Our flight to Oslo arrived *way* too early (6am), and as a result we had to wait around for a long time to get into our hotel room. Arriving at Oslo Airport (Oslo Lufthavn) was extremely smooth. The airport is 35 km from Oslo central (known as Oslo S), and so to get there from the airport, you can take the Flytoget, Norway’s only high-speed train. Tickets are NOK180, (≈C$30) for adults, and children 16 and under ride for free if accompanying an adult. The benefit? A fast 19 minute, ultra-smooth ride into the city – one of the best train rides I have ever taken. It does not terminate in Oslo S, so make sure to watch out for the station. From the train station it’s possible to walk to most hotels, as the downtown is compact and pedestrian friendly.
Hotels: We decided to stay our four nights in Oslo at the Scandic Victoria. It is often tricky in Europe trying to find hotel rooms for families. We got a room with two singles, and a sofa bed. Most hotel rooms have two single beds (pushed together). Scandic is a Nordic hotel chain, and you will see them everywhere – there are eight in Oslo alone. The hotel rooms are comfortable, and the rate includes breakfast, which seems normal for hotels in Norway (more on hotel breakfasts later).
Scandic Oslo Airport
Arriving in town at 7am does give you a view of Oslo sans-people, as there are very few people around at that time of morning. The history of Oslo goes back to around the year 1000AD. You will see some historical references to the city being called Christiania – in fact Oslo was its original name, however this was changed to Christiania in 1624, Kristiania in 1877, and back to Oslo in 1925. The name Oslo roughly translates to “meadow at the foot of a hill” or “meadow consecrated to the gods”. In about 1299, King Haakon V of Norway moved to Oslo, and it took on the role of capital from Bergen.
The Oslo TIger – the city’s nickname is Tigerstaden – “The Tiger City”
Coffee: There are very few Starbucks in Norway (17 in total I think?) – which is good for people who prefer real coffee. Coffee houses abound. Like I mean there are independent coffee houses everywhere. Which is not surprising given that Norway ranks 2nd in the top 20 biggest coffee drinkers, with Norwegians drinking 9.9kg per capita per year. In fact, all five Nordic countries rank in the top six… maybe it’s all the dark winters? Oh, and Canada ranks 10th, only one of two non-European countries in the top 20 (the other is Brazil). And they all seem to make fantastic coffee, and having amazing pastries (not called Danish pastries). Check Scandinavian Traveler for a guide to the best coffee in Oslo, or the Oslo Coffee Tour with Kaffikaze’s Ingri.
Coffee shop “steam” in Østbanehallen, a food court in the oldest part of the railway station. Also home to two Italian restaurants, a grocery store, and the Oslo Visitor Centre.
The Oslo Pass: One of the best ways to see a bunch of things without it costing too much is the Oslo Pass. At NOK745 for adults, and NOK370 for children, for a 72-hour pass, it is extremely good value. It gets you on public transit, and into most museums/galleries for free. Public transit consists of trams, and buses (and the 72-hour Oslo Pass also gets you the boat ride to the museums across the bay), and is clean and efficient. The easiest place to get an Oslo card is at the Oslo Visitor Centre, in Østbanehallen, adjoining the train station. It comes with a handy guide to all attractions included, and transit info. Note that on average, adult entrance fees to museums are NOK100-130, so it is a great deal.
Currency: Norway, like many of its Nordic neighbours has its own currency. Sometimes it’s hard to differentiate between them: Denmark (Krone), Norway (Krone), Sweden (Krona) and Iceland (Krona) – largely because they all have different conversions, and large currency denominations. Norwegian Krone come is bills up to NOK1000. So converting to C$ requires dividing by 6.3, so NOK1000 is C$158. Icelandic Krona is even crazier, because conversion to $C involves dividing by 85 (ish). It does mean you don’t have to worry about dollars and cents. On a side-note, people apparently use credit cards extensively to pay for things in stores (we didn’t use debit once), partially because there is no transaction fee for users or shops.