Norway’s compact capital is perfect for quick sightseeing trips, but there’s plenty of things to do however long you stay.
Something that surprises many tourists is Oslo’s proximity to the “great outdoors”, offering more outdoor opportunities than perhaps any other city of its size.
On that note, perhaps Oslo’s biggest attraction is the Holmenkollen Ski Arena and Ski Jump. Offering stunning views from its position high above the city, it’s a modern sporting icon for a modern sporting city. Down at the fast-developing fjordside area, the modern architecture of Oslo Opera House allows you to walk all across its roof, while across the bay Akershus Fortress guards the secrets of Oslo’s past.
Further along the waterfront comes modern Oslo in the form of Aker Brygge and Tjuvholmen, modern developments of apartments, shopping centres, bars, restaurants, and a thriving boardwalk, perfect for people watching. Away from the water, the hipster paradise of Grünerløkka offers boutique shopping and interesting cafes, bars and restaurants.
Top sights in Oslo
Vigeland Sculpture Park – More than 200 of Gustav Vigeland’s sculptures in bronze, granite and brought iron are on display in the park, which Vigeland himself designed. Walk through the park in just ten minutes, or spend an entire morning examining the eerie sculptures, many of which take human form.
The sculpture park is contained within Frogner Park, Oslo’s biggest inner city green space filled with locals walking dogs and playing frisbee. The City Museum is set back in the park’s southern corner and worth a look due to the fabulous 18th-century atmosphere of Frogner Manor.
Opera House – The striking angular design – the roof rises out of the water allowing visitors to walk right up to the roof – has made Oslo’s Opera House one of the city’s most iconic buildings. From the top you can see right across the city and out into the Oslofjord islands.
The Italian marble, white granite and glass structure catches the light, imposing yet inviting. The rooftop hosts free concerts throughout the summer months as an addition to the more formal performances inside. operaen.no
National Museum – Four distinct venues coming together under one roof in a new purpose-built building scheduled to open in 2020. In the meantime, don’t miss the National Gallery, home to Edvard Munch’s most famous paintings alongside an impressive collection of the work of French impressionists.
The Museum of Architecture and the Museum of Contemporary Art remain open for the time being, but check before visiting. As 2020 draws near, the collections are slowly being put into storage in preparation for the big move. nasjonalmuseet.no
Holmenkollen Ski Jump – Rebuilt in 2011, this world-class sporting arena overlooks the city and is a must-see for any sports fan. Climb the tower and visit the museum (fee) or just explore the arena and the terrific views across the forest and the city below. In the winter, you’ll see cross-country skiers training on the miles of competition trails that surround the arena.
The upmarket residential peninsular of Bygdøy is easy to reach from central Oslo by bus, or during the summer months by a passenger ferry from in front of the city hall. The area is known for being home to some of the best sights in Oslo including some of the country’s most intriguing museums.
Norwegian Museum of Cultural History – A taste of rural Norwegian life, perfect if you’re only in the city for a short time and you don’t have time to explore the western fjords. This open-air museum contains a genuine Stave Church from Gol, relocated here in the 19th century.
Viking Ship Museum – Genuine viking ships found in burial mounds along the Oslofjord are housed inside this purpose-built building. Although the ships play a starring role, the other exhibits take you on an eye-opening journey into Viking life, with sledges and household objects such as tools, textiles and utensils on display.
Kon-Tiki Museum – In 1947, Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl set sail from Peru on a hand-built raft to prove it was possible to sail to Polynesia as ancient myths told. After sailing thousands of miles across the Pacific Ocean, his raft reached the Tuamotu Archipelago. See original vessels and equipment from Heyerdahl’s expeditions at this museum.
Fram Museum – Explore a genuine polar vessel at this building located immediately next door to the Kon-Tiki museum. The strongest wooden ship ever built, Fram survived journeys to both polar caps. You’ll also find out more information about Norwegian polar explorers Fridtjof Nansen (who helped fund and specify the ship), Otto Sverdrup and Roald Amundsen.
Other things to do in Oslo
Back in the city centre, the Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, the Nobel Peace Center, the Royal Palace, and Akershus Fortress are all worthy of your time.
If you have a morning or afternoon to spare, consider taking the T-Bane (metro) up to Frognesteren or Sognsvann and exploring some of the city’s vast network of forest trails.
It’s also well worth taking the train to Bergen or Trondheim to continue on your Norway travels. The railway system is slow but a great value way to see some of the country’s best scenery.