Venturing out of Oslo

By | Category: Travel destinations
 Lake Mjøsa, Norway's largest lake

Lake Mjøsa, Norway’s largest lake

My flight from London to Oslo’s Gardermoen airport, 22 miles northeast of town, was swift and painless. For a change, my plan was not to head straight for the Norwegian capital to sample its many delights, but rather I was aiming for the comparatively unexplored area north of the airport, only an hour or two away from central Oslo. This region is home to pleasant scenery of lakes, rivers, hills and farmland, with a good dose of history, culinary traditions and art.

First stop was Eidsvoll, a small town with less than 20,000 people, on River Vorma. Taking the scenic route there was sadly slightly wasted in the rain, but luckily the rest of my tour was mostly taking place indoors. Eidsvoll has a very specific claim to fame, that forms a key part of Norwegian modern history; it was here, on the 17th of May in 1814 – still celebrated as Norway’s National Day – that the constitutional assembly met to draft and sign the Norwegian constitution.

Eidsvoll House

Eidsvoll House

Eidsvollsbygningen, or the Eidsvoll House, where the meeting and signing took place, is open to the public as an interesting museum and with the constitution celebrating its 200th anniversary last year, a number of activities and events, including lectures, are taking place. The building, which has been beautifully restored, has some parts dating back to the 17th century, although for the most part it was constructed in 1770 and modernised by Carsten Anker, owner of the local ironworks, at the turn of the 19th century.

A short movie on democracy in Norway was followed by a grand tour of the building itself, all three floors of it. Interestingly it’s been a museum ever since 1851, when the state bought it off the by then bankrupt Mr Anker and most of the rooms are open to the public. A knowledgeable guide filled me in on Norwegian history aplenty and the Scandie history buff is bound to love a place like this. Even if history is not your thing, this was built to be one of the grandest houses in Norway and it’s well worth a visit. The café also does good, traditional lunches.



In the afternoon my journey continued northwest to the scenic lakeside community of Hurdal, on the shores of Hurdalssjøen. Hurdal is going through something of a positive transformation at the moment and there’s a strong focus on sustainability and organic food. The old school building is being converted into a café, gallery and organic bakery and an eco village of sustainable houses is also being built, in addition to similar houses constructed 12 years ago. The scenery along the lakeshore is very peaceful and perfect for hiking, or if in winter, skiing (there’s both cross-country and downhill in the area).

Gastronomic offerings here proved to be absolutely delicious, if somewhat on the substantial side. My starter of elk pastrami with apple and spring onion, accompanied by juniper berry mayonnaise and then a dessert, would probably have been enough, but I also managed to squeeze in a main course of pork loin with pepper sauce, baked potato, herb butter cabbage and oven baked tomato, before the raspberry mousse with dark chocolate. This being Norway though, I decided to go alcohol-free for the evening…

Next morning I hopped on the train following Mjøsa, Norway’s largest lake, for some 45 minutes up to Hamar. Beautiful lake views surrounded me all the way and the train was extremely comfortable and wonderfully punctual, with free hot drinks for the comfort class passengers. Hot chocolate with a view – bliss. Hamar is one of the main hubs in the county of Hedmark and, just like Hurdal, it’s reinventing itself after a period of decline. There’s a brand new cultural centre and plenty of foodie options, as I was to discover on my morning’s tour.My guide took me to Knutstad & Holen, Norway’s most popular fish and seafood shop. The place had a truly inspiring selection and display of the very finest of Norwegian products – something of a surprise, given that they’re several hours away from the sea here. Opened in 1925, the shop has stood the test of time and the reason they always have such great variety and have remained so popular, is Hamar’s strategic location – fish transported through the country always passes along this route. The shop whetted my appetite, so it seemed a good time for a spot of lunch, although sadly the shop itself doesn’t provide anywhere to sit and munch. Instead another shop, Gravdahl bookshop has a nice lunchtime café and also sells over-the-moon gorgeous white chocolate cookies.

the cathedral in Hamar

the cathedral in Hamar

This whole area of Norway is situated close to the Swedish border, making it rich in history with numerous tall tales of fights between Norwegians and Swedes. During the afternoon I went off exploring Domkirkeodden, a peninsula on the outskirts of town, home to some cathedral ruins dating back to 1152. The fact that the cathedral is in ruins is unfortunately the fault of my fellow Swedes who, when blowing up the bishop’s priory in 1537, caused such substantial damage to the cathedral right next to it, that it was left to decay for centuries. Finally some well-to-do Norwegians from Minnesota forked out the cash to build a protective structure over the cathedral remains and today it’s open for concerts, weddings and services again. It’s a beautiful space with fine acoustics in the heart of nature, by the lake. The peninsula is also home to the county museum Hedmarksmuséet, an open-air museum with buildings from the area, from different eras.

A short drive east of Hamar, lies the tiny community of Løten, which has one very important claim to fame, especially if you’re an art enthusiast. Løten is home to Engelhaug, birthplace of Norwegian painter of worldwide renown, Edvard Munch. Engelhaug is privately owned and not open to the public, but nearby a small Munch Centre has recently opened. The focus is on Edvard Munch as a person, as well as a painter and contains some of his early sketches and interesting historical titbits. The area is also home to Munch’s parents’ house and in season there is a Munch cycle route, taking in all of the above.

Two days exploring the Oslo region north of the capital was an excellent taster – it’s hard to beat for the sheer variety of culture and nature, any time of year. The aquavit ice cream wasn’t bad either.

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Images © Visit Oslo Region and the destinations themselves


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