Greetings Internet Stranger and welcome to a perfect Oslo itinerary. Regular readers of this blog know that I’m a big advocate for museums. It’s so important to continue one’s education as an adult, but life just always gets in the way. That’s why it’s amazing to be able to spend an Oslo itinerary going to a museum and stuff your brain full of beauty and knowledge.
Oslo, Norway’s capital, makes it clear just how special the mighty museum is by placing many of its best on a magical island named Bygdoy. Take the ferry to Bygdoy with me and we will spend our Oslo itinerary visiting the Viking Ship Museum and the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History. Plus we will dine at one of the greatest restaurants in the world! A viking we will go!
Where to Stay?
Norway was once a poor country. Then a lot of things happened in the 20th century, including the discovery of oil, and now Norway is crazy rich. So an Oslo itinerary can easily cost you an arm and a lutefisk. And we want to spend all our money on our Oslo itinerary on amazing food, not our hotels.
That’s why I suggest staying at Citybox Oslo. It’s very affordable for Oslo, but it also has private rooms and a private bathroom, so you can relax at the end of your evening in privacy and dignity. It’s also close to many major attractions, and it’s easy to get to the Viking Museum from here. Breakfast isn’t included, but I got a discount on the tasty coffee and pastries served in the lobby. There’s no excuse to not stay here during your Oslo itinerary.
What to Pack
Norway can be on the rainy side. So the two most important things you’ll need to bring are an umbrella and some rain boots. My favorite travel umbrella is the Repel Teflon Waterproof Umbrella. It is strong enough to stand up to the sometimes-quite-strong winds of Sweden.
For rain boots, I recommend the Asgard Rain Boots. They are comfy/cozy and keep my feet dry all day. Plus they’re cute enough that I can wear them out and about without feeling like some gauche American with gross feet.
Finally, if you’re not from Europe, you need a universal adapter if you’re going to plug in electronics. European electrical outlets don’t work with either American or British plugs. I suggest the NEWVANGA travel adapter. It’s usable with any electrical outlet in the world, so you won’t need to keep buying new adapters. I always carry two with me, just in case something happens to one.
24 Hours: Oslo Itinerary
Morning: Viking Ship Museum
To get to Bygdoy and the Viking Ship Museum, you’ll need to take the ferry. Don’t worry, Internet Stranger! If I didn’t get lost while finding the ferry, you certainly won’t. It leaves every 20-30 minutes from Oslo harbor near City Hall. There are big signs everywhere in English to help the simple tourists find the ferry. Pro Tip! You save money if you buy a round trip ticket from the ticket booth. On board it’s much more expensive. But if you have an Oslo Pass, the ferry is included with the price.
Once the ferry drops you off at Bygdoy, it’s a quick walk to the Viking Ship Museum. This museum claims to house the best preserved Viking ship collection in the entire world. Here you can see three different Viking ships in varying stages of decay. You can also see the weird and wacky treasures the Vikings kept in these ships. If you take the whole morning to explore, you can find much more than…
three fun facts: Viking Ship Museum
1) Oseberg Ship
This ship, with the prow that looks like a curly pig tail, is the Oseberg ship. It is perhaps the most glorious Viking ship the world has ever known because of the treasures it held when it was discovered. It came into the Viking Ship Museum’s possession because it was discovered by a rando Norwegian farmer.
Come to think of it, the Viking ship I saw in Gothenburg, Sweden was also discovered by a random farmer. Maybe there aren’t any real Scandinavian farmers, just dudes pretending to be farmers whilst secretly hunting for Viking ships.
One of the treasures found in the Oseberg ship was this not-very-imaginatively named Oseberg cart. The cart was made before the year 800. It must have been useful because I’m pretty sure they didn’t have cars or airplanes back then. According to the Viking Ship Museum, it is decorated with common Viking motifs like cats and men being attacked by snakes. Life as a Viking must have been pretty weird if you’re drawing snake attacks on your carts, I must say.
You might be wondering why someone would bury a cart with a ship. In fact, two noblewomen were found buried in the Oseberg ship, along with everything they might need to support themselves in the afterlife. I must say it would kind of be a bummer to need a cart in the afterlife. I’d hope all my things would just float around on light, fluffy clouds or what’s a heaven for?
2) Gokstad Ship
The second of the ships at the Viking Ship Museum is the plainer but bigger Gokstad ship. In fact, the Gokstad ship is the largest Viking ship in Norway. It was made around the year 890. Like every other Viking ship the world has ever known, it was discovered by some farmers.
To be more precise, it was found by two teenage sons of a farmer who were just going on random explorations. Digging in the Norwegian countryside sounds a lot more exciting than digging around in my hometown of New York City. I’m pretty sure all I’d find if I dug around Central Park is some dead pigeons and drug paraphernalia.
Like the Oseberg ship, the Gokstad ship’s final voyage was as the burial place of an important person. In the case of the Gokstad ship, it was used to bury one male person instead of two ladies. These Viking communities must have been crazy wealthy to be able to spend an entire giant ship and a bunch of supplies on the burial of just one person.
I’m pretty sure if the Governor of New York State died, we wouldn’t bury him in a yacht and sink it with a bunch of treasure in New York Harbor. But we New Yorkers are a practical people.
3) Tune Ship
The final treasure of the Viking Ship Museum is the Tune Ship. This is the only one of the three Viking ships that comes in a fragment form. It was the first Viking ship to ever be excavated. Of course it was discovered by–say it with me now–a random Norwegian farmer. I’ve decided on changing my career. I’ll move to Norway, buy a “farm”, and just start digging up the countryside until I find a Viking ship. Then I’ll be set for life!
24 Hours: Oslo Itinerary
Afternoon: Norwegian Museum of Cultural History
After leaving the Viking Ship Museum, it’s time on our Oslo itinerary for…another museum! If there’s one thing Scandinavians love, it’s eating cured fish of some sort whilst drinking aquavit. If there’s two things Scandinavians love, it’s discovered Viking ships buried on obscure farmlands. But if there’s a third thing Scandinavians love, it’s open-air museums.
Open-air museums preserve buildings from a nation’s history in one area. (For Americans, think Colonial Williamsburg.) At the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History, you can visit every kind of significant building in Norwegian history, from medieval times to 19th century banks. But first, lunch!
approximately top 5: norwegian museum of cultural history
1) Lunch at Cafe Arkadia
We have a truly massive dinner ahead of us on our Oslo itinerary, so let’s just have a light snack for lunch at the museum’s Cafe Arkadia. I selected a baked potato stuffed with a creamy shrimp salad. I’m pretty sure potato + seafood = a perfect Norwegian meal.
This structure looks like a time portal, but sadly the only time it will take you to is a time when newspapers were relevant. The narvesen is a classic Norwegian newspaper stand. They were started by a postal worker named Johan Narvesen. He decided to create a business in railway stands where he could sell newspapers and magazines to people passing the time while waiting for their train. So this is what people did in a time before iPhones!
3) Pharmacy Museum
Norway was a Catholic country for centuries, and like any Catholic country, they had thriving monasteries. The monasteries were responsible for growing and maintaining medicinal herb gardens for their communities. You can learn more about the plants they used and what diseases they cured at the Pharmacy Museum.
I’d like to know why the Pharmacy Museum is marked by a sign of a swan. If I know anything about swans, they’re much more likely to bite you than they are to cure diseases. But maybe in medieval times, they thought a swan bite had magic powers?
One of the other traditions in Catholic Norway was for brides to wear a beautiful crown made out of silver on their wedding day. This crown is decorated with images of the saints. For that reason, it would have been forbidden to use a crown like this after Norway converted to the Lutheran (Protestant) faith. But apparently people in the countryside kept doing it anyway. It’s very hard to make people in the Norwegian countryside follow the rules. They’re always doing crazy things like marrying trolls or discovering Viking ships or what have you.
4) Norwegian farmhouses
The best part of the open air museum is getting to explore the farmhouses brought to Oslo from all over Norway. You can see how ingenious and talented at architecture the Norwegian farmers were. Probably the first thing you notice about these houses are their cute grassy hats. The roofs were actually made out of birch bark. But the Norwegian farmers would put turf on top of the birch bark to seal in the roof. That’s practical because you don’t want the roof to fall on your head during a windy Norwegian winter. Also turf is easy to find. It’s literally as cheap as dirt!
A Norwegian farmhouse would have been organized around the open hearth in the center of the home. If you’re lucky, you can find one of the museum docents making fresh lefse in one of these hearths. Lefse is a traditional Norwegian potato crepe. I like them spread with brown sugar and butter, but they are amazing even served plain in a restored farmhouse. Buy your lefse voucher at the museum’s visitor center, so that you won’t miss your chance to have a warm piece of the stuff.
5) Stave Church
The most impressive building in the open air museum is the Stave Church. This stunner dates back to the year 1200. That’s right, it was built around the same year that Richard the Lion-Hearted died. Robin Hood himself could have attended this church, if he had ever been in Norway. And if he hadn’t been fictional.
This church was originally from the town of Gol. When Gol wanted a new church, they decided to give the medieval church to King Oscar II as a present. I keep asking for a medieval stave church as a birthday present, but no one ever listens to me. They keep giving me socks instead.
Of course, some changes have been made to this church over the last 800 years. Some parts have been restored. Also, during the switch from Catholicism to Lutheranism, some of the images of saints were removed. First those Lutherans took away a girl’s bridal crown, and now they are deprettifying stave churches. It’s like they don’t want rural Norwegians to have any fun at all!
6) Fidelity Fiduciary Bank
For something a little more contemporary for your Oslo itinerary, head to the exhibit on the arrival of banking in Norway. Apparently the first banking system in Norway started during the Crusades. It was a way for Crusaders to withdraw funds as they made their way east and home again. But the modern bank didn’t arrive in Norway until the 1800s. This is when Norway became independent from Denmark.
I always thought of Scandinavian nations as being wealthy and independent, but apparently Norway has been tossed back and forth between Denmark and Sweden for most of its history. Now that Norway is rich from its oil reserves, I say they keep everything for themselves out of revenge for colonialism. Suck on that, Denmark and Sweden!
24 Hours: Oslo Itinerary
Evening: Dinner at Maaemo
Have you ever thought to yourself, “Self, I’d like to eat the most decadent and extravagant meal the world has ever known?” If the answer is yes, head on down to Oslo to dine at the gobsmacking Maaemo. Maaemo is one of fewer than 150 Michelin 3-star restaurants in the entire world. Save a meal here for a truly special occasion, like your anniversary, or in my case your first Oslo itinerary, and you won’t regret it.
You’ll experience course after course of inventive preparations of priceless ingredients accompanied by the friendliest service I have ever experienced. But enough words, time for the photos! I’ll lead you through the…
approximately top 20: Maaemo Edition
1) Duck foot
As is common at one of these 9,000 course tasting menu restaurants, the first few courses are one bite dishes. This was a duck foot cooked with grains, duck liver, and fermented cherry juice. Each dish at Maaemo has at least one surprise to it. Here, the surprise was just eating a duck foot, which I had never done before. It tasted kind of like a chicken foot.
2) Goat cheese tart
This was a one bite tart made with goat cheese, caramelized onions, and lemon thyme. The surprise was the goat-splosion in my mouth when I ate the whole thing in one go. It felt strange popping the whole thing in my mouth in such a glamorous restaurant, but it definitely made the flavor of the aged goat cheese more intense.
Here we have a cornet filled with smoked lojrom, which is a special caviar that only comes from northern Sweden. In Sweden they serve it at special occasions like the Nobel banquets. Does this mean I won a Nobel prize now? I’m pretty sure I deserve one for eating.
Lompe with fermented trout and horseradish
Another one biter! This dish has two surprises. The first is that it’s served with fermented trout when I’d expect smoked salmon to be in an hors d’oeuvre like this following caviar. The second is that “lompe” usually refers to a kind of potato wrap that goes around a hot dog. I suppose this is an Uptown Lompe, living in its uptown world
First Cheese Course
This is a fresh cheese that the waiter assured me was made one hour before I ate it. They use the milk from only one cow and her name is Rosie. I don’t think I need to tell you the surprise here, Internet Stranger. I’ve never known the name of the cow who provided my cheese before! But I guess that’s why they pay this restaurant the big bucks.
This is Maaemo’s signature savory dish. It’s an emulsion of raw Norwegian oysters served with a mussel and dill sauce. The surprise is finding the shimmering oyster liquid just underneath the green sauce. Then you spoon it into your mouth. It tastes just like the Little Mermaid’s tears after she loses her prince and throws herself into the ocean to become one with the spirits of the sea. (The original story is very dark.)
King Crab One
The next two dishes were made with the same animal. It was a king crab whose leg was presented to me at the table. Then they took his leg away and turned him into a soup made with dried scallops and kelp broth. I’m not used to saying hello to my dinner, but it didn’t make me squeamish. My grandfather was a farmer, so I was raised to know where my food came from. Also this way you know it’s fresh.
King Crab Two
And here is the second king crab preparation. Here, Sebastian is prepared grilled and served with buckwheat miso and spruce. I haven’t seen spruce as an ingredient outside of Scandinavian restaurants. But as we saw with the turf houses, Scandinavians are good at taking common plants that seem useless and turning them into something magic.
Mackerel from the fjords
This dish is almost too pretty to eat, but I definitely ate all of it. It’s pickled mackerel from the Oslo Fjord served with ramson and apple. Oslo is famously one of the world’s greenest cities, but I wasn’t expecting the fish from the area to be edible, let alone be capable of being served in the finest of restaurants. I’m sure if you ate any fish from the waters around New York City, you’d walk away with three eyes.
Bread and butter
Most restaurants give you bread and butter at the beginning of a meal. But at Maaemo everything needs to be different, so here they make the bread and butter a separate course. It was made with Norwegian heritage wheat and served with the greatest beer I have ever tasted in my life. It is from a Danish brewery called Bogedal that uses traditional methods. If you ever have an opportunity to taste their beer, PLEASE DO IT! You will thank me later.
Now that the bread and butter is over, it’s time for the more substantial courses. This misshapen lump is the scrumptious rommegrot, which is a traditional Norwegian porridge made with sour cream, smoked reindeer heart, and salted butter. I felt like I was going to have a heart attack with every bite, but it was worth it. It amuses me that so many upscale restaurants nowadays emphasize the use of traditional ingredients and methods. It’s like the ghosts of our ancestors are having their delicious revenge on modern life.
The next meat course was quail egg cooked with bone marrow, cured mutton, and charred onion. As I’ve mentioned before in my posts on Scandinavia, curing is common in Scandinavian cooking because the chefs needed a way to make their food last during the long winters when the Ice Queen was taking her frosty rage out on Arendelle. I don’t think the Norwegian peasants ever got to eat anything like this bone marrow with their cured mutton, though. If they did, they were some damn lucky peasants.
It tastes like chicken
The final meat course was a succulent piece of chicken cooked with smoked butter, cabbage, and nettles, with wood ants on top. I really don’t think I need to tell you what the surprising element in this dish was, do I, Internet Stranger? Have you ever eaten wood ants before? Well now I have. I couldn’t be exactly sure what flavor the ants were bringing to the dish because I know that different kinds of ants have different tastes. Part of me suspected that they just put the wood ants in the dish to test the customers. If you said, “Ew!” and pushed the dish away, you’re not cool enough for Maaemo.
Cheese Course One
Now the main courses are over and we begin the first cheese course. This is a frozen blue cheese served with black trumpet mushrooms. I can’t think of a single thing that isn’t surprising about this dish. I’ve never had frozen blue cheese or powdered black trumpet mushrooms, and I’ve certainly never had them together. What will they think of next?
Cheese Course Two
Rosie makes her second appearance on the menu. Once again, her milk was exclusively used to prepare a cheese course. This time it was raw milk served with rhubarb and elderflower. I really hope they give Rosie a raise after this meal. She’s certainly worked harder for me personally than any milk cow I’ve ever met.
Dessert Course One
We begin with our light fruit dessert. It is strawberries served with sweet vernal grass and rose petals. I was lucky to be in Norway during strawberry season, and I’m not exaggerating when I say they were the sweetest strawberries I have ever had. I never thought to serve them underneath a miniature rose garden, but the roses prevented the preposterously sweet berries from being cloying.
Dessert Course Two
This is Maaemo’s signature dessert course: brown butter ice cream with molasses and roasted hazelnuts. I was tempted to ask if Rosie had provided all the milk for the brown butter but I didn’t want to be greedy. I loved how the toasty flavors in the brown butter, molasses, and roasted hazelnuts all complimented each other. Eating this dish made me feel as snug as a bug in a sod house.
Dessert Course Three
At this point in my Oslo itinerary, I truly felt that I would dissolve into nothingness if I ate anything else. So naturally they brought out more food. It was just a light snack: waffles made with chicken fat and served with brown cheese, preserved berries, and whipped sour cream. I’d like to know if any of Maaemo’s clients have ever finished all these waffles. I certainly could not! But making waffles with chicken fat is definitely a trick that should and could catch on back in the United States.
At the end of my Oslo itinerary, I was invited to go back and take a picture with all the adorable genius chefs. You can tell which one is me because I am the only one who is a girl. I’m very proud of myself for not being scared to go to a Michelin 3-star restaurant in my jacket from Target and my dress from New York and Company. If you wear something with confidence, that’s what makes it stylish! Rosie the cow agrees with me!
That’s 24 Hours: Oslo Itinerary
What would you do on an Oslo itinerary? Are you ready to start booking your hotel in Oslo right now? Have you ever eaten cheese made from Rosie’s milk before? And how many Norwegian farmers have discovered Viking ships? Please leave your thoughts below!
Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY spend have one 24 hours in Oslo itinerary. If you have time for another Oslo itinerary, try this itinerary.