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On the seventh day of Christmas... Visit Oslo


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Every year since 1947, Oslo has donated a Christmas tree to the people of Britain in a message of thanks for their support during the Second World War.

A 60-year-old spruce is shipped across the water, having been felled from somewhere deep in the Norway’s sprawling forests.

It seems appropriate that the job of providing Christmas trees for such an illustrious place falls to Norway. Although Lapland – Santa’s home – is in neighbouring Finland, Norway and Christmas seem inextricable.

The capital Oslo is well worth visiting for a festive holiday. In fact, few countries would be nicer at this time of year.

It does help if you like the outdoors. All Norwegians, so the saying goes, are born with skis on their feet, which must be an alarming thought for pregnant mothers. The capital’s suburbs have some incredible ski slopes, including Holmenkollbakken, host of the 1952 Winter Olympics.

There are other popular sights, such as Korketrekkeren, ‘The Corkscrew’ a toboggan run you can take the metro to, slide down, and then take the metro back to the top again.

The beautiful snow is thick and solid in winter, which makes rides pretty speedy. The Corkscrew’s vertical descent of 255 meters is not for the faint-hearted.

Nor are wimps welcome at the city’s extensive ski centres, such as the Oslo Winter Park, training ground of past and future Winter Olympic gold medallists (Norway are famously abysmal at the summer games).

But the great thing about this city is that you don’t have to be a born skier to enjoy it. In fact, you can still have a fantastic winter break without leaving the centre of town.

Running through the heart of Oslo is Karl Johans Gate, which has a royal palace at one end and a train station at the other. Along the way there are a wealth of shops, museums and other sights.

In the winter, Karl Johans Gate plays host to the city’s Christmas market, where you can ice skate, buy winter jumpers, or feast on snacks such as risengrynsgrøt (hot rice pudding) or gløgg, a warm, spicy drink made with or without alcohol, depending on what mood you’re in.

Although the Royal Palace is only open in the summer, there are plenty of other sights to see - particularly worth visiting is the beautiful glass Opera House overlooking the harbour, which you can quite literally climb all over.

To the west of the city centre is Vigelandsparken, a beautiful garden with legendary naked statues, no less rude when covered in snow. The Munch Museum to the east tells you all about the life of the country’s most renowned artist, creator of The Scream as well as many other, less disturbing paintings.

You may find yourself screaming when planning the financial side of an Oslo holiday. Scandinavia is notoriously expensive, but if you’re organised you can still enjoy yourself.

An Oslo Pass, which gives you access to many attractions and free rides on the public transport, allows you to enjoy a meal in Grünerløkka, a bohemian quarter to the north of the city centre, without sweating too much over the bill.

It is cold and dark in the winter, of course, with almost no daylight and every surface caked in snow and ice, so watch out for that too. Christmas originated as way of keeping warm and upbeat through the harshest months of the year, so it’s no wonder the Norwegians are so good at it.

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