weekend break in oslo norway

 

I had a post on Rotterdam scheduled to go up today but after doing some research on Oslo for a work report I remembered just how great this Norwegian capital is. So I couldn’t help but look back at one of my favourite weekend breaks.

We visited as a foursome in the middle of winter, surrounded by the best snow scenes I’ve ever seen (I grew up in Saudi remember so this was pretty exciting). We flew into Oslo Rygge from Manchester on one of the cheap Ryanair flights and hired a car for the weekend. The ONLY thing that I could have done without on that trip was the horrible case of bronchitis I had (pre-departure) but luckily I was at the end stages of clearing the infection.

Nonetheless we had the best time and I recommend every single thing we did, so if you too want to nip over for a quick weekend break, here’s a run down of what we got up to:

 

Friday

We arrived pretty late on Friday night, picked up our hire car from the airport and headed straight to our hotel in Fornebu, just outside the city centre. A few wrong turns here and there we breezed past forests, through tunnels and had nothing but gleaming white snow around us. The Ford Fiesta was a great car to drive, even in these wintry conditions (seriously UK why do we make snow so stressful?).

 

 

Where we stayed:

We booked to stay at the Radisson hotel, not the fancy pants city centre one, but the one 20 minutes from central and right by the water, on the inner Oslo fjord. Here we could relax knowing we had ample car park space and we could get to the city or the vast outdoors around it, without any trouble. The service here was amazing and the rooms were comfortable and warm. Click here to read my full review.

 

 

Saturday

Up bright and early, filled up on breakfast and straight out the door!

 

Holmenkollen Ski Museum & Tower

It was winter and you couldn’t turn a corner without seeing something ski-inspired. So it was inevitable we would go and visit the famous ski museum celebrating over 4000 years of skiing history. The drive up was fun, we just kept going higher and higher, the views getting better and better. Car parks, well they were everywhere – maybe don’t go too high if its snowing, just in case you get stuck!

There was hardly anyone at the museum so we took our time and ended with a trip right to the observation deck, one that boasts some of the best views in all of Oslo – but only if its a clear day which it was not. We couldn’t see a thing! Not that it mattered, the others took great pleasure in mocking my fear of heights as usual. Full review over on this link if you want to know a bit more, definitely made me want to get out and pop on some skis.

 

 

Mathallen

After hours of frolicking in the snow, we were starved. My dear well-travelled friend Raz recommended we visit Mathallen food market to satisfy our hunger. She wasn’t wrong, it was a great tip. They even have their own car park but if you’re on public transport it’s only a 15minute walk from Oslo central station.

The food hall was bustling with speciality shops, cafes and spaces to eat. There was plenty on offer, of course fish was the popular choice of the day – everything looked divine. We enjoyed a delicious fresh fish filet burger, probably the fanciest one I’ve ever had.

 

 

From the moment we landed, we felt welcomed by the Norwegians, and that feeling continued throughout our stay. At Mathallen whilst looking around, I had a moment where I felt pretty fragile and  burst into a crazy coughing fit I just couldn’t stop. Mo and the others ran off to the nearest shop to get me some water, but before they returned a stall holder had brought me to his stand, sat me down and quickly presented me with a warm tea to soothe my throat. He then whipped up a medicinal mushroom tea – I assure you not the psychedelic kind – which he gave to me and suggested I sip it slowly as I walked round and it would hopefully help the pain. It was miraculous and worked a treat! I couldn’t thank him enough. (Nor could the others as the cough had started to get pretty annoying).

 

National Gallery

Well I love my art, and so does Mo so we weren’t about to visit Oslo and not pay a quick trip to see the world famous ‘Scream’ by Edward Munch. We didn’t spend that long in the gallery, most of the work here was very classical, not quite my cup of tea, but the exhibit curation was lovely and we made sure to take some time indoors to plan our next route.

 

 

Before making our way to see the Opera House we had a stroll around downtown Oslo. It was dark by this point, but the street lamps reflected bursts of light off the snow, giving everything a magical looking glow. We walked past ice rinks, boutiques, shopping centres – it was amazing how calm and homely it felt, even though we were in the city.

 

 

Opera House

We drove over to the Opera House and originally planned just to have a look but as we found a car park space right outside we went out for a wonder. I cannot tell you how much I LOVE this building, the biggest mistake I made was not having a nosey inside. It is the most interactive, fascinating structure I’ve ever come across and I’ve yet to find anything that comes close.

The building is designed to allow visitors to walk all the way up to the roof, it’s by the waterside and although angular with sharp edges, it fits in with the landscape. love love LOVE. Check out my full review on the story behind it here but I would advise everyone not to miss out on this when you’re in the city.

 

 

Sunday

Last day! but we were determined to make the most of it, so we got ready for an early start and headed out…

 

Viking Museum

Its a museum… with Viking ships! Stunning pieces of history, amazing explanation on their restoration and the place itself is a nice size. Car parks are all nearby

*Top Tip* – If you’re planning on visiting a number of tourist attractions or have hired a car pick up an Oslo pass – depending on how much you want to see and do, if you’re going as a group you won’t necessarily all need one. However, one of the most useful elements we found is that all municipal car parks are free, and there are plenty around.

 

 

Nobel Museum

I wasn’t quite sure how good this museum would be at first, but I was definitely impressed. I love the engagement that has been built into the exhibits. The stories we read and learned were amongst the most inspirational I’ve seen. They have trails for children to follow and spaces to sit and reflect. In the harsh realities of world crisis we see on a daily basis, it’s nice to have somewhere that celebrates all the people who are out there trying to do their best to create peace. WORLD peace. I wrote a review about it here if you want to know more, it’s really something.

 

 

With our flight later on Sunday afternoon we spent our last few hours wandering around, visited a few tourist shops and just enjoyed the calmness of the city.

 

Pricing breakdown:

Return Flight with Ryanair: £39.98
Car hire: £83 – split between four of us
Accommodation, bed and breakfast: £95 – total price for 2 nights, 2 per room

48 hrs Oslo Pass (Adult): £43.44
Entrance charges per person:
Holmenkollen Ski Museum & Tower: £11.50 – Free with Oslo Pass
National Gallery: £8.87 – Free with Oslo Pass
Viking Museum: £7.09 – Free with Oslo Pass
Nobel Peace Museum: £8.87 – Free with Oslo Pass

*** Prices based on 1 NOK : 0.089 GBP exchange rate. Although the prices shown are what we paid, prices are subject to change depending on time of year, offers etc. – always keep an eye out for deals and book in advance when you can! ***

 

Looking back I can’t think of a single moment I didn’t enjoy on the whole trip. Every part of Oslo we saw makes me smile in memory. I can’t wait to go again.

On that note, what are you waiting for?!?!?

Seriously, you must go! get a ticket! Grab a friend. Or two, or three! and GO make some memories in one of the hippest, cosmopolitan and most beautiful Capital cities in Scandinavia.

 

Have you been to Oslo? What did you think?

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There were two things Mo had stressed he wanted to see when we headed for Barcelona: everything Gaudi and the Dali museum. Gaudi, I had totally under control, but the Dali museum would mean sacrificing time in BCN and heading away from the city on a day trip. I too love Dali but wasn’t completely convinced that we should sacrifice a chunk of our time to see this crazy artists collection of works. However, I hadn’t ruled it out, I just kept it on the back burner thinking it would be a decision to make once we were there.

After a few days of exploring the city, during our Sandemans walking Gaudi tour, our guide Elena, dropped in that although she was devoted to the life and works of Gaudi – her all-time favourite exhibitions are the ones on show at Dali’s museum – and that she encouraged us all to not leave Barcelona without seeing it.

Decision made. A quick logistical chat with Elena and we decided we would definitely spend our last full day in Figueres.

 

Getting there:

There are lots of day trip tours out there to see Dali’s famous works, most include a morning in Girona (meant to be amazing) but most of them were in the region of 80euros per person, bit steep for a day coach trip and Mo and I couldn’t really justify spending nearly 200euros on travelling with a last minute group.

We decided to make our own way there by train. There are two train services that can take you to Figueres – the high speed and the local. Both of these you can catch from Barcelona-Sants station. The high speed train at 40euros pp takes just 50minutes whereas the local train at 24euros is double the time but half the price.

We decided to go for the cost effective option, I was looking forward to a couple of hours of window gazing and this way IF we had time we could always pop out for a stroll in Girona if we felt up to it.

 

 

The Dali Theatre-museum

When you arrive at Figueres, there’s a tourist information point at the train station, I only had to approach the desk and the gentleman pulled out a map and drew the route to the Theatre-museum before I even had the chance to open my mouth. Obviously an incredibly popular attraction. If you’re worried about not finding it, don’t be. It’s only a 10-15 minute walk away, it’s sign posted everywhere and if all else fails, follow the other tourists who are more than likely headed to the same place.

The sculptures start to appear as you make your way to the entrance.

I’m not going to lie, it was Saturday afternoon and there was a large crowd gathering outside the entrance however the queue to buy tickets and get inside moved very quickly, we weren’t waiting long at all. The entrance to the museum is 12euros, this includes a ticket to the Dali jewels exhibition which you can not afford to miss out on! (I repeat do NOT miss this).

The museum is FABULOUS. It’s called the Theatre-museum not because Dali was theatrical in the way he approached everything (which I believe he was), but as it is built up on the remains of the former Municipal Theatre of Figueres. It is now considered to be the last great work of Salvador Dalí. Everything that you see in the museum was designed by the artist, designed to take visitors on a journey through his mind (which can sometimes be quite a scary space).

So interesting, so different, so utterly insane. A collection of art like no other I have seen before, Dali really was ahead of his time in his thought path and abilities. Paintings, sketches, sculptures, holograms, science, tapestries, furniture, you name it – Salvadors done it.

Here are a couple of teaser pictures, but I didn’t want to put too many on as you really have to visit to do his work any justice. (IF you do want to look at my full gallery of pics I’ve got them all on my flickr page).

 

 

Dali-Joies

Dali jewels, or Dali-Joies, was something I didn’t know he had done and was a collection of hands-down the most beautiful jewellery I have ever seen (and I grew up in Saudi Arabia where gold and jewels are everywhere).

It wasn’t just the jewellery that was mind-blowing, it was the prep work and the ability of the jewellers from Carlos Alemany studios, to recreate Dalis vision to perfection. And it was all his vision, even down to the materials – he went as far as to take into account the symbolic meaning of the precious stones and metals he used (this man takes perfectionist to a whole new level).

 

 

Lunch

After our jaw-dropping visit to the jewels exhibit, we found ourselves caught up in a rain shower. Not quite ready to deal with the downpour, we scuffled into the restaurant opposite to grab a quick bite to eat. Having parked ourselves in a place right opposite the museum I expected two things: the food to be expensive and for it to not be very good. Both assumptions thankfully turned out to be false.

The menu really did cater to all tastes (another warning sign that the food might be questionable). There was Spanish, Italian, meats, fish all sorts of different dishes on offer. Mo had been craving a pizza so his mind was set and I decided on a few tapas options: cod fritters, chili prawns, patatas bravas (of course).

The food was really good! I was pleasantly surprised. Cod fritters were delicious, I would get them again and again. Oh and at the start of the meal they placed two gravy boats on the table, one with pickles and one with a garlic aioli. I devoured both. I have a super soft spot for garlic infused mayo and this was the closest one to perfection I just could not stop myself. Needless to say it wasn’t the best move on my part as it didn’t make me ideal company for the remainder of the day (not that I cared, it was too good to leave any behind, poor Mo).

 

 

Figures town

Once the rain had subsided Mo and I strolled back through town to the train station, unfortunately we couldn’t stick around too long as we had plans back in Barcelona that evening. We did stop to admire some of the local points of interest:

 

 

All in all it scares me to think that we almost didn’t make a trip out to Figueres, especially as the Theatre-Museum is probably the most amazing museum I have ever visited (did you get that? EVER).

I loved Dali as a painter, but I never appreciated his greatness as a visionary. When I visited Barcelona last year I returned home with a complete obsession in the life and works of Antoni Gaudi. Although this passion hasn’t disappeared, I now have the added pleasure of indulging in learning more about Senor Salvador.

How amazing that all this inspiration can be found within such a small area. Catalonia really is an Artists dream destination. Can’t wait to see what other artistic discovery awaits the next time I visit…

 

Anyone else visited an attraction that has sparked a passion? or simply inspired you to want to learn more?

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It was our first morning in Rio de Janeiro and the heavens had opened. Go figure! Apart from our honeymoon, every single holiday Mo and I have been on has included at least one day of rain. So this downpour was no real surprise to us, but as we received notice that our first pre-booked activity, a favela tour, had been cancelled, Mo was anxious that the wet weather might affect the rest of our plans.

Luckily, it had stopped by the afternoon and we were on track to hop into a car with our guide Ederson, to head across Guanabara Bay to Niteroi.

Being it’s own city, it doesn’t come under any ‘top things to do in Rio’ lists and it’s obviously not ranked as a must-see place if you are visiting the city.

Why did we want to go? Well Niteroi is the home of one of Oscar Niemeyer’s most famous buildings, the Contemporary Art Museum. So it was a given that Mo and I would want to explore and see more.

First of all, you need to get there and the best way to do that is by car over the Rio-Niteroi bridge (aka President Costa e Silva Bridge). An 8.25 mile long road suspended high up above the sea, took me back to my childhood when we used to drive over the King Fahd Causeway to Bahrain.

Actually lets rewind.

Before we joined onto this spectacular bridge, there were a few mini stops along the way. We stopped to look at secluded churches, popular swimmers spots and fishermen parked up enjoying the warm breeze. We also saw the famous Sambadrome, another one of Niemeyers creations. A place dedicated to that famous Carnival parade that takes place every year, with tall bleachers running along each side. Ederson even drove us past some of the storage units where floats were parked, ready to be glitzed and glamoured up for dancing on in Feb (all of this was enough to make me want to return for Carnival one day!).

Ok, now back to crossing the bridge and continuing on to our first stop in Niteroi: the Contemporary Art Museum (MAC).

One of his later works, this UFO looking building teeters above a pool on the edge of a cliff and celebrates Niemeyers trademark design traits. Concrete and curves. The building is meant to signify ‘forming from the ground’, like a flower protruding from the Earth and growing organically rather than an intergalactic spaceship. Although funnily enough, in the Intro to his film, he is seen flying over Rio in the MAC so it’s easy to see how a UFO is mistakenly marked as his inspiration.

Unfortunately, we weren’t able to go inside as the air conditioning unit was broken, but I’ve heard the panoramic views from the circular promenade inside is pretty spectacular.

We could still walk up the cleverly formed red-carpet ramp, a simple but genius idea if you ask me (might try and convince Mo to let us paint a red carpet driveway).

After admiring the museum, Ederson took us for a quick stop to one of his favourite view points in Niteroi. We drove up to the summit of Parque da Cidade, a space popular with locals as well as tourists for the spectacular scenery that lies below. The sunsets here are meant to be magical and its the kind of place you could imagine bringing a small picnic and making camp for a few hours. As this was the first (of what would be many) viewpoints we had seen in Rio, it really took our breath away.

From here we moved on to see one of the most beautiful fortresses in Brazil, the Fortaleza de Santa Cruz. The drive to reach here is quite exciting, our car literally had to hug the side of the road and there were a lot of sharp intakes of breath as we sped round certain corners (Mr Oliveira obviously knew this route like the back of his hand). It was late in the day so we decided not to pay the entrance to go in and see the inside, we were happy wandering round the outskirts (well the parts that were on land) listening to the waves crash against the shore as we sized up the canons and other artefacts that were dotted around.

Our last stop of the night was for dinner before driving back over to Rio. Ederson took us to a restaurant by the coast and introduced us to some great local seafood dishes as he knew we weren’t (non-halal) meat eaters.

It was a lovely evening. The sun set beautifully over the water just as we sat down and the conversation flowed throughout the meal as we all got to know each other. We cooed over family pictures, discussed life in Rio, life back home in England, and much more.

By the time dinner was over the long day had started to take its toll and it was time to call it a night. It had been the perfect start to our stay in Brazil, the only sad thing was that due to timings we wouldn’t be able to catch up with Ederson again.

Not to worry, we still had five glorious exploration days ahead of us…  this was shaping up to be a pretty damn good birthday!!

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