Things To Do And See In Oslo

"What's your favorite country?" As someone who has lived in five countries and visited over a hundred of them, that's a question I'm frequently asked, and it's one that doesn't admit of an easy answer. So several years ago, I adopted the habit of qualifying my response to the question by narrowing its scope: I now ask my interlocutors to limit their question to a particular region of the world, rather than the entire globe. This minor re-framing of the question not only makes it easier for me to answer, but is also more interesting for the person asking it.

And when asked what my favorite Scandinavian country is, the answer is always the same: Norway. Norway's majestic coastline, welcoming people, fantastic food, and stark natural beauty possess a truly perennial appeal. And I am not alone in my enchantment with Norway, as it is consistently among the most popular Scandinavian countries for tourism and leisure travel.

From the lovely city of Bergen to the colorful Trondheim, and from the breathtaking fjiords to the pristine arctic wilderness in the stunning Svalbard Islands, Norway is a country of exceptional natural beauty and abiding charm. My most recent visit to Norway was last summer, while on a Baltic cruise that included a stop in Oslo. My husband and I spent an unforgettable day wondering the streets of this little Nordic gem, and it was evident almost immediately that my husband was just as enchanted with Oslo as I had been when I first visited the city fifteen years earlier.

 Oslo's Royal Palace

Oslo's Royal Palace

There is a lot to do and see in Oslo, but a few things you should make a point of visiting are City Hall and the Royal Palace (iconic landmarks which grace ninety percent of all pictures taken in Oslo) and the impressive Vigeland Sculpture Park, where more than two-hundred sculptures in bronze, granite and cast iron are on public view.

For a glimpse of what Oslo looked like a few hundred years ago, you don't have to rely on images in paintings or descriptions in novels: You can take a leisurely stroll back in time by visiting Damstredet and Telthusbakken, two narrow streets in central Oslo with small wood and brick houses from the 17th and 18th centuries. The buildings along these two streets are the oldest and the best preserved local architecture in Oslo today.

Another attraction not to be missed is the Oslo Opera House: a beautiful piece of modern architecture right by the harbor. Its slanted design allows visitors to easily walk to its roof, which offers excellent views of the city.

 Oslo is a city full of idiosyncratic surprises: like this wonderfully peculiar little statue.  

Oslo is a city full of idiosyncratic surprises: like this wonderfully peculiar little statue.  

And if, like me, you're interested in ships, then you mustn't miss the Fram Museum, where you can see the strongest wooden ship ever built, The Polar Ship Fram. A true marvel of maritime engineering, The Fram still holds the records for sailing farthest north and farthest south. At the Fram Museum, you can actually go onboard the ship and see how the crew managed to stay alive in some of the harshest climates and most dangerous places on Earth. It even includes a polar simulator, so visitors can experience for themselves the frigid temperatures endured by the Fram's crew on her Arctic and Antarctic voyages. The Viking Ship Museum is also extremely interesting. Here you will find some of the world's best-preserved Viking ships and artifacts retrieved from Viking tombs around the Oslo Fjord.

 Oslo is teeming with picturesque vistas and beautiful architecture.

Oslo is teeming with picturesque vistas and beautiful architecture.

And no trip to Oslo would be complete without paying a visit to the world-famous coffee-shop-by-day-and-cocktail-bar-by-night, Kaffefuglen. A 1960s style cafe where you can buy anything you see inside (from mugs, to flatware, to furniture!), Kaffefuglen is not just an excellent place for an afternoon pick-me-up, but also a beautiful monument to classic Scandinavian design.

Oslo has a lot to offer in the way of world-class accommodations, but for me, nothing compares to the distinctive and elegant hotel at Tjuvholmen, The Thief. Named "The Best Hotel in Northern Europe" by Condé Nast Traveler, The Thief is located right on the harbor and overlooks the Oslofjord, offering incredible waterfront views. And in the summer months, the rooftop terrace is an excellent place to enjoy a glass of wine and spectacular views of the city. Each of the one-hundred and sixteen rooms and suites at The Thief features a private French balcony, and the penthouse suite has a private rooftop terrace with sensational panoramic views.

I have no doubt that once you visit Norway and its enchanting capital city, Oslo, you will understand why it is among my favorite destinations in the world. 

Five Tips For Taking The Stress Out Of Planning Your Honeymoon

Ask anyone who's tried it: Planning a honeymoon can be extremely stressful, especially if you intend to begin your honeymoon directly after your wedding, which most couples do. With so many things to take into account and so many options to choose from, the task of planning your honeymoon can quickly become overwhelming, so here we offer a few simple suggestions for de-stressing the process of planning your honeymoon:

  1. Call a professional, preferably one of ours. Getting the help of a qualified, professional travel specialist is the single best thing you can do to eliminate the stress of planning your honeymoon and to ensure that all the relevant details have been considered and taken care of.  
  2.  Be flexible. If you're flexible with your travel dates, you're more likely to get the best deals on airfare and hotels. Also, consider traveling during low season or "shoulder season", which is the time between low season and high season. A lot of couples prefer to get married in the months of May, June, and July, which are in the middle of the low season for many destinations on the Gulf (or Atlantic) Coast of Mexico, and during which hotel and resort prices drop considerably. Those peak summer wedding months are also a perfect time to visit the stunning island of Mauritius (not that there's ever a bad time to visit Mauritius).  
  3. Consider an alternative airport. Sometimes switching from your home airport to one a little further away can amount to big savings, so be sure to check out airfare from a few different airports before booking your flights. And if you're driving to the airport and intend to park your car there, be sure to factor that expense into the overall budget.
  4.  Ensure passports and other travel documents are up-to-date. In the U.S., it can take the State Department up to six weeks to process your passport application, and if you're traveling outside the U.S., a valid passport number is required to book the airline ticket, so make sure that's taken care of well in advance. Your travel adviser will be able to tell you if the destination you have in mind requires a visa, and if so, she will help you obtain it, but that process, too, takes time, so make sure you file the application at least a few months before your departure date.
  5. Work as a team. Planning your honeymoon can be a great way to collaborate with your fiancé on a project and also helps ease the stress of travel-planning by reducing the workload. Making sure you set dates by which things are to be done is a great way to keep each other accountable and to ensure that everything is completed when it needs to be. And keep in mind that planning a honeymoon doesn't have to be stressful. With sufficient time, realistic expectations, and the help and guidance of a qualified travel specialist, planning your honeymoon can be an exciting and enjoyable project. Contact one of our travel specialists today to find out how we can help make your honeymoon the trip of a lifetime.        
  The ruins at Tulum are just one of the many attractions near Cancun, Mexico, whose low season happens to correspond with the peak season for weddings in the U.S. (May, June, and July), making it an excellent choice as a honeymoon destination.   

The ruins at Tulum are just one of the many attractions near Cancun, Mexico, whose low season happens to correspond with the peak season for weddings in the U.S. (May, June, and July), making it an excellent choice as a honeymoon destination.  

New Year's Eve in New York City

When most people think of New York City on New Year's Eve, what comes to mind are throngs of giddy tourists, standing shoulder-to-shoulder in Times Square, enduring the cold and the crowd for the singular thrill of witnessing the iconic ball drop at the stroke of midnight. And the Times Square ball drop is an exciting thing to experience first hand, as attested by the tens of thousands of people who brave the cold and arrive many hours in advance of midnight every year just to be a part of the event and the festivities that surround it. But if what you're looking for is a relaxed New Year's Eve celebration in New York City, then Times Square is definitely not the place for you.

Thankfully, there is a much more laid back (and romantic) alternative: fireworks in Central Park. The New York Road Runners, a non-profit community running organization that is involved in the famous New York City Marathon, hosts a Midnight Run in Central Park on New Year's Eve, and those who take part in the four-mile race have the privilege of watching a celebratory fireworks display as the race begins. The countdown begins at 11:59 and at the stroke of 12:00, the race begins and so do the fireworks. The Pre-Race Festival begins at 10:00 p.m. and includes a dance party at Rumsey Playfield for the runners and their guests. The post-race party begins at 12:30 at Tavern on The Green.

For those who aren't interested in running the race, but would still like to see the fireworks, we have good news: You can watch the fireworks from the comfort, warmth, and safety of the great indoors! And not just any indoors, but Tavern on The Green. For $150.00 you can watch the fireworks, sip cocktails as the runners complete the race, and then attend the post-race party. The cost of admission includes a dinner buffet, coat and bag check, late night snacks and dessert, and five (yes, five!) hours of open bar. (On any night of the year, five hours of open bar in Manhattan for $150 is a bargain that is nothing short of magnificent.)

To sign up for the race, please visit the NYRR website. To get tickets for the Tavern on The Green Midnight Run Celebration, please visit here.

If you don't want to run in the race (can't blame you) or go to Tavern on The Green (can sort of blame you), but would still like to see the fireworks, the best spot inside Central Park from which to view them is Belvedere Castle, which is located mid-park near 79th Street. Alternatively, you can enter Central Park from either the West 67th Street or East 67th Street entrance, then make your way toward the Bandshell and a few seconds before midnight, direct your eyes to the skies. Both of the 72nd Street entrances to the park will be closed to the public on the evening of New Year's Eve, but all other public entrances to the park should remain open.

And whether you're celebrating in Times Square, Central Park, or on the other side of the world, all of us at Fifth Meridian Travel wish you and yours a safe and happy New Year's Eve and a peaceful and prosperous 2017!