Oslo’s green, Oslo’s multicultural, and Oslo’s one thing above all others: totally chilled. The Norwegian capital will grow close to your heart right from your first visit. Here are our tips for a great city trip to Oslo.
Think of Norway, and the first things that spring to mind tend to be fjords and the sea, ski jumps and ice, polar lights and a cold, natural beauty. Hardly anyone, on the other hand, thinks of the Norwegian capital. And that’s a real shame because Oslo is cool, simply overflowing with nice people, art and culture – and in a beautiful location.
Oslo's Harbour Promenade
The city is situated between hills, forests and the sea - on the Oslo Fjord to be precise. A stroll along the harbour and the water is always a good idea. Because in Oslo you can also visit the most important sights: The town hall, the medieval fortress of Akershus and the city's most striking building - The Oslo Opera House. The view from the roof is incomparable, with public concerts and frequent picnics.
Karl Johans Gate and Oslo's City Centre
Oslo’s a compact city, which is also easy to explore away from the harbour. Along the famous strolling and shopping mile of Karl Johans Gate, which twists and turns its way through the Old City, there are countless cafés and shops, squares with fountains, and other tourist attractions. That means you can take a look at the country’s Parliament, National Theatre and University, and all in your own time. At the end of this magnificent 6.4 kilometre-long thoroughfare, the Royal Palace, home to King Harald V and the rest of the royal family, sits majestically on a hill.
Oslo has lots of great museums – and when we say lots, we mean LOTS! That’s why you should definitely set aside some time for this part of your visit – because as well as art museums like the National Gallery and Oslo Museum of Contemporary Art, there are vast numbers of other institutions worth visiting, like the following:
- Munch Museum: This museum is dedicated to Expressionist painter Edvard Munch (“The Scream”), and houses the majority of his works, which are presented in rotating exhibitions.
- Nobel Peace Center: While the Nobel Prizes are awarded annually in Stockholm, only the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded in Oslo. Temporary exhibitions at the Nobel Peace Center are dedicated to this fact and the work of the Nobel Peace Prize Committee.
- Holmenkollen Ski Museum: Norway is widely considered the place where skiing was born. The Holmenkollen ski jump, which really does live up to the hype and has a jaw-dropping view over Oslo, is also home to the world’s oldest ski museum, which is dedicated to the sport’s 4,000 (!) year-old history.
- Kon-Tiki Museum: Dedicated to the world-famous scientist, adventurer and explorer Thor Heyerdahl. This museum contains original vehicles and objects from Heyerdahl’s world-famous expeditions such as the Kon-Tiki Expedition – when he proved, in 1947, that it would have been technically possible for pre-Columbian Indians from South America to reach and settle Polynesia.
- Viking Ship Museum: Home to the world’s oldest and best-maintained Viking ships, as well as smaller boats, sledges, utensils and household items which would have been used by the Nordic seafarers and warriors.
- Norwegian Museum of Cultural History: Beautiful, rambling complex, incorporating an open-air museum, with 155 richly traditional buildings from across Norway. In summer there’s folk dancing and music, flatbread baking, carriage rides, a grocer’s shop and a historic playground.
Island Hopping by Ferry
You’ll find few cities with such cleverly joined-up public transport as Oslo. As well as buses and the underground, there’s a vast network of ferries connecting the city with neighbouring islands. The good news: a single ticket will get you onto all of them, and with the Oslo Card, you can get discounts wherever you go as well.
The island of Bogdøya is home to the Viking Ship Museum, the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History and the Kon-Tiki Museum. On the island of Hovedøya, meanwhile, you immediately feel as if you’re on holiday. As well as the ruins of an old fortress and endless forests, you’ll find a lovely beach here, which the locals love to visit, especially at the weekend. The islands of Gressholmen and Lindøya are also popular stopping-off points amongst the people of Oslo when they’re island hopping. As well as public ferries, of course, you’ve got the option of a guided sightseeing boat tour – while some providers offer evening cruises, too, and jazz and blues cruises.
Eating and Going Out in Oslo
Norwegian cuisine is on the heavy side, but a lively and international gastronomic scene has developed independently of such traditions in the city. This is most marked in the super-trendy district of Grünerløkka, where you’ll find one great restaurant after another. Italian, French, Spanish or fusion – there’s something for every imaginable taste here. And after dinner, there are some great bars and clubs to visit for a drink and to dance that food off into the early hours.
- Lofoten Fiskerestaurant: This attractive and modern restaurant on Aker Brygge fjord has been a favourite amongst the locals forever. The chef offers a seductive range of seafood and shellfish.
- Delicatessen Tapas: Quite simply the best tapas you’ll find anywhere outside Spain, and better than many tapas restaurants in Spain itself. The restaurant has three locations in the city, all of which are seriously tasteful – both in terms of décor and dining.
- Statholdergaarden: Award-winning traditional cuisine in a lovely city centre building dating back to the 17th century.
- Palace Grill: The Palace Grill is home to both an excellent restaurant and a bar/disco, with concerts and a DJ programme, nice people and a laid-back atmosphere. Great place for some chilled clubbing.
- Café de Concert: The Café de Concert is in Oslo’s coolest district, Tjuvholmen, and is actually more about concerts than a café. Pianist Aksel Kolstad has created a concert gallery here to present classical music in a very different way, in a laid-back ambience.
- Bla Jazzclub, Bar Boca, Herr Nilsen Jazz Club: Oslo is famous for its jazz scene. A jazz festival is held here every summer, after which the bands play the clubs in the city, like the Bla Jazzclub, the smallest bar in Oslo, the Bar Boca and the legendary Herr Nilsen. Always lots going on!
Think you might like the idea of paying the Norwegian capital a visit? The flight from Vienna only takes two-and-a-hours.