Norway's capital city is expensive, but worth the trip if you plan wisely says Jamie Ball.
Of all the right chords Norway's capital strikes, Saturday sundown is probably best. We're sailing through the island labyrinth of Oslofjord as a buffet of prawns is laid out below decks. A Nordic singsong breaks out. As views and beer hit the sweet spot, it strikes me that there's a grand stretch in the evenings. But they're grander here.
Oslo offers a weekend destination that, while far from pumped-up, cut-rate or sun-smooched, is worthy of a more refined and cultured city break just two hours or so from Dublin. Put it this way: if it's likely you'll only be able to afford a couple of days in Scandinavia, here's the place to start.
Upon entering your room at the Thief Hotel (thethief.com), you might be tempted to become a thief yourself (there are enough deluxe cushions to shame a Marrakesh market). The finesse and elegant furnishings of this uber-chic, five-star waterfront hotel are graced with contemporary art and design.
Some willpower will be required to leave your room in the morning, but make the effort for the world of water and wellbeing in the spa, where a Finish sauna, Moroccan rhassaul steam room and 12-metre pool await, all in polished ambiance of slate, sea and Nordic light.
The Thief is too cool for school, like Oslo in one. Prices per room start at about €310 including breakfast, pool and spa.
Part cosmopolitan hostel and part budget hotel, the Saga (sagahoteloslocentral.no) is a "poshtel" with snippets of Scandinavian design. Dorms of 4-12 beds range from €35-50pp, while a spartan (double) room comes in at around €90 (breakfast included with all). At least one evening, walk up to the famous Fiskeriet (fiskeriet.com) and sample their sumptuous fish and chips, Norwegian-style, for less than €20.
Prior to arriving, buy your Oslo Pass card (via an app; see visitoslo.com), which gives you free entry to more than 30 museums and attractions (including walking tours), as well as free travel on all public transport (though not on the airport express train). Once activated upon arrival, its QR code on your smartphone is scanned each time it's used. For adults, 24 hours costs from €43, 48 hours from €64. Child rates are roughly half-price.
Oslo Pass (see Travel Tip above) in hand, go raiding the city's stand-out museums and galleries. The Bygdoy peninsula, easily accessed by bus and ferry, hosts the Viking Ship Museum (khm.uio.no) and Norsk Folkemuseum (norskfolkenmuseum.no), among others.
Stepping back in time may be a cliche, but the latter allows you to wander in and around 160+ buildings dating from 1200. From tenant farms to Sámi sites, this is no Disney-fied 'old world', but an insightful and gratifying open-air museum.
Surprise, surprise, Oslo is very expensive: a heedless 48 hours here could buy you a week in southern Europe. The pace is so laidback (nightlife with a lowercase 'n'), you'd be forgiven for taking its pulse in places. But that can be a blessing, too.
Jamie flew as a guest of SAS (flysas.com), which flies Dublin to Oslo direct with prices starting from around €83 return. Before booking, check out visitoslo.com/en and choose wisely - there's lots to see and do in a very tight timeframe!