See also: Where to stay in Oslo
Oslo is the lesser-known twin of Rome for how it was destroyed—a fire engulfing a phoenix only to discover its exquisite re-birth. Formerly known as Christiania, named after a king of Denmark, it is safe to say Oslo never lost its air of royalty. With her inhabitants being the healthiest people in Norway to people acknowledging it as the Tiger City, Oslo takes you to an almost utopian world. Here's the 30 best things to do in Oslo, Norway:
This museum contains a hand-built raft that took Thor Heyerdahl, an explorer with a fear a water, 8000km across the Pacific Ocean in one of his adventures. The vessels, maps, and equipment he used during his expeditions are displayed in the museum along with Heyerdahl’s vast personal library. Kon Tiki—the documentary of their voyage recorded during the journey won the Academy Award, and is screened every day at 12 in the museum. A trip to this place is educational for both adults and children , so be sure to have this on your list to a family trip!
They say wildlife thrives in Oslo especially Nordmarka than in any capital city in Europe and it is hard to deny it when you see the moose, rabbits, elks and the wolves. Nordmarka has the blueberry bushes that give about a thousand berries during summer and other fungi. Being so popular among both the inhabitants and the visitors/tourists, Nordmarka has cabins along the trials for you to rest in, although the places don’t provide electricity and you have to use the wood. A vacation here is a perfect to get away from the demons of social media and cleanse your mind!
Oslo Opera House
Oslo Opera House was constructed in 2007 and has been flourishing ever since. It is a home of Norwegian National Opera and Ballet, and a lot of events take place in the national opera theatre. About 10 minute walk from the railway station, set in the harbour, Oslo Opera House with its contemporary architecture designed by Snøhetta gives a unusual experience to its visitors. It is designed in a way so that people walk on the roofs of this seemingly floating ship-like structure. Along with numerous events, many other artists collaborated to create artistic designs such as the She Lies sculpture, a perforated wall panel designed to look like melting ice and many more.
Norwegian National Opera and Ballet
This is made specifically to shed some light on Norwegian composers and their performances. It was founded in 1957 and is presently in Oslo Opera House. Though at the start the standard language was Norwegian, as the time passed, other languages were also added which brought in a larger audience. Lovers of operas and ballets must visit this place when they go to the Opera House.
Oslo City Hall
Oslo City Hall stands out like a burning candle against the darkness of the night and it is only correct for the Nobel Peace Prize award ceremony to take place there at every year. Most of the main hall is designed by Henrik Sørensen and Alf Rolfsen and a lot of ceremonies take place there. A tapestry designed by Else Poulsson shows St. Hallvard and the seven virtues and is hung in a room where the Council meets. It was designed in hopes that the people remember their ethics.
Norwegian Museum of Cultural History
Norwegian Museum of Cultural History is one of the largest open-air museums in Europe. This museum shows how people lived from 1500 in Norway to the present and contains the first open-air museum with over 150 buildings. Stepping in feels like stepping back in time and experiencing the wonders of the past. Exceptionally educational and fun, this is one of the must-visit places in Oslo. Small houses, relocated gas stations, and house inhabited by an immigrant Pakistani family and more can be visited.
The Royal Palace
While the Palace is open for visits only during Summer, the surrounding Palace park is beautiful and serene—the best thing is its free! You are allowed to go look at the guards and see them change every day at 1:30 PM. The Queen Sonja Art Stable, which used to be Palace’s stables and is now converted to art gallery and museum in 2017. The current Norwegian officially resides there.
Initially built in the 13th century as a defence fortress, Akershus Fortress survived every single attempt of invasion and lived through all its wars. It’s a very pertinent part of history during the Nazi opposition movement during World War 2. Many of the people who fought back were executed in the Fortress where the Nazi invaded it (without combat) from 1940-1945. Used as a military base, museum and containing the sarcophagi of many Norwegian royal figures.
Norway’s Resistance Museum
Everything regarding the Nazi’s occupation during the 1940-1945 has been documented through pictures, objects, models, newspaper clippings are exhibited here. This museum signifies the resistance that took place in Norway during the WW2 and a visit to this place could be very educational as well as inspiring. There is also a memorial beside the museum where the prominent Norwegian patriots, who were executed, rest.
One of the most visited places in Norway with almost 2 million people visiting every year, Frogner Park. The Vigeland installation situated in the middle of the Forgner Park is one of the reasons why the park is so popular among tourists. This installation contains over 212 sculptures by a single person, Gustav Vigeland. The Monolith, the highest point of the Park, contains 121 figures depicting togetherness in salvation. More sculptures were planned to be added, but this couldn’t be made possible due to the death of the artist.
The Viking Ship Museum
Vikings are known for their intense hard work in trying to send their dead ones to the Norse afterlife, so land and sea burials were the most sought out ways. This unique museum houses three burial ships namely Gokstad ship, Tune Ship and the Oseberg ship which was unearthed from the largest ship burial in the world. Walking into this place is bound to take you back to the old Viking days even more when you are surrounded by sledges, carts and other wood carvings. Marvel fans and people interested in Norse Mythology should visit this place at least once in their lifetime to see these historical monuments.
Old Aker Church
Built in middle ages, Old Aker Church is oldest structure in Oslo. It has been restored since then due to its many fire accidents. It is surrounded by the cemetery where many notable people such as Henriette Wegner, Christopher Hansteen etc were interred in the cemetery. If not for religious purposes, one should visit this place just for its mere historical background.
University Botanical Garden
This was established in 1814 by the Natural History Museum of the University. It was made to educate people about the wonderful diversity of plants and has doubled in its area since. Formerly it housed 7500 unique species of plants, but later Botanical Museum has been merged with the Botanical Garden in 1975. Perhaps the one thing that makes it stand out from the rest is its Silent Garden which is designed especially for the blind, mentally handicapped and people with other disabilities to experience the exceptional beauty of the nature. If you are a nature enthusiast, missing a visit to this place is almost a sin.
University Natural History Museum
Apart from the Botanical Garden, the University’s Natural History Museum also houses Zoological and Geological Museums. Wildlife from Norway and around the world is presented in the Zoological Museum, and anyone thinking of going trekking in Nordmarka can pay a visit here to learn more about the animals they might come across. The famous fossil Ida, the most complete fossil of early primate, can also be visited in the Geological Museum along with material of over 2 million fossil, minerals and rock specimens.
One should visit this place for the numerous restaurants along the boardwalk and the wide variety of fashion shops. A break from all the historical monuments, an evening at this place with your family or just a walk and breathing in the sea breeze is bound to make you feel refreshed. Sea-food lovers can find a feast in one of the dining places without much effort.
The museum looks like stacked cards about to fall and is a sight to see in itself but the works inside are bound to make you stop and stare. Dedicated to one of the greatest artists, Edvard Munch, this art museum contains about 1200 of his paintings, 18000 prints of his work, six sculptures and 2240 books. Munch was raised in a very conservative-religious family and suffered from anxiety all through his life. His paintings were a mirror to his internal turmoil and the famous Scream is a best example left behind by him. Scream which is currently in the Munch Museum is also known as the modern Mona Lisa for its iconic nature in modern art.
Tusenfryd means a thousand joys and it is rightfully named so. Though the park is located 20 kilometers south of Oslo, it is worth the trip if you planning to go to Oslo. Water slides, rollercoasters, kiddie rides such as obstacle courses, remote controlled boats and swinging pirate ships can be found here and it is a small paradise for kids and adults alike. Thor’s Hammer is a motion-based 3D dark ride which is a hit among the visitors. A stress-free treat to the soul and this place should be a top priority, especially if you have kids with you.
Consecrated in 1697, Oslo Cathedral went in a restoration somewhere in between 1848-1850. Its first organ was made by Carl Gustav Luckvitz in 1711 and later Jan Ryde made another one which is used currently on the occasion of 300th anniversary. Gustav Vigeland’s talented brother, Emanuel Vigeland, made the stainless glass windows of the church. The architecture is one to be appreciated and a lot of concerts take place here. The Royal family uses this church for the funerals and weddings.
Astrup Fearnley Museum
It was opened in 1993 and, unlike the many other places that were mentioned in this article, Astrup Fearnley is a privately owned contemporary museum. It contains works of Matthew Barney, Bruce Nauman, Tom Sachs, Cindy Sherman and many more modern artists. The new museum is currently situated in the centre of Oslo and is called Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art. It’s a nice place to start if you want to introduce someone to visual art/paintings.
Tjuvholmen Sculpture Park
It is located near the Astrup Fearnley Museum. Renzo Piano designed both the museum and the park. The park was opened on August of 2012 and has been expanded in 2013. There is also a beach nearby so you could visit three different places in just one trip. The seven sculptures in the park include the works of Anish Kapoor, Franz West, and Antony Gormley.
Damstredet and Telthusbakken
Two picture-perfect streets located just below the Gamle Aker Kirke, a medieval church, Damstedet and Telthusbakken have wooden houses belonging to 18th and 19th century. With gardens alongside the streets, they pull you into the ages of elegant hats and delicate clothes. Artistic people can derive their inspirations for their works from these old streets and poets can bring out their muses from the windows of these past centuries. A walk through the streets and gardens with your lover can not get more romantic than this.
Though the river is officially pronounced dead on March of 2011 after 6000 litres of chlorine was released into it, Akerselva is still referred as Oslo’s green lung. There are various bookshops, cafes and parks around the place that you can visit. Norway is the largest exporter of Salmon in the world and you can find them at the upper part of the river. A mug of coffee, your favourite book in your hand and a walk along the river sounds like a perfect way for a relaxing evening.
Ekebergparken Sculpture Park
It was inaugurated in 2013 and had about 31 sculptures at the start but a lot of sculptures were added later. Works of Gustav Vigeland, Matt Johnson, Auguste Renoir and many more were shown here throughout the years. There’s also a museum located near the park that is focused on the history of the city, Ekeberg. The visit to park is free of charge and is opened is always opened all through the year, even on weekdays and weekends.
Storting is the supreme legislature of Norway, established in 1814 by the constitution of Norway. People interested in the history of Norway and their legislation can visit this place for a group guide tour on weekdays between October and June and booking should be done before-hand. Normal guided tours are also available in Summer and Spring time where booking is not necessary. It was designed by Emil Victor Langet and has been under use since 1866.
The Fjord cruise trips takes you throughout the city and gives you a breath-taking view of all the attractions Oslo can offer to you. It is one thing to see Oslo while walking on the streets and a whole new other experience to look at these things while cruising on a boat. You might want to get on this cruise and enjoy looking at the numerous museums and beaches on your way.
Sørenga Seawater Pool
From sweet old people to cheerful kids, this seawater pool has a lot to offer for everyone. Sørenga Seawater Pool has a swimming pool, a beach, a children’s pool and a recreational area for you to lose your worries. If you ever happen to visit Oslo during winter, you can enjoy the popular sauna and swim in cold water pools. This place is wheelchair-friendly, so don’t hesitate to pay a visit to Sørenga Seawater Pool.
Norwegian Museum of Science and Technology
This was founded in 1914 to show the progression of Norway through the ages and its development in regards with technology. The Science Centre is a place to have fun for both children and adults. You can also chase virtual fish here. There is also a digital workshop which enables you to make 3D designs and the tools that you need to build your own creations. This is a both fun and educational visit where you get lost in time.
The Fram Museum
It was inaugurated on the May of 1936. It looks like a house almost buried in snow with only its roof showing. One third of the country is in the Arctic Circle, and thus, it is called the Land of the Midnight Sun. No wonder people were curious about what is far from their reach and decide to explore it. The Fram exploration vessel is present inside the museum and visitors are allowed to go inside and view it. The Engine Room of Fram is possible one of the most exciting visits.
Oslo Winter Park
This park is as exciting as its counterpart, the Summer Park, if not more. As the Norwegian saying goes, “There’s no bad weather, there’s only bad clothing.” Nothing stops the people of Norway from having extreme fun and skiing is one of the most popular activities in winter. This Winter Park has 18 slopes and 11 lifts with everything divided for beginners, children and challenging ones. They also have a discount for school children. Tryvann, Hyttil, Vestkleiva, Wyller are some of the areas where they offer different forms of entertainment—chair lifts, slopes, rails, jumps and parks. It is said that Norway is the birthplace for modern skiing, and it would only be appropriate to visit this place in winter to enjoy the fruits of Winter Park.
Oslo’s Summer Park
Have you ever wished you could go back in time and be a child again? Oslo’s Summer park will grant all your wishes and more. With 12 trails, with zip-lines and 200 elements of surprises, you can prepare your heart to go on an adventure. People with fear of heights need not fear more because there are varying levels of difficulty and you can choose the easiest one. This trip is child-friendly and before entering it is made sure that you have all the equipment that is needed for you to have a safe and dun experience. If there adrenaline trips are not for you, you could still get yourself some food, go hiking and have a picnic amongst the peaceful shade of trees.
While one would expect a capital city to be pollution-ridden and hard to navigate, Oslo’s tour-friendly forest and environment-friendly vehicles set it apart from the norm. Though it is expensive, the transportation—buses, tramps, boats and the local trains—is very convenient. Especially if you are a tourist, and have the benefits of the Oslo Pass, which gives you a free pass to museums, free public transport and special discounts in various places. The transportation facilities are in such a way that the ride goes throughout the city, so you don’t have to worry about missing out on a place while sight-seeing!
One of the best things about Oslo is its ambiguity, as if she can’t decide what she wants to be. If you’re an introvert who likes to stay in coffee shops with your noses in your favorite books or visit museums appreciating the art and the raw Scandinavian history that you see everywhere you go, Oslo offers it for you. On the other hand, if you are more into hiking, skiing, and boat adventures, nothing should stop you from visiting this city.