Oslo: Scandinavia’s Outdoor Capital

, February 8, 2011

Nordmarka, © Rowena Bell-Scott

Smaller than many European capital cities, Oslo manages to combine fantastic city life with a spirit for the Norwegian outdoors. A mere 15 minute trip by train, bus or tram takes you into the wilderness, a commute you might not normally expect from a European capital city. Nestled between the Oslo fjord and the hilly forest of Nordmarka, it is the perfect city to follow sporting interests, while continuing your urban pursuits in the city.

For its small population Oslo covers a relatively wide area of farms, forest, fjord islands and beautiful lakes. Gifted with these geographical features, getting out into the countryside is a way of life for Norwegian bikers, walker and skiers. In Oslo its not uncommon to find yourself  on the T-Bane (Tube) in the city centre with groups of passengers fully clad in lycra and carrying skis.

Summer Activities

In summer, Sognsvann, a lake north of the city and only ten minutes away by tube, is the  “gateway” to the outdoors and the forest of Nordmarka. On hot summer days locals, tourists and students are out biking, hiking or running in the extensive hilly forest which offers 200km of marked paths. From Songnvann there is an 11km circuit to Ullevalseter where a Norwegian hytte (hut) serves Norwegian specialities.

There is a longer trail, about 40 Km, which leads from Frognerseteren, the final stop on Line 1 on the T-Bane, to Kikut, an idyllic location beside a spectacular lake. It’s a popular place to hire canoes, though there are plenty of other chances to kayak with over 300 lakes in the forest, many of which are also suitable for swimming. You can also book cabins in Frognerseteren or camp in the area. Take a map and a compass and make your own tracks along this route.

During the summer months, Oslo fjord is full of ferry operators taking people on trips from the city harbour, Aker Brygge, to various islands around the fjord for sightseeing, museum visits, fishing, kayaking, canoeing and even swimming. There are beautiful beaches and BBQ possibilities at Bygdoy, the peninsula south west of Oslo.

Winter Activities

Snow is almost guaranteed in Oslo from November to March so it’s ideal for skiing, Nordic or Alpine. The landmark ski jump, Holmenkollen, has recently been refurbished to accommodate the 2011 FIS Nordic World Ski Championships. While the jump is beyond reach for most of us, Oslo has been developing its winter sports infrastructure in advance of the event.

Sognsvann in Autumn, © Rowena Bell-Scott

Many of the trails used in the Summer double up as winter tracksm, many of them floodlit. Cabins are open along some of the more popular routes where you can refuel or stay the night. The trails have ranging levels of difficulty so take a map to make sure you don’t come across any perilous terrain. Make sure to check the weather forecast before heading out and use the correct wax.   My favourite route was approximately 50km and left from Frognerseteren, passing through Tryvann and Kobberhaugen before arriving at Kitut. After having a hot chocolate stop at Kitut, progress along to a farm, Bjornholt, before following signs for Rottungen and continue onto Ullevalseter, finishing at Sognsvann.

If you prefer conventional skiing head for Tryvann, Oslo’s ‘vinterpark.’ With a modest 14 runs it doesn’t compare with Norway’s more famous ski resorts such as Voss and Geilo, but for a 25 minute tube ride away, Tyvann speaks of epic convenience. All types of skis can be hired from Voksenkollen, the penultimate stop on Line One of the tube. The cost approximately for all day hire is £34.00 (340kr).

Sledging is amazing fun and it is worthwhile trying the toboggan run, Korketrekkeren. It starts at Frognerseteren and ends at Midtstuen tube station. Repeat the run as many times as you like by hopping on the tube taking you back to the top of the run. If you’re can adrenaline junkie you can complete the 2000 metre run within 8 minutes. Sledges can be hired from Akeforeningen, near Frognerseteren.

Accommodation

For something special stay away from the city centre in a cosy B&B situated in the more leafy suburb, Kristinelund. It is only a 10 minute stroll to the nearest bus stop or a 15 minute walk to the T-Bane at Majorstuen. Marjorstuen has some of the best restaurants and shops in Oslo and the famous park, Frognerparkern, is only 5 minutes by foot. The Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel in Oslo has been making efforts towards becoming a responsible business since 2001, check out there progress with a visit there.

During the summer, camping is the most affordable way to stay in Oslo and is also perhaps the best way to pursue outdoor activities. There are no restrictions were you can pitch a tent and Sognsvann is often the most popular location as it is only a short walk to the nearest supermarket and amenities. If you want something a step up from camping head to organised sites, such a Bogstad, beside a beautiful lake. You can pitch your tent or choose to hire one of the 46 cabins.

Getting there responsibly

Have a read through this blog on greentraveller.co.uk that tells you how to get to Norway without flying. Seat61.com also provides you with some fantastic information on train travel to Oslo from the UK.

Transport in Oslo

Public transport in Oslo is efficient and reliable. You can buy an Oslo Pass which is the easiest and most inexpensive way to experience the city. It give you free travel on all public transport including trams, the tube and buses. You can buy one for 24 hours costing £23.00 or up to 72 hours for £43.00. Alternatively, you buy t-bane tickets which can also be used on buses and trams.

More information

Oslo Tourism

Oslo Wintersports and ski-hire