Well hey! If you missed my recap of Øyafestival on BYT yesterday, you might want to check that out to hear more about the main reason I was in Oslo in the first place. But music festival vibes aside, I wanted to tell you about the four days I spent in Oslo in case YOU wanna go sometime, and/or just wanna live vicariously! I’ll be doing a similar little write-up about the rest of my trip, aka three days in Copenhagen on my way back to the US, but for now, read all about O-S-L-O:
HOW I GOT THERE
I knew I wanted to go to Oslo for Øyafestival, so I started searching for the cheapest flights to get there. (Everyone has different preferences for travel sites, but my personal favorite is Google Flights for quick and easy price comparisons.) Unfortunately, nothing came up super inexpensive in my searches, BLERG! So I started to entertain the idea of adding another city into the mix since it is fairly cheap to fly from other European jump-offs. As it turned out, flying WOW Air out of Newark through Reykjavik to Copenhagen, and then from Copenhagen to Oslo via a separate Norwegian flight, would set me up for about a $600 round-trip airfare. Considering even connecting flights to Oslo would run me in the $900+ range, this seemed like a pretty solid deal! I used the savings for an Airbnb in Copenhagen, where I planned to stay for three days after Oslo before returning to the US.
It was admittedly a long-ish haul that first day, but wasn’t complicated to navigate. My flight from Newark left at 12:40AM on Wednesday the 8th, and then I had an hour and a half layover in Reykjavik where I grabbed a beer and a snack. Then I continued on to CPH, where I had a three hour layover. (More beer and snacks. Great airport if you have downtime.) From there I took the short (hour? hour and a half?) flight to Oslo, which put me in at about 10:30pm. And then I just grabbed the express Flytoget* ($20 USD) from the airport to Oslo Central Station (about twenty minutes), where I got the T-bane (metro, about $4** for a single ride) and was at my Airbnb within fifteen minutes.
*You can get the regular train to Oslo Central Station for $8 less, but I wanted to make sure I could get the T-bane before it shut down for the night at 12:30AM.
**If you farebeat on the T-bane and get caught, apparently the fine can be pretty steep, but (as far as I could tell) no one was checking tickets. You don’t have to scan them to get through any sort of turnstile, so it seems pretty easy to game the system. I’m not suggesting it, but I may or may not have done it when I was in a hurry on my way out of Oslo – there was a huge line in front of me at the one ticket machine, so I just quietly snuck through and no one caught me. (Sorry, Norway. I promise not to do it again!)
HOW I PACKED
Since I had connections and didn’t want to be beholden to the luggage carousel, and since I didn’t want to pay the fee for checked luggage anyway, I crammed a week’s worth of stuff in this backpack. I bought it specifically because it meets the size requirements for the no-fee carry-on policy that budget airlines like WOW and Norwegian use.
And since I pretty much only wear black, it makes packing way less complicated in terms of choosing things based on possible outfit combinations. (I just dropped off my laundry the night before I left so it was folded and ready to go day-of, although I’m also a fan of the rolling method for saving bag space if laundromat drop-off isn’t in the cards.) I wore the bulkiest items (jacket and rain slicker on, sweatshirt around my waist) to the airport to save room, too. I brought my laptop, plug adapters, a charger and my digital camera, but other than that and my clothes (and a comb, my toothbrush and travel toothpaste and deodorant, duh) it was just the backpack, my wallet and my passport that came with me to Oslo.
WHERE I STAYED
Øyafestival takes place in Tøyenparken, so that helped me narrow down where to stay. My Airbnb was just a ten minute walk from the park, which was great for bouncing back and forth for rest breaks without having to spend any money on transit. And it was SUPER CUTE OH MY GOD. Definitely would recommend for one or two people.
WHAT I ATE AND DRANK
My pockets aren’t that deep, y’all, and Norway is HELLA PRICEY when it comes to food. I always get Airbnb apartments instead of hotels anyway, but being able to cook in that economy was a godsend. There were plenty of good treats to grab from the supermarket – for example, I tried Norwegians’ beloved “brown cheese”, which is a tan, caramel-y whey cheese that’s great on toast or waffles, and tastes weirdly like the middle of a Ritz Bits Cheese Sandwich. (I mean that as a compliment. Maybe you disagree.) Freia chocolate with Daim is also a must. (I never said we were watching our weight, you guys.)
I didn’t really eat out at all, but if you’re looking to do that, I’ve heard great things about Mathallen (the food hall), which seems like it’s got everything you could ever possibly want! I did eat a hot dog from the infamous Syverkiosken, which I’ll review officially in a Scandinavian hot dogs comparison coming up this Friday, but let me just say it was AMAZING. And cheap. Especially because I didn’t realize you had to pay cash (basically cash is obsolete in Oslo, and you can pay for nearly everything by card), and the owner took pity on me by giving me the hot dog he’d already made for free. I’m currently in the process of trying to figure out how to mail him some NOKs, but if you go there, please don’t be a dummy like me and BRING $$$.
And in case you couldn’t tell from the eight hundred times I mentioned drinking it at various airports, beer is my beverage of choice, so that’s what I drank in Oslo. Alcohol is tricky in Norway, because in the supermarkets, the only booze you can buy is beer that’s 4.7% ABV or below. (#WEAKSAUCE) Everything else has to be acquired from a special shop called a Vinmonopolet, and the sale of alcohol in general is restricted past certain hours (you can’t get it in shops at all on Sundays), so if you’re planning to #DRANK outside of restaurants ‘n bars, I’d suggest stocking up at Duty Free on your way out of the airport.
Allegedly the strictness is supposed to deter folks from getting overly sloshed, but people I spoke to said they felt it had the opposite effect. It was like this in Iceland when I went in 2015, too – people were bonkers at the weekend! And at like 5AM on Saturday morning, some drunk guy started ringing everybody’s doorbells in the building where I was staying, and kept yelling “FRIDAAAAA!”, which was basically like the Scandinavian version of A Streetcar Named Desire. I mean, I LOL’d, but also like, CALM DOWN YOU GUYS.
WHAT I DID
Like I said, the primary purpose for my trip was to check out Øyafestivalen. Fortunately, the festival left lots of time in the morning to cruise around the city. The first day, the festival organizers actually took the international press guests out on a big boat for a fjord ride and a BBQ on a tiny little island! The water is super clean, so you can totally swim if you want (the water was actually warm enough since there’s been such a heatwave situation in Europe this summer), but be aware that you may need to be careful walking in the water – lots of people who went in cut their feet on sharp shells and barnacles, YIKES!
Obviously that was an ultra-convenient situation since I didn’t have to plan it at all, but if you’re looking for tips on the DIY version, my coworker Marissa’s good friend Ine (who’s Norwegian) suggested the following:
“Taking the boat out to Hovedøya is very nice, and you can use a regular Ruter ticket (you use this for the tram, underground and buses, too, and you can use the #Ruter app or buy a card at a Narvesen) to do that. It’s a great way to see some of Oslofjorden.”
When we came back to the city from the fjord ride, I hung out downtown for a while. My favorite part of that experience was walking up to the top of the Opera House, which is a super cool, super modern building with great views. (It’s touristy AF, but just look at it! Who cares! Plus, pro-tip: you can use the bathrooms for free, which is p. dope!) I am also partial to it because there’s a scene in one of my favorite ultra-queer movies, Thelma (which is like Carrie but super gay), where the lead character almost accidentally kills everyone via telekinesis when she gets a big ol’ lady boner for her crush. (How embarrassing!)
I didn’t have time to go to the National Gallery, which is where Munch’s “The Scream” is currently housed, but I did get a chance to check out the Munch Museum since it’s located right in front of Tøyenparken, and that was pretty legit. (It’s about $10 USD to go in, but apparently they don’t charge on Thursdays, so keep that in mind!)
Other than that, when I wasn’t at the festival I spent a lot of time strolling around and people watching on the streets and in the parks, which was pretty ideal!
HOW I GOT AROUND
Like I said, mostly on foot! It’s a very walkable city, plus it was free, great exercise to combat all the cheese and chocolate and beer I ingested. I will say that Oslo is super hilly in some areas, so do be aware that it feels like double the work compared to walking in a flat-ass place like NYC. I’m fairly positive you can also rent bikes, because that’s another preferred method of transit in Oslo. If you don’t want to physically exert yourself, the T-bane is totally a solid option. (It’s also a great, fast and reliable way to get yourself to and from the airport.) I would avoid taxis and Ubers (yes, they have Uber) if I were you, because in such an expensive city, the last thing you want to do is blow your budget on cars.
Loved it! I definitely want to go back to Oslo and use it as a jumping off point to check out the rest of Norway, and I think summer is a great time to do that. If I were just going to hang out in Oslo again, though, I might choose early fall to go back, simply because it seems like THE BEST place to feel ultra-cozy. (It oozes hygge.)
People were very friendly, and everyone I came into contact with spoke English. (Obviously I can’t guarantee EVERYONE will speak English, but it seems generally accepted that most people do. Just be sure to throw in a tusen takk, aka thanks very much, here and there so you don’t seem like a USA dickhead.)
As far as vibes go, I will say that (at least where I was, apart from the festival) Oslo is way more quiet than I’m used to, and that always feels unsettling to me since I’ve gotten so used to blaring sirens and yelling at all hours in NYC. But I never felt unsafe as a woman traveling by myself (or, you know, in general), which I feel is important to point out since a lot of travel forums make certain neighborhoods out to be hotbeds for crime. I was only there a few days, and it wasn’t like I was out at all hours of the night, but that’s not how I operate in NYC, either, so…clearly I can’t speak like I have lived there my whole life, but I wouldn’t read too much into the fear mongering if you come across it, just act like a normal human and keep your wits about you like you (hopefully) would anywhere else!
Other than that, it’s a really beautiful city with tons of great outdoor spaces, and was a welcome respite from the concrete jungle that is NYC! And obviously being able to catch so many great musical acts was amazing, but the music scene is super strong even when there’s not a huge festival going on, so if you decide to go, definitely make sure to check out the show listings – there’s guaranteed to be something dope happening on any given night.
In sum, vi ses, Oslo!