If you have less than three hours
Given that it takes at least 20 minutes by bus to reach Jessheim (see below) and the same amount of time to get back, it may be best to stay at the Gardermoen. But fear not: the Oslo Airport was renovated this year and is definitely not lacking in entertainment options and things to do as its 32 shops and 38 restaurants and bars can attest to. Enjoy food ranging from sushi and burgers to modern Nordic cuisine, shop for anything from books and beauty products to high fashion and gifts—even play the piano. The airport also offers free WiFi everywhere. Time will just fly by.
If you have between 3-6 hours
Explore the surrounding area. From the airport’s bus station, take bus 838 or 818 (check ruter.no for bus and train schedules, but there’s usually a bus every couple of minutes)—the ticket is only 33 NOK (€3.51; $4.14)—and arrive in Jessheim in less than 20 minutes. This small city is quickly growing thanks to the airport traffic and it’s the ideal place to spend the night on a very long layover. Jessheim’s city centre consists of a huge shopping center and two main roads with various shops, cafes, and restaurants—but the surrounding area is beautiful. If the weather is good, visit Lake Nordbytjernet and bathe, go for a run, or just relax and read a book. Don’t forget to bring a sandwich: there are ducks, swans, and seagulls who will kindly demand some of it.
If the weather is better suited to indoor adventures, Jessheim may still be worth a visit. There are many cool Norwegian and fellow-Scandinavian shops that deserve some attention inside Jessheim Storsenter, from Danish design brand Søstrene Grene to Swedish fashion maverick MQ and local, eco-conscious favorite Lindex. Head downstairs and have a cosy cup of joe at Kaffebrenneriet—there are a couple cafés with that name throughout the country, but there’s something about the ambiance in this one that will make patrons forget about the noisy shopping center above their heads. Order a Thor’s Hammer (a very large and very strong cup of coffee) and a slice of østekakke (creamy cheesecake).
But at some point, it will be time to leave. Those itching for some more shopping, head towards Fretex and find some affordably priced vintage clothes—and contribute to a good cause while shopping. Or buy some fresh, local produce (but also a big variety of more ‘exotic’ fruit and vegetables) from the grocery store right across the street from Fretex and if all that shopping has led to hunger, head to Don for one of the best burgers this side of New York. Just know that they don’t take cash, so make sure to bring along a credit or debit card. After that hearty meal, walk to Jessheim’s bus station and head back to the airport. Don’t forget any newly bought items.
Jessheim Storsenter, Storgata 6, Jessheim, Norway, +47 63 99 69 60
Fretex, Storgata 11, Jessheim, Norway, +47 67 49 04 30
Don, Myrvegen 88, Jessheim, Norway, +47 92 07 01 65
If you have more than 6 hours
Explore Oslo. Check ruter.no beforehand, but usually there are several trains going to Oslo about every ten minutes or so. The train ticket is a bit more expensive (93 NOK; €9.89; $11.68), but it gets to Oslo’s city centre in about 26 minutes—just make sure to avoid the express train, as it’s double the amount of money and not really that much faster.
While in Oslo, head down to the waterfront and admire all the new buildings. Start with the Opera House, taking in the way its white marble and tilting design are making it look like an iceberg amid the Bjørvika area. Then walk to Aker Brygge and maybe visit a museum or two (the Nobel Peace Center is also there) before grabbing a bite to eat at the Fish Market. On the way back to the station, pass through the magical Christiania Square, sit for a coffee, and capture a couple of Instagram shots.
Depending on how long the layover, try to squeeze in a visit to Grünerløkka, Oslo’s hippest neighborhood. Once there, enjoy the numerous vintage stores, quirky cafés, cool bars, and the city’s biggest food market, Mathallen. Just make sure to head back to the airport in time to make the connecting flight.
Mathallen Oslo, Vulkan 5, Oslo, Norway, +47 40 00 12 09