Photo: orse

Matador’s destination expert on Oslo, Norway, lays out the country’s avoidable attractions…and what you should do instead.
1. Don’t… visit during the cold season

Even skiing enthusiasts might struggle with the below-zero temps and short days. Winter is a beautiful, magical time, but it’s not for beginners, nor for travelers on a budget.

Photo: artic pj

Do… set your sights on summer

In Oslo, the sun sets for a mere 3-4 hours a day. Then, you can sleep under the stars — or, if you head just a bit farther north, under the midnight sun.

Summer also means friendlier and more extroverted locals who have discarded the last vestiges of winter — i.e., their inhibitions and most of their clothes.

2. Don’t… underestimate the country’s size

Norway may be small in terms of population, but not so in land. From Oslo to Kirkenes in the Norwegian Arctic is about the same distance as Oslo to Rome.

Do… set aside at least a week

This is the minimum you’ll need to see Oslo, the mountains, the West Country fjords, and Bergen.

3. Don’t… fly between Oslo and Bergen

Or between Bergen and points north. It may be fast, and flights are often cheap, but you’ll miss spectacular mountain scenery.

In this case, the journey is as important as the destination.

Do… take the Bergen Line

You’ll be doing your bit for the environment and experiencing one of the world’s most scenic rail journeys at the same time, cruising across the mountain and through Hardangervidda National Park. The lucky will spot herds of reindeer on the Hardangervidda plateau.

Photo: t a k k

North of Bergen, try a voyage with Hurtigruten. Abroad, it’s best known as a cruise line taking tourists along the spectacular coastline all the way to the Russian border in the Arctic.

But Hurtigruten is also local transport, hauling passengers and goods between remote outposts where the quickest (or only) route between points A and B is by sea.

4. Don’t… do the famous Norway in a Nutshell Tour

At least not in one day! You won’t have time to savor the experience — plus, it’s quite expensive.

Do… take your time biking along the Bergen Line

Get off at Haugastøl (or Finse, to avoid the initial steep incline), and bike along Rallarvegen, the construction paths built and used by the rail workers who laid the tracks across the mountain 100 years ago.

5. Don’t… restrict yourself to hotels

The best and most unique hotels are expensive. Also, you’ll miss Norway’s major attraction: being outdoors, being in nature.

Do… stay in mountain cabins

Or even better, sleep for free. Bring a tent and pitch it anywhere. Locals do this often.

Photo: Ernst Vikne

Allemannsretten, an ancient right now formalized as the Outdoor Recreation Act, means anyone has access to uncultivated land such as mountains, forests, lakes, and beaches, regardless of official ownership.

You can camp out for two consecutive nights on any uncultivated land, (more than two nights and you have to ask the owner). The only requirement is that you stay at least 150 meters from the nearest house or cabin.

In the mountains or more remote areas, the two-night-limit doesn’t apply.

You’re also free to pick berries and mushrooms and drink water from mountain streams. If you go this route, check out Matador’s Beginner’s Guide To Foraging For Food.

6. Don’t buy groceries at kiosks

These include chains like Deli de Luca, Narvesen, and 7-Eleven. Prices here are often three times higher than elsewhere.

Do… find a local supermarket

Even if it means you have to walk an extra block or two, hit up a supermarket like Kiwi, Rimi, or Rema.

7. Don’t… shop at Oslo’s fashionable Bogstadveien

That goes for the renovated shipyard Aker Brygge as well. These two spots are good places to watch your money disappear.

However, if you must, be sure to look for the “tax-free” sign to save the 25% VAT/sales tax.

Do… go to Grünerløkka or Grønland districts

These lively enclaves are filled with small, independent Norwegian and Asian shops, respectively. Lots of cool finds at bargain prices.

Photo: Author

8. Don’t… dine on Oslo’s Karl Johan Street

The main drag is hit or miss when it comes to restaurants and taverns. The only sure thing is that you’ll be overcharged.

Do… walk 5-10 minutes in any direction

Taste goes up, prices go down. In the Grønland area, try one of the many Indian or Pakistani restaurants.

In Vika, there’s a good vegetarian buffet at Vegeta, or head to the Oslo harbor to buy shrimps straight from the boats.

Beer’s never dirt cheap, but prices vary from NOK 30-90 (USD 5-15) for a pint. This beer list, along with this one, have been compiled for beer enthusiasts on a budget. (They’re in Norwegian, but I’m sure you’ll get the important parts — addresses and prices. NOK is abbreviated kr.)

Community Connection

Norway is one of those places that inspires wanderlust, and it also has several spots to get close to the EDGE.

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