Oslo, Norway with Kids
We arrived Oslo via the Bergen Railway into Oslo’s Central Station, which is quite large. The iPhone’s GPS was quite confused in the station, so we went out the exit toward the city but the phone quickly knew where we were. We decided to make the mile walk down Karl Johans Gate to our hotel.
Originally, we were booked in an Airbnb but the host canceled a week before our trip. Using Expedia we rebooked to the Radisson Blu which ended up being in a great location just across from the Royal Palace and convenient to public transportation. Our room easily accommodated 4 people with two twin beds made up into a king and a double pullout sofa. We also always travel with our travel crib, so could have had a 5th in the crib no problem. Additionally the breakfast, included in our room rate, was amazing. It was one of the largest spreads we’ve seen in Europe with something to make everyone happy. H even got to squeeze his own orange juice. This is a great value in a city where everything is quite expensive.
Oslo, like most cities, has the Oslo Pass. We didn’t opt to use it. With the kids I’m never sure how many museums we will actually be able to make it to, plus our hotel was incredibly convenient to many of the sites, making the free use of transportation less alluring. That being said, many of the museums are small and located close together. You can easily hit a bunch of them in one day.
As usual, the kids were up well before the city was awake. A morning walk is always a good idea so we roughly followed a Rick Steves’ guided walk taking us past some of the Oslo highlights.
We walked through the virtually empty Palace Gardens. You can walk right up to the palace guards, who unlike those in London, are happy to converse with you. If you come later in the afternoon (1:30) you can catch the changing of the guards. Guided tours of the palace are available.
The National Theater has a variety of fountains, cafes (not open in the morning) and statues on its property.
City Hall, where each December the Nobel Peace Prize is presented is just a block further.
The building was closed for an event, but we were still able to enjoy the carved portrayals of Norwegian Folklore. The boys loved this depiction of Thor on his cart pulled by goats.
The harbor is just a block further. We enjoyed watching the boats come in and out before catching the ferry over to Museum Island. (Tickets were easily purchased at the stand on the dock. They can also be purchased onboard but are more expensive.) The museums can also be reached by bus, but the Bygdoyfergene provides a wonderful view of the harbor and a peaceful ride.
We got off at the ferry’s first stop and walked up the hill to the Viking Museum. This museum features mostly artifacts found in a viking burials which left incredibly well preserved boats. While there was nothing specific for the children, they were fascinated by the large boats.
We walked around the island to the Fram Museum, which was incredibly fascinating and should not be missed. Once you enter head straight for the video in the attached building. The video presentation is well done and in a number of languages thanks to headphones at each seat. It will provide context on the polar sailing vessel and subsequent scientific and exploration missions. Even the 2 year old sat captivated by the movie.
The museum is not particularly stroller friendly. We found a place to park it and left it for most of our visit. Kids will love exploring the actual ship (entrance on the third floor), the exhibits on the sled dogs and the hands-on area in the far right corner of the museum. The kids liked the arctic soft play area which included a cold wind fan blowing in the play area! Wifi is available throughout the museum, but you have to ask at the cafe for the password.
Located across the street from the Fram Museum are the Maritime Museum and the Kon-Tiki Museum. We opted to skip these due to lack of interest by the children and their growing need for lunch.
The Norwegian Folk Museum is also on the island and is supposed to be incredible. Our late May visit came before high season and would have lacked the costumed personnel and demonstrations. Combined with the downpours of rain forecast throughout the day we opted for alternate plans.
The Fram Museum is located at the second ferry stop, so we hopped back on the boat and headed to the harbor. When our boat docked it was pouring. We crossed the docks to Aker Brygge and popped into Spuntino. We indulged in flatbread pizzas, amazing focaccia bread and dips and a mozzarella and tomato sandwich that we all split while watching the rain outside.
With the afternoon looking like the rain was going to continue we thought we would take the “Rick Steves’ Tram Tour” outlined in our guidebook. It seemed simple enough since you could pick it up at Aker Brygge. Unfortunately, the tram lines have been rerouted such that we were unable to board in the desired direction. Once onboard both kids fell asleep, so we rode the train all the way out of town and back in again, seeing bits and pieces of the tour. (As a tip, since we all couldn’t share the book while sitting in different areas of the tram we took pictures of the tour pages and everyone was able to read the tour to themselves on their phones.) We were able to see a lot of Oslo this way, just not necessarily what was on the planned tour.
When the kids woke up we headed to the Oslo National Museum. We found the staff here to be incredibly rude and inconsistent. We were asked to exchange our stroller for a museum stroller, something that is not uncommon in European museums. Their strollers were TERRIBLE. The wheels didn’t want to rotate and the buckles were hard to adjust. We ended up abandoning both the strollers somewhere in the museum. We also saw plenty of people pushing their own strollers in the museum. We had checked our things in a locker and being escorted to the elevator (which is in a huge construction area) when we were told that my mom’s handbag was too large to be in the museum, so back to the lockers we went. While getting settled we were only then informed our little guy would need to come out of the Ergo and into a museum stroller. I was quite aggravated.
We headed straight for The Scream. The four year old loved seeing the painting. He thought it was so funny how someone would paint someone screaming. (I also found some great coloring pages of The Scream that we used after our trip to reinforce seeing the art. These can be done on the computer, although we printed them for some art table fun.)
The rest of the museum was a bit of a blitz with the kids and the impending closing of the museum, of which we were constantly reminded by the staff. We did find a lovely drawing room where the kids were given pencils, paper and drawing boards and encouraged to spend time sketching a sculpture.
There is a small play area near the parking lot that consists of some padded, colored humps. The kids really enjoyed running on these and spent nearly thirty minutes running around on the humps expending energy. We picked up a quick dinner for the boys at Joe & the Juice before heading back to the hotel to put the boys to sleep.
My mom and I had a chance to grab a kid-free dinner out. We headed back down to Aker Brygge, where the hotel concierge had recommended an Italian place, Olivia. My mom had a risotto and I had mushroom ravioli, but the real treat for me was my desert of balsamic strawberries topped with ice cream. Aker Brygge was packed by the time we were leaving dinner, shortly before 9pm.
The next morning the kids were both in a mood and just generally “off.” This makes traveling so hard because their moods are completely unpredictable. Neither of them wanted to eat much at breakfast, a surprise since they gorged themselves the day before. The two year old just wanted to play in the hotel play-area and the four year old wanted to watch some Norwegian TV. With rain pelting the city we gave into the kids. Until about ten we hung around the hotel with one playing and one vegging and Jeff and I happily on the hotel wifi.
Around ten the rain had mostly stopped so we walked a few blocks to the Akershus Fortress. The kids usually love places like this, with lots of cannons to jump on and fortress walls to explore, but neither were particularly taken. I enjoyed the harbor and city views. H was briefly interested in the guard marching in uniform through the castle gates.
We hopped onto the tram (tickets can be purchased at 7-11) and rode to Vigeland Park. At the gates is a large playground, we thought would be sure to rally the kids. They explored a bit, but quickly said they were tired and then became overwhelmed by the school buses of children that unloaded onto the playground.
We packed them into the carrier and stroller and walked toward the statues. They were both asleep in minutes leaving us some reflective time to enjoy the more than 200 statues in the park.
With the kids still asleep we wandered through the park and over to the Transport Museum. The kids both rallied when they saw all the trams they could climb on. This museum is underrated. It is affordable and almost every car can be boarded. They all have small laminated cards in them with a description of the vehicle – English is listed on the back. The boys cried when it was time to leave.
We hopped back on the tram to go to the hotel. The plan was to grab a large late lunch once we got to the hotel, but as the tram passed through a particularly trendy area of town just behind the palace we saw four good looking lunch options in a row and hopped out of the tram at the next stop backtracking to grab lunch.
It was a ten minute walk back to the hotel past the U.S. Embassy and through the Palace Gardens to our hotel. We let the kids relax and finished packing. The hotel was nice enough to give us a 4pm late checkout so we could freshen up before our flight home.
The SAS Flybus picks up right at the hotel and offers a discount to Radisson Blue hotel guests. The bus takes 50 min from the hotel to reach the airport. The high speed train is a much faster way to reach the airport, but for us the convenience of picking up at the hotel outweighed the time. It’s also important to know which airport you are headed two, as Oslo has three small airports.
The Olso airport is small, clean and well marked. We unfortunately had a challenging ride home. Our Norwegian Airline flight boarding was incredibly inefficient, which always makes me just crazy. With no pre-boarding at all getting the kids settled was a bit of a mess. The two year old was a bit of a nightmare also, screaming “no” at everything. Luckily he passed out an hour into our flight. We hit terrible turbulence due to a storm in Amsterdam.
I was counting my lucky stars that we were on the ground in Amsterdam when the pilot announced that we were stuck, 10 feet from the gate, due to lightning in the area that had cleared the ground crew from the airport’s apron. We sat on the plane until the storm passed. Then, while unloading we were trapped in the jetway briefly when more lightning triggered all jetway doors to close and lock.
The bags took forever to get to baggage claim, likely due to more lightning slowing down the unloading of the plane. It took so long that I took the kids on the train to start our journey home leaving Jeff to retrieve the bags. The night ended in a very wet bike ride from the station to our house, which is luckily only a few minutes. We had the kids in bed before midnight, so that is something.
Regardless of our rough travel headed back, Oslo is a beautiful city worth a visit!
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