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Oslo: Three Days in Norway's Largest City

Exactly seven months after arriving in Norway, I headed to Oslo to spend three days exploring the country's capital and largest city.

Once called "Christiana", the history of the city stretches back to the start of the first millennium. The first mentions in Norse sagas date to 1049, but there is evidence proving a settlement existed earlier. You can learn more here.

I knew it as a transportation hub, but I'd never truly been to Oslo. Previously, I'd flown in and out, taken a bus through and spent many hours at Gardermoen (airport) and Oslo Central Station (Oslo S), waiting for various forms of transportation on my way to other places. This time I would give the city my undivided attention.

This trip was a gift to myself, to celebrate the fact that I am now officially a resident of Norway (albeit on a temporary permit). And the timing was good. The winter season had just wrapped up at Hakkesetstølen, and now we would shift gears to prepare for the summer tourist season.

On Sunday morning, I hopped on a bus to Kongsberg, where I would board a train to Oslo.

I was fortunate enough to snag a popular Airbnb for my stay, in an area of the city called Majorstuen, just a stone’s throw away from Frognerparken (Frogner Park), the location of a Vigeland Sculpture Park, a place I was eager to visit. The park is also home to Norway's biggest collection of roses (14,000 plants of 150 different species), but my early spring trip would mean I wouldn't be able to witness it.

I arrived at Oslo S, took the bus to Majorstuen and walked to the Airbnb, my home for the next three days.

A friend offered to show me around a bit, so I set my bag down and we walked to Frogner Park, just a few minutes away. I was able to get an overview of the park, and made notes along the way, as my plan was to come back in the morning, armed with my Nikon camera that I brought with me from the U.S. I hadn’t used it much, and this seemed like a great opportunity to put it to use (and to help justify carting it across the Atlantic Ocean).

After walking around Frogner, we drove up to an area of Oslo called Holmenkollen, which offers incredible views of the city from 435 meters (1,427 feet) above. We had dinner at Frognerseteren, a restaurant and location with a rich history.

I returned to the Airbnb, got settled in, and made sure the battery to my camera was fully charged. In the morning, I would grab coffee, my camera and head back to Frogner. The forecast was calling for beautiful weather, and I wanted to take full advantage.

I entered the park on Monday morning and realized I was on a different route than the one my friend and I had taken the evening prior. As I pointed myself toward the center of the park, I rounded a corner and was surprised to find myself staring up at Abraham Lincoln.

I took some photos, and did some research later that evening.

Here's what I learned:

The Lincoln Memorial in Frogner Park is the work of American sculptor and educator Paul Fjelde, whose other works include the Hans Heg statue in Madison, Wisconsin.

On July 4, 1914, North Dakota Governor Louis Hanna presented the bronze bust of Abraham Lincoln to the nation of Norway. The bronze tablets read "Presented to Norway by the people of North Dakota, U.S.A." and "Government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth".

Fjelde’s bust of Lincoln is still prominent in the July 4 celebration that continues each year in Frogner Park.

I waved goodbye to Old Abe, and continued on.

Vigeland Sculpture Park features more than 200 sculptures in bronze, granite and cast iron created by Norwegian sculptor Gustav Vigeland (1869–1943). Vigeland was also responsible for the design and architectural outline of the park, which is one of Norway's top tourist attractions, with more than one million annual visitors.

Of all the sculptures, one stands tallest.

"Carved out of a single block of granite, the 46-feet-tall monolith is a stunning centerpiece.

The monolith is an impressive sight from a distance, but even more so up close. It depicts 121 intertwined human figures, seemingly clinging on and climbing over one another. Women and men of different ages feature, while younger children clamber at the very top.

Set around the steps are a series of granite sculptures, once again depicting men, women and children in a variety of pensive, angry, agitated and touching poses. Access to the monolith and steps is through one of eight wrought iron gates that feature human figures in their design.

According to Vigeland Museum, the sculpture has been interpreted as 'a kind of vision of resurrection, and our longing and striving for spirituality.'"

I was able to take some incredible photos under bright blue skies.

After nearly having the park to myself for a few hours, I left just as tour buses were rolling in.

You can learn more about Gustav Vigeland's life and work at the Vigeland Museum website.

Ope. Time to GO.

On Tuesday, I woke up, laced up, grabbed some coffee and bounded out of the Airbnb, armed with a list of sights I wanted to see.

First up: MUNCH 😱

MUNCH”, a new 13-story waterfront museum that opened in October 2021, is dedicated to Norwegian painter and printmaker Edvard Munch (1863-1944).

Best known for his work called “The Scream, Munch was active throughout more than sixty years; from the time he made his debut in the 1880s, right up to his death in 1944. He was part of the Symbolist movement in the 1890s and a pioneer of Expressionist art from the beginning of the 1900s onward.

I began on the 7th floor, in an immersive exhibit called “Shadows”, where Munch’s home outside Oslo was reconstructed in a multimedia installation that uses light, sound and moving images to tell stories from Munch’s life.

As I moved through each floor, I learned that there's much more to Munch than 'The Scream'. The exhibition was divided into twelve different themes that could be explored in any order: "Alone, To Die, The Scream, Love, Gender, Outdoors, Naked, Others, Oneself, In Motion, On the Surface and Variations."

After having spent time at Vigeland Sculpture Park the day prior, I had been thinking about social attitudes to nakedness of the human body, and the difference in U.S. vs Norwegian views (I could devote an entire post to this topic).

The theme continued on at MUNCH:

"People react differently to being naked. Some become shy and vulnerable and would prefer to cover up. Others feel strong and liberated. In Munch's art, we find a variety of naked bodies." - NAKED exhibition, MUNCH Museum
Pubertet, Edvard Munch

To learn more about Edvard Munch, I recommend exploring the Munchmuseet (Munch Museum) website.

As the day was winding down, so was my phone’s battery, so I popped into a pub called The Scotsman, located on Norway’s busiest pedestrian street, called Karl Johan. While I charged my phone, I splurged on a beer and some sweet potato fries and settled in for some people-watching. I also learned that The Scotsman was where a Norwegian Elvis impersonator called ‘Kjell Elvis’ (#Kjellvis?) set the new world record for singing Elvis Presley songs for 50 hours, 50 minutes and 50 seconds straight in an online competition.

I looked up and saw a sign that said 'FEAR IS A LIAR', and I thought about that as I sat there.

On Wednesday morning, I packed up and cleaned the Airbnb before heading to Oslo S, where I would store my bag and do some more exploring before taking the train back to Geilo. On the chilly walk, a few snowflakes started to swirl around me. A gentle reminder that it was time to get back to my home for now, in the mountains.

Before my train arrived, I picked up an edition of ‘Breathe’ magazine. On the ride back to Geilo, I read a story about “#Plogging”, a term coined by a Swedish runner who started a trend that combines picking up garbage with running. Throughout my trip, I had been picking up garbage whenever I saw it, and placing it in the proper receptacle. Here's an Earth Day reminder to do your part - whether you walk or run, or if you're in the city or the country. Every day is Earth Day.

It went by far too quickly, but my whirlwind trip to Oslo was 'fantastisk'. I was able to do 'city things' like drink chai lattes with soy milk, buy peonies at the local flower shop, slide in a salon appointment and a hot yoga sesh and get a taste of what makes Oslo so unique. In addition to Frogner Park and MUNCH, I was able to see the Royal Palace, climb to the top of the Opera House and visit Oslo's new main Deichman Library (another museum high on my list, the Viking Ship Museum, is unfortunately closed for rebuilding, but will reopen as the Museum of the Viking Age in 2025/26).

When I had returned to Geilo from a quick trip to Bergen in early April, the approval for my residence permit had arrived the next morning. This time, when I returned from Oslo, my residence card was waiting for me.

After months of hard work, the pieces are finally falling into place.

I'm going to wrap this post up with a few photos I took from around Oslo, in support of Ukraine, and recommend a reading from the Munch Museum website called BETWEEN WAR AND NEUTRALITY: A reading of Edvard Munch’s The Scream on Day 22 of the war in Ukraine.

As always, takk for at du leste (thank you for reading).

~ Marla

Post Playlist:

Oslo - Anna of the North

Seasons (Waiting on You) - Future Islands

Run This Town - Jay-Z, Rihanna, Ye

Hot Child in the City - Nick Gilder

How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful - Florence + The Machine

Naked As We Came - Iron & Wine

Your Rocky Spine - Great Lake Swimmers

The Great Gig in the Sky - Pink Floyd

Don’t Go City Girl On Me - Tommy Overstreet

Mull of Kintyre - Paul McCartney & Wings

Viva Las Vegas - Elvis Presley


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