Things To Do In Oslo

Best things to do in Oslo: The must-do experiences in the Norwegian capital

In a country with such outstanding natural beauty, it’s not overly surprising that Oslo doesn’t gain as much attention as other parts of Norway. But skipping over the country’s capital city means missing out on several fun experiences, so what are the best things to do in Oslo? 

Oslo is by far Norway’s largest city, and it’s the closest you’ll get to a metropolis in the country. But at the same time, it’s compact enough to get to know it intimately — even if you only spend a few days here. And, of course, since this is Norway, you will find plenty of beautiful nature trails nearby. 

The Norwegian capital has some of Northern Europe’s best museums and a food scene that has matured significantly in recent years. Regeneration is constantly ongoing, with projects like the Barcode District and Mathallen portraying this perfectly. 

From long and warm summer days to snow-draped streets and skiing opportunities during the winter, Norway’s biggest urban area is a city for all seasons. And so, without delay, let’s discover the top things to do in Oslo. 

Things To Do In Oslo

Enjoy an afternoon at Frognerparken 

If you only visit one park in Oslo, make sure it’s Frognerparken. Located in the leafy and peaceful Frogner district, the park features several sculptures designed by iconic Norwegian sculptor Gustav Vigeland. 

Each of them portrays a wide range of human emotions, and you could easily spend a day observing all of them. 

Besides the sculptures, Frognerparken is a spacious area that’s great for having a picnic when the weather plays fair. You can also go for a run here before perhaps continuing along the waterfront to enjoy the fresh fjord air. 

During the spring and summer, Frognerparken also has a wide range of flowers and other plant life worth observing. The park looks entirely different depending on when you go, it’s one of the most popular tourist attractions in all of Norway — a pretty impressive feat. 

Frogner is one of Oslo’s western districts, and reaching the park is easy from the city center. Hop on the number 12 tram in the direction of Majorstuen before getting off at Vigelandsparken. You can also take part in a day tour that will partially include the park. 

Things To Do In Oslo

Take in the city from above at Ekebergparken 

If you visit Copenhagen before heading to Oslo, you’ll notice a huge contrast in the landscape. While Denmark’s capital city is largely flat, Norway’s largest city is surrounded by hills on three sides. 

Besides looking good, this topography also provides the opportunity to capture enthralling views of Oslo from above. 

You will find perhaps the best view of Norway’s capital city from Ekebergparken, which isn’t far from the downtown area. The park overlooks Oslo’s eastern districts, and you’ll get a particularly good view of the city’s many high-rise structures — such as the Bjørvika neighborhood. 

From Ekebergparken, you can also look toward the Oslofjord and the city’s many neighboring islands. It’s a fantastic place to watch the sun rise or go down, but be warned — you probably won’t be the only person on the viewing platform! 

Ekebergparken also has a sculpture park and forested area worth exploring. Get the number 13 or 19 tram in the direction of Ljabru and alight at the namesake stop. 

Things To Do In Oslo
Credit: Jiang Jiang

Participate in Oslo’s coffee scene 

Norwegians are big on coffee, and the average person in Norway drinks more than three cups of the stuff daily. At nine kilograms of coffee per person, Norway is only beaten to the top by neighboring Finland in annual consumption. 

To satisfy the demand, many Norwegian cities have excellent cafés — and Oslo is perhaps the best place to sample everything for yourself. 

If you want to stop and grab a cup of coffee, you’ll have no struggles doing so in the Norwegian capital. The Tim Wendelboe espresso bar in Grünnerløkka is well-known among locals, and it’s a popular spot for coffee enthusiasts from around the globe. 

Tim Wendelboe is on Grünersgate and is inside a distinctly-patterned building that’s easy to spot. Elsewhere, you’ll find several Kaffebrenneriet chain cafés throughout the city. 

Another place worth visiting for your caffeine fix is Godt Brød, close to the Munch Museum; you’ll find excellent sandwiches and pastries here, along with free filter coffee refills. 

Things To Do In Oslo

Get some food at Mathallen 

One of the best examples of urban regeneration in Oslo is Mathallen, which — like Tim Wendelboe — is in the trendy Grünnerløkka neighborhood. You will find a wide selection of cuisines from across the globe at this food hall, including Greek and Italian food. 

Mathallen also sells various specialty food products, allowing you to cook more of a gourmet dinner if you’re staying at self-catering accommodation. 

The layout is designed to encourage social interaction, and you’ll probably share your table with strangers; if you want to have interesting conversations with others, this isn’t a bad place to start. 

Mathallen is easy to reach from the city center. You can get the 11, 12, or 18 tram in the direction of Storo-Grefsen; Schous Plass is the closest tram stop to the food hall, and you’ll need to walk for around six minutes after getting off the tram. 

You can also reach Mathallen via bus. The 34 or 54 toward Kjelsås will get you here; get off at Møllerveien and walk for around three minutes. 

Things To Do In Oslo

Go to the Oslo Opera House 

The Oslo Opera House is one of the first places that many tourists visit on their first trip to Scandinavia’s third-largest city, and it’s probably Oslo’s most famous building. 

Since its completion in 2008, the venue has become a popular place to hold live events and a prime example of mixing aesthetics with pragmatism. 

You can buy tickets to watch an event at the Oslo Opera House, but it’s worth checking out even if you don’t. Access to the rooftop is completely free, and you’ll get a great view over downtown Oslo and the fjord; be warned that the steps can be slippery during cold weather. 

Once you’ve climbed to the top of the roof, you can also walk a little along the waterfront to enjoy an alternative view from across the sea. 

You won’t have any problems whatsoever getting to the Opera House. It’s right outside one of the entrances at Oslo Central Station and close to the Bjørvika district. While you can go to the top of the roof at all hours, you can only go inside during official opening times. 

You can stroll around the interior for free, though you’ll need to pay to watch live performances. 

Things To Do In Oslo

Grab a bike (in the summer)

While Oslo is not as bike-friendly as Copenhagen, it’s an excellent city to explore on two wheels when the snow has melted. The city has several designated bike routes, much of which you can accompany with a pleasant view along the seafront. 

Thanks to its size and several pedestrianized streets, Oslo is easy to get around by bike. 

You should, however, consider a couple of important rules before getting started: 

  • You are not allowed to cycle on motorways and dual carriageways. 
  • You must signal when changing directions. 
  • You need to cycle in the direction of traffic on one-way streets; the only exception is if traffic signs state otherwise. 

Many hotels in Oslo offer bike rental, so it’s worth looking for this before you book. You can also find several blue city bikes for rental throughout the Norwegian capital; download the Bysykkel app for your smartphone to borrow and return bikes. 

If you plan to spend the whole day on two wheels, you can get a one-day pass for 69 Norwegian Kroner (roughly $6.81). 

Things To Do In Oslo

Visit one of Oslo’s many excellent museums 

One of the undisputed greatest things to do in Oslo is visit one or many of the city’s fantastic museums. Throughout the city, you’ll find museums dedicated to several topics — including lifestyle, culture, and history. 

Arguably the best museum in Oslo is the Munch Museum, which opened in 2021. Portraying the life of much-celebrated Norwegian artist Edvard Munch, the museum has become an instant hit and received rave reviews from locals and tourists alike. 

Across multiple floors, you get an in-depth look at Munch’s life — and you can also view some of his most famous paintings, such as “The Scream”. At the top of the building, you’ll get a pleasant view of Oslo’s city center and outer neighborhoods. 

Another popular museum in Oslo is the Astrup Fearnley Museum, which is at the tip of Aker Brygge. The museum opened in 1993, though it has only been in its current building since 2012. You’ll find several examples of modern art here, with several temporary and permanent exhibitions. 

Bygdøy, which is in the western part of Oslo, is well-known for its museums. Conveniently, the peninsula is also a great place to cycle during the summer. Maybe it’s worth combining our previous tip with this one?… 

Things To Do In Oslo

Go for a hike in nature 

If you’ve seen everything and aren’t sure of what to do in Oslo, you can always join in with the Norwegians and go for a hike. Like most other cities in Norway, the capital has done an excellent job combining urban comforts with easy access to nature for residents. 

Within a short public transport journey from the downtown area, you can find yourself in what feels like acres of natural wilderness. Vettakollen offers an excellent view of the city; the same is true for Grefsenkollen. 

Another fantastic place to hike near Oslo is the area surrounding Sognsvann, a relatively large lake with its own metro stop. You’ll find people enjoying themselves throughout the year, whether that’s a picnic during the summer or sampling the leaves’ changing colors in the autumn. 

Mellomkollen is also a popular place to go for a hike, and like Grefsenkollen, you can enjoy a pleasant view over Oslo’s surrounding areas.  

Things To Do In Oslo

Visit Oslo’s nearby islands 

While the nearby hiking trails are some of the best things to see in Oslo, its nearby islands are perhaps the best example of how the city mingles urban and nature. Within a short ferry ride from the waterfront, you can find yourself exploring woods, lounging on the beach, and more. 

Hovedøya is the closest island to the city center, and it’s a great place to start if you’re short on time. You will find the ruins of a monastery here, along with swimming opportunities and forested areas that are calling for you to walk through. 

Another island close to the city center is Lindøya, which has various summer houses frequented by their owners when the weather gets warm. Lindøya also has a swimming stadium, and the journey from downtown Oslo isn’t drastically longer than the trip to Hovedøya. 

To get to the islands near Oslo’s city center, you only need a public transport ticket. Most ferries depart from Aker Brygge; the trip to Hovedøya is 10 minutes, with Lindøya being between 15 and 20 minutes. 

Remember to check the ferry schedule before your trip, as you might have reduced services during certain periods of the year. 

Things To Do In Oslo

Sail along the Oslofjord 

Let’s be honest — you probably came to Norway to see fjords. And even if your onward journey will take you to some of the country’s big hitters, the Oslofjord offers a pleasant enough day trip that will take you out of the (relative) hustle and bustle. 

The Oslofjord is the fifth-largest fjord in Norway and is over 100 kilometers long. Along its shores, you’ll see plenty of beautiful houses. 

You will find several Oslofjord tours to join if you’re in the Norwegian capital. If you’re feeling particularly fancy, you can enjoy an evening buffet cruise that’s pretty well-priced — especially when you consider the cost of eating out in a standard Oslo restaurant. 

If you don’t want to eat anything, you can join standard sightseeing cruises at various points throughout the day. Most ships depart from the waterfront area next to the city hall. 

Things To Do In Oslo

Hear all about Oslo from a local 

While you’ll probably have a lot of fun exploring Oslo on your own, it’s much more enjoyable if you know people there. If you don’t have any friends living in the Norwegian capital, don’t worry — you can book a private tour with someone living there. 

Learning about Oslo with a local will make navigating your way around the city easier. Moreover, you’ll also receive insider tips on where to eat that you might not otherwise have gathered. Most importantly, you’ll get to see the main tourist attractions in the city. 

You can book a tour with a local in Oslo in several languages. Another alternative is to join the daily free walking tour, where you can later pay the guide whatever you feel the tour was worth. 

Things To Do In Oslo

Take a day trip 

You will find plenty of things to see in Oslo, but you should — if you have time — consider exploring the surrounding areas. Cities like Bergen and Tromsø steal most of the headlines in Norway, meaning that the Østlandet region is often overlooked. 

However, you will find several hidden gems close to Oslo, along with a couple that are a bit further afield (but still doable in a day). If you’ve only got one choice, the charming town of Fredrikstad is a perfect showcase of cozy wooden Norwegian houses and not too expensive to reach. 

Lillehammer also offers an interesting day trip from Oslo, and it was the location for the 1994 Winter Olympics. In more modern times, it became well-known after the TV series Lilyhammer — which follows a gangster from New York City trying to make a life for himself in the town. 

Oslo is only around three-and-a-half hours from Gothenburg if you want to go further afield. Sweden’s second-largest city offers plenty of culinary experiences, along with friendly locals and pretty architecture. 

You can get the train and bus; both take roughly the same amount of time. 

Things To Do In Oslo

Visit Akershus Festning 

While Oslo’s skyline looks pretty modern, the Norwegian capital still has its older charms. And if you’re still wondering what to see in Oslo, Akershus Festning should be near the top of your list. The fortress dates back to the 13th century, and it’s still used today. 

Wandering around the outside of Akershus Festning is free, though you’re not allowed to enter the military areas. You can enjoy a particularly pleasant view toward Aker Brygge and Hovedøya, along with the surrounding parts of Oslo. 

At the time of writing, the Norwegian Prime Minister’s main office is close to Akershus Festning. However, this is only a temporary solution. 

Akershus Festning is just under 20 minutes away from Oslo Central Station by foot and 10 minutes from the city hall. The fortress is visible from the waterfront, so you won’t have any problems finding it. 

Things To Do In Oslo

Sample Oslo’s older architecture 

If you want to find those stereotypical wooden Norwegian houses, you don’t need to leave Oslo. Damstredet is the best-known example; this corner of Eastern Oslo features houses dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries. You’ll also find cobblestone streets and plenty of photo opportunities. 

You can also find examples of traditional Norwegian architecture in the Vålerenga neighborhood, which is part of the Gamle Oslo district. 

Another place worth visiting for older architecture is the Kampen neighborhood; many of its houses have been renovated following fires and other events. The district is close to the Tøyen district and is not far from Vålerenga. 

Things To Do In Oslo

Visit the Norwegian Royal Palace 

If you’ve searched for pictures of Oslo on Google, you’ve probably already seen the Norwegian Royal Palace’s yellow exterior. The palace is located at one end of Karl Johans Gate, which is the main shopping street in Norway’s capital. 

The Norwegian Royal Palace dates back to the 19th century, and it’s still used by the Royal Family as a home. Strolling around its surrounding park is one of the best things to do in Oslo, and you can also join a tour to explore the palace’s interior during part of the summer. 

Getting to the Norwegian Royal Palace is pretty straightforward. Plenty of trams and buses pass through the area, and you can also get the metro to Nationaltheatret before walking to the palace. 

Enjoy Oslo’s lively nightlife scene 

Okay, so drinking out in Oslo is expensive. We’re talking really expensive — like, almost $10 for a beer. But at the same time, the Norwegian capital has a lively nightlife scene worth sampling if you’re visiting for a weekend. 

You will find plenty of places to enjoy a drink in Oslo; Blå in Grünerløkka is one of the most popular places to do so. Throughout the Grünerløkka district, you will find plenty of other bars worth hopping in and out of. 

While it’s pricey, Aker Brygge also has various high-end establishments for those looking for a little more lowkey. Similarly, you’ll find a selection of wineries in and around Frogner. 

Things To Do In Oslo

Go for a swim 

The best way to experience a new city is by doing as the locals do. Swimming is hugely popular in Oslo, and the city’s residents enjoy doing so in all seasons — yes, even in the depths of winter. 

If you’re looking for one of the best things to do in Oslo, the Norwegian capital has several designated bathing areas dotted throughout the city. You’ll find various ones along the waterfront in the center of town, including Sørenga and opposite the Opera House. 

Regardless of the time of year, consider combining your dip with a trip to the sauna. Again, you’ll find a couple of waterfront spots where doing so is possible. 

Things to do in Oslo are plentiful

If you’re willing to be curious, and regardless of when you visit, you will find many things to do in Oslo — even if the city doesn’t initially win you over with its looks.

The Norwegian capital has a laid-back vibe that few capitals can replicate, and you’re only ever a public transport ride away from nature experiences aplenty. 

Regardless of when you visit, Oslo will surprise you and have you itching to come back. Its well-run public transport network, a vast range of coffee houses, and thriving cultural scene are just three reasons to love Norway’s capital city. 

If you’re looking for a place to stay, Oslo has plenty of hotel options to suit all budgets.

Now that you know what you can see and do in Oslo, why not read more about visiting? We’ve put together a complete guide to taking a trip to the Norwegian capital

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