Oslo Gardermoen: a pleasure not a chore
Norway’s easygoing, cosmopolitan capital city Oslo has much to delight the international visitor. World-class museums, the unique Vigeland sculpture park, top-notch restaurants, lively nightclubs, outdoor cafés, winter sports and cultural festivals all vie for the tourist’s attention. One thing Scandinavia’s oldest capital certainly doesn’t, however, is value for money is offer.According to a survey published by employment consultancy ECA International in 2010, Oslo was the second most expensive city in the world to live in after Tokyo. The country’s eye-watering taxes on alcohol and tobacco are famous, but Norway’s robust economic performance during the global credit crunch and strengthening currency (the kroner) have actually made other goods and services much more expensive for the overseas visitor in the past couple of years.
This situation makes Oslo Gardermoen airport’s large duty-free and travel-retail shops an excellent place to pick-up a last-minute gift for family and friends. That’s not to say duty-free prices are a steal compared to other European airports, but they are definitely cheaper than you will find downtown.
With its striking steel, glass and wood design, Gardermoen is every bit a modern, efficient European hub. The airport is regularly praised for its striking architectural design, its punctuality; fast links to downtown Oslo, and the broad range of shops and restaurants it has to offer.
Gardermoen handled over 18 million people last year and is fast reaching its capacity. The existing terminal (Terminal 1), which opened in 1998, has already been expanded and a new terminal (Terminal 2) looks likely to get the go ahead. However, although almost 66,000 passengers use the airport daily, it exudes an air of Scandinavian calm, and the wide range of shops means an extended wait at Gardermoen is a pleasure rather than a chore.
You can’t miss the airport’s giant 1,650 square metre duty-free store• it dominates the terminal, stocks 12,500 products, and remains one of the largest shops at any European airport. Given the high rate of domestic taxation, it is no surprise to find the range of wines and spirits on sale is particularly impressive, especially when it comes to Scotch whisky, which is enormously popular in Scandinavia.
Warming, smoky West Coast single malts such as Bowmore, Ardbeg and Bunnahabhain from Islay are particularly popular in this chilly part of the world. The originally travel-retail exclusive Bunnahabhain Darach Úr, which unusually is matured in virgin rather than seasoned oak casks, is a great gift choice at kr395 (£41). However, you will also find Swedish whisky on sale in the shape of the excellent Mackymra (prices start at Kr.325/£34 for a 70cl bottle), and even Japanese malt whisky brand Yamazaki makes an appearance.
Cognac is another traditionally popular tipple in these parts. In fact, despite falling consumption, Norway still remains the eighth largest cognac importer. At Gardermoen travellers will find a selection of often cheaper Scandinavian cognacs such as Larsen, Braastad and Bache-Gabrielsen alongside household names such as Martell, Camus and Hennessy. The names of these brands might be unfamiliar, but the quality is high.
Tobacco is another well-stocked product category. Expect to pay kr299 (£31.55) for a box of 200 Marlboro Gold; Kr215 (£22.70) for the same-sized box of Lucky Strike Original Red and Kr259 (£27.30) for 200 Gauloises Blondes Red Filter. An amazing 25 different types of Scandinavian chewing tobacco (snus) are stocked if you fancy something different, and you will also discover a reasonable selection of cigars, including Cuban varieties. For a full guide to the tobacco and liquor offers, as well as other product categories stocked at the duty-free shop, visit www.duty-free.no before you travel. Unfortunately, the site is only available in Norwegian, but with the pictures and a bit of guesswork it is easy enough to navigate around until find the product you are looking for.
If you are arriving at Gardermoen, you might also be pleased to know that the airport has a genuine arrivals duty-free store as Norway is not part of the European Union (EU). The outlet is a great place to stock up on last-minute cut-price liquor and tobacco and is very popular with local travellers.
Away from the duty-free staples of liquor, tobacco and fragrances, head to the Salmon House outlet for Norwegian delicacies such as hot-smoked salmon and homemade jams, which make great gifts for foodie friends. Meanwhile, the intriguingly named Thune Gull & Ur outlet stocks a range of diamond jewellery, as well as luxury watch brands such as Chopard, Omega, Longines and Tissot at surprisingly reasonable prices.
Books and newspapers can be bought at Tanum (there are outlets in both the main international departures concourse and the domestic pier), while Dutch travel retailer Capi runs the airport’s two electronics shops, which sell the usual range of camcorders, laptops, cameras and MP3 players. For details of any special offers at Capi running when you are about to travel, check out http://www.capi.com/C01_03_oslo_SO.htm before you set off for the airport.
Christiana Glasmagasin is one of Oslo’s most famous department stores with outlets all over the country, including Gardermoen. As the name suggests, it is a great place to pick up an item of beautiful glassware, porcelain from Norwegian brands such as Hadeland Glassverk and Porsgrund, but also pewter items and knitwear (two other perennially popular buys for visitors to Norway.
After all that shopping you might be in need of a pick me up. Our top tip in terms of watering holes is the Norwegian Aquavit bar, where you can sip a glass of one of the many flavoured aquavits on offer and nibble on a range of light snacks. Named after the famous ocean voyage of Norwegian adventurer Thor Heyerdahl, The Kon-Tiki Kitchen & Restaurant serves up more substantial fare, including a spicy fish casserole created by Heyerdahl himself. It also boasts a free Internet zone.
The hungry traveller will also find cafés aplenty, sandwich bars (Upper Crust), a pizza restaurant (Pizza Hut) and a Seafood Bar. For a complete listing of both the dining and shopping offer visit the airport’s well-designed, easy-to-use website at http://www.osl.no/en/osl/shopsanddining.
Check your duty free and tax paid arrival allowances:Norway Duty Free Allowances