I immediately fell in love with Oslo. It is simply stunning!
With innovative architecture, vibrant social scene and lots of greenery, Oslo has a great combination of town and nature in one. Harbor waterfront, famous fresh seafood restaurants, and modern museums are all within walking distance from the center. Because the town is quite small, there are so many activities you can put on your bucket list and do within a long weekend.
Despite being one of the most expensive cities in the world it is worth a visit.
Fly to the Olso airport and then take a metro to the city center, to your hotel or apartment. As mentioned, you can reach most of the places by walking but if you decide to go further, use a well connected public transportation. Get an Oslo Pass for your stay. The price includes entrance to most museums, public transit, and the mini-cruise! It’s efficient and will save you some money, too.
When to go:
If you want to see snow and enjoy skiing, skating or other winter activities come during the winter. Be aware that this time of the year the days are quite short and you don’t have that many hours in the day. Even though it is dark at this time of the year you will not probably see the northern lights. For this, you have to go further north, for example to Tromso.
In December you can experience Nobel price parade, which happens on December 10th. Join the crowds by Karl Johans gate and enjoy the torch parade.
In the summertime, you can enjoy long days, walking or sitting by the fjord and taking a boat tour around the area.
If you happen to be in Oslo in August (19-21) you have a great opportunity to see lots of exhibitors with textiles or ceramics on the Arts & Crafts Fair.
In September, there is an annual Oslo Book Festival, which is host to world-renowned authors and varying literary events. It runs September 17-19 and is free and open to everyone. It takes place at Karl Johans gate, the Opera house, and the House of Literature.
Sunset during the short winter days.
Find good accommodation near the center because it is really nice to walk everywhere. There is a wide selection of AirBnBs and Hotels. Oslo is quite expensive so you will have to search a bit if you are budget sensitive.
What to Eat and Drink:
Røkt Laks or Smoked Salmon
With many fishing areas around, salmon can be your number one option for trying the fresh local food. You can eat it with traditional sauce or on an open sandwich.
Many can see this dish similar to the Sweedish meatballs which you can try in IKEA. However, it differs in beef, ginger, and nutmeg and it is fried. Nowadays you can try this delicates with many different seasonings or gravy.
Another dish from the fish family from north of Norway is a cold-air dried cod fish. Cold air-dried fish is one of the oldest preservation techniques and it has a really specific rich flavor which might not be suitable for everyone.
Where to Eat:
The popular time for dinner in Scandinavia is around 6 pm, so the restaurants might be busy at this time.
Get a coffee and cake in this very popular shopping, dining and residential area in Oslo. Just a few years back, this area was a busy dock and shipyard, now renovated into the car-free zone for locals and tourists to hang out. A lot of the eating places and cafes have outside seating which is great for watching the sunset! It is magnificent!
(Kirkeveien 40) This typical Norwegian restaurant is a little bit out of the city center but with great fresh food.
(Bankplassen 1,) One of the oldest restaurants in Olso with range of typical Norwegian dishes
(Hausmanns gate 31a,) if you want to try something else than Scandinavian food here in Oslo get this Amazing Mexican burrito!
(Universitetsgata 2) Great coffee during the day even with seats outside or cool cocktail bar at night. You can also sample coffee beans with different roasting methods. They even have interesting events happening like sake tasting or music shows.
Sunset in the residential area peer of Aker Brygge.
If you happen to be in Oslo in the winter you should not miss the 2km long toboggan run. Join this popular winter activity by renting the sled and helmet in some of the shops at final metro stop at Frognerseteren and off you go!
Norsk Folk Museum
Traditional old houses in Norsk Folk Museum are my absolutely favorite spot in Oslo. I read that this open air museum stands as an inspiration for many movies! There are 150 buildings and you will feel like in Viking times with all the carved wood decorated houses and churches.
The Magic Ice bar Oslo
As I have never been in the ice bar before I decided that I have to have this experience checked off my bucket list. It is definitely something new and memorable.
You get an opportunity to have a drink from an ice glass and you can walk around in fun coat with fur. It is a fun activity to do with friends as you can take loads of funny pictures with ice sculptures. It is quite pricey so for a family or couple it might not be worth the short visit for such price.
Check out a Viking ship
East of the city center in Bygdøy, you can find one of the best preserved old ships in the Viking ship museum. Learn about the history and see amazing wood work and ornament decorations.
Cute Norwegian town filled with small cozy shops and pastry shops. It is said this is the home of the Norwegian Santa clause.You can even see walls covered with Santa’s letter in the city center tourist office by the harbor. If you have more days available in your travel itinerary for the area of Oslo this can be your half day trip. Take bus #500 at Oslo S bus terminal or go for a scenic boat ride through Oslo fjords. It is definitely more enjoyable when the sun is out, otherwise, you can expect cold nordic wind and very little people out in the streets.
Akershus Fortress is a castle dating back to 1299. It has a beautiful park where you can take a stroll and take pictures. Immerse yourself into hunderd years of Norwegian history.
Oslo Opera House
Capture photographs of the iconic venue, an outstanding landmark by the fjord. The building is designed by Tarald Lundevall and it has been awarded many prestigious architecture prizes so it is definitely a must see. You can walk around the modern square and even go on the roof and get a magnificent view. I loved to see the sunset through the glass panels and reflected also in the sculpture in the water just in front.
As you may know, Norway is a monarchy so this landmark is a must see. It is really impressive from the outside so just take a stroll around. Not worth the guided tour as it is quite short and only takes place in the summer.
Artist in you:
Shopping in Oslo
Nordic design! Stroll around the shops and discover why so may people (like me:)) are obsessed with Scandinavian interior design items. Moreover, a simple monochromatic design from brands like COS, Other Stories, Only or H&M may come to your mind immediately.
I recommend you to walk along the Karl Johans gate. On Oslo’s main shopping street you will find most of the famous Nordic shops. This area will lead you to the royal palace. Shopping here you can feel as one of the locals but be nice to your wallet because the shops don’t have discounts so often.
Vigeland Museum Park
This park is enormous – 80 acres and it’s the largest sculpture park made by a single artist named Gustav Vigeland. It represents his life work of 212 sculptures, each one portraying a different part of the “wheel of life”! It is very enjoyable to walk around and admire his artistic skills.
In recent years it became quite touristy, but it’s definitely worth the visit, especially if the weather is nice. It is a bit far from the city center, so you will need at least 1/2 a day to explore. Once you are there, you can combine it with visiting areas called Majorstuen (traditional) and Frogner (chic and lively). I recommend the latter, with its cool interior design shops, high-end cafés, and picturesque residential streets. A definite must-visit if you really want to get a feel of the city outside the main tourist zone.
Art in the national Galery
With the great collection of art pieces, especially when it is cold outside, this is a great option how to spend time indoors. It costs 50 NOK but it is free on Thursdays.
Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art
This museum in a spectacular building at the harbor front is a private collection of Norwegian shipping magnates and features contemporary art like golden Michael Jackson statue.
Summary of the top things to see:
1. Oslo Opera House
2. Norsk Folk Museum
3. Viking ship museum
3. Aker Brygge area
4. Royal Palace
6. Vigeland Museum Park,
7. National Galery
8. Akershus Fortress.
9. The Magic Ice bar Oslo
11. Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art
12. Shopping in Oslo
13. Oslo Reptile park
Thank you for reading! Did I miss anything? Have you been here or is it on your bucket list? Would you like to see something more in this post? I would love to know in the comments bellow!
Get Rick Steves Scandinavia or Eyewitness travel, Norway guide.