Manchester – Oslo Torp: £16.99 (Ryanair)
Copenhagen – Liverpool: 96 DKK (approx £11.80*) (Ryanair)
Oslo – Gothenburg: £12.59 (FlixBus)
Gothenburg – Copenhagen: £13.49 (FlixBus)
Gothenburg – SEK 449.23 (approx £36.11*) Le Mat B&B Göteborg City (Booking.com)
Copenhagen – £34 Richmond Hotel (Booking.com)
*Exchange rate at time of writing
Summary and Highlights:
- Scandinavia is notoriously pricey: eating and drinking at street food markets or at the ‘after work buffets’ can keep costs down.
- Get your steps in: everywhere in the city centres can be walked to easily and are generally flat
- Prepare for the weather: The weather can change rapidly day by day so pack accordingly for all climates.
- Opera House
- Akershus Fortress
- Vigeland Sculpture Park
- Palm House
- Slottsskogen Park
- Palaces (Christiansborg, Amalienborg & Rosenborg)
- Little Mermaid Statue
- Freetown Christiana
I finally took on Scandinavia to see if it was possible to travel there on a budget and the answer? Yes! I think the rumours that it’s expensive (which it is) scaremonger people off. But in reality, it’s no more pricey that big cities like London, providing you’re not going all out on food and drinks. I had a good excuse to go because my brother in law Tom was living Oslo for work, so I had somewhere to crash for free there. (I also said he’d get a shoutout on this post, so thanks Tom for letting me stay!). Instead of just doing Oslo, I thought I’d make a full trip out of it, be it a whistlestop 5 day round Scandinavia using Flixbus to get between cities. The convenient thing about the bus was that the timings were quite good – leaving in the late evening and arriving early to the next place so there was literally no time wasted.
Oslo is a stunning city. It’s a nice mix of older buildings mixed with new and shiny glass buildings. What’s also nice is that none of the new buildings looks the same – they were all built with a different design so you don’t get that feeling of a monotone metropolis. My favourite thing about the city though is the fjord. I am obsessed. I watched Frozen 2 twice when I got back because of it. The best place to look over the city and the fjord is from the top of the Opera House, which you can walk on to the roof of and is designed like an iceberg rising out the banks of the fjord.
Whilst I was waiting for Tom on my first night, I grabbed some food at Vippa – a street food market in of the docks. These sorts of places are probably the best places to go to when in Oslo for food. There is also another in the centre called Oslo Street food that has a variety of vendors will all sorts of cuisine for a reasonable price for eating out (£10-£12 a dish). On the way, I did catch somebody jumping into the partially frozen fjord and a sauna full of people with a glass front which confirmed the Nordic stereotypes are true.
For my walking tour, I didn’t have any cash since you can pay for everything on card (which I would recommend doing) and so my first task was finding a cash machine. I wouldn’t recommend taking or withdrawing cash if you don’t need to. I just needed to take some out to tip the guide with. The fairly short walking tour covered the older (and some newer) areas of Oslo from the Akershus Fortress, City Hall and Parliament of Norway.
I’d take walk down Aker Brygge where you can look over the Fjord towards the city and also away to the nearby island. Whilst casually taking pictures, I had two ladies come up to me to ask to their pictures whilst they went swimming in the fjord on their lunch break because they couldn’t go skiing. Fjord swimmer counts up to 3. I do go swimming on my lunch too usually but in a covered, heated pool. Also worth seeing is the Royal Palace which is on the way to the Vigeland Sculpture Park that has some questionable statues in that have to be seen to be believed.
Before my bus, in the evening we went to Himkok – one of the top 50 cocktail bars in the word as well as Camping Oslo which is a fun place to play 18 holes of mini-golf with a beer.
The bus to Gothenburg is just under 4 hours but there was still quite a few people about at 1am on a Saturday morning in the rain which made getting to my hotel a bit of a pain. Even so, they knew I was arriving late so somebody was there to greet me. I also got a free breakfast too which was good to fill up in the morning to keep me going for a while. I’d gone from sunny and cold Norway to warmer but wetter Sweden so preparing for all weathers is best. You’d probably associate Scanidanaiva being winter destinations but really they’re for summer too. If the weather was better I’d have gone to the archipelago of islands just out of Gothenburg which is meant to be good to explore.
I only had one day so had to make use of the time I had with the weather as it was. Even so, the walking tour covered the main sights including the Fish Church and Haga. Haga is the classic once run-down, now gentrified, pedestrian-only area of independent retailers, cafes and restaurants. This is where I learned about Fika – the Swedish coffee culture which is more than just coffee and cake but a way of life. The most well known and probably busy is at Cafe Husaren that serves homemade cinnamon rolls on dinner plates. No, that coffee is not small, it’s a normal size. The cinnamon roll was bigger than my face but will fill you up enough to serve as a meal in itself.
All those carbs should be enough for a walk up to Skansen Kronan which has a nice panorama of the city and then to Slottskogen which has a small zoo and animal park of animals found in Sweden including Elk, Reindeer and Gotland Ponies. Best of all, it’s free! Also in the park is a Natural History Museum which are my favourite sorts of museums. All the text is in Swedish but I’m sure you can figure out what taxidermy animals look like.
Another thing I discovered was the ‘after work buffets’ which many bars do where essentially you buy a drink or two between a certain time and then can eat as much as you want from the spread they put on. I was killing some time before my bus so a few drinks and a couple of plates of chilli and rice for the cost of that. There was, of course, meatballs, as it wouldn’t be a Swedish meal without them.
Another 4-hour bus later and I arrived in Copenhagen. The downside of going from Sweden and Norway to Denmark is that things cost about the same but the exchange rate to Danish Krone is significantly less so everything seems more expensive. Even though the temperature was the warmest here, the wind that comes off the bay is bitter so prepare to wrap up, even if it doesn’t appear to be that cold.
The colourful houses and boats of Nyhavn are one of the most famous sites in Copenhagen. Since I arrived early, I got some pictures whilst it was still darker as well as when the sun had come up and the tourists would start to arrive. There is also a boat tour dock there that despite being in the centre of the tourist area is 50 DKK (about £9) for a 60-minute tour on the water passing some of the sights and areas of Copenhagen. Across the water from Nyhavn in Christianshavn is Freetown Christiana which is a pedestrianised commune where photography is restricted in some parts. However, it’s a very unique place that is open for everyone to visit.
Another famous sight is the Little Mermaid statue, based off the Hans Christian Anderson fairytale. I particularly enjoy the original fairytales as they are often a lot more gruesome and not as happily ever after as our favourite evil corporation lead us to believe. The moral of this tale, in short, is don’t give up yourself for a man. You can see a statue of Hans in the town hall square looking towards my favourite place in Copenhagen – Tivoli.
Tivoli is the second oldest theme park in the world and is located right in the centre of Copenhagen. It’s quite pricey to enter (about £16) and rides are not included (but you can buy passes or just pay as you go). Even so, go for the experience. If you can go for Winter at Tivoli, you won’t be disappointed.
Even in the rain, it looks good and it’s open throughout the day into the evening so good to go as it gets dark and the lights come on. The Winter at Tivoli season makes it even brighter with light displays and figures as well as log fires, hot drinks and snacks.
Copenhagen has 3 Palaces Christiansborg – home of the Danish Parliament which has a free tower you can go up for a view all over the city. Amalienborg – home of the Queen of Denmark and Crown Prince & Rosenborg, built by Christian IV with the gardens attached next to it. If you’re lucky, you might catch one of the royal cars driving around the city or between palaces – they can be distinguished by their black number plates with a crown on.
Overall, I loved my Scandinavian experience. The lifestyle is so chilled and so are the people. I think the assumptions that everyone is well off is fake as yes they do earn higher salaries but the cost of living is significantly higher so it balances out. Additionally, it’s not extortionately expensive but be prepared to pay prices equivalent to many capital or big cities. I’d like to return in the summer months to experience what it’s like then. I’m sure I’d be up for a swim in a fjord.