Sunday, 16 October 2016

Oslo - A Perfect Balance Between City & Nature

Instead of one big summer holiday a year, my husband and I like to go on two mini city breaks; one in the Spring (around our wedding anniversary) and one in Autumn (after the schools go back.) As much as I love a beach holiday destination, we like a little more from our holidays and we get easily bored lying around a swimming pool or on a beach for a week.

For this break I wanted to go somewhere completely new, somewhere neither of us has been to before and a city we didn't know a lot about. The countries of Scandinavia have always appealed to me and Norway in particular with it's beautiful fjords.

Oslo, the capital city of Norway, located in the Oslofjord, is the perfect mix of city and nature. Mark and I are both art history lovers and Oslo has some amazing galleries and museums, but jump on a ferry and it's less than 10 minutes to a group of small islands perfect for walks in the woods, exploring old architectural ruins and sitting on a beach.

The Royal Palace. We visited the palace grounds shortly after seeing King Harald V and Queen Sonja  in their open top car waving to the crowd outside the Parliament building. We certainly didn't expect to be welcomed to the city by the Royal family!

Mark taking photos in the picturesque gardens of The Royal Palace. I highly recommend the gardens for a picnic or a leisurely stroll.
Edvard Munch is Norway's most famous artist, this is the Munch room at the National Gallery.
It is so easy to jump on a boat/ferry and explore the Oslofjord. We took this boat from the City Hall Pier to the museums located in Bygdøy.
On the boat to Bygdøy where we visited the Norsk Folkemuseum and the Viking Ship Museum.
The Norsk Folkemuseum (Norwegian Museum of Cultural History) is an amazing open-air museum with buildings from rural and urban Norway, from the Middle Ages to the 20th Century.
Beautiful old houses at the Norsk Folkemuseum (Norwegian Museum of Cultural History).
The Gol Stave Church at the Norsk Folkemuseum. Quite a climb up but totally worth it!
One of my favourite things about Norway is the abundance of Christmas trees growing in the wild.
Our favourite place in the Oslofjord, a beautiful and tranquil beach on the island of Hovedøya, just 8 minutes on a boat from the city of Oslo.
The island of Hovedøya in the Oslofjord. We got one of the first boats in the morning to Hovedøya and the island was completely deserted, we didn't see any other people until we got back on to the boat.
The island of Hovedøya in the Oslofjord. Mark taught me how to skim stones in the water and we searched for shells and crabs in the rock pools.

View from the beach on the island of Hovedøya in the Oslofjord. It was so peaceful here, I could have spent the full 3 days on the beach just watching the water.
The island of Hovedøya in the Oslofjord. Hovedøya is a great place to take a picnic, spend a day on the beaches, grass areas and explore the old monastery ruins. The sun was low in the sky throughout the whole trip which made everything so picturesque and gave that 'golden hour' light all day long.
After Hovedøya we explored the island of Gressholmen, a nature reserve island which is perfect for walks through the woods. Stunning panoramic views from the tops of the hills!
Being October we were incredibly lucky with the weather with clear blue skies for all three days. Perfect weather for walks around the islands and the city. The autumnal colours were beautiful and I have never seen so many conkers in all my life!

On the third day we visited the Vigeland Sculpture Park, the world's largest sculpture park made by a single artist.
One of over 200 sculptures by Gustav Vigeland in the Vigeland Sculpture Park.
The morning of our last day in Oslo we climbed the Opera house roof which slants up from the ground floor and provides more beautiful panoramic views of the Oslofjord.

I highly recommend visiting Oslo; the city is beautiful and clean and the locals are so friendly! We were approached numerous times by Norwegian's who spoke impeccable English simply to ask if we needed help or directions. 

One thing I should mention is how expensive the city is. It really really is. Food and drink is the biggest expense, and prices are roughly double when compared to the UK (a coffee will cost approximately £5 and a main meal in a mid-range restaurant will most likely be over £20). 

If you are likely to visit the main tourist attractions it is worth checking out the Oslo Pass (approximately £60 per person for 72 hours) which covers the cost of all museums and transport including the metro, trams, buses and ferries. If you are on a budget it is also worth finding a large supermarket and making some packed lunches/picnics and staying at a hotel with a buffet breakfast to keep you going! 

That being said, Oslo is possibly my favourite of all the city breaks Mark and I have been on so far. It really is the perfect balance of city and nature and we will definitely return to Norway one day, hopefully in the not too distant future. 

For more info on the city and the Oslo pass I recommend the Visit Oslo website.

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