What Is Oslo Famous For

What is Oslo famous for? Interesting and fun facts about Oslo

Many visitors to Norway don’t come here specifically to visit Oslo; they typically transit through the main airport before heading to the headline-stealing fjords further north. But the Norwegian capital can offer a lot to the curious traveler, so what is Oslo famous for? 

Compared to picturesque cities like Bergen and Trondheim, Oslo might be less impressive at first glance. The city has a very distinct architectural style, and it’s quite different from Copenhagen and Stockholm. 

However, you shouldn’t let that put you off. 

Oslo has good food, great museums, and stunning nature — plus friendly locals, a well-integrated public transport network, and a cutting-edge coffee culture. In short, it’s an excellent starting point for your Norwegian journey — along with being a great weekend destination in its own right. 

And so, without further ado, let’s learn some interesting facts about Oslo. You’ll learn what the city is unique for and more. 

What is unique about Oslo?

Oslo has a distinct feel that no other city in Europe — let alone Scandinavia — can replicate. But at the same time, it follows many of the same mantras that make its Nordic counterparts so successful. 

Below are the main things that make the Norwegian capital an enticing place to live and visit. 

What Is Oslo Famous For

Urban mixed with nature 

When asking “what is Oslo famous for?”, you’ll almost instantly notice one thing as soon as you leave the city’s main train station: its close relationship with nature. If you’re an outdoor enthusiast but you still want to enjoy the big city life, Oslo might be the right place for you to call home.

Oslo’s nature is incredibly diverse. If you’re unsure where to begin, the nearby islands are a good starting point; within just 10 minutes by boat, you can find yourself on Hovedøya — the closest island to the city center.

And if you want to go even further, you can sail along the Oslofjord (more on that later).

Many people visit Norway for hiking opportunities. While the mountains surrounding cities like Bergen and Tromsø are certainly spectacular, you don’t need to venture that far north to work your legs and enjoy the fresh Norwegian air.

Oslo has plenty of hiking opportunities, including the forest surrounding Sognsvann (which is a great place to enjoy a dip during the summer).

Like the rest of Norway, Oslo has long and cold winters. And if you want to join in with the locals, you can grab a pair of skis and take them to the slopes. During the summer, you might also want to participate in Nordic walking — effectively like skiing on rollerblades with no snow on the ground. 

You’ll also find plenty of beaches to enjoy the long summer evenings when the weather gets warmer.

What Is Oslo Famous For

A city with a small-town feel 

Oslo is by far the largest city in Norway and one of the biggest in the Nordic region. But despite its metropolitan status, the city feels remarkably accessible. If you’re used to global megacities like New York City and London, the Norwegian capital will feel like worlds away. 

Much of Oslo’s city center is pedestrianized, reducing the noise commonly associated with cars and similar vehicles. Moreover, getting around by foot is pretty straightforward — and if you live here long enough, you’ll probably know someone that knows someone… and so on. 

If you decide to move to Oslo at some point, you’ll get to enjoy the convenience of living in a big city — but at the same time, you’ll also have that community feel often associated with smaller places. And during the winter, it’ll sometimes feel like you’ve got the whole place to yourself. 

Cuisine

When you think of Norwegian cuisine, what comes to your mind? Considering that the country has the world’s second-longest coastline, we’d imagine seafood is probably close to the top of the list (spoiler alert: you’re right). 

Much of Oslo’s city center is made up of water; you don’t need to go very far to find excellent, freshly-caught fish. 

In Oslo, you’ll find restaurants serving salmon aplenty. Shellfish is also popular here; again, you can enjoy it in plenty of establishments. Some of the most popular include Rorbua and Lofoten Fiskerestaurant — both come with a pretty high price tag, so make sure you budget accordingly. 

But seafood isn’t all you’ll get in Oslo. One of the greatest Norwegian delicacies is brunost (brown cheese) and Norwegian waffles — usually accompanied with jam and/or cream. 

You’ll find various establishments in the city selling this local classic, and Haralds Vafler is arguably the best place to get your fix. 

During the summer (or even in the winter), you’ll find plenty of places in Oslo selling ice cream. If you want to go truly local, we recommend asking for licorice sprinkles when placing your order. 

Other foods worth trying in Oslo include pølser (hot dogs) and cuisines from the city’s various immigrant populations, many of which you can enjoy at Mathallen. 

Modern architecture 

When you visit Copenhagen, you probably know to expect picture-perfect colorful houses. And if you find yourself in Stockholm, you’ll likely expect architecture that’s a little more grandiose but — at the same time — minimalistic. 

Where does Oslo stand in that respect, then? 

Well, the truth is that it’s somewhere in the middle. Today, much of the city’s skyline is dominated by newer builds — many of which are part of a huge ongoing waterfront regeneration project. 

Besides the Oslo Opera House, which we’ll later talk about in more detail, the Barcode District is probably the best-known example of modern architecture in Norway’s capital. 

The line of buildings is part of the Bjørvika neighborhood, home to swanky apartments and offices for some of the biggest Norwegian and international companies — including banking giant DNB and financial services firm Deloitte. 

Aker Brygge is another example of Oslo’s huge regeneration project; the district is lined with fancy restaurants and bars. It’s also a popular place to lounge around on warm summer days. 

Other modern neighborhoods in the Norwegian capital include Tjuvholmen and Sørenga, while Fornebu — which is just outside the city — has been transformed from a former airport area into a knowledge hub. 

What Is Oslo Famous For

Natural viewpoints 

Considering that Oslo is surrounded by peaks on three sides, you won’t find it surprising to hear that you can find plenty of spots to enjoy the city from above. Arguably the best is at Ekebergparken, which is also the scene of a famous Edvard Munch painting. 

From Grefsenkollen, you can also view the Norwegian capital from an elevated viewpoint. The area surrounding the Holmenkollen Ski Jump also offers the opportunity to take in Oslo from above; these areas are open to the public and free of charge. 

Swimming opportunities 

Scandinavian cities have done an excellent job at ensuring their water is safe enough to swim in, and doing so is one of the most popular activities for locals. You’ll find people going for a dip even in the depths of winter before — in many cases — hopping straight into a sauna. 

Oslo is no different; in the city center, you’ll find various spots to enjoy a swim for free. Of course, you’ll need to make sure you stick to the designated areas — as the fjord has a lot of boat traffic, and you could put yourself at risk if you don’t heed signs. 

If you want to enjoy the sensation of a cold plunge with a sauna, you’ll find a couple of spots to do so in Oslo. Opposite the Oslo Opera House, you’ll find an area with water from the fjord to swim in — along with a floating sauna that’ll help you warm up again before you continue your adventure around the city. 

What Is Oslo Famous For

Is Oslo the best city in Scandinavia?

Asking whether a city is the “best” is often subjective, and the same is true in this respect. Oslo excels in some areas, but Copenhagen and Stockholm are arguably better in others.

Despite Stockholm’s stunning archipelago, neither Scandinavian city can compete with Oslo’s natural surroundings. You’ve got everything you could ask for, from pleasant peaks worth hiking to plenty of picturesque islands worth exploring. 

During the summer, Oslo is a bike-friendly city — and you’ll find various cycling lanes dotted throughout the city center. But at the same time, it’s not really on the same level as Copenhagen — and in truth, few cities in Scandinavia are in this respect. 

If you’re into nightlife, you’ll find plenty of interesting places to enjoy a drink and dance in the Norwegian capital. But again, it’s not really on the same level as the Danish capital in this respect. 

Moreover, drink prices are often extortionate, so many Norwegians go out late. 

In terms of architecture, Oslo has perhaps the most interesting mix of all the Scandinavian cities. In addition to well-thought-out modern buildings, you will also find pockets that include those wooden houses often associated with Norway. 

You can also discover plenty of cozy apartments in districts like Grünnerløkka and Frogner. 

What is Oslo known for? 

Now you’ve got a taste of what makes Oslo unique compared to other cities, we can look at what the city is famous for. The Norwegian capital stakes plenty of claims to fame, and we’ll identify some of the main ones below. 

Edvard Munch 

Edvard Munch is arguably Oslo’s most famous-ever resident. The talented painter and artist is best known for his iconic “The Scream” painting, which was inspired by an evening walk.

Munch lived and traveled in several countries, but he eventually settled in Norway and often lived in isolation; he never had children or got married. He had a residence just outside of Oslo’s city center, and he would make this place a meeting spot for like-minded friends. 

The Norwegian artist is one of the most iconic people in the expressionism movement, and his legacy lives on strongly in his homeland. Today, you can visit the impressive Munch Museum in Oslo — which gives an in-depth look at his life across multiple floors. 

Oslo Opera House 

The Oslo Opera House is the Norwegian capital’s most iconic building. Since its completion in 2008, it has dominated the city’s waterfront and become the symbol of its regeneration project. 

Operahuset, as it’s known in the Norwegian language, was designed by Snøhetta. The structure is supposed to resemble an iceberg, and from the top, you can enjoy an excellent view over the city center and Oslofjord. 

Of course, the building isn’t purely about good looks. You can enjoy plenty of shows here, including ballet, plays, and more. Minus the main stage area, you can check out the building from the inside during opening hours; the rooftop is open 24/7. 

What Is Oslo Famous For

Museums 

If you’re into museums, you should think about making Oslo your next weekend city break. The Norwegian capital has an excellent range of museums, and you’ll almost certainly find something that meets your needs. 

Many of Oslo’s museums are concentrated on the Bygdøy peninsula; perhaps the Viking Ship Museum is the most iconic. The Norwegian People’s Museum, in a Stave church-style structure, is also popular with locals and visitors alike. 

We’ve already mentioned the Munch Museum, and you should make that one of your top priorities when visiting Oslo. Also worth checking out is the Nobel Peace Center, which is right next to the city hall. 

You’ll find plenty of museums in the Oslo City Pass, which you can purchase for any period between 24 and 72 hours. 

Holmenkollen Ski Jump 

If you visit Oslo and look towards the mountains, it’s almost impossible to miss the iconic Holmenkollen Ski Jump. Having originally opened in 1892, the platform has been renovated multiple times. One of those was for the 1952 Winter Olympics, held in the Norwegian capital. 

The structure you see today was renovated in 2010, and the tower itself is around 60 meters tall. When you get up close, it looks petrifying, and you’ll find a ski museum worth visiting closer to the ground. You can also enjoy a spectacular view over Oslo from the top. 

Take the metro and depart at Holmenkollen to get to the ski jump. 

The Oslofjord 

If we ask “what is Oslo known for”, one thing is probably the same as the rest of Norway: fjords. Yes, the Oslofjord doesn’t have the same pull as the Hardangerfjord and Geirangerfjord — but that doesn’t mean you should skip it altogether. 

The Oslofjord is easily accessible from the city center. You’ll find plenty of tours if you want to enjoy it from the water, including standard sightseeing cruises and tours that involve food

If you take the ferry to Oslo, you’ll pass through the Oslofjord before docking at the city’s main port. Its sides are lined with picturesque colorful houses, and you’ll pass all of the city’s biggest islands — which you can later explore with a boat ride on your public transport ticket. 

Oslo City Hall 

Before the Oslo Opera House existed, the city hall was the waterfront’s main player. The Oslo City Hall is a functionalist structure that looks a bit bizarre, but somehow, it works. The structure was completed in 1950; construction was delayed due to World War II. 

The Oslo City Hall is impressive to look at from the outside, but its interior artwork is also well worth checking out. You can go inside from 09:00 to 16:00 on weekdays, and it’s also possible to book a guided tour of the interior. 

Getting to the city hall is straightforward; all you need to do is take the 1, 2, 3, or 5 tram or walk for 15 minutes. Regardless of how you get there, the journey time is roughly the same.

Norway’s main transportation hub 

Many people that stop in Oslo don’t stick around for long. However, it’s often necessary to transit in the Norwegian capital if you want to visit other parts of the country. Gardermoen Airport, which is 25 minutes from the city center, is Norway’s primary hub for international flights. 

The bus and train stations in Oslo also allow you to visit other cities by those means, including Bergen and Arendal. Journey times in Norway are often long, but you can’t complain about the view. 

What Is Oslo Famous For

Parks 

Urban planners clearly weren’t content with the natural surroundings alone when setting Oslo’s layout. Residents have been treated with several green spaces, including the iconic Frognerparken — which is west of the city center. 

Here, you’ll find various sculptures designed by Gustav Vigeland — and they’re worth visiting on any trip to the city. 

Ekebergparken also has various sculptures worth checking out, and you can easily reach it via tram from Bjørvika. The green area surrounding the Norwegian Royal Palace is also a popular place for a stroll, and the same is true for Sankt Hanshaugens Park. 

If you head along the banks of the Akerselva River, you’ll find various green spaces; it’s an excellent place for a weekend stroll. 

“Koselig”

Denmark has “hygge”, and Norway has its own equivalent: “koselig”. It effectively means “cozy”, and you can use the term “å kose seg” — which effectively translates to “to hygge oneself” — in various situations. 

Oslo has plenty of places for you to experience this phenomenon for yourself. The city has plenty of cafés that provide refuge from the cold weather, in addition to several well-designed restaurants with soft lighting for an evening meal. 

You will quickly notice that many Norwegian apartments are carefully designed with the “koselig” mindset in mind, too. 

A hefty price tag… but worth it? 

You probably already know that Oslo is known for being one of the world’s most expensive cities. And if you were hoping that those were merely rumors, we’re afraid to tell you that they’re not. 

Almost everything in the Norwegian capital comes with a big price tag. According to Numbeo, for example, a 0.5-liter glass of domestic draught beer will set you back 95 Norwegian Kroner on average. That’s roughly $9.64/£7.94. 

Eating at a restaurant will cost you a lot, too. Expect to pay around 200 NOK ($20) for an inexpensive meal and 45.30 NOK ($4.60) for a cappuccino. 

Items in Norway come with 25% sales tax, but you can shop tax-free if you live outside the EU. Luckily, those taxes are already included in the final price of products and services you pay for. 

An international city 

Oslo is one of Scandinavia’s most diverse cities. Thanks to high salaries and good standards of living, the Norwegian capital is a popular destination for expats — especially those who work in Norway’s lucrative gas, construction, and energy sectors. 

According to the World Population Review, around 30% of people living in Oslo are immigrants or Norwegian citizens born to immigrant parents. 

The city’s areas contrast massively demographics-wise; Oslo’s eastern districts are predominantly inhabited by immigrants, whereas mostly Norwegians live in the western neighborhoods. 

Several nationalities live in Oslo, with Pakistan and Sweden being the two largest groups. Other nationalities with a significant presence in the Norwegian capital include Somalia, Iraq, and Poland. 

Fun Oslo facts

  • Oslo’s seasons contrast massively. In December, you’ll get just six hours of daylight — with the sun setting just after 3pm. But in June, you can enjoy 18 hours (and relatively light skies at midnight). 
  • Oslo is one hour from Copenhagen and Stockholm by plane.
  • Oslo was called Kristiania from 1877 until 1925 but has since reverted back to the name you know it as today. 
  • With a population of just over 702,000, Oslo is the third-largest city in the Nordic countries, behind Stockholm (pop. 972,000) and Copenhagen (pop. c.805,000). 
  • Oslo has been around since the Viking era; its first name was Ánslo. 
  • Oslo was named the European Green Capital in 2019 and is one of the continent’s most sustainable cities. 
  • Oslo is served by Gardermoen Airport, but many budget flights also go to Torp — which is in Sandefjord (roughly 90 minutes from Oslo). 
  • Oslo is home to Norway’s second tallest building: the Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel.
  • Several international companies have offices in Oslo, including Microsoft, PwC, and IBM. 
  • You can get a ferry from several cities to Oslo, including Copenhagen, Kiel, and Frederikshavn. 

What is Oslo famous for? Nature, culture, and much more 

So, now you know what Oslo is famous for. The city isn’t as popular as Copenhagen or Stockholm, but skipping it completely isn’t the wisest choice. You’ll find a down-to-earth place that has relatively few tourists and plenty of interesting cultural activities to enjoy.

Regardless of whether you plan to visit Norway for an extended period or you simply want a weekend break, spending at least a couple of days in Oslo is a rewarding experience. The city is safe for solo travelers, and navigating its districts requires little effort. 

You might also want to visit Oslo as part of a wider trip to Scandinavia. If you do, it’s easy to get from Copenhagen to the Norwegian capital

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