The fortress of Oslo.
Sorrel riding through the lush parks of Oslo.
The sun shines in Oslo.
Oslo is a harbour city surrounded by forests, lakes, fields and gardens. For seven months each year it hardly sees the sun. So when summer finally hits, it's on for young and old.
For seven months each year Oslo hardly sees the sun and the temperature rarely rises above zero. When summer does arrive locals make the most of it, spending every waking moment outdoors, walking or cycling.
Oslo is a harbour city surrounded by forests, lakes, fjords, fields, parks and gardens. It has 1500 kilometres of tracks for hikers and bikers and, to top it off, the air is fresh and clean.
At the turn of the 10th century a settlement grew at the end of the Oslo fjord. During the 11th century the medieval city became an important royal stronghold, ecclesiastical and commercial centre. Like most old cities, Oslo has had changes as a result of fire, restoration and changing architectural styles. In some areas the past can be found intact. A good example is the 700-year-old Akershus Slott (castle). In the 17th century Christian IV turned it into a Renaissance palace, but the front remains medieval. The upper floors were very grand, with banquet halls and staterooms, but the dungeons hold small dark rooms where outcasts were locked. The royal family still uses the chapel of Akershus Slott.
To enter the fortress of Akershus Festning, you cross a drawbridge spanning Kongens gate. At 1.15pm each day you can see the changing of the palace guard and the changing of the guard of the fortress itself.
Aker Brygge is a former shipbuilding yard which was transformed into a beautiful area of cafes, restaurants, shops, apartments and offices. It is a pedestrian-only area, extremely popular with locals and tourists.
On the other side of the peninsula and just minutes away from the centre of Oslo is Bygdoy, with some interesting attractions. There is an open-air folk museum, excavated Viking ships, famous Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl's raft the Kon Tiki and the Fram polar exploration vessel.
Frognerparken with its lawns, ponds, stream and shade trees is where you will find Viegeland Park, named in honour of Norway's prolific sculptor Gustav Viegeland. The park contains 190 of his bronze and granite sculptures of various poses and stages of the human body. He also made the impressive wrought-iron gates throughout the park. The centrepiece for the park is a 17m-high monolith of human figures carved from a single piece of granite.
Oslo is one of the world's expensive cities. A good way to save on accommodation is to take a 17-minute ferry ride to Langoyene Island where you can camp very cheaply. You do need to take everything with you, all the basics can be rented on the mainland. Showers and toilets are communal.
On Saturdays and Sundays at 9.17am locals and visitors leave Oslo central station on the bike train. It travels 40km north to Stryken and you cycle back through the forest along the Aker River and the town of Akerselva, rich in history with old industrial buildings, small wooden houses and some waterfalls. Tracks are graded for different levels of fitness and experience and the trails are sprinkled with log cabins where volunteers hand out home-baked cakes and drinks to hikers and bikers.
The Holmenkollen ski jump on a hilltop overlooking Oslo is where the 1952 Winter Olympics were held. It is the beginning of the forest area and in summer is used as a concert venue.
Marka, the thick forest surrounding Oslo, is sprawling and beautiful. Apart from hiking and biking it is popular for mushroom and berry picking and is the setting for many Norwegian tales of princesses, kings and forest trolls.
The Royal Palace, home to King Harald and Queen Sonja, is on a hill at the end of Oslo's main street Karl Johans gate. This is full of shops, cafes, buskers and most of it is pedestrian access only.