To beat the winter blues, my friends and I made an impromptu booking to Oslo Norway for a quick weekend getaway. We hopped on an early flight on Saturday morning and returned late at night on Sunday. It was early December when we visited and we thought it was going to be arctic cold, but it’s actually not as bad as we expected. It wasn’t even snowing! While Norway has been rather notoriously expensive, what we experienced in Oslo wasn’t actually as bad as we anticipated. It’s still on the pricier end but the quality fully reflects the price.
This was a really short trip and we only had time to get a feel for the city. Norway is particularly well known for its fjords and nature, which we’d save for next time for a longer trip! Anyhow, here is our impression of the Norwegian capital city after spending 48 hours there.
Date of trip: December 2018
Getting Around Oslo
The transport from the airport to the city centre was absolutely superb. From the airport, simply take the shuttle train and you’d find yourself in Oslo’s city centre in just 20 minutes. Once in Oslo city centre, everything is quite easily walkable.
The public transportation system is excellent should you look to explore a little beyond the city centre. You can purchase tickets at the Oslo Visitor Centre at Oslo Central Station, Ruter’s Customer Service Centre and in most Narvesen and 7-Eleven shops. For this trip, we bought a 24-hour ticket to use on the second day. You can find more information here on the Oslo tourism website.
Planning a trip to Oslo Norway? Check this out too:
What to Do & See in Oslo for 2 Days
From Oslo Central Station, it was a 15-20 minute walk to our Airbnb building. The room wasn’t ready this early in the day so we dropped off our luggage at the storage room and began exploring the city immediately.
Karl Johans Gate & The Royal Palace
First off, we wandered to Karl Johans Gate, i.e. the main street of Oslo connecting the Central Station to the Royal Palace. The area is surrounded by historic buildings and there’s an outdoor market which was absolutely buzzing. It is a very chilled area to stroll around, grab a coffee, do a little shopping, etc.
As you keep walking along Karl Johans Gate, you’ll reach the Royal Palace at the end of it. The Royal Palace is only open to the public during summer so we didn’t get a chance to visit on this occasion. It is the residence of the Norwegian King & Queen and where the daily work of the monarchy is conducted.
Lunch at San Francisco Bread Bowl
A cold climate means hearty food, and it can’t get more comforting than having bread bowls! Think about a rich Mac & Cheese served in a crusty toasted bread bowl – that’s what San Francisco Bread Bowl does and it was incredibly satisfying. We also tried the Indonesian Bowl, which is a blended Indonesian spiced chickpea and coconut soup in a bread bowl. This one reminded me of a Southeast Asian satay and it’s fairly decent too.
Next, we found ourselves wandering off to the waterfront and strolling along the promenade. It was a bit windy and chilly so we mainly stuck around the Aker Brygge area. Nonetheless, it was a very pleasant walk and the views had been serene and beautiful.
We walked past the Museum of Modern Arts, as well as the Akershus Fortress (Oslo’s medieval castle). As the daylight hours are quite short during wintertime, we caught the sunset there too even though it’s only the afternoon.
The Salmon Science Centre
Completely unplanned, we discovered The Salmon Science Centre during our walk and found it quite an interesting little place to visit. It’s basically a mini-museum that showcases the whole process of salmon farming. The interesting thing we discovered is that Norwegians are the people responsible for the existence of salmon in Japanese cuisine! Yes, you read that right. Think about how iconic salmon is in Japanese cuisine today, e.g. salmon sashimi and sushi. It turns out that salmon never really existed in Japanese cuisine until Norway introduced Project Japan.
We learnt that Project Japan is a marketing campaign by Norway to promote the Norwegian seafood industry. At the time, the country was experiencing a decrease in seafood consumption at home so the campaign had been set up to explore new markets for Norway’s commercial salmon farming industry.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, Japan had been facing a problem of overfishing due to high consumer demands. That’s when the Norwegians swooped in with its fatty, high quality, and parasite-free salmon, and salmon eventually became a staple of the nation’s cuisine. Interesting, eh?
Cinnamon Bun at Baker Hansen
Baker Hansen is a chain bakery & coffee shop around Oslo. While these cinnamon buns had been good, I didn’t find them particularly outstanding if I were to be very honest. I was expecting those sticky cinnamon buns rolled into knots like the ones I tried at the Scandinavian cafes in London. I ones I had at Fabrique Bakery and Ole & Steen in London had been more memorable than these ones I tried in Oslo on this trip.
Dinner at Fiskeriet Youngstorget
Fiskeriet Youngstorget is half a seafood market and half a restaurant in central Oslo. It was pretty busy in there and there was a short queue when we arrived. We ordered some mussels & frites and the seafood casserole, which the staff kindly checked to be alcohol-free. Both seafood dishes were excellent, featuring top-notch quality seafood and tasted so fresh as if the seafood had just been freshly caught out of the waters. Personally, I enjoyed the seafood casserole a little bit more, which came with a variety of fish and shellfish, served in a lovely savoury tomato-y broth.
December in Europe only means one thing – Christmas markets! After dinner, we popped by the Xmas market at Karl Johan Gate to check it out. It’s a small but atmospheric market, with the standard Ferris Wheel, ice skating rink, and plenty of street food stands. We grabbed some churros from one of the stalls which were okay. There’s a little light tunnel installation which is great for photos and very twinkly at nighttime.
The next day, we spent the morning visiting Frognerseteren, which took less than an hour train ride from Oslo city centre. Frognerseteren is typically known as a starting point for hiking or skiing in Oslo, as well as sweeping scenic views across the city and the fjords. Originally, we planned to visit Frognersetern for a snowy toboggan run. However, it wasn’t snowing and nothing seemed to be open when we visited so we just ended up spending most of our time at the cafe. Unfortunately, it was incredibly foggy up there as well and we couldn’t get a single view of the city.
We ended up tucking ourselves into the Frognerseteran Cafe. The cafe was like a cosy tavern, housed in a 19th-century building. There were only very few people in there that day and we practically had the whole place to ourselves. We ordered some cinnamon buns and hot drinks to chit chat away for a while before making the journey back to Oslo city centre. The cinnamon bun was very nice, by the way!
Once back in Oslo city centre, we wandered a little bit and then headed to Mathallen Oslo which is a short bus ride away. Mathallen is a social complex housing numerous eateries and shops. Many regarded it as the heart of Oslo’s foodie culture and a place where culinary traditions meet the newest food trends. There wasn’t a lot going on on a dark & cold wintery Sunday evening but we did manage to have a stroll at the indoor market and grabbed my favourite meal of the trip.
Pepper Fried King Crab at Vulkanfisk
If you know me, I’ve always said I’ve been spoilt since a kid with fresh seafood. Subsequently, I can be quite hard to please when it comes to seafood. My impression of Oslo’s seafood has been pretty satisfactory but it’s the Pepper Fried King Crab I had at Vulkanfisk that really left me speechlessly impressed.
It’s not a particularly sleek sit-down restaurant but more of a casual eatery feel at Vulkanfisk. I ordered the Pepper Fried King Crab, which was served on a hot iron plate, followed by salad and bread. This is where I had some of the juiciest and sweetest crab meat I have ever tasted. I was stunned at the first bite and just couldn’t stop munching from there on. The peppery sauce was so robust to taste, with a gentle kick of spice, and simply lip-smackingly delicious. Everything hit the spot so well. It’s just so good and I’d highly recommend it if you’re a seafood lover like me!
Dessert at Cupcake & Pie Co
Last but not least, we popped over to Cupcake & Pie Co. after our meal at Vulkanfisk for desserts. I tried their Lemon Meringue Tart and it was really good! The flavours were sharp and zingy but delicately executed to get the perfect balance of acidity and sweetness. All in all, I really enjoyed it and it had been the perfect sweet bite to end the day and the trip.