Oslo is Totally Cool: Top 13 Things to Do in Oslo in 3 Days

Last updated on:
Some posts on this site contain affiliate links, meaning if you book or buy something through one of these links, I may earn a small commission. Read the full disclosure policy here.

When most people talk about Norway, they talk about the fjords. The mountains. The train rides. The incredible scenery and natural beauty. (And I've talked about all those things, too!)

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

Oslo, Norway
Karl Johans Gate in Oslo

As an avid reader of other travel blogs, I can't remember reading very many posts about Oslo before my first trip there.

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, and that's why I hadn't heard much about the city.

But then I went there on my (first) 10-day trip around Norway and have since re-visited several times over the years.

And guess what? I discovered that Oslo is totally cool.

The Vigeland Park in Oslo, Norway
Vigeland Park in Oslo

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 huge; the population of Oslo is just over 700,000.

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
Oslo waterfront

How many days should you spend in Oslo?

Most people will combine a visit to Oslo with other parts of Norway – maybe you'll take the Norway in a Nutshell tour to Bergen, or take the train up to Trondheim. Maybe you'll fly from Oslo up north to Tromso or the Lofoten Islands. Regardless, be sure to dedicate a few days just to Oslo.

I think 3 days is the perfect amount of time to spend in Oslo. You can see all the highlights in 2 days, but with 3 days you'll be able to take your time and soak in the museums, architecture, parks, cafes, waterfront, and more.

Get an Oslo Pass

Let's address the elephant in the room first: Oslo is an expensive city. Hotels are actually fairly affordable, but everything else – especially food and activities – is VERY pricey compared to what you're probably used to paying at home (unless you live in a Nordic country yourself).

The best way to save some money in Oslo without even trying is to get yourself an Oslo Pass. The Oslo Pass is a tourist pass that gets you free admission to 30 museums and sights, plus unlimited free public transportation on local tram, subway, bus or public ferry services.

Oslo Pass
The Oslo Pass is a good option if you plan to do lots of sightseeing!

You can get an Oslo Pass for 24, 48, or 72 hours, prices are $46, $65, and $83 per pass. If you plan to do a lot of sightseeing in Norway and visit a couple different museums, then this is definitely worth it!

It's also super helpful to have public transport covered, as that cost can also add up (a single tram ride runs $3.60, for example).

You can buy an Oslo Pass at the Oslo Visitor Centre, or pre-purchase one in the Oslo Pass App. More info on the Oslo Pass here.

Top things to do in Oslo in 3 days

With 3 days in Oslo, you can tick off all the highlights – but you still won't be able to see it all. Here's a look at the top things to do in Oslo.

1. Walk along the Oslo waterfront

Cost: Free

"Barcode" buildings in Oslo's Bjørvika neighborhood
“Barcode” buildings in Oslo's Bjørvika neighborhood

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 is a great 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. The Harbour Promenade allows you to walk for kilometers, seeing some of Oslo's top sights along the way.

There are lots of places to stop along the way for food or a drink, too, especially during the summer months when lots of pop-up bars and eateries roll out along the water. (Sukkerbiten has a great outdoor space with bars and food trucks.)

Sukkerbiten bar in Oslo
Getting drinks at Sukkerbiten

Also be sure to stroll through Aker Brygge, a pier area that's filled with bars and restaurants. It's a very lively and pretty part of the waterfront.

Aker Brygge in Oslo
Aker Brygge

2. Climb the Oslo Opera House

Cost: Free

Located on the waterfront not far from Oslo's central train station, the Oslo Opera House is home to the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet – and it's worth visiting even if you won't be seeing a show.

Built between 2003 and 2007, the Oslo Opera House is meant to resemble a glacier in Norway's harbor. Its design has won architecture awards, and visitors are encouraged to not only visit the interior, but to also climb the exterior for excellent views of Oslo.

Oslo Opera House
Oslo Opera House
Inside the Oslo Opera House
Inside the Opera House

This is a great spot for people watching, and there's even a small local beach (Operastranda) right next to the Opera House that locals use all summer long.

View from the top of the Oslo Opera House
View from atop the Opera House

3. Book a seaside sauna

While nearby Finland is really the king of saunas, Norwegians also embrace sauna culture – especially when paired with a dip in a fjord!

All over Oslo, you'll see little floating sauna rooms. These urban saunas can be booked in advance for a private steam, and all have ladders to help you cool off in the fjord. Locals and tourists alike use these saunas along the harbour promenade; there are about 5 different spots to enjoy them.

Floating saunas in Oslo
Floating saunas in Oslo

(There's also an easy spot for fjord bathing called Sørenga Sjøbad if you want to skip the sauna part and just get in the water!)

4. Visit Akershus Fortress

Cost: 100 NOK, or free with Oslo Pass

A lot of Oslo looks and feels new, but the Akershus Fortress and Castle definitely represents the old in the city. Akershus dates back to the 1290s, when it was originally built as a royal palace.

The fortress/castle was besieged several times throughout its history, but interestingly was never taken in battle – but it WAS surrendered to Nazi Germany in 1940, and was occupied by them until 1945.

Akershus Fortress in Oslo, Norway
Akershus Fortress

Today, Akershus is still used by the Norwegian military, but is also open to visitors. You can visit both the Norwegian Armed Forces Museum and Norway's Resistance Museum here, as well as tour the castle.

(And if the fortress looks oddly familiar to any Disney fans, part of it is replicated in the Norway pavilion in Disney World' Epcot!)

5. Stop in to City Hall

Cost: Free

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.

There are guided tours offered during the summer, but you can also just pop in to see it on your own.

Oslo city hall
Inside City Hall; definitely worth seeing!

6. Stroll Karl Johans Gate

Cost: Free

Also on your walking tour of Oslo, you can hit up Karl Johans Gate, the main street in the center of Oslo that leads from the train station to the Royal Palace. Closer to the train station, there are lots of shopping options interspersed between pubs and cafes.

Closer to the Royal Palace, the street is colorful and partially tree-lined, and is a great place to sit down and sip on a cup of coffee.

Karl Johans Gate in Oslo, Norway
Colorful Karl Johans Gate
Looking down Karl Johans Gate from the Royal Palace
Looking down Karl Johans Gate from the Royal Palace
Park in front of Norwegian Parliament
Norwegian Parliament at the other end

7. See the Royal Palace

Cost: Free (guided tours are 175 NOK)

Norway still has a functioning monarchy that calls the Royal Palace home, so tours are only offered to the public for a couple months in the summer. (Info on tours is here.)

But you can still walk right up to the palace on your own, stroll through the surrounding park and gardens, and stop for a photo – or even a chat! – with one of the royal guards. I was pretty excited to see so many female guards guarding the palace, too!

Amanda with a guard at the Royal Palace in Oslo
Norway's royal guards can smile in photos and talk to you if they want

8. Visit a museum on Bygdøy

Cost: Varies, but most of these museums are free with an Oslo Pass!

Oslo has a TON of cool museums – we're talking really unique museums that you won't find anywhere else in the world. And several of these museums are located close to one another on an peninsula called Bygdøy that you can reach via boat from central Oslo.

Some of the museum you can visit on Bygdøy include:

  • The Fram Museum, which celebrates Norwegian polar exploration and houses the polar ship Fram.
  • The Kon-Tiki Museum, focusing on the expeditions of world-renowned scientist and explorer Thor Heyerdahl.
  • Norwegian Maritime Museum, which is exactly what it sounds like.
  • The Viking Ship Museum*, which houses the remains of Viking burial ships that are more than 1,000 years old.
  • Norwegian Museum of Cultural History (Norwegian Folk Museum), which is an open-air museum showing life and culture of Norway. The famous stave church is here.
Viking Ship Museum in Oslo
The old Viking Ship Museum

*Note that the Viking Ship Museum is being completely reimagined/rebuilt, and will not re-open until 2025 at the earliest.

Stave church at the Oslo folk museum
Stave church at the Oslo folk museum

9. Visit another Oslo museum

Cost: Varies, but most of these museums are free with an Oslo Pass!

And that's not it when it comes to museums in Oslo! Some others you might be interested in include:

  • The Munch Museum, dedicated to expressionist painter Edvard Munch (famous for his “The Scream” painting).
  • The National Museum, which is a brand new museum covering Norwegian art, craft, and design.
  • The Nobel Peace Center, because the Nobel Peace Prizes are awarded in Oslo each year (currently closed as of June 2023, though).
  • Museum of Oslo, city museum located in Frogner Park.
  • Natural History Museum, which is the largest natural history museum in Norway.
  • Oslo Transport Museum, which has a large collection of vintage trams and buses.
  • The Holmenkollen Ski Museum, located inside Oslo's huge ski jump, which presents more than 4,000 years of skiing history.
Munch museum in Oslo
The new Munch museum opened in 2021

10. Check out Frogner Park / The Vigeland Park

Cost: Free

I mentioned before that Oslo has a ton of green spaces, and one of my favorites is Frogner Park, which is often called Vigeland Park by non-locals. Frogner Park began as a manor estate in the 1750s, and the Vigeland Park part came in in the 1930/40s, when artist Gustav Vigeland designed more than 200 granite and bronze statues to install in the park.

The Vigeland installation alone covers 80 acres, and consists of groupings of statues of naked humans doing (mostly) normal things like running, dancing, hugging, etc. The sculpture park is the world's largest made by a single artist, and truly is impressive.

Vigeland Park within Frogner Park
Vigeland Park within Frogner Park

There's a bridge, large fountain, and monolith all designed by Vigeland, and you can easily spend a couple hours here seeing all the statues.

The Vigeland Park in Oslo, Norway
The Vigeland Monolith
The Vigeland Park in Oslo, Norway
Fountain surrounded by bronze statues
The Angry Boy – most people's favorite statue
Amanda with a statue of a man fending off babies
I prefer this guy fighting off babies

The is one of Oslo's top attractions, and locals use it a lot, too. On a sunny weekend day, the park is filled with Norwegians walking, playing, and picnicking.

11. Explore another neighborhood

You'll probably be spending most of your time in central Oslo and along the waterfront, but if you want to explore another neighborhood, make it the hipster Vulkan neighborhood in Grünerløkka. This part of Oslo is artsy and sustainable, with eco-friendly architecture just north of the city center.

There's even a street food tour you can take in this part of Oslo.

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

12. Eat at a food hall

I mentioned before that food is VERY expensive in Oslo. We're talking main courses averaging $30 per person or more in a restaurant; you can very easily spend $100 on a meal for 2 without even trying.

If you want to save a bit of money AND try something fun, check out one of the food halls dotted around Oslo. Inside these trendy spots you'll find a variety of quick-service food stalls and usually some cool seating options.

Just a few I know of that I've tried include:

  • Barcode Street Food near the Opera House
  • Oslo Street Food in central Oslo
  • Vippa on the waterfront between Akershus and the Opera House
  • VIA Village Food Court near Aker Brygge
  • Mathallen in Vulkan
Inside Barcode Street Food in Oslo
Inside Barcode Street Food

13. Go on a fjord cruise

Let me preface this my saying that there are much better options for exploring Norway's fjords than from Oslo. So if you're heading further north in Norway, I would skip this one.

BUT, if you're only Oslo on a city break, then by all means book a cruise to get out on the water and get a little taste of the fjords. Oslo actually sits at the end of a fjord (the Oslo fjord), and several companies offer sightseeing cruises out into it. This 2-hour fjord cruise takes place on an authentic sailing ship.

(Book a fjord cruise here.)

Where to stay in Oslo

I've been to Oslo a few times now, and have enjoyed staying both in the city center, and in the Vulkan neighborhood.

My top hotel picks include:

Room at Thon Hotel Opera in Oslo
Thon Hotel Opera room

How to get around in Oslo

  1. On foot – A lot of things in Oslo can be reached on foot within the city center.
  2. Public transit – Oslo has trams, buses, and a metro. You can download the Ruter app to purchase tickets on your smartphone, or you can pay with a contactless method when you get on a tram or bus.
  3. Bike share/scooters – Oslo City Bikes and electric scooters are both available for quick trips around the city.
  4. Taxi/ride share – Uber operates in Oslo, and you can also try the MiVai app, which allows you to order a taxi based on the lowest rates available.

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

Pin it for later:

72 Hours in Oslo, Norway

"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

Join the ADB Community!
Sign up here to get exclusive travel tips, deals, and other inspiring goodies delivered to your inbox.

78 Comments on “Oslo is Totally Cool: Top 13 Things to Do in Oslo in 3 Days

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  1. Have you sold you me on the Norwegian capital? You sure have?
    It looks amazing. And yes every Nordic country isn’t budget-oriented but they’re so worth the cost.
    I went to Finland in the Spring and it was expensive. That’s just the way it is. I knew this already and just sucked it in, went to the food market and ate sushi every day!
    I’m going to Sweden sometime this year and it’ll be the same. Spend the money and enjoy the experience!

      Yes, I totally agree that, despite the expense, Scandinavia is totally worth it! Hope you make it to Oslo sometime!

      She has sold me too! I just returned from Sweden, the value of the krona to the dollar right now is phenomenal-the lowest I have ever seen it. Hopefully it will stay that way for your trip! I don’t know if you’ve been there before, but it is my favorite place in the whole world. Try to venture down to the southern country side and bluffs if you have a chance 🙂

    For a good cup of coffee or to enjoy people-watching check out these cafee’s:

    Liebling: http://www.liebling.no/
    St.Pauli Biergarten: https://www.facebook.com/stpaulibiergarten (part of Liebling)
    Pauls Boutique: https://www.facebook.com/PaulsBoutiqueOslo
    Hva skjer: http://www.hvaskjertorshov.no/
    Fuglen: http://www.fuglen.no/
    Tim Wendelboe: https://timwendelboe.no/
    The Kasbah: http://www.thekasbah.no
    Literaturhuset Cafe: http://www.kafeoslo.no/

      Thanks for the suggestions, Julie!

    Great, informative post!! Reminded me of last year when I spent six months in Oslo and it soon became my favorite city ever. The proximity to nature is a definite plus that you don’t see in many capital cities. My absolute favorites were island hopping and going to Sognsvann (huge lake surrounded by forest). It’s a truly magical city!

    You’re right about it being expensive! The grønland area was the most affordable place to eat out, but then again, it’s not Norwegian food. If you are in a tight budget then it would be best to stay somewhere with a kitchen and cook your own meals.

    Again, great post and love your blog btw!

      Oslo was the first major city in Scandinavia that I’ve visited, and it definitely impressed me!

    Great post I never hear before about oslo but it sounds like is a cool place to go

    I hadn’t heard much about Oslo either apart from people telling me it was boring and to visit Bergen instead. It definitely looks like a beautiful city and you have convinced me to visit when I get to Norway in a couple of years

      Everyone always seems to have mad love for Bergen, but there are SO many other cool places in Norway! (In fact, I purposely didn’t go to Bergen on my trip because I wanted to see something different than what most other people see when they go to Norway.)

        Thank you for writing about a diffrent part of Norway then most! I like have you think, its nice to see something of a surprise when traveling! And I love to read how someone who visit Oslo is talking about the city. Its allways nice to see what you have close by with new eys, makes you want to explore your own backyard more. I grew up outside the city, but close to it. At the moment located 40 min train ride/30 min car ride away in a smaler city.

        But if you go back, Bergen is a nice city because of how it is located, even for us Norwegians. I will recomand you to take the train into the city if you do go. But Oslo also how the easy access to nature sourounding the city aswell.

        South in summer time, nice coast villiages. Lofoten has the beaches without people and fish villages, northern light in the north.Fjords are mentioned for a reason. And one of the things I love the most the lakes in the forrests to swim in on hot summer days. Water is clean, its abondent with space/few people compared to many places and the woods smells so good. It feels private and free. Not everyone likes that tho! I guess you have that in Ohio aswell?

        Its been cold here in may and june this year. But when summer hits like this last week it can get realy hot. the north had 40 c and we in the east have had 27 c. Thats the charm and the “annoying” thing with Norway when it comes to planning, you never know what you get! I hope you get to experiance the light and warm summer nights tho! Its what I allways get amazed by specialy after I have spent a summer in an other country, the winter passes and then it gets so light..and then to sit outside when its warm. I grew up in Norway and love the beauty and varity of the country.

          Obs, my mistake, I see you have already been around a lot of the country 🙂

          Great writings! 🙂

          I sadly didn’t get to experience any of those warm summer nights while I was in Norway, but I still really loved the country!

    Oh, Oslo is in many ways a nice city to live in. but as a tourist you don’t see the dark side of what we natives call “The biggest village in Europe”. The litter, the lack of a decent public transportation system. Biking in our capital is probably one of the most dangerous thing you can do. The city is a pollution trap and in the winter the air is yellow green because 30 000 cars are pouring in and out of the center of the city. Then we have a rampant use of drug abuse. Just try the Riverwalk (and rent a personal life-guard before you do.). However, the city is pretty safe and the bright, sunny summer evenings are fantastic.

      I’m sure that even cities in Norway have their “dark sides,” Robert. Most larger cities do. However, I’d invite you to come visit larger cities in the US (where we have millions of cars and far poorer public transport) to realize just how good Oslo has it! 😉

      I grew up in Oslo and now live in Sydney, and I think you just lack perspective. I used to complain about the public transport system in Oslo, but I think we are so spoiled that we’re annoyed as soon as the bus is 5 minutes late. When I got to Sydney I was shocked at how poor their public transport system is and will never ever again complain about Oslo’s! Also the drug abuse is not nearly as widespread as in Sydney where you see people overdose in clubs regularly and taking stuff like MDMA and coke is seen as completely normal. Sure you will see heavy drug users around the central area in Oslo just as you would in any other big city, but the drug abuse problem really could have been much worse, trust me!

      It’s true about biking though, I hope Oslo can learn a thing or two from Copenhagen to make biking safer!

      Robert you really should travel more. You´d realize you don´t have anything to complain about 😉

      I feel the need to correct Robert on his comments there… Oslo has one of the, if not THE best, public transportation coverages, worldwide. The metro network is fairly extensive, and there are also several tram lines as well as buses criss crossing the city. The paths along the Aker river, which Robert refers to as the River Walk, is not at all that dangerous anymore. It’s well lit, there are more and more restaurants and pubs along its length that provide safety and activity, and the police have managed to scare away most of the more seedy elements. The biking part I agree with, mostly, but it’s not like it will kill you to ride a bike. Just choose the right streets and parks/green spaces and you’ll be fine. Pollution can be pretty bad in winter, but from what Robert writes it sounds like Beijing or Mexico City, and that is certainly not the case.

        Try riding a bike in Amsterdam. I agree with Ole…just came back from Oslo, did the river walk and enjoyed it a lot. My AirBNB hosts were a bit shocked too when I told them, but honestly on a sunny afternoon there is nothing to worry about.

        And while you’re in Oslo don’t forget to visit Ekebergparken on a sunday and enlist (online in advance) for a visit to James Thurells’ skyspace. It is truly a special experience!

    Walking is my first thing to do also! The waterfront is where I would head to…was it pretty long? Even if it’s dark, cold waters, it’s so calming to look at.

      The waterfront area is pretty large. They’re still working on the official promenade, which I think will eventually be about 9 kilometers long!

    Whenever I see pictures of Oslo, it’s always the photo of the Opera house which looks extremely modern and I’m not really a big fan of modern cities. Your post made me realize though that there is more to Oslo than the Opera house. That main street is lovely!!!

      Yup, there’s lots of modern architecture around the Opera House, but there’s definitely more than just that in Oslo!

      Ah, I felt the same as you, but then I discovered a fascinating side to Oslo in its industrial past – the area around the Akerselva river is full of greenery and history! I’ve written about it in the post below 🙂

    Looks like you had nice weather and mostly blue skies here. 🙂

      Haha, well, the photos are a little misleading – it rained both days I was there, but thankfully the rain didn’t last all day!

    Excellent article, Amanda! My wife and I spent four days in Oslo in May and thought the same as you did about the city. We even hit almost all the same places, including the ski jump and Mathallen Food Hall, which aren’t on everybody’s list. We didn’t think that there was enough to do in the city to keep us occupied for that long, but we were wrong. You’re totally correct about Oslo (and Norway in general) being very expensive. Lodging isn’t too bad, but food is very expensive. I suggest hitting ethnic restaurants (Indian, Thai, Middle Eastern) to cut down on your food bill.

      Yeah, I didn’t know if I’d be able to fill 2 full days in Oslo before I went, but then I discovered there’s so much cool stuff to see/do! I didn’t get to all the museums or parks I wanted to visit, so I’ll definitely have to go back!

    It does look very cool!

      Totally cool! I really didn’t know what to expect before I went, so I was really impressed! (Then again, it’s Scandinavia… not sure why I was expecting anything less than awesome!)

    Did you know that the room in city hall that you visited is where they have the Nobel peace price ceremony? All other peace prizes are celebrated at the Stockholm City Hall. #TheMoreYouKnow 🙂

      Yup, I did learn that! One more thing that makes Oslo totally cool. 🙂

      The peace prize is handed out in Oslo. Stockholm have the prizes in Chemistry, Literature, Physics, and Physiology or Medicine.

    I agree, Oslo looks totally cool! I’d definitely like to soak up its city buzz and stunning attractions.

      Yeah it’s definitely a city I’d spend more time in!

    I was only in Oslo less than 24 hours since my flight was delayed, but from what I experienced, I couldn’t help but think it was a super palatable city (and I imagine it would be much better to visit in summer rather than when I was there in winter)!

      Yeah it was a lot cooler than I expected it to be! I actually found myself wishing I’d had more time there, because I didn’t get to see everything I wanted to (though, I did lose nearly half a day to jetlag, which didn’t help either!).

As Seen On

As Seen OnAs Seen OnAs Seen OnAs Seen OnAs Seen OnAs Seen OnAs Seen OnAs Seen On