Oslo, Norway – soon to be a car free city but already a great place for a visit

I am catching up on a number of blog posts from the summer and early autumn and among them is the account and gallery from a four day trip to Oslo. The post is also very timely from a news point of view because our policy news is full of the story that Oslo has announced that it will ban cars from a huge area by 2019 which will make it an even better place for residents and visitors alike. All I can say is that it makes a very enjoyable visit now, so things can only get better.

I was there to do some work at the national cyclists’ association Syklistenes Landsforening but my wife and I also had the great pleasure of being hosted by our cycling friend Morten Kerr who acted as a tour guide for the weekend too. (He is also Idonotdespair’s occasional photo contributor for Norway and my cold weather cycling expert too)

I remember our visit as three distinct and different areas of the city, giving me an excuse to share galleries of impressions from some stunningly beautiful August days in the city rather than a full tour guide. One of them is already done, the statues of the Vigeland Sculpture Park fitted perfectly into my series of sculpture posts last month.

Photo by Kevin Mayne

As well as the park the other two areas are wrapped around each other without quite connecting. Firstly there was the waterfront along the Oslo Fjord, a beautiful setting with blue sea and sky looking down the length of the fiord. Like many cities the waterfront in Oslo is undergoing the transition from a historic industrial and trading space into a vibrant modern community space, at the heart of which is the new Opera House.

Currently slightly separate from that is the main central street of the city which is an attractive pedestrianised area of shops, restaurants and open spaces.

These two distinct areas have allowed me to use the gallery tool to cluster photos taken by myself and Morten, just give an impression of what it was like to stroll around in this very attractive city. (To see each picture full size just click on any picture and scroll through. I love this toy in WordPress!)

Photo Kevin Mayne

The Opera House has only been there since 2007 and has the sense of being very new, partly because the unfinished landscaping and building around it. The other reasons for feeling new is that it is made of a clean white marble which in bright sunlight is eye-searingly bright, boosting the sales of sunglasses to anyone who comes near it. It really is like a giant iceberg cast up on the shore. The clever design means that it is possible to walk up and around the angles of the construction making a series of terraces with great views over the city and the fiord which is why it has quickly become one of the top visitor attractions in the city.

From the Opera House it is possible to take a pleasant wander round the waterfront past cruise ship terminals, quays, the former fortress and prison of the Akershus and arrive at the city hall where the twin towers look out to sea.

Photo Kevin Mayne

A few streets over from the waterfront the Karl Johan’s gate (street) is a pedestrianised boulevard that climbs gently up from the main station square to the square of the Cathedral.

Photo Kevin Mayne

From that high point it dips down towards the National Theatre which is surrounded by attractive gardens and squares with the Royal Palace as a backdrop.

Photo Kevin Mayne

This area is largely pedestrianised and was full of shopping , restaurants and a lively street level interaction as local political parties were setting up their stalls in preparation for forthcoming elections.

We particularly enjoyed areas like the courtyard of the old fire station which is now a tranquil public space with an excellent open air restaurant.

Photo Kevin Mayne

All in all it was a thoroughly enjoyable weekend and I can recommend it to anyone looking for a short break. Even better to go after 2019 and see one of the largest car free zones in the world!

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