If you ask most people about visiting Norway, the first thing they’ll do is suck in their breath through their teeth and tell you how expensive it is: there’s really no point in going unless you have a few hundred quid burning a hole in your pocket, and even then it’ll take that much to cover the bar bill on your first night out. Since my number of visits to Norway is now approaching double figures, I feel more than qualified to tell you that yes, it can be expensive and, yes, your average pint will cost around £6, but that doesn’t mean you have to be Donald Trump to have a good time there.
I first visited Oslo in 1998, a year after I graduated. One of my best friends at university was Norwegian and had invited me to stay at her place for a few days. Luckily for me, we’ve remained great friends ever since and I go back there whenever I have a few days to spare, once a year on average. Of course, if you’re staying with friends then your trip will obviously be a lot cheaper, but there are also reasonably-priced hostels you can stay at which won’t break the bank. You can book a bunk in a hostel in the centre of town for as little as £18 and there are some great deals on hotels if you go to www.agoda.com. You can even stay in someone else’s flat or house for as little as £28 for a room (or £45 for the whole flat!) if you check out the deals on www.airbnb.com.
Flights aren’t pricey either. From as little as £34 return (www.ryanair.com) you could be arriving at one of Oslo’s three airports two and a half hours after take-off (from the UK) and be in the city centre 45 minutes later clutching a souvenir troll. This makes it a great destination for a weekend away and an interesting alternative to Paris or Amsterdam. Another benefit for us Brits, of course, is that everyone speaks English. And not just any old English, but the type of English that makes you want to go home and brush up on your vowel sounds.
That’s all very well, I hear you say, but don’t you need to have loads of cash to enjoy yourself once you’re there?
Well, no, actually. There are plenty of things to do in and around the city which will cost you absolutely nothing. The city centre is small and accessible and very pleasant to wander around. You could take a packed lunch and people-watch in one of the many parks. My favourite is the Vigeland Park, the world's largest sculpture park made by a single artist, Gustav Vigeland, with more than 200 sculptures in bronze, granite and wrought iron. It’s completely free to get in and is open all year round. The new Oslo Opera House is also worth a visit. Situated in the Bjørvika neighborhood of central Oslo, at the head of the Oslofjord, it’s a great place to go on a sunny day to just lounge around, sunbathe and watch the seagulls dive for fish. It’s a stunning building which has really added something special to the Oslo skyline.
The thing I love most about this city, though, is the casual friendliness of the people and the freedom I have as a single woman to just wander around and explore without fear of being hassled or stared at or being made to feel in any way uncomfortable. For this reason, it’s a really great place for solo breaks. You can sit in a bar or restaurant on your own and not feel remotely out of place or uneasy; until you’re presented with the bill, of course. (chuckle)
This post is dedicated to Dorte Vedal and Bengt Gronas, who have helped to make Norway my second home.