Family travel snap: learning about Vikings and cinnamon buns in Oslo

In this month’s family travel snap, we journey to Oslo with Orla Thomas, features editor for Lonely Planet Magazine, and her six-year-old son Henry.

Kids Blog - orla-norway-fts
Learning all about long ships © Orla Thomas

What’s the story behind this photo?

This is my six-year-old son, Henry (right), with his best buddy, Sidney (left), at the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo. The boys have been friends since nursery but hadn’t seen each other in a while, as last year Sid and his parents moved from London – where we live – back to his mother Margrethe’s native Norway. This museum was the highlight of our visit to the city – the boys were utterly fascinated by the skeletal remains on display, and thoroughly embraced the Viking spirit in the gift shop, trying on helmets and brandishing swords.     

The pictured ship, Gokstad, was built around 890 AD, and around a decade later was used as the burial chamber for a rich and powerful man. I found it mind-boggling, the enormous effort that must have gone into building the still-impressive vessel – only to consign it to the ground. The boys were more fascinated by the macabre details, like the fact that the Gokstad man had cutting blows to both his legs, showing he died in battle.

After this picture we headed back to our hosts’ neighbourhood, Grünerløkka, and to Kaffe Brenneriet for kanelbolle (cinnamon buns). Each day in Oslo brought a new bun – from the classic raisin bolle to the custard-filled skolebolle (‘school bun’).

Kids’ perspective:

Henry: ‘I liked the film they played on the walls, showing the Viking ships. But when the Vikings died fighting and then went somewhere else on their ship, that’s not real, that’s just what they’re imagining. I liked looking at the skeletons with all the bones and teeth, but I didn’t like the bit where they showed how the ships were dug up. That was boring. I wanted to look at more swords.’  

Orla’s tips for visiting Oslo with kids:

1) Get an Oslo Card, which includes free entry to over 30 museums and travel on public transport – but remember that children under six travel for free and are often not charged for museum entry.

2) Take plenty of snacks on days out and plan where to eat in advance – dining out is phenomenally expensive, so impromptu stops can really burn through your budget.  

Where’s next on your family travel bucket list?

My husband and I also have two boys aged eight and two, and this summer we’ll all be holidaying together in the Yorkshire Dales. We’re hoping to rent bikes and cycle the Swale Trail.

Lastly, complete the sentence:

When we shut the front door ready to go and travel as a family, we always make sure we have…

a notebook and pen. I like to record some of the boys’ more astute or amusing observations of the places we explore, and it makes for a lovely memento – better, somehow, even than a photo.

And a bonus fun fact!

The horned ‘Viking’ helmet is a historical inaccuracy: a conflation of traditional Viking helmets – an iron or leather cap – with the horns they used as drinking vessels.  

You can read more about Orla and Henry's trip to Oslo in this month's Lonely Planet Magazine.

Kids Blog - 7668817319762960661