On September 11Kate Newman answered the question:While Oslo can dent even the deepest of pockets (there’s a reason it was recently ranked one of the world’s most expensive cities to live in), it is filled with plenty free activities to keep you busy. Here are five of our Forbes Travel Guide editors’ favorite things to do for free in Oslo:
1. Enjoy the outdoors. Oslo’s beautiful parks are the city’s best free attractions. Choose between Frogner Park, with its vivid sculptures by Gustav Vigeland, or Slottsparken (The Castle Park), where you can see the changing of the guard daily at 1:30 p.m. The Botanical Garden is another favorite, with greenhouses dating back to the late 1800s and more than 7,500 species of flowering trees and water lilies. The aptly named “Great-Granny’s Garden” houses heritage plants no longer widely available.
2. Check out local music. Oslo has an active music scene with many free offerings. Look for outdoor festivals like VG Top 20 Live and National Music Day, open to the public for free of charge. On Sunday nights throughout the summer, visit nightclub Blå to hear free jazz, bluegrass, and gypsy music by the Frank Znort Quartet.
3. Visit the museums. To see an extensive collection of work by Norwegian painter Edvard Munch, visit the Munch Museum, with complimentary admission from October 1 through March 31. Some of the city’s best museums, like the National Gallery, are free on Sundays, while others — the Oslo City Museum, the Norwegian Customs Museum, and the Armed Forces Museum — are free year round.
4. Picnic. If the weather is pleasant, take your lunch to a park. You’ll see locals making the most of even the faintest sliver of sun. To eat like an Osloite, grill some hot dogs and enjoy them with lompe, a thin, tortilla-like potato pancake. Inexpensive disposable grills are available at local groceries.
5. Winter wonderland. Not to worry — Oslo offers free activities during winter, too. Visit the festive Christmas market outside City Hall and take advantage of complimentary ice skating near the National Theatre or Frogner Stadium.
On September 11Kate Newman answered the question:There’s no better souvenir to bring home from Oslo than a beautifully crafted Norwegian sweater. Since the 9th century, locals have used the strong, high-quality wool from Norwegian sheep to make these warm, intricately patterned tops. Cozy and festive, these durable Norwegian sweaters make gifts that will last generations. The Oslo Sweater Shop at Holbergs Plass is a great spot to find these local treasures. Look for quality brands like Dale of Norway.
If you’re in the market for something smaller, consider picking up some Freia Melkesjokolade, the cherished Norwegian milk chocolate, or homemade cloudberry jam, a local delicacy made with light, sweet berries. To pick up these and other culinary souvenirs, stop off at area shops like Fromagerie, Flâneur and Gutta på Haugen.
On September 11Kate Newman answered the question:There’s much more to Norwegian cuisine than salmon and meatballs, although both are delicious. While visiting Norway’s capital city, here are the best dishes our Forbes Travel Guide editors recommend you sample:
1. Kanelbolle. Norwegians are known for their delicious bread and pastries, and kanelboller are at the top of the list. These sweet, fluffy cinnamon buns can be found all over, but the best are at Åpent Bakeri, the successful joint venture of a Norwegian and a Frenchman.
2. Freia Melkesjokolade. Norway is home to some of the world’s best milk chocolate, delectably creamy but not too sweet. The yellow wrapper of this national brand is enough to bring a smile to any Osloite.
3. Cloudberries and cream. As exquisite as their name suggests, cloudberries are such a Norwegian delicacy that they’ve earned the nickname viddas gull (“highland gold”). This tricky-to-cultivate fruit has a very short season, from late July to early August. Indigenous Sami kept the light, sweet berries in reindeer milk; today, Norwegians eat cloudberries with cream as a Christmas dessert.
4. Brunost. Norwegian for “brown cheese,” brunost is made from the caramelized whey of goat’s milk. Brunost has a sweet, almost nutty flavor, and melts in your mouth. Try it on a piece of buttered dark rye.
5. Kaviar. This salty paste of creamed cod roe is a Norwegian classic. Butter a piece of dark bread, then add kaviar and top with slices of hardboiled egg. Similar spreads are made with salmon and prawns.
On September 11Kate Newman answered the question:Oslo has an impressive share of chic, glamorous bars and laid-back pubs for drinking with friends. Whether you’re seeking a swanky champagne bar, a place to play retro video games or a dance club with thumping techno and house music, you can find them all in Oslo. Here are Forbes Travel Guide’s editors’ picks for the city’s best nightlife:
1. Stratos. Located on a rooftop terrace above the Folketeateret, Stratos offers one of the best views of beautiful Oslo. With a wide selection of cocktails and frequent live music, this bar is open only in summer.
2. Fuglen. Travel back to the 1960s at Fuglen, coffee shop by day and cocktail bar by night. Filled with Norwegian vintage furniture for sale, this unique spot carries an impressive range of Norwegian craft beers (we love Bøyla, a fresh blond ale from Flåm) and some of the city’s best mixed drinks.
3. Blå. This factory-turned-nightclub in hip Grünerløkka features live music and skilled DJs playing techno, jazz, house and more. With a beer garden overlooking the river Akerselva, Blå is best during the summer.
4. Internasjonalen. Located in the headquarters of Norway’s Labor Party, Internasjonalen is an unpretentious and favored gathering spot. Its décor recalls Soviet Europe, and the bar serves up retro grandfatherly drinks like Pjolter, a brandy-and-soda combination popular in Norway in the 1920s.
5. Champagneria. This sophisticated bar offers a wide array of sparkling wines and an excellent tapas menu. With two floors and outdoor areas open in summer, the stylish clientele has plenty of room to mix and mingle.
6. Tilt. Head to Tilt for a laid-back evening of games with friends. This funky bar features old pinball machines, shuffleboards, Donkey Kong and Pac-Man.
On September 11Kate Newman answered the question:For the best one-day Oslo itinerary, start early with coffee and a sweet, moist cinnamon bun — Forbes Travel Guide editors like the ones from Åpent Bakeri on the Palace Park the best. After breakfast, head down to the water to board a hop-on, hop-off cruise on the Oslo Fjord. You’ll pass City Hall, medieval castle Akershus and the city’s modern Opera House. The cruise continues to the museums along the Bygdøy peninsula. Get off to admire the massive boats at the Viking Ship Museum and the original 13th century church at the Norsk Folk Museum.
When you return to the city, head to Solsiden, a seafood spot with a vast wine list, for a lunch of exceptional Norwegian delicacies. In the afternoon, wander the gardens of magical Frogner Park to admire Gustav Vigeland’s sculptures. Bring a book and stay until sunset to appreciate the sculptures in their best light.
At night, head to dinner at acclaimed restaurant Maaemo — Forbes Travel Guide editors suggest you make this reservation as far in advance as possible. Throw yourself at the mercy of expert chef Esben Holmboe Bang and delight in a nine-course meal of Nordic cuisine at its finest. After dinner, have a drink on rooftop bar Stratos and take in the view of the city at night.
On September 11Kate Newman answered the question:You’ll find a range of shopping options in Oslo, from vintage spots and touristy souvenir shops to department stores and boutiques. Karl Johans gate is Oslo’s main shopping street, mostly filled with chain stores. For unusual finds in the city center, Forbes Travel Guide editors suggest you look for smaller boutiques, like Freudian Kicks and Leila Hafzi. Alternatively, opt for less-trafficked areas like Hegdehaugsveien and Bogstadveien in Majorstuen, which carry many of the same commercial shops as well as upscale brands.
For the best of vintage shops and small local designers, head to trendy Grünerløkka. This hip neighborhood is a local favorite for its cozy cafés and boutique shopping. Check out Sjarm, a women’s boutique filled with Scandinavian designers, and Shoe Lounge, a glamorous footwear shop known for its friendly, knowledgeable salespeople.
Other highlights include House of Oslo, the country’s best for interior design, and classic department store Steen & Strøm, established in 1797.
On September 11Kate Newman answered the question:Norway’s history is so rich and interesting that even kids will be fascinated by it, especially in its capital, Oslo. Here are our favorite things to do with kids in the family-friendly city:
1. The International Museum of Children’s Art. This unique museum devoted entirely to children’s art contains drawings, paintings, textiles and sculptures from more than 180 countries. Check for activities like art classes, African drumming workshops and storytelling hours.
2. Norsk Folk Museum. Kids find Oslo’s remarkable folk museum equal parts fun and educational. At this open-air museum, wander through more than 150 different buildings depicting life in Norway over the past centuries. Staff welcomes you in period costume, and admission is free for children under six.
3. Take a ride on the Oslo Fjord. Children love this hop-on, hop-off cruise in a traditional wooden sailboat (and kids under 4 ride for free). In addition to the pleasure of a ride on the shimmering Oslo Fjord, this is a great way to see medieval castle Akershus, the city’s distinctive Opera House (with an impressive downward-slopping roof) and the museums along the Bygdøy peninsula.
4. Frogner Park. Kids get a kick out of the park’s famous sculptures, many inspired by children at play. The park also features a great playground with sandboxes, jungle gyms and swings. If the weather is warm, visit adjacent Frognerbadet, a swimming complex with children’s pools, diving boards and water slides.
5. Get in on winter activities. Summer in Oslo is beautiful but fleeting. During winter visits, children love the festively lit Christmas market outside of Oslo’s City Hall, where they can drink hot chocolate and sample risengrynsgrøt, warm rice pudding seasoned with butter, cinnamon and sugar. There are ice skating rinks close to the National Theatre and Frogner Stadium, and another winter favorite in Oslo is tobogganing in a spot like Korketrekkeren, which means “the corkscrew.” Take the local metro to the top of the 1.2-mile long hill and sled down (helmet and sled rentals are available).
On September 11Kate Newman answered the question:From lush forests and parks to world-renowned museums to cutting-edge restaurants, Oslo offers a wide range of activities for all budgets and seasons. Here are Forbes Travel Guide’s editors’ picks for the five best things to see and do in Oslo:
1. Frogner Park. Oslo’s largest park is a scenic spot with lush gardens, fountains, streams and ponds. Most magnificent, however, is the Vigeland Sculpture Park that lies within. Over the course of 20 years, local sculptor Gustav Vigeland produced more than 200 bronze and granite sculptures for the park. The larger-than-life structures reveal intimate human experiences: Lovers share a tender moment, a rotund mother nurtures her brood, a baby screams mid-tantrum and a wrinkled elderly couple chats side by side. The park is particularly stunning at sunset, when the sculptures take on a soft glow.
2. The Viking Ship Museum. For a glimpse of Norway’s storied past, visit Oslo’s Viking Ship Museum, where you are dwarfed by sleek, massive ships dating back to the 9th century. The well-preserved Oseberg ship has an intricately carved oak hull and a curling prow that casts spiraled shadows around the museum walls. Thought to have been a burial tomb for a queen, the ship contained jewelry, furniture, sleighs, carriages, tapestries, along with the skeletons of the two women and many animals at excavation.
3. The National Gallery. Oslo’s National Gallery houses art by El Greco, Picasso, Cézanne, Modigliani and Gauguin. The highlight, however, is the work of Norwegian painter Edvard Munch. One version of his most famous piece, The Scream, hangs in this museum. Visits are best concluded with a stop in the Gallery’s café, where you can sip café au lait while admiring plaster copies of Louvre sculptures donated by France in 1923. Admission is free on Sundays, and a one-day ticket grants access to affiliated art museums throughout the city. To see more work by Munch, visit the Munch Museum in Tøyen.
4. Norsk Folk Museum. Oslo’s extraordinary open-air folk museum is filled with more than 150 original buildings, restored and relocated, depicting life in Norway over the past hundreds of years. Top attractions include a cottage interior covered in beautifully intricate rosemaling, a style of decorative painting with flourishes and flowers, and a medieval stave church built around 1200 A.D.
5. Enjoy a ride on the Oslo Fjord. If the weather is decent, consider a hop-on, hop-off cruise on the glittering waters of the Oslo Fjord. This is a great way to visit several city attractions, like the modern opera house with its innovative marble exterior and a roof that slopes to ground level. The cruise continues to the museums along the Bygdøy peninsula.
On July 15Kate Newman answered the question:Melbourne boasts some of the world’s finest cultural events in fashion, art, literature and film. Here are Forbes Travel Guide’s editors’ picks for the best cultural events in town:
1. Melbourne Fashion Festival. Held at the end of February each year, this stylish affair showcases the work of Australia’s top designers, including Lisa Gorman, Alex Perry and Alice McCall as well as rising stars like Dion Lee and Magdalena Velevska. Look for runway shows, beauty workshops, cultural exhibits and industry forums.
2. Next Wave Festival. Perhaps the city’s most innovative festival, this multidisciplinary event presents the work of artists ages 16 to 30 in literature, new media, performance, dance, theater and visual arts. Each festival is shaped around a conceptual theme like “no risk too great” or “the space between us wants to sing.” Buy a day pass and use it as an excuse to explore the city while traveling to events all over town. It comes every two years during May.
3. St. Kilda Film Festival. Head to St. Kilda in May for Australia’s longest-running short film festival, where you can check out movies by emerging Aussie directors as well as work from around the world.
4. Melbourne Writers Festival. Held each year at the end of August, this impressive literary festival has drawn big names like Dave Eggers, J.M. Coetzee, Annie Proulx, Isabel Allende, Roddy Doyle, Zadie Smith, Bill Bryson and Margaret Atwood. Join in for readings, workshops and panels across the city.
5. Melbourne Fringe Festival. This independent arts festival at the end of September is known for its quirky productions of theater, comedy, performance art, digital art, cabaret and circus. Venues range from formals spots like the Melbourne Museum to tiny bars, theaters and even subway stations.
6. Melbourne Stencil Festival. Melbourne is often cited as the world’s best city for stencil and street art, so it’s only fitting that there should be a festival to honor this edgy, often political art form. Check out work from around the world at gallery venues and take a graffiti tour of the laneways in Fitzroy.
Kate Newman is a Forbes Travel Guide correspondent who lives in New York and Guatemala and covers Oslo, Melbourne and Mexico’s San Miguel de Allende for Startle. Newman is a writer, translator and co-editor of Suelta, a literary website based in Guatemala. She has lived and worked in Africa, Europe, Australia, South Asia and Latin America. She is a former Watson Fellow and winner of the Chicago Young Playwright’s Festival. Newman enjoys writing about travel, art, literature and cuisine. She was recently named winner of the Next Great Storyteller competition by National Geographic Traveler.