Postcard-picturesque Oslo is a city of islands. Within the city limits, more than 40 are accessible by ferry, and there are many more around the fjord Norway’s capital city sits on.
Walking and cycling are important parts of Norwegian life, so grab a map or your iPhone and start exploring. The public transport system’s website (ruter.no) has info on trains, the metro system, tram cars, buses (day and night) and boats all around the region, as well as apps for both the iPhone and Android systems.
The Oslo Pass (details at the Visit Oslo website) gives free entry to swimming pools, the Tusenfryd amusement park and more than 30 museums, as well as unlimited free travel by public transport within the downtown zones 1 and 2. Daily passes are approximately $45 (Canadian); three-day passes are roughly $85. Students and seniors pay less than half those rates.
One of Oslo’s most vibrant areas is Aker Brygge. An old shipyard, its wide, waterfront boardwalk along the Oslo-fjord bustles with local artisans, restaurants, shops and cafés. It’s an area where people go to be seen but also to shop for clothes to be seen in — there are more than 70 shops, with something for every budget.
Pay a visit to the Munch Museum, dedicated to the Norwegian painter Edvard Munch — perhaps best known for his painting The Scream. The guided tours offer excellent insight into the full scope of his work. And don’t leave Oslo without a visit to the Viking Ship Museum, home to the world’s two best-preserved wooden Viking ships, built in the ninth century.
Located in the Bjørvika neighbourhood, at the head of the Oslofjord, the Oslo Opera House houses the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet. With a focus on the classical side of Norwegian arts and culture, it is Norway’s largest performing arts institution.
Fittingly for the city that’s home to the Nobel Peace Prize (awarded annually, on Dec 10, at the Grand Hotel), Oslo is a melting pot of cultures and people; almost 30 percent of the population is non-Norwegian, and immigrants’ numbers are increasing.
The city is gay-friendly, and the gay community here has it all, from sophisticated art exhibitions to year-round dance parties. As in other Scandinavian capitals, there are relatively few specifically gay clubs, hotels or restaurants for a city this size, but hotel staff won’t blink as you and your same-sex partner check into a room with one bed. For romantic evenings on the town, there are few better places in the world.
That said, the majority of queer social life takes place at the centre of town, and clubs and parties that attract a majority gay or lesbian crowd are mostly located here, along with two gay bathhouses. London Pub is the city’s oldest gay pub and a favourite among tourists. But crowds of queer and straight party people mix it up all over town.
Out and about you might run into the former chairman of the city council, Erling Lae, and his partner, Jens Torstein Olsen, a priest. Norway was the second country in the world to legalize same-sex partnerships and in 2009 granted marriage equality to same-sex couples. Each June, Oslo Pride features 10 days of celebrations that include film festival screenings, concerts, art exhibits, shows, political debates and a huge festival at Rådhusplassen, the city hall square.
There are no nonstop flights from Canada to Oslo, but there are many options for direct flights to Europe, with connections to Gardermoen Airport. Flying through London’s Heathrow airport is the most common trans-Atlantic choice, from which there are hourly connections to Oslo on Scandanavian Airlines.
Gardermoen Airport is in Ullensaker, 47 kilometres from Oslo’s city centre; trains, buses and taxis can get you downtown. The Flytoget express train runs every 10 to 20 minutes, taking travellers into Oslo’s central station in just 19 minutes for approximately $33. Standard train service is a little cheaper, at $20, and takes only half an hour. Five different bus companies have service to and from the airport. All options are listed on the airport website.
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