walk up Oslo’s main street Karl Johan’s gate. The street runs past Parliament and ends at the Royal Palace – Go to Akershus fortress – Aker Brygge (the port) – Take tram 12 to get to Vigelandsparken, which is Oslo’s main tourist attraction. Vigelandsparken is a major park with hundreds of statues of naked people that look like this:
Partying in Oslo can be a bit tricky, although easy if the weather is nice. As mentioned before, Norwegians can be quite “cold.” They’re very inward-looking and can have a stand-off attitude to people they don’t know.
One reason for this is that the pubs and clubs are designed in a way that discourages socializing. Luckily, many Norwegians are party smokers and it’s not allowed to smoke inside meaning that you can meet people outside the pub/club in the smoking areas.
Norwegian people get very drunk on Fridays and Saturdays. No one drinks anything from Sunday to Thursday and then, boom, it’s Friday and everybody’s wasted. This means if you come to Norway to party, you must come during the weekend. Norwegians are normally drunk, at least tipsy, already by the time they reach the pub/club somewhere between 23:00 and midnight. This is because they have already been engaging for several hours in a “vorspiel”, a pre-party (literally: foreplay) at a friend’s house. The best way to party with Norwegians is to be invited to one of these pre-parties and then go out together.
By midnight the club should be packed and most people should be drunk. Everything closes at 2:30 and all the wasted people try to get into the same kebab shop at the same time. Naturally, Norwegians aren’t so “cold” when they’re drunk so they try to use these 2 hours to make best friends or worst enemies.
If the weather is nice, the absolute best way to party is to go to a park at Grunerløkka (see chapter on Grunerløkka below). If have spent your day outside alpine skiing then your best way to party would be the obvious “after-ski” party.
Otherwise, the best way to party in Oslo would be to make friends during the day. Say, you go island hopping or skiing and you meet some people during the daytime then you can be sure to get invited to a pre-party or have the locals invite you to meet up for drinks. This way the “Norwegian wall of ice” is crumbling and you have a foot in the door to a local social circle.
Be aware that it is not legal to drink on the street in Norway. Fines are high. Whether or not the police will stop you though, depends on how bored they are and how much you put it in their faces. The same goes for marihuana smoking. The one definite exception to these rules are the parks in Grunerløkka during summer. Here it is socially acceptable to drink beer and smoke marihuana as long as the weather is nice. Be aware that it is technically still illegal.
Outside the city centre, there are three notable areas for going out:
Going out on Grunerløkka during summer can provide you with a great vibe. This is Oslo’s hipster neighborhood, and there’s a lot going on. It’s also a beautiful part of town, dotted with parks and green areas. If the weather is nice, people will flock to these parks with one-time barbeques and beers.
Especially popular among locals is Sofienberg Park and Birkelunden Park:
The vibe here is great. If you want to meet people in Oslo, this is absolutely the best way. In and around these parks on a warm summer day all the “coldness” in the locals disappears and they’re suddenly very social people. Grunerløkka is also covered with pubs and bars and therefore makes for a good place to start a pub crawl.
An old working-class neighborhood very close to the central station, Grønland now is famous for immigrants — and Swedish hipsters. During day time you will find Middle Eastern-style markets here. At night people go out, mainly to the pub Dattera til Hagen, but you also have some of Oslo’s cheapest pubs here, such as Stargate, frequented by unemployed people, students and alcoholics. There’s very little chance of you getting into a fight in Oslo. However, if you do, it will probably happen in Grønland.
A bit more fancy and to many foreign embassies, this neighborhood also features pubs and clubs.
Oslo’s high class spot. This is the harbor so it is just one long strip of pubs, clubs and restaurants. Just walk along and drop in somewhere.
Here is a fun fact for you: For a country of 8 million people that are scattered around an area the size of xxx you would expect to Norway’s capital, the only big city in the country, to be teeming with go-wild party-goers. In reality, though, things are different. Oslo’s nightlife scene is nothing to brag about and has an almost modest touch to it.
The “modesty” is soon to be forgotten once you face average cover charges of 16€ and prices for drinks that start from 8,50€ for a beer and 13€ for cocktails.
As with hotels I am giving you a hand-picked list of Oslo’s finest nightlife venues, starting with the top seven nightclubs:
- The Villa
A catacomb-like basement club with a lounge feel to it. Electronic music. In contrast to many clubs and pubs in Oslo, the Villa is actually designed in a way that encourages socializing. The tables are big which means you have to share a table with another group of people. Also, the vibe is great. Cover charge 16€. Address: Møllergata 23-25. Pay attention as the entrance is easy to miss.
- Blå (“blue”)
Located along the city river. Originally a jazz club, it now hosts artists of most genres. Good vibes. Maybe too popular on Saturday night as the lines are long and it’s difficult to get in. However, this is Oslo’s main place to go out on Sundays. Cover charge normally 11€ on Saturdays. Coming up on Address: Brenneriveien 9.
- Vulkan Entertainment Center
This one actually is an old iron melting factory converted into a major event center, containing everything from food courts to one of Oslo’s most famous hamburger shops (Døgnvill burger). The club occasionally hosts some of Norway’s top-rated bands and artists inside its nightclub/bar/center stage called the Vulkan Arena. The crowd can sometimes be a bitt stiff. Cover charge varies. Address: Maridalsveien 13E.
- Dr. Jekylls
A pub on the weekdays and a club on the weekends. Cool wooden design and dance floor upstairs, sports bar in the basement. Famous for having good whiskey. Located by the National Theatre. The people working here, including the bouncers, are not too bad considering the location. Address: Klingenberggata 4.
- Club Nox
A mix between flashy and seedy. A bit upper class. Lots of cool bars in the neighborhood around Club Nox. Cover charge 16€. Address: Henrik Ibsens gate 100
- Lawo Terrasse (also known as Uncle Donald’s).
As an open-air club available only during summer this one has a very nice setup, and the staff is excellent. Located in the middle of the city. The clientele can be a bit snobby. Its mother club Lawo is Oslo’s biggest club, but it’s not recommended by yours truly due to a lack of good vibes. Address: Lawo Terrasse: Karl Johan Street 26. Lawo main club: Universitetsgata 26.
- There’s a nightclub located right next to the pub Sir Winston on Oslo’s main walking street (Karl Johan’s street). This is supposedly Oslo’s hippest club, however, I myself have never succeeded to get in due to either excessive drunkenness or asshole bouncers. Why don’t you explore this one yourself and then give us your feedback in the comment section below? Address: Next to Sir Winston’s, Karl Johan Street 10.
There is no real need for a pub list. If you walk around Grunerløkka, Solli Plass, Youngstorget and Aker Brygge, and you are 100% sure to find a venue that will suit you. In case you like to arrive well-prepared nonetheless, here is my top seven list of pubs in Oslo:
- Crow Bar
Has Oslo’s widest array of beer choices. If you love beer this pub for you. Prices vary on the brand of the beer and the size. Address: Torggata 32.
- The Nighthawk Diner
In the style of 1950s America, with Elvis and rockabilly memorabilia. Should you decide that the Nighthawk Diner is not for you then there are loads of other cool pubs in this area. Located by Birkelunden Park at Grunerløkka. Address: Seilduksgata 15.
- Dattera til hagen
Hip and cool, Dattera til hagen has stand-up comedy every Wednesday and a club upstairs on the weekends. Mainly famous for its outdoors area. Local beer for just 7,50€. Address: Grønland 10.
- Schouskjelleren Mikrobryggeri
Dark and old fashioned with a wooden interior design. Qualitiy venue and a great place for beer tasting as the place runs its own beer brewery. Address: Trondheimsveien 2.
Students hang out here. Good vibes. 1 beer 7€. Address: Youngstorget 3.
- Star Gate
Dirty, seedy, Oslo’s cheapest pub and a well-frequented Dive Bar. Half a liter of beer for 5€ which in Oslo is, you guessed it, a bargain. Centrally located on top of Grønland metro stop.
- Evergreen Bar
Almost the same prices as Stargate, except that this is a student pub which means a younger and less seedy crowd. Address: Pilestredet 39.
Lastly, the annual Øya festival deserves your attention.
Every August Oslo hosts a major music festival (Øya festivalen; literally translated the Island festival). It lasts from Wednesday to Sunday. This is the major happening of the year and is very popular among the locals. Mainly rock music, but every genre is represented. Super expensive: 245€ for all 4 days, or 95€ for 1 day. Beer 8,50€.
A native of Oslo, Norway Torgeir Holmen is an avid traveler with Australia being his latest endeavour. Follow him on Google+ to keep up with his latest writings.