Have you been to the Nordics? If you are looking for a city break or a weekend escape in Europe, then Oslo in Norway might just be the place to visit.
We were there for two days and were able to visit places such as the The Norwegian Museum of Cultural History, The Fram Museum, Kon-Tiki Museum, The Royal Palace, Nobel Peace Centre, Holmenkollen Ski Museum and many more.
Explore the city with us and find out our top recommendations for things to do and see in this European capital.
- Travel and Accommodation
- Top Things to do in Oslo
- The Royal Palace
- Norwegian Parliament (Storting)
- Nobel Peace Centre
- Oslo City Hall (Rådhuset)
- National Theatre
- Oslo Cathedral
- Frogner Park / Vigeland Park
- Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art
- Bygdøy Peninsula
- Holmenkollen Ski Museum & Tower
- Karl Johans Gate
- Food and Drink Highlights
- Final Thoughts
Oslo, pronounced /ˈɒzloʊ/, is the capital and most populous city of Norway. The current metro area population of Oslo in 2022 is 1,071,000. It is located on the country’s southern coast at the head of the Oslofjord.
Oslo was founded as a city at the end of the Viking Age in 1040 under the name Ánslo. After being destroyed by a fire in 1624, during the reign of King Christian IV, a new city was built and named Christiania in honour of the king.
During the 1814–1905 union between Sweden and Norway, the city functioned as the capital of Norway and in 1925 was renamed Oslo.
Oslo is a beautiful place to visit any time of the year. We went for a city break in April and definitely needed to put an extra layer of clothes.
If you prefer warmer weather, then visit between June and late August. The time zone is GMT+1. The currency used in Oslo and in Norway is the Norwegian krone (NOK).
Oslo is unique in its ability to offer you a combined skiing and city experience, very similar to Sofia in Bulgaria where you have the mountain just 30 minutes (or less) away from the city.
Travel and Accommodation
There are three airports serving the city – Oslo Airport Gardermoen (OSL), Torp Sandefjord Airport (TRF) and Moss Airport, Rygge (RYG).
The closest airport to Oslo is OSL, but we travelled on the cheap (or so we thought) to RYG with Ryanair. Depending on where you fly to, you can reach the city by train or bus.
Flying to Moss Airport, Rygge (RYG) made us realise that buying cheap flight tickets is not always cheap. We had to spend extra money on the train and it took us much longer to get to the city.
If you are looking for suitable flight options, make sure to check out this article with top tips on how to find cheap flights.
On this occasion, we chose to stay at Scandic Solli hotel. The hotel is conveniently located next to the Nationaltheatret Train Station and within walking distance to main attractions including the National Theatre, the Royal Palace and The Vigeland Park and Museum.
We like Scandic hotels and have also stood in these in Helsinki and Stockholm, so would definitely recommend. Good standards, excellent breakfast and comfortable rooms.
Top Things to do in Oslo
There are so many things to do in Oslo. This is one of the places where getting the city card made a lot of sense for us, so we purchased the Oslo Pass and made the most out of it.
Transport was included with the Oslo Pass, so we were able to explore the city by bus, ferry and train. If you are wondering what to do in Oslo or what to see in Oslo, then read our top recommendations below.
The Royal Palace
The Royal Palace (Det Kongelige Slott) is the official residence of the current Norwegian monarch. It was built in the 19th century as the Norwegian residence of King Charles III John, who reigned as king of Norway and Sweden.
On the outside, the Palace looks rather basic, very much like the Royal Palace in Stockholm. It was close to our hotel, just at the end of Karl Johans gate.
A good suggestion it to visit during the Change of the Guard ceremony, so make sure you time your visit well. The change of the guard in Oslo is very similar to the ones we have seen in Stockholm, Copenhagen and in Monaco.
Norwegian Parliament (Storting)
The Storting building is the seat of the Storting, the parliament of Norway. The building is very central and you might pass by it a few times as you go to your attractions.
You can also sit on the grass (if not too cold) just outside the building and enjoy the views.
Nobel Peace Centre
The Nobel Peace Centre (Nobels Fredssenter in Norwegian) is a showcase for the Nobel Peace Prize and the ideals it represents.
This is a place where culture and politics merge to promote conversations around topics such as war, peace and conflict resolution. The centre is located at the City Hall Square.
Do spend an hour or so to visit the centre, it is one of Norway’s most visited museums. This is also where the Nobel Peace Prize Award Ceremony takes place every 10 December, to commemorate Alfred Nobel’s death.
Stockholm also hosts the Nobel Prize Awards which is where all other awards are presented at the Stockholm City Hall.
Oslo City Hall (Rådhuset)
Oslo City Hall (Oslo rådhus) is a municipal building. It houses the city council, the city’s administration and various other municipal organisations.
For us, it didn’t come across as a very interesting sightseeing experience so we will leave this up to you whether you want to see it or not.
Oslo’s National Theatre has served Norway’s main arena for stage artists, theatre productions and large celebrations for over 100 years. It’s a beautiful building “guarded” by statues of the great Norwegian writers Henrik Ibsen and Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson.
Our hotel was close to the Theatre, so we had the pleasure of seeing this building a few times during our stay.
Oslo Cathedral (Oslo domkirke) is the main church for the Church of Norway Diocese of Oslo, as well as the parish church for downtown Oslo.
Similar to the Westminster Abbey in London, the Norwegian Royal Family and the Norwegian Government use the Cathedral for public events.
Do pay a visit and definitely see the inside of the cathedral, we found it beautiful. Whilst it can’t be compared to the Berlin Cathedral or Almudena Cathedral in Madrid, this one definitely has its charm.
Frogner Park / Vigeland Park
Frogner Park is the largest park in Oslo where you can see the Vigeland installation – a permanent sculpture installation created by Gustav Vigeland. It consists of sculptures as well as larger structures such as bridges and fountains.
At the highest point in the park, you will see the park’s most popular attraction, the Monolith. The Monolith tower is composed of 121 human figures rising towards the sky.
The Vigeland installation is sometimes called “Vigeland Park” or “Vigeland Sculpture Park”. In reality, “Vigeland Park” doesn’t really exist but this is the name used by the tourists as opposed to “Oslo natives” who know it as Frogner Park.
Some statues in the park are quite intriguing and present a perfect opportunity for a funny photo (as seen above).
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Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art
Astrup Fearnley Museet is one of Scandinavia’s most notable museums for contemporary art. If you are into modern art, definitely pay a visit. It is beautifully situated by the fjord and makes for a nice walk along Oslo’s harbour promenade.
There are plenty of restaurants and cafes in the area, so perfect for some chill out time from all the sightseeing.
Bygdøy is situated on the western side of Oslo. It is a popular recreation area and the place where the most expensive properties in Norway are found. To get there, we took a ferry from City Hall to Bygdøy.
Bygdøy is also the home of five national museums. We visited four of these (mentioned below), except for the Norwegian Maritime Museum.
At the museums you will experience and learn about the Norwegian spirit, the explorers and history from the Viking age till today. This is a great place to go and spend a day and perfect for the kids as well.
The Norwegian Museum of Cultural History
The Norwegian Museum of Cultural History (Norsk Folkemuseum) shows how people have been living in Norway since the 16th century. In this open air museum, you’ll find over 150 historic buildings situated in beautiful surroundings.
Don’t miss the popular Gol Stave Church, built in the 1200s, it really looks spectacular and so well preserved for its age.
As you walk around, you will see sod roofed farm houses from different regions of Norway, surrounded by pastures and grazing farm animals.
You can enjoy some of the indoor exhibitions of historic furniture, clothing, altarpieces, Sami handicrafts and the interior of Norway’s first parliament.
This place reminded us of the National Village Museum in Bucharest, Romania.
The Fram Museum
The Fram Museum is a museum telling the story of Norwegian polar exploration. If you didn’t know, Fram is the strongest wooden ship ever built and still holds the records for sailing farthest north and farthest south.
At the Fram Museum you can come on board the ship and see how the crew and their dogs managed to survive in the coldest and most dangerous places on earth – the Arctic and the Antarctic. Certainly a museum to visit whilst in Oslo and it will be a hit with the kids too.
Viking Ship Museum
We also visited The Viking Ship Museum (Vikingskipshuset) which is most famous for the completely whole Oseberg ship, excavated from the largest known ship burial in the world.
It appears this museum is now temporarily closed for renovation until 2025/2026. The new museum will be called the “Museum of the Viking Age” which will provide a more complete picture of the Viking Age in its entirety.
The museum houses vessels and maps from the popular Kon-Tiki expedition. Here you can see the Kon-Tiki, a balsawood raft that Norwegian adventurer Thor Heyerdahl used to cross the Pacific Ocean.
This was his first expedition to be captured on film. The Kon-Tiki documentary from 1950 is screened every day at 12 noon in the cinema of the museum. Take this into account when planning your visit.
Holmenkollen Ski Museum & Tower
The Holmenkollen Ski Museum is the oldest of its kind in the world. There you will see an exhibition with 2500 pairs of skis and will discover 4000 years of skiing history that Norwegians are famous for. The museum is located underneath the famous ski jump.
As we were heading to the museum it suddenly started snowing. We boarded the train from central Oslo and were surprised to see the locals going to the mountain with their skis. Casually, after work, the same way you’d probably have your kick-scooter they had their skis and boots on.
This was because only 30 minutes from the city and not far from Holmenkollen, you can enjoy a proper ski experience. Similarly to Sofia in Bulgaria where you can go skiing at the Vitosha mountain the slopes were minutes away from the city.
Karl Johans Gate
This is the main shopping street in Oslo which is a must for anyone wanting to experience city life both by day and night.
This popular avenue stretches from the Oslo Central Station to the Royal Palace. As a tourist, you will probably be walking on this street a few times a day, so you won’t miss it.
Food and Drink Highlights
Foodwise, we found many of the things we ate in Oslo are similar to other Scandinavian countries. Food in Oslo is as fresh as it gets and salmon and other seafood is very popular.
Norwegian smoked salmon is one of the best in the world, definitely try it on itself or accompanied by brown bread with butter.
For breakfast, we tried brown cheese (brunost) which is a Norwegian staple. It’s one of those things that you either love or hate.
Brown cheese is not technically cheese and has sweet, caramel, almost chocolaty taste, depending on which brand and colour you go with.
Meatballs (Kjøttkaker or kjøttboller) are famous here too and in a number of Scandinavian cultures, perhaps most popular in Sweden. We also tried Norwegian waffles which have the shape of 5 hearts next to each other.
We tried some of the restaurants in the central area and near the Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art. It’s rather expensive to eat out but in general Oslo is an expensive city when compared to Europe.
Oslo is a great capital to visit and explore and a great opportunity to learn more about the Vikings but also Scandinavian culture.
It’s a popular destination for young adults and families and offers a range of attractions and activities to suit any age group and personal preferences. In a way, the city is very similar to other Scandinavian capital cities such as Stockholm, Finland and Copenhagen.
Oslo is perfect for a city break and you can easily visit and see the top attractions in a weekend. It’s an easy city to fly to with hand luggage only and very easy to get around.
Although it could be expensive, buying the Oslo Pass can save you a lot of money on transport and museum entrance fees, so definitely consider buying this.
Ready to book? Below are some recommendations to get your trip started:
- Flights – we use flight aggregators such as Skyscanner and Google flights to find the best options. You can find more information about finding cheap flights here.
- Accommodation – would recommend booking your accommodation through an aggregator such as Booking.com or Agoda to get the best rates. We also use TripAdvisor to read reviews.
- Transport – consider Rentalcars.com for car renting or if you rely on public transport, you can use Omio for trains, coaches, ferries, airport transfers and even flights.
- Activities – a great option is GetYourGuide or Viator for tours, excursions, experiences and tickets to many tourist attractions.
- Luggage storage – if you need to store your bags whilst exploring the destination, you can use Radical Storage to find your closest luggage storage and enjoy your journey until the very end.
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