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Taking the night train to Oslo

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Taking the night train to Oslo
Photo: Simon Myrberget/Visit Oslo
11:40 CEST+02:00
Surrounded by hills and forest on three sides and a spectacular fjord to the south, Oslo is like no other capital city in Europe. During the summer, arrive the romantic way by taking the night train from Stockholm or Malmö.

Where

Oslo lies in southeast Norway on the northern arc of the Oslofjord.


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The Quick Pitch

There is something wonderfully low-key about Oslo. Small and compact with less than 500,000 people it has the feel of a large provincial town. Yet as a capital city of a whole nation, it also attracts the ensuing institutions and cultural life.

Being small and compact in a stunning natural setting means a big feature of Oslo is its instant access to nature. Oslo Fjord lies at the city's doorstep with over 40 islands within the city limits, and half a dozen easily reached by public ferries from the city centre. Oslo's surrounding hills offer abundant hiking opportunities (and in winter skiing) that can be reached via a short trip on the T-bane. Even at the heart of Karl Johan Gate one is never more than 30 minutes away from peaceful countryside. A lack of intrusive skyscrapers means Oslo almost merges into its natural surroundings and at times barely feels like a capital city at all.

Party with the locals

Oslo can still boast all the usual attractions expected of a capital city only on a more modest scale. The Royal Palace might not be spectacular, but its location on a hill lends it a certain grandeur. The building housing the Storting, Norway's parliament, is also a good example of Scandinavian modesty and Oslo's showpiece street, Karl Johan Gate, would barely warrant a mention in a bigger city.

Yet Oslo's small scale is the key to its charm. This, after all, is a town where every second person you meet claims to have bumped into A-ha lead singer Morten Harket at some point in their lives. If you want to try a bit of Oslo bar hopping, try hooking up with some locals and try spotting the local celebrities. “See that woman there?” asked my friend while at a bar in the fashionable Grunerløkka district, “She's a star in a soap opera. And that guy over there was in Big Brother a few years ago.” “It's remarkably easy to spot celebrities here,” I remarked. “Yes” he replied, “but in Oslo it is also remarkably easy to become a celebrity.”

In Oslo's defence, the city has produced more than its fair share of more high-brow cultural icons, and due respects have been paid to its former residents. The Munch Museum documents the life work of Edvard Munch with over 5000 works and is well worth a look (even if it is missing his most famous painting The Scream, which was stolen in 2004). There is also the Ibsen Museum for those interested in the life of the famous playwright. Although the most spectacular tribute to an artist is Vigeland Park: a large public park containing over 200 sculptures from Gustav Vigeland.

Oslo on a budget

Any visit to Oslo must also include a day on the peninsula of Bygdøy. While accessible by bus the best way to get there is actually by boat from the city. Bygdøy's two biggest attractions are the Vikingskiphuset, housing the best-preserved Viking ships in the world; and the Norsk Folkemuseum, an open-air museum with over 140 buildings covering every stage of Norway's past. These two museums alone could fill a whole day and will make the trip worthwhile. Bygdøy is the perfect destination for nautical types, as the home of the Kon-Tiki museum (housing the original Kon-Tiki raft), the Frammuseet (housing the ship Fram from the first successful exhibition to the South Pole) and the Norsk Sjøfartsmusuem (a huge array of model ships as well as the Gjøa, the first ship to navigate the Northwest passage). And just in case the weather is too good to spend the day cooped up in museums Bygdøy also has some great beaches on its western shore.

Unfortunately the influx of oil money means Oslo is fast becoming known as one of Europe's most expensive cities, a factor no doubt deterring many potential tourists. But the good news for budget travellers is that many of Oslo's museums don't actually charge entrance fees. The Natural History Museum, Historisk Museet, Astrup Museum for Modern Art, National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, as well as the aforementioned Vigeland Park and Munch Museum, are all free.

And if you've had enough culture, Oslo's compact nature means that for the cost of a tram ticket you can also take a hike in the hills and go for a swim on one of the capital's sandy beaches - both in the same day.

Accommodation

Sentrum Pensjonat – Small hostel centrally located offering both dorm beds and private rooms.

Tel: +47 2233 5580

Perminalen Hotel - Clean basic but well priced accommodation in the city centre.

Tel: +47 2209 3081

Hotel Bristol – Upmarket hotel with rooms very elaborately decorated.

Tel: +47 2282 6000

Travel to Oslo by night Train

SJ operates direct night trains to Oslo from Stockholm and Malmö during the summer season. Snuggle up in a cosy sleeping car in Sweden and wake up as the train makes its way throught the stunning Norwegian countryside.

At the time of writing, SJ is offering reduced prices, with a place in a shared cabin costing from 195 kronor from either Malmö or Stockholm. Private cabin with toilet and shower 1177 kronor.

Stockholm-Oslo

14th June -5th July*

Departs Stockholm 21.55 Arrives Olso 07.00

6th July-9th August*

Departs Stockholm 21.55 Arrives Oslo08.00

10th-31st August*

Departs Stockholm 21.55 Arrives Olso 07.00

Trains operate Sunday-Friday

Oslo-Stockholm

14th June-3rd July*

Departs Oslo 21.32 Arrives Stockholm 07.05

5th July -7th August*

Departs Oslo 19.39 Arrives Stockholm 07.05

9th-30th August*

Departs Oslo 21.32 Arrives Stockholm 07.05

Malmö-Oslo

14th June-30th August*

Departs Malmö 23.08 Arrives Oslo 07.05

Oslo-Malmö

14th June-30th August*

Departs Oslo 21.55 Arrives Malmö 06.20 (passengers may remain on the train until 07.00)

Times correct at time of publication.

*Sunday-Friday

More information on SJ's night trains.

Regular day services also available. For a more complete timetable, please see:

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Nic Townsend

This article was produced by The Local in cooperation with SJ

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