Visit Norway

Eight–Day Travel Itinerary: My Visit To Norway In December

My visit to Norway was unique to my regular trip planning. I was going to see someone I hadn’t seen in 34 years. Check out Time Travel to Norway to read about how we met and why I visited. I had initially planned to visit in the summer of 2021, but Covid restrictions didn’t allow it to happen. So, in the fall of 2022, I decided I was tired of waiting for the perfect time to visit and booked a quick trip. I had a few days in three different cities: Oslo, Fredrikstad and Tromso. This was a small sampler of Norway, and I can’t wait to go back and explore further!

I decided to visit Norway during the holiday season.

Flights in December were about as inexpensive as I would get flying out of my hometown. December is one of the cheaper times to fly to Norway, so if you want to visit Norway, remember that shoulder season and off-season are more affordable. I managed to get a round-trip ticket for $800. I used accumulated points from my Chase Sapphire Preferred card, bringing my total down to $160 out of pocket. 

Let’s get into it! My eight-day visit to Norway: Oslo, Fredrikstad and Tromso

Oslo, Norway

Transportation into Oslo:

Take the FlyToGet express train to Oslo Central Station for 230 Kor ($22.50). The train platform is easy to find at the airport. The train takes about twenty minutes from the airport to Oslo Central Station. There are kiosks to purchase your ticket, and the instructions are in Norwegian and English. There are four well-marked platforms; go to the platform that matches your ticket. The train is warm, comfortable, clean and fast, with room to stash your luggage. You can take the regular train for about one-third of the cost, but it takes more time, and you can also take the bus. I always recommend Google Maps; the public transportation feature is usually accurate.

From Oslo Central Station, my hotel was a nine-minute walk straight up Karl Johans Gate. Karl Johans gate is Oslo’s main boulevard leading from the Central Station through the central shopping district and up to the Royal Palace. The street is a pedestrian walkway, and the famous Grand Hotel is along this route.

Where to stay in Oslo:

Julianne stayed at Comfort Hotel Express on her visit to Norway and loved it. I chose Hotel Bristol. I was only staying two nights and splurged a little for the luxury. I used points from my Capital One Venture card and paid nothing out-of-pocket. Hotel Bristol is a historic hotel right off Karl Johans Gate. It is centrally located, equidistant from Central Station and The National Theatre station, and near many sights that I wanted to see. The hotel’s interior is classicly beautiful, and my room was stunning and comfortable. I’ve never slept in a more comfortable bed. I was in a room with a view of the courtyard, and my room had a little balcony. The hotel has several restaurants and bars so that you can eat on-site in style; there is also a pub next door, which I discuss below.

Where to eat in Oslo:

Bristol Pub: This is the place for a great smash burger and fries with a cold beer. It’s very clean and has excellent service and has fantastic burgers. This was precisely what I needed after a long day of traveling. It was convenient and very nice next door to the Hotel Bristol.

Mulligans Irish Pub: Across the street from Hotel Bristol, I popped in for a beer, and the vibe was relaxed. I didn’t have anything to eat, but if you are looking for a chill place for a drink in the early evening, it’s friendly and relaxed.

Olivia Østbanehallen: This place is beautiful, and the Italian food was fantastic. From their website: “In the hall of Oslo’s first railway station, Olivia Østbanehallen is located between the vaults from 1854 and the square facing the opera and the fjord. The restaurant has a magnificent interior, with a whopping 14 meters under the roof.” I think I gawked at the interior as much as I enjoyed the food and wine! We were lucky to get a table; I’d be sure to make a reservation.

What to do in Oslo:

I always suggest starting with a free walking tour of the city you are in. This is a great way to learn about the city and get familiar with the area. My friend Sverre showed me around, but Free Tours Oslo has great reviews!

Deichman Bjørvika: This library is an architectural wonder. If you are an architecture buff, this is a must-see. But more than that, you can take in breathtaking views, enjoy the cafe or bar and wander around, taking in the art, open spaces and sense of community. It feels more like a community meeting space than a library, but it is both. 

Oslo Opera House: Another fantastic piece of architecture, the Oslo Opera House is stunning and home to the Oslo Opera and Ballet. Take in the views of the Oslofjord from the roof, which you can traverse on foot. Remember to look at it from behind; it looks like a giant ice cube at night! If you have the time, treat yourself to a performance.

Museums: I love museums and spend a lot of time in them when I travel. Since this trip was more about connecting with an old friend, I didn’t make it to any this trip, but I need to take a trip back to check them out. Julianne writes about several of them in her wonderful piece, “Visiting Norway Solo.”

Holmenkollen Ski Museum & Tower: High above the city is the Holmenkollen Ski Museum and Tower. This ski hill has a fascinating history. It was first used as a ski jump in 1892! It collapsed in 1927, was rebuilt, and rebuilt again ahead of the winter Olympics in 1952. It’s been torn down and rebuilt for a fourth time which is the structure you see today!

The Visit Oslo Website is a fantastic resource, and I learned so much about Oslo before I went from their website. Not all travel bureaus have websites as well thought out and informative as theirs. I suggest you check it out!

Fredrikstad, Norway

I rode with Sverre in his car to Fredrikstad, but you can also take the train. The train ride is just over an hour, as is the car ride. You can book tickets for the train in advance on their website, VY.NO and one way is approximately 24.50 USD or 249 Kr.

I stayed with my friend in his home. They rent the basement out as an Airbnb, but I was staying as their guest. The basement apartment is lovely. Cozy, comfortable bedroom, living room with TV, kitchen and a private bathroom. All with heated floors, which I was in love with. If you would like to book his place, you can do so on Airbnb. This is not an affiliate link; it’s a lovely place to stay! 

Where to eat in Fredrikstad:

Cafe Magenta: My only restaurant meal in Fredrikstad was at Cafe Magenta. I had the vegetarian plate, which was very, very good. You’ll need to use Google Translate with the menu, as it is only in Norwegian. I used google translate a lot in Norway. While most people speak English, often menus were not in English. Menus in the local language usually indicate they are cooking for the local population and are not a “tourist” destination. This means the food is typically better — and cheaper. 

I also had several good local beers here, including a fantastic stout. Finally, if you’ve never used Google Translate, I recorded a short video on how to use it! 

What to do in Fredrikstad:

Old Town Fredrikstad: The star-shaped old town of Fredrikstad was founded in 1567 and is the best-preserved fortress town in northern Europe. The quarter is home to multiple galleries, restaurants and, of course, the people who live there. It’s so charming. Stop into the local shops, check out the art galleries or grab a coffee. 

You can take a free ferry over to the new side of Fredrikstad. The promenade along the River Glomma is busy with families, boats, and outdoor seating at the many restaurants during the summer. There were people on a Sunday in the middle of December, but not many of them! However, it was still fun to walk along the river, and the ferry ride was quite pretty. 

Most of my time spent in Fredrikstad was with my friends, enjoying their home and hospitality and meeting their friends. 

Travel from Fredrikstad to Tromso:

After my time in Fredrikstad, I took the train back to Oslo and spent one night at an underwhelming hotel in central Oslo, not far from the Bristol Hotel, where I had such a pleasant stay. I woke up very early and walked to Central Station to catch the train to the airport. I started feeling under the weather when I woke up, but I attributed it to a few late nights and a lot of wine with my friends. 

I took the FlyToGet from Oslo Central Station back to the airport. Thankfully I left plenty of extra time as I went to the wrong platform. One of the train workers directed me to where I needed to go, and I made it to the correct train on time. 

Security at Oslo airport was fast and efficient, and I was quickly on my way to my gate. I had initially booked a flight on Flyr Airlines for around $130, but they canceled some routes, and I had to rebook on Norwegian Air for almost triple the cost. I had structured my trip around that flight, so that was frustrating. They did alert me and refunded my money promptly, but it left me buying a last-minute flight that cost me a lot more.


Transportation into Tromso:

You can take the Airport Express bus to the city center of Tromso for around $12. I paid right on the bus. The bus is outside the airport departure doors, but there isn’t great signage. Just walk outside and look for the big red bus.

Where to stay in Tromso:

I stayed at Radisson Blu, and I will tell you all the reasons I loved it. Unlike most of my trips, I spent a lot of time in my room because I was, indeed, sick.

The Airport Express drops off and picks up across the street from the Radisson, making it very convenient. The views from my room were spectacular, a lovely view of the water that surrounds the island. 

The pictures don’t do it justice. The window was almost 5 feet tall and opened slightly at the top to let in the cold, crisp air, which was quite refreshing when I was feverish.

The breakfast at the hotel was one of the best I’ve had when traveling. A buffet but so nicely done. I ate so much fresh fruit, drank fresh juices, hot coffee and plenty of options, including traditional Norwegian foods, typical European breakfasts and some traditional American breakfast foods. Because I was sick, I went early when few people were there, wore my mask and was extremely conscientious about using hand sanitizer when getting my food.

The hotel also has a men’s and women’s sauna – not co-ed—two things to note here. When I walked in, the woman in the sauna was fully nude. Not wanting to appear as a prudish American, I walked out, removed my suit and walked back in with my towel around me. It wasn’t until later, when I was walking down a hallway and, later on, the street, that I realized you could see inside the sauna from multiple places. The sauna has a giant window, and I thought maybe it had a two-way film on the outside so you couldn’t see in. I was incorrect. So, that happened. Regardless, it was a nice amenity to an already great hotel. 

What to do in Tromso:

In Tromso in December, there is no full daylight. However, around 10:30 a.m., it lightens to twilight and stays that way until around 2 p.m, and then it is fully dark again by 3 p.m.. 

The Visit Norway website is where I got most of my information for all three regions and found the excursions I had booked for Tromso. There are so many tours and things to do. Want to hang with reindeer? Visit the Sami? A snowmobile adventure, snow-shoeing, or chasing the Northern Lights? Tromso has endless possibilities. Trip advisor also has great recommendations!

However, since I got very sick, I canceled my planned excursions. I felt awful and worried about getting other people sick. I had booked a spa day on a Viking ship where I would get a massage, sit in the sauna and jump into the sea. I had also booked a boat tour to see the Northern Lights one evening. I was disappointed to cancel but knew I had to try and rest and recuperate.

What to do when you are sick on a trip:

Getting sick when you are traveling is never fun. The best thing you can do is get as much rest as possible and hope it passes quickly.

Locate a grocery: I’ve only gotten sick on a handful of trips, but my first stop is always the grocery! I like to load up on healthy items I can keep in my room. I loaded up on juices, ginger shots, fresh fruit, a salad and three containers of spicy ramen. My room had a hot water kettle so I could add boiling water to my ramen cups. As a note, there was no mini-fridge in my room, which I didn’t realize until I returned. I also bought a large bottle of water so I could stay hydrated. I usually only use my Mira water bottle, but I lost it on my first day in Oslo. 

What to know about pharmacies: The nice thing about pharmacies in many European countries is they are everywhere; look for the bright green cross. You can always talk with the pharmacist if you need specific medication. I was searching for any cold medicine I’m used to getting in the U.S., but the only thing I could get was a homeopathic throat lozenge and some “cough” tablets which I think were also homeopathic. They did help my dry cough and sore throat more than I expected. I wanted to dry up my runny nose but could not procure anything that would dry me up. Medications are dispensed differently than in the U.S. Make sure you have travel insurance in case you get gravely ill.

But look at these views.

I spent the next 24 hours in bed with a fever, drinking juices, eating ramen, and watching Brooklyn 99 on the giant TV at the end of my bed. 

The next day I felt a little better and gathered enough energy to walk around Tromso a little bit; I dipped into a few stores and bought some lovely art. Then, I walked up a big hill and took in the scenery. That exhausted my energy for the day, and I returned to bed. At least I had a lovely view.

There are so many things you can do in Tromso, and I didn’t get to do any of them, but I’m still glad I got to see this charming little town. There is so much I want to explore in Norway; when I get back, I think I need a few weeks. I want to drive the whole country, explore the fjords, and revisit Sverre and his family!

The Trip Home

I flew back to Oslo and stayed at the Radisson Red, a four-minute walk from Oslo airport. I loved the decor, it was clean and quiet, and the food in the restaurant on site was very, very good. The short and sheltered walk to the airport was especially nice in the biting cold.

Learn from my mistakes – again.

My trip home was a comedy of errors, probably brought on by my groggy state. When I landed at Heathrow Airport, I took a wrong turn and ended up in baggage claim instead of at the gate for my next plane. You might be wondering what in the world I was doing, but I was so tired and sick, and I didn’t follow the correct signs. It was a complete debacle. I couldn’t figure out if I needed to grab the bag I had checked for my return to the U.S. (I didn’t.) I tried asking several baggage claim people, but no one was very helpful. I finally found my way to departures and waited in the long security line. I purchased three bottles of Norwegian gin at duty-free in Oslo and was so stressed out wondering if I’d be able to get them through security without having to check another bag. Even though the line was very slow, the woman working my line was friendly and handled my odd situation well. They unpacked my gin, scanned it, repacked it, and I was on my way. I am so glad I had a three-hour layover, or I would have missed my flight. 

When I landed in Chicago, I used my Global Entry card to slide through customs and then waited 35 minutes for my checked bag to arrive.

When you are flying back from an international flight, you will not only have to go through customs and collect any checked bags, but you will need to recheck your bag to continue on your way to your final destination.

At ORD in Chicago, you have to leave the International Terminal (F) and go to Terminal A to recheck your bag and then go to your final terminal for boarding; in my case, Terminal B. This is precisely why I book my flights through the airlines. You are much more likely for them to leave the appropriate time between flights to manage the time needed for moving from international to domestic flights. I typically don’t check a bag, but I checked a duffel of dirty laundry to make room for the art and booze I bought to fit in my carry-on bags. Priorities.

The hassle of multiple connections can wear on you, and it’s almost brutal when you are traveling while sick. As a note, I took as many precautions as possible since I was traveling sick. I wore my mask nonstop and used a scarf as a second layer. I washed my hands and used hand sanitizer frequently.

Despite the sickness and mishaps on the way home, I had a lovely visit to Norway and look forward to returning. If you have been considering it as a destination, I highly recommend this beautiful country.

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