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A walk in the Nordmarka Forest, Oslo Norway

Nordmarka forest Oslo

I recently spent a weekend in Oslo, the capital of Norway, where some good friends of ours have settled. The whole experience was utterly relaxing, not least because we spent a big chunk of the Saturday, my one full day in Oslo, walking through the Nordmarka forest.

Oslo

Nordmarka is the name of the deep pine forest to the north of Oslo. I haven’t yet encountered a European capital city with such a vast wild space on its doorstep: Nordmarka is only 20 minutes away from the centre by Metro, but it’s thousands of kilometres wide, and full of wildlife. Elks and moose can be spotted in its darker depths, and the sides of its gravel pathway are populated with rabbits, shrews and the occasional termite mound (we spotted this one, which was at least four feet tall).

Nordmarka forest

To reach Nordmarka we took the scenic route on the train, climbing uphill on the no. 1 line of the T-bane Metro to Frognerseteren, through pretty suburbs populated by traditional Scandinavian houses. These were mostly a deep red, with the occasional bright yellow, blue or green home thrown in to spice things up a little.

Nordmarka forest

Frognerseteren, like all Metro stops in the forest area, had a long rack where people could prop their skis while waiting for the train. In winter the forest is deep in snow, so skis are the best way to get around. But when I visited, in Spring, there were only small ribbons of snow left, with ice on the lakes to give me a sense of what the forest might be like in the snow-bitten winter months.

Nordmarka forest

Nordmarka forest

Our route took us from Fronerseteren to Sognsvann, past the Holmenkollen ski jump, which we could see in the distance, and the Tryvan Vinterpark, closed for business at this time of year. Apparently in Winter it’s bustling with Norwegians who want to practice some downhill skiing rather than the more traditional Nordic version, which is used to pass quickly along level ground.

Nordmarka forest

The slope of the Vinterpark

You can get a map of Nordmarka from the Oslo Visitor Centre, and the route is well-signposted (although we did end up wandering round in circles for a couple of kilometres, trying to find an old church that my friends were keen to see).

Nordmarka forest

As well as living creatures, there are plenty of other interesting sights to spot en route, like colossal, brightly coloured funghi; lichen, blueberry plants (you can pick thousands in the summer), and heaps of wood, harvested to keep the trees healthy and used as fuel. Nordmarka is peppered with many basic cabin huts – which don’t all have electricity, hence the need for fuel – where skiiers and walkers can stay overnight on a longer trek. You can find out more about this at DNT Oslo, the Norwegian Trekking Association.

Nordmarka forest

There are lakes large and small around every corner. The biggest we passed was Sognsvann, which is busy with swimmers in summer, and cross-country skiiers in winter. My friends told me that skiing across a frozen lake is completely different to travelling on snow; you skid around a lot more (unsurprisingly), and there’s not much for your poles to grip onto. I quite fancy taking some lessons when I visit our friends in the winter…apparently there’s quite an art to it, which young Norwegians learn from when they’re old enough to walk.

Nordmarka forest

On the smaller lakes, there were people fishing, or just relaxing. Nordmarka seems to attract all ages. We passed a group of teenagers hanging out by one lake; then round the next corner we passed an elderly couple, walking slowly along. They were very old, and looked as though they might even be in their nineties. Oslo’s healthy living is contagious, and the Norwegian introduction to the great outdoors starts young: we passed a lot of parents, out with tiny babies bundled up inside prams, with huge off-road wheels.

Nordmarka forest

If you’re planning a walk through Nordmarka it’s good to have a stop-off point planned, to refuel and have a sit down. Ours was Ullevalseter, a traditional wooden cabin cafe/restaurant, with a roaring wood fire in the winter.

Ullevalseter

Like all the cabins, its wooden interior is dark compared with the bright Norwegian sunlight outside. I had to blink a few times before I could see my way around.

Ullevalseter

There’s a basic, traditional menu; some sort of soup is usually available, as well as warm waffles smothered with jam or the brown, caramelised cheese loved by all Norwegians; a wide range of cakes ranging from apple tarts to sticky, chocolatey meringue-bombs; and ‘polse med lompe’, the hot dog sausage wrapped in thin pancake that you see everywhere in Oslo, from corner shops to supermarkets.

Animal lovers should look away now:

Ullevalseter

Eek.

Ullevalseter was quiet when we visited, as there was a 10k run in Oslo’s centre, which drew a lot of the crowds. But I was told it’s very busy most of the time, both in summer with hikers taking a break, and in winter with skiiers warming up over a hot chocolate.

Nordmarka forest Oslo

The last part of our walk, towards Sognsvann, was busier, with people out for a weekend trek or jog around the lake. You only really encounter the proper wilderness by walking several kilometres into the depths of the forest. Our walk was a tiring 20 km long, and we did a circuit close to the edge of the forest, passing several people along the route. Even so, with all the trees, lakes, and bracing Spring air, I felt as though I’d had a large dose of pure Norwegian outdoorsy vim and vigour.

How to get to the Nordmarka Forest

You can easily reach the Nordmarka forest from Oslo’s centre. The T-bane Metro runs to Holmenkollen, Frognerseteren, Sørkedalen, and Sognsvann, all of which are good starting points. We set out at Frognersetern and walked a slightly roundabout route to Sognsvann; more direct paths are available, if you don’t want to walk as far as we did. For children, the Sognsvann starting point seemed popular, as the lake was close to the Metro stop.

Read more about Oslo here:

14 fabulous, fun things to do in Oslo (and some of them are free!)

Top museums for families in Oslo

Tunco, a dining experience in Oslo that won’t break the bank

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Nordmarka forest

Have you gone for a woodland walk recently? Or visited Oslo’s Nordmarka?

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11 Comments

  • Christine
    May 9, 2016 at 10:01 pm

    What an amazing place to have on your doorstep. One of my friends is from just outside Oslo and lives near a large wooded area – I’ll have to ask her if it’s the same place!

    Reply
  • Cathy (MummyTravels)
    May 11, 2016 at 1:46 pm

    That’s incredible to find somewhere like this just 20 minutes from a capital city – I can’t imagine having elk just a short distance outside London… Lovely to have that option to see a very different side of Oslo, I can imagine it’s like having your batteries recharged. Thanks for linking up with #citytripping

    Reply
    • Nell
      May 12, 2016 at 8:45 pm

      Yes – I came home feeling as though I’d had the healthiest weekend in a LONG time.

      Reply
  • Elizabeth (Wander Mum)
    May 11, 2016 at 7:06 pm

    An amazing space to have so close to a capital city. Great place to explore and look for wildlife. Sounds like a great day out with a very substantial walk! Thanks for linking to #citytripping

    Reply
    • Nell
      May 12, 2016 at 8:47 pm

      Yes I was pretty tired by the end of it! My friends have been infected with Norwegian hardiness though. After our long walk, they insisted we go out to a bar till midnight!

      Reply
  • Sarah Ebner
    May 11, 2016 at 7:13 pm

    This really sounds so lovely – and how great that it’s that near to such a big city. I’ve never been to Norway, but it’s long been on “the list”!

    Reply
    • Nell
      May 12, 2016 at 8:46 pm

      You’d love it there Sarah. Such friendly people, and with plenty of scope for cultural exploration.

      Reply
  • Gemma Garner
    May 12, 2016 at 8:46 am

    I went walking in Nordmarka a few weeks before you! It’s an absolutely beautiful place, I didn’t want to leave! There was thick snowfall when we went: http://gemmagarner.com/blog/nature-outdoors/40000-steps-frognerseteren/ (hope you don’t mind me posting a link, just wanted to show you the snow). We didn’t see Ullevalseter — shame because a warm drink and some time next to a roaring fire would have been lovely!

    Reply
    • Nell
      May 12, 2016 at 8:48 pm

      Oh thank you for sharing your link with me – and how funny that you went recently too! I’m off for a look now 🙂

      Reply
  • Clare (Suitcases and Sandcastles)
    May 12, 2016 at 2:49 pm

    I can’t believe how close this is to a capital city. I love the idea of a long walk in the woods. Looks like a magical place to spend a day. #citytripping

    Reply
    • Nell
      May 12, 2016 at 8:48 pm

      It really was.

      Reply

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