29/01/2015 17:10 GMT | Updated 20/05/2015 10:12 BST

Oslo: A Frozen-Inspired City Break

Tracey Davies

Blonde hair, scuffed knees and a distinct piratical air about them, there's no doubting my three children have Viking blood running through their veins. All they need is a horned-helmet and an 'I Heart Pillaging' T-shirt and they'll fit right in here at the Viking ship museum in Oslo.

Built like a huge, Ikea-designed cathedral, it houses the wooden remains of three Viking ships; the Oseberg, Gokstad and the Tune, all of which were built in the 800s - an age quite unfathomable to my daughter, Lola.

"Is that boat older than you?" she asks, her brow furrowed in wonder. "Yeeess" I retort sharply. "Older than Nanny?" she enquires innocently. "Even older than Nanny," I reply.

But even for me this brush with a world of riots and rampage, muscle and toil is fascinating. But that's Oslo for you, a surprising city with a wealth of history, friendly natives (there are few rampaging Vikings left) and a world away from your standard city break.

Norway is not the first place you think of when choosing a half-term holiday. However, after rashly booking five startlingly cheap flights with a well-known budget airline, before we know it we land in the frosty capital of Oslo, some 600 miles south of the Arctic Circle.

For once my timing is perfect as Norway's stark, wintry landscape was the inspiration for Disney's film Frozen.

Tracey Davies

With its glistening snowy scenes, ornate wooden Stave churches and fairytale castles, my eight-year-old girls, Nancy and Lola, are in their element. As for Angus, their 12-year-old brother, the opportunity to lob snowballs at his sisters from dawn 'til dusk has not eluded him.

But it's not only the stark Nordic architecture and frosted landscape that will take your breath away - Norway will have a dramatic effect on your wallet as well.

Oslo is a notoriously expensive city (practice the art of saying NO prior to travelling) but do not let this put you off as there are plenty of things that you can do in the city which are free or close to free.

It's worth picking up an Oslo Pass, which will buy you 24, 48 or 72 hours of free museums, attractions and travel as well as discounts at various restaurants and shops.

We're staying in the central Kvadraturen district, close to City Hall and the waterfront in the Thon Panorama hotel. Smart, modern and with flashes of slick Nordic design, a large family room easily sleeps five and has the added bonus of a small kitchenette and a washing machine.

For breakfast it's all waffles, bacon and eggs alongside generous platters of fruit, meats and cheese - perfect for my hungry vikings.

Narrowly dodging my 92nd snowball of the morning, I announce to the little darlings that the next stop on mummy's culture train is the Fram museum, a place dedicated to Norway's polar explorers.

It seems Oslo has a thing for cramming huge ships into small buildings. As we enter the museum, we're met by the huge red hull of the Fram. Neck craning, I can barely see the brow of the only Polar ship to conquer both the North and the South Poles.

Dragging them in from the snow, we spend the afternoon learning about Norway's (many) polar expeditions, playing Eskimo-inspired games and exploring the vast wooden decks and cosy Victorian cabins of the Fram.

Like many Nordic cities, Oslo transforms into a stunning snowscape during the winter months with snow often lasting until mid-April. We take the metro up to Holmenkollen, home of the world-famous Olympic ski jump.

After our damp winter back home, the children are wide-eyed over the proper up-to-your-knees snow and spend an hour flinging themselves into the 4ft drifts.

While the lift to the top of the ski jump is not for the vertiginous, if you can brave it you'll be rewarded with phenomenal views across Oslo.

While Oslo is a fantastic city to visit in the summer months, one of the big attractions of coming in winter is its accessibility to the ski fields. Twenty minutes by metro from the city centre is the Tryvann Vinterpark, with 18 slopes of all levels from nursery to black runs and a small ski school, it's a great introduction to skiing for my gang.

We arrive early to make the most of the one day pass (which is not, I hasten to add, included in the Oslo Pass). With three nursery slopes and a manageable green run, Angus was in his element.

And if skiing feels like too much effort, check out Korketrekkeren, a 2km long toboggan track which races downhill through the pine forests.

Back in the city we grab a cheap hotdog lunch from Nevesons, a newsagents-slash-hotdog stand and head down to the waterfront. This part of the city has changed rather dramatically over the past ten years.

What used to be the old docks is now the fashionable fjord-side districts of Aker Brygge and Tjuvholmen each lined with hip bars, Nordic design shops and swanky fish restaurants, which despite the frosty weather seem to favour outdoor terraces and are furnished with heaters and woollen blankets.

We sit outside clamping our frozen paws around mugs of steaming hot chocolate and watch as the sun sets across the icy fjord and behind the dark turrets of the Akershus Fortress, Disney's inspiration for the palace in Arendelle.

Frozen we may be, but like Olaf the little snowman, Oslo has warmed its way into our hearts.

For more information about Oslo including the Oslo Pass check out
Flights to Oslo Rygge by start from around £40 return.
Family rooms at the Thon Panorama start from 1249kr (£125) per room per night including breakfast
For more information about skiing at Tryvann visit

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