Even though I’d done my research, Oslo really took me by surprise – for many reasons. I loved my time there, and there was something special about the place that left me feeling more relaxed than I had in a long time. For those that know me, that’s pretty god darn impressive, as I’m a regular stress bunny.
My visit to the city came about thanks to a chance glance at an email from Ryanair highlighting sale prices of £14.99 return. Having been eager to visit Scandinavia for quite a while I just couldn’t say no!
But even with a few weekends of research and also some insider tips from Visit Oslo, I kept getting blown away by the city during my stay as, like an onion, its layers peeled away and I discovered something new.
Here are the four things that surprised me most…
Oslo’s really quiet
I could not get over how quiet and peaceful Norway’s capital city was – even on a bright and sunny Saturday walking down one of the city’s main streets, you still had room to comfortably open your arms wide.
Maybe I’m just used to the jostle of London, but Oslo felt more like a peaceful country town than Norway’s main hub. I did wonder if it was down to a smaller population, but with just over one million living in the wider city area, that’s still quite a lot of people, albeit quite a bit smaller than London’s 8.6m!
As well as not feeling packed like sardines on public transport, the roads themselves appeared much quieter than I was used to too. Few cars appeared to travel the city’s streets and those that do were, well, quieter than I was used too.
This was because, I discovered, Oslo is literally the electric vehicle capital of the world. Norway has more electric cars on its roads than anywhere else in the world, leading to greener, and quieter travel. This is down to incentives by the local and national government making electric cars exempt from tax purchase and VAT and in Oslo electric cars are offered free parking, free charging and free transport on ferries. How cool is that?
Oslo’s oh so green
As cities go, Oslo felt like one of the greenest I’d visited in a long time. Not in terms of being environmentally friendly (although it also felt that way), but that wherever you were in the city it seemed that green spaces would be close by.
For example, in between two of the city’s main streets; Karl Johan’s Gate and Stortingsgata, are some beautiful greens and fountains, leading towards the epic 22 hectare Palace Park that’s open to the public.
Take a stroll along the river and you’re sure come across a park or two and wonder through any of the city’s main areas and you’ll find an inviting green or two to sit in and enjoy. Oh and I can’t go on without mentioning the beautiful Vigeland park and all its crazy statues!
What made things even more special to see was how much these spaces were loved and used by the locals. I got a beautiful 24-degree day during my trip and without fail every park I came across was full of friends and families gathering to have fun in the sun, with picnics galore and portable BBQs in full use.
Oslo is really expensive
Yes, maybe you’ll think me a fool for saying this, given that Scandinavia is known to be pricy, but I just couldn’t get over how expensive things can be in Oslo. To be fair though, they only appear expensive to us tourists because, for the locals, high prices go hand in hand with the country’s high wages and standard of living.
So, although I was prepared for things to cost a lot during my trip, it still kept surprising me by how much more things cost. £10-12 for a burger and chips, £11 for two hot dogs and a bottle of water, £18 for a pizza… the list goes on. On the plus side I liked that if you bought food, restaurants have to provide you with free water, so everywhere we went you’d find chilled water dispensers. At least I can say I kept hydrated on this trip!
I was also surprised by the cost of museum entry – I’m used to free or cheap entry to UK museums, but in Oslo you can expect to pay around £8-10 to no into one of the city’s top museums. It seemed like a lot, but maybe I’m just spoilt in the UK.
For many visitors, the biggest killer cost-wise is probably alcohol. As I’m not a big drinker this didn’t hugely bother me (although I still complained about paying £4 for a small bottle of Coke) but I did try to keep Justin down to one beer a day. £7 was the cheapest pint we could find, and more often than not they’d be around a tenner.
A little insider tip for you though – if you do like a drink, then buy some from duty free at the airport when you arrive. Here you can expect to pay UK supermarket prices.
Oslo is really pretty
Before I visited I read somewhere that as cities go Oslo isn’t that pretty because it lacks any real ‘old town’. This meant that when I arrived I was expecting some kind of dull, grey city and was instead surprised when I discovered how beautiful it was. Pulling into Oslo Central Station my first views of the city included the sparkling new barcode buildings: modern high-rise offices with unique funky designs. Then during a walking tour I got my first glimpse of the city’s varied architecture from the quirky opera house to the looming city hall.
There were many beautiful old buildings to visit too, including the original city hall and the fortress, which overlooks the gorgeous Oslofjord and the city’s outlying islands. With all the green and nature surrounding you, what’s not to love!