We arrived in Oslo around 4p in the afternoon on a gorgeous sunny day. Just as I thought I was getting used to bundling up and attacking the day’s weather as it came to us in Iceland, I was far too excited to throw on a tank up and sandals and soak up the sun!!
The drive into downtown from the airport is about an hour, which I found out is all you need to fall in love with the city itself.
As we cruised into town we were greeted by rolling hills of green, darling but huge farmhouses here and there, smaller towns that seemed to have a hustle and bustle all their own, and evergreen trees were bountiful – something I simply love about the PNW and therefore, it made Norway almost seem like home :)
Our group traveling into the Arctic was meeting at the Grand Hotel Oslo in two nights time so we decided to roll in early and give ourselves some time to explore the city.
Pulling up to the hotel was much like a fairy tale. It was a huge, old building, elegant in stature, and demanding of intrigue. The minute we walked in I was in awe. I had never stayed at a hotel so brilliantly decorated and could not stop staring.
Of course, like any youngster, I whipped out my cell phone and started snapping videos and photos! HA! Sorry if I embarrassed you Mom...
After I got over the initial shock of how beautiful each and every square foot of the hotel truly was, we dropped our luggage off in our room and quickly headed out on the town.
Given it was already 6p, we decided to grab a map of the city and just explore. We found this great café down the street and picked out a table snuggled up to a huge, blossoming tree. Looking up all we could see was greenery and hip globe lights brightening the shade the tree provided.
Looking around all we could see were people. Precisely why we picked this location! We ordered a few drinks, pulled out our map trying to plot what we would do with our limited 48hrs in Oslo, and watched folks as they went about their daily lives. It was lovely.
That evening for dinner we landed at an Indian restaurant, Der Peppern Gror, located right next to the City Hall (another beautiful building). They didn’t have English menus but we didn’t care.
Real quick fun fact, nearly ALL menus in Norway are extensively marked for allergies either with numbers or with symbols. So when eating out, I just had to figure out which numbers/symbols to avoid making eating GF super easy.
So back to dinner, we picked several dishes that we knew I could eat and just let them take us away...
Appetizer: Fried Spinach with homemade yogurt sauce, fresh cilantro, and pomegranate seeds. This was one of the best and most innovative Indian dishes I have ever had!
Dinner: Grilled Lamb and Chicken Tikka Masala with GF Rotti.
Dessest: Crème Brulee with Indian spices, kiwi, and passion fruit. I wasn’t even hungry at this point but of course, ate it all!
That night we slowly meandered back to the hotel and plopped down in bed, falling asleep faster than we could say goodnight.
The next morning we woke up ready to rumble! Or at least I did! I am typically a morning person – even more so after a good nights rest and an exciting day ahead!!
First things first, we hit up the breakfast buffet. I CAN’T EVEN!! OMG!!!
I died and went to food heaven. There was everything you could have ever wanted and more being served - yogurt, hot and cold cereals, fresh berries, a fruit station, an entire table dedicated to cheese alone, another to breakfast pastries and breads, a line up of various kinds of salmon, herring, and salamis, fresh vegetables, sautéed mushrooms, beans, stewed tomatoes, omelets, fried eggs, hard boiled eggs, soft boiled eggs, pickled accoutrements, and last but not least, a full service coffee bar!!
The first thing I told Ben when I got home was that I was going to recreate this breakfast for him… so just wait for it :)
After breakfast we began our Tour de Oslo. We headed towards the water and walked along the docks. We then headed up to Akerhaus Castle – a fort originally built to protect Oslo (Norway’s Capital) but has also been used as a military base, prison, and government offices over the years. The grounds are spectacular, filled with stone walkaways, timeless buildings, beautiful greenery, and a fascinating history.
Another fun fact, we got to see a Norwegian superstar do rehearsals for a big show that was going to be performed at the castle the following evening. Her voice was insane and we had a blast watching them practice!
After creeping on rehearsals, we headed over to the Oslo Opera House. Unfortunately, there was an event going on that day so we couldn’t go inside but the building itself was cool enough to entertain us.
You can walk on the roof all the way up to the top of the Opera House, where we delightfully found amazing 360° views of the city! I counted a few times over but I’m pretty certain there were more cranes in the skyline of Oslo than in Seattle!!
Next, we headed over to the train station. Mostly to use the bathroom but also just to check it out! European train stations are typically filled with amazing eateries and coffee shops and Oslo’s fit right in!
On to our main attraction of the day, Mathallen Oslo. It reminded me of a Pike’s Place Market except indoors, more modern, and a little cleaner.
Of course, I was in my happy place! I was surrounded by fantastic restaurants, wine bars, extraordinary cheese makers, fresh fish counters, DESSERTS GALORE, fresh produce, coffee shops, and the like. We definitely took our time exploring this little slice of culinary heaven in the heart of Oslo.
Highlights of Mathallen:
- The most luscious, velvety, chocolaty chocolate ice cream I have ever had!! Please note, I would contemplate flying all the way over to Oslo and combating jet lag just to eat this ice cream again.
- Gluten free biscotti sandwiches filled with semifreddo and dipped in chocolate!!!! I should have eaten at least five more of these :)
After enjoying several desserts, taking too many photos like a true tourist, and losing my sunglasses somewhere in the madness of it all, my mom and I decided to sit down for a hot cup of coffee.
We had found this place inside Mathallen whose claim to fame was that their coffee was SO good, you didn’t need cream or sugar. And to back up their bold words, they didn’t even offer cream or sugar!! It was intense branding and I LOVED IT!
I am a black coffee drinker through and through so I was happy as a clam. However, for those of you that were wondering, my mom is definitely a cream and sugar girl and she said the coffee was exceptional! She said she never once even wanted cream or sugar! So there you have it: Best. Coffee. Ever.
On to the other attractions of the day, a quest to find the perfect Norwegian sweater!
Again, we found ourselves lollygagging through side streets, enjoying people watching and strolling through markets, until we ended up at our next destination: Dale of Norway – where I did happen to find and purchase a beautiful Norwegian sweater.
Again, happy as a clam.
Being that it was late afternoon at this point and we were near the hotel, we decided to stop by and drop a few things off as well as freshen up before heading out for dinner.
For dinner we decided to walk along the pier until we found something that tickled our fancy. We ended up walking ALL the way down the pier, to the very, very end of it, where we found a quaint little sushi place. The fish was fresh and simply presented. It was nothing to write home about as we are spoiled rotten with fantastic sushi in Seattle but it was an excellent choice for a quite, tasty meal.
On our walk home that evening we decided to saunter through the grounds of the Royal Palace. The palace itself wasn’t open to visitors yet, which was a total bummer, as I would have loved to check it out!! However, exploring the gardens on a wildly warm summer evening felt seemingly right for the occasion.
Our last stop of the day was a rooftop bar for a glass of wine. The bar was filled with locals who were beaming with joy, laughter, and enthusiasm making me grin from ear to ear. So again, we people watched, sipped our drinks, and then slowly headed back to our hotel for another good nights rest.
The following morning we were up and at ‘em yet again! We hopped over to the epic breakfast buffet before we quickly jetted off to the train station. We were heading out to Holmenkollen, Oslo’s Ski Jump and Ski Museum.
I won’t blab on and on about a museum that we spent a solid 4hrs at but I will say, you should definitely go see it for youself!! Plus, there is a zipline at the top that during summer months you can ride down as if you were skiing off the jump yourself! It wasn’t open when we were there but you all know I would have been the first in line!!
After the museum, we hiked back down to the train station and rode the train back into the city. The train ride itself is totally worth it as you wind through the foothills of Oslo enjoying not only breathtaking scenery but also seeing city life from a local’s perspective. In my opinion, taking public transportation is often one of the best ways to immerse yourself into a city’s culture.
Upon arrival into the city, we stopped at a coffee shop with an array of GF baked goods! It was so cool!! I helped myself to a Milk Chocolate + Hazelnut Chocolate Chip Cookie as well as a hot cup of coffee.
I savored every chewy, buttery bite letting the chocolate morsels melt in my mouth before I crunched down on the crispy cookie edges and the roasted hazelnuts. I truly wanted to eat 10 more cookies but I knew I had one more stop to make before dinner…
Burger King. Yes, you heard me!! Burger King in Norway has GF buns and I wanted nothing more than to get my hands on them!! I hadn’t had a whopper in over a decade and I was ready to smash one down!
The bun was okay but the concept of eating a Burger King Whopper, sitting on a bench in the middle of busy pedestrian street, had me all jazzed up!! I felt normal!! I was eating like a normal person!! It was fun while it lasted :)
That night we met up with our ship fam for the first time; 133 people that we would be spending the next week with in the Arctic. We went on a little cruise around the bay in Oslo, checking our most of the sites we saw from land the day before now from sea, and then we ended at the Fram Museum.
The Fram tells the story of Norweigian polar exploration and the building is actually built around a ship. It was quite impressive and a very inspiring place to start our expedition up north.
It was hard to fall asleep that night.
I couldn’t stop vividly dreaming of what the Arctic would have in store for us…
Lick the Bowl – You Only Live Once,