Fun fact for you about Norway: Over the years, many Norwegians have emigrated from Norway to re-settle in the U.S. Many Americans, therefore, have Norwegian ancestry, and it's not uncommon for them to want to visit Norway in order to trace their roots.
Even if you're not an American of Norwegian decent, chances are that photos of epic fjords and colorful wooden houses have wheedled their way into your subconscious and now Norway is near the top of your travel bucket list too.
And I don't blame you, of course Norway is just as beautiful in real life as it is in all of those amazing photos. But if you're planning a trip to Norway, don't forget about the place that many tourists just treat as a jumping-off point: Oslo.
You may be under the assumption that Oslo is just another European capital, and that the real highlights of Norway lie on the country's OTHER coast. But don't discount Oslo; it actually has a lot to offer and deserves at least a couple days on your itinerary.
Here are a few experiences you don't want to miss in Oslo:
Oslo's main street stretches from the central train station to the Royal Palace, and is named after one of Norway's former kings. The wide street is partially tree-lined and is a great place for a stroll or to grab a cup of coffee or bite to eat. Also along Karl Johans Gate are the National Theater, Norwegian Parliament, Oslo Cathedral and some beautiful green spaces. This is a great place to start your exploration of Oslo and in the summer months its also the perfect place to relax.
After seeing some of the main sites in the city center, head to the waterfront for some other Oslo icons. You can walk for kilometers along the waterfront promenade, visiting the Nobel Peace Prize Museum, Oslo City Hall, the historic Akershus Fortress and the beautifully designed Opera House. During this walk, you'll see the contrast of old (like the fortress) and new (like the modern, glacier-inspired Opera House) that gives Oslo a distinctive character.
Oslo has no shortage of museums and all are worth spending some of your precious travel time exploring. Some are akin to what you'd expect to find in any major city, like the City Museum and National Gallery and a museum of contemporary art. But Oslo goes above and beyond when it comes to museums the city has some really unique ones.
For example, you'll find the Munch Museum, dedicated to expressionist painter Edvard Munch; the Holmenkollen Ski Museum inside Oslos huge ski jump, which presents more than 4,000 years of skiing history; the Viking Ship Museum, which houses the remains of Viking burial ships that are more than 1,000 years old; and the Norwegian Folk Museum, which includes a large open-air portion with buildings from all over Norway spanning centuries of cultural history.
Dedicating some time to visiting a few of these is definitely worth it.
Oslo has a ton of parks and green spaces, and at least of few of them double as art exhibits, too. If you want to mix art with your park going time, check out either Vigeland Park or Ekeberg Park.
Vigeland Park was designed entirely by Gustav Viegeland, who not only laid out the 79-acre park, but also completed the more than 200 sculptures displayed within it. It's the largest sculpture park made by a single artist in the world. It's also free to enter, making it a great place to explore on a nice day.
Similarly, Ekeberg Park is also dotted with sculptures and artwork, but the works are in different styles and completed by different artists.
Even though Oslo is a fairly large city, it's actually really easy to escape from. Forest hiking trails or quiet islands in the fjords are less than an hour away. Camping is popular in Norway even just outside of Oslo. So, if the city gets to be too much, don't forget that nature is always just around the corner.
Have you ever visited Oslo? What else would you add to this list?
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Graduate student by day and avid traveler and blogger by night (and on weekends and during holidays), Amanda is just a small-town Ohio girl trying to balance a "normal" life with a desire to discover the world beyond her Midwest bubble. Amanda's adventurous nature and inability to say "no" have led her to some pretty amazing adventures all around the world. But she has no desire to stop exploring anytime soon. Read Amanda's blog, A Dangerous Business, or follow her on Facebook, Twitter or Google Plus.
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