City Visit Oslo, Part three:
Continuing with our “Visit Oslo must-sees”, (see the first part of our list here) we recommend the Akershus Fortress and Castle, the Opera House (an architectural masterpiece), the Norwegian Folk Museum, and the Norwegian Maritime Museum. You’ll want to stay in the marina for at least four or five days to really have the time to appreciate the entire list.
The Akershus Castle and Fortress
The 700-year-old castle/ fortress is one of the first things you’ll notice as you sail up the Aker Brygge Marina. It’s just on the other side of the bay. If you arrive during the evening, you see the ramparts and the castle gloriously lit by a great number of spotlights.
The construction of oldest parts of the fortress, as well as the inner walls, began in 1299, and that it took hundreds of years to build. The castle provides a lovely view of the Oslofjord and is surrounded by a beautiful park filled with stately old trees – perfect for a picnic!
The Norwegian Folk Museum
The Norwegian Folk Museum is part open-air and part traditional museum. Being interested in architecture, the open-air part is what fascinated us the most.
160 different buildings, houses and barns from all over Norway were moved here to represent the various architectural styles and ways of life in the country. The historic periods represent the middle ages until the 20th century. Museum staff are on hand, dressed in period clothing, to welcome you and answer questions in many of the buildings.
A service station from the 50’s, saved and preserved at the open-air part of the museum
The Urban part (the old town) of the museum shows buildings, shops and homes from Oslo and other smaller cities. We found the old shops especially fascinating.
The countryside includes a working farm, complete with cows, horses, pigs, sheep, goats and geese. You’ll see homes and barns from all of the regions of Norway except the coast of Lofoten.
Log cabins at the open-air part of the Norwegian Folk Museum
Save this visit for a sunny (or at least, non-rainy) day as you’ll be outside for most of the visit.
The Norwegian Maritime Museum
The Maritime Museum was a surprisingly interesting visit for us. I say surprisingly interesting because we’ve been to several, and we believed that this one would be “more of the same”. It wasn’t.
This museum is simply an amazing experience for those of you interested in all aspects of maritime transportation, travel and work.
A large model of a modern working boat used to service oil rigs.
What we found most amazing and unique to this museum was the information on the technical ships you see almost only in Norway. On display are big models of ships that transport oil platforms and equipment as well as ships that handle and place the huge anchors that hold them in place. You’ll see modern ice-breakers and strange cargo ships made especially for the conditions in the North Atlantic during the stormy autumn and winter seasons.
Another exhibit we enjoyed was a computer simulation in which you could play a cargo ship captain, a shipping agent, or a shipping company owner. You chose a specific type of cargo that needs to go from point A to point B and you learn through the simulation how each of the 3 players in the scenario has different priorities and goals. It’s not as simple as you may think!
The open-air part of the Maritime Museum features several traditional wooden boats.
The Opera House
For those of you interested in modern architecture and design, a visit to Oslo is not complete without a tour of the Opera House.
Designed by the famous architectural bureau Snøhetta in Denmark and completed in 2008, it is completely covered in white granite and white Carrera marble. You can walk right up the building to the roof on the angled walkway. The roof provides stunning panoramic views of Oslo.
This part of the Opera House faces the Oslo Fjord
The district of Oslo called the “Barcode”, as viewed from the Opera House
The Barcode project may also interest you if you’re into modern architecture. It forms a large part of Oslo’s Fjord City re-development project. The entire area of the Opera House and the Barcode used to be a freight port.
Great Discoveries: Norwegian anchorages part one: the eastern Oslofjord area
It seems that most people who sail to Norway skip over the entire Oslofjord region. If they’re coming from Sweden they’ll sail directly to Farsund or Eggersund. If they’re coming from Scotland, they’ll sail straight to Stavanger or Bergen. It’s really a shame, because the Oslofjord region is breathtakingly gorgeous!
We use three different guides to Norwegian anchorages and marinas.
2. Norske Los (free to download as pdf files)
3. Norwegian Cruising Guide by John and Phyllis Harries (morganscloud.com)
We recommend them all, but the Havneguiden is the one with the most photos, taken from the air so you can really see what the anchorage looks like. If you download the inexpensive Eniro charts (charts for Norway and Sweden) for your iPad or smartphone, you see lots of anchorages marked. In addition, the paper charts for Norway often have anchorages marked out.
If you’re coming up from Sweden, a good stop may be Fredrikstad. It has a marina in the middle of town and a lovely historic old town, Gamlebyn, to visit. We arrived from the east, first going up the fjord, then river Østerelva that leads to the city of Sarpsborg There’s quite a current here, so consider yourself warned. You can also approach from the west side, in which case you’ll avoid having to wait for bridge openings.
Vintage boats in Fredrikstad
When you enter from the east to enter the city, you’ll see an old mill in full working order — that’s how strong the current is.
The mill at Fredrikstad
You’ll have to request and wait for a bridge opening to get to the marina if you come from the east side. They don’t open the bridge at request, but if you call, they know someone wants to pass and they will open the bridge at the set times. If you don’t let them know, the bridge doesn’t open at all (because they think no-one needs an opening). You can wait for the bridge opening along the quayside just before the bridge.
View towards the centre of Frekrikstad
The town itself is quite small but has a good choice of restaurants, cafés and bars along the quayside. We had dinner at a tapas restaurant there – excellent dishes and good prices (for Norway, that is).
The prices of berths at quayside range from 250 NOK to 600 NOK (15 meters and up). They have showers, toilets and laundry facilities.
We planned Fredrikstad as our first stop because we thought we’d have to check in our boat and our dog. We well called the Norwegian customs , we found out that you just need to carry your dog’s passport (with the stamps for all of the necessary vaccinations and the special worm treatment for Norway) in your pocket or purse — just in case anyone wants to check. The customs explained to us that since our boat is registered in a Schengen county and we are from a Schengen country, we didn’t need to clear in.
Filling up the diesel tanks. Diesel is a bit cheaper in Norway than Sweden.
If you leave Fredrikstad from the eastern side, you may want to fill your diesel tanks at the Nøkledypet marina. Glommen Bunkerservice is open between 8.00 and 20.00 during the summer season (until end of Sept.)
It seems that you don’t pay the road tax on diesel at marine fuel stations. You do pay the VAT though.
Another idea for a first stop in Norway is the charming anchorage of Korterødkilen on north side of the island of Kjeøya.. It’s kind of a Norwegian summer neighbourhood, though there’s not much activity outside the vacation period and the weekends. It is protective of winds from any direction. You just need to be careful of your anchor scope as there are several boats lying on buoys.
The lovely anchorage on Kjeøya called Korterøkilen
The anchor bottom consists of sticky mud/clay — good holding.
Summer houses in Korterøkilen
Our anchorage at Kjeøya. The GPS coordinates: 59°5’48N, 11°13’8E
Our first anchorage on the way up to Oslo was Hankø’s west side. Hankø also has a big marina on it’s east side. We chose the anchorage because we didn’t want to waste time going around the island.
Dramatic evening skies at Hankøhavna
In hindsight, we should have done so because the Hankø anchorage is not really suitable for a large boat like Freja. The problem here is that many boats are lying on buoys, and there are additional buoys for the Norwegian cruising club to use. The anchorage is so crowded with buoys, it’s difficult to put out enough chain to have a proper scope for strong winds.
We had strong winds at the anchorage of Hankøhavna
If your boat is 9 tons or less, you can use these buoys if they aren’t taken by a cruising club member. Since our boat displaces far more than 9 tons, (about 27 tons fully bunkered) hooking onto one of these buoys wasn’t possible. We prefer to use our big anchor in any case, as we know once it’s bedded in, we aren’t going anywhere.
Our 55kg Spade held throughout a night of 30-38 knot winds, even on short scope (about 4:1) but I didn’t get a lot of sleep. I was constantly waking up to check my iPad (which acts as a remote for our Furuno TZ plotter) to check the wind speed and to see if we were dragging.
Our anchorage at Hankøhavna. GPS coordinates: 59°11’53N, 10°46’7E
We found the seaside town of Son utterly cozy and charming. Hyggelig as they would say in Danish. We arrived on a Saturday, so the village was full of activity and all of the littles shops, restaurants and cafés were open all weekend (except for the Vinmonopolet which is always closed on Sunday.)
View of Son Marina
Speaking of the Vinmonopolet — this is the Norwegian version of the state-run shops that sell alcoholic drinks. You see the same system in Sweden (System Bolaget) and in Finland (Alko). Norway has the most expensive wine of the three countries, so you may want to stock up before arriving. In Norway, Finland and Sweden, you can buy light beer (lower alcohol content) in grocery stores, but normal beer is also sold only at the state-run shops. You may think that because it’s a monopoly system that the prices are higher than in “normal” shops, but that isn’t always the case. We saw, for example, a 75 cl of 2014 Tignanello for sale at 600 SEK (61 Euros or 68 USD) in Sweden. The same bottle in Switzerland would cost twice that.
Out for a walk in the seaside town of Son
The beautiful cobblestone streets of Son
Getting back to Son Marina, we spent 2 and a half sunny days there. We sampled one of the restaurants, “Solsiden”, had coffee in one of the pleasant cafés, “Torvgården”, both very good. Jacques even had a haircut at the marina salon.
A view of the boardwalk at Son marina
Having some early morning cappuccino in a café at the marina.
Be warned though, that outside of the normal summer holiday period (from around the 25 of June to around the 10th of August, the restaurants and cafés are only open on the weekends.
The fire brigade museum in Son
A view of the town square in Son
We will definitely come back to this lovely marina town!
This dachshund was out for a ride on mom’s kayak.
Information on Son Marina:
This marina is open all year ‘round, with lower prices between around mid-September to mid-May.
Prices include: electricity, water, wifi, toilets, showers, laundry room, exchange-a-book library, septic tank pumping station.
Prices: 250 NOK to 500 NOK depending on the size of the boat. We paid 500 NOK for Freja (55 feet). A warning about prices — if you reserve a place with Dockspot, the price is 100 NOK higher than the official price. We reserved our first night with Dockspot. It was 600 NOK instead of the official prices of 500 NOK.
Marina telephone: +47 649 587 38
Marina email: firstname.lastname@example.org
This cutie was waiting for his owners to get back to the boat.
This anchorage is extremely well- protected from winds and seas from all directions. It’s located on the north side of the island of Seiløy (Sail Island!). Getting to anchorage is a bit tricky, no matter if you’re coming in from the night or south, so pay attention — there are underwater rocks on both sides of the channels.
The anchorage of Fredagshølet
The nature is that of a typical outer archipelago island — mostly smooth, rounded granite and small bushes and trees. It’s easy to find a warm rock for sunbathing if that’s your thing. The anchoring holding is excellent — we brought up lots of sticky mud on or anchor.
Smooth granite islands around Fredagshølet
If you prefer marinas, there is a small marina close to Fredagshølet called Bukta Gjesthaven.
A view of the small marina near Fredagshølet called Bukta Gjesthavn
Our anchorage at Fredagshølet. GPS coordinates: 59°7’21N, 10°51’21E
Great Discoveries: Stockholm Archipelago part 2
Enough already about the city of Stockholm! Stockholm also has one of the world’s finest, most beautiful archipelagos.
To be truthful, only one of these islands, Lisselö, was a real discovery for me. For Jacques, they all were new discoveries, except for Sandhamn and Träskö-Storö, which we visited together back in 2013 in a chartered Bavaria 40.
Lisselö was a true find for us. We visited it twice and each time, we were the lone boat in the anchorage. It has a cozy feel since there are a couple of fishing cottages and a few summer houses here. We liked observing the fisherman coming and going in their little semi-open boats, called Snipa in Swedish. They are kind of like pick-ups for the sea.
The anchorage of Lisselö, not far from the outer edge of Stockholm’s archipelago
We did need a couple of tries to finally get the anchor to hold here, at around 10 meter’s depth. Perhaps there’s some seaweed growth on the bottom. If you’re anchored just so, you’ll have a view of the open sea through a shallow channel towards the east. Lisselö is well-protected from all winds except for hard easterlies (that blow through the little channel).
Senna drying off after a swim. You can see out to the open sea through this little channel.
Our anchor spot was at 59°20′.43N, 18°54’59E
We had a visitor at our anchorage in Lådna — a grey seal hunting for a meal. We were sitting in the cockpit after dinner, each reading a book, when we heard a strange sound. It sounded like a whale exhaling through its blowhole.
It was a seal! The sound is produced when they come up for air, open their watertight nostrils and exhale. We took some photos, but in all of them, the seal looked like a tiny black dot, even with a 120 mm telephoto lens — not worth putting up here.
The anchorage we chose was a new one for me. I’d been to the well-protected Lådna many times before but always on the western part of the island. The entire series of small coves at Lådna was already crowded when we arrived at around 18.00, so we didn’t have a huge choice of spots. Our little inlet on the far southeastern part had no boats at anchor when we arrived, so we quickly choose a spot there. We found good holding at about 8 meter’s depth.
It’s nice to have some flowers in the cockpit – here’s our little geranium.
The GPS coordinates for our anchor spot: 59°24’53N, 18°44’18E
This is another anchorage I’d visited before, but never in the western part. With a small boat, you can use the eastern inlets and tie to land, but with Freja, we need a good place to turn around our anchor. And turn around we did! During the evening, the wind died completely, and all of the boats lying at anchor floated every which way. We saw the track we made on the plotter — we had turned 360° around because of the lack of wind.
We had no wind at all in the Själbottna anchorage
The western bay of the island is protected from all winds and seas. We were anchored in about 10 meters’ depth (mud).
Cozy atmosphere in the anchorage
The GPS coordinates for our anchor spot (star): 59°33’32N, 18°46’44E. The places marked with an asterisk are ones I’d used with my former boat.
Sandhamn is the archipelago’s version of St. Tropez. It’s the summer base for the Royal Sailing Society of Stockholm (KSSS), which means that almost every member will spend some time there during the summer. If you enjoy bars and house music, people and yacht watching, this is your place during the summer. Outside the period of June 20th to August 10th, it’s a much calmer place, and during the colder months, when only the year ‘round population is left, it’s pretty much in hibernation mode.
Sandhamn is the most popular marina in the entire archipelago
We visited Sandhamn with guests from Switzerland, just to show them another, livelier side of the archipelago. There are several small boutiques selling clothes, home décor, souvenirs, local artwork and boat “stuff”. Sandhamn also has a small grocery store and a lovely bakery. You’ll find ice cream stands everywhere during the high season.
The marina berths are expensive during the summer and they are hard to come by, so you really need to reserve a berth or risk ending up with nothing.
The Seglarhotellet houses part of the hotel as well as 2 restaurants and bars.
There are two sides to the marina — one that’s managed by the KSSS and one that’s managed by the restaurant called Seglarhotellet. We reserved a berth in the Seglarhotellet part of the marina.
The prices there run from 310 SEK to 380 SEK for a boat up to 38 feet, depending on the season, plus a restaurant voucher fee of 300 SEK. For a boat like Freja, 55 feet, it’s either 550 SEK or 620 SEK, plus the voucher fee, depending on the season. The restaurant voucher, for which you are billed 300 SEK is worth 350 SEK in any of the hotel’s restaurants or bars. We had planned to have dinner at the restaurant, anyway, so we got 50 SEK out of the deal. It’s a strange system; obviously to strongly encourage you to eat at one of the restaurants.
This is the marina attached to the Seglarhotellet. It was a tight squeeze for Freja.
I don’t think we would return to Sandhamn during the high season again, unless we had guests that really wanted to go there. It’s just so much more expensive than any other marina in or around Stockholm, and it’s not really our style, especially at night with all the noise! During the off-season, it’s much more quiet, but then all of the little shops have closed and the bakery is open only three days a week and a few of the restaurants have closed for the season…
Träskö – Storö
Träskö – Storö is a huge anchorage that spreads out over a few different islands and inlets, so there’s always room for one more boat. There is just one area to avoid if laying at anchor, though, especially with a west wind blowing. I’ve marked this on the map. It’s one of the most beautiful anchorages in the archipelago, in our opinion. That explains why we stayed for 2 or 3 days each time we came here. On weekends, there’s usually a “bakery boat” that sells bread and pastries by going from boat to boat.
Just a tiny part of the anchorage on Träskö-Storö
The GPS coordinates for our anchor spot: 59°26’42N, 18°46’45E
Gällno is one of the few genuine islands left in the archipelago. It still has farms and fisherman, unlike most of the other islands which are 80-100% summer cottages. You may hear a tractor working a small field or cows mooing. It’s an anchorage relatively close to Stockholm, so it’s a good choice if you’ve gotten a late start to the day, or if you want to drop the anchor for lunch. The anchor bottom is thick, heavy mud and it’s well-protected from winds and seas.
Our guests from Geneva swimming with Senna. The water was only 20° C.
It felt like we’d gone 100 years back in time here
The GPS coordinates for our anchor spot: 59°23’49N, 18°38’8 E