The capital of Norway and the country’s largest city. Oslo is the economic and financial centre of the country and not the place to visit if you are on a budget. It is, however, the place to visit if you’re into art, museums and a colourful culture. The currency in Oslo is the Norwegian Kroner and although the cost of living in Oslo is high, there are still parks and walks to enjoy for free.
Take a walk through Frogner, the poshest district, or just do as the locals do and wander around this green city admiring the fountains and artwork. Visit the Old Town for the authentic and historic Oslo, or the various museums for Viking history, many of which are located close to the city centre.
For sightseeing in Oslo, head to the Royal Palace, built as the residence of King Charles III. The Parliament Building is also in the centre and has amazing architecture to see.
Along the redeveloped waterfront is the quirky opera house, and the Akershus Fortress which is nearly 700 years old. Situated on a small hill it offers great views and is free to wander around.
Take the street car to Majorstuen, Frogner and Grünerløkka to meander around side streets stopping in cafes and browsing in shops.
There is a nice marina, and the city is not too far from stunning nature, plus it has its own fjord and archipelago of islands to explore.
For a capital city it is very chilled out. It feels more like a small city with a nice vibe. There are frequent events in Oslo with plenty of concerts (more than its Nordic neighbours). So if you love a good music scene, you’ll love this city. If you do have money to spend, hang out in the West End within the best restaurants. Karl Johans gate is the main street of downtown Oslo and if you can’t survive without Wifi, you’ll find it nearly everywhere including on public transport.
This Norwegian city may be pricey but what it offers in return is priceless. Visit year-round for summer and winter activities – just don’t forget to wrap up warm.
A Weekend in Oslo / 48 Hours
First 24 Hours
Start at the Akershus Fortress, then walk along the dockside to the Oslo Opera House. It also slopes into the water so you can cool your feet in the summer. Then head inland to Karl Johans Gate and walk to the end to the Royal Palace. Relax in the Palace Park and people watch. Board the Hop-on Hop-off train which runs along the waterside. Stop for something to eat and drink at one of the bars and restaurants at Aker Brygge. Stroll the full length of Aker Brygge to visit the Astrup Fearnley Museum with its nice contemporary art collection, then pop into the Ibsen Museum before heading back home for the night.
From the main train station take the train to Tøyen station for the Munch Museum, then head back to the city for the National Gallery. Walk uphill to the Kunstindustrimusset (you can use the same ticket as you did for the National Gallery). Once you’re finished here, go back down the hill for the modern art museum of Astrup Fearnly then it’s a 15 minute walk to either Samtidskunst Museet or you can catch a tram to Majorstuen, for Vigelandsparken, the sculpture park of Gustav Vigeland.
Take the tram to Birkelunden and walk down Thorvald Meyers gate, admiring the little shops, cafes and galleries. Stop for breakfast in The Birkelund’s little French Cheese Shop, where you’ll feel as though you’ve been transported to the Latin Quarter in Paris. Continue to walk down the street. When you arrive at the second park called Olaf Ryes Plass, turn right into Sofienberggata.
Stop for something to eat at the top of the park in either Villa Paradiso, or Parkteateret. Then turn left into Markveien and walk for a block or two until you come to a red building with the words “Vinmonopolet” written on the side. Walk down that street for approx 250 yards and you’ll soon find the Vulkan area, one of the city’s new developments with eco-friendly architecture and plenty of photo opportunities. Spend some time here people watching, trying cuisine in the food hall or just browsing the shops.
If you prefer to navigate your way around the city with some company, take an all-inclusive sightseeing tour to visit the Holmenkollen Ski Jump, Vigeland Sculpture Park, Viking Ship Museum, and either the Fram Museum of Kon-Tiki Museum.
Check dates, prices and availability for the Oslo All-Inclusive Sightseeing Tour
Top Must-sees for solos
1. Go Island Hopping
Buy a 24 hour public transport ticket and you can get on and off as many ferries as you like. Hovedøya is the closest island to the city. Explore the old ruined castle, forests and empty stony beaches. Lindøya is 20 minutes away and has gorgeous colourful summer cottages and a nature reserve. Gressholmen has a forest trail and a little cafe where you could find yourself being the only customer. This island is connected to Heggholmen and Rambergøya (a nature reserve) so you can spend hours here exploring all three and seeing the sea birds that nest on the bay between the islands. Take the ferry from City Hall Pier 4. (TIME – 4 hours+)
If you prefer some company, there’s an Island Hopping Tour which takes you to 3 of the city’s best-preserved islands. You get to see the Oslo’s coastal scenery on this 4-hour island hop.
Check dates, prices and availability for Oslo’s Island Hopping Tour
2. The Norwegian National Opera & Ballet
With a unique sloping roof this building is a sight for sore eyes. Even if you don’t watch an opera or ballet inside it’s worth a visit just for the architecture. Take a peek inside the lobby – which is free to visit – to see the Italian marble and white granite. The seats have their own personal screens too! Find out more. (TIME 1/2 hours)
3. Vigeland Sculpture Park
This beautiful park attracts hoards of visitors each year as the world’s largest sculpture park made by a single artist. Completed in 1949, inside its grounds you’ll find over 200 pieces of artwork created by Gustav Vigeland. The sculptures are made from wrought iron, bronze and granite and depict human life from birth to death. Don’t miss the fountain of life. Find out more. (TIME 2-3 hours)
4. National Museum – National Gallery
If you want to see an extensive collection of Norway’s sculptures and paintings visit to The National Museum – National Gallery. This is home to Edvard Munch’s famous painting The Scream, Norway’s most famous artist. You’ll find his other paintings here too, as well as some Picasso. Visit on a Thursday and entry is free. Find out more. (TIME 2-3 hours)
Escape the crowds
At Vigeland Sculpture Park. This garden is home to more than 200 sculptures designed by Gustav Vigeland which took two decades to create. It is a 20 minute train ride away but there is also a museum here to wile away your time.
In the open spaces and parks in the city such as Ekeberg’s park. Escape the hustle and bustle and recharge from the crowds. The Munch Spot is said to be where Edvard Munch had the inspiration for his famous painting The Scream. Sit here long enough and you may get inspired too.
At the Akershus Fortress sitting on the fortified wall and listening to the sound of the boats on the nearby fjord. You can also get fantastic views from here. To wander the grounds is free but you have to pay to enter the fortress.
In the Botanical Garden at Toyen, which has a special scent garden and large sculptures to see.
Get a great view
From the top of the Norwegian National Opera & Ballet you can get a great panorama of the fjord. Climb up the sloping roof for the views. Or head to the traditional cafe Frognerseteren, the starting point for skiing and hiking trails with spectacular views. Take the metro to Frognersteteren Station.
The Ekeberg Restauranten is located in the hills and offers one of the best views of Oslo within its beautiful modernist building. It’s also a great spot to watch the sunset.
Interact with the locals
At Karl Johan’s gate where you can people watch and mingle with the locals or on the beach at Huk, on the Bygdøy peninsular where the locals play volleyball.
Places to enjoy the sun
In the summer you’ll find locals down at Paradise Bay (Paradisbukta). If you really don’t want any tan lines get the ferry to Langøyene island where you’ll find a nudist beach.
If you stay in the city, at the end of Aker Brygge you’ll find a little beach near the Astrup Fearnley Museum.
Take the ferry to Gressholmen, Heggholmen and Rambergøya, three connected islands in the Oslo fjord where you can sunbathe and go for a swim.
Browse the food stalls of Mathallen with more than 30 speciality stalls selling Mediterranean and Asian cuisine as well as quality Norwegian food products. A good place to visit for a bite to eat. Sinsen Bruktkhall is the city’s flea market where you can get a glimpse into Norwegian daily life while browsing some goodies.
If you’re in the city on a Sunday head to Bla for secondhand vintage clothes, shoes and bags. This market is great if you like creative funky pieces and you can pick up some colourful accessories before taking a break and treating yourself to a waffle.
Things To Do in Oslo
The Akerselva River is the perfect place to get active and go hiking in Oslo. It is the city’s largest lake and has a 8km hike. It also makes a good spot to go for a run.
Bjornsjoen is the perfect place for kayaking or canoeing. You can rent both as well as life jackets from Kikut, and explore this picturesque lake and its many little islets.
Oslo is a great city to cycle around. You can discover hidden lakes and quiet paths whilst cycling along the coastline. Hire a bike for the day which comes with a mapping service to give you the best routes and itineraries depending on what you prefer to see. Or if you’re doubting your ability to navigate yourself you can take a 3 hour bike tour instead.
Check dates, prices and availability for a Full-Day Bike Rental in Oslo
Go tobogganing in the winter and rent a sled from Akeforeningen to sled down the 2000-metre-long track at Korketrekkeren.
Visit between December and April and go skiing. Head to the outskirts to Vinterpark just 40 minutes outside of the city centre (hop on line 1 on the subway) for floodlit slopes where you can ski until evening.You don’t have to venture outside of the city though as Oslo has outdoor ice rinks to skate on instead. If you can’t ski on this trip, pop into the inspiring Ski Museum instead.
Arty & Museum GatG
It’s not every day you see a viking boat so head to the Viking Boat museum to be impressed. It is quite far out as it is situated in Bygdoy but it is well worth visiting to see the world’s 3 best-preserved Viking ships. You can also use your ticket from here to get free entry into the Historical Museum (within 48 hours). Both the Norwegian Royal Diary Farm and Jewish museum are on the way.
Check dates, prices and availability for the Viking Ship Museum
The Kon-Tiki Museum is worth popping in if you’re passing here. Inside is the raft of Thor Heyerdahl who sailed across the Pacific Ocean on his boat. It is also near the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History and the Maritime Museum.
Pop into the Fram Polar Ship Museum to see the shop used in Arctic and Antarctic expeditions and delve into the hardships they endured.
Head to Galleri Brandstrup for some of Norway’s best art. If you have an Oslo Pass you can visit Astrup Fearnley Museet, which is worth seeing just for the architecture and the fantastic views of the fjord.
Local’s Tip – “Many of the museums close during mid-August and are only open on weekends so check beforehand. Some of the museums aren’t in English either.”
Watch the changing of the guard at the Royal Palace every day at 1.30pm, then wander around the grounds. If you can’t make it to the palace, sometimes you’ll see the guards and the band marching up Karl Johans Gate and at the Fortress.
Walk around the castle grounds or use your public transport ticket and take a ferry to either Gressholmen or Hovedøya in the Oslo Fjord.
Buy the 24/48/72 Hour Oslo Pass and you get free entry to many of the museums (although some of the museums are free of charge anyway). Entry to the Viking Ship Museum also gets you entry into the National Historic Museum within 48 hours. You can buy a pass from 24 to 72 hours and also save money on tours. Check prices for the Oslo Pass.
If you’re here on a Sunday, listen to Frank Snort Quartet at Bla. It’s free!
Watch a cultural performance of folk dancing, taste freshly baked traditional Norwegian lefse, and experience daily life in rural Norway in the 1950s at the Norsk Folkemuseum, an interactive museum where you can spend hours.
Visit a factory that makes the traditional dress of Norway on a cultural walking tour. This food tour also takes you to a food market so you can try local produce including a typical waffle from more than 30 stands.
Check dates, prices and availability for Oslo: Food Tasting and Walking Tour
If you can figure out the blue plaques around the city you can dive even deeper into this city’s history.
Norway’s Resistance Museum is free and provides a glimpse into how Norway was during WWII.
Spend some time browsing Cappelens Forslag, a very cool and antique, independent book shop.
Surrounded by the forests of Oslomarka, there is plenty of nature to relax in and enjoy some food and a warm drink from one of the many huts. Frognerseteren is the most popular.
Avoid the chain stores and window shop in Oslo’s small shops instead. If you are into heavy metal music take a look inside Neseblod Records, a cult shop that’s also a museum. You’ll find quirky shops and boutiques in Grünerløkka or head to Karl Johan, one of the main shopping hubs. For clothes go to Dressmann; for handicrafts look for the bazaar just behind the cathedral called Kirkeristen.
Being part of Scandinavia means that the locals are fond of their spas but the treatments aren’t cheap.
The Thief offers a Turkish Hamman, a pool and several types of saunas plus out of this world spa treatments. They’ve even got a gym that you can visit in the day or evening to get pampered.
Oslo has numerous wine bars serving wine from all over Europe. If you want to enjoy a glass of vino at Oslo’s oldest wine bar, visit Dr. Kneipp’s. The name may not have much appeal but the wine on offer has. The maps on the wall are definitely a nice touch.
Have a tourist moment
Get your bearings around the city on a city tour bus and jump off at any of the 18 stops. Check dates, prices and availability for: Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tour
Don’t have much time?
Follow the 24 hour itinerary above for the best of the city, or take a ferry ride to the closest island, explore the castle and Vigeland Sculpture Park.
Where to wear your heels
At Aker Brygge where you’ll find the trendy crowd hanging out in lounge bars.
Where to Meet Others
At Sofienbergparken where you’ll find the locals having barbecues and playing ball games during the summer months. Just take your sarong and smile. Or at one of the regular evening pub quizzes at Smelteverketoslo (held in both Norwegian and English).
Join the Oslo free walking tour that meets every Monday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at 10am at The Tiger statue. The tour is free and you tip at the end. The tours run with a minimum of 6 people so it’s advisable to do it as soon as you get to the city just in case there aren’t enough people.
Discover what happens behind the scenes of the Opera House. You may even get to walk on the stage!
Join a themed Winter Walk with Authentic Scandinavia to discover Norwegian history and explore the best sites with companions in tow.
Norway in a Nutshell offers exactly what it says. If you are short on time you can experience Norway’s fjords, the Flåm Railway, and the best of the country’s scenery. Tours are independent rather than guided and last from one to three days. They also offer the Northern Lights.
Things To Do in Oslo at Night
In The Evenings
Aker Brygge is perfect for an evening stroll. At night wander around the harbour with its eerie glow, admiring the ships.
Listen to live jazz and the blues at Herr Nilsen, or at a concert held early evening at Bla, before it turns into a proper club.
Smelteverket is a Gastro pub and also Oslo’s longest bar. As well as having a cool ambience, it holds evening events such as live soul, blues, fun and jazz and regular pub quizzes making it a good choice for solos.
Dine with others on an evening buffet cruise and see Oslo’s fjords at the same time. The tour takes 3 hours and you get great views of the city as you cruise. It’s ideal for those of us who want to same Norwegian shrimps with some company.
Check dates, prices and availability for Oslo Fjords Evening Buffet Cruise
Oslo also has some of the safest night clubs in Europe. Clubs in Oslo usually close at 3am so partying here is really safe. Youngstorget has some great clubs and some of the best bars in oslo and is a good place to start your night.
Grünerløkka is also a good spot to hang out and you’ll find live bands and jazz music here. Visit the areas of Solli Plass if you love wine and Grønland if you prefer beer.
Oslo has lots of bars and restaurants. Karl Johans Gate can be a bit of a tourist trap but it’s a nice place to grab a bite to eat.
££ – Cafe Sara. Tucked away with a cosy interior you’ll find big portions here including vegetarian burritos. The staff are really friendly and can make recommendations. Plus you’ll also find locally brewed beer here as well as vegetarian-friendly dishes. Find at – Hausmanns gate 29.
£ – Freddy Fuego Burrito Bar. It may seem strange to visit a Mexican wrestling burrito bar in Norway but this place is truly unique. The staff are super friendly and may even give you free tasters – plus it’s cheap too. Find at – Hausmanns gate 31a.
£ – Tunco. You can’t get fresher Asian food than here. Tunco is a cheap friendly place with a cosy interior. The portion size is big too. Find at – Bjerregaards gate 2.
Restaurants for typical cuisine
££ – Lofotstua. Serving Scandinavian, Norwegian and seafood dishes, this cosy little restaurant has lots of charm. It isn’t cheap but the seafood is great. Take the number 12 tram to get there. Find at – Kirkeveien 40.
££ – Olympen Mat & Vinhus AS. If you’re looking for somewhere with a busy vibe and oversized paintings hanging from the walls look no further than Olympen. They also have gluten-free options but if you eat fish you have to try the lobster soup. Find at – Groenlandsleiret 15.
££ – Funky Fresh Cafe. Serving some of the best vegetarian burgers you’ll find as well as gluten free options. Find at – Hausmanns gate 16.
££ – Loving Hut. For a vegan fast-food option, you’ll find good Asian vegan cuisine here. Don’t expect a restaurant though as you may have to take- away. Find at – Bjerregaards gate 6.
You can buy vegan products such as vegan cheese from Sunkost Gunerius.
Treat yourself at
£££ – Fjord Restaurant. This is gourmet food at its best with fantastic service. You get the full food experience here and can choose how many courses you take so opt for the full six places if you’re feeling hungry. The seafood is amazing but you may need to pre-book. Find at – Kristian Augusts gate 11.
Enjoy a coffee and a cake
Oslo is a great place to get coffee so you won’t be short of places to have a hot drink here.
Tim Wendelboe – This coffee bar isn’t just famous in Norway, it’s famous across the globe. Offering craft coffee in a trendy environment you’ll love this place. Find at – Grueners gate 1.
Haralds Vaffel – This cute waffle shop with a cool vibe is perfect for coffee and a waffle. Find at – Herslebs Gate 2.
You won’t really find many cheap eats here. There are a few grab-and-go delis in the city where you can buy a sandwich to take away or buy fresh produce from the local farmers market or the food hall at Mathallen.
You’ll find plenty of pubs at Aker Brygge.
Crowbar og Bryggeri – A cool bar with a good selection of beers that they brew themselves. They also serve food such as kebabs. Find at Torggata 32, Sentrum.
Oslo Mekaniske Verksted – This used to be a welding factory and has been transformed into a cosy tavern. Find at – Toeyenbekken 34.
Lekter’n – In the middle of Aker Brygge harbour is this floating bar and restaurant. It’s a bit touristy but attracts a crowd in the summer so you’ll find others to share a cocktail with. Find at Stranden 3.
Where To Stay in Oslo
You’ll find everything from hostels in Oslo, apartments in Oslo and B&Bs and hotels, but accommodation isn’t cheap so consider Couchsurfing or camping in Oslo to save the pennies.
Good areas to stay in
Møllergata is central and from here you can easily walk or hop on public transport. You’ll find accommodation at Karl Johans Gate, which is the city’s hub and where you’ll find lots of shopping and dining choices. If you’re looking for cheaper accommodation stay near to the Palace Park in the area around Bislett Stadium. Pre-book if you want to stay somewhere central.
This hostel is in an excellent location near Karl Johans Gate and there is a 24 hour reception so you’ll always feel safe. Meet other travellers in the lounge area or over the buffet breakfast (which is included). Choose from a 4,6, 8 or 12 bed dorm or your own private room.
Near to a tram, this guest house is walking distance to grocery shops and restaurants. There is free access to a gym so you can keep up with your fitness regime during your stay, and there is a garden to enjoy some sunshine in the summer. Although it is in a good location you may want to bring earplugs if you’re a light sleeper due to the noise of the tram.
- Prices start from £70 for a single room with shared bathroom.
- To book, check prices or availability for Ellingsens Pensjonat
This guest house is in a really good spot with shops and restaurants nearby. The tram is also close making it easy to get around or you can walk 20 minutes to the Royal Palace and National Gallery. A budget room comes with a shared bathroom or opt for a single room with private bathroom, kitchenette and a TV.
- Prices from £75 a night for a budget room
- To book, check prices or availability for Cochs Pensjonat
Getting Around Oslo
Oslo has excellent public transportation but there isn’t much here that you can’t see on foot. Check Ruter for your transport journeys around Oslo.
If you prefer to see the sights of Oslo whilst getting your bearings around the city, you can get a 24 hour hop-on hop-off bus tour and jump off at any of the 18 stops. Check dates, prices and availability for: Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tour
The trams, metro and buses run frequently and you can see which destination you are stopping at to make it easy to get off at the right stop. The automated ticket machines are in English so they are easy to use.
Trams – Tickets can be purchased onboard but if you buy your ticket from any newsagent with a white/red sign you can save money on your fare.
Buses – Buses run all over the city and you’ll even find night buses crossing the inner city.
Metro – The metro runs until midnight most nights and passes through Jernbanetorget which is the main hub.
Taxis are expensive and have a surcharge during the night but they do accept credit cards. You’ll find them at taxi stands or you can just flag one down.
There are 3 different airports here. Flights from London to Oslo fly into Gardermoen Airport (OSL). Flights from Manchester to Oslo fly into both Gardermoen Airport and Sandefjord Airport (TRF) The main international airport is Gardermoen where you can take the express train called Flytoget or an NSB train (Norges Statsbaner) both to Nationaltheatret Station. The regional NSB train is cheaper than the Flytoget and seems to do exactly the same journey.
From Moss Airport it’s an hour into the city. A shuttle bus takes you 15 minutes to Rygge Train Station where you can take an express train to Oslo Bus Terminal.
From Torp Airport it’s 1 hour 45 minutes to Oslo and there’s a bus that stops at Oslo Bus Terminal.
Catch a train from Oslo Central Station to other places in the country such as Trondheim or across the border to neighbouring Sweden. Oslo Central Station has an information centre to help you get around.
Getting to Sweden, Finland or even Russia is possible by road which makes it easy if you intend to drive and combine Norway with other countries.
There are boats from various harbours to other places in Norway such as Stavanger, and Bergen. You can also take a boat to Denmark.
Use Rome2Rio for onward journeys.
Norway has countless airports so it’s easy to reach remote places such as the Lofoten Islands and Svalbard. The flights may not be direct. Norwegian is a low-cost airline and has cheap flights both internally and to other countries.