Oslo blew me away. What an incredible city!
Before arriving, I knew little about the capital of Norway, aside from the fact that the true treasures of the country lay outside of it. But while Oslo doesn’t have the fjords or the hiking trails or the Northern Lights (at least, not often), it has so much to offer visitors.
You’ve got world-class museums, incredible architecture, and peaceful parks, wonderful locals, and a relaxed vibe. I actually preferred it to Bergen, which was such a surprise for me!
Today, I’m excited to share some of the absolute best things to do in Oslo. Let’s get started.
You Must Visit the Viking Ship Museum
Now, if you’re anything like me, you’re not all that excited by anything nautical. The Viking Ship Museum, however, is so interesting!
They have three Viking ships to explore: The Oseberg Viking Ship, The Gokstad Viking Ship, and The Tune Viking Ship. These findings from a few centuries ago are telling us so much about unknown Viking history. These ships were found on burial sites in Oslo Fjord.
And if you weren’t yet convinced to visit, let me tell you that when archeologists uncovered these ships, they didn’t have the knowledge or technology to preserve them properly. As my guide told me: they have started to deteriorate and it will be tricky to prevent this from happening. Put off seeing them on this trip, and they might not be around by your next one.
If you do buy a ticket to the Viking Ship Museum, you’ll also gain access to VÍKINGR: the Viking Age exhibition in the Historical Museum. At this exhibit, you’ll see everyday items from the Viking age (750 to 1050 AD), weapons, jewelry, and so much more. Admission to these two museums is 120 NOK, or 12 USD.
The Royal Palace: Well-Worth a Visit
The Royal Palace, and the gardens in front of the palace, is one of the most visited tourist attraction in Oslo. It’s for good reason: the palace is so beautiful.
Between July and October, you’ll be able to sign up for the guided tours of the palace, paying 135 NOK for adults and 105 NOK for kids. The gardens are open year-round, and you can enter at any time to have a walk, observe the beautiful trees and flowers, and keep your eyes peeled for royals.
This beautiful Neoclassical palace was built in 1849, and it is home to King Harald V and Queen Sonja. Make sure you’re still there at 1:30 p.m., when the changing of the guards takes place: it’s such a spectacle!
I Loved the Munch Museum
Edvard Munch is one of the best-known Norwegian artists, and he left a huge mark on modern art. His painting titled Scream is world-famous, and even if you’re not interested in art, you’ve most likely heard of that one.
Well, this museum holds the biggest collection of his artwork, as he left his paintings to the city of Oslo when he died.
You’ll be able to check out a whopping 1,200 paintings within the building, and if you’re into your art, could easily spend a half a day exploring them all. Tickets are 60 NOK for adults, and admission for kids is free.
And the Ibsen Museum is Excellent
I studied the play, A Doll’s House, in college, so Ibsen holds a special place in my heart. Located beside the Royal Palace, the Ibsen Museum was the last home of this famous writer. Fun fact: after Shakespeare, Ibsen is considered the best playwright in the world.
Is the museum worth visiting, though?
Probably not if you’ve never heard of Ibsen before. But if you’re keen on all things literature, it’s definitely worth spending an hour or two here.
The museum features an exhibition that’s all about Ibsen’s life, including a display of his personal belongings, the furniture he used to decorate his home, and so much more.
The cost to enter the museum is 200 NOK for adults and kids go free.
Check Out the Epic Holmenkollen Ski Museum and Tower
This is a popular tourist stop, but if you are not a sports fan I suggest you skip it. You have to ride on a bus for at least 20 minutes to get there, and as impressive as it is, I don’t think it’s worth it unless you like skiing. Norwegians are very proud of this place, where they have been staging ski jumping since the 19th century.
Some of the competitions that have taken place here were the Winter Olympics and Four FIS Nordic World Ski Championships. In the museum, you can learn about 4000 years of skiing history in Norway. You can see historic artifacts, featuring a polar exhibit, skis, and snowboards. The ticket is 160 NOK for adults, and 80 NOK for kids 6 to 18 years old. You can also purchase a family ticket for 400 NOK which includes 2 adults and 2 kids.
Frogner Park is also known as Vigeland park, after a famous sculptor that created the world’s largest sculpture park. This has been one of the top tourist attractions in Oslo for decades now. The entrance is free and every sculpture is unique. You can spend hours walking around and observing the sculptures.
The best part is that the meaning behind the sculptures is left to you to guess. The artist said that he doesn’t want to say what was his idea and meaning behind the sculptures, because we all understand art in our own way, and it should be left to individuals for interpretation.
Gustav Vigeland has created more than 200 sculptures in bronze, granite, and cast iron. The park represents the complexity of humans and their emotions, and some of the most famous sculptures in the park are The Bridge, The Monolith, The Fountain, and The Wheel of Life.
If you liked the park I recommend going to the Vigeland Museum as well. The building where the museum is once was an atelier and the apartment to the artist. After his death, all of his artwork was gifted to the city and they opened a museum in the same building where he lived.
You can see where he worked, how he spent his days, what his process was like, and this way you can better understand his art. Except for his art, you can also see temporary exhibits of other artists when you purchase a ticket. Admission is 100 NOK for adults, and free for kids.
Located just a short drive west of the city center, Bygdøy Peninsula is a popular recreational place for locals, and also a must-see location for tourists. Except for the natural beauty, the peninsula is home to the wealthiest in Oslo since the 19th century. Beautiful homes overlook the fjord, while five national museums are situated in the heart of the peninsula.
The museums you can see here are Kon-Tiki Museum, Norwegian Museum Of Cultural History, Viking Ship Museum, Norwegian Maritime Museum, and Fram Museum. If you plan your day well you can manage to visit all of them in one day, since some of them are not too large, like the Viking Ship Museum.
The Royal Estate is also located here, hidden between trees. In the summertime, except for bicycling and hiking, you can also go to the beach, or play volleyball. There are many cafes and restaurants here, and if you can stay in a hotel or Airbnb nearby, you could have coffee every morning with the best view.
This fascinating museum is dedicated to polar expeditions done by scientists and explorers Fridtjof Nansen, Otto Sverdrup, and Roald Amundsen. All three of them explored the north between 1893 and 1912 on a wooden ship named “Fram”.
The ship is the center of the exhibition, and it is very well preserved and it can be seen from three levels of the museum. It is hanging from the ceiling, and it is surrounded by other artifacts, photographs, and articles about those expeditions.
They explored the Arctic and Antarctica in this wooden ship, which sounds unbelievable to us today. You can enter the ship and in an interactive exhibit see what it was like to be on the ship in incredibly dangerous conditions. The tickets for adults are 140 NOK and for the kids 50 NOK.
Norwegian Museum Of Cultural History
Following the great tradition of Baltic countries, Norway has built several open-air museums that represent their cultural history. In this museum, you will see how people have lived in Norway since the 1500s. This is the biggest open-air museum in Norway, and 160 buildings represent different parts of Norway.
You will see different buildings, homes, ways of life, dispensing on the region or social class. The most important part of the exhibit is The Gol Stave Church from 1200, one of only a few medieval buildings in the museum. The staff is dressed in authentic folk clothes and plays the part in the exhibit.
The open-air exhibit has sections like the old town, the countryside, the apartment building, etc. There is also the indoor exhibit which shows folk art, toys, costumes, and also Sami Culture. The ticket price for adults is 180 NOK, for kids younger than entrance is free, and for the kids ages 6-17 entrance is 40 NOK.
Oslo Opera House
Most of the tourists will not go to see shows when visiting the city, usually because of the language barrier. But you can always watch the ballot or a classical music concert, and a perfect place for that in Oslo is the Oslo Opera House. With its modern design it stands out from the other opera houses in Europe and it is very special.
The building was finished in 2007, and it resembles the iceberg. You can walk on top of the building to the roof, and enjoy some stunning views of the fjord. Try going there at sunset for the best view filled with warm colors. They offer guided tours backstage, and the price is 120 NOK.
Mathallen Food Hall
This is true foodie heaven. In the industrial brick building, there is the biggest food market in Norway, with shops, restaurants, bars, and food vendors from all over the world. You can try Norwegian, especially dishes, chocolate, wine, or try some of the international offerings from more than 30 restaurants.
This place gets busy during lunchtime, and also in the evening when many people come here with friends to eat and hang out. They host festivals and events all the time. You can go on a cooking class, food tasting tour, or a pub quiz almost every day here.
Since Viking times Norwegians have always been explorers. Their boats are believed to have traveled to America centuries before Columbus. And the most famous Norwegian explorer was Thor Heyerdahl. This fascinating man has traveled to places and in ways that no one else would even think of.
On the balsa wood raft, he sailed from Peru to Polynesia, because he wanted to prove that South Americans may have come to Polynesia this way. On another journey he sailed from Morocco to Barbados, to show that the old Egyptians could do that too, even with the papyrus ship. His third adventure was from Iraq to Pakistan on a ship called Tigris.
Replicas of all three ships are on display in the museum, and every day at noon you can watch the documentary about those journeys. He was also behind the archeological excavations of the Eastern Islands, Galapagos Islands, and Túcume. Tickets to this museum are 140 NOK for adults and 50 NOK for kids under 15 years old.
Norwegian National Gallery
Until the new art museum, the biggest one in Scandinavia, opens in Oslo in 2022, we have this incredible place to visit. This museum would be impressive even without the most famous paintings that are on display here, Munch’s “The Scream” and “The Madonna”.
Except for those two you can see artworks of many famous artists from the renaissance till today, including Lucas Cranach the Elder, El Greco, Orazio Gentileschi, Giovanni Battista Gaulli, and Jan van Goyen. Museum also has several paintings by Monet, Picasso, Renoir, and Paul Cézanne. The museum owns 47000 art pieces, including sculptures, clothing items, historic artifacts, and more. The ticket price for the museum is 50 NOK.
With long and dark winters Norwegians learn how to appreciate summer. Aker Brygge is Oslo’s waterfront with restaurants, harbor, cafes, and outdoor space for enjoying the sun. As soon as the spring sun comes out locals are already here, doing some shopping and catching up with friends.
This neighborhood became popular in 2014 after the old shipyard was renovated and the area got a new modern look. Now here you will find fashion stores, expensive homes, hotels, and a marina where you can find bars on docked boats. If you want to have a nice lunch in the city, this is a good place to go.
I didn’t notice this place at first but in the evening when they lightened it up I was impressed. A 14th-century fortress in the center of Oslo is something you should not miss. In this castle, you will learn about Oslo and Norwegian history, and how important strategically this castle was.
If you visit during summer you can get a guided tour to otherwise closed bastions and dungeons. Often some live concerts and public events are happening here, and the castle is used as the office of the prime minister. Part of the castle is a mausoleum for the royal family.
Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art
Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art was first opened in 1993, but in 2012 it moved into a new modern building. This privately owned collection features 1980s artists, but also they tend to purchase artists that are popular right now, and that way they have the freshest collection in Norway.
On display, you will see art from Jeff Koons, Andy Warhol, Richard Prince, Cindy Sherman, Matthew Barney, Tom Sachs, Doug Aitken, Olafur Eliasson, and Cai Guo-Qiang. The museum was officially on the map of art lovers from around the world when they purchased a sculpture in gilt porcelain of the pop star Michael Jackson with Bubbles, his favorite chimpanzee, created by Jeff Koons.
They have several temporary exhibits hosted in the museum every year, including the incredible retrospective of Jeff Koons. Their exhibits also travel around the world, promoting the museum in the best possible way. Tickets are 100 NOK for adults, and free for children.
Nobel Peace Center
This unique museum is representing the Nobel Peace Prize with its exhibits, events, guided tours, and digital content. Since its opening in 2005, it has become recognized internationally as an amazing museum with a mission to spread peace around the world. Their documentary photography exhibits are incredible, and they paint the picture of the world as it is right now.
Often the events related to human rights, peace, and conflict resolutions are happening here. The exhibits are created in collaboration with the Nobel Peace Prize laureates. To enter you will pay 120 NOK for adults, and 50 NOK for kids. The center is located in a beautiful City Hall square and it overlooks the harbor.
Rådhuset, Oslo City Hall
This huge brick building was built between 1931 and 1950 by architects Arnstein Arneberg and Magnus Poulsson. It would be finished earlier if the building of it wasn’t interrupted by World War II. The building has offices of the city council, city administration, and other municipality organizations. It is also a place where many locals get married.
The two towers are 63 and 66 meters tall. The decoration inside includes some famous Norwegian historical figures, and a guide would explain the best who is pictured on the walls. 17 sculptors were working on the decoration indoors.
The exterior is also decorated with reliefs by Henrik Sørensen, Alf Rolfsen, Anne Grimdalen, and others. The main hall is a circular room with tapestries on the walls, with the main one done by Else Halling, depicting St. Hallvard and the seven virtues. The entrance to city hall is free.
Norwegian Museum of Science and Technology
If you are a fan of science don’t forget to stop by this museum. Discover science and technology in interactive exhibits which kids of all ages will love. They can make their own little experiments and learn from them. There are over 25 permanent and temporary exhibits in the museum.
Some of the fascinating artifacts feature one of the world’s earliest recordings, music machines, climate crisis exhibits, and so much more. You can sign up for summer activities or the English guides. Tickets cost 165 NOK for adults, and 110 NOK for kids 4 – 17 years old.
Oslo Cathedral is the main cathedral in the city, built in the 17th century, and to this day the royal family and country’s officials hold events here, including royal weddings. The cathedral is a Lutheran church within The Church of Norway.
The interior of the cathedral is very simple, with a gorgeous organ and painted ceiling. The exterior is made out of red bricks, like most of the buildings at that time. There is one dominant tower and two smaller ones. The famous “Devil of Oslo ” is a relief on the corner facing The Market Square.
Stortorvet, The Market Square
Historical Market Square in Oslo is located west of the Oslo Cathedral. It was the main market in the city from 1736 to 1889. Nowadays the buildings surrounding the square are mostly designer stores and business buildings, except for the restaurant Stortorvets Gjæstgiveri, which is a Norwegian Cultural Heritage Site.
The main train station is nearby, as well as many trams stops. If you want to do shopping in the city this is the place to start with shopping malls just a few minutes walk from the square. Look for Byporten Shopping Center, Steen & Strøm Department Store, Arkaden Shopping Center, and others.
Gamle Oslo, The Old Town
When I was reading “Hunger” by Knut Hamsun I was very much confused with the name of Kristiania, which was the name for Oslo until 1925. Until then the only part of the city known as Oslo was the old town, Gamle Oslo, that existed since 1000 AD.
The old town, except for a few buildings still standing from a few centuries ago, also has a lot of ruins and brick left from medieval times. If you go on a guided walking tour you can see the ruins of St. Clement’s Church, the ruins of St. Mary’s Church, and the settlement buildings of Bjørvika.
For a long time, this part of the city was neglected while the other areas were prospering, but in recent years this is a popular tourist destination, and you can see buildings like the Oslo Manor House being restored and open to the public. Make sure to visit Gamlebyen Gravlund (Old Town’s Cemetery), Minneparken (Memorial Park), and Middelalderparken (Medieval Park) with a great view of the city.
Tjuvholmen Sculpture Park
This very interesting sculpture park is located in the Tjuvholmen neighborhood close to Aker Brygge. The park was opened in 2012 as part of the development of the neighborhood. Sculptures were created by prominent artists like Louise Bourgeois, Peter Fischli and David Weiss, Antony Gormley, Anish Kapoor, Ellsworth Kelly, Ugo Rondinone, and Franz West.
The park has a great location with the view of the Oslofjord, the Akershus Fortress, and the Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art. The sculptures are different in form and expression, and every one of them has its own story. You can sit on the grass, have a picnic with the view, and decode the meaning of the sculptures.
Oslo Fjord 2-Hour Sightseeing Cruise
This is a unique way to experience nature in Oslo. Sailing through the fjord will allow you to observe the scenery, see the houses on the shore, forest, hills, islands, and maybe even some wildlife. The scenery is breathtaking and it will invite you to take a million photographs.
The tour is showing the Norwegian coastline and the knowledgeable guide will tell you all about the nature, culture, and wildlife of the area. You can buy refreshments on the boat and then sit back and relax while enjoying the view.
3-Hour Lysaker River Guided Walk
Put on hiking boots and head over to the Lysaker River in Oslo. On this tour, you will enjoy a moderate hike, see a beautiful river, several waterfalls, numerous rapids, and even possibly some wildlife. It is a great escape from the city that you can do if you are staying for longer in Oslo.
You will meet the guide in the Oslo city center and they will take you on a tour to picturesque landscapes in a gorgeous forest. After 3 hours of enjoying nature, you will arrive at your last stop where you will catch the metro and be back in the city. From the 12th century, the river was used for mills, and later the factories were built here. Now it’s the closest hike to the city center.
Nordmarka Forest 6.5 Hour Guided Walk
Another perfect natural getaway from the city is this forest nestled on the shore of the fjord, only half an hour drive from downtown Oslo. The forest is well marked and even without a guide, you could enjoy the hike here. It is ideal for long-distance hikes and some wildlife watching.
The forest is a recreational area year-round that even in winter has a 450km long prepared ski trail. In the summertime, you can swim in lakes, go biking, hike, or picnicking. If you take this tour you will meet your guide in Oslo and go together to the forest to explore flora and fauna on your hike.
Animals like beavers, foxes, deer, eagles, and more, are often seen on the trail. The guide will have binoculars for you, but you can also bring your own binoculars and cameras with zoom lenses to capture this incredible beauty.
Oslo Highlights Kick Bike Tour
The fastest way to see the city is by bicycle. This tour is a perfect way to learn your way around the city on the first day or to see some highlights of the city in case you are staying for a short time. It is a very light activity and most of the people could enjoy it, and all the streets you will be visiting are flat and easy to ride on.
On your ride, you will pass by Akershus Fortress, City Hall, Royal Palace, Oslo Fjord, and much more. The guide will stop by the main landmarks and tell you about them, while you are taking a break. The meeting point and the last stop are at the Viking Biking store in the center.
Norway is a country of breathtaking beauty, small towns, but also of modern places like Oslo. It is not the only place worth visiting in Norway, but it is a good starting point. Try including at least one trip to nature while you are in Oslo, and try visiting museums for interesting art.
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