You’ll need to put in a bit of effort to understand and fully appreciate the wonderful Oslo. It’s the capital city of Norway and has all the trimmings of a thriving downtown, however, it’s the suburbs and counterculture scenes that tie the Oslo experience together.
Don’t let its outer shell of official-looking architecture and business suit wearing locals fool you. Oslo has a lot going on beneath the surface, from art and music to architecture and nature. If you are planning to visit this Scandinavian city, here are the best things to do.
The Viking Ship Museum
This part of the world is known for its Viking history, and making your first stop at the Viking Ship Museum will get you well acquainted with it. The ships here are over a thousand years old and are said to be the best-preserved in the world. A wander through this museum will be filled with ships, but also Viking artifacts, and a burial chamber with ancient skeletons. Viking history is quite unique, making this museum a must if you are visiting Oslo.
The Mini Bottle Gallery
This museum is completely unique to both the city of Oslo and the world. It’s one of the most quirky destinations that the city has to offer and often times goes unnoticed by visitors. The three-story building is home to 50 installations which make up a total of 53,000 miniature bottles. It’s the largest mini bottle collection in the entire world. It’s not just a massive collection of bottles that you’ll see though. Many of them are filled with intriguing objects like fruit, mice, and worms. Apparently, there’s even a ‘room of horror’ if you are feeling adventurous and brave.
Holmenkollen Ski Museum
If you’re a fan of winter sports, this museum is the next best thing to hitting the slopes. The building itself is actually shaped like a ski jump, and within the exhibits lies 4,000 years of skiing and snowboarding history. If all of the ski talk has got you itching to get on a pair yourself, you can check out the ski simulator right in the museum. Visitors can also check out the snowboarding exhibition, the gallery of modern skiing, and a whole collection of artifacts from Norwegian polar exploration.
Norwegian Folk Museum
History buffs will love an afternoon at the Norwegian Folk Museum. In fact, even those mildly interested in history can find some value in the exhibitions here. It’s an open-air museum with over 150 traditional houses from all over Norway and a stave church that dates back to year 1200. The attraction is one of the oldest and largest open-air museums in the world actually. Once you finish wandering around outside, head inside to see folk costumes, weapons, handicrafts, toys, and pharmaceutical history. Coming in the summer is even more of a treat as there are carriage rides, guided tours, animals to feed, and handicraft demonstrations.
Viewed as the pioneer of expressionism, Edvard Munch is one of the most famous painters to come out of Norway. The entire collection was left to the city of Oslo by the artist himself and holds paintings, drawings, and graphical prints. There are also some sculptures and artifacts that were his like books and plates. Visit this museum and you’ll see some of his most famous paintings including The Scream and Madonna.
Vigeland Sculpture Park
Seeing more than a million visitors each year, this sculpture park is one of Oslo’s top tourist attractions. But, don’t be put off by the words ‘tourist attraction,’ because this park is art at its best. The attraction holds the life works of sculpture artist, Gustav Vigeland, which includes around 200 pieces made of granite, bronze, and cast iron. The most popular pieces to see while visiting are the Monolith, Angry Boy, and Wheel of Life. The outline and architectural design of the park was also the brainchild of Vigeland.
This ship may be the most famous in the world as it’s the strongest one ever built, and the record holder for sailing the farthest both north and south. Trudging through the Arctic and Antarctica, The Fram tells the history of how the crew and their dogs survived such treacherous destinations. What makes it especially fun is that the museum has a simulator that allows visitors to experience the dangers and the frigid weather that the crew endured over 100 years ago. You can also check out the exhibitions on the Northwest and Arctic passage in the building next door.
Magic Ice Bar
When you think of how cold and icy Norway can get, it seems that this bar is the perfect way to enjoy a drink. It’s completely made of ice, from the bar itself to the glasses, and requires special gear just to enter and drink a cocktail. What makes it even more interesting is the ice sculpture art gallery that is illuminated by LED lights.
Mathallen Food Hall
Hey foodies, try not to freak out, but you’re going to love this food hall. It holds more than 30 specialty shops, eateries, and cafes offering locally sourced Norwegian goods as well as international fare. While visiting you can check out some Southeast Asian street food, a wine bar with Spanish tapas, a restaurant serving street food from all over the world, a beer bar with over 200 varieties, Norwegian cheeses and jams, homemade Scandinavian foods, fresh produce, a seafood bar, and a whole lot more.
Tim Wendelboe Roastery
If you’re into good coffee as well as the coffee culture, this is a place that you mustn’t skip. It’s an espresso bar and training center which is run by Tim Wendelboe, a World Cup Tasters Champion and World Barista Champion. It’s been said to feel like a neighborhood shop but seems to be run like a high-end restaurant.
Want to experience something in Oslo that you’ve probably never seen anywhere else? Then head to Café Laundromat because it’s truly unique. This trendy little spot is a café where you can get a coffee buzz, some lunch, and get your laundry done all at the same time. If you’ve ever had to wash clothes at a Laundromat before, you know how boring it can be. However, this spot offers a whole library of books and comics in addition to some delicious food and drink options.
Fuglen Coffee and Cocktails
This place couldn’t get any trendier if it tried. By day, Fuglen is a coffee shop that offers innovative espresso creations that will provide the boost you need to wander around Oslo. By night though, it turns into a cocktail bar that uses fresh ingredients to whip up crafty drinks. And, to top it all off, Fuglen is a vintage design shop which sells everything you see such as the chairs, plates, lamps, tables, and glasses. Design freaks will appreciate the Scandinavian look from the 50s and 60s.
Oslo Brewing Company
Starting in 2015, a group of friends came together to open up this brewery, which they believe captures the essence of everything Oslo. They have a full lineup of options that includes everything from a porter and double IPA to a blonde, lager, wit, and pilsner. Their list is long and they often add in some seasonal and rotation beers.
The Kon-Tiki Museum
Crossing the Pacific Ocean on the Kon-Tiki raft, Thor Heyerdahl gained fame worldwide. In the museum, visitors can get a look at the original rafts, vessels, and stories of expeditions taken on by Heyerdahl over his lifetime. Since his travels took him to places like Easter Island and the Galapagos, most people find the exhibits pretty intriguing. You can visit the underwater whale shark model, the library, or the theater to watch the award-winning documentary on Thor.
Located in central Oslo, this is one of the largest city parks in the city, and visiting here is one of the best things to do in Norway. Aside from its size, much of its popularity is centered around the Vigeland Sculpture Park which is held inside. Frogner park will usually be full of both tourists and locals doing everything from barbecuing, jogging, and dog walking to picnicking and badminton. The park also has the city’s largest collection of roses which includes 150 different species making up a total of 14,000 plants. Norway’s largest children’s playground is located inside so make sure you visit if you are traveling as a family.
Huk & Paradisbukta Beach
Oslo actually has some pretty nice beaches to check out if you’re visiting during the summer. While you can still take a sandy stroll during the winter months, it’s the warm weather that really gets this place thriving. Expect a lot of people if the day is sunny and hot, but don’t worry about the crowds because there is always some extra room to wiggle in. Lounge on the beach, take a swim, hit the snack bar or go for a walk or run.
This popular park was built in the 1800s and offers a music pavilion as well as a small pool. While visitors love it for its history and layout, one of the best things about it is the market that’s held here every Sunday. You can find a whole selection of interesting bric-a-brac and plenty of interesting people to watch. There are often concerts and rallies going on as well so you might be surprised with a little extra action on a visit.
Norway is characterized by its stunning fjords, and while in Oslo, you’ll have the chance to experience one. You’ll need an afternoon or a whole day for this boat excursion out of the city, but it’s worth it to see some of the more natural parts that surround Oslo. You can take the ferry and go on and off the islands to explore. Come in the summer and you can expect to swim and lounge on the beaches too.
Little Brother Brewery
Established in 2013, this local brewery has gained popularity with the locals quite quickly. They take their beer pretty seriously and have everything from Norwegian Farmhouse ales and Belgian Golden Strong Ale to Honey Wheat Ale and Imperial Stout. You might even see their beers while you are out and about exploring Oslo because tons of restaurants and bars around the city sell their brand.
Sure, a Tiki bar really isn’t the first thing you think about when visiting Oslo, however, that’s exactly what makes this bar so special. The Hawaiian themed watering hole is completely out of place which makes a drink there feel oh-so-right. Fruit drinks by the glassful come pumping out of the bar that is surrounded by ancient island artifacts and colorful lights. Be careful of having too many Mai Tais because you might just forget that you’re in Norway and not the Hawaiian islands.
Oslo Winter Park
Visit the largest ski resort around Oslo and hit some seriously snowy slopes. It takes about 30 minutes to reach the park from the city, which isn’t long at all compared to the skiing and snowboarding opportunities that you’re in for. Visit from November until after Easter for the best chances at perfects conditions.
Holmenkollen Zip Line
This famous landmark, shaped like a ski jump, can be enjoyed more than one way. If you are adventurous and like a little bit of adrenalin in your day, check out this zip line. It’s 361 meters long and has an elevation drop of 107,5 meters. Plus, you’ll be in for some pretty insane views of Oslo. If you are visiting during spring, autumn, or summer, make sure to check out this attraction.
Toboggan Run: Korketrekkeren
It wouldn’t be a trip to snowy Scandinavia without a toboggan run. It’s a great way to enjoy the slopes without having to get on a pair of skis or a snowboard. This is the most popular toboggan run in Oslo and starts from Frognerseteren, ending at Midtstuen metro station where you can just take the train to get back to the top. It’s 2000 meters long and the elevation drop is 255 meters. Expect one run to take 8-10 minutes!
Oslo runs deep with culture, history, and natural beauty. Take your time and allow the trip to unfold slowly, showing off all of the pleasant surprises that Oslo has in store. Have a look at our Oslo itineraries here, and if you have any questions please do get in touch with our Scandinavia travel expert.