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June 09, 2008

Oslo On a Budget? It Can Be Done

Opera House
Opera house: sunbathers, not
skateboarders, allowed

by Beata Loyfman

After seeing frightening reports of the costs in the world's most expensive cities, it's tempting to hide under the covers until the whole dollar decline blows over. However, there's no need to throw away your passport just yet. After just four days in Oslo, Norway (it's at the top of that list), I have discovered that you don't have to mortgage your home just to afford a vacation here, even in the peak of summer.

Here are a few ways to save your money while still enjoying the best of this Nordic city:

1. Don't stay at a hotel. Even a shady three-star Best Western in Oslo can run upwards of $350 in the summer. Instead, rent a furnished apartment from Oslo Apartments. I am paying $165 per night at a lovely one-bedroom with a terrace in upscale Majorstruen. Owner Per Torgersen couldn't be kinder and more amenable; he even acts as a guide and answers all of our touristy questions.

2. Oslo is a great city for outdoorsy types and there are plenty of free activities--made especially pleasant by the current heatwave and 18 hours of daylight. Stroll down the popular Karl Johans gate, pick up a pannini at Deli de Luca ($8), and picnic in the sprawling Slottsparken, the manicured grounds of the Royal Palace--think ponds, ducks, nature trails, etc. At 1:45 pm daily, go to the main palace entrance to see the ceremonial changing of the guards. Another worthwhile (and once again, free) attraction is Vigeland Park, an 80-acre park with stone sculptures depicting the various stages of life by Gustav Vigeland.

3. Oslo's newest attraction is the Opera House, a modernist building created by Norwegian firm Snřhetta. Its sloping, irregular shape provides plenty of space for lounging and sunbathing (just don't try to skateboard or you'll wind up in the fjord). Inside, the Norwegian opera and ballet perform classical and contemporary works that are certainly worth a splurge.

4. A great way to see the coastline is via a sightseeing trip down the Oslofjord. Norway Yacht Charters offer 2-hour trips daily for around $40. You'll have plenty of photo ops and still enough cash for lunch.

Tune in on Friday for more on Oslo's attractions.

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