An Ode to Oslo: Must-see Spots and the “Local” Experience in Norway

This week, let’s go back to my time in Oslo, Norway! Norway was the last stop of a 10-day Scandinavian adventure that I embarked upon with two travel companions, and it was a great way to end the trip. Compared to the rain that we experienced in Copenhagen and Stockholm, the weather in Oslo was a dream!

We caught a 7am train to Oslo from Stockholm, following a very late night out…by the way, I do not recommend that combination of late night + early departure! I was running on approximately 3 hours of sleep, and the journey felt endless at first. Especially since, due to our group’s aversion to taking cabs or taxis (don’t even ask), we ended up trekking through the Oslo city center with our bags in tow. Now, even though the city itself is quite compact, it’s important to note that I had two bags for this whole trip, while the other two girls only had one each. I promise, I wasn’t being a diva. I simply had two things working against me:

1. I did not possess a traveler/hiker backpack like they did, and I wasn’t about to buy one just for this trip.

2. Due to wearing contacts and being prone to eye irritation, I required two different contact solutions. There was no way that travel-size bottles of both would have fit in a quart-size Ziploc – with my other liquid essentials, at least – so ultimately I just brought full-size versions of both in a checked bag.

So, now that we have all of that in mind, can you understand why I was less than thrilled about our 1-2 mile hike to get to our AirBnB? Especially since one of the girls had full data on her phone that could have been used to call an Uber – but no, apparently this data plan was only to be used for Snapchat. I would have been happy splitting a cab, even! Oh well, at least I got some cardio in.

The good news is that, while this journey was arduous for me, it was actually a really cool experience to see the city before we had even settled into our accommodations. We stopped for a quick bite at a spot that quickly became my favorite: Joe and the Juice. And when we finally did find the correct building for our AirBnB, we were pleasantly surprised to encounter someone who is, by far, one of the coolest people that I was able to meet while studying abroad.

Allow me to introduce you to Jonas Tesfu: he’s originally from Eritrea, grew up in Sweden, and currently lives in Norway (at least, he did at the time of our visit). Jonas was not only a very welcoming and down-to-earth AirBnB host, working primarily in business consulting, but he also happened to be an effortlessly cool musician. Seriously, check out his songs “Aim for the Stars” and “Cards are Stacking Up”. His music has such a unique sound that manages to uplift you while you’re listening!

When we arrived at the apartment, Jonas immediately helped us settle in, and was completely understanding when one of us (me) needed a long recovery nap versus a get-to-know-you chat in the kitchen. Jonas had such a laid-back and worldly perspective, that I was immediately a fan! This is one of my favorite parts about traveling: meeting people who have gone out into the world, pursued their passions, and begun leaving their mark.

We’ll come back to Jonas at the end of this, but for now, it’s time to talk a bit more about Oslo!
Interestingly enough, one of the first things that we did the next day was visit a jewelry shop that we found somewhere in the city. The shop owner had a bunch of eclectic jewelry, with a variety of materials and gems. But the one that caught my eye the most was this beautiful, translucent stone with a delicate silver loop. The owner informed me that the gem which I was looking at is called a moonstone, and I was so drawn to it that I told her almost immediately that I would take it. Can you blame me though? Look at how the sky filters through the stone!

After that stop, we walked around the city again – this time, sans baggage. We explored landmarks such as the Oslo Opera House, the Royal House of Norway, and Aker Brygge + Tjuvholmen.

The Opera House sits right on the edge of the Oslofjord and boasts an intriguing architectural style that allows visitors to climb onto part of the “roof”, via a slanted structure. From the top, you can look out over the water and see some of the city as well!

The Royal House of Norway was a bit of a random find for us, as we simply saw it as an interesting building that sat right outside of the city center – at first. Upon closer inspection we found a vast yet simple property, with a steady flow of visitors coming up to explore it.

Lastly, Aker Brygge and Tjuvholmen are two hip, slightly touristy places that proved to be a pleasure to walk through. Aker Brygge is known for its pier, and there’s a small “beach” toward the edge of the area (Tjuvholmen) that features a few fun and artsy sculptures. Aker Brygge boasts a pretty substantial shopping and restaurant scene as well…and lo and behold, I encountered another Joe and the Juice while we were over there!

On our second day in Oslo, we decided to book a boat ride that took us out among the outer-fjords. It proved to be a great and relaxing (albeit cold) boat ride! We watched – and avoided – the crashing waves against our boat as we caught glimpses of quaint and colorful houses that were situated on the small islands offset from Oslofjord. The beauty of Norway was a pleasure to behold from out on the water, and I highly recommend making time for this type of excursion when you visit!

Okay, so remember when I told you we’d come back to talking about Jonas? Well, that comes into play during our last night in Oslo! Thus far, my travel companions and I had not had much luck with exploring the Norwegian nightlife. Apparently, there was some arbitration that came into play for which age groups were allowed in certain clubs, and since we were all under 21 (and I was under 20 at the time), a lot of clubs wouldn’t let us in. We were so disappointed! Luckily, on the final night of our stay, Jonas told us that he was planning to go out with a friend who was visiting, and that we could join if we wanted to. Obviously, I was in 100% – the chance to experience nightlife with locals? Um, sign me up. Unfortunately, my companions weren’t so willing. Instead, they chose to stay in that night and FaceTime their friends back home…to each their own, I suppose!

I, on the other hand, was super excited at the prospect of properly exploring the nightlife scene with two people who knew the ropes. Jonas’s friend came over for a bit to hang out before we chose a club to go to, and the three of us drank some rum while we chatted about life – and started talking about music.

A quick fun fact about me: besides poetry and stories, my love of writing includes songs! I definitely don’t have the strongest voice to sing what I write, but I can hold a tune every now and then. Now, Jonas had a guitar and a pair of bongos in the room that we were all drinking in. I started telling them about my love of song-writing, and we decided to see if I could come up with one on the spot. Spoiler alert: I did! At least, the first verse and a chorus. After I sang it a few times a-cappella, Jonas’s friend started tapping on the bongos absent-mindedly. Before we knew it, he had managed to play a beat that matched the melody I was singing. Jonas gave him a few pointers, and then he took out his phone to record our little tune and send it to me. I believe that I still have it, to this day…

Shortly after this, we headed out to the nightclub that they had in mind. It’s a good thing that I went with these two, as I wasn’t even carded (since they were both well past the 20/21 “limit”)! The club was packed, with good music and a cool atmosphere. I felt incredibly safe and comfortable being out on the town with people who knew the area – and the way home – so I had a blast. Overall, that spontaneous night was one of my favorite experiences from studying abroad.

As you can see, Oslo ended up being quite a hidden gem in our Scandinavian journey! I will always enjoy the memories of this quaint city, its beautiful views, and its vibrant locals. Definitely a place that I would go back to, and I encourage you to explore it as well – but get to know the locals, or it won’t be as rich of an experience (in my humble opinion).

That’s all for this week! In other news, I’m heading to Atlanta next weekend to visit an old friend from college, so I may or may not have a recap for that trip – it depends on what we decide to do, of course.

Until then, drop a comment and let me know: what’s the top thing you would want to do in Norway?

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