Oslo’s location couldn’t be more picturesque – it’s located at the top of a fjord and flanked by vibrant blue waters on one side and by luscious green forest on the other. It’s the capital city of Norway, which is consistently rated as having the best quality of life of all countries around the world. This quality does come at a price, however, and Norway, and Oslo in particular, are notoriously expensive holiday destinations.
Having said that, although entrance fees and dining out may leave your wallet feeling considerably lighter than you were expecting, Oslow is also known for its free activities. Plus, with all its spectacular scenery so close to hand, you can lose yourself in nature without spending a penny.
So, aside from high price tags, what is Oslo famous for? Let’s take a closer look at what this spectacular Scandinavian city has to offer.
Of course, we have to kick-off with Oslo fjord, the dramatic backdrop for this alluring city. Spending some time on the water is definitely the best way to experience the stunning scenery, and there are sightseeing boat tours available throughout the calendar year – some even come with dinner included!
And, for any sports enthusiasts out there, kayak tours are also an option and are a great way to keep fit while you’re on your jollies. These trips can cater to small or large groups of all abilities, and they’re a great way to pack in some nature time while on a city break.
If you aren’t a fan of being on the water, not to worry, there are heaps of hiking trails along the shoreline for you to explore. Or, you can walk along the shore in the city and also see some of the most prominent buildings like the Oslo Opera House, the Fram Museum, and the City Hall. And the Royal Palace is not a long walk from the shoreline either!
Ask anyone about Norweigan history and they’re bound to start talking about the Vikings. The Vikings originated from Southern Scandinavia but successfully raided and traded with much of Europe thanks to their seafaring ways and boatmaking skills.
Oslo is home to the world’s best-preserved Viking ships, and the Viking Ship Museum offers the visitors to really get up close and personal to them. In this way, it’s possible to really imagine what it would have been like to embark on a mysterious voyage across the ocean, with no technology to guide the way.
A ticket will cost you roughly $14 USD but, for the price, you are also granted access to the Historical Museum too. This museum in the city center gives you the chance to appreciate Vikings in a broader sense, it and has an impressive collection of Viking artifacts. It also features exhibitions throughout the year focusing on a range of topics. If you’re a history buff looking for a way to make your money go further, then this double-whammy ticket is a great way to do so!
If you prefer a modern twist on your history, however, then you should definitely check out The Viking Plant, the world’s first digital Viking museum. If you have tech-savvy kids, then this is a great way to grab their interest!
Virtual reality technology means you can truly immerse yourself in Viking ways – you can even board a Viking ship and watch as the drama unfolds around you! It does cost almost double the price of the Viking Ship Museum, but we can guaranty it will be a truly unforgettable experience.
Frogner Park is now a public-access park but, historically, it was part of Frogner Manor, and the house remains situated on the southern side of the park. The park is huge, covering 45 hectares of land, and is high up on the tourist hit list, primarily because of the Vigeland Installation (Vigelandsanlegget).
The Sculpture Park installation is comprised of an impressive 212 sculptures, which were all designed by the world-famous Norwegian sculptor, Gustav Vigeland. The sculptures are a mixture of granite, bronze, and cast iron, and they depict rather unusual sights. One of the best-known sculptures is the Angry Boy (Sinnataggen) and depicts a naked toddler in the midst of a tantrum.
He is just one of many figurines you’ll find flanking the sides of an almost-eerie yet incredibly intriguing bridge located within the park. Another renowned sculpture is a towering monolith consisting of 121 naked bodies stacked up one another (named The Monolith or Monolitten).
They might not be the kind of sculptures you’d choose for your living room, but they certainly make for quite a sight and it’s easy to while away an afternoon strolling around the park and checking out these interesting pieces of art (plus it’s free, yay).
If there’s one sport you’d associate with Norway, it’s skiing. So, it makes sense that the country’s capital has an entire museum dedicated to the history of the sport of skiing, ski jumping and cross country skiing. But it’s not all just old skis (the museum has a collection of roughly 2500 pairs), the museum also investigates the polar expeditions of Nansen and Amundsen and various other artifacts. On top of that, there are exhibitions held throughout the year that focus on hot topics such as climate change.
After a trip around the museum, your next stop should be a trip up the famous jump tower, which you can spy in the distance from all over Oslo. But is it far to go? Not at all, the museum is actually located directly underneath the tower. The sights from the top of the Holmenkollen Ski Jump are well worth the climb, with panoramic views of the city and surrounding landscapes. It really does get your heart thumping to see the sights that skiers were faced with back when the jump was in use in the 1952 Winter Olympics. Oh, and for any serious skiing fans – keep your eyes open as you’re wandering around Holmenkollen, as you might well spot some Olympic athletes in training.
Guided tours are available that cover both the museum and the jump, but be prepared to shell out around $180 USD just for the guide (although you can split this with up to 30 people).
Fishing is huge in Norway, and fish has been a staple food for its inhabitants for years. You’ll spot cod and salmon on the menu more than any other type of fish, and there’s certainly no shortage of restaurants serving up fantastic fish dishes.
You might be surprised to see that the streets of Oslo are littered with sushi restaurants… but why is this Japanese cuisine so predominant here? Well, it was actually the Norweigan’s who invented salmon nigiri (a lump of vinegared sushi rice with a slice of raw salmon on the top). Back in the 80s, Norway had more salmon than it could eat, more in fact, than it could sell, and it was on the hunt for a new buyer. In those days, the Japanese wouldn’t eat salmon sushi – they thought salmon was infested with parasites… That is, until they received a Norweigan visitor who convinced them otherwise!
Salmon sushi is now widespread across Japan, and many people misguidedly think that’s where it originated from. So, now that you know the real story, what better place to sample some fresh salmon sushi than on the streets of Oslo?
Who hasn’t heard of the Nobel Peace Prize? Not many of us… and it’s actually in Oslo itself that this prestigious award is handed over on December 10th every year. Notable winners of the award so far include Barack Obama, the European Union, the Dalai Lama, and even Mother Teresa!
But what goes in onside this building during the rest of the year? Well. there are a series of permanent exhibitions, such as Nobel Field and the Peace Prize Laureates, as well as other exhibitions that spring up for a limited time only – for the most current information on exhibitions, check out the website.
If you do plan on checking out the Nobel Peace Center, and you’re in Oslow during the summer months, we recommend going on a Friday around midday. At 12:00 listen out for the John Lennon song ‘Give Peace a Chance’ and cast your eyes to the sky as a peace dove will be released from a window of the center in order to celebrate the good news of the week. This tradition occurs throughout the summer months only (as the dove would get too cold during the winter months!).
Oslo is known for having incredible nature right on its doorstep. Aside from its impressive fjord, and being the gateway to the Northern Lights, there’s also tonnes of greenery to admire. The Nordmarka Forests are within half an hour of the center of the city, located in the far North of Oslo. This pristine forest makes for magical hiking, and you can pick up a basic map for free from the Oslo Visitor Center, although many simple routes are clearly marked anywhere.
For more adventurous hikes, you’ll definitely want to take a detailed map with you. There are also great routes for biking and tonnes of lakes for swimming during those warmer summer months. If the hustle and bustle of the city start to get a bit much for you, this is the perfect way to get back in touch with nature.
Although it’s close enough for a day trip, if you want to experience the tranquility of the Nordarka Forest in its true glory, we recommend renting a cozy cabin for a night or two.
Edvard Munch is Norway’s most famous painter and one of his pieces, entitled ‘The Scream’, has received a vast amount of international attention. The Munch Museum (Munchmuseet), located in Oslo, is dedicated to the life of this talented artist and displays thousands of his paintings, sketches, and even personal belongings. Encouraging visitors of all kinds is something the Munch Museum is famous for. There are baby-friendly viewings, workshops for children and for adults, and free tours available for seniors (although you have to be a resident, sadly).
Even if art isn’t your thing, you should take a moment to appreciate the building by night. It stands out across the skyline, yet appears to dip its head towards the city slightly in a nod of acknowledgment – both bold and humble at the same time.
Did you know that Oslo has the highest number of coffee shops per resident than any other city? Well, now you do. With temperatures getting pretty frosty during the winter months, perhaps it’s not surprising that the locals set up camp in the cozy, chic coffee shops dotted among the city. In fact, the locals are so keen on coffee they even have their very own phrase for when you’re desperately craving a coffee – ‘Kaffetørst’’.
As well as eating fish, Oslo is also famous for catching it. Norway, in general, is a sought-after finishing destination for anglers from across the globe but, if you don’t have time to really get out into the wilderness, you can certainly get a quick fishing fix while you’re based in Oslo.
You can have a go in the Oslo fjord itself, which is great if you’re island hopping or strolling along the beach and just want to try your luck. You can expect to see coalfish, cod, haddock, pollack, tusk, mackerel, and redfish here, and the best part is you don’t need a permit to fish in this area.
The Nordmarka Forest is also great for fishing, and will definitely be a quieter and more tranquil experience. Bear in mind that you’ll need to grab yourself a freshwater license to fish here, and some lakes are forbidden entirely – check out this website for further details.
As we’ve seen, Oslo really does have a lot to offer, and you’ll be hard-pushed to squeeze everything into one trip. For a capital city, we love that it has so much to offer in terms of natural beauty – fjords, islands, forests… what more could you ask for? On top of that, there’s some of the world’s best fish and you’re never far from a heartwarming cup of coffee. There’s also plenty of places you can get your history cap on too… particularly if you’re a fan of the Vikings. All in all, this capital city has enough to keep you entertained for days, yet it’s retained a laid-back charm most likely as a result of its surrounding natural beauty.
Roger is a little obsessed with travel. He has been to over 40 countries, broken 3 suitcases and owned over 10 backpacks in 12 months. What he doesn't know about travel, ain't worth knowing!