Norway has long been known as the "Land of the Midnight Sun". The word Norway even means the "way to the North". Vikings sailed Norwegian waters over 1,000 years ago, and modern cruise ships and ferries cruise those same routes today. Oslo is a cosmopolitan city of 600,000 and is the capital and largest city in Norway. It is often included as a port of call for cruises to the Baltic. The city had 166 cruise ship calls in 2012, and over 300,000 cruise ship passengers had an opportunity to explore this lovely northern European city.
Fjords of NorwayI must first correct a geographical error that cruisers might make. Some passengers on northern European cruises of the Baltic capitals are surprised with their first views of Oslo, but only because they have not looked at a map of Norway or done their homework before sailing. If you are on a Baltic cruise that only stops over in Oslo, do not expect to see the gorgeous deep fjords carved into the coastline that Norway is so famous for. Those fjords are on the western coast of Norway near Bergen, and Oslo in the southeast corner of the country. Many "fjord" cruises only sail the western coastline of Norway and do not even visit Oslo. If seeing these spectacular fjords is a "must" for you, be sure to check your cruise ship's itinerary to make sure it includes Bergen, Alesund or other western Norwegian towns, or take a voyage along the Norwegian coast on one of the Hurtigruten ships like the MS Midnatsol.
What confuses some people is that Oslo is located on a fjord. It sits on the Oslofjord, which extends for about 70 miles from the North Sea to this capital city of Norway. The cruise up this fjord is lovely, but not as steep or dramatic as sailing into the western fjords like Geirangerfjord near Alesund. In the summer, Oslo is surrounded by hills, not snow-capped mountains. Your ship will sail up the 70-mile-long Oslofjord for a few hours to reach Oslo.
Oslo is a modern city with touches of medieval history. The city is 1000 years old, but has been rebuilt several times because of numerous fires. Oslo was last destroyed by fire in 1824, but some remnants of ancient times remain. The city is full of parks and other beautiful places. It has some amazing architecture and art museums. It is also heavily forested, making it quite attractive to those of us who love the outdoors. Oslo is very spacious, and its 175 square mile area makes it one of the largest capital cities in the world.
Ships dock in downtown Oslo, so most cruise passengers can tour much of the city either on foot or by using public transportation. Those with only a day in Oslo can see much of the city on foot or take a city tour. One word of warning--Oslo is one of the most expensive cities in Europe, so if you decide to dine ashore, check the prices first.
A short ferry or bus ride from Oslo is the Bygdøy Peninsula, home of four museums dedicated to Vikings, explorers, and Norwegian life. Page 2 of this article takes you on a tour of these fascinating museums.
Page 2 > > Museums of the Vikings and Norwegian Explorers > >