If you have young children then Oslo is a brilliant family friendly city break destination to add to your travel bucket list.
Back in May when bank holidays bookend the month, I went on two city breaks with my family (my DH and my 4-year-old boy, Milo stayed at his doggy friends house). One was a break in London and one to Oslo in Norway.
If you were following along on Instagram or twitter at the time you’ll have seen that we had a fabulous time in Oslo. We were the lucky ones to experience glorious sunshine in Oslo even if the temperatures weren’t exactly Mediterranean, I still came back with some new freckles. Oslo shone like a jewel with all the reflected light from the water and that I really hadn’t been expecting. We rediscovered how much we love Northern European cities (in May 2016 we went to Copenhagen as a family) and discovered what a compact do-able city Oslo is for a family travelling with a child who needs to stop regularly but equally run off some energy from time to time.
I’m not going to sugar coat it, Oslo is expensive. Really expensive. It wasn’t helped by the GBP at the time being weak against virtually every currency in the world. But my “it’s really expensive” index is based on a small 500ml bottle of water and the cost of a McDonalds McMeal (I didn’t eat there, it’s just a good bench mark for costs). Admittedly I bought the water in a Seven Eleven by City Hall (Radhuset) but at 29kr it nearly cost £3. The McMeal was 105kr, which is £10. So it’s expensive. BUT there are some great tips to reduce costs like using the OSLO Pass. Within the , we got free entry to the Nobel Peace Centre, a brilliant hop-on, hop-off tour around the marina and the opportunity to visit plenty more things if we’d had the time.
So if it’s so expensive why is it a good family friendly destination? Firstly it’s easy to get around. Children under 4 travel for free and you can get an Oslo pass for 4-15-year-olds which gives you unlimited free travel by bus, tram, underground, boat and some local trains. Like the adult version, it also includes entry to museums and other attractions. My little one loved hopping on the boat to go to the Bygdøy peninsula, which houses some of the most popular museums (more below).
There’s lots to do. Museums may not always spark enthusiasm in children but Oslo has a couple that even world weary kids will find fascinating. We visited in quick succession the Viking Ship museum, Fram Museum – the polar ship Fram and the Kon Tiki Museum. Can you spot a theme here? Yes, boats were a draw and the compact nature of these individual museums meant that we could keep up a good pace of interest and avoid any meltdowns. We did also go into the Norwegian Maritime Museum but we only ended up using their café as our little one was in need of some running around by this point.
Oslo is an incredible city for free entertainment and we found some great impromptu events like the traditional craft and culture exhibition we were lucky to come across on Bygdøy and the fun annual plant sale at the Oslo Botanical Gardens. The Vigeland Sculpture Park, City Hall, The Armed Forces Museum and a look in and on top of, the Oslo Opera House were all free.
Two of our favourite places from the trip were the Oslo Opera House and also the Vigeland Sculpture Park. The opera house is more than just a world-class performing arts venue it’s also an unlikely playground. Snohetta, the Norwegian architects practice who designed the building created an angled, white exterior that appears to rise from the water. The marble clad exterior and roof are a public space and one that we fell in love with. At almost any time of the day or night, hundreds of visitors were scrambling all over the building to reach the highest point, to see the view of the fjord and then downward seeking out places to sit out of the breeze. Our son thought it was the best thing ever and still talks about when he climbed the white building. It’s an absolute must visit. Although please remember to visit the inside too which is really lovely and often forgotten! Our other family big thumbs up goes to the incredible Vigeland Sculpture Park, which is just a short hop out of the city centre on the tram. Gustav Vigeland (1869-1943) created the 200+ sculptures with in its grounds but he also designed the park itself. You are guaranteed for giggles if you have a young child in tow, as all the sculptures are naked! We had fun copying the statues and then climbing to the top on the monolith before heading to the play-park and café. If you’re unlucky you might time your visit with the tourist buses like we did but they didn’t stay long, whereas we decided to make the most of the sunshine and took our time.
Other worthwhile family experiences we enjoyed include a trip to Vulkan for a walk along the river and a visit to the Mathallen food hall, and a promenade along Aker Brygge Wharf which on a sunny day is absolutely lovely with its café and play park. A word of warning though – keep a close eye on your little ones as the harbour isn’t enclosed/fenced and little wobbly children could fall in.
Thirdly Oslo eateries do not shake their heads or raise their eyebrows when you eat with a small child. In Cities like London, Paris and New York I have experienced this but in Oslo, everyone was really welcoming and talked directly to our son like the small person he is, rather than thinking he’s going to be a nuisance. In fact, we actually went out for a rather spectacular dinner on Aker Brygge Wharf when we went to Ling Ling which is part of Hakkasan. The staff were wonderful the food delicious and the interior design was knock your socks off. In fact, the place deserves a whole blog post just about the design details.
We thoroughly enjoyed our trip to Oslo and it’s made me want to visit more of Norway, so watch this space for 2018. I could share so much more about Oslo so if you need any recommendations do drop me a line.
Many thanks to Visit Olso for providing us with Oslo Passes for this trip.