oslo // day 1

wake up two hours before our arrival, which allows me to get fantastic views of the Norwegian landscape. The ferry docks at Vippetangen, right by the Akershus Fortress. There’s no way I’m visiting the fortress now, however, so I make my way to my second AirBnB hosts’ apartment instead. After a slight moment of panic in which I shamefully sit at McDonald’s without purchasing anything in order to use their free WiFi, I finally manage to settle into Kay’s place. The apartment is perfectly located in Grünerløkka, Oslo’s trendiest neighborhood. Kay is super welcoming and provides me with three different guides to the city, one of which is actually written by locals. She also tells me Sunday is ‘Tourist in your own City’ day in Oslo, which means I will be able to get into all the museums and use all transportation modes for free! I can’t thank her enough for this piece of advice.

I first climb up to Old Aker Church (Gamle Aker kirke), the oldest existing building in Oslo. It’s a good way to start my time in the city, because the Church’s high location allows me to get a view of all of Oslo. On the way there, I also see rows and rows of adorable colorful houses, also some of the oldest in the city. Near Old Aker lies Vår Frelsers gravlund, a cemetery created in 1808 as a result of the great famine and cholera epidemic of the Napoleonic Wars. A number of famous Norwegians are buried there, and I am indeed able to see the tomb of Edvard Munch.

My next stop, DogA (the Norwegian Center for Design and Architecture), is unfortunately preparing for an upcoming exhibit. I am, however, able to visit its shop and take a look at its cool restaurant/café. Make sure to check the website to make sure there is something going on before you visit! All the exhibits are free.

It’s been nearly six months since I’ve had my last banh mi, so it’s no surprise when I unquestionably enter Pearlis, a little joint selling banh mis and bubble tea. For a mere 45 NOK, you can get their sandwich of the day, which on Thursday happens to be the not-so-Vietnamese tuna salad. If you can, go on the days where the special is the more authentic Saigon baguette!

I take my lunch up to the Botanical Gardens, which, as I am now used to expecting, are rather bare. The Palmhouse, however, is a safe bet regardless of the time of year, and its collection of cacti and greasy plants is a pleasant one. Be ready to shed all your clothes, though. It’s tropical in there. Nearby, the Intercultural Museum has a special exhibit on Norwegian Gypsies. You can tell the museum is kind of an afterthought, and probably doesn’t get as much funding as it should. That being said, there’s a certain charm to its visibly handmade, Gondry-like installations.

On my way to the Frogner park I walk through a seemingly posh neighborhood. Three stores catch my eye: Flaneur Food, Sverre Saetre Konditori and Pipaluk Love. You know, if you’ve got the money for that. I quickly visit the City Museum before it closes. It has a great exhibit centered on the outcome of Norwegian women who had been involved with German soldiers during WWII. Also, some cool reconstructions of period interiors.

Also inside Froger is the famous Vigeland Sculpture Park. The latter contains 212 sculptures by Gustav Vigeland, all centered around the theme of the Human Condition. The most famous (and unmissable) one is the Monolith, which stands in the middle of the park. It’s altogether a monumental project - to think a single artist designed all of these works!

I then wander around Frogner, making my way back to Sentrum, and make a few shopping stops along the way...

  • Litteraturhuset - Curated bookstore and literature event centre. No books in English, but there’s a great café/restaurant. The local thing to do appears to be ordering a beer and sipping it out on the front steps.
  • Magmalou - Nice high-end clothing shop.
  • Sebastien Bruno - All things chocolate.
  • Granit - FANTASTIC home décor shop. It’s actually a chain, so don’t worry if you miss this one.
  • Norway Designs - This place looks small, but it actually has a massive basement. As its name suggests, Norway Designs is filled will products, mostly home décor accessories and furniture, created by local designers. It’s kind of a compilation of all the products I’ve been seeing in all the other stores.
  • Ting - Lovely lovely lovely store for home decor. Perhaps the best place for you to buy gifts.
  • Småting - WHEN CAN I HAVE KIDS?? Actually, I don’t even need kids. I’d just get everything in this store for myself. Especially those plastic dining sets. And those adorable mini backpacks and lunchboxes by blafre. I also discover Marleg dolls, which you can buy beautiful clothes for. It’s basically an American Girl doll for hipster children.
  • Røst - If I understand correctly, Røst is owned by the same people as Ting and Småting, but is slightly higher end. The shop is a real feast for the eyes, with pretty garlands, delicate pottery and much, much more.
  • Freudian Kicks - Many blogs recommend this high-end hipster clothing store, but it’s sadly undergoing renovations during my visit. If it’s open when you’re in Oslo, stop by and let me know how it is!

Luckily, the Akershus Fortress is open until 9pm, so I have plenty of time to stroll through its parts. I can’t say whether visiting the castle is worth it, but you do get very decent views of its exterior without even getting a ticket. It’s quite similar to the Edinburgh Castle. You can also get great photos of the harbor from the Akershus fortifications - so remember to bring a date and/or a sandwich!

The Oslo Opera House is a mere ten minutes away. I can’t help but take dozens of photos as I approach it, as it’s a real beauty from every angle. I’ve pretty much arrived at the ideal time: the sun is setting and people are just arriving for the 7pm performance. You can immediately tell who’s there to see a show, as these spectators are dressed to the nines and most likely sipping on a glass of wine at the opera bar. Meanwhile, locals and tourists (like me) sit atop the building, chatting and enjoying the view. Seeing the Opera House is perhaps one of my favorite moments in Oslo.

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