Being of Norwegian descent, visiting the land of my roots was a real treat for me. After learning about my ancestors in Selbu, Norway and experiencing the midnight sun in Tromso, my final stop was the capital, Oslo. This was where I really felt like I got a sense of the history of the country, in large part through the many museums I visited. Here are a few of my favorite things I discovered in Oslo.
1. Tregaarden’s Julehus in Drøbak
Okay, this isn’t really in Oslo, but it’s an easy day trip, just 35 kilometers outside of the city. I made it there easily by bus. If you like Christmas – really, if you like Christmas decorations – the Julehus is for you. I spent a couple hours perusing all of the handmade ornaments, dolls, stockings, candles and other decorations and when I left, my wallet was A LOT lighter. The house itself has an interesting history as well, having first been built in 1877 as a praying house. It was sold and opened as the Julehus in 1988.
2. Norwegian Folkemuseum
I was initially a bit skeptical of this outdoor museum, but it quickly won me over. With a variety of actual buildings from throughout Norway, it really gave me a good feel for how Norwegians lived a hundred years ago. I was able to explore several homes, a school house, a barn and a famous wooden stave church. The layout of the “museum” was organized by region and it felt very authentic as I walked along dirt paths to move from one area to the next – I easily could have imagined that the buildings were still in their original environment.
3. Holmenkollen Ski Jump
Again, not technically in Oslo, but a big highlight for me nonetheless. I am a huge sports fan and have always followed the Olympics closely, so it was a thrill to actually climb to the top of the ski jump that was used in the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer. The ski jump stands 60 meters tall and, if you head to the top on a clear day, you can see for miles around Oslo and the Oslofjord (unfortunately, I got a cloudy day and even got caught in a downpour while I was there!). After climbing the ski jump towers, you can head back down and visit the Ski Museum – the oldest in the world.
4. Vigeland Park
Oslo’s version of Central Park features over 200 bronze and granite sculptures by artist Gustav Vigeland. The most interesting and most popular is the Monolith – a massive column of intertwined bodies standing at the highest point of the park. Surrounding the Monolith are 36 sculptures with more entangled figures – designed to convey a “Circle of Life” message. Covering eighty acres, the sculpture park is a great place to relax, take a slow stroll, and enjoy an interesting outdoor art museum.
5. Kon-Tiki Museum
This museum, devoted to Thor Heyerdahl, is one of several museums located on the Bygdøy Peninsula (the Folkemuseum is also there). To be honest, I didn’t know much about Heyerdahl and his reed boat expeditions and I definitely didn’t recall that he was the first to lead archaeological excavations in the Galapagos Islands and on Easter Island. Nonetheless, it was fascinating to see firsthand the original vessels he took across oceans and statues found on Easter Island. Of all of the museums on Bygdøy Peninsula, I probably learned the most at the Kon-Tiki Museum.
Have you been to Oslo? What did you enjoy the most?