A Winter Break in Norway
Last week, Luke and I set off at a ridiculous time in the morning (1:30am) to head to the airport and fly to Norway! I booked the flights for Luke’s birthday back in September so it’s been a long time getting excited for this winter getaway.
I know a week away in January is perhaps not the norm, and I definitely got a few comments such as, ‘it’ll be cold’ and ‘why use a week of your annual leave in Jan when you could save it for summer’, but actually I’m so glad I decided to go for it.
See, January is a shitty month. It really is. Everyone’s poor from Christmas, the festive spirit is no longer keeping us going, it’s dark, cold, and usually chucking it down with rain. I really wanted to escape for a little bit during this miserable month to somewhere new. And with the hygge concept circulating the internet, I longed to visit Scandinavia - plus this was Luke’s birthday present after all, and I knew he’d love Norway for the same reasons I was keen to visit - wintery scenes and a calm city.
We flew early Monday morning and landed at 9:30am, and took off from Oslo airport on Thursday night at 9:30pm - so 4 days and 3 nights in the city. The flights went very quickly - I’m not a fan of flying because I have barotrauma so I try to sleep during the flights to avoid the inevitable agony, and these unsociable flight times definitely helped.
Oslo airport is very close to the city. We jumped on a regional train and it took 20 minutes to get to the city centre. Definitely get a regional ticket and not an airport express train (FlyToGet I think it’s called) as the express train isn’t that much quicker but it’s much more expensive. And don’t even consider getting a taxi unless you actually want to see money burn in front of you.
Norway is expensive.
You’ve probably heard that before, and yep it’s true. And there’s no way of getting around it really! It shouldn’t put you off though, it just means you may have to travel a bit differently to what you might be used to if you don’t want to empty your bank account.
We stayed in an AirBnB - it was beautifully decorated and in a really good location, and very reasonably priced too! I love staying in AirBnBs as you often have the option of cooking and access to a lounge - a hotel room is great for one night but I’m not keen on staying longer than one night in one. Our host was lovely too.
If you're tempted by an AirBnb, you can get £25 off your first trip with this link.
After getting to our accommodation and a quick nap, we wrapped up warm and headed out into the snowy city. Parks were first on our agenda, as we wanted to get some photos in the snow before the light got too low (which it does, very early). My favourite area was the University Gardens where the Natural History Museum is - which is a beautiful building.
We then walked through the city more, and ended up at the Opera House which is on the waterfront of the Oslo Fjords, just as the sun was setting. You can climb up and onto the roof of the Opera House for free which offers beautiful views (but it will be very cold!). And no it’s not dangerous - it’s a slanted roof, which slants all the way down to the ground so it’s just like walking up a ramp!
After this, we were cold and getting a bit hungry so we decided to head back and pick up some food on the way from the supermarket. I love supermarkets abroad, they always seem a *little* bit exciting. We picked up some vegan burgers, sweet potato fries, bread and potato salad for our dinner. Mmmm.
The next day we woke to thick snow falling. It was forecast to snow all day, so we decided to postpone our long walk we’d planned and decided to stick around the city centre itself. So we wandered around, and stopped for brunch and coffees when we needed to dry off and warm up. Oslo is a pleasant city to explore, and it’s small enough too to be able to walk around and though some areas are quite industrial looking, there's a lot of hidden gems too. There’s loads of shops you can warm up in - interior shops are so worth popping in. Scandinavian, hygge interiors are dreamworthy.
We got around to going for the walk the next day. We headed up to Lake Sogsnvann on the metro. The underground was so easy to use, but it’s worth noting that tickets bought on the train cost more (definitely buy them before), but the machines in the station don’t accept notes. The best place to buy them is in a 7 Eleven store or on the Ruter app if you’re using your credit card. A 24 hour ticket costs 90 Krone.
There was even more snow once we were outside of the city centre, and there were so many people skiing around this area.
The lake itself was completely covered in snow. I read online that people go ice skating here in winter but there was far too much snow for that to be possible! At first we couldn’t actually even work out where the lake WAS.
I imagine this place would be beautiful in the summer, but it was so serene and stunning with the snow. The vastness, the quiet, the contrast of white snow and dark trees - it almost didn’t look real. Mist gathered around the top of the evergreens and sun broke through the clouds - the snow dulled any sounds and apart from the occasional jogger, dog walker or skier through the trees, we were completely alone.
We had the most beautiful walk around here before resigning to the fact that we were very cold and slightly soaked from snowfall, so we headed back down the hill by metro to the city centre for some food and coffee (see the trend here?). I would definitely, definitely recommend spending a few hours by this lake, whatever time of year you plan on visiting Oslo. It’s only 20 mins by train from the city centre!
Back in the city we went for a quick coffee and a bite of food before walking to see the Royal Palace. This was a magnificent building and overlooked part of the city. The statue and olde lamps were so pretty! And of course the snow made it even more magical.
For dinner, we headed to somewhere that had been recommended to me - Illegal Burger. Every burger choice comes with three options - meat, fish or veggie, and there’s a vegan burger too. The fried potatoes were so good so definitely order them!! This meal was very reasonable by Oslo standards and I really enjoyed it! It’s almost more of a fast food place then a restaurant but it had a cool atmosphere.
On our final day in Oslo, we really wanted to go see the ski jump in Holmenkollen. We’d been waiting for a clear day as I’d read the views were really good from here - we got lucky with our last day!
One thing I will say about Oslo in January, it might seem obvious, but hell are the paths icy!! This day was the worst of all because it’d been wet the day before, but we had to walk on the road up the hill to the ski jump as the paths were just sheer ice. Parts of the city centre weren’t much better either so could be something to bear in mind? Definitely recommend sensible shoes though.
We were lucky with our timing as there were skiers practising jumps at Holmenkollen. This ski jump was built for the Olympics and has since been extended, and it was really impressive. The skiers were pretty awesome to watch too!
After a while watching skiers, and to stick to the theme, we went for coffee and some food. Hello, yummiest brie, fig chutney and walnut toasted sandwich I've ever tasted. The cafe was right under the ski jump and was SO cosy, with a fire, candles lit, skis on the wall, fur on the seats, dim lighting - I think I really came to understand the concept of hygge in Norway.
I wish we could have stayed longer, but there's always a slight sense of urgency when you have a flight in the evening and when you have such a fear of being late for anything like I do. We still watched a couple more skiers though before jumping back on the metro (they're so regular!) to go a few more stops up to the end of the line. There was some really pretty views from here too, and the train ride was exceptionally picturesque.
When heading up here on the metro, a vast amount of tobogganers/sledders jumped on the train with their sleds and rode up to this stop with them. You can sled down the hill from this spot on the toboggan path and then get the train back up to do it again! There's also a ski lodge type hut where you can rent sleds and skis (I believe) from.
Before we knew it, we had to head back to our apartment to pack, tidy up and check out. We had a couple of hours before we needed to head to the airport, and with more than half of our Kroner left we decided to go for a meal involving cocktails, starters and sides. Yes it was very expensive, but it was such a nice way to end our little break!
We actually did really well with budgeting, and still had an amazing time! If you guys want to see a post on how we managed to do the WHOLE trip (flights, accommodation, spending money, transfers and airport parking) for under £200 pp, let me know! Norway is expensive but I don't think it's unaffordable (for the most part).
I had SUCH a lovely few days. I didn't really know what to expect doing a city break in Jan, especially in a place that can be VERY cold. Cities can definitely be a bit grey and miserable in winter, but I actually didn't find that with Oslo - the snow helped, and the hygge aspect. Everyone we spoke to was really friendly, polite and had perfect English and there was just really nothing I could fault with the trip. I wish we could have stayed longer! But I'm already keen to go back, or at least visit more of Scandinavia. Any recommendations of where to go?