Thursday, September 26, 2013

Oslo with Kids: Itinerary and Advice

Oslo is a city that has intrigued me for quite a while. It seems so modern. And yet still retains a lot of European charm. And while Norway might be better known for its stunning fjords and gorgeous countryside, this city is worth spending a few days in if you're planning a trip to the country, particularly with kids. During our 9-day swing through Scandinavia, we had 2 1/2 days in Oslo, and it was a perfect amount of time to enjoy its many offerings.

Day 1: For our first full day in Oslo, we took the tram to the Vigeland Sculpture Park. This was my favorite attraction in the city, as it was culturally interesting, extremely kid-friendly, and just a relaxing morning. (Although be prepared for lots of tour buses to roll up and dump about 50 tourists on the scene every 10 minutes or so!) I'll be writing more about it next week.

Then we took a tram back into the heart of the city and ate lunch at the Egon restaurant near the Stortinget Station. This restaurant is a great one to keep in mind, as it offers a lot of kid-approved American foods. At this point in our 9-day trip, our boys were over being foodies and ready for cuisine that they were comfortable with. Plus, you get a balloon. :)

That afternoon, we checked out our local neighborhood near our apartment, which included a walk across the Akrobaten pedestrian bridge. This photo from my Instagram account is one of my favorite memories from our trip. The bright side of traveling with a 4-year-old is that they create their own fun everywhere you go. I believe he was racing his shadow across one of the most architecturally famous bridges in the world.

Day 2: We headed straight for the Oslo Opera House, where the boys spent some time playing on the roof of this amazing building. I thought this would be a quick stop, but we spent over an hour climbing, running and skipping over its entire surface. Beautiful views of the city skyline and the water from here. Kids love the giant cruise ships that dock right beside it. It was another highlight of our time in Oslo that I'll be writing more about.

Then we took a long walk all along the water, stopping at the Akershus Slott and Festning (fortress) and the Radhusbrygge Quay (harbor/marina area). The fortress is really interesting, especially if you're a history buff. It dates back to 1300, and offers more great views of the water. Your kids will really be able to visualize what it must have been like to defend the city from invaders.

On our way back to our apartment, we strolled Karl Johans Gate, a pedestrian-only street full of street performers, restaurants and shops. It's a very lively and picturesque area of Oslo with a more traditional European feel to it.

In the afternoon, we visited the Botanisk Hage (botanical gardens). I didn't find it a particularly beautiful or enjoyable place, and there's nothing really for kids there. It was near our apartment, which was our only reason for visiting.

Day 3: We had time to do a little more exploring before catching a bus to the airport. Unfortunately it was raining, which left us with more limited options. We visited the Nobels Fredssenter (Nobel Peace Center museum). They do a have a treasure hunt for children, which my 4-year-old enjoyed. But beyond that, it is not a particularly kid-friendly attraction. Probably better suited for children 8 and older.

General Tips for Visiting Oslo with Kids:
  • The tram system is convenient and has stops at most of the popular tourist attractions. You can purchase your tickets any 7-Eleven or Deli De Luca store, or one of the service kiosks. The kiosks are not at every stop though. So I'd recommend researching where the closest of those shops is to where you'll be staying.
  • When boarding the tram, its difficult to get a stroller on without two adults to lift it up. So use one that easily collapses or plan to ask for help if you're traveling alone.
  • It was hard to find a nice playground or park near our apartment. In hindsight, I wish we had stayed near the Vigeland Sculpture Park (which has a great playground near the entrance) or near City Hall, which has a big, open square with plenty of space for kids to run around.
  • Much like in Copenhagen, dining out is expensive. We either did takeaway, cooked, or stopped at quick little delis or cafes for our meals. But also like Copenhagen, sightseeing is practically free. The only admission we paid for in the above itinerary was the Nobel Fredssenter.
  • Coming by bus or train? There's a nice mall that surrounds the Oslo Sentralstasjon (train and bus station), which is helpful if you need to pick up anything or just need an indoor location to take refuge from the weather.
If I Return:
  • I'd look into more options for indoor entertainment, particularly that would appeal to young kids.
  • We really wanted to take a ferry out to the Bygdoy Peninsula to explore the Vikingskipshuset, the Norsk Folkemuseum, and the Kon-Tiki Museum, which are mostly outdoor attractions. Unfortunately, the morning we dedicated to that was our one day of rain.
This post is a part of Travel Tips Tuesday at Suitcases and Sippy Cups and Walking on Travels.

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