Oslo is Totally Cool

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When most people talk about Norway, they talk about the fjords. The mountains. The train rides. The incredible scenery and natural beauty.

But you hardly hear anyone rave about Oslo, the Norwegian capital.

Oslo, Norway

As an avid reader of other travel blogs, I can't really remember reading very many posts about Oslo — in fact, I can't name one off the top of my head.

I assumed this was just because it was just “another” big European city; I assumed that maybe there weren't that many things to do in Oslo that really stood out.

But then I went there on my 10-day trip around Norway.

And guess what? Oslo is totally cool.

The Vigeland Park in Oslo, Norway

Oslo is clean and colorful and filled with green spaces. The people are friendly (even the palace guards will talk to you here!), and it has a fun mixture of both old and modern architecture. And it's not really even that big — the population of Oslo is just 620,000.

Oslo is definitely NOT just another cookie cutter city in Europe, and I don't think you should skip over it when you go to Norway. In fact, there are so many cool things to do in Oslo that I recommend spending at least a few days there!

Oslo, Norway

Things to do in Oslo over a long weekend

I was in Oslo for about 48 hours, which I think it a decent amount of time to see the highlights, though I think a long weekend in Oslo would be ideal.

No matter how much time you're spending in the Norwegian capital, here are the things to do in Oslo that I think are the best:

Walk along the waterfront

Whenever I get to a new city, I like to do one thing first: WALK. Walking around a new city is the best way to get to know it, in my opinion, and walking along the trendy new waterfront in Oslo was a neat way to see the old and modern being mixed together. The waterfront area has been revamped in recent years, with a bunch of really modern buildings going up alongside some of the older ones. They're building a big promenade that will eventually let you walk for kilometers.

Oslo opera house
Oslo Opera House
Oslo, Norway
Along the Oslo waterfront in 2017

Some of my favorite attractions to check out on this walk included the Akershus Fortress, the Opera House (which is actually classified as a work of art, meaning you can walk all over it — even on the roof), and City Hall.

Akershus Fortress in Oslo, Norway
Akershus Fortress

Oslo's City Hall doesn't look all that special from outside, but inside it's covered in murals and a beautiful marble floor sourced entirely from within Norway.

Oslo city hall
Inside City Hall

Karl Johans Gate

Also on my walking tour of Oslo, I hit up Karl Johans Gate, the main street in the center of Oslo that leads from the train station to the Royal Palace. It's colorful and partially tree-lined, and would be a great place to sit down and sip on a cup of coffee.

Oslo, Norway

Oslo, Norway
National Theater in Oslo, Norway

Oslo Museums

Oslo has a TON of cool museums — we're talking really unique museums that you won't find anywhere else in the world. You could spend a whole long weekend in Oslo just hopping from museum to museum!

Sure, you have the usual City Museum and National Gallery and a museum of contemporary art. But then you also have museums like:

  • The Munch Museum, dedicated to expressionist painter Edvard Munch (famous for his “The Scream” painting)
  • The Kon-Tiki Museum, focusing on the expeditions of world-renowned scientist and explorer Thor Heyerdahl
  • The Viking Ship Museum, which houses the remains of Viking burial ships that are more than 1,000 years old
  • The Norwegian Folk Museum, which includes a large open-air portion with buildings from all over Norway (my favorite was the stave church)
  • The Nobel Peace Center, because the Nobel Peace Prizes are awarded in Oslo each year
  • The Holmenkollen Ski Museum, located inside Oslo's huge ski jump, which presents more than 4,000 years of skiing history
Stave church at the Oslo folk museum
Stave church at the Oslo folk museum
Norsk Folkemuseum in Oslo
Norsk Folkemuseum
Viking Ship Museum in Oslo
Viking Ship Museum

I would highly recommend setting aside some time to check out at least a couple of these museums in Oslo.

The Vigeland Park

I mentioned before that Oslo has a ton of green spaces, and one of my favorites was Vigeland Park — the world's largest sculpture park made by a single artist. The park was completely designed by artist Gustav Vigeland, who not only laid out the 79-acre park, but also completed the more than 200 sculptures displayed within it.

The Vigeland Park in Oslo, Norway

The Vigeland Park in Oslo, Norway

It's no wonder that this is one of Oslo's top attractions. It's free to enter, open year-round, and has tons of interesting sculptures to see.

The Vigeland Park in Oslo, Norway
The Angry Boy – most people's favorite statue

Where to stay in Oslo

Note: This section does contain affiliate links.

I stayed at the funky Scandic Vulkan hotel in Oslo's Vulkan neighborhood, which is about a 15-20-minute walk into the city center, or about 10 minutes by bus. The neighborhood around the hotel is a bit hipster in nature, filled with street art and cafes (many of which are actually really affordable by Oslo standards!).

Street art in Oslo's Grunerlokka district
Street art in Oslo's Grunerlokka district

I loved the floor-to-ceiling windows in my room, and the fact that I had a really cool work space (not to mention a ridiculously comfortable bed — Norwegians know how to make beds!).

Scandic Vulkan hotel in Oslo
My room in the Scandic Vulkan

And the best part? It's not a ridiculously expensive hotel. If you book online, you can find rooms for less than $150 USD per night (which is great for Norway!).

Read reviews on TripAdvisorBook your stay at the Scandic Vulkan here!

On my second trip to Oslo, I stayed at the Thon Hotel Terminus, which is close to Oslo's central train station (where the airport train arrives, and where trips like Norway in a Nutshell depart from). This hotel has a good location closer to the city center, and had one of the best breakfast spreads I've ever seen in a hotel!

Read reviews on TripAdvisor | Book your stay at Thon Hotel Terminus here!

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Booking.com

Where to eat in Oslo

I found food in Norway to be one of the most expensive things. You could easily go out and spend $40+ on a small meal. I went out for a couple of nice dinners, but also did my best to look for places that wouldn't break the wallet.

Best splurge: Tjuvholmen Sjomagasin, near the waterfront. The food and staff were both incredible. (I had their 3-course set menu, which costs a steep 595 NOK, or about $75 USD.)

Best value: Mathallen Food Hall, which is super close to the Scandic Vulkan hotel. The downside is you won't find a ton of Norwegian food here, but the upside is that everything is affordable. (I was able to get a large chicken sandwich for lunch for under $10 here!)

Annual events in Oslo

Just like most big cities around the world, there are tons of annual events to enjoy in Oslo. There are multiple music festivals throughout the summer, including a chamber music festival, a jazz festival, a world music festival, and many more.

There's also a ski festival held in Oslo each March (Norwegians love skiing of all sorts), and a big Pride festival usually in June/July.

Oslo Pride
Oslo Pride 2017

Can you save money in Oslo?

A big question I got on my Facebook page while I was traveling around Norway was, “Is it as expensive as people say it is?” And, well… I'm not gonna lie: Norway IS expensive. Oslo IS expensive. But that doesn't mean you can't save money.

Hotels don't have to break your budget. You can find cheaper food if you spend some time looking. And you can save a lot on everything else with an Oslo Pass.

Oslo Pass

Like many other city passes around the world, the Oslo Pass gets you free or discounted admission to a ton of sites and attractions all around the city of Oslo. You can get into all those museums I listed above (and more) for free; you can take free walking tours; you can get discounts on fjord cruises, bike tours, and even the ski simulator at Holmenkollen. And you also get free rides on ALL public transport with your Oslo Pass — buses, trams, metro, and even ferry boat.

At 590 NOK ($75 USD) for a 72-hour pass, you can definitely get your money's worth. I don't think I would ever recommend visiting Oslo without one of these! (Buy your Oslo pass here)

So what do you think of Oslo now? Have I sold you on the Norwegian capital?

 

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72 Hours in Oslo, Norway
72 Hours in Oslo, Norway

 

*Note: Special thanks to Visit Oslo for hosting me in the city! As always, opinions are 100% my own.

 

 

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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78 Comments on “Oslo is Totally Cool

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  1. I love the idea of visiting Oslo but it sounds like i must set aside a very healthy budget for the travel, especially for the cost of food and meals. I now have a 11 year old boy who can eat a lot.

      Norway is quite a pricey destination! Maybe you could consider staying in an apartment or other self-catering option so you could prepare some meals for yourself. Groceries are much more affordable in Norway than eating out for every meal!

    I haven’t been to Norway since 1968 when I rode over on a motor scooter from Sweden on a 5 month tour of Europe in my youth! The entrance to the city of Oslo at night was one beautiful sight that I have never forgetter! I remember having three fish dinners in a matter of 24 hr & I don’t even like fish but it was so delicious that I kept going back… to the Goldfisken, wonder if it could stilll be there? I visited all of the places on your list & enjoyed the pictures you posted so much! You’ve awakened my desire to return! Thank you, Amanda! ( ps, I am also a small town Ohio girl!)

      So glad that I could bring back some great memories of Oslo for you!

    Oslo looks absolutely fantastic. From the Norsk Folkemuseum to the \Vigeland Park the city looks absolutely amazing. My one question about Oslo is what are the local “Street Foods” that people typically eat? Is it herring in white sauce or what other items do they enjoy?

      Honestly I don’t remember seeing any street food there! Restaurants, yes, but not really street food. (Though I’ll try to pay more attention during my next trip.)

    I noticed these posts are over a year old. I feel I must add however: I am of Nordic descent, albeit Swedish rather than Norse. I did attend and graduate from a Norwegian founded school in the U.S., St.Olaf College in Minnesota. I know there some ethnic differences, but to me, Scandinavian is any of three/four ethnicities: Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland. Back in MN a “mixed” marriage is a Swede marrying a person of Norwegian descent. BTW, they’re all Lutheran. Ultimately, we all live peacefully!

      Yes these posts are from 2015, but that doesn’t mean Oslo is any less cool! 😉

    Oslo is a beautiful city. Thinking about visiting Norway in May.

    Dear Amanda. I’ll be happy to be your guide if you ever come back to my hometown. It’s not that Oslo is a bad city to live in. I have a sailboat and enjoy the mellow Oslofjord a lot every summer and since I’m living at the edge of the immense forests (15 min from city senter) I go skiing in the winter and hiking in the summer. As a tourist, go to the Tourist information and get a walking map and treat yourself to a pleasant 3-hour walk from Tryvannstårnet (The tower of Tryvann), down to Ullevoldsseter and finish the walking trip with a swim in Songsvann before you take the tube downtown again. And yes, I have been twice to the States (Bought a car at a gas station and drove for 3 months in the US, 1 month in Canada and 1 month in Mexico), I’v been 3 times to Japan. Went by local train last year from Bangkok, to Kuala-Lumpur, Georgtown and Singapore. This year I traveled 1 month in Australia and stayed 14 days in Vietnam) Been all over Europe… The list is quite extensive… In other words I have been to many cities and countries that both has worse slums, transportation, pollution, poverty and drug abuse than we see in Oslo. But then again…. Norway and Oslo is filthy rich… we have so much money that our rulers have to invest them in American junk bonds. We should be able to do SO MUCH BETTER with all the money. Fast trains like Japan, excellent undergrounds like in Singapore, modern schools, clean cities. The list is long… But be welcome Oslo is well worth a visit… Now autumn and winter is closing in and 6 months of cold and darkness with 3 hours of sun comes 21 December 😉

    Compared with Rome, ( Rome was the last main city I visited ) is Oslo in fact quite cheap to eat , shop and live in 🙂 And easier to shop in than Rome, Paris and London. Oslo have a lot of quite large shopping centers, and easy to get to. Forexample in Rome there is really difficult to get to a shopping center without using taxi who is very expencive since its a long way from centre of Rome. We used the train and bus , but it was difficult to find and not a pleasent part of Rome. In the shoppingcenters in Oslo you will find both cheap and expencive shops. For al pocket`s 🙂 And there is a lot of shoppingcenters easy reachable with train or bus. Also some in the middle centrum. And two quite long shopping streets. You have a lot of different restaurants where you get meals from about 9-10 pounds and up. Also there is good grocerystores everywhere, where you can buy food if you want to make your own lunch or breakfast. And living , there is hotels in al price classes. You get a room in a hotel or B&B for two persons from about 9 pounds, cheaper if you take a hostel. So I think that Norway and Oslo has got a undeserved bad reputation about how expencive it is.

      Well, I certainly wouldn’t call Oslo cheap, but it certainly doesn’t *have* to be as expensive as many people assume it is!

    I like the write up, but if you go to Oslo again.. try to do Island hopping in the fjord with the Public transportation pass and head up in the forest on the same day. You can sit an view the Islands you went on earlier the day. Not many capitals you can do Island hopping in.

      Great tip! And I’m sure that would be awesome to do on a summer day!

    Such a nice blog about my favourite city. I moved to Oslo 30 years ago and have lived here ever since. The Great thing about my City is the combination of nature (lakes / fjord /forrest / mountains /beaches), shopping and a nightlife with restaurants and cafees, sites, culture. All within half an hour! In your review you forgot about the Ekeberg sculpture park. Free enter/Open all days. It was one out of Five suggested parks to ever visit, by New York post! (if I remember correctly. One of US big newspapers)

      Yes unfortunately I ran out of time to get to Ekeberg! But I’ve heard it’s great.

    Great photos. I’ve never really considered Scandinavia but with TBEX in Stockholm next year and just having visited the Baltics, I’m definitely thinking about it more.

      It’s definitely worth considering! (Though, Scandinavia is way more expensive than the Baltics! Haha.) I think TBEX will give a lot of people a good excuse to go, though. Which is a good thing – it’s a part of the world so many people dream of visiting!

    Wow, Oslo looks like a very unique city! I was surprised when you mentioned that very few travel bloggers are posting about Oslo– from what you’ve described here, the city definitely seems like it has a great sense of culture. You have definitely sold me on Oslo!

      I mean, it’s possible I’m just reading the wrong blogs! Haha. But, on the whole, I feel like a lot of bloggers skip Scandinavia because of the cost, and when they do visit Norway, they tend to go for places like Bergen that are closer to the famous fjords. Which is a shame – because Oslo really IS cool!

    Im going to Oslo in October and this post just made me even more excited!!

    […] If you’ve ever considered a trip to Norway (or maybe if you’re reading this post because you’re currently planning a trip there), chances are you’ve already had people tell you that you have to go to the fjords. You may have had people recommend Tromso in the north, or wax poetic about Bergen in the south. They may have even told you not to skip Oslo. […]

    Hi Amanda, thank you for a very nice review of Oslo!

    One of the Norwegian favourite pastimes is hiking (gå på tur) and any city will have some nearby forest or mountain with marked trails in summer and freshly prepared ski tracks in winter. When it comes to saving money, it so happens that you can camp for free in these areas.

    In Oslo you can take the metro into the immense woods ( a 20min trip from the city centre) and pitch your tent just about anywhere and why not do so in front of your own personal lake in order to go for a swim in the morning before taking the metro into the city?

    A by many overlooked event in Oslo is the Ski Fest in March at Holmenkollen. This might not sound terribly interesting to someone not into crosscountry skiing and ski jumping, but it is great fun and a mere 5000 people stay in the woods around Holmenkollen for a whole weekend sleeping in tents pitched in the snow and some partying is admittedly done at night. I was going to say that it is worth it, but then the Ski Fest is free, as well as the outdoor camping.

    Yes, you would have to be a little bit sporty I guess. But it would not be your average city break either.

      Very good to know, Marie! Thanks for the tips!

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