Amy McPherson forgoes the winter sun and visits winter in Oslo, a city where being cool means more than just the snowy white temperature.
I want to believe there is a reason why Disney chose Norway as the base location for its fictional city of Arendelle in the film Frozen. The landscape is spectacular, the people genuine and the culinary scene exquisite. Oslo, its capital city, is not just another city either. Surrounded by forests, fronted by the fjord and its streets full of architectural wonders, Oslo is fantastic during the summer months, and Oslo in winter, well, it becomes even cooler.
Oh Christmas Tree!
First and foremost. If you are in Oslo late November, time your visit to the Christmas Tree Felling Ceremony for London’s Trafalgar Square.
Each year, the city of Oslo gift a Christmas Tree to London, which is erected at Trafalgar Square, for the support of the British during WWII. A tree is selected from the forests that surround Oslo, and on the day of the cutting (in 2023, it was cut on 24 November), the mayors of Oslo and Westminster come together in a bond of friendship to witness the tree felling. Local children provide the carols and the Oslo city civil service provides the technical known-how, the safety and the hot open fire coffee to guests. Anyone is welcome to watch this event, however, location change each year so check with Visit Oslo for more information.
There is no winter in Oslo without being absorbed into the atmospheric Christmas Market, which is spread out in the city centre along the stretch of green between the Parliament House and the Royal Palace. You’ll find the usual arts and crafts stalls for some souvenir shopping, a festive ferries wheel, perfect to view the colours of the market and the surrounding city scape from above, and plenty of street food to munch on.
However, for those looking for a cosier, more authentic Christmas vibe, catch a bus to the historic ironworks town of Baerums Verk, a former smelting and iron factory from the 17th Century, which is now a heritage and shopping complex. The Baerums Verk Christmas Market is a local favourite, a small market selling traditional wares and knickknack, open fire seating areas to rest with a coffee and a Norwegian doughnut and the workers cottages are now art galleries and artisan shops for things you wouldn’t find in the city centre.
Baerum Verk is around 30 mins bus ride (number 150) from Oslo centre.
Holmenkollen Ski Museum and Tower
The world’s oldest ski museum, the Holmenkollen Ski Museum, turned 100 this year. You’ll find a display of some of the oldest pairs of skis, including one from the year 600 and check out the world’s only steel ski jump tower. While you can’t actually jump from this tower, you can try your skills at the ski jump simulator and experience the thrill with the aid of technology.
Surrounding Holmenkollen are various hiking trails which becomes Norway’s largest cross country ski area, with 2,600 km cross-country trails in winter. Anyone looking to be active will find themselves in the right place, not to mention, from this vantage point you’ll be rewarded with the best view of Oslo below.
Brave the floating sauna
There is something very soothing about a sauna session, especially when the room is floating on the calm waters of the fjord giving you great views of the city and surrounds. The floating saunas have become quite a sensation ifor winter in Oslo, with plenty of options around the city to choose from. You can book a private sauna which can sit up to ten people, or join an open sauna session at the scheduled time.
The best bit? Once you are toasty and warm, brave the elements and take a dip in the icy water of the fjord for a bit of a swim before hopping back into the sauna again. It is said to come with health benefits!
The Reopening: Oslo Nobel Peace Centre
Not something strictly for winter in Oslo, but the Oslo Nobel Peace Centre has reopening in December 2023 after almost a year of renovation work. Housed in a former railway station, it is a space to learn about the history of the Nobel Peace Prize, specifically why it is awarded in Oslo and not in Stockholm. The centre has periodic temporary exhibitions that features the theme of peace, as well as a major exhibition on the life and works of the current year’s Nobel Peace Prize laureate.
While here, do drop in the nearby City Hall, where the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded each year. You’ll be able to view a mural of Norwegian history and explore some of the reception rooms that are open to visitors.
Darkness comes early this far up north in the Nordic, and there isn’t a lot you can do in terms of outdoor activities. However, a winter in Oslo has plenty indoors to be entertained by. Why not treat yourself to a concert or a show at the theatre? You have a choice of the very chic Opera House, the Concert House, and the National Theatre. There are also plenty of smaller venues offering shows from jazz to comedy.
Images (C) Johannes Granseth Thomas Johannessen
Tell Me More About Winter In Oslo
Visit the VisitOSLO website to check out what else you can do in this amazing city.
There are daily direct flights from major UK airports to Oslo. From Oslo Airport, the Airport Express train (Flytoget), Norway’s only high-speed train, connects Oslo Airport to downtown Oslo.
Once in Oslo, The app based Oslo Pass covers public transport in the city (zones 1 and 2), as well as entrance to all the major museums in Oslo. Simply present the relevant QR code in the app to the transport ticket inspectors or to gain entrance to a museum.
Floating sauna sessions can be booked online with the Oslo Sauna Association.
Where To Stay In Oslo
The Grand Hotel Oslo is perfectly located in the city centre next to the Parliament. It is the hotel of choice for international VIPs, as well as the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize should they be visiting for the award ceremony.
Where To Eat In Oslo
The Grand Café, part of the Grand Hotel Oslo, is an iconic dining venue where Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen had his daily lunch and artist Edvard Munch once bartered a painting in return for 100 steak dinners.
For fantastic seafood feast, head to the new wharf neighbourhood on the Fjord and dine at Sjomagasinet, an upmarket restaurant and wine bar that has seasonal menu with an excellent wine list to pair with.