Den ultimata guiden till Oslo
Welcome to Oslo!
There is always a quiet person at a party. Yet there’s something about them that intrigues you and once you start chatting it feels like you’ve known this captivating and fascinating person your whole life! This is Oslo.
Don’t let Oslo’s quiet and cool demeanour fool you, however! In this humbly-sized capital, Oslo’s stunning ocean view, Viking history and the finest knitwear Scandinavia has to offer is just the tip of this iceberg. Look below the surface, and you’ll find fascinating history, beautiful forests and parks and… hipster micro-breweries? Dive deeper into the exciting and ever-shifting cultural hub of Norway.
With its 1,000 year-old origins, Oslo, whose name means ’meadow at the bottom of the hill’ has kept it’s natural green aesthetic while growing into a thriving city hub of food, festivals and fjord adventures. A proud nation, home to the Nobel Peace Prize and Polar exploration, welcome you to your own venture in this exciting city.
The beauty of a small capital city is that there’s much to see, and a short space to travel to see it all. So you can get the most out of your stay, wherever you find yourself.
Whether you’re interested in Royalty, Politics or the arts, take your pick on Oslo’s main pedestrian street Karl Johans gate, located in the city centre. A country hugely proud of its independence, many of Norway’s biggest institutions can be found here; The Royal Palace and its beautiful gardens overlook the National Theatre – home to one of the world’s most influential playwrights, Henrik Ibsen.
The Stortinget (Parliament) stands proud while a host of shops and restaurants offer local and international cuisine. All of this just a stone’s throw from the Nobel Peace Centre, Oslo City Hall (where the Peace Prize is given) and the National Museum (opening Autumn 2020).
Akershus Fortress casts its protective eye over the Oslo Fjord itself, so bring your camera; there’s more to see here than you can shake your selfie-stick at!
Ordinarily, walking on a roof doesn’t sound like a good idea… yet it’s a must-do experience in Oslo as the white marble of the Opera House is the ideal spot to interact with innovative architecture while enjoying this eccentric part of the fjord. The modern ’barcode’ buildings, the scenic Ekeberg Hill, the fascinating new Munch Museum (Note: museum in Tøyen until moving to Bjørvika site in summer 2020) and another stunning view of the Oslo Fjord means there’s a lot to see in this area.
Close to the Central Station, you’d easily be able to get to any other areas of this fascinating city in a short space of time.
It’s a Scream in Grünerløkka! The world-famous Edward Munch used to live here, and artistic residents continue to share their expressions in all forms; amazing street art, vintage shops, funky food choices and microbreweries to aid you ale exploration. All this in the sub-cultural area that never loses its cool.
A former industrial district, along the Akerselva River – known now as ’Oslo’s Green Lung’ – you’ll find a gorgeous flow of welcoming, collaborative projects and community hubs. For intimate and alternative music, as well as an impressive Sunday craft market, remarkable sculptures and dynamic street art, Blå is the place. Round the corner you’ll find Mathallen; the food hall which doesn’t disappoint in delivering the creativity and variety that Grünerløkka has to offer.
We’ve already raved about the view of this inland sea. Why not dive in… or perhaps take a boat, across the Oslo Fjord? You may simply like being on the water, or you might want to use it to get from A to B – B being Bygdøy where some of Norway’s most famous museums await!
You can’t help but be drawn to the fjord, and it might be because the forested islands look too tempting to turn down. The islands of Hovedøya, Lindøya and Gressholmen all offer their own unique experience and perspective of one of Norway’s proudest bodies of water.
You can be the captain of your own ship… well, you can rent a kayak at least and paddle your way around this gorgeous fjord city.
We weren’t joking about diving in though – whether, on one of these islands beautiful beaches, or dedicated swimming areas, the Oslo Fjord is the perfect place to make use of this doorstep-ocean.
You can have a Big Day in Bygdøy! See the world’s best-preserved Viking ships and the treasures that were buried within, as we take you back over 1,200 years. A little closer to our time, the people of Norway were at the forefront of Polar expeditions; see the Fram ship, find out about the exciting tales from both poles and prepare to board the vessel itself. Your sea legs may like to stretch to the Maritime and Kontiki Museum which are very close by. Plenty to put down in your captain’s logbook!
Life in Norway isn’t all nautical though… At the Norwegian Folk Museum, you can find out all about life through the ages in this proud country. And if hiking’s your thing, beautiful parkland awaits. Even bring a picnic! There’s enough to see in this area alone to work up an appetite.
Aker brygge & tjuvholmen
Ship-building used to dominate this area, yet these days you’ll be building memories and putting the wind in your sails as you recharge your sight-seeing batteries and enjoy life by the Oslo Fjord in this haven of shops, restaurants and cafes. You’ll find local Norwegian seafood, International cuisine or a taste of wherever feels like home to you – whatever your needs, indulge yourself!
The curious sloping roof of the Museum of Modern Art brings a striking conclusion to this stretch by the water at Tjuvholmen – a perfect example of how Oslo has been transformed into a city of new and eclectic architecture in recent years. With a city beach to enjoy, you’ll definitely feel you’ll have dipped your toes into Oslo’s Fjord City vibe.
The birthplace of medieval Oslo, visit where it all began over 1,000 years ago. Indeed, there are signs on Ekeberg Hill of people living here as long ago as the Bronze Age. Yet the hill is now home to Ekeberg Sculpture Park, which is appropriately artistic as this hill is where Edward Munch devised The Scream, with the hill’s view of the Oslo Fjord making it one of our recommended lookout points. From here you’ll see Sørenga, where you can get much closer to the water… or in it if you’d like! The year-round seawater pool with its backdrop of forested islands and nearby, incoming sea-vessels, you can have a truly immersive fjord experience.
Walks amongst the ruins of the original medieval town square in Gamle Byen (the Old Town) and visit the monument to Oslo’s founder Harald Hardrada – The Last Viking King. See the humble reemergence of this area of the town in the traditional Scandinavian buildings of Vålerenga and Kampen.
There’s much to see in Tøyen with the Botanical Gardens, the Natural History Museum and the Munch Museum (Note: museum moving to new Bjørvika site in summer 2020). Bordering with the hipster area of Grünerløkka, new and exciting urban treasures await to be uncovered in these older areas of Norway’s capital.
In Frogner Park you’ll find Norway’s biggest sculpture park – indeed the biggest in the world devoted to a single artist – as over 200 of Gustav Vigeland’s creations make this 80-acre green space one of the city’s most popular destinations.
Taking to the streets, you’ll find luxurious homes and apartments – a popular area for many foreign embassies – as well as lavish interior decoration stores and fancy boutiques.
Majorstuen’s most popular activity is shopping where many famous labels can be found, and a few lesser-known Scandinavian brands await your discovery. If spending money is a walk in the park for you, you could follow it with… a walk in the park! St. Hanshaugen’s sizeable green space boasts a reflective pool, beautiful views and intimate corners to rest your feet… and your credit card!
Holmenkollen is easy to spot from the city – just look for the ski jump proudly looking over the capital of the country that enjoys skiing as its national sport, pastime… and even as a way of getting around the city! Whatever time of year you visit, you’ll be able to make your way up via public transport and see the tower up close. Visit the world’s oldest ski museum and see stunning panoramic views. If you want a more ’extreme’ view of the city, you could try Kollensvevet – a 360 metre-long zipline dropping over 100 metres from the top of the tower.
There are several great views from this area, including the view from the Scandinavian chalet-style Holmenkollen Park Hotel, making this a must-see spot if you like breathtaking views for you, your loved ones… and your Instagram followers!
Travelling to & from Oslo
By air, rail, road or sea, you’ll see beautiful Norwegian landscape before arriving in the city. Eager to explore what awaits you in the capital? We’re not surprised! Your destination awaits:
Travel company Ruter has both inner-city trains and transport links to all nearby towns with other companies if you want to travel further afield.
Gardermoen airport is the main city airport with excellent transport links to Oslo Central Station, known as Oslo S. The quickest and cheapest way to travel in either direction is by local train. With ticket machines available at Gardermoen and Oslo S (you can also use the Ruter app), you can get to your destination within 30 minutes. Buses are available but are often more expensive and take longer. Ticket machines for Flytoget – the airport express – are in both locations as are Taxis.
Torp Sandefjord is Oslo’s secondary airport – BUT BE AWARE! If you haven’t booked your flights yet the distance to central Oslo is longer, the journey taking around 2 hours each way!
The benefit of a fjord city is coming ashore and being right in the thick of things. Cruise ships can dock at four different quays (or kaias in Norwegian) very close to the city centre. The piers are Filipstadkaia, Søndre Akershuskai, Vippetangkaia and Revierkaia. You can see the location of all of the quays at the Port of Oslo website.
Travelling within Oslo
Norway is rich! And being a modest-sized capital city in one of the wealthiest countries in the world, it’s pleasing to hear that the money is well spent. The infrastructure of Oslo means it’s easy for you to see it all:
Name your vehicle! Whether by bus, tram, metro or ferry, you can sit back and easily enjoy Oslo with tickets through Ruter (see how to purchase and use tickets here). Please note! If you’re heading over to the museums at Bygdøy by boat, it isn’t covered by a Ruter ticket. Either purchase a ticket for the boat at the pier kiosk or online here.
Set your own pace and still see Oslo’s best bits. It’s very easy to explore this compact city, you can walk from the Opera House to The Royal Palace within 30 minutes, with all the main city centre sites, just a street or two away. Like to stay by the water? No problem! From the Opera House, you can enjoy the view of the fjord for most of the way to Tjuvholmen within 40 minutes.
You will always find your feet with us of course; see the main sights on our Oslo City Walk, behold bohemian Oslo strolling with us on our Hipstoric Grünerløkka tour or meander through medieval Oslo and beyond with our Medieval Oslo – Ashes to Rebirth tour.
Like to control your own wheels? City Bikes can be found at 250 stations across Oslo available to rent for 24 hours or longer at a reasonable price. You should find one easily; download the app to sign up, and you can see where the nearest available bike stations are to pick up or drop off. We can also help you get on your bike and see the city with our guided Oslo’s Urban Treasures by Bike tour.
From teenagers to investment bankers, everybody in Oslo seems to be using these fun, easy-to-use electric scooters. New in 2019, with several rental companies to choose from VOI and LIME, are the most widely available. We don’t want to sound like your mum… but they can go quite fast and are not easy to hear coming, so make sure you feel safe on the scooters first!
With reliable public transport in the city, you may still want to hire a Taxi to get where you need to be. Trustworthy and safe, we recommend Oslo Taxi and Norges Taxi. Be aware this is not the cheapest option to get around – travelling about 5km is likely to cost about 150 NOK (15 USD).
Practical information for Oslo
Get in-the-know on how things work in Oslo.
Card is king
Around the year 1050, King Harald Hardrade established the first viable coin economy in Norway. Today he’d only need to keep a card in his chainmail – Card is King here in Oslo!
Though cash is still accepted almost everywhere – beware some may look at you with a raised eyebrow before giving you change – even the humblest of shops, street food trucks and market stalls take card payment. However, when travelling, it’s always best to carry some cash with you. If you don’t end up spending all your Norwegian Krone/NOK, you can always exchange any leftover money at Forex – situated in Oslo S with several more sites around the city.
Check here to see how much your home currency is in Norwegian Kroner.
Weather & Seasons
A country of extremes, beautiful all year round, here is what you can expect from the weather when you come to Oslo:
After cold and dark of winter, the beginning of Spring is a significant relief to many Oslo citizens. Be aware, it’s not quite time for shorts and t-shirt – there’s plenty of water around with the melting of the winter ice and snow. There seems to be an almost-overnight explosion of greenery and blossom, and the city gardeners are out in full force. There’s excitement in the city as the beautiful long summer days are on their way… but still best to bring your waterproofs and a heavy coat.
The four or five hours of sunlight of the winter feels like a distant memory – the sun does set each day, but it doesn’t get dark! This is why most hotels have blackout curtains and blinds – best check your accommodation… or at least pack your eye mask just to be safe! Norway has a reputation for being cold. But, Scandinavian summers really are the best-kept secret – most Norwegians stay in the country across summer and Oslo families leave for vacation in rural cabins. Whenever you come in the summer, there’s a very happy and celebratory vibe.
Weather & Seasons
A country of extremes, beautiful all year round, here is what you can expect from the weather when you come to Oslo:
Fall seems to happen with a snap of the fingers – within a couple of weeks, leaves have left their trees so they can give the ground nourishment for the cold months ahead. With so many park areas and forest surrounding the city with a mix of evergreen and deciduous trees, autumn brings a beautiful and vibrant colour to the city as it begins to get itself cosy – the perfect time for Fika (coffee and cake/pastry). Norwegians have a saying – ”There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes!” Be smart, bring layers and expect wet weather but don’t be put off – there’s still plenty worth seeing both in and outdoors.
A few hundred years ago, if you asked a Norwegian how old they were they might reply “I have seen forty winters!” Every year of life was a success! Now, living conditions are of course much improved, but there is no such thing as a mild winter here. Bring thermal underwear, wool and grow a beard… if you can. Of course, if you love the snow and want to ski, then you’re in the perfect place, and you get to see the beauty of Oslo in a truly Nordic light! The canvas of white snow – unpredictable but usually arriving in November/December – can provide a canvas of light across the city that makes up for the few hours of sunlight the people of Oslo get to enjoy. While still beautiful, it’s best to stay inside!
Norway has a fantastic universal healthcare system, so you’ll be in safe hands should you fall ill or need treatment in Oslo. As with anywhere, make sure you have travel insurance that includes medical cover. Wherever you’re coming from, check your rights for reimbursement. A doctor’s appointment may cost between 150-350 NOK (15-40 USD).
The tap water in Norway is of excellent quality, so drink away! Be sure to check yourself for ticks if you spend time in nature while you’re here.
In an emergency dial 113 for an ambulance, or visit Oslo Emergency Ward which is located at Storgata 40, 0182, Oslo, tel +47 116 117.
Click here for updated information about healthcare in Norway.
Generally speaking, you can stay in Norway for up to 90 days if you are an EU or US citizen.
However, wherever you are coming from, with migration policy subject to change, you can check here for the latest visa status and requirements to visit Norway from your home country.
Tipping isn’t a necessary part of Norwegian culture yet in big cities, like Oslo, it’s becoming more commonplace to offer a tip between 10-20% in restaurants, hotels and cafes when a guest is happy with the service.
Voltage and adapters
You will need a European adaptor as Norway uses the Europlug which has two round prongs. Outlets supply 220 volts from the wall, so check your appliances in case you need a ’step-down transformer’ – this mainly applies to countries outside Europe as most of the continent supplies 220 volts, though the US, for example, runs 110 from wall outlets.
- Hello = Hei
- Goodbye/Have a good day = Ha det bra
- Thank you = Takk (Note: Norwegians don’t say please often, but they always say takk!).
- You’re welcome = Vær så god
- Cheers! = Skål!
- Do you speak English? = Snakker du engelsk?
- I don’t understand! = Jeg forstår ikke!
- Where is the toilet? = Hvor er toalettet?
- I love your sweater! = Jeg elsker genseren din!
- Do all men have beards here? = Har alle menn skjegg her?
Want to make sure you don’t miss any off the stops? Doin’t miss our Oslo Must Sees TourLäs mer & boka
Oslo’s top stops
Viking ship museum
THE VIKINGS ARE HERE! A terrifying thing to hear about a thousand years ago, Oslo provides a window into a fascinating culture that dramatically changed the world.
At the Viking Ship Museum in Bygdøy, three ships await your discovery. All found along the Oslo Fjord, these ships were used by clans as tombs, buried in the clay-like soil providing some of the best-preserved Viking ships and artefacts in the world.
Included in our Oslo Highlights Private Walking Tour (there’s an option for transport too!), you can step back in time with us as we tell you the story of the explorers, traders and colonisers of The Viking Age.
Karl Johans gate
Karl Johans gate (meaning ’street’) isn’t just any street in Oslo. Named after the Swedish King responsible for The Royal Palace, you’ll find several proud Norwegian institutions along this stretch; from the artistic National Theatre; the studious University of Oslo; the luxurious Grand Hotel; the heart of Norway’s famous sense of social democracy at the Stortinget (Parliament).
The chimes of the nearby Oslo City Hall bell tower ring over this hub of Norwegian national pride. There’s so much to take in, but we can give you all you need to know on our public city walks, or as part of a private tour to suit your needs.
Vigeland’s Sculpture Park
Vigeland’s Sculpture Park is so very Norwegian! With over fifty different parks in Oslo, and the Norwegians proud love of nature, then it makes sense to come to the biggest one in the city – indeed the biggest sculpture park in the world dedicated to just one artist.
Gustav Vigeland designed every aspect of the park as he lived and worked in his studio, located in the park, to create the pinnacle of his life’s work. With over 200 sculptures depicting over 700 figures, the depth of one person’s artistic output needs to be seen to be believed.
We are on hand to walk you through the main stretch of this inspiring and jaw-dropping park as part of our Oslo & Vigeland Park Private Driving Tour, and Oslo Must Sees tours.
OURWAY Guides’ top stops
Away from the heart of the city, Markveien – often named ’Oslo’s coolest street’ – could call to your inner hipster. Just over the ’Fairytale Bridge’ also known as Ankerbrua, you’ll find vintage clothing shops, eccentric toy stores, relaxing cafes, unique restaurants and the occasional art gallery and craft store. A great way to spend an hour or so off the beaten path.
Adding a different flavour to the Oslo Fjord, SALT describes itself as an art and music venue, yet it so much more. With street food offering organic and eco-friendly dishes, with plenty of vegan options, these sea-side hipsters also host three different saunas and have regular outdoor events amidst their distinctive A-frame structures. It’s worth adding even just a pinch of SALT to your stay.
Quietly wind your way through Oslo with a walk along the Akerselva – or Aker River. Known as Oslo’s Green Lung, beautiful greenery, flora and fauna adorn the banks all with the backdrop of a chimney or two of Oslo’s industrial past and it’s artistic present with artwork and diverse architecture to see.
You can start out near the beautiful Maridalsvannet Lake for a two hour walk of this 8km stretch, or pick a smaller stroll closer to the city – either way, there’ll be plenty of cafes in which to grab a coffee and pastry (known as Fika!) on your way down to the fjord.
If you thought Norway was just fish and fine knitwear, think again. Delve into Norwegian history and culture with some of the most popular museums in Scandinavia:
Most Visited Museums
The Viking Ship Museum
Impressive ships, fascinating artefacts, human remains – with so much well-preserved history to witness, along with some captivating storytelling in several short films, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time. Then step into the gift shop to take home a rune or two!
The Nobel Peace Centre
The proud home of the world’s most prestigious prize, this museum has permanent installations telling the story of the creator of the prize, Alfred Nobel, with a history of previous winners including Martin Luther King Jr, Mother Teresa, Barack Obama, Malala Yousafzai and Nelson Mandela. There is an exhibition of the current winner that changes every year when a new winner receives the award at the Oslo City Hall.
The Fram Museum
Voted the best museum in Norway, the stories of the Fram polar ship will give you chills! Brrrr. In Norwegian Fram means ’Forward’ and the vessel didn’t just help map our planet’s coldest regions, it put the newly independent Norway on the map as a country of explorers and adventurers. The museum tells the epic tales of discovery, determination and drama, and you can step aboard the actual ship to imagine what life onboard was really like.
Must unique museums
Norwegian Folk Museum
The country’s largest museum dedicated to the ancestral and cultural history of Norway. So much to see inside and out; here you’ll find the world’s oldest open-air museum including a stave church from the 1100s as you’ll discover slices of country and town life across Norway’s fascinating history.
Norway is known for its adventurers, and Thor Heyerdahl is one of the most famous. His journey from Peru to Polynesia in 1947 was an incredible achievement when you consider he did it on a raft made of balsa wood. The craft has to be seen to be believed, and you can right here. Hear about Heyerdahl’s world-famous expeditions and his archaeological and conservational work around the world.
A national heritage site with signs of Bronze Age settlement Ekeberg Hill Sculpture Park is an up-high highlight. Tied to the humble beginnings of the city of Oslo, and adorned with sculptures celebrating women by classical and contemporary artists all amongst dense woodland and luscious green space it’s also the birthplace of one of the most famous paintings ever; The Scream. No big deal! Perfect for a picnic with amazing views of the city, we can be on hand to show you to the park’s most interesting sculptures while investigating this terrain significant to Oslo’s past.
Outdoor & indoor activities in winter
To get an idea of what life of the locals look like, winter is a beautiful (and very cold) time to see the city. Wrap up and join in the fun:
Many Norwegians are taught how to ski before they can walk. Well, not quite… though it’s a vital part of many a Norwegian’s life, whether for recreation or simply as a way of getting around!
Cross-country ski trails span over 2,500km and run deep into the forests surrounding Oslo. With traditional cabins stocked with tea, coffee and homemade baked goods, you can enjoy these trails each winter. There may not be a lot of light in Oslo at this time, but areas are lit especially in the late afternoon and evening to guide you through the winter wonderland of rural Oslo.
If you prefer something a little more vertical, then head to Oslo Winter Park. Amongst the activities available are alpine skiing and snowboarding. Children and beginners have their own areas to practice in.
Get your skates on in the city by visiting Oslo’s impressive ice rinks. The outdoor Spikersuppa ice rink in the heart of the city, by Karl Johans gate, is the perfect place to practice your spins… or to cling onto the edge until you find your feet! A larger rink is located at Frogner Stadium in Majorstua, next to the Vigeland Park if you’d prefer something away from the hustle and bustle.
Harbour baths & sauna
Swimming in the fjord is a must for many Oslo inhabitants, and you can join in on the fun in the sun at Sørenga Seawater Pool. With lanes and diving boards, as well as areas to stretch out with a good book, you don’t need to be by the coast to enjoy the blue of the sea and sky in Oslo.
A ’supporter of the sauna’ as well as a ’fan of the fjord’? Well, have the best of both worlds with floating saunas from KOK, looking onto the Opera House. With different sized ’boats’ able to take up to 10 or 14 people, you can take a reinvigorating steam followed by a quick dip in the fjord, before retreating back into the warmth again. A lot of fun… and very Scandinavian!
A short walk down the fjord you’ll find SALT – a nomadic art project – where you can choose between one of several saunas right by the fjord. Temperatures range between 60 and 90 degrees centigrade and higher.
One of the most important questions to ask yourself when in Oslo is ’Fika?’. Just say, yes! A Swedish term, the concept of having a coffee, usually along with a pastry, it quite rightly deserves its own word. You’ll find many cafes willing to accommodate the sweetest of teeth and caffeine-cravers won’t be disappointed when needing a few minutes to stop and watch the world go by when visiting Oslo.
Outdoor & indoor activities in summer
Long summer days where it never gets fully dark in the height of the season. Enjoy the sunshine with these things to do in Oslo:
When in one of the world’s most beautiful fjord cities, why not paddle your way to a new perspective of Oslo with your very own kayak? Experience the surrounding nature and see the sights from the big blue, or head up the Aker River for a unique inner-city experience.
Tours are available, and advisable if you’re a beginner, to make sure you’re comfortable with the craft, and so you know where to go. All companies will give you a safety briefing and find the equipment that is right for you. Check out Mad Goats for kayak and SUP experiences (Stand Up Paddleboarding).
Swimming: Beaches & baths
As well as the seawater pool of Sørenga, a little closer to the centre you’ll find the Tjuvholmen City Beach (a pebble beach). Dip your toes or fully immerse yourself in the fjord, you’ll be surrounded by diverse modern architecture in this vibrant yet tucked-away area. It’s also a great place for children to splash about.
There are also some natural beaches in Bygdøy – Paradisbukta, and Bygdøy Sjøbad and Huk – all with kiosks, toilets, and showers. Be aware that you’ll get a stripped-down version of Oslo if you visit Huk – it’s a beach very popular with naturists!
Take your pick for picnic spots in Oslo! It’s no coincidence that there are 55 parks in the city, residents and visitors should never be more than a 10 minute walk from a perfect spot for a packed lunch.
Like the Royal treatment? The palace grounds are open to the public with plenty of space for everyone. Other highlights include the Vigeland Park, the island of Hovedøya and the Botanical Gardens located in the grounds of the Natural History Museum in Tøyen.
Island hopping in the archipelago
Looking out from the ’mainland’ you can’t help but feel invited to explore the rich, green forests on the islands of the Oslo Fjord. So why not hop over?
Hovedøya has secluded beaches, monastery ruins and cannon sentries (don’t worry – it’s not currently in use!) Perhaps then continue to Lindøya with its traditional Scandinavian wooden houses, gorgeous views and beautiful plant life. Or the island of Gressholmen, which translates as ’Grass Island’, so greenery guaranteed!
Whether you go to one, two or all three of these islands, you’ll get to experience a different perspective of the Oslo Fjord. With regular boats, the passage is covered via a Ruter ticket.
Activities for children
Travelling can sometimes feel a bit like a rollercoaster. No more so at Tusenfryd! Meaning ’A thousand smiles’ this theme park house several roller coasters such as Speed Monster, a 4D nordic adventure experience, Thor’s Hammer, as well as gentler rides for the little ones.
International Museum of Children’s Art
Collecting and preserving children’s art from all over the world, the museum not only showcases but encourages all forms of artistic expression. At the International Museum of Children’s Art, kids can enjoy activities in music, singing and painting, there are also outdoor activities in the summer months.
Norwegian Museum of Science and Technology
Though the kids are off school, they’re brains are still switched on, and they’ll be fascinated while having fun at the Teknisk Museum. With dozens of exciting and interactive installations exploring natural science and technology in society, we might be able to teach the adults a thing or two as well!
One for the big kids too! If you come in the winter, there are many great sledging sites in the city park suitable for all ages. If your kids aren’t too small, then head to Oslo’s most popular sledging site. Korketrekkeren means ’the corkscrew’, and this 2km sledge run is aptly based close to the home of Norwegian skiing, Holmenkollen.
Parks & Green areas
Being in nature is a vital part of every Norwegian’s life. Any map of Oslo will show you this, with 55 parks to choose from you’re spoiled in getting your dose of the great outdoors in the city:
We’ve mentioned this before but by another name – the Vigeland Park. Many locals come here as, away from the impressive sculptures, the 80 acres of this space makes it the biggest park in Oslo, and it’s often hard to believe you’re in the city. Especially so when you find your own little corner to enjoy.
St. Hanshaugen’s Park
You’ll have a lovely view of the city to enjoy at the top of the hill at this popular recreational area. Great for a romantic walk too!
The Botanical Gardens
You’ll notice something strange in a number of the parks in Stockholm, they’re often dotted with lovely tiny little houses with beautiful gardens. These are allotment hut with, given out by the state (we’ll actually you have to queue to get one, and the waiting list is long!) to people who live in the city but don’t have a garden. At Tantolunden you can walk amongst the very best of these gardens, enjoy the park and even play a little frisbee golf if you fancy.
Ekeberg Sculpture Park
Is perfect for families with its mix of nature, art, views of Oslo and kids play areas.
By the water
If you like to mix your green with a bit of blue then you can venture out to the islands of Hovedøya, Lindøya and Gressholmen all with their unique feel and terrain to explore. If you’d like to stay on the mainland, Oslo’s Green Lung of the Aker River is a beautiful stretch of water, flora and fauna. If you want to get on your bike, Bygdøy has glorious park-like countryside and dense woods with sea-views, beaches and even the royal farm to take in and to get a little bit of everything.
Impressive Instagram view points!
We all love a good landscape. Get a whole lot of love (or likes) from your followers as we break down some key spots to get a great view of Oslo:
It used to be the perfect place to see enemy ships approach from the fjord. Now all you need to worry about is which filter to use as you see the Oslo skyline and surrounding forests looking down onto the fjord. The only enemy ship may be, a cruise ship docked where your view of the fjord should be, depending on when you visit. If you’re staying on that ship though you get to see your accommodation from a slightly different perspective!
A view from the East of the city, close to Oslo’s humble beginnings, you can look out onto the fjord city that you call home for your stay and a view that inspired Edward Munch to paint The Scream. You may hear the odd yelp but don’t worry – that’s just someone getting the perfect Instagram pic!
Holmenkollen Ski Jump Tower
To the West of the city, you get a very different view of Oslo. One of the highest points in Oslo is the Holmenkollen ski jump tower. Your ski museum entry will enable you to get up here to see the incredible panoramic view of this beautiful fjord city.
Others spots in the West
If you don’t venture up to the tower, you can get a great view at the Scandic Holmenkollen Park hotel – where you’ll also get to enjoy the traditional Scandinavian chalet-style architecture of the building. Or if you wanted to grab a menu with a view, Frognerseteren Restaurant and Cafe is a unique selfie-spot.
The hidden gems of Oslo
Cemetery of Our Saviour
Graves? Really?! Well, this is no ordinary cemetery. Originally a place of burial to deal with the cholera epidemic of the early 1800s, this graveyard is aptly named as the home of Oslo and Norway’s greatest political and cultural heroes such as Henrik Ibsen and Edward Munch. With burials stopping here since 1952, this is viewed more as a place of solitude where national heroes and heroines can be recognised.
Fancy a meditative spot on the fjord? Well so did some English monks who found a small church on the island of Hovedøya and extended it with a monastery. This small abbey was built in the 1100s and was pillaged and burned down in the 1500s. With a nearby cafe and the luscious greenery of the island to enjoy, you can see why they wanted to live here… well, maybe the cafe wasn’t here back then! Maybe. Hop over on a ferry from Aker Brygge pier.
Damstredet and Teltusbakken
Amongst the modern buildings of Oslo is a postcard picture of traditional Scandinavian houses on this charming hill close to the Royal Palace. This short yet idyllic cobbled street seems like a step back in time because of the still-lived-in houses dating back to the late 1700s. Just a short walk away there are more houses on Teltusbakken by the iconic, medieval Aker Church.
We don’t want these gems to stay hidden from you, which is why Damstredet, Teltusbakken and the Cemetery of Our Saviours are available to view on our tour of Hipstoric Grünerløkka.
Activities outside the city
Got a few more days to explore the area, or prefer to venture away from the main sites? Expand your Oslo horizon with a few suggestions from us:
It’s Christmas! Well, perhaps not during your stay but Drøbak is known as ’The Christmas Village’ with Norway’s biggest permanent Christmas exhibition. Consider visiting at any time of year as these streets from the 1700s with traditional, small wooden houses have a cosy and idyllic fjord-village vibe. You can get to Drøbak within an hour by bus or take the ferry for an extra half an hour where you’ll make short stops in up to 12 picturesque harbours as you make your way down the fjord. Always check Ruter for times and the latest travel information.
On an island just outside Drøbak, you can visit the Oscarsborg Fortress which you can get to via regular ferries. Named after the visit of Oscar I in 1855, this proud structure’s main claim to fame is for the sinking of the Nazi’s German cruiser Blücher during World War II – and when you get back to the city you can see the anchor of this ship on display along Aker Brygge!
Henie Onstad Museum
Not too far away from the main action, you’ll find a fantastic array of artistic treasures collated by world-famous figure skater and Hollywood actress Sonja Henie and her husband, Niel Onstad. The Henie Onstad collection comprises of works by Picasso, Matisse, Beuys, Christo and many famous Norwegian artists. Buses depart regularly from Oslo S stopping at Høvikodden, a short walk from the museum. Check Ruter for details.
Looking for the perfect gift for someone back home, or just looking to treat yourself,? Amongst typical souvenirs, you’ll find trolls, Vikings and many clothing items proudly displaying the national flag. Of course, who could forget the most Norwegian piece of clothing – the woollen sweater! Find all these items and more in our guide to shopping in Oslo.
Note: Unlike some countries, shops tend to be open quite late during the week mainly, but don’t expect stores to be open on Sundays.
Popular shopping areas
Karl Johans gate
Proud to be considered the shopping street of Oslo, at over a kilometre long you’ll find a mix of high street brands and something a little fancier, with some designer stores just a street or two away. If you don’t know what you want, but you know you want something, you’ll find that something here for sure!
If you like to follow the funky vibes of a city that’s new to you, look no further than Grünerløkka. Starting at Markveien, you’ll find vintage clothing, traditional children’s toys, various houseware items and home furnishing, as you make your way up to Olaf Ryes Plass. In case you get tired of the interesting window displays, there are plenty of places to grab a bite.
This iconic department store dates back to 1899. Most famous for specialising in items for the home, you will also find clothing – Designerkollektivet stocks independent labels on the third floor. There are also cosmetics and electronics with some cafes, so you don’t drop from your need to shop.
It really does feel like a city of its own in here! On multiple floors, you’ll find high street brands exclusive to Scandinavia amongst other international stores. Open late every day (except Sunday), and often very busy.
Steen & Strøm
Discover elegant fashion with popular Norwegian, Scandinavian and international brands and dine in the diverse food court.
This concept store is a Norwegian fashion scene must, with its founders committed to supplying brands that ”have a solid connection with Norway” which includes some Oslo local labels. Minimalist in style, any fashion-conscious visitor, should pay F5 a visit.
If you’re the type of shopper who likes to browse ’by appointment’ then this couture dress designer label is worth a visit. From evening dresses to bridal gowns lookout for their open ’showroom’ events.
Want something a little more ethical and sustainable? Fretex stores have several locations for those looking for a unique find while giving to charity. Fretex is run by the Salvation Army, and in Oslo, these shops are very well organised. They offer quality garments at an affordable price. Available in several locations including Grünerløkka, Grønland and Majorstuen, you’ll find some unique finds wherever you are in the city. The stores could come in handy if you need an extra layer to take the edge off that Nordic wind!
Oslo interior design
Food & drinks
So what is typical Norwegian food? The short answer is EVERYTHING. Though traditionally it may come as no surprise that hearty stews are a favourite for a country that ensures some harsh winters, with fish also being on the menu with salmon, cod, herring, sardines and mackerel particularly well-loved. However, Norway is becoming one of the world’s culinary hubs for cuisine, Oslo is continuously adapting to new trends that will whet any visitor’s appetite.
Though Norway is likely a bit more expensive than back home, whatever your budget we can find something for you. And if you REALLY want to go traditional, then you may want to try brown cheese, which is particularly sweet, or perhaps the more savoury smalahove – a sheep’s head. We hear it’s not ba-aa-aa-ad at all! … We’re sorry!
You can find a comprehensive list of cafes and restaurants on our website. Here are just some of our favourites:
Cafés – for the best fika
Despite its quite uniform name, this establishment is passionate about Fika culture with a focus on ’good ingredients and real craftsmanship’, so you’re in safe hands with your cinnamon bun. Based just off the main stretch of Karl Johans gate.
Fragrance of The Heart
This small, vegetarian cafe has hot, home-cooked food with delicious coffee, cakes and pastries including some vegan options too. Next to the Oslo City Hall on Fridtjof Nansens plass, it’s perfect for recharging the sight-seeing batteries. It’s in the heart of the city and smells delightful – so it’s got a very accurate name!
For a slice of indulgence, look no further than Baker Hansen. You may be paying a little more, but with their passion for great coffee and delicious pastries, and the fact that they describe their cakes as their ’way of flirting’ you can’t help but fall for their charms.
Restaurants – Cheap eats
Based at Vulkan, a collaborative creative community on the Aker River, you can delve into a diverse range of local and international delicacies in this food hall. We finish our Hipstoric Grünerløkka tour here, so you can digest both Oslo’s creative history as well as a selection of tasty morsels.
Rice Bowl Thai Café
Serving traditional noodles and curry dishes, this beautiful Thai cafe, complete with bamboo screens and hangings, is the perfect spot to refuel with some flavourful spicy dishes.
Bun’s Burger Bar
The area of Tøyen is becoming more popular, and its diverse range of independent eateries is one of the reasons why. With burgers called Widow Maker and Old West, you’ll find fast food you can enjoy at the traditionally slow pace of the people of Oslo. Many burgers can be made with a vegetarian patty.
Restaurants – mid-range
Delicatessen Tapas Restaurant
If sociable dining is your thing, then the laid back atmosphere of Delicatessen will suit you. They offer a wide selection of dishes as well as other options, including some delicious desserts.
The oldest cafe in Oslo, with patrons including many of Norway’s most famous heroes such as Ibsen and Munch. The traditional dishes of Northern Norway are on the menu, so dine amongst the country’s finest in this historic gem.
Known for its excellent service and atmospheres. The exposed brick decor gives it a funky vibe and its burgers, salads & small plates are well celebrated.
Restaurants – Lyxury & Michelin
Norwegian fish, next to the Oslo Fjord in a restaurant named after one of the most beautiful regions of Norway – you can’t get much more Norwegian than that! As well as the location, the popular seafood menus are a good reason you should book, to avoid disappointment!
This restaurant is all about feeling connected to nature through its food – its name means ”Mother Earth”. With three Michelin Stars, the exemplary service and innovative dishes will make this Oslo dinner unforgettable.
Markveien Mat & Vinhus
Bringing French flair to Oslo for over 30 years, using Norwegian ingredients this restaurant is a well-celebrated spot. With highly knowledgeable staff. Enjoy a glass of what goes best with the simple yet magnificent dishes on offer.
Bars & nightlife
After a long day seeing the city, there’s a chance you want to unwind. With your signature tipple, or perhaps trying something a little different to drink in this foreign land, you may wish to explore the nightlife of Oslo. Be social, unwind and let us guide you to just some of the best places to spend an evening in the capital.
Visit Thorvald Meyers gate in Grünerløkka and the Torggata area just across the bridge over the Akerselva (Aker River) for a great neighbourhood bar scene. Nightlife on the waterfront can be found in Aker Brygge while Grønland and Tøyen offer a more alternative vibe.
Or there are a few specific places we can recommend:
It’s been around since 1928 and is as popular as ever. With several bars here, it’s traditional atmosphere, with its interior changing a little since it opened, the welcoming charm keeps locals and visitors coming back time and again. With a few different bars to choose from, you can change scenery with each drink.
On several floors, Revolver is a popular music venue in Oslo. The Goon Bar on the ground floor not only hosts rock and indie bands and DJs but also has film screenings, pop-up food, quiz nights and concerts. For age limit, check the website before heading to the venue.
One of the coolest spots in Oslo. Come in from the cold and dance the night away. If a Sunday night of throwing shapes on the dance floor sounds good to you, everybody is welcome at this hub of joyful revelry. You may find yourself dancing on the tables by the end of the night – it’s thoroughly encouraged!
Love vinyl? Love beer? Described as ‘bare koselig’ or ‘just so cosy’ by many on the social scene of Oslo, this warm, intimate bar has a strong rolling selection of quality beers, wines and spirits. With live music also, find your way to this cosy corner of Grünerløkka.
The swinging sign says ‘Good Food, Good Company’ and this popular traditional Irish pub does not disappoint. The church pew benches and regular Irish music jam sessions give authenticity to this humble tavern that has grown since it sprang up in Oslo in 1994. A popular destination for Irish men and women, Norwegians and those passing through. All feel most welcome at The Dubliner.
The ‘Culture House’ of Oslo is precisely that. As well as hosting a variety of events during the day, you can enjoy a drink or two with the evening being the prime time to mingle with a beer amongst friends, taking in a concert or exhibition. Check the website for wine tasting events!
A Norwegian cocktail institution, this small speakeasy has a friendly and fun atmosphere. Maintaining the country’s love and pride in its nature, HIMKOK uses local ingredients to create an array of delicious drinks. The range may be small, but the results are a delightful taste of Norway.
With theatre, music or comedy going on most nights, take in a show or enjoy the vibrant hipster vibe in one of Grünerløkka’s most coveted establishments.
A chic gem with a Dutch vibe, with a big heart and open arms, find yourself in this welcoming establishment of enjoyable food, a wide selection of drinks and some interesting art donning the walls.
This quirky little bar has a relaxed atmosphere and plays nothing but old-school music. By locals and visitors, it’s described as a particularly great place to start or end the night, worth paying a visit if you’re around Torggata.
Staying in Oslo
Hotels – On a budget
There’s nothing wrong with sticking to the basics, and it’s a good thing to save your kroner for Fika! Central, so just where you want to be, keep it simple and snug.
Scandic Karl Johan
As the name suggests, this is on one of the most popular streets in Oslo. New to the city in 2016, it’s breakfasts get many compliments online – perfect ahead of a day of sight-seeing.
If you would rather spend your money while exploring your marvellous choice of holiday destination, this budget option is, as the name suggests, smart. Located only a short walk from major attractions and shopping.
Hotels – mid-range
Hotel Oslo Guldsmeden
This boutique hotel has a very unique vibe amongst many hotel chains typical of a capital city. With organic breakfasts and a green-living approach, it’s a cosy vibe just a short walk from the fjord, and the main city stretches.
This establishment feels it’s smart to ’live comfortably, in the middle of town, at a reasonable price’. We couldn’t agree more, and they live up to their philosophy. A favourite for many an Oslo guest.
Thon Hotel Opera
You couldn’t ask for a more central location in Oslo; next to the Oslo Central Station and, as the name suggests, opposite the Oslo Opera. Recognized for its generous breakfast buffet and gin-based drinks, Thon Hotel is especially appreciated, by Solo Travellers.
Hotels – luxury
This isn’t just a hotel. It’s a Norwegian institution. Best known in modern times as being the annual accommodation for the new Nobel Peace Prize winner(s). As a guest, you’ll get to enjoy all the mod cons, a luxurious spa and gorgeous views from the rooftop bar.
Amongst the eclectic architecture of Tjuvholmen – meaning Thief Island after the area’s notorious past – the-tongue-in-cheek name offers a playful and luxurious stay giving a satisfied grin to all who stay here.
One of the latest editions to the Hotel scene in Oslo, an experience designed for the modern traveller. This boutique hotel is wildly appreciated by its visitors, for its multiple lounge bars, restaurants and inhouse Jazz Club.
Events in Oslo
Coming to Oslo is an event in itself, yet these events and festivals alone are well worth making the trip for:
Holmenkollen Ski Festival, March
Thousands flock to Oslo to join the locals before winter leaves the city. The iconic sports arena, looking out across Norway’s capital, includes events such as ski jumping and cross-country. Friday is free!
Norway Constitution Day Parade, 17 May:
Not the catchiest event title, but 17 May is like 4 July is in the US… multiplied a few times. As a relatively new fully independent nation (since 1905), Norway’s pride is unapologetically on show as community brass bands play, flags are waved, and even the kids eat cake for breakfast! Note that many attractions are closed on the day, but you won’t need to see anything when there’s the biggest party of the year to be had!
Oslo Medieval Festival, May
An entertaining folk party keeping the Middle Ages alive in Oslo… well, the fun bits anyway. The whole family can get involved with crafts, theatre, concerts and a variety of other activities while exploring Oslo and Norway’s exciting and diverse history.
Øya Festival, August
Tøyen Park gets taken over each year as several stages host a mix of Norwegian favourites, international names and the obligatory annual legendary icon(s). You’ll likely need to book in advance so if you know you’re here for the festival in Oslo, why not at least get a day pass to try it out. For the children-friendly festival in May see Mini Øya.
Christmas Markets and Concerts, November-December
The Christmas (or ’Jul’) season in Norway is a joyous occasion. With a wealth of concerts and musical shows. The Christmas markets along the main pedestrian street, Karl Johans gate, and in Youngstorget are well worth visiting for that Yuletide cheer.