In 2015, Parichay had traveled to Oslo with his family amongst the other destinations for a trip that was solely dedicated to watching the Northern Lights. Oslo was the first stop before he went any further north and had absolutely fallen in love with the city. He shared pictures and experiences and I was still trying to get a hang of what was so special about the Norwegian capital.
And finally, when the opportunity presented itself I added Oslo to my itinerary.
It was barely 10 days into November. I had been keeping up with the temperatures because I’m petrified by the idea of winters. After a delayed flight, when we landed in Oslo sometime before midnight, I could see the snow. It was in the air, on the ground, on the glass panes. Was this a teaser of what the next few days were going to look like?
Not even close.
We took a train from Oslo Gardermoen to Oslo Central Station. I was surprised to see that just around midnight, the streets were lit, the trams operating, and there were people!
Ironically, I have taken a few winter trips before this one. And the common picture has always been people rushing off the streets, staying indoors to keep themselves from the cold. But Oslo was surprisingly upbeat, as normal as if the sun was shining bright in the day.
The next morning when I woke up, I could see the outside of the hostel covered with snow.
Wow! This was surreal. Of course, it all looked gorgeous, even I could not deny that. But truth be told, the only time I had seen this much snow was in Switzerland when I went skiing and on my trip to Mt. Titlis.
Definitely not in a regular city.
Oslo in Winters
Snowy winters from the early days of the season are quite the norm in the Norwegian capital. While the duration of possible sunlight or rather daylight keeps reducing by the day, with as little as 4 hours of daylight on the long winter days, Oslo is very active for a winter struck city.
And that’s the beauty of it. I will keep highlighting the ‘life goes on’ element in the city that I observed and experience as we proceed.
On day one, Parichay decided to join me in exploring the city and basically took me to a surprise destination that he wanted to visit.
I decided to go along out of curiosity.
After getting all suited in multiple layers of warm clothing, ears covered, gloves in our hands we started walking.
Walking across snow-covered Oslo was magical. The streets, the grounds, the benches, and the bicycles covered in snow while colorful houses peeped in the background.
No, I hadn’t been to any place like this before. And the visual of this walk is still so fresh in my mind. The snow and the wind had us freezing.
We walked into a store and grabbed a quick cup of some piping hot coffee for relief. Of course, we were not going to walk up to this spot, we had reached the bus stop and were waiting for the bus to come.
After riding on the bus for about 20 minutes, we got into a train.
In another 20 minutes, we found ourselves walking uphill on the snow-clad path.
At one point, I went a little crazy looking at the pure white surroundings. I walked faster to beat the cold and out of the sheer excitement of exploring the area.
It felt as if I were in a painting. I found a troop of horses huddling together on the snow, elsewhere I saw a little kid running as the mother walked behind as fast as she could trying to keep pace. There were snow-clad trees and houses too.
I think the last time such a picture was put together for me was probably in a novel or a movie that I watched.
There was some more walking to do, to reach the Stovner tower.
And we did. The roughest though was the walk uphill from the bottom to the very top of the tower.
After gusts of chilly wind, freezing had, numb face and slowed brain, we were the only people on the top.
Now, this felt like an insane adventure for novices in snow.
We screamed, we looked around everything from the top, took pictures and started heading downwards. The wind had become unbearable and that was all that we could withhold.
On our walk to the bottom, we crossed two different people, one casually jogging up to the top and back. The other walking his dog to the top of the tower. Obviously, we were amazed at how these men (presumably locals) managed to make getting to the top and going around in the cold look like a walk on the beach. But these are Oslo winters, life goes on just like that.
All our efforts and adventure were rewarded with a hot and delicious pizza for lunch.
Yes, food warms you up!
Train Travel in Norway
Oslo to Myrdal
You know we have a thing for scenic train journeys. So, a trip to Norway called for a renowned Flåmsbana journey. The next morning, we walked up straight to the Oslo Central station and got on board the NSB train to Bergen. To be honest, we didn’t expect to find half the people that we did on the cold snowy Sunday morning in the city. But all the crowds towards the train station including those aboard were getting us used to the idea of ‘This is Oslo, life goes on’, even in winter.
The plan was to get off at Myrdal and hop on the Flåmsbana.
While we were looking forward to our Flåm train journey, we hadn’t guessed what our journey to Myrdal would be like.
And this happened to be one of the most beautiful train journeys that I had ever taken.
As the train crossed several Norwegian stations, we enjoyed the mesmerizing view from our window seat of the Norwegian countryside. Snow-covered trees, mountains, chalets, frozen rivers, and making the pristine white of it shine was the coyly shining sun.
Was this a wonderland? I couldn’t think of it otherwise.
We also had a kind local on the train who was headed to see his daughter who was in the hospital. Instead of sulking and frowning, he took time out to tell us about the history of Norwegian railways and the various stations, having worked with the NSB himself.
Myrdal to Flåm
We got off the train at Myrdal and went right across the platform to get on the Flåm train that departs from the same station.
As recommended by our new friend, we picked a left-side seat from Myrdal to Flam for the best views.
The journey to Flåm was only about an hour long. With multiple scenic stops en route to making sure that the travelers got a good photo as a souvenir of this epic journey.
After reaching Flåm, we looked at the souvenir shops & cafés at the train station. The town was a little away and we had to catch the train back in a little over a couple of hours. So, we hung around.
Food was super expensive with limited options, so we grabbed some chips from the supermarket and sat at a bakery having a scone and a brownie.
We then headed to the Flåmsbana museum that highlighted the glorious history of Flåmsbana, building the tracks, machines in use and more.
This journey had well been worth the time.
When we got back, we wanted to pick some snacks for dinner. And little did we expect to find the many open supermarkets. In the last few months, we had traveled across New Zealand just post winters and I remember being stunned by the idea of shops shutting doors by as early as 2 pm. To find open supermarkets in a city, that sees the true colors of winter, post 10 pm was redefining the ‘life goes on’ philosophy.
The next day was about exploring Oslo city. I took bus no. 30 straight to the Bygdøy Peninsula where important museums like Fram Museum, Kontiki Museum were located. After getting down at the last stop, I was right outside the Fram Museum. Curiosity made me walk up ahead for a few meters till I reached the end. It was snowing, the ground covered in snow. The sea ahead of me, with a silhouette and the skyline.
The thing that I loved the most about Oslo was the novelty and wonder that I experienced at every point during my time here. Having traveled across the best of cities, not once did I feel like Oslo was close to another city. The uniqueness made a special mark.
While the child in me enjoyed the snow, spotting her footprints, eating snowflakes and slipping and learning to walk in the snow.
All that cold also meant the need for coffee, so I did the needful at the café opposite the Fram Museum.
Norwegians were originally explorers of the sea. In 1936, a museum was established to celebrate the Norwegian sea expeditions, across the North and the South poles. This is one of the most important museums in Oslo.
This museum is called the Fram Museum. Apart from the Norwegian exploration history, the prime attraction of the museum is the expedition ship vessels- Gjøa and Fram. You can go onboard both the vessels to see the interiors.
The Gjøa was the first vessel to cross the northwestern passage.
The Fram vessel was commissioned and designed particularly for polar expeditions. The museum also focusses on the findings of the polar life and the contributions of the Norwegian explorers- Fridtjof Nansen, Otto Sverdrup, and Roald Amundsen.
Entrance Fee: 120 NOK/ Free Entrance with Oslo City Pass
After spending some time Fram museum, I crossed the street to visit the Kontiki Museum. This museum is dedicated to the Kon-Tiki raft made of balsamic wood which was used to travel from Peru in South America to Polynesia, a sea voyage of over 8000 miles by Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl in 1947. The museum contains the Kon-Tiki raft, the maps, and findings from the expedition.
Entrance Fee: 120 NOK/ Free Entrance with Oslo City Pass
The next museum that I visited was the Norfolk museum on the same route. This was the most exciting museum that I have been to in a while. The Norfolk museum is actually a compilation of Norwegian family homes in the perimeter of the museum. These homes are kept in functional condition with some audio-visual/textual aids wherever needed. The idea is to give the visitors a sense of traditional Norwegian life and living- the architecture, design, family living, food, and more.
You can visit each of these properties to get varied views.
I definitely can’t think of a better way to understand the local culture and living.
Entrance: 160 NOK/ Free Entrance with Oslo City Pass
The Gol Stave Church
In the very premises of the Norfolk Museum is the famed Gol Stave church. Tracing its origins back to 1216. The church was moved from its origins in Gol, Norway to the Norfolk Museum in Oslo in around 1884-85 when the church was also restored. It is one of the oldest Norwegian churches and is particularly celebrated for its unique architecture.
With all the snow that covered the church, it looked nothing short of a dream.
Entrance: Included in Norfolk Museum Ticket/ Free Entrance with Oslo City Pass
Nobel Peace Centre
The Nobel Peace Centre is dedicated to the Nobel Peace Prize winners and the various causes that they represent. We visited the Nobel Peace Centre and were amazed to see how beautiful some important causes were highlighted. In these two storied museums, the first floor was dedicated to highlighting the burning causes of Climate Change, Sustainability through a series of practical experiments and installations to adapt to the cause and it’s view and works by various recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize like Wangari Mathai, IPCC, Greta Thunberg. It also highlighted causes and projects like war crimes, crime against women, refugee crisis around the world through some powerful photo exhibits.
Eventually, there was a listing of all recipients of the prestigious awards and their works.
Another stance where you realize how small space we occupy in such a large world where so many are putting in the effort to make the world a better place.
Entrance Fee: 150 NOK/ Free Entrance with Oslo City Pass
Karl Johan Street
By now, we had reached the point of information overload and needed to cool off. So, we headed to Karl Johans street. This street leads straight up to the Royal Palace gate and is called the main street of Oslo.
The street is laden with some of the best shopping and eating options on both sides and was lit up for the upcoming Christmas season.
Although we missed the Christmas markets of Oslo which were to begin shortly after our departure from the city, Karl Johans Street was already showing signs of the cheer and a whole bunch of locals and tourists who were out dining and shopping despite the winter chills.
With the distances in Oslo, public transport was a must. And we can only be thankful for picking the Oslo City Pass right from the beginning of our trip.
Oslo City Pass
The Oslo City Pass can be bought from the VisitOslo website. You can download the app and make the purchase. The pass comes as a mobile ticket with a QR code.
You will get a code on purchase of the pass and you need to activate it before accessing the services.
The pass activation takes exactly 1 minute, so it’s recommended that you activate your pass a few minutes in advance.
The better part of this mobile pass is that after activation, it runs in a backward timer showcasing the exact amount of time left for its validity.
The Oslo Pass covers-
- Unlimited access to public transport
- Free entrance to all attractions in the city
- Discounts at various shops & restaurants
Oslo is a huge city, not exactly as easily walkable as other European cities, especially in winter. The attractions are spread across the city; hence the city pass can be a smart buy if you’re intent on exploring different corners and attractions of the city.
The Oslo Experience
For years now, I had only had the chance to virtually explore Oslo and hear all about it from Parichay. But my experience of Oslo was so much beyond what I had imagined of the city. I can only imagine that Oslo in summers can be contrarily different from the Oslo in winters, but to me, the first picture of Oslo will always be that of the real winter wonderland.
For a change, even as tourists, we weren’t drawing attention. We could just go on with our lives as if we belonged. Despite all the public transport, I was really proud of how much we managed to walk around despite the snow covering the streets and the city. In fact, on a couple of occasions, we even spotted the ground near our hostel, Anker Hostel filled with young boys in shorts practicing football like on a warm summer day. But as I said, the city kept reiterating, ‘This is Oslo, and life goes on even in winters.’
Winters to me sound like the time of the year when I’d just like to be a bear hibernating till the cold passes, but the locals of the Norwegian capital gave me the new meaning of winters- to head out well layered to explore and enjoy the warmth of food, drinks, and conversations and all things love. At a point, you just get so used to the snow that it doesn’t get any colder any longer no matter how much the temperature drops. But it does keep getting prettier on the outside.
I am probably still not a huge fan of winters and still, I am so glad that I got to experience and explore the gorgeous city of Oslo.
Disclaimer: A big shout out to Visit Oslo, who partially aided our trip and guided us around with some exciting things to do in the city. As always, all opinions and experiences are genuine and personal.