The archipelago of low-lying, lightly forested islands to the south of the city centre in the inner Oslofjord is the capital’s summer playground, and makes going to the beach a viable option, especially on warm summer days when the less populated islands become favourite party venues for the city’s youth.
Conveniently, Hovedøya, the nearest island to the city centre, is also the most interesting and probably the prettiest, its rocky, rolling hills decorated with woods and pastures. There are several specific attractions too, beginning with the Kunstverket, a little art gallery housed in an old building just up from the jetty, where there are displays of contemporary art. There are also the substantial ruins of a Cistercian monastery, built by English monks in the twelfth century, and incidental military remains, reminders of the time when the island was garrisoned and armed to protect Oslo’s harbour. Maps of the island are displayed here and there – there’s one at the jetty – and these help with orientation, but on an islet of this size – it’s just ten minutes’ walk from one end to the other – getting lost is pretty much impossible. There are plenty of footpaths to wander, you can swim at the shingle beaches on the south shore, and there’s a seasonal café opposite the monastery ruins. Camping, however, is not permitted as Hovedøya is a protected area, which is also why there are no summer homes.