The first time you clap eyes on Oslo, you may feel the urge to laugh. Not out of any unkind sentiment, but because Norway’s capital is so postcard perfect in every way that you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d stepped onto a film set.
Set between a fjord and acres of woodland, Oslo is a beautiful city, filled with beautiful buildings and populated with beautiful people. Even on a grey day, there is an eternally sunny feel to Oslo, where the water is as impossibly blue as the eyes of each passing Nordic beauty and life seems full to the brim of exciting pursuits to keep you entertained. You’ll feel like you’ve landed in a Disney movie, where the orchestra swells with every step you take and you feel the urge to sing… sing… sing…
The people of Oslo are cheerful, accepting country folk who happen to find themselves in a city. Sailing, hiking, hunting and skiing are all popular pastimes, and with a close proximity to ski slopes, woods and, of course, the breathtaking Oslo Fjord and Oslo Harbour, Oslo cultivates a sensible and unshakeable balance in its population between city life and outdoor bliss.
Whether you want to explore the Edvard Munch Museum (he was the dude who painted the famous/creepy artwork ‘The Scream’), get your literary fix at the Ibsen Museum, gawk at some amazing sculptures at Frogner Park or go skiing at Holmenkollen, one of the best snow spots in the country, Oslo will take your hand and (ever-so-politely and enthusiastically) guide you through the wonders this city has to offer.
Oslo’s Top 10
10. National Theatre Dress in your finest to catch a play, musical or some classic opera at this cultural icon.
5. Natural History Museum Check out some Nordic dinosaurs and then visit the Botanic Gardennext door.
9. Holmenkellen This one’s for the ski bunnies. Enjoy the white stuff in one of best winter/ski spots.
4. National Gallery You know you want some Edvard Munch.
8. TusenFryd A theme park with a stack of rides, shows, magic and much more.
3. Frogner Park This park has hundreds of statues and sculptures for your viewing pleasure.
7. Oslo Fjord Take a relaxing cruise while taking in the scenery of the city.
2. Akershus Fortress Weave through the corridors and secret passageways of this 13th Century medieval castle and fortress.
6. Viking Ship Museum Explore a whole bunch of Viking artefacts, including two perfectly preserved ships.
1. Royal Palace Take a summer tour of some of the most beautiful rooms, including the Banqueting Hall.
- Akershus Festning – This castle fortress from the medieval times stands near the centre of Oslo.
- Oslo City Hall – Open to the public and day-time tours are offered.
- Royal Palace – A popular tourist attraction that receives many visitors each year.
- Oscarsborg Fortress – This grand structure was built more than 350 years ago on Kaholmene in the Drøbak Strait.
- Baerums Verk – An inviting village that dates back to the early 1600s.
Oslo Art & Culture
- Opera House – In the shape of a glacier or a ship, it gives the appearance of floating along the Inlet in Oslo.
- Nobel Peace Centre – Offers an exhibit for each of the Nobel Peace Prize winners.
- Norwegian Museum of Cultural History – A unique open-air museum with real-life models of traditional Norwegian buildings.
- Viking Ship Museum – Home to the two best-preserved Viking ships today.
- Norwegian Maritime Museum – Celebrates the history of this seafaring nation.
- Bygdøy Allé – A great shopping street with house and kitchenware, unique designs and furniture.
- Aker Brygge – An area along the sea for great shopping, glamour and nightlife fun.
- Akersgata – A new, exclusive shopping mall in Oslo with high-end stores.
- Glasmagasinet – This area dates back to the 1700s.
- Steen & Strøm – One of the city’s original department stores, with stylish designs and an open-air café on the top floor.
Gay & Lesbian Oslo
- Bobs Pub – A relaxed place with an informal atmosphere and great prices.
- Elsker – A popular Oslo locale where you can get a bite to eat or something to drink.
- Ett Glass – This cafe, bar and restaurant has great international food and is a meeting place.
- London Pubs and Club – The most famous of its kind since the ’70s, it offers a pool table, jukebox, Internet and more.
- SO – This is one of the newest places on the block, with great interior design and music to set the mood.
- Holmenkollen – Home to a ski jump rebuilt for the 2011 World Ski Championships.
- Frogner Park – A wonderful area for recreation and home to the Vigeland Sculpture Park, with hundreds of sculptures by Gustav Vigeland.
- Slottsparken – Also known as the Palace Park, with walkways that cross the park.
- Akerselva – A wonderful place for freshwater swimming.
- Oslo Fjords – In the summer months, from the middle of June through the middle of August, you will find wonderful and enjoyable outdoor swimming pools.
Oslo LocalCity Centre
Home to some of the most popular attractions, including the Royal Palace, the Akershus Castle and Fortress and the Oslo Cathedral (underwhelming from the outside, a treasure trove of artistic flair, gold trimmings and stained glass within), the City Centre is also Oslo’s shopping and restaurant quarter. Eateries and malls such as Oslo City abound, then once you’ve spent a pretty penny (or a pretty krone), slap on your finest threads and catch a performance at the National Theatre. Not your thing? Then try the bevy of bars and clubs that are also in the area.
Situated on the west side of Oslo, Bygdoy is quite fancy and just a little bit posh, so make sure you’re dressed to impress. Explore the stack of museums, including the Holocaust Centre, the Kon-Tiki Museum and the Viking Ship Museum. Now it’s time to hit up those big labels at Bygdoy’s many boutiques. Norwegian fashion has been on the up for years, and if you don’t mind shelling out the krone, you’ll pick up some amazing pieces. If you’re around during the warmer months, don’t forget a visit to Huk – Paradisbukta Beach, a favourite with locals and tourists alike.
One of Oslo’s most chilled-out areas, Frogner is well worth a visit. Frogner Park/Vigeland Sculpture Park is a place to relax and take in the beautiful craftsmanship of the sculptures by Gustav Vigeland. Once you’re done there, the Frognerbadet (outdoor pools) next door will delight, not least because of the healthy helping of bronzed blondes (and blonds) taking a dip.
Make sure you bring your skis, toboggans, snowboards and fluoro ’80s getups to Oslo’s premier ski area. One of the best in the country, it attracts hundreds of thousands of people every winter, so it’s not the place to go if you want to get off the beaten piste. Still, the Holmenkollen Ski Museum and Tower, a museum about the history of skiing (anyone else find that slightly amusing?) offers up something a little different, as well a hell of a view.
If the idea of strapping your feet to a board and hurling yourself down an icy slope makes you slightly ill, why not come in the summer? There’s fishing, canoeing and hiking to keep you entertained, and not a puffy jumpsuit in sight.
Oslo Eat & Drink
Schrøder Yummy, traditional Norwegian food on the cheap. Try the fried flounder.
Arakataka European cuisine with a chic, Nordic twist.
Kampen A cute and homely venue that does everything from tapas to Italian pastas.
Olympen Dine beneath the shimmer and sparkle of chandeliers at this massive eatery.
Palace Grill This place has some kooky adornments but it’s full of personality and charm. FYI: the menu changes every day, but many of the chic clientele are regulars.
Tabibito Big, bright and always packed. Come here for the best Asian food in Oslo.
Gloria Flames One of the city’s most popular alternative pubs/bars satisfies with live music and jugs of beer.
Bla Different music every week makes this the ultimate cool kid’s refuge.
Victor A small place that’s well off the tourist trail in a place the locals call ‘the north pole’. But the menu is laden with traditional Norwegian gems.
Ekeberg This beautiful establishment has a varied menu of refined European food.
If you like your country tunes, make sure you’re around during June for the Norwegian Wood Festival. Crowds fill Oslo’s Frognerbadet for performances by both Norwegian and international country artists. Neil Young and Bob Dylan have both played in the past. BYO cowboy hat.
June’s Oslo Summer Festival includes a bevy of markets, concerts, fairs and other street entertainment over three fun-filled days. Kick back in the sun and enjoy the buzz of an Oslo summer.
Go and have some ye olde medieval fun at the Oslo Medieval Festival in mid-June. It’s an all-ages festival that offers a bunch of pretty exciting medieval experiences such as knight tournaments, historical plays, jugglers, jousters and jesters, as well as medieval-themed concerts.
Oslo Pride Week (June) is a week-long GLBT pride festival that hosts concerts, exhibitions, cruises, comedy and sport events, parades and a film festival at a number of places around the city. Most events are free.
December is made even more exciting with The Great Annual Christmas Fair. There’s a market at the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History (make sure you pick up some cute little gifts and souvenirs), the historical buildings in the city are merrily decorated and a bunch of Christmas concerts hit the streets. Prepare for a Santa sighting.
When To Go
Unless you’re after some skiing, forget the cold winter months and visit during late June to September for sunny days and minimal rainfall.
Oslo’s average temperatures are -4°C (25°F) in winter, 12°C (54°F) in spring, 20°C (68°F) in summer and 9°C (48°F) in autumn.
A better gauge of when to visit may be in terms of daylight hours. In the depths of winter, there’s less than six hours between sunrise and sunset. In summer, though, that rises to almost 19 hours.
What To Miss
If you’re around during the winter, be wary of falling bits of ice and slabs of snow that drift from buildings – they hurt. Same goes for frozen rivers. It may look fun to slide across them, but if they crack, you’re up the creek (or in it) without a paddle.
Avoid shifty street peeps who try to strike up a conversation with you and ask you to ‘play a game’ with them. Street scammers are pretty common in Oslo, so it’s best to just keep on walking.
The T-bane metro is one of the best and cheapest ways to get around this city. If that doesn’t rock your boat, there is also a bevy of buses and trams for your convenience.
The capital of Norway is the quintessence of why Scandinavia generates the envy of the international community. With a desirable quality of life and a sensible, unflappable outlook on the world, Oslo is a wonderful place.
If you can overcome the potential strain on your budget, a cursory tour of Oslo is well worth the expense. While the city may lack the flash of Stockholm and inherent charm of Copenhagen, Oslo provides a welcome departure from urban flurry and commotion. On lovely Oslofjord bay, with dense forests and lush hills and mountains on the perimeter, Oslo is a beautiful city to explore.
Oslo proper is replete with a tidy collection of attractions that are easily accessible either on foot or via public transportation.
Akershus Castle is one of the most impressive city fortifications in the world, let alone Europe. Construction began in 1290, with several restorations since to upgrade the stone fortress walls. Despite incursions by everyone from Sweden to Nazi Germany, Akershus has never been successfully taken from Norway. The castle fortress still serves as a base for the Ministry of Defence, as well as a mausoleum for generations of Norwegian royalty.
The Nobel Peace Center, much like the museum of the same name in Stockholm, Sweden, provides intuition on the life of Alfred Nobel, as well as displays about past recipients of the Peace Prize. The Center bestows the influential international honour every December 10, with a grand ceremony at Oslo City Hall.
The foundation was laid for the unusual City Hall in 1931, although formal inauguration did not occur until 1950. The strange, bold structure defines for many residents the best in Oslo architecture. With numerous art exhibits and cultural spectacles, City Hall is worth a tour.
The National Gallery, or Nasjonalgalleriet, is by far the most educational and important museum in Norway. The fabulous structure contains over 50,000 works of art, though the most famous attractions are by native son Edvard Munch.
The wonderful Royal Palace of Norway may not afford occasions to meet with King Harald V but has become one of the most popular attractions in the country since tours became available in 2002.
Oslo offers a full slate of festivals, concerts and events to visitors who want to get out and about.
The biennial Ibsen Stage Festival celebrates the work of famous Norwegian dramatist Henrik Ibsen, with performances at the National Theatre.
For the past decade the Iagori Gypsy Music Festival has drawn the best in international folklore talent to Oslo, each September.
The New Oslo Opera House is a fabulous concert hall which hosts myriad performances throughout the year. The Oslo Opera Festival, held every September, aims to spread appreciation of the genre to new generations.
The ULTIMA Oslo Contemporary Music Festival is one of the most vital in Europe, at least in the realm of contemporary music. The foremost event in Norway features concerts, stage productions, dance, films, installations, composer conferences and youth projects.
The climate of Oslo is humid continental, with a splash of hemiboreal. Summers can bring intense heat, with even snowfall and cold throughout the winter months. The city experiences four distinct seasons.
- Winter (November to March) -1.5-3.5°C
- Spring (April to May) 0.5-15.5°C
- Summer (June to August) 10.5-21.5°C
- Fall (September to October) 3.5-15°C
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