I had the best time in Norway, largely thanks to my Scandinavian hosts, although the country itself was stunning – and I didn’t even explore the most popular natural beauty spots. My trip to Oslo was booked almost as an after-thought to visit a Norwegian friend from high school. We’ve been friends for over ten years and hadn’t seen each other since 2005 so we were well over-due a catch up. It honestly was fantastic to reconnect with a friend from my teenage years and to discover that we get on just as well after all this time.
I was incredibly privileged to have the best tour guides in all of Norway to show me around Oslo, take me out into the countryside, cook some amazing meals, and give me a bit of a history lesson every now and again. While you may not be as fortunate as I was, here are some of the highlights to give you an idea of things to do on a short trip to Norway’s capital.
1: Eat All the Food
From day one I was treated to delicious Scandinavian cuisine but when I wasn’t eating traditionally Norwegian fare I was certainly eating luxurious European products and learned that Norwegians have a taste for expensive and high quality produce. My two favourite meals were both home-cooked, starting with a roast moose dinner with wild chanterelles in a creamy white wine reduction. The second was wild deer carpaccio with Parmigiano on a toasted baguette. Although in Canada I have tasted various game such as deer and elk, moose has always been elusive to me – I have still not seen a live moose on Canadian soil (I finally caught a glimpse of one in a field in Norway!). I thoroughly enjoyed my meal and discovered that it is fairly typical, especially in the Northern part of Norway, for people to hunt and eat moose.
You can find all kinds of food in Oslo to suit a variety of tastes and budgets. If you only eat out once though try Engebret Cafe which has a lovely outside courtyard and is Oslo’s oldest restaurant. The pizza was delicious and service was friendly. Food in Norway is quite a bit more expensive than in the rest of Europe but tipping is optional, not expected.
Norwegian sweets are an acquired taste. My friends appeared to love them but they are an odd mix of savoury and sweet such as chocolate-covered crisps. Knowing that I am not fond of that kind of thing (I hate chocolate covered pretzels) I decided to try one of the other yummy-looking candies. I slipped a ‘salty licorice’ in my mouth and promptly spat it straight out, much to the hilarity of my Scandinavian pals. I definitely do not recommend them but I do encourage you to try them for yourself.
2: Take a Walking Tour of the City
There is a lot to cram into a day or two in the city of Oslo so I have dedicated a separate post to photos and details of what there is to see and do, starting with a stroll along the harbour front and ending up at the King’s Palace plus some spaces in between.
3: Sample the Pubs and Night life
I really liked the laid-back feel of Norwegian bars and pubs. The people were friendly and willing to speak English with me, even those who claimed that they found English difficult were happy to make an effort. One charming little pub/karaoke bar, SYNG, with its brightly coloured walls and patio furniture by the river was an excellent way to spend a sunny afternoon. On my last night, I went out to a bar (I will look up the name) which was jam-packed with locals. There was space to dance, some of the bar staff seemed to be British or at least speak perfect English which made ordering several drinks easy – I lost one of my earrings, so it must have been a good night!
4: Get out of Town!
In a country with as much open space and stunning scenery as Norway it would be a crime to spend your entire trip within the confines of the city. Many Osloites have cottages in the woods and spend much of their summer weekends escaping the bustle of city-life in favour of hiking and enjoying the peaceful beauty of nature. I ended up spending more time outside of Oslo than actually in the city and couldn’t be happier with my decision. Our evenings were spent dining al fresco with the (almost) midnight sun – Oslo is situated too far south for Midnight Sun but the sun set around 11pm and rose again at 4am. While I found Oslo itself had much to love, my favourite day was spent hiking up mountains with views of the fjords and through the blueberry-lined forest, in spite of the rain. This glimpse of rural Norway has convinced me that I must re-visit Norway when I have more time to spare so that I can travel to the most iconic scenic locations further North.
5: Last but not least
When in Rome… or Oslo, do as the Scandinavians do. Snuss! Snuss! Snuss! While it is a tobacco product, snuss is not inhaled and is almost as invisible as a nicotine patch. Snuss comes in a variety of flavours and strengths and appears to be as prevalent among the Norwegians as smoking is among the French. That is to say pretty much everyone I met “snussed”. Snuss is basically a little tobacco-filled pouch (you can get a more loose-leaf version but I’d leave that to the pros) which you place under your top lip. It takes a bit of getting used to and I don’t advocate giving yourself a tobacco dependency but if you want to give something typically Norwegian a try, buy a mild form such as Mocca Mint and see for yourself what the fuss is about. For me it just made my lip tingle and at first I didn’t care much for the dripping but after a while I found myself snussing almost as much as my friends, albeit with a much lighter dosage.
Let me know in the comments what your highlights were if you have visited Norway.