Oslo, Norway: 10 reasons to visit the coolest city in Scandinavia

I WANT TO GET MY DAYS STARTED RIGHT

Tim Wendelboe is your man. Well, not literally your man any more, but your brand: the roastery and espresso bar founder's name is synonymous with quality coffee in Oslo, having won Nordic Roaster Champion every year for the past five. The company's flagship cafe is stylish, intimate and peaceful, populated by studious types on laptops and people talking quietly to each other when I visit. Try its smooth coffee the way the Norwegians drink it, long-black style. They'll do a latte for you if you want but it costs almost twice as much and doesn't have the same kick. See timwendelboe.no

I WANT ADVENTURE (BUT NOT TOO MUCH ADVENTURE, OK?)

Drive 20 minutes north-west of Oslo city centre and finally up a hill called Holmenkollbakken and you'll find a pretty spectacular view. Not just of some attractive Scandinavian greenery but also of the Holmenkollen ski jump. The view from the top of the ski jump is even better, but more fun comes in getting back down. For daredevils, Option 1 is to abseil 60 metres through thin air like a spider descending a thread, down a rope from the back of the ski jump. The other option – to vaguely mimic the route of a ski jumper by taking a zipline from the top to the end of the jump – turns out to be more than enjoyable enough and nowhere near as scary. See skiforeningen.no/en/holmenkollen/

I WANT A ROCK'N'ROLL EXPERIENCE LIKE NONE I'VE HAD BEFORE

Australia has Splendour in the Grass, England has Glastonbury, Oslo has Oya. The Oya rock festival has been going for 20 years and always features big-name international acts (Bon Iver and FKA Twigs are among those already announced for 2020) alongside a host of Norwegian favourites. It currently takes place in Toyen Park, a mere two, handy subway stops from the city, so fans can get a decent night's sleep in their own beds on each of the four nights of the festival, not to mention better manage their personal hygiene. The festival experience itself is tremendous. Beer is the only relatively affordable alcohol option at about $9 a middy-size serve, so punters don't seem to overdo the imbibing. More than 90 per cent of the food available is organic and 100 per cent of that which I eat is delicious. There's a clear emphasis on sustainability, too, with the festival being run on renewable energy and the exclusive use of compostable food packaging and reusable cups. See oyafestivalen.no/en/

I WANT TO KICK ON

Another reason why visiting Oslo during Oya is a smart move is that just about every venue in the city becomes part of the festival experience, with acts playing deep into the night on a schedule that would make a Swiss watchmaker proud. All such sets start on time and the artists in question never overstay their welcome, meaning you can confidently venue-hop and check out several acts you actually intend to on the same night. The nightlife is pretty great anyway; bands aside, Oslo's bars and venues are very cool, from the converted bank vault of Sentralen (sentralen.no/en/) to the rock'n'roll pub Last Train (lasttrain.no/).

I WANT TO SEE ICONIC ART

The Munch Museum is in a transitional period when I visitbut even in the latter throes of its soon-to-be-old incarnation it contains plenty to inspire and impress. Its main draw, of course, is the work of its eponymous artist, Edvard Munch (1863-1944), including paintings such as Madonna, Starry Night and the iconic The Scream. The folks there had even made a display of one of the darker, borderline unbelievable moments in the building's history, which details the 2004 theft of The Scream and Madonna by armed robbers in broad daylight. There'll be no such issues when you see these long-restored artworks and more in the new museum, a delightfully idiosyncratic feat of architecture scheduled to open down the road from the comparably impressive Oslo Opera House in the first half of 2020. See munchmuseet.no/en/

I WANT TO SEE AN IMPRESSIVE OPERA HOUSE

As well you should. Inside it's more traditional than Sydney's, and not just because of the horseshoe shape of its main room. The Oslo Opera House also eschews the contemporary-music circuit to cater instead to fans of chamber concerts, ballet (such as hometown favourite Hedda Gabler) and opera. But it offers an especially attractive perspective on the outside. One continuous ramp surrounds the building, inviting passers-by to walk up and around the building as well as onto its rooftop for a glorious view of the Oslo Fjord, the city's breathtaking mountainous backdrop and part of the city itself. See operaen.no/en/

I WANT SOME MORE CONTEMPORARY CULTURE

Popsenteret is a colourful, fascinating museum that guides you through the history of pop music in Norway floor by floor, ending up at an interactive space at the top where you can try your hand at a variety of instruments. You might think a Norwegian pop museum would be little more than a big shrine to A-ha, with a continuous loop of the Take on Me video projected on its walls, but you'll be pleasantly surprised to find so much more (although you will also see a continuous loop of the Take on Me video projected on one wall). See popsenteret.no

I WANT TO BE AS ONE WITH NATURE

The inner Oslo Fiord is a thing of serene and pristine beauty. Not only can you sail its clear waters and go island-hopping with your Oslo Pass (see One More Thing, below), you can swim in it, too – if you can handle icier water than at your average Eastern Suburbs beach, anyway. Ferries will take you to popular public swimming islands such as Hovedøya, Lindøya and Langøyene, many of which provide the perfect place for a picnic. See visitoslo.com/en/

I WANT AN AUTHENTIC NORWEGIAN PICNIC

I am treated to a vegetarian feast on an island adventure, with mixed results. The savoury leek kimchi and the crunchy, fresh and slightly tart combination of raspberries and snowpeas works wonderfully; the turnip-and-seaweed and beets-and-cheese dishes, less so. Better yet, I am later taken on a quintessential Oslo experience along one of the city's canals, foraging for herbs and greens with chef Jens Foien, who sources some of his ingredients at local restaurant Brutus this way. His occasional suspect description notwithstanding – "this is probably edible" being my favourite, after he rips a branch off an apparently random bush – Foien points out all manner of fragrant plants and later made delicious sandwiches featuring greens I watched him pick. See barbrutus.no/

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ONE MORE THING

The true key to the city comes with the Oslo Pass. You can buy these for periods lasting 24, 48 or 72 hours and during those timeframes get into more than 20 museums, galleries and attractions including Nobel Peace Centre and Oslo Reptile Park, as well as the aforementioned Munch Museum and Popsenteret. Unlimited public transport on buses, trams, trains and ferries in central zones 1 and 2 is included in the price, and the pass also gives you a 20 per cent discount in a number of restaurants and shops. See visitoslo.com/en

I WANT THE FACTS

POPULATION

673,469

LOCATION

You know how, on a map, Norway and Sweden combine to look like a monster poised to eat Denmark? Oslo is at the corner of the "mouth". Fly there from Australia (Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide or Perth) via Doha on Qatar Airways, or via Dubai on Emirates. Oslo city centre is a painless 20-minute express-train ride away from the airport.

CLIMATE

In summer in Oslo (June to August) the temperature gets up to the perfectly pleasant high teens. Complain to the locals about the cold, though, and they'll hit you with the bona fide Norwegian saying, "There's no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing". So make sure you bring jumpers, jackets, tights and/or full-length trousers.

CURRENCY

Credit and debit cards are the safe bet but if you want to get a few token notes in the local currency, know that Euro are no good to you in Norway: you want Krone. Also, if you're to leave Oslo on a Sunday, shops are closed on that day, so do your shopping well before.

ACCOMMODATION

The Comfort Hotel Karl Johan is safe and stylish, and a handy five-minute walk from Oslo Central Station. A comprehensive breakfast buffet is included. See nordicchoicehotels.com

MORE

Traveller.com.au/norway

visitoslo.com/en/

George Palathingal visited Oslo as a guest of the Oya Festival, Music Norway and Visit Oslo.

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