It was a good day to arrive in the Norwegian capital (which Oslo became in 1814). Clear, sunny and with 10 degrees Celsius backing us up. The sky looked like someone had painted an enormous glass bowl with the clearest shade of blue I had ever seen above my head, and turned it over to dome peacefully over the city. My fleeting worry about the snow we saw on our way from the airport evaporated as I took off my hat upon exiting the train. Still, March isn’t the warmest month and it does cool off as soon as the sun sets, so pack those gloves.
For a Monday it was pretty quiet both at Gardermoen and in the train station, though things are busier outside. Taller buildings of glass and steel rose around us, adorned with logos of familiar shops, H&M popping up in different corners. On our quest to find the Visitor Centre we ended up going around the station from the back, but it’s a short walk. A small red house, the Centre was tucked between the prominent Østbanehallen restaurant complex and the front side of the station. A short flight of steps had to be mounted, with suitcases, mais oui, BUT for every door you encountered there was a lovely big button labeled “Press to open”. I do love convenience.
A few minutes later we emerged with our Oslo Pass – thoroughly recommendable, as it includes both numerous discounts and unlimited use of public transport for the Pass duration period. Though, warning: if you buy tickets for a tour of the Opera building through the official Visit Oslo app, you’ll be charged fees which cover the 20% discount from the Pass. (Other than that, it was my first time purchasing something via an app, so thrilling.)
Finding our hotel proved simple, passing the entrance to the Folketeateret on the way, but more on that later. Quintessentially local 7-11 and Narvesen shops spilled from every corner, as did coffee shops, pizza places (like Norway’s Peppe Pizza), snack bars, fast-food venues and some very pleasant-looking cafés.
Walking back along Storgata suited my navigation tastes exactly, as it led us straight back to the train station, though before that you spot the beautiful Oslo Cathedral (Oslo Domkirke), where Norway’s Crown Prince Haakon married his wife Mette-Marit. Another useful landmark for finding your way around.
It quickly becomes obvious that it is indeed easy to walk around Oslo. Occasionally, snow and slush mixed with the generous amounts of gravel underfoot. We passed a pretty stretch full of pubs and cafés – the amusingly unavoidable TGI Fridays, as well as The Scotsman (discount offered with the Oslo Pass) and places promising “God Kaffe”. Everyone who passes us seems simply relaxed and content. Without even noticing, we found ourselves walking down the slightly sloping Karl Johans Gate towards the stately streamlined Royal Palace – Det Kongelige Slott.
Finished in 1848, the neoclassical building in creamy yellow and white is a calming, beautiful structure, surrounded by the Slottsparken, which makes for a lovely, quieter walk after the noisier street the palace faces. To the left of the main entrance stands a statue of Queen (Dronning) Maud, the first queen of independent Norway. She preceeds the Dronningparken part of the grounds.
Around six o’clock in the evening we witnessed guards lining up outside their resting quarters to the right of the palace. The gate of the main palace entrance opened and a car was nearly blinding me with its headlights. After a few minutes, two cars exited and the guards played music. The first free performance could be ticked off the list.
The day ended with a generous bowl of hot chocolate and my phone battery dying due to the immediate instagramming.