Oslo is the perfect playground for outdoor enthusiasts. Alison Ledger gives us a tour of Norway’s capital.
With plunging river valleys, rippling glaciers, vast mountain ranges and dense woodlands, Norway remains a wilderness outpost. Many head straight for the easy-going and lively cosmopolitan capital. The city spreads in a U-shaped around Oslofjord, so where ever you choose to stay, within a short time, you could be hiking, skiing, cycling, sea kayaking, climbing, fishing, dog-sledging, swimming, sailing or golfing, to name but a few.
This form of walking is best described as ‘walking with poles’ and, in a country that boasts some of the best hiking in Europe, it’s a must. Norway has a network of around 20,000km of marked trails, ranging from easy strolls to longer treks through national parks, wilderness areas and alpine peaks – and the hiking in Oslo is just as varied. You can choose a scenic coastal walk, wander through the city’s parks or opt for a quiet forest trail. Most routes are signposted making it easy for even inexperienced walkers to find their way. A useful first port-of-call before a walking trip is the Norwegian Trekking Association (www.turistforeningen.no/english), which sells hiking maps and provides advice and information.
On the slopes
No one can be sure that the Norwegians invented skiing, but the Nordic nation makes a credible claim with thanks to aeons-old rock carvings depicting hunters on skis. ‘Ski’ is also a Norwegian word and so it seems apt that it has become a national pastime. Tryvann Winter Park is now the largest ski centre in the Oslo area offering 14 slopes and six ski lifts. At Tryvann, the Holmenkollen Oslo Ski School & Snowboard School offers a number of courses.
The young Roald Dahl spent his summer holidays in Oslo and once wrote: ‘Unless you have sailed down the Oslofjord...you cannot imagine the sensation of absolute peace and beauty that surrounds you.’ To experience this and explore each island’s unique character and history, why not sail or kayak around the forty islands dotted around the fjord rather than take one of the many boat tours? The islands are extremely popular with locals and are the perfect place for swimming in the summer.
You can fly with Ryanair (www.ryanair.com) from Stansted. British Airways (www.ba.com) and SAS (www.flysas.com) also fly from the UK to Oslo. Flights are pricier at weekends and peak between June and mid-September.
On the menu
You can choose from good, old-fashioned rustic food, delicious dishes of fish, game, moose and reindeer or culinary delights from all over the globe. For traditional Norwegian cuisine with a hint of Mediterranean, try Belgen & Moi Briskeby’s gourmet restaurant or its less expensive bistro. For value for money, take advantage of Oslo’s thriving café-culture.
From the seat of your bike you can ride to various lookout points along the river and fjord, through the forest and suburbs, passing by the city’s main attractions. There are more than 2,000km of well-marked trails suitable for all fitness levels. Biking is safe and family-friendly as long as you keep to the designated paths and avoid main roads.
Oslo is famous for speed skating and has erected a museum dedicated to the sport. Munch’s famous painting The Scream is on display at the Munch Museum. Norway also has a strong jazz tradition, celebrated in the city with a weeklong festival in August, which attracts internationally renowned jazz musicians.
Take a train or plane from Oslo to discover Voss, the extreme capital of Norway, where you can do paragliding, para-bungee and sea kayaking with Nordic Ventures (www.nordicventures.com). The quickest way to get there is to fly to Bergen, which takes 45 minutes, and take the train to Voss, which takes 1 hour. The three main airlines are: SAS (www.flysas.com), Wideroe (www.wideroe.no), or Norwegian Air Shuttle (www.norwegian.no). For trains, see www.nsb.no
For more information on Norway, see www.visitnorway.com, or for more information on Oslo see www.visitoslo.com
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