Oslo is the first port of call for many travellers to Norway. Blending nature and culture in one neat package, the capital offers a unique experience for visitors, whether on a business trip, a family holiday or a romantic weekend. With the country’s highest concentration of museums, art galleries, shops, restaurants and clubs, Oslo is a vibrant urban destination. But the city also boasts miles of cross-country skiing tracks and a ski resort right on its doorstep. And with a great location right by the Oslofjord, it is a natural choice for outdoors enthusiasts too. There is so much to see and do here, in both summer and winter. Discover Edvard Munch’s work at the Munch Museum in Tøyen. Take in the stunning views from the top of the new ski jump in Holmenkollen. Cheer on your favourite artist at the Øya Festival. See the Viking Ships on Bygdøy. Watch the sun set over the Oslofjord from the deck of an old schooner. Or sample some of Norway’s excellent seafood by the quayside at Aker Brygge. In Oslo you’ll be spoilt for choice, and never short of things to do.
- Norway's capital
- Nature and culture in one neat package
- Great shopping, restaurants, theatres, galleries, etc
- A wealth of festivals year round
Winter Oslo: Come winter Oslo turns into a great winter wonderland. Tryvann, Oslo Winter Park, boasts 18 slopes and 11 lifts, and is the place to go for snowboarding and Alpine skiing, while Oslomarka, the big forest to the north of Oslo, offers kilometres of cross-country skiing tracks. You can also go for a spin on one of several ice rinks, including the one in front of the Grand Hotel right in central Oslo, which is free for all to use, or try sledging down Korketrekkeren ("the corkscrew"), a 2.5-kilometre-long toboggan run stretching from Frognerseteren to Midtstuen subway station.
Oslo for art lovers: Whether you want to follow in Edvard Munch's footsteps or want to discover the work of other Norwegian artists, Oslo is a great place to start. The Munch Museum and the National Gallery are both a must, but check out exhibitions at the Stenersen Museum and the brand new Astrup Fearnley Museum on Tjuvholmen too (which opened in September 2012), as well as the dozens of statues at Vigeland Sculpture Park.
Awesome architecture: Oslo Opera has become a landmark for Oslo, as well as one of the city's most popular attractions, ever since opening in 2008. But there are many other examples of interesting architecture waiting to be discovered in Oslo, from City Hall and Ekeberg Restaurant, a stunning example of Funkis architecture, to the very modern Mortensrud Church or the Villa Stenersen, to name but a few. The National Museum for Architecture is a good place to start. Guided tours led by local architects are also available.
For children: The International Museum of Children's Art is one of a kind, and absolutely worth a visit. Other attractions for those travelling to Oslo with children include Oslo Reptile Park, Kampen Organic Children's Farm, Frogner Badet, the Norwegian Museum of Magic (open on Sundays only), Natural History Museum and the Norwegian Museum of Science, Technology and Medicine. Tusenfryd Theme Park just outside Oslo in Vinterbro is another option.
Budget Oslo: Whether you take a leisurely walk following Akerselva, spend an afternoon marvelling at the sculptures in Vigelandsparken or enjoy great views of the Oslofjord from the roof of the opera building, there is much to do for free in Oslo. Head for the beach in summer; go cross-country skiing in Oslomarka in winter; or join in one of many free events and festivals like Oslo Culture Night (Sep), Mela Festival (Aug), Norway's National Day (17 May) or National Music Day (Jun). Many museums, among them the National Gallery, have free entrance on Sundays, and others (like the Munch Museum) don't charge admission in winter. Oslo City Hall has free tours daily.
Music city: Oslo's music scene has come a long way in the past few years, and Oslo is fast establishing a reputation as one of the most exciting music cities in Scandinavia, attracting well-established names and emerging talent alike. There are plenty of venues here, both large and small and an impressive number of festivals for a city this size. The latter cater for all tastes and range from big events like Øya and Norwegian Wood (Oslo's two largest outdoor music festivals) to more off-beat festivals like Ultima (Scandinavia's largest for contemporary music), Inferno (Norwegian black metal), Oslo World Music Festival and even teenage and children choirs (Soul Children Festival). Rihanna and Kiss headlined Oslo’s newest festival, Kollen, in 2012.
Oslo for history buffs: Travel back in time and discover Oslo through the centuries, starting in Gamlebyen (Medieval Oslo) and proceeding to Akershus Fortress (which includes Norway's Resistance Museum) and Kvadraturen, before heading to Bygdøy, home to the Viking Ship Museum and Norwegian Folk Museum. Other places of interest include Oslo City Museum, Oslo Memorial Cemetery (Æreslunden), the Royal Palace, the Historical Museum and Ibsen Museum.
Summer on the Oslofjord: Part of Oslo's appeal is its location right by the Oslofjord, and on a hot summer day there is no better place to be than by the water. Join the locals and spend the afternoon at the beach, maybe Huk, or nearby Paradisbukta ("Paradise Bay") - both are located on Bygdøy and can be reached by public transport (bus 30). Or take a ferry from Vippetangen and head to one of the islands (Hovedøya, closest to Oslo, is the largest, but Gressholmen and Langøyene are good options too). You can also join a cruise on an old schooner, hire a kayak or enjoy a seafood meal at one of several waterside restaurants – for example Lille Herbern or Hukodden both on Bygdøy, open in summer only.
Grünerløkka: Seen all the sights and walked the city centre? Then it is time to leave the hordes of tourists behind and head off to one of Oslo’s coolest districts, Grünerløkka. This newly trendy neighbourhood on the east side of the Akerselva is a former working class area that’s been enjoying huge popularity in recent years. Great for shopping (there are plenty of one off little boutiques selling anything from vintage fashion to interior design and kids toys), eating out and nightlife, it is Oslo’s answer to NYC Brooklyn or Paris Le Marais (only smaller).
Maaemo, the new Noma? This newcomer, which opened its doors in late 2010, made history earlier this year as the first restaurant in Scandinavia to be awarded two stars in the prestigious Michelin guide on its first rating, just over a year after opening. Headed by chef Esben Holmboe Bang, Maaemo offers a seasonal menu based 100% on organic ingredients, many of them locally produced. The food is complemented by an exciting wine list.
Places to visit
- City centre
- Vigeland Sculpture Park
A selection of festivals and events in Oslo
BY:LARM, music conference and concerts (Feb)
Inferno Festival, black metal festival (Mar)
Holmenkollen Festival, cross-country skiing and ski jumping (Mar)
Norwegian Wood, Norway’s top rock music festival (Jun)
Oslo Pride, gay festival (Jun)
Norway Cup, world's largest football tournament for children (Jul-Aug)
Øya Festival, popular outdoor music festival (Aug)
Oslo Marathon (Sep)
Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony (Dec)
Accommodation options for all budgets can be found in Oslo, including campsites, hostels, apartments, B&Bs and hotels in all categories. For old world elegance the Hotel Continental, Grand Hotel, Bristol and Holmenkollen Park Hotel Rica all fit the bill, while Grims Grenka, Oslo's first (and still only) boutique hotel, will appeal to those seeking a slightly more trendy vibe. The newly opened Scandic Vulkan in achingly cool Grünerløkka, or the Clarion Collection Hotel Folketeatret on Youngstorget are other good choices. For convenience it is hard to beat the brand new Comfort Hotel Grand Central right in Oslo S, or the stylish Scandic Oslo Airport, which won Norway's Innovation Award (an award celebrating universal design in furniture and interior design category) in 2011.
How to get there
The main international airport serving Oslo is Oslo Airport Gardermoen, 47 kilometres north of the city centre. The airport express train, Flytoget, links the airport and the main station in under 20 minutes. Sandefjord Airport Torp and Moss Airport Rygge serve the west and east (respectively) of the Oslofjord. The main railway station is Oslo S. The bus terminal is located nearby. Parking can be expensive in Oslo. Municipal car parks (but not private parking houses) are free with the Oslo Pass. More info on parking .
Ruter (info on public tranport in the Oslo Region)
Oslo Gardermoen Airport
Oslo Art Map (Art events in Oslo)
Did you know?
There are 2,600 kilometres of prepared cross-country tracks around Oslo
The average cost of a hotel room in Oslo in 2011 was £113, a lot less than in many other European cities (rooms in Paris, Rome, Venice, London, Amsterdam, Geneva and Stockholm all cost more).
It is as far from Oslo to the North Cape in Finnmark, Northern Norway, as from Oslo to Rome (about 2,000 kilometres).
The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded in Oslo every year on 10 December. Oslo is also home to the Nobel Peace Centre.
With a population of around 550,000, Oslo is one of the smallest capitals in Europe.
173 cruise ships with 313,000 passengers called in Oslo in 2011, an increase of 20 percent from the previous year. 166 cruise ships are expected in 2012. Germans cruise to Oslo the most. The German cruise line AIDA, has a total of 34 calls in 2012. Passengers from the US and the UK are the two other groups in the lead. In 2009, cruise traffic generated about 405 million NOK in Oslo - money spent by the cruise companies, passengers and crew. More information on cruise traffic to Oslo
Oslo International Airport in Gardermoen (OSL) had 21.1 million passengers in 2011. The airport, which has been in full operation since 1998, has around 500 employees. OSL can handle a total of 8,000 arriving and departing passengers per hour (65 aircraft movements per hour) and has an annual passenger capacity of around 23 million.
Founded around 1050 by Harold III, Oslo became the national capital in 1299. After a great fire in 1624, the city was rebuilt by Christian IV and was renamed Christiania (or Kristiania); in 1925 the name Oslo again became official.
St Hallvard (Hallvard Den Hellige in Norwegian) (c. 1020–1043) is the patron saint of Oslo. He was killed defending an innocent woman. St Hallvard is depicted in the seal of the city of Oslo, holding the millstone and arrows used to kill him, with the woman he defended at his feet. Look down while in Oslo and you will also see him represented on many manhole covers.
Tjuvholmen, home to the Astrup Fearnley Museum and The Thief, Petter Stordalen's flagship hotel due to open in early 2013, is a new up and coming district on the waterfront near Aker Brygge. Another one is Barcode, just behind the Opera, thus named because of the tight concentration of high office buildings in the area.