Princely visit at the Royal House of Norway
Day 1, 11 a.m. – No sooner have I arrived in Oslo than I make my way to the Royal House. The changing of the guard takes place each day at 11.30 a.m. and I wouldn't want to miss it for anything in the world. There's nothing like it to be immersed in the traditions of a country! Besides, the idea to even come close to a house where “real” monarchs still live feels very pleasing. I looked into King Harald V and Queen Sonja: they live in their 2nd-floor apartments on a yearly basis. Maybe I'll be lucky enough and catch a glimpse of them at the balcony?
The house's history goes back to 1824. Built for King Charles XIV John of Sweden, this castle symbolises the union between Sweden and Norway. Following Napoleonic wars, the two countries actually formed the United Kingdoms of Sweden and Norway from 1814 to 1905. This union did not survive the burgeoning instabilities between the two countries, but still gave birth to this splendid mansion.
Even though I cannot visit the inner sections in that season (guided tours take place from late June to mid-August), I wander around the Slottsparken, haven of rest amid the city, where majestic trees almost as old as the house itself proudly stand.
Royal House of Norway
+47 220 48 700
Norwegian lunch at Engebret Café
12.30 p.m. – I'm starved and very eager to get acquainted with Norwegian cuisine. I therefore head to the Engebret Café, about 15 minutes from the Royal House by foot, in the theatre district. This is a major spot for gastronomy in town, and the most typical for whoever wants to try local traditional food. I can't wait and try the unmissable reindeer medallion served with potatoes. Unless I opt for the "lutefisk", a recipe made of macerated and marinated fish, which strong aromas hark back to the ancient Viking culture – a perfect dish to fight cold weather!
As for the decoration, I feel its typically Nordic atmosphere: wooden tones, thick carpeting and warm lighting. It gives the impression of resting in a cocoon, there in this major Oslo hangout. Looking at all the pictures framed on the walls, it seems that every national celebrity has come here.
+47 228 22 525
Cultural getaway at Oslo's Museum of History
2 p.m. – The afternoon will be devoted to culture, with a visit to Oslo's Museum of History, but I must hurry, for the museum – like many other in town – closes around 4 p.m.! I can't wait to discover the numerous Norwegian and Egyptian artefacts stored on location: this is actually one of the largest archaeological collections of the entire country. The museum also offers a chance to admire a collection of coins from around the world.
As I exit and steadily walk down Karl Johans Gate, I remember I promised some friends to bring back a few souvenirs from the Norwegian capital. The main section of this long street has been pedestrianised and is riddled with boutiques. Between two purchases, I take a few minutes to glaze over the parliament, the university and the national theatre. The figure of the Royal House stretches at the very end to the West. On the other side, I can make out the easily recognisable bell tower of the Oslo Cathedral.
Oslo's Museum of Cultural History
Frederiks Gate 2
+47 228 51 900
Starred dinner at Fjord
7 p.m. – After my visit of the emblematic cathedral – which has seen royal weddings, funerals of various celebrities as well as all kinds of events linked to the Church taking place in its midst, I'm heading West. 10 minutes later on Kristian Augusts Gate, I open the door to the restaurant, famous in Oslo for its delicious fish and other dishes cooked with Norwegian savoir-faire. Dishes are expertly displayed and ingredients skilfully combined for patrons to discover the various tastes of Nordic cuisine in a 3 or 5-course meal.
The menu changes regularly, depending on the seasons and the chef's own inspirations. My mouth is watering at the sight of my trout with horseradish. At the same time, the customer on my right-hand side delves into a halibut filet with cherries. When it comes dessert, I choose passion fruits in cinnamon, a tasty pairing that is also subtly spicy. Get ready for a high-class culinary experience.
Oslo Cathedral (Oslo Domkirke)
Karl Johans Gate 11
+47 23 62 90 10
Kristian Augusts Gate 11
+47 229 82 150
A Moment of real pleasure at the Grand Hotel Oslo
9 p.m. – The day ends and I can't wait to get back to the Grand Hotel Oslo, which is actually not far from the restaurant. I walk by the Universitets Gate and the Karl Johans Gate – among the capital's most typical streets – and end up in front of the hotel.
As I enter the lobby of this historical place, which welcomed many Nobel Peace Prize winners, I feel comparatively small. Every year, each prestigious winner gets to spend one night in the Nobel Suite. I'm really falling for this address which perfectly mixes tradition and comfort, authenticity and design. My room is huge, warm, finely furnished and decorated in a genuine Norwegian spirit. Cocooning mood guaranteed! If I feel like it, I'll swim a few breaststrokes tomorrow morning in the hotel's indoor swimming pool.
Grand Hotel Oslo
Karl Johans Gate 31
+47 232 12 000
Literary encounter at the Ibsen Museum
Day 2, 11 a.m. – I'm strolling around Oslo's city centre, in the footsteps of famous writer Henrik Ibsen. I'm curious to visit his house, which has been rebuilt in scrupulous identical fashion in 1990, when a Norwegian actor bought the author's apartment. As an avid reader, the former went out of his way to restore and refurnish the apartment with the original items. He was helped in his endeavour by Ibsen's heirs, and this very symbolic place is now open to the public.
Once inside, it feels like the writer's shadow still lurks over, as the place has been so carefully restored for the sake of authenticity. This is a unique occasion to explore the universe of the former master of the house. Born in Skien in 1928, the playwright rose to fame with dramas like Hedda Gabler and A Doll's House. To this day, they are still played around the world.
Ibsenmuseet (Ibsen Museum)
Henrik Ibsens Gate 26
+47 400 23 630
Harbour mood at the Lofoten Fiskerestaurant
12.30 p.m. – After this delightful cultural experience, my stomach starts begging for food and I roam the streets to the harbour. Adorned with large picture windows and a lovely frontage, the Lofoten Fiskerestaurant immediately strikes a chord! I seat by the windows to enjoy the magnificent view of the Bay. The place is famed for seafood, so I don't need any persuading! For starters, I order sautéed scallops with apples, celery and chili peppers. These ingredients actually go together so well! I already entertain the idea of what's coming next: salmon served with green peas, mushrooms and a touch of wasabi. Comfortably settled with a glass of wine in hand, I'm daydreaming when it comes to the dessert menu, and my love of good food gets the better of me: I finally give in to the famous chocolate cake. Filled with blueberries and raspberries, it is to die for!
+47 228 30 808
Artistic break at the Oslo National Museum
2 p.m. – The most famous version of The Scream (Skrik in Norwegian) is one of my very favourite pieces. I'm therefore delighted to see Munch's masterpiece for real at the National Gallery, only a few minutes away from the Onda restaurant. I've always been fascinated by this tormented artist, born in 1863. Edvard Munch took on painting at 16, and he very quickly became a prominent figure of Expressionism.
Between 1893 and 1917, he made five versions of the famous Scream: three paintings, one pastel and a lithograph. Two of these are exhibited at the Munch Museum, located three kilometres away, and I hop on a bus in a heartbeat, so as not to be disappointed: the museum closes at 5 pm. On the way, I gather a few details on the origins of the artwork in a leaflet I picked up at the National Museum: during a walk along the Oslo fjord, and as the sun was setting, Munch “sensed an infinite scream passing through the universe and ripping nature apart”.
Nasjonalgalleriet (Oslo National Museum)
+47 219 82 000
Munchmuseet (Munch Museum)
+47 234 93 500
Immersion amid Nobel Peace Prize laureates
5 p.m. – It is time for me to pay tribute to the winners of the Nobel Peace Prize at Nobels Fredssenter, located in Oslo's former train station. Other prizes are awarded each year in Stockholm (physics, chemistry, literature and medicine), but the Peace Nobel, awarding “those who have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations”, takes place in the Norwegian capital.
All credit has to go to Alfred Nobel, the Swedish chemist who invented dynamite in the late 19th century and subsequently made a fortune of his discovery. During his research, he caused several explosions to happen, including the one that killed his brother and broke his heart. When Alfred Nobel died in 1896, and according to his will, the wealth he amassed was injected into the creation of the Prize bearing his name. I gather my thoughts for a while as I discover the portraits of some laureates, like Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa and Barack Obama, all well quite prominent on the wall of peace and glory.
Nobels Fredssenter (Nobel Peace Centre)
Brynjulf Bulls Plass 1
+47 483 01 000
Maaemo, the best of Norwegian food
8 p.m. – I'm finally able to meet three-star Michelin chef Esben Holmboe Bang, who skilfully reinvents traditional Norwegian cuisine. As I knew this is a very popular spot, I booked a table long before my flight.
As I enter the restaurant, I'm filled with wonder by the decoration, based on glass, light and the sea: at this time of night, the view over Oslo is simply breathtaking.
As for food, Maaemo goes back to the roots of Norway, with a range of dishes from organic fish to berries from Scandinavian forests and Northern Sea seaweed butter… The ingredients used showcase the best of what you might expect from Norwegian food. These gustatory pleasures can only be experience for dinner, as the restaurant is closed for lunch.
Schweigaards Gate 15B
+47 221 79 969
Seven centuries of history at the Akershus Fortress
Day 3, 10 a.m. – Before going back to the airport, I cannot leave Oslo without stopping by its historic royal fortress, built in the 13th century and still one of the symbols of power. Its strategic localisation by the fjord also makes it a perfect place for a stroll. If the outside of the fortress is a clear reminder that it was conceived to protect the city, the inside sections were comfortably renovated in a Renaissance style. I'm over the moon, as a history buff in love with timeless travels! Among the various guided tours, I pick the one dedicated to the history of the 700-year old fortress. Too bad I didn't have time for an extra visit, but it's alright as I'm sure to come back soon to this land of big-hearted Vikings.
+47 230 93 917