Amerikalinjen is a 4* boutique hotel ideally located in the very center of Oslo, in the former headquarters of the Norwegian America Line, whose legendary cruise ships transported travelers from Norway to America throughout the 20th century.
The neo-baroque style building was first unveiled in 1919, at a time when transatlantic voyages crystallized the dreams and ambitions of thousands of Norwegians, who set off towards a new world of opportunities, spurred on by the American Dream.
The red façade of the building is adorned with marine elements and references from Greek mythology, such as Tritons and Nereids.
The interior, which has been very tastefully renovated, has preserved the spirit of the building all while adding an elegant touch of modernity. The design is exquisite, refined, and functional. Nothing is superfluous or ostentatious, and everything has been conceived for guests to have a good time and a comfortable stay.
The flawless stylistic transition from one space to the next – the reception, lounge, bar (Pier 42), restaurant (Brasserie Atlas) and rooms – is in line with the esthetic heritage of 20th-century cruise ships. The decor combines luxury (with high-end materials such as velvet, leather, or marble) and urban minimalism (subway tiles, monochromatic palettes with colorful accents, patinaed mirrors and industrial style light fixtures).
Massive trunks serve as coffee tables in the reception lounge, and a common room on the 2nd floor (British 1st floor) has been refurbished with wooden interior taken from the Norwegian America Line’s last ship.
The rooms are very comfortable and stylish, they too having been inspired by the cabins on the ships sailing between Norway and the US: a large bed, beautiful desk, details in black and white, blonde wood, furnishings and light fixtures by Norwegian designers, and floor-level shower room. Once you’ve slipped under the covers of the lovely, soft bed, you feel as though you’re aboard a motionless ship.
The staff (at reception and breakfast) are wonderfully welcoming, attentive, and responsive.
Breakfast – which is currently being served on trays due to Covid restrictions – is generous and varied. The servers pay particular attention to food intolerance and allergies
Amerikalinjen is the perfect place for a cozy getaway. You can stay for one or more nights, take in the atmosphere while having dinner at Brasserie Atlas, or enjoy a cocktail at Pier 42.
We particularly enjoyed
The location at the very center of Oslo: just across from the train station, and a mere stone’s throw from the Opera house and the vibrant neighborhood of Bjørvika
The marine decor and esthetic (most notably the courtyard conservatory, the perfect place to enjoy your breakfast)
Oslo is the capital of Norway, but more importantly, it’s also Stéphanie’s birth town.
As a dynamic, creative, inspired city, Oslo is great to visit any time of year. Facing the fjord and surrounded by forest-clad hills, it’s the ideal destination for nature lovers.
Oslo is a city in motion – it’s undergone massive changes and evolved enormously in the last few years. Entire neighborhoods – such as Bjørvika, around the Opera house – have been created. There are plenty of parks, gardens, and tree-lined avenues, making it a uniquely green city, where nature is easily accessible all over town.
Oslo isn’t a cold city, neither literally, nor figuratively. On the contrary, it’s welcoming and conducive to interesting architectural, artistic, cultural, and personal discoveries.
In the summer, the locals flock to the seaside to lounge on the beach, unwind in a floating sauna, or take a dip in the sea. In the winter, the shorter days are better suited for visiting a museum or an exhibit, or finding a nice café, bar, or restaurant where you can enjoy the koselig (pronounced “kooshlee”) atmosphere. The notion of koselig can be defined as a warm, pleasant, cozy feeling. It could be created by soft and comfortable interior that makes you want to wrap yourself up in a blanket, an intimate get-together with friends in the summer, or a lovely hot drink in the winter.
We’ve selected 4 Oslo neighborhoods that we particularly enjoy. The idea is to take in the general atmosphere of an area, rather than point out very specific (more or less touristy) sights.
The construction of the Opera house by the Oslo fjord was the first step in transforming the old harbor district of Bjørvika into a vibrant new neighborhood.
Designed by Norwegian architecture company Snøhetta, the Opera, with its white marble roof, seems almost to emerge from the cool waters of the fjord. Don’t miss the atrium inside the building (a harmonious composition of wood, metal, and glass), and particularly the roof of the Opera house, to enjoy the splendid view of the Oslo fjord
Take a stroll along Langkaia dock (to the east, across from the Opera) to observe the unique architecture of the building in detail. The dock will lead you to SALT, an open-air cultural space combining, art, music, street food, architecture, and saunas.
The Deichman Public Library (to the north, across from the Opera) was conceived as a modern-day multimedia library and as a shared, living space. It contains a vast collection of works organized by genre over 5 floors. The building’s many couches and chairs make it the perfect place to study or relax. Mini movie rooms are set up for private showings, and there are fun activities for kids. There’s even a dedicated space for 3D printing! The café terrace above the library entrance also offers an ideal view of the Opera house. The Deichman Library was recently named the world’s best new public library by the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions.
Between the Opera and the new Munch Museum, a floating footbridge allows pedestrians to walk to the tip of Sørenga – a new neighborhood that’s been built on the water, where young Oslo-dwellers and families alike meet up to enjoy beautiful summer days.
A collection of buildings called the Barcode Project and the façade of the Munch Museum make up Oslo’s new skyline.
The view from Akrobaten footbridge, which spans the railway, perfectly illustrates the barcode effect of the architecture. Thanks to the multitude of cafés, bars, and restaurants located on the ground floor of the buildings, it’s become a very lively area.
Along the waterfront, several saunas, beaches, and pontoons attract those who want to bathe, relax, and enjoy the fjord.
Aker Brygge, Tjuvholmen and Akershus Fortress
The pedestrian docks at Aker Brygge offer a completely open view of the fjord, Akershus Fortress, and City Hall. The docks are lined with shops and restaurants that are particularly popular with tourists. Aker Brygge is also the point of departure for the little yellow ferries going out to the Bygdøy peninsula, or for fjord cruises.
For future reference: the new National Museum, which will open in 2022, is located by Aker Brygge.
Extend your stroll along the boardwalk at Aker Brygge by continuing out to the Tjuvholmen peninsula, where you will find the Astrup-Fearnley Museum of Modern Art (designed by architect Renzo Piano), a sculpture park (with pieces by artists such as Louise Bourgeois and Anish Kapoor). The clean-cut architecture of the museum and the surrounding buildings give Tjuvholmen its unique character.
Akershus Fortress was built around a medieval castle inthe 17th century. This massive, steep citadel with paved pathways is home to several museums (The Armed Forces Museum, The Norwegian Resistance Museum, and Akershus medieval castle) and offers a splendid view of Oslo harbor.
Grünerløkka and Vulkan
Exploring Grünerløkka on foot is the best way to soak up the vibe of this bustling neighborhood. “Løkka” (pronounced “luh-ka”), as it’s affectionately called, is dotted with vintage and design shops, secondhand stores, koselig little cafés and restaurants, concert venues and bars, large squares, and lush parks. The area is popular with students, young families, and pensioners alike.
At the edge of Grünerløkka, in the Sagene area, a walk along the Akerselva river will reveal a string of converted brick factory buildings, waterfalls, and green spaces.
The new Vulkan neighborhood is also located by the bank of Akerselva, with Mathallen, a food court and indoor market concept, as its main attraction. Various shops and stalls sell culinary products and dishes from all over the world (Norway, Mexico, Japan, France, Hungary, China, Italy…) that you can then enjoy outside or in the common seating area in the middle of the market.
Our tip: near Mathallen, you can explore the little side streets and alleys around legendary café-bar Blå, where you’ll discover a unique, handmade outdoor chandelier, as well as many street-art pieces.
The old tree houses in Telthusbakken and Damstredet can be reached on foot from Vulkan, where they’re hanging on to the hillside in the St. Hanshaugen (St. John’s Hill) district, near Gamle Aker Kirke (Oslo’s oldest church, built in 1100) and Vår Frelsers Gravlund cemetery (where a great many famous Norwegians are buried, such as playwright Henrik Ibsen and painter Edvard Munch).
Telthusbakken and Damstredet are both quiet and very instagrammable streets with 19th-century houses.
Telthusbakken is lined with colorful, wooden houses on one side, and with community gardens on the other. At the top of Telthusbakken, it’s worth stopping a while to enjoy the view of the east side of Oslo.
The quaint old houses that line both sides of Damstredet all have lush little gardens. The great Norwegian poet Henrik Wergeland lived in the pink house by the top of Damstredet for a few years.
Frogner, the Vigeland park and the Royal Palace
Frogner is the capital’s calm and affluent embassy neighborhood, nestled between the Royal Palace and the Vigeland park.
The Vigeland park is one of Oslo’s most popular spotsfor locals and tourists alike. More than 200 sculptures made by artist Gustav Vigeland between 1920 et 1943 can be found all over this massive park, which was created on farmland in the early 20th century. Most of the sculptures are nudes representing the different ages of life, the most famous of which are the Monolith, the great central fountain, and “Sinnataggen” (Angry Boy). The park also has playgrounds, tennis courts, two museums (the Vigeland Museum and Oslo City Museum), cafés, a stadium, and a public pool. A large number of benches and greens make it the perfect place for a picnic.
The Royal Palace, which was built in the neo-classical style and finished in 1849, has been the main residence of the Norwegian royal family since the country gained its independence in 1905. It’s easily recognizable by its yellow façade and its ornate balcony with six Ionian columns. While the Palace square is one of Oslo’s must-see sights, the Royal Palace is only open to the public in the summer months. It is possible to watch the changing of the guards (every day at 13:30).
A majestic statue of King Karl-Johan of Sweden-Norway (born Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte in the French town of Pau) towers over the Palace square.
The Palace is located at the west end of de Karl Johans Gate (Oslo’s main shopping street), and is surrounded by the large, beautiful park of Slottsparken.
• Bygdøy is a large peninsula with bucolic and woodland views, elegant villas, marinas, seaside walks and several museums (such as the Fram Museum, dedicated to polar explorers, and the open-air Norwegian Folk Museum, which contains a collection of traditional Norwegian houses, as well as a magnificent stave church).
• The hills around Oslo, particularly Holmenkollen, with its famous ski jump
Looking for a dynamicand enjoyable cityto spend a weekend with your family, a group of friends, travelling solo or for a romantic getaway? Strasbourg is just the place for you!
Strasbourg is a very comfortably sized city. It’s neither too big, nor too small, and all the main sights are easily accessible by foot or by bike. The Grande Île (the historic city center, surrounded by the river Ill) and the Neustadt quarter are both UNESCO World Heritage sites. Located only a few kilometers from the German border (which you can cross by tram), Strasbourg is an international city – home to a number of European Institutions.
Don’t miss any of the major sights during your first visit – here are Strasbourg’s 5 must-see spots:
Strasbourg Cathedral. This single-spired Gothic masterpiece of sandstone lacework was the tallest building in Christendom until the 19th century. Enjoy the view of the ornate façade from rue Mercière, place de la Cathédrale and place du Château, visit the inside to see the rose window, the remarkable statues and the astronomical clock, or get an overview by climbing the stairs up to the observation deck. Find out morehere
La Petite France.This picturesque neighborhood in Strasbourg’s old town is located on the banks of the Ill and was known as a bustling milling and tanning district as early as the Middle Ages. Amble along the charming, paved streets, between half-timbered houses. Don’t miss the Ponts Couverts, the Vauban Dam (and the terrace at the top), as well as the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art. Find out morehere
Neustadt.The old German imperial quarter has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since July 2017. On avenue de la Liberté, which runs from Palais Universitaire to place de la République, you will find an array of different architectural styles. The Palais du Rhin, Strasbourg National Theater (TNS) and Strasbourg National University Library (BNU) are iconic Neustadt buildings. Find out more here
The European Quarter and the parc de l’Orangerie.Strasbourg is home to several European institutions, such as the European Parliament, the Council of Europe, and the European Court of Human Rights. The peculiar architecture of the European Parliament, which symbolizes the construction of Europe in progress, is a stand-out structure in the neighborhood. With its 26 hectares, the Orangerie is Strasbourg’s oldest park. Find out more here
The Banks of the Ill (the river running around Strasbourg) are perfect for a walk along the water. The quai des Bateliers, which is entirely pedestrian, is particularly suited for a nice stroll. If the weather is nice, why not follow the river all around the city center? You can also explore the city by sightseeing-boat. Find out more here
Check out our full weekend guide!
We’ve prepared a complete guide, ideal for a first-time weekend visit. It has everything you need: concise information (just enough, not too much), useful links, our favorite spots and a ready-made itinerary on Google Maps.
Several months before the Covid pandemic, we went on a photo safari to discover the wildlife and landscapes of Namibia and Botswana – also stopping at Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe.
It was during this trip that the idea for this blog was born.
Reminiscing about our travels in Africa instantly brings back images and memories of all the things we experienced there:
Gazing dreamingly out over vast, wide-open spaces. Observing nature and wildlife, all while respecting their natural habitat. Exploring the Okavango river by mokoro (a traditional Botswanan canoe). Sailing on the Chobe river at the speed of a herd of elephants. Beholding the double rainbows around “The smoke that thunders” at Victoria Falls, and savoring the moment. Admiring the endless dunes of orange sand in the Namib desert. Lingering to watch the animals at a watering hole in Etosha National Park. Taking the time to enjoy the beauty of the light throughout the day, ending in a blazing sunset. Falling asleep to the sound of grunting hippos.
Here are some of the highlights from our safari in southern Africa:
Recently we were going through the photos we’d taken during our trip to the Netherlands in 2020, and we realized we wanted to share some of our favorite discoveries from the handful of towns we visited:
Now that it’s winter break here and we have no new travel plans on the horizon with the current situation, we’ve been reminiscing about our recent trips. 2020 was supposed to bring us to the Silk Road in Uzbekistan, where we would finally explore legendary cities like Samarkand and Bukhara, like we’ve dreamed of doing for many years. We’ve had to give up on that dream, if only for the time being …
Instead, we chose a destination that was much closer, for about a week-long trip: the Netherlands. After the lockdown in France in the spring of 2020, our goal was simply to get some fresh air and get away for a while. We needed a change of scenery, to take the time to be outside, walk around, and enjoy a little freedom (with all the necessary safety measures).
From Strasbourg, you can get to Amsterdam by plane (a direct flight with Air France-KLM takes 1 hr and 25 mins), by train (6 or 7 hrs via Paris) or by car (6.5 hrs). You could try other modes of transport (magic carpet, unicorn, bike, scooter …), but we’re not too sure about the travel times.
Suring our stay, we were based in Gouda (yes, like the cheese!). We explored a new city every day and travelled by train to avoid the regularly gridlocked Dutch highways. The pre-paid travel card OV-chipkaart (which you can easily top up at the train station ticket office) is very handy here. You can use it on all public transport in the Netherlands, including trains.
The Dutch government and parliament are based in The Hague, which is the administrative capital of the Netherlands. It’s not a rare sight in town to spot the Prime Minister pedal by you on his bike …
• The Parliament district and especially de Hofvijver (the Court Pond) at the foot of the houses of Parliament. The Prime Minister’s Office is located in a small tower directly overlooking the pond. Right next to the Parliament, you’ll find one of the country’s most famous art museums: het Mauritshuis.
• Not far from the houses of Parliament – het Lange Voorhout, with its antique market, and the little streets behind the exclusive Hôtel des Indes.
• The pedestrian city center, with its luxury boutiques near Paleis Noordeinde (the royal palace) and more trendy and cool shops near de Grote of Sint-Jacobskerk (the Great or St. James’ Church).
• The Passage: this neo-Renaissance-style shopping gallery is the oldest shopping center in the Netherlands, dating back to 1885.
• The façade and interior of The Sting department store
One of the Netherlands’ most modern cities – located by the Nieuwe Maas river. The architecture is almost entirely contemporary, because of the massive bombings the city endured during WWII. Rotterdam is particularly dynamic and is constantly reinventing itself.
• De Kubuswoningen (Cube houses): these purposely wonky-looking, cube-shaped houses, as well as the pencil-shaped building Het Potlood, were designed by architect Piet Blom.
• Markthal: the largest market hall in Holland. This indoor market serves a double function – both commercial (with market stalls and restaurants) and residential (with apartments on the upper floors). Inside the building, the ceiling and walls are entirely covered with a massive mural depicting fruit, vegetables and grains.
• De Erasmusbrug (Erasmus bridge): this cable-stayed bridge has become one of the city’s icons. It’s almost as tall as Strasbourg Cathedral (the bridge is 139 m and the Cathedral spire is 142 m). We recommend crossing the bridge on foot.
• The Wilhelminapier peninsula. After the bridge, take a right on the peninsula and walk along the waterfront. If the weather permits, have a seat on a bench in the sunshine and watch the boats glide by.
• For a little treat: enjoy an afternoon tea at Hotel New York (at the very end of the Wilhelminapier). This hotel used to be the main office of the Holland-America Line, which ran cargo and passenger ships between Rotterdam and New York.
The city where Vermeer lived, and birthplace of the blue and white Royal Delft pottery that carries its name.
• Het Prinsenhof (the prince’s court): the former residence of William the Silent, Prince of Orange in the 16th century, is a puzzle of ancient buildings, archways and little gardens
• Het Stadhuis: Delft’s Renaissance style city hall in the market square
• De Oostpoort: The Eastern gate (from the early 15th century) with its two Brick Gothic towers and drawbridge
• De Voldersgracht: a canal lined with flowers and picturesque houses.
This town is famous for its cheese, yet underestimated for its charming streets and canals.
• Het Stadhuis: Gouda’s city hall is known for its characteristic red and white shutters. One of the oldest city halls in the Netherlands
• The cheese market: To buy some very goud-a cheese, head to the cheese market – every Thursday morning from April to August (if the context allows for it). Don’t forget to bring cash!
• The canals, which are perhaps more unspoiled than in Amsterdam, are lined with quaint houses and shop fronts reminiscent of the 19th century (antiques shops, wine and liquor stores, bookshops …).
• The neighborhood around Sint-Janskerk (St. John’s Church). The church is the longest in the country, and famous for its stained-glass windows.
One of the few towns in the Netherlands where you can walk along the North Sea on a paved promenade or directly on the sand (and relax on the beach if the weather is nice enough). In the off season, it’s a lot calmer in Zandvoort than in Scheveningen, the seaside town next to The Hague.
The vibrant capital – a labyrinth of bricks and water.
We’d had the opportunity to experience several of the city’s must-see sights during previous trips (the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum, the Albert Cuyp market, the flower market, Dam Square, Anne Frank’s house …). This time however, we made the most of the wonderful weather and went on a very long walk, thereby avoiding waiting in line for different tourist attractions:
• We pretended to get lost for hours in the maze of canals and side streets, taking in the buildings in Jordaan (the neighborhood around Prinsengracht, Keizersgracht, Westerkerk, and Magere Brug)
• Strolled and relaxed in Vondelpark, a massive green lung in the heart of the city
• Went shopping around Spuistraat
• Admired the colorful façades in Damrak
Shopping tip: Many shops and stalls in the Netherlands only accept Dutch debit/credit cards or cash.