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.
Needless to say, Oslo has an immense choice of cafés, restaurants, and shops. I’ll talk about some of favourites in a future post. Here are a few of the “must-sees” in Oslo.
The Holmenkollen Ski Jump and its museum
The first thing we wanted to visit in Oslo was the Holmenkollen Ski Jump! You can see it from a great distance as you sail up the fjord to Oslo. The last time I saw the ski jump was in 1983, and it’s been through 2 remodels since then.
The Holmenkollen ski jump – what an amazing architectural masterpiece!
The shiny new Holmenkollen ski jump is an amazing architectural feat! Its cantilevered style gives you the impression that it could tip over at any moment. It is truly a fantastic example of modern architecture.
An elevator whisks you up to the top of the jump — it’s the same one the competitors use. Once you’re at the top you can visit the actual jumping start point. It’s incredible that someone could actually launch themselves down this steep slope — it’s much steeper and longer than it looks on television!
The ski jump itself is far steeper than it looks on television!
An observation platform at the very top of the structure provides gorgeous views of the Oslo Fjord, the city itself, and the surrounding countryside and mountains.
The beautiful countryside behind the ski jump.
You can see quite far down the Oslo Fjord from the top of the Holmenkollen ski jump
After you’ve had enough of the view from the top, you can visit the museum on the lower levels. It’s a tribute to 4’000 years of skiing in all its forms. Don’t forget the Scandinavians used skis just to get around back in the day.
The Holmenkollen museum of skiing. They used skis to get around on Svalbard, where the polar bears live in Norway.
Admission is 130 NOK.
Getting there: take the Nr. 1 metro (T-bane) and get off at the Holmenkollen station. Go the Ruter Public Transportation site or app for information on how to get there from exactly where you are in Oslo.
The museum island: Bygdøy
Bygdøy is home to several museums so you can easily spend a couple of days there! The easiest way to get there (unless you’re at the marina there) is to take the ferry. It’s located at Pier 3, close to the city hall and leaves every 20-30 minutes. If you’re visiting during the colder months (November to April), you can take bus number 30. Download the RuterBillet app to buy public transport tickets on your phone.
Small viking-style boats moored in the Bygdøy harbour next to the ferry boat pontoon.
One of the viking ships that was dug up and restored for the museum
This is a must-see if you’re visiting Oslo for the first time. During our visit, three ancient viking ships were on display.
Displays of other viking artefacts including a wagon, tools and swords, as well as household items show how the vikings lived. The craftsmanship is just breathtaking! I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.
The dragon heads on the viking ships are amazing works of art. The wood carvings are intricate and complex.
This dragon head is a bit older, so the wood had partially rotted away.
Admission is 100 NoK (discounts for children, students and seniors) and it’s open every day.
The Fram museum is one of the most beautifully arranged, decorated and laid-out that we’ve ever seen.
An example of one the types of animals brought back by the one of the polar expeditions.
This impressive museum is dedicated to the exploration of the Polar areas. The Fram was a wooden polar research vessel used by both Fridtjof Nansen to the north pole area and Roald Amundsen for his expedition to Antarctica. It is entirely preserved and you can go aboard and have a look at all of the living and working quarters on the boat.
A model of the first Fram expedition – getting stuck in the ice.
Another model of one of the Fram polar expeditions-this time in the south pole. They reached the south pole in December of 1911.
The vessel Gjøa is exhibited here as well. This is the first ship to have navigated the Northwest Passage. This expedition established the location at the time of the north magnetic pole and then proved that the magnetic pole moves over time.
The Polar vessel Gjøa.
A cinema with translation headsets provides a crash course in Polar exploration, and numerous exhibits show the results of the research and life onboard the vessels. If you have children, there are quite a few fun and educational exhibits aimed at teaching children about the polar environment.
You can see that even the little cubs have very sharp teeth!
Post cards from the crew. Notice the incredible calligraphy from back in the day.
Admission is 100 NOK, with discounts for children, students and seniors. It’s open every day.
Visiting the Fram museum made us truly appreciate the modern conveniences (heating, refrigeration, for example) and equipment (gore-tex, for example) we have on today’s cruising boats!
City Visit: Oslo, part one – the Aker Brygge area and its marina
The Oslo Boat show was winding down when we arrived in the Oslo area, which meant that the Aker Brygge marina was still closed to the public. We decided to stay in one of the lovely anchorages not far from the city. The Ostøya-Grimsøya-Kjeholmen group of islands is only about 6 nautical miles from Aker Brygge in Oslo and outside of the “high” season in the middle of summer, it’s not crowded at all. Several houses dot these islands so lying at anchor is the best solution so as not to disturb the inhabitants.
Anchored in beautiful weather at Ostøya
The Aker Brygge marina had announced on their website that it would open to the public on the Tuesday after the boat show, so we left the anchorage for Oslo city.
Surprise! The workers who were taking down the tents and temporary pontoons were not yet finished with their task. We were given the choice of lying on the outside of the pontoons or finding another marina. The wind was brisk and coming straight into the marina making the waves in the entire harbour quite choppy. We clearly did not want to moor on the outside of the marina. The ferries and cruise lines that enter and exit Oslo also create a lot of waves. We opted to go to Dronninghavna.
A view of the Dronninghavna boat club, with the Holmenkollen ski jump in the background
Unfortunately, Dronninghavna did not a berth for our boat and we were given a waiting pontoon. We weren’t pleased with the situation. We were told that all of the marinas in Oslo were full because all of the visiting boats and even the permanent renters of berths at Akerbrygge were relegated to the other Oslo marinas. There was nothing to do but accept the situation. At least they let us use the waiting pontoon free of charge (there’s no water, electricity or access to toilets, etc.)
Dronninghavna boat club on the island of Bygdøy, just outside of Oslo city centre
The Dronninghavna is otherwise a good choice for those of you who want to visit the most famous of all of the Oslo museums: the Viking Ship Museum, the Kontiki Museum, the Fram museum and the Norwegian Folk Museum. They are all on the same island as the marina, Bygdøy.
Finally, on the Wednesday after the boat show, we were permitted to up at the Aker Brygge marina. This is the marina closest to the city centre of Oslo. Aker Brygge is a modern waterfront neighbourhood that successfully blends restaurants, cafés, boutiques, offices and living space. For anyone who loves modern architecture, this place is just amazing!
Aker Brygge Marina
The marina at night
Marina Review: The Aker Brygge marina
The marina is relatively new and you’ll find everything you need, including toilets and showers, a laundry room, wifi, and a small café. The toilets, showers and laundry room were all spotless and in brand new condition. We absolutely loved staying here!
It’s relatively expensive, but you get a pristine marina and walking distance to downtown Oslo for the price.
The only downside is that it can get quite noisy if the weather is nice and there are lots of people out.
Marina Prices: 14 NOK per foot. This includes WiFi, use of toilets, showers, washers and dryers, electricity and water.
Freja moored at the Aker Brygge Marina. The harbour office and facilities are to the right in the photo
The view towards Tjuvholmen from the boat
The Akerbrygge/Tjuvholmen borough of Oslo
The Aker Brygge/Tjuvholmen area was built from land that served as a shipyard and small mechanical factories until 1982. It was then developed, step by step, into the amazing architectural wonderland that it is today.
Aker Brygge on a sunny morning
A few of the buildings were not removed, but renovated and reborn as shops, offices, restaurants and apartments.
A late evening view of the Aker Brygge Marina
Walking Senna through the Aker Brygge/Tjuvholmen area at night
Another part of our dog-walking route
More of the amazing architecture at Aker Brygge
Some of the more well-known architects represented here include Niels Torp (who also designed the beautiful SAS building outside Stockholm), Space Group and Renzo Piano, who designed the Astrup Fearnley Museum on Tjuvholmen. Renzo Piano is also the architect responsible for the Shard in London, the Paul Klee Centre in Bern, Switzerland and the New York Times building in New York. If you are passionate about architecture as an art form, you will love this area.
Tjuvholmen by day…
And Tjuvholmen by night
The Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art on Tjuvholmen island
The Aker Brygge is the part of this new area with the most restaurants, shops, bars and cafés. We had dinners or lunches here and found what we think are Europe’s best croissants for breakfast (it’s the incredible Norwegian butter)! You’ll find lots of different shops and boutiques, but for essentials, there is the Coop grocery store. You can get your internet access card for your router at Telia.
Another part of dog-walking route (and tour of amazing architecture)
One of the many sidewalk restaurants at Aker Brygge/Tjuvholmen. This one has a view of the marina and the Oslo Fjord
Here’s another of the many cozy sidewalk restaurants in the Aker Brygge area
Lovely sculpture and water art in front of yet another sidewalk restaurant
Another view of the incredible modern architecture in Aker Brygge
In my next post, I’ll go over our favourite places to visit in and around Oslo.