Christmas with Santa in Olso, Norway

It’s the end of summer. The Halloween decorations have barely hit the stores. Why would anyone do a travel blog about Christmas NOW? Well, it’s warm. Summer is almost over. And no one wants to have to put together a last minute trip for the Christmas holiday. So, what better time to be thinking about it?

Founded in 1040, Oslo was original spelled Ânslo or Áslo. A fire destroyed large parts of the city in 1624, after which the city was rebuilt closer to Akershus Fortress. Since then, it has become home to the Nobel Peace Prize award ceremony, Frogner Park (the world’s largest sculpture park), and the Viking Ship Museum displaying 1000-year-old, fully intact ships. 

“But why,” you may ask, “would anyone want to go to a country that finds ⅓ of its land area north of the Arctic Circle? Isn’t that cold?” There’s a Norwegian saying, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.” So bundle up and book yourself a new, incredibly beautiful, and fun way to spend the Christmas holiday!

Earlier in December, Oslo’s Christmas Markets are in full swing, and they are less crowded than closer to Christmas.  Winter Wonderland, one of Oslo’s Christmas fairs goes on for well over a month, and is not too far away from the Royal Palace. The fair combines delicious food and delicacies (local holiday treats like bacon chips and glogg), high-quality craft (wool slippers, hats and sweaters), a Ferris wheel, and a free public ice skating rink.

Christmas in Winterland (Jul I Vinterland) is the main Christmas market in the city. You’ll find traditional candles in windows welcoming visitors, and INCREDIBLE, hours-long sunsets thanks to the limited sunlight this time of year. It also allows for elaborate light displays, bringing an unearthly feeling to the fantastic snow sculptures. If you’re not ready for full on ice rink skating, you can also skate (or skate with just your shoes) on many of the local ponds.  And when you’re all tuckered out, find yourself some fruit with God Jul (Good Yule) messages and relax.

Take the bus to the Norsk Folkemuseum (Folk Museum) Fair and spend an entire day walking through the historic village with local foods like lefse, folk dancers and music, open fires to warm up, and artisan crafts. The candle factory, potters, silversmiths and weavers all sell their own handmade products in the Old Town, where homes decorated for Christmas showcase the holiday celebration according to old local tradition. And many of these markets actually have live reindeer to visit with! Watch out for the costumed children who are recruited to chase about, throw snowballs, make faces and make traditional mischief.

When you’re all marketed out, you should most certainly hike to the top of the opera house to see the view of the harbor. Words don’t do it justice at Christmastime.  And finally, for a true taste of the holiday in “The Land of the Midnight Sun,” join the locals and brave a sauna on a boat followed by jumping into the ice-cold bay! Whether you’re going for the markets, the sunsets, or just to relax, Endless Travel can help you plan the perfect stay, well before the holiday pressure kicks in.  So reach out today.

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Further Reading:

Who’s That Knocking on Christmas Eve? – Jan Betts
The Snow Sister – Lisa Aisato & Maja Lunde
Keep Saying Their Names – Simon Stranger
Grown-ups – Marie Aubert

Exploring Norway, From Fantastic Food to Opera and Vikings

The Kingdom of Norway is the westernmost country on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northwestern Europe. With a land area slightly less than that of California, it boasts a coastline that is over 15,000 miles long lined with thousands of islands. The majority of its five and a half million inhabitants live along the coast and in the southern portion of the country where its capital, Oslo, is located.

Founded in 1070, Oslo is both a city and a county, serves as the economic and governmental center of Norway, and has been ranked number one for the quality of life compared to other large European cities. A modern cultural nexus labeled one of the ten best cities in the world to visit, visitors find museums, galleries, music festivals, theaters, sports arenas, and the world-renowned Operahuset, or Oslo Opera House.

Clad primarily in white granite and white Italian marble, the main auditorium stage tower evokes old weaving patterns with its white aluminum sheath designed by Løvaas & Wagle. It is the Opera House’s roof, however, that earned the European Prize for Urban Public Space in 2010. Sloping gently to ground level, the roof creates an inviting plaza encouraging visitors to walk to the top to enjoy spectacular views of Oslo. Nothing beats a cocktail on the rooftop as you watch the sunset!

Foodies are always thrilled to explore the many Oslo food markets, especially Mathallen Food Hall at Vulkan which is home to more than 30 cafes, eateries and specialty shops. The areas around the center of the city all have a high concentration of cafes and restaurants, and for the discerning palettes, there are six Michelin Star restaurants located within the city. Traditional cuisines vary from classic Norwegian fare such as lamb and cabbage stew (fårikål), brown stew (lapskaus), Norwegian meatballs (kjøttkaker), and steamed salmon or fish soup to specialties such as moose, reindeer and lutefisk (cod cured in lye). But while you visit, be sure to try the traditional heart-shaped waffles and their assorted toppings such as current jam or sugar and butter.

Bus and rail transportation will get you from place to place in Oslo, and the daily bus ticket also covers the inter-island ferry allowing tourists to explore some of the nearby islands for hiking, swimming, or sea views of the city skyline. Ikea, the Swedish home goods store, also offer quite popular free buses around town to encourage people to visit for shopping and food. And for those who want a bit more flexibility, bike rental stands can be found throughout the city if you want to take one out for a few hours to see the changing of the Guard at the Royal Palace.

No visit to Norway would be complete, however, without a bit of Viking history. It is quite simple to take a train or rent a car to head south to Sandefjord, the richest city in Norway and home to Europe’s only whaling museum. Known as the Viking Capital of Norway, it is also known as the Whaling Capital and has also been dubbed Badebyen (Bathing City) due to the many beaches and spas. History buffs can also visit the Gokstad Mound (Gokstadhaugen), which is a large burial mound at Gokstad Farm. Gokstadhaugen is also known as the Kings Mound (Kongshaugen) and is the discovery location of the Gokstad Ship, which is now in the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo.

And finally, for the well-read visitors, Norway is home to literary greats such as playwright Henrik Ibsen, and Nobel Laureates Sigrid Undset and Knut Hamsun. The Ibsen Museum in Oslo is always a treat, his restored apartment is open for visitation, and if time permits, you can even take a day trip to his childhood home in Skien. If you are traveling in late May or early June, be sure to check out the Norwegian Literature Festival in Lillehammer and don’t forget a trip to the Litteraturhuset, or House of Literature, the national arena for literature, culture and debate.

Southern Norway abounds with treats for all the senses. Find out what else is in store with a visit arranged by Endless Travel.

Post written and photos provided by Mindy Hanson, AlphaPixel Reach.