Oslo may not be on top of the European capitals and cultural centers list, but it is sure worth a couple days' stay. You will spend time wandering round town enjoying all sorts of toilless and positive places like Bygdoy museums (and we highly recommend you get the Oslo Pass to save up a great deal). However, if you are planning to stay for three-four days or even longer, you’d better choose your hotel carefully.
What Area is the Best to Stay in Oslo?
Oslo Central Station Vicinity
Usually travelers get their first taste of the city at the Central railway station (Oslo Sentralstasjon or simply Oslo S, as the locals call it), since all the trains from the airport arrive here. And here you can catch a train to travel the metropolitan neighborhood - small towns located on the shores of the Oslo Fjord and even farther. Back in the early 2000s the Sentralstasjon area was considered to be disadvantageous: drug dealers and other shady people would hang out in abundance on the spot near the station on Jernbanetorget square. But things have changed with the construction of the snow-white building of the Opera house near the station: the surrounding areas got cleared and cleaned, security cameras were installed and the place became much safer. However, with the onset of darkness the porches of the houses located between the port and the station get inhabited by women of easy virtue, then again, they are unobtrusive and non-aggressive. Considering the fact that Oslo is quite small, settling near the station grants you strategic advantage: it will take you just a quarter of an hour to walk to the Royal palace, the cruise liners and the Akershus palace will be just as close, and all the trains are there at your disposal if you are planning to go to, say, Kongsberg, the city of silver mines, of the ancient town of Fredrikstad. The area boasts modern chain hotels that offer decent accommodation options – Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel, Comfort Hotel Grand Central, Clarion Collection Hotel Folketeateret and a bit closer to the port there is Clarion Collection Hotel Bastion Oslo.
In the area between the train station and the park where the royal residence is located, the streets intersect at right angles. This area is called Kvadraturen. They say king Christian IV himself drew the layout of the streets with a ruler and a pencil. The central location, proximity to the station and infrastructure are the definite advantage of the area: a variety of stores, restaurants and souvenir shops are situated on the central Karl Johans gate street. In a reminder of the ancient Christiania (so once Oslo was called) in the center of the city, in front of the cathedral there is still a Market square Stortorvet where they sell flowers and fruits. You can buy food on the neighboring square, Youngstorget, one just needs to walk the small street of Torggata, filled with hangers with clothes and trays with makeup, kitchenware and shoes. In the summer you can enjoy delicious Norwegian strawberries sold in the Youngstorget square, and if you are lucky, you can get a taste of the national cuisine since food festivals are occasionally held there. In other words, you won't stay hungry in this area. As for the accommodation, in Kvadraturen area we recommend to check out Perminalen Hotel, Oslo Hostel Central or Thon Hotel Oslo Panorama.
The Royal Residence Neighborhood
To the north-west of Kvadraturen there is the royal residence, Det Kongelige Slott, next to it there is the building of the Norwegian Parliament, Stortinget, and the National Theatre. This is perhaps the most prestigious area of the city, and the hotels here are, of course, more expensive than the rest of Oslo. Nearby hotels are mostly located in historic buildings, so it may well be that the room and/or bathroom are cramped, and the internet connection is bad. But in such hotels, as a rule, the rooms are quite authentic, adorned with antique furniture and with a great story to go with it, that Munch stopped here, and Margaret Thatcher herself lived there. However, if the hotel is located in the vicinity of the above mentioned Karl-Johans-gate, it is worth to read the travellers' reviews, because at night it can be noisy, and the reviews will let you know if the soundproofing of the rooms is good enough and whether it is comfortable to sleep with the windows closed. Yet another disadvantage of the area you need to consider, except for the high prices of hotels, is the problem with parking (the cost is high and the number of parking spaces in hotels is limited) and the expensive additional services like the Internet. In all other respect the area is undeniably wonderful, so if the budget is not tight it is worth taking a closer look at Hotel Continental, Thon Hotel Cecil, Best Western Karl Johan Hotel, Rica Hotel G20 and Hotel Bristol.
Royal Park smoothly passes into Frognerparken known for a huge complex of ambiguous sculptures, Vigelands skulpturpark. This is a very green area, and you will live in a real Oslo, where you rarely meet a tourist. Although Frognerparken is one of the most visited tourist sites of the Norwegian capital, it is quite far from the city center and the main mass of attractions (for example, it will take you 40 minutes to walk to the royal palace from here). And the tourist infrastructure is poor here. Grocery supermarkets seem nowhere to be found and there are almost no shops or restaurants. Therefore, tourists often prefer to stay in other areas of the city and visit the park only as a part of excursion. However, if you like the quiet and prefer to take your time to enjoy a walk in the fresh air, you might consider staying here. Then you'd better settle in a small lovely villa, for example Villa Frogner Bed & Breakfast.
They often ask me if it's worth living in Oslo somewhere other than the center. In my opinion, if you drive a car and you've already had enough of the sights of the capital, then why not try other options. A fairly respectable Holmenkollen with its villas can become a very nice place to organize a suburban stay. Its main advantages are ecology (the area is surrounded with forests), many ski runs around (they say that even members of the royal family regularly ski there) and beautiful views of the Oslo Fjord and the city. However, living here, you will have to give up the noisy evenings in the center of Oslo, because when the party's over, you'll have to make a rather difficult way to the top of the hill (in most cases, even if you use the city transport, you still have to walk some part of the up the hill). Perhaps the most interesting option for accommodation here is Holmenkollen Park Hotel Rica with its more than 100 years' history and views of the famous Holmenkollen springboard. The hotels Soria Moria Hotel, Lysebu Hotel and Voksenasen Hotel AS are also nearby.
Things to Consider When Choosing a Hotel in Oslo
Price is perhaps the most important feature of the hotels in the Norwegian capital. If in Spain a nice room in a 4 star hotel would cost you about &eur;100 a day, here they will charge you € 160-170 and more. Another interesting feature is that practically the entire hotel sector in Oslo are representatives of Scandinavian chains such as Radisson, Comfort, Scandic, Rica, Thon and Clarion Collection. Which is not bad at all. As a rule, all listed hotels serve wonderful breakfasts which to some extent make up for the money spent on accommodation. Usually the breakfasts include traditional cereal and muesli, buns, porridge and even several kinds of fish and side dishes. Clarion Collection chain is great in this respect. The room price usually includes not only a fine breakfast, but also unlimited tea/coffee throughout the day, as well as snacks (such as sandwiches, cheese, fruit, and in some hotels even a full dinner), in that manner you could eat mainly in the hotel (unfortunately prices in bars and restaurants in Oslo are far from moderate). The design of the hotels is somewhat similar. As a rule, it means natural materials and nothing superfluous in furnishing, everything is quite simple and functional. Most often in the bathroom there is only a shower (to save water) and there are no small soap bars, shower caps, nail files, or other small trifles as in many other countries. Most likely in the bathroom there will be two wall mount containers with a multi-functional shower gel (shampoo, shower gel and liquid soap in one). Scandinavian hotels have recently become keen on waste sorting: in your room there will be a bucket with sections for different types of waste, or even a couple of buckets for such purpose.