If you’re planning a winter weekend getaway, why not skip the tried and true Caribbean, embrace the snow and spend 36 hours in Oslo, Norway instead?
Planning a winter weekend in Oslo, the capital of Norway, might generate some strange looks. “Isn’t it freezing there?” people may say. Well, yes, but it’s also pretty dang chilly here in U.S. at that time. Just like I had a blast in Iceland in the winter, Norway is also a special place to visit when it’s cold. Here are 7 reasons to go.
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#1 You Can Actually Travel to Oslo for 36 Hours from NYC, without Taking Time off from Work.
Traveling the world on weekends is often more of a catchy slogan for the blog than reality. Finding flights that line up perfectly with your quittin’ time on a Friday and arrive back before work starts on Monday are tough to come by at good prices. But you actually *can* fly to Oslo for the weekend from the east coast of the U.S. Norwegian offers a red eye flight from JFK on Friday night that arrives in Oslo late morning, and departs on Sunday evening.
In addition to the great flight times, there’s an express train that goes straight from the airport to the city making the transfer easy, convenient and fast.
Too short of a visit you say? Continue reading, and I’ll convince you why it’s the perfect amount of time to explore Oslo.
#2 It’s Affordable to Fly to a Winter Weekend in Oslo Directly from the U.S. in the Winter.
Norwegian offers direct flights from New York, Boston, Los Angeles and San Francisco to Oslo for under $300 round trip. Okay, so flying from California to spend a weekend in Oslo might be a little aggressive – but for those of us on the east coast, that’s cheaper than a ticket to Florida.
#3 You Can Take the Subway to Go Sledding or Skiing
Oslo’s public transit system really impressed me. It’s clean, efficient, runs on time and most importantly, takes you to really cool places like Korketrekkeren, the area’s most popular toboggan run. You’ll notice as you head out there that everyone on the metro is also wearing snow gear and carrying skis and sleds. It’s the thing to do on a Saturday afternoon in Oslo!
The sleds you rent at Korketrekkeren were way more sophisticated than the plastic things I used to play with when I was a kid. Once you get going, it takes about 15 minutes to reach the bottom of the hill, where you can take the metro back up to the top and go again. How cool is that? The sled run stays open after dark, which offers an awesome view of the city at night.
Here’s a tip though: dress warmly and bring snow pants. Trust me on that one.
While you’re out there, another cool sight nearby is the Holmenkollen Ski Jump, an Oslo landmark. Serious props to anyone daring enough to go down that thing… I know I wouldn’t be!
#4 It’s Really Not That Cold in Oslo
Many people think of Norway and picture the Arctic Circle – but Oslo is pretty far away. As I said in my post about Iceland, it’s not as cold as you think. In fact, when I spent a weekend in Oslo last winter during #Snowpocalypse in Boston, it was sunny and a balmy 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Dress appropriately and you’ll be fine.
#5 There Are Lots of Cool Things to See – Many for Free!
When we first arrived in Oslo, we spent the early afternoon getting our bearings and walking around downtown. The busy street Karl Johans Gate is a popular tourist destination that reminded me of a cleaner version of Times Square (there’s even a TGIFridays).
By strolling to the end of Karl Johans Gate, we stumbled upon the Royal Palace, which was looking quite pretty surrounded by fresh snow. King Harald V and Queen Sonja live in the palace, but since it’s only open to the public in the summer I didn’t get a chance to check out the interior.
On Sunday we meant to get up early and be super tourists, but our bed at the Scandic Oslo City Hotel was so warm and comfy, and we were honestly beyond tired. So we ended up sleeping until 11 a.m., which isn’t something I normally do when I’m only in town for 36 hours! Fortunately we were still able to cram in quite a few things on the weekend in Oslo to-do list before heading to the airport.
First, we checked out the spectacular Opera House, which is one of Oslo’s most distinguishing landmarks. It was only a few blocks from the hotel, so this side trip only took up a few minutes.
In the water nearby I noticed this cool glass sculpture. I had no idea what it was at the time, but apparently it’s called She Lies and was created by an Italian artist, Monica Bonvicini. It’s meant to symbolize the changing face and renewal of Oslo’s waterfront.
Next we took the metro to the Vigelandsparken Sculpture Park, which was a little out of the way but worth the trek. The park has 212 sculptures by artist Gustav Vigeland, who also designed the layout of the grounds. The most famous sculpture in the park is the Monolith, a column that is over 14 meters tall, carved in one single stone and features 121 human figures. The park is a popular place for locals to gather on a nice day, and even covered in snow it was pretty busy.
#6 It’s So Expensive, You Can’t Afford to Stay for Longer than a Weekend in Oslo
I wish this reason was a joke, but it’s not. Oslo is insanely expensive. Food and drinks alone will destroy your budget, and places that are labelled “affordable” are typically on par with five star restaurants in the U.S. (don’t even think about going somewhere that Norwegians themselves consider expensive!). I was glad to only be in town for one night, because on night two I was likely to starve to death when my credit cards started getting declined.
While we stuck to budget-friendly activities like sledding and free outdoor attractions like the sculpture garden, those who want to visit Olso’s museums might consider purchasing an Oslo Pass. It’s actually a really good deal: free entry to more than 30 museums and attractions, free travel on all public transport (major, since a day pass is around $11), walking tours and quite a few discounts on things like ski rentals and certain restaurants. The price for an Oslo pass comes out to about $38 for 24 hours and $56 for 48 hours.
Visit Oslo was nice enough to provide me with a complimentary Oslo Pass during my winter weekend in Oslo, but I have to admit that I only used the pass for the metro because we didn’t have time to make it to any museums, However, the fact that I could store it in an app was super convenient.
#7 You’ll Find the Ultimate Winter Comfort Food in Oslo
Norwegians live through long, freezing winters with little daylight, so it’s no surprise that they’ve perfected comfort food. Norwegian fare centers around the basics (meat and potatoes) but it’s hearty and delicious. To enjoy a traditional Norwegian meal at a relatively affordable price, head to Kaffistova, a casual cafe located downtown that serves things like savory meat pies and Norwegian meatballs.
If you’re looking for a restaurant scene, Grunerlokka is a really cool neighborhood where you’ll find plenty of spots filled with stylishly clad Norwegians.
For dinner we ate at a trendy place called Fru Hagen, amid its assortment of funky decor and mismatched furniture. The food was delicious – my friend and I split a chicken pesto risotto and a baked pasta dish at the bar (again, all the comfort food please!).
After dinner we did a little bar hopping, eventually winding up at a tiny cocktail joint called Bar Boca. Bar Boca’s interior is very retro, and the bartender was one of the most professional I’ve ever come across. Not only was he mixing up delicious concoctions, he seemed to know the exact moment anyone at the bar needed to place an order. Seriously, I never waited for a drink.
I usually don’t find Norwegians to be overly outgoing, so we didn’t expect to strike up much conversation. But apparently our height gave us away as foreigners, because a woman soon stopped by our table to compare her height to ours. She was excited to meet some fellow short people!
We began chatting with her and her friends, and they even bought us a round of drinks. Trust me, a free round is priceless in a country where beverages run around $22 a pop. Our new Norwegian friends again asked us why were there, giving us suspicious looks when we said we’d flown in from New York for one night.
Hey, it was super cheap and who can pass up a good flight deal?
After a long night of extremely expensive cocktails, we were on the brink of exhaustion and hadn’t seen a bed in over 24 hours. But before we could make it home, we made a pit stop at a restaurant called Munchies. Here I had what I promise you was the best burger I’ve ever had in my life. Seriously, I’d fly back to Norway just to eat it; it was that good!
Also located in Grunerlokka is Mathallen, a giant food hall filled with mini restaurants (a great place to go for lunch).
The place was packed with locals dining at tables and shopping inside on a Sunday afternoon, and our first stop was the Den Blinde Ku shop which offers a variety of Norwegian cheeses. There were lots of free samples, but I ended up buying a hunk of cheese that was made with cloves, which I’m told is a Norwegian Christmas tradition. It was yummy and made a great hostess gift for a party I attended the next week.
For lunch we ate at a tapas bar in Mathallen called Barramon, right in the middle of the action. The bite-size snacks they served weren’t too expensive and the location was perfect for people watching.
After a late lunch it was time to pick up our bags and head to the airport. But not before stopping for a hot dog. Those tapas had been delicious, but not quite filling enough to last us through a 7 hour flight! If you’re in Norway and looking for cheap eats, head to Deli De Luca for an oversize hot dog wrapped in bacon for the equivalent of about $7USD. Nom.
While we were in Norway, we were guests of the Scandic Oslo City hotel. Located literally across the street from Oslo Central Station, it was extremely convenient for exploring the city in such a short amount of time. Our suite was absolutely adorable (I think I’m in love with Scandinavian design) and the heated floors in the bathroom just made everything better. Also, it was awesome that the bed had two comforters so we could each have our own. So cozy!
Our winter weekend in Oslo was brief, but we really did cram quite a bit in, including a fun night out and plenty of tasty food. I went to Oslo with zero expectations and was pleasantly surprised. While I do believe that the beauty of Norway lies outside the major cities in the mountains and the fjords, if you can find a deal as cheap as I did to Oslo, you should go and experience the modern city surrounded by nature for yourself.
Learn More about Oslo
- Lonely Planet Pocket Oslo Travel Guide
- Insight Guides Pocket Oslo Travel Guide
- Greater than a Tourist – Oslo Norway: 50 Travel Tips from a Local
- Lonely Planet Oslo City Map
- Oslo Made Easy: The Best of Norway featuring Oslo and Bergen
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This is great! I just need to find cheap flights like you do from Toronto and I’ll be good to go! Oslo looks so lovely in the snow 🙂
Amanda – The Backpack Lass recently posted…Hiking Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh
It was lovely! I’m planning to start compiling some different weekend flight deals from different cities so I’ll keep Toronto in mind as an origin. 🙂
Great post! We weekend travel from Amsterdam (Just got home from Malaga, Spain & Tangiers, Morocco this long weekend)! I am going to hunt down a cheap fair to Oslo now… that sculpture park looks awesome! (made a note to self to bring a picnic bag to eat from the local markets since table dining is so high there – thanks for the great tip!)
“It’s So Expensive, You Can’t Afford to Stay for Longer than a Weekend in Oslo” — this made me laugh so hard hahaha!!
I believe that is true, though, I visited Stockholm in Sweden last autumn and could not even stay longer than 1 night, so I decided to skip Norway cause I could already imagine it would be even more expensive 😀
But I’ll definitely visit Norway someday – and yes, preferably in winter as you recommend here. I kind of want to go north for the aurora as well! x
This was really helpful even as a traveller coming from the UK. Luckily enough for me the flights are only $20 each way for me….I can spend the rest of my budget on 2 drinks at the bar!
This looks great,I love that you did the trip in a weekend. I actually won a weekend trip to Oslo about 15 years ago and it was expensive then so I can only imagine it now.