Oslo turned out to be our best option. Wednesday afternoon I came across some flights that would work, the weather looked tolerable and by that evening, we had a weekend trip booked for Friday.
Where we stayed:
We stayed at the Comfort Grand Central right in the Central train station in Oslo. The location was perfect - we arrived via the express train from the airport, walked right to the hotel without having to drag our bag through snowy & icy streets and were right on the doorstep of some of Oslo's main attractions.
The hotel was decidedly the hippest chain hotel I've ever stayed in. The rooms were fairly basic (they pride themselves on eliminating unnecessary things to bring the cost of the rooms down) but comfortable and they included WiFi and breakfast at no extra cost. The hotel was high-tech - you could check in to your room via your smartphone which would then be used as your key to your room by scanning it overtop of the doorknob. We checked in the other way - via an iMac which logged us in, allowed us to choose our checkout time and spit out our room cards & receipt for us.
While the rooms were basic, I got a kick out of their clever signage - the do not disturb sign for the door had a can of Whoop-Ass on it and the welcome page on the TV told us that Sundays are for recovering from Saturdays thus the checkout time was 6:00 pm.
Where we ate:
Dining out in Norway is ridiculously expensive and Oslo was no different however we did find some great places.
Xian Lo - Knowing that we wouldn't be downtown until around 8:30 pm Friday night, I had written down a few restaurants found around the web to make our choice a little easier. Xian Lo was a 5 minute walk up Karl Johans Gate from our hotel and it was a fantastic choice. Serving Vietnamese food in a fancier setting, this meal wasn't cheap but it sure was delicious. We ordered right off the menu but they do have a 4 or 5 course set meal that you can choose as well.
Restaurant Håndverkerstuene - Norway isn't really known for it's food and I'll admit, we don't indulge in it very often but this place stood out because of it's beer menu. They literally had hundreds of beers in house and a very good selection of Norwegian beers. The waiter did a great job recommending beer for Joe (who knows his stuff) and the food was ok. The menu was quite small, which is generally a good sign for us, and very Norwegian with fish, sausage & pork being the main courses. While it wasn't the best meal I've ever had, it was good. (I should mention, Joe was very impressed with his sausage meal and Two Captains beer by Nøgne.)
The Nighthawk Diner - I had seen this diner reviewed on a couple of other blogs and when Sunday rolled around, Joe and I made the trek to the Grünerløkka district to check it out. There were people literally lined up outside of the door from the moment we arrived to the moment we left. Specializing in American classics, we feasted on burgers, french fries, onion rings and I indulged in a $7 can of Dr Pepper. This was not a cheap burger fix but a ginormous burger in a retro diner that almost made us forget the cost & the unhealthy aspects of the meal.
Traveling within Norway, one of the most expensive countries in the world, is expensive. As mentioned before, we don't have budget airways like EasyJet or RyanAir in Stavanger and while taking the train from Stavanger to Oslo is an option, it is an 8 hour journey and would take far too much time for a short weekend trip. While this might look quite expensive, it's pretty reasonable by Norwegian standards. As a rule of thumb, we double the cost of anything in North America to get the Norwegian cost.
1 round trip air ticket Stavanger-Oslo via Norwegian (Friday night - Sunday night) $300 CAD
2 nights at the Comfort Grand Central (standard double room) - 1960.00 kr ($355 CAD)
1 return Airport Express Train to Sentrum - 340 kr ($60)