The capital city of Norway, Oslo is a vibrant and exciting shipping town that grew from a tiny trading post in the reign of King Harald. Famous as much for its interesting Viking heritage as it is for its winter sports and legendary Munch Museum, it’s one of the country’s most visited conurbations and a popular destination for weekend breaks and cruises. The Port of Oslo is one of the busiest in the Baltic region, with over 6,000 vessels bringing around 5 million passengers to enjoy its shopping, sightseeing and culture every year.
Oslo is fairly tightly packed, not in a crowded way, but in a compact way. It’s nestled between ranges of mountainous fjords which make for a dramatic panorama if you’re arriving by cruise ship. And because it’s neatly slotted into a pretty valley, it’s small enough to travel around with ease, making it perfect for a few hours sightseeing as well as whole weeks spent here at a time. It’s got a wealth of cultural attractions close to its centre and a pretty market square in the old town where cafes and boutique stores can be found. When you disembark your cruise ship in the port, here are a few ideas for attractions you should put on your itinerary:
Tregaarden’s Christmas House: It’s the festive season all year round for this pretty little boutique in Drøbak, twenty minutes outside Oslo. Big fans of Father Christmas, or Julenissen as he’s called in Norway, this little shop sports a traditional log cabin frame and sells all manner of Christmas cards, souvenirs, candles and more. It’s also home to an official post office, so children can post their letters to Santa along with a special post mark designed by the shop.
Akershus Castle: This medieval building is part castle, part fortress, and both are open to visitors. They’re found close to the Port of Oslo, and can be reached on foot, and they offer an interesting few hours of exploration. Visitors can view the banqueting halls, which were renovated in the Renaissance period, the Royal Mausoleum and the government rooms, as well as enjoy a relaxing walk alongside the battle scarred walls that face onto the sea.
Royal Modum Blaafarveværk: Just north of the city, this unique attraction was once cobalt mines. Dating back to the 1800’s, miners removed cobalt from the rock to be used as dyes for clothing and glass. There isn’t any mining now, but visitors can enjoy a guided tour through the quarries and read about its history in the museum. Some of the old mining buildings have been turned into shops, cafes, a children’s gallery and a petting farm.
Shopping in Oslo
Oslo is a vibrant, colourful and multi-cultural city, with a cosmopolitan outlook on life. Visitors can enjoy a range of shopping that reflects its unique personality, from plenty of smaller local shops tucked away in old town houses near the centre, to modern glass-fronted shopping malls with high street chain stores and designer outlets.
Aker Brygge Shopping Centre is located next to the harbour, making it easy to get to if you only want to spend a few hours away from the boat. It’s a modern retail outlet with a good range of shops, some of which are unique to Norway, and others that are recognisable to visitors. The Mathallan Food Hall is a hectic covered market selling everything from the catch of the day to locally produced speciality goods. The theme is International, and as well as Norwegian delicacies you can pick up some authentic Spanish Tapas or Italian ingredients as well. The space in the centre is used for demonstrations and cookery classes, and it’s a must-visit destination for travelling foodies.
Eating Out in Oslo
With such great produce available, it’s no surprise Oslo has a high number of restaurants and cafes to choose from. Fish is a popular favourite, and right next to the port is a line of restaurants specialising in seafood. The Fiskerestaurant overlooks the harbour, with large floor to ceiling windows giving an impressive view along the boardwalk and towards the waiting cruise ships. It has a seasonal menu that offers dishes like Shore Crab Soup and live Norwegian lobster. The Beach Club restaurant is also worth a visit. It’s located inside the Aker Brygge Shopping Centre and has a twenty year reputation for serving the best American-style food in the city. When you step off your cruise ship to spend time in Oslo, the one thing you really mustn’t miss is a hotdog on lefse. It’s a form of flatbread and made from cream, flour, milk and potato, and you can find it in small cafes located along the harbour front.