Norway’s capital Oslo sits on the country’s southern coast, at the head of the Oslofjord. With big, open green spaces, a large museum offering and a hugely diverse culinary scene, nothing in Oslo is done by halves. Whatever the city does, it does it big!
Therefore, when you only have a few days in the beautiful city, where should you go and what should you do to make the most of your time?
Walk over the Opera House
Even if you’re not planning to see a performance, Oslo Opera House is worth a visit. Walk up onto the roof of the building for exceptional views of the city and the Oslofjord and, while you’re there, try and spot the notable artwork that floats in the water below – She Lies by Monica Bonvicini.
Explore Akershus Fortress
The medieval Akershus castle, which was once used as a prison, is today a military area, however several rooms including a mausoleum and a museum can be visited by tourists. It is regarded as one of the most spectacular sights in Scandinavia, and for those wanting to learn more, guided tours of the fortress and its surrounding area can be joined.
Have lunch at Café Cathedral
Situated behind Oslo Cathedral, a meal at Café Cathedral is a must. Tasty food (opt for the Pizza Norway for a true taste of the country – the reindeer meat with which it is topped is delicious!) is served in a cosy, yet vibrant atmosphere, and if you’re feeling brave during the colder months, wrap up in a (provided) blanket and make the most of the idyllic outdoor seating.
Take a boat trip around the inner Oslofjord
Throughout the summer months, multiple boat trips and tours run on the fjord. In the winter however, when boat trips close for the season, public transport boats visit a number of the smaller islands including Hovedøya, Lindøya and Gressholmen. Either jump off and explore the islands, or stay on the boat (take route B1) for an hour round trip.
Shop (and enjoy dinner) along Karl Johans Gate
Karl Johans Gate is Oslo’s main shopping street. Here, along with big name brands and independent boutiques, you’ll find a buzz of restaurants and bars which make the city’s nightlife as popular as it is. At the end of Karl Johans Gate is also the Royal Palace. The home of the present King Harald V is only open in the summer and you need to take the guided tour if you want to explore the palace. However, you are welcome to walk around the surrounding gardens during opening hours.
Visit the Kon Tiki, FRAM and Maritime museums
Bygdøy is museum central, with three of the city’s most visited all on each other’s doorsteps. The peninsula is a short bus journey from Oslo central (take bus number 30) or, in the summer months, a short boat trip from Rådhusbrygga (pier three). The Kon Tiki Museum shares the story of Norwegian adventurer Thor Heyerdahl, who sailed from Peru to Polynesia in 1947 on a balsa wood raft, whereas the FRAM Museum tells tales of Norwegian polar exploration. Next door, the Norwegian Maritime Museum exhibits on coast culture and maritime history.
Have lunch at Café Hjemme hos Svigers
This hidden gem is a popular with locals and is only usually stumbled across by hungry tourists when walking between the many museums Bygdøy is home to. The menu at the café (and antiques shop) includes home-made burgers, sandwiches, salads and soups, while the tables, chairs and plates used are all for sale too.
Delve into Norway’s history at the Viking Ship Museum and the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History
To continue a day of mooching around museums, visit the Viking Ship Museum and the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History. (It would be a good idea to consider a 24 hour Oslo pass for a day at in Bygdøy’s musems). Vikingskipshuset houses three preserved Viking ships as well as a range of other archaeological finds, while Norsk Folkmuseum is one of the world’s oldest and largest open-air museums, with over 150 traditional houses and buildings from all parts of the country.
Have dinner in the edgy Grünerløkka neighbourhood
Travel back into the centre of the city and then out to Oslo’s trendiest borough Grünerløkka, located on the east side of the river Akerselva. Once gritty and industrial, the district has been transformed into an arty, urban neighbourhood which is now famous for its many cafés. To fit in with the area’s young and creative population, Grünerløkka’s eateries are relaxed, yet a little bit out of the ordinary. Kolonihagen specialises in “new Nordic” cuisine served up in tapas-sized portion, while there are also plenty of alternatives serving tasty Spanish and Italian food.
Majorsteun and Holmenkollen
Set your sights on the sculptures in Vigelandsparken
Frogner Park – more widely referred to as Vigeland Sculpture Park or Vigelandsparken – is possibly Norway’s top tourist attraction. The large green space is covered with 212 unique bronze and granite statues, which are the lifeworks of sculpture Gustav Vigeland.
Learn about Oslo through the decades at Oslo City Museum
Frogner Park is also home to the Museum of Oslo, Bymuseet, which presents the city’s history through models, paintings and photographs. The museum’s exhibitions are mainly in Norwegian, however free audio guides can be borrowed and are available in many other languages.
Enjoy lunch at Lorry
With a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere and walls are covered with plenty of artefacts and art, Lorry has been feeding the people of Oslo since 1887. The menu includes a wide variety of classic dishes, but the destination is probably most famous for its 128 types of beer.
Experience new highs at Holmenkollen Ski Museum and Tower
Located in Holmenkollen, Holmenkollbakken is Norway’s historic ski jumping hill. The hill embodies more than a century of skiing competitions, and although far from the centre, it’s easy to get to via the T1 tube from either the Parliament (Stortinget) or the National Theatre (Majorstuen) stations. Inside the jump is Holmenkollen Ski Museum. The oldest of its kind in the world, the museum presents over 4,000 years of skiing history, as well as an exhibition on snowboarding and modern skiing. When visiting, be sure to also take a trip up to the observation deck on top of the jump tower. The panoramic views of Oslo are worth the journey up in the rickety old lift.
Tuck into dinner in Aker Brygge
Full of life no matter what time of the day, the neighbourhood of Aker Brygge has an ambient atmosphere, with its streets lined with a vast number of restaurants and cafés. From traditional Norwegian cuisine, to Italian, French and Asian, there’s something to satisfy all taste buds.