Summertime in Oslo
We spent four days in Oslo, Norway’s capital city. The Oslo metropolitan area is home to 1.5 million people and is the cultural hub of the country. We found plenty of great sights to explore, hung out with the locals on a secluded beach, and nearly had to visit an ER for the second time on our trip. Read on to find out more!
Vigeland Installation at Frogner Park
For our stay in Oslo we selected an Airbnb apartment next door to Frogner Park, which made it very convenient to see the Vigeland sculpture installation. Gustav Vigeland was a highly prolific sculptor in the early 20th century and Frogner Park features over 200 of his works. He is also known for designing the Nobel Peace Prize medal.
Perhaps the most impressive sculpture is “The Monolith” that depicts a mass of tangled figures trying to wrestle their way to the top of a column.
Other than The Monolith the most popular single work in the park is “Angry Boy.” There is often a queue to take a photo of this statue. Visitors are not supposed to touch the statues but clearly many people ignore the rule, as evidenced by the parts of the statue that have been polished by the constant touching. Why on earth do people choose to touch the statue in those places? We have no answer.
Near central Oslo is the Bygdøy peninsula that is the home of several popular museums. The first one we decided to explore is the Fram Museum since it is rated as one of the best museums in Oslo.
The Fram museum is dedicated to the history of polar exploration and it houses two ships (the Fram and the Gjøa) that were used on expeditions in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. There’s an introductory video and countless displays with photos and text detailing various expeditions to the poles.
The Gjøa was the first ship sailed through the northwest passage. It is possible to go onto the deck of the ship to get a closer look.
We also went inside the Fram where we were able to see where the crew slept, ate, and passed the time playing music (there was a piano below deck) and board games. The explorers who went on these dangerous missions had to endure very difficult conditions. Many of those who set out to explore the poles never returned home.
One of the museum exhibits is a “Polar Simulator,” an enclosed area where the air conditioner is cranked down to near-freezing, which was great since the rest of the museum was not air conditioned and it was quite warm in the rest of the exhibit. Inside there are depictions of fantastical creatures including sea monsters and ice mummies which contrasted with the strictly historical / scientific focus of the rest of the museum.
Next door to the Fram museum is the Kon-Tiki Museum which houses the vessel of the same name. This ship was built by Thor Heyerdahl, a Norwegian explorer who constructed boats using native materials and historical methods in order to demonstrate how people could have migrated across oceans long ago.
In 1947 Thor sailed the Kon-Tiki from South America to Polynesia in an attempt to prove that South Americans populated the Pacific Islands. In the process he gained global acclaim for this feat, which was later the subject of a movie and several books.
On a later expedition Thor built the Ra II in Egypt out of reeds and sailed it from Africa to the Caribbean. An earlier expedition on the Ra I ended in failure but the lessons learned were used to build a seaworthy boat the next time.
Along with the boats there were numerous photos and stories from the expeditions as well as artifacts from Polynesia. While Thor Heyerdahl’s theories have been controversial in the scientific community, his adventurous can-do spirit is inspiring.
Combination tickets can be purchased for the Fram, Kon-Tiki, and Norwegian Maritime Museums (we decided to only visit the first two). The museums can be reached by public transport. There’s a paid parking lot nearby, or one can park for free along the nearby residential streets.
Oslo was in the midst of a heat wave when we visited so we headed to the beach to get some relief. We chose Paradise Beach (paradisbutka) which is also on Bygdøy peninsula. It is not accessible by car; getting there required a pleasant walk through the woods.
Paradise beach has showers, toilets, and a small snack bar. There’s also a diving platform anchored about 50 meters offshore. We swam to it and practiced cannonballs, then moved on to flips.
Our eldest tried to learn how to back flip with Wes’ encouragement, but hit her chin on the platform on a failed attempt. This caused a split right under her chin about a centimeter long. We considered going to the ER for the second time on the trip (the first time was in Paris) but ultimately we decided that the cut was not severe enough to warrant professional intervention. Instead, we headed to a pharmacy to buy supplies to disinfect and close the wound. We found out that skin glue is not sold in Norway so we went with Steri-Strips (thankfully the cut healed nicely over the next few days).
Our trip to Paradise Beach was cut short due to the injury but we found it to be a great spot to spend a warm day.
Norway’s National Gallery is a popular destination for tourists; upon arriving we had to wait in line for about 15 minutes before we could enter. The museum features several paintings by Norwegian artist Edvard Munch, including “The Scream”. There are two versions of this famous painting; the other is in the Munch Museum. Both have been stolen in art heists and (thankfully) later recovered.
Dating from the 13th century, the Akershus Fortress was built to protect the city from Swedes, Scots, and other attackers. Interestingly, the castle still serves as the headquarters of the Norwegian Ministry of Defense and armed soldiers stand guard at various locations.
Oslo Opera House
Completed in 2007, the Oslo opera house is a striking white granite building that rises from the Oslo waterfront. A unique feature of the building is that it is possible to walk all the way to the top of the roof where there’s a great view of the city.
We had a great time in Oslo and found plenty of things to do and see as a family. There were a few more things that we had hoped to check out (including the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History and the Norwegian Museum of Science and Technology) but we ran out of time! Hopefully we’ll be able to return in the future to explore more of this great city. 🙂
In our next update we’ll share our adventures in Bergen, on the rugged and beautiful west cost of Norway!