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Why not get adventurist and visit Oslo for your next long weekend? Oslo is charming, and you will find tons of things to do in every season.
A few facts about Oslo:
– Oslo is the capital of Norway and has a population of approximately 700 000
– Oslo city is situated at the end of the Oslofjord, and to the north and east, forested hills (Marka) rise above the city.
– Oslo can be visited both in winter and summer, due to its perfect location for seasonal activities.
– Oslo is the only place outside Sweden that hosts a Nobel Prize Reward – Nobel Peace Prize
– Oslo is the fifth most expensive city in the world (according to the report made by EIU), but Norway is the second happiest country in the world (toppled by Finland and followed by Denmark on third place and Sweeden in ninth, according to the report made by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network)
Best time to visit Oslo Norway
The best seasons to visit Oslo and the rest of Norway are spring, summer, and winter. But if you like hiking in the hills and mountains fall is one of the best seasons for that. Read my post on how Norwegians hike in autumn
Top things to do and see in Oslo in winter
Winter in Oslo is long, dark and usually wet, although it is not near as cold as in the North of Norway. Winter season can start in November and last until April. Oslo weather in winter can be tricky to predict, except that it is cold and you WILL get snowfall.
The average temperature for Oslo in winter is about -5C and a normal of 60 mm precipitation, which could be either rain or snow. Although the average temperature is around -5C check the forecast before coming to Oslo and bring the right type of clothes. We have had down to -16C and wind, and it can feel like you will freeze all your limbs off. Norwegians love wool, and you can get all type of woolen clothes in any sporting goods store. January and February are perfect for snow activities, and you don’t have to leave town to go skiing downhill, ice-skating or tobogganing. Whatever activities you will be doing get an Oslo Pass for 24, 48 or 72 hours which includes free public transportation, entries to several attractions and museums and discounts at some restaurants and shops.
If you want to visit an extra cold and extraordinary place in Norway I recommend you visiting Svalbard. You can check Worlderingaround post on things to do in Svalbard to get an idea of what there is to do on this archipelago and specifically on Spitzbergen Island.
Fun things to do in Oslo in January and February
Holmenkollen Ski Jumping Arena is known for biathlon and Nordic skiing venues and hosts annual World Cup tournaments. Holmenkollen arena includes the famous Holmenkollen Ski Jump, Midtstubakken Ski Jump, five smaller recruitment slopes, cross-country skiing trails and a ski stadium. Take metro line 1 from any of the central metro stations (for example Sentral Stasjon Oslo S, or Nationaltheatret) to get to the arena, and on your way, you will get the most amazing views of Oslo from above. It takes you about 30 minutes to get to Holmenkollen by metro. The arena includes ski museum, jump tower, souvenir shop, ski simulator, and a café.
Frognerseteren Cafe and Restaurant is worth a visit too. Take the metro further up to the end station after you have visited Holmenkollen Ski Jump Arena. The metro tour will take about 10 minutes. This cafe has the most amazing views of Oslo and Oslo Fjord, and during winter you can enjoy their famous apple tart and hot chocolate. Frognereseteren’s history started in 1891, and their culinary history dates back to the same time. During my younger years, I used to work there and can personally recommend it for the views, atmosphere and apple tart. During the winter and sometimes during summer if the weather is miserable, they lit many of the fireplaces they have inside.
Korketrekkeren is a 2000 meters toboggan run and has an elevation drop of 255 meters. The ride takes 8-10 minutes. You can hire sleds at Akeforeningen, located down the hill from the Frognerseteren metro stop. The activity is for free, but you will have to pay for renting the sleds unless you bring your own. Once you are down, you can take the metro back up and go again. The run is open only when it is enough snow, so check snow conditions before getting up there for the tobogganing. Take a metro line 1 from any central metro station (see above) and get off at the end station Frognereseteren.
Best museums to visit in Oslo in winter
Munch Museum – One of Norway’s most famous museums. Edvard Munch was a Norwegian painter and considered to be a pioneer in expressionism. He is well known for his paintings “Scream” and “Madonna”. The museum is located at Tøyen. There are several ways to get to the museum, and you can check their opening hours and how to get there on Munch Museum website. Note of caution – you can not store your luggage or any other large items at the museum while you are on tour.
The National Museum – National Gallery is where you will find the famous “Scream” and “Madonna,” among several others, painted by Edvard Munch. Norway’s most extensive public collection of paintings, drawings and sculptures are found in the National Gallery. The Gallery is located centrally in Oslo, just off the main street Karl Johan. Check their official site for opening hours.
Akershus Castle and Fortress is a medieval castle. It was completed in the 1300s and had a strategical location at the very end of the headland. The Castle withstood some sieges throughout the ages, mainly from rival Sweden. At the first half of the 19th century, the castle was used as a full-fledged prison. There are several military museums in the fortress that are worth a visit if you are into military history. The Fortress has a beautiful view to Aker Brygge and the Oslo Fjord. Castle is located just off Aker Brygge and City Hall.
Shopping in Oslo
There are two annual sales in Oslo – summer sale and winter sale. Winter sale starts just after Christmas and increases for full after the New Year’s. There are also a few minor sales throughout the year. Oslo has a few shopping malls in the city centrum with all the known chain stores. However, you will find many charming boutiques that support young and up and coming designers as well as known Scandinavian designers in the area of Gruneløkka. Visit Steen & Strøm Department Store – it has the most extensive selection of fashion in Oslo and is located just off the main street Karl Johan.
Things to do in Oslo in December
December is a festive month, and Oslo gets decorated with beautiful Christmas lights and ornaments. People are in a Christmas mood, and there are a lot of Christmas Parties going on. In December you have the chance to experience Norwegian people up close. We are maybe not the most open people, but during December all our guards are down due to partying and upcoming holidays, and you will find us in a chatty mood.
Other fun things you can do, except interacting with locals, are ice-skating in Spikkersuppa Ice-Skating Rink on the main street Karl Johan. You can hire your skates on the spot.
Christmas Market is open every day in December, and you will find the main one in the middle of the main street, Karl Johan. Here you can taste and buy traditional Norwegian food and drinks, and decorations. Christmas Market is a great place to get those unique souvenirs you want to bring home.
Visit Museum of Oslo which presents the city’s history through models, paintings, and photographs. Exhibitions are mainly Norwegian, but you may borrow the free audioguide.
The pre-Christmas sales (or offerings) start in December. Norway is expensive and if you want to do some shopping do it during the sales.
The Nobel Peace Prize concert is held the day after the reward ceremony and is visited by many celebreties both on and off stage. The ceremony is held in Oslo City Hall, while the concert is held at Oslo Spektrum. For different reasons (mostly luck of necessary financial needs to retain the quality) there will be no Nobel Peace Prize concert in 2018.
Norwegian traditional food you only get in winter
Every country has some odd food traditions and odd types of food, and Norway is no different. The traditional Christmas food for Oslo area is Roast Pork Belly – Ribbe served with potatoes, sausages, meat cakes and pickled cabbage. During December, you can get it served in any restaurant in Oslo, and this traditional Eastern Norway Christmas dish is pretty delicious.
While you are in Oslo in December you should taste Rakfisk. Rakfisk is a trout which has been salted and fermented for a period of anywhere between two months and up to one year, being stored in cold temperatures. Then, after some necessary preparation (when the smell is most pungent), it is ready to be consumed. Note of caution – you should not eat it if you are pregnant.
There are as many different traditions as families, but as we divide Norway into four parts – South, East, North, and West, so does the main Christmas food traditions follow their part of the country. During Christmas, you can get traditional dishes in restaurants in Oslo from all parts of Norway. My favorite is Pinnekjøtt which is popular in Western and Northern Norway. Pinnekjøt is dried mutton ribs and is the undefeated Christmas dinner champion. Southern Norway usually has some fish and Lutefisk. Lutefisk is essentially dried stockfish (usually cod) which is then treated and soaked in lye (or sodium hydroxide) and cold water. For an in-depth description of traditional Norwegian Christmas Food, you can check Norwegian Arts site which is run by Norwegian Royal Ambessy.
Visiting Oslo in January or February will give you the same opportunities as in December. But where December kan give you a unique Christmas spirit I believe you would love to experience, January and February may treat with beautiful winter weather. You will also experience Olso and its attractions in peace and quiet as these months are two of the lowest seasons. So pick what you like and adjust it to the weather and the time you have to explore.
I highly recommend you to get Oslo Pass. Depending on the length of your stay the pass is available for 24, 48 or 72 hours. Oslo Pass gives you free entries to 36 top tourist attractions and museums in Oslo, free access to public transportation in the whole of Olso and some suburbs, and discounts at some restaurants, cafes, and shops.
You can buy Oslo Pass online by clicking on the link, at the hotel you are staying at, at Oslo Visitor Centre and some museums. The prices for Oslo Pass are approximately 40 euro for one adult for a 24-hour pass. There are discounted prices for children and seniors. After purchasing your Oslo Pass, you will have to exchange your booking voucher for the city pass at Oslo Tourist Information Office. You will find it at Østbanehallen at the Central Railway Station. The pass starts its validity period when you note the date of first use on it.
Oslo Pass is worth getting – Oslo is expensive so it will save you lots of money on both public transportation and entry fees to attractions and museums. It will also save you the time you will spend in line to get into museums or tourist attractions you want to visit.
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Oslo in Spring
Spring in Norway are the months of March, April, and Mai – by the calendar. But since it is the weather that decides, we usually don’t get spring before the end of April or beginning of Mai. A few years ago we had +18C for one week in March and all snow was gone before Easter, while last year it was snowing on 10th of Mai (according to my Facebook memories). The average temperatures for spring month can be anything from -3C in March to +11C in Mai. Remember these are the average, and it can be colder or warmer.
March is a perfect for snow activities, and the weather is usually stable with sunny days and a few degrees below zero. If you have skipped the part about January and February, I recommend you scroll up and read it. The air is also much clearer, days are longer and warmer, and if you go up to Holmenkollen, you can get the most beautiful sunny and snowy views of Oslo. You can also visit any museums mentioned in that section, but also the once that are open-air at Bygdøy.
Easter usually occurs at the end of March or beginning of April, and most Norwegians leave Oslo and go to the mountains. March is the best time for snow activities in the mountains as well. But then imagine you getting the whole Oslo for your self. However, if you decide to visit Olso in March or April, be aware Norway have many public holidays, and everything is closed – shops, museums, and even some restaurants. We, Norwegians love our time off. Public holidays during Easter are Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, as well as Pentecost Sunday and the following Monday. All the shops, some restaurants, and museums close their doors during these days.
In Mai, we celebrate our Constitution Day and if you have the chance to experience that I highly recommend it. You will see many Norwegians dress in their beautiful National costumes, called bunad. Bunads are different for every region. People who don’t own a bunad wear their most festive (in their eyes) outfits. If you are lucky with the viewing point, you will also see the Royal Family standing on the balcony waving at kids’ parade.
Top things to see and do in Oslo in Spring
Oslo has several beautiful parks, and few of them are centrally located. You will find one of the most famous parks Vigelandsparken in Frognerparken in the city center. Vigelandsparken contains over 212 sculptures by Gustav Vigeland including an obelisk and the Wheel of Life. This park is the world’s largest sculpture park made by a single artist. Another famous sculpture is Sinnataggen, a baby boy stamping his foot in fury. This statue is very well known as an icon in the city. Vigelandsparken, as well as Frognerparken, is open during the whole year and has a free entrance.
Oslo Opera House is located in Bjørvika – The barcode, right by The central railway station and Oslofjord. The roof of the building angles to ground level, creating a large plaza that invites pedestrians to walk up and enjoy the panoramic views of Oslo. The lobby has free entrance, and I recommend you to get inside and take a look. It has a typical classic, a minimalistic Scandinavian interior that you will love.
While you are in this area take a walk to Bjørvika, a neighborhood we call the Barcode. The name is giving due to the neighborhood’s buildings’ look. This a business and residential area, super expensive because of its central location, views of Oslofjord and age of the apartments (they are new). Bjørvika has several restaurants and cafes.
The main street Karl Johan starts at the top by the Central Railway Station and ends at the Royal Palace. On your way, you will pass shops, cafes, and restaurants, as well as the Parlament Building, the University of Oslo and the National Theatre.
Fun things to do in Oslo in spring
Experience 17th of Mai – Norwegian Constitution Day, which is known just as 17th of Mai. Traditionally we start the day with champagne breakfast with friends. Then there are kids’ marches throughout the whole country, but it is especially lovely to experience it in Oslo due to the parades marching on Karl Johan to greet the Royal Family. On this day the kids are allowed to have an unlimited amount of hotdogs and ice-cream, and friends gather for dinner.
Oslo in summer
Summer is the high season for visiting Oslo. All the things you can see in Oslo in winter you can also experience in summer, but get a different experience. Although the public holidays in Norway are through the whole of July, and citizens leave town, this is the time for tourists to explore the city.
The average temperature for June, July, and August is +16C, with the warmest average for the three month +25C. Note of caution – it can rain a lot during summer in Norway, so always bring a jacket and a sweater. If you are “lucky” you will get to experience all four seasons in one day 🙂
Top things to do and see in Oslo in summer
You should visit Vigelandsparken and Frognerparken (see above). During summer you will see people who have to work while the rest of us are on holidays having picnics and barbeques in the park 🙂
Visit Oslo City Hall and experience building’s history, art and architecture, as well as some of the political and administrative activity that goes on in there. Oslo City Hall offers free public tours between approx. 1 June and 16 July at 10 AM, noon and 2 PM. Booking is not necessary. Free entrance with Oslo Pass.
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Ekeberg Sculpture Park – is located on Ekeberg hill with beautiful views of Oslofjord, the city, and Holmenkollen. It is situated next to Ekeberg Restaurant, and you can reach it by tram or car. It takes 10 min to get to Ekeberg depending on the traffic. The Park is located in the wooded area, which will give you excellent shadow during the summer heat (if there is one). Ekeberg park is open every day all year and has free admission. You can also book private guided tour.
You have to goof around with sculptures like this one 🙂 The park is worth a visit – most statues are cool, surroundings are beautiful, and views are fantastic.
The Royal Palace – is located at the end of the Main Street Karl Johan. Start your walk at the top of Karl Johan, from The central railway station. On your way, you will pass many shops, cafes, and restaurants. On your left-hand side, you will see The Parlament building with two beautiful lion statues guarding the entrance.
A little bit further down the street, still, on your left-hand side, you will see The National Theatre.
Continue towards the Palace, and on your right-hand side, you will find the University of Oslo.
The Royal Palace is open to the public during summer, for guided tours only. It is free entrance for kids under age of 3. Adult price is approximately 15 Euro.
Aker Brygge and Tjuvholmen are the harbor areas and are citizens’ favorite as soon as the weather is warm, and the sun is shining. Here you will find many restaurants, shops, an Astrup Fearnley Museum of contemporary art and a small beach. From Aker Brygge you can take a cruise on Oslofjord. If the weather is warm and sunny, I promise you that this will be one of the best sightseeing you will do in Oslo. You can get your tickets for the cruise on Oslofjord HERE. Take a ferry to Hovedøya and visit Monastery Ruins. If you wish to visit one of the oldest lighthouses on Oslofjord, you can take a ferry to Heggholmen. Ferries to the islands leave from the piers in front of the city hall.
Best museums to visit in Oslo in summer
Folkemuseum – The Norwegian museum of cultural history is dedicated to Folk Art, Sami (the Lapps) and Viking cultures. The museum is located on Bygdøy Peninsula, which is Oslo’s “museum island.” This museum is an open-air museum.
The Kon-tiki museum – houses vessels and maps from Thor Heyerdahl’s expedition – Kon-tiki raft and RAII. Thor Heyerdahl is a Norwegian expeditionary and ethnographer who famously sailed by raft from South America to the Tuamotu Islands. The museum includes the very raft used during that expedition. And if you haven’t seen the movie I suggest you do – here is a little teaser for you (yes it is in English). The museum is located on Bygdøy Peninsula, close to the museum of cultural history.
– The Viking ship museum – displays a surprising collection of Viking grave goods discovered around Oslo Fjord.
– Fram Museum – Fram is the most famous wooden polar vessel in the world. You can climb on board and look around the whole ship.
All of the above are located on Bygdøy, so set aside a few hours to explore Norwegian history.
The museum of Oslo – as the name suggests is a museum about Oslo’s history and is composed of several parts. One of the cooler is an intercultural museum, which focuses on several cool modern exhibitions that invite you to reflect on the difference between essential matters as racism, xenophobia, and bias in everyday-life. This museum is located on Grønland, the most multicultural neighborhood in Oslo, and you can reach it by any metro line.
Other fun things to do in Oslo in summer
ARE YOU AN ADRENALINE JUNKY? Would you dare to take the Holmenkollen zip line – to whizz 1,180 ft (360 m) down the length of the ski jump? Take a metro line 1 and get off at Holmenkollen station. Besides adrenaline kick, you get the best views of Oslo. The ticket will cost you around 75 euro and includes the entrance to the Ski Museum.
Oslo summer park – One of Scandinavia’s largest climbing parks located at Tryvann, 30 minutes by metro line 1 and get off at Voksenkollen station, then walk further for about 10-15 minutes. It is super fun for both adults and kids. You will be up in the trees the whole time, so if you are scared of heights, you should reconsider. You can rent all the needed equipment, and the staff will guide through all the necessary safety rules.
Kayaking on Oslofjord – it’s a 3-hour tour, and you don’t need any kayaking experience. You will get a local guide who will take you to the small islands around Oslo where you can bath and have a picnic. You will get exercise, explore Oslofjord and get views of Oslo from the seaside – a perfect combination.
Oslofjord sailing with Christian Radich which is a beautiful old sailing ship. The ship that has had a dramatic history as a sail training ship since its launch in 1937. The recent years, the vessel has divided its time between the charter market, sightseeing tours, summer trips to foreign ports with paying trainees on board, the Tall Ships Races and large sailing events in various European ports. During summer they arrange several day and evening tours but are very quickly sold out. Check their website for available tours.
Olso in fall
As the weather can be somewhat unpredictable, fall in Oslo can start in August or end of September. The average temperature for fall months of September, October, and November are +12C for September and +1,5C for November, with October just in the middle. It rains quite a lot, with October being the wettest months and from the end of October or beginning of November, we can expect snowfall. But September and October are the most colorful months and while the weather can still be nice, Oslo and surrounding hills get stunning colors. Last week of September or the first week of October (always week 40) kids in Oslo and suburbs have fall vacation, and many families with school kids leave town for a fall break. This way the atmosphere in the city gets a little bit slower and a little bit more chilled.
Top things to do and see in Oslo in fall
I will repeat it – you can visit any museum or attraction any time of the year. The only difference is you can only ski in winter, and you can only bath in summer. Well, that is not true, but if you are into ice swimming Norway in winter time is perfect for you!
Visit the Botanical Garden – the colors will be amazing. The gardens are open daily in the period between 15 March and 30 September. It is also recommended to visit the gardens during summer. It is located at Tøyen and can be reached by metro line 2, 3, 4 or 5 or buss nr 37 or 60, all leaving from Sentral Railway station.
If you love hiking and nature, the surrounding hills and woods of Oslo are beautiful in the fall. Go to Grefsenkollen for an easy hike of a 1-1,5h. Grefsenkollen provides excellent views of Oslo, the fjord, Holmenkollen and the surrounding forests. Read about how to get there by clicking this link
Or hike to Vettakollen – located between Holmenkollen and Sognsvann, Vettakollen provides some of the best views of Oslo. It is an easy hike that will take no more than 1-1,5h. Take a metro line 1 to Frognereseteren and get off at Vettakollen and start there.
If you are in Oslo for more than just a few days and would love to go to the mountains, I suggest you check my post on how we Norwegians hike.
Visit Astrup Fearnley Museum of contemporary art at Tjuvholmen. It is a private museum and includes icon works by Damien Hirst, Anselm Kiefer, and Jeff Koons. The museum is closed on Mondays.
In November Christmas lights and decorations come up. Christmas Parties start, and people begin to go out again. And if you are here in November or December bring some Friday night outfit, go out in town and see how Norwegians spend a night out.
Free things to do in Oslo
If you are on a tight budget, there are quite a few things you can do and see for free in Oslo. Tobogganing in winter and hiking in summer or fall are super “Norwegian” activities. Olso’s beautiful parks have free entrance, and you can visit Frognerparken, Vigelandsparken, the Royal park which surrounds the Royal Palace, and Ekebergparken any time of the year. Aker Brygge and Tjuvholmen are super cool neighborhoods summer and winter. At Christmas time and summer time you will see many people in these areas as there are tons of excellent restaurants and cool bars here. Visit Oslo Opera House and Bjørvika, take the metro to Holmenkollen and Frognerseteren and enjoy the views and apple tart. Take a stroll on Karl Johan, then visit Grünerløkka – the bohemian and colorful area of Oslo.
Take a stroll along Akerselva, the river flowing through Oslo. Akerselven is “Oslo’s green lung”; many parks and nature trails are found by its path, from Grønland to Maridalsvannet, Oslo’s largest lake.
Or visit Gamlebyen – old town and Vålerenga and see how colorful Oslo is.
Sørenga is another new and hip area in Oslo. Many restaurants, great views of Oslo and possibilities for sunbathing makes it very popular with locals.
Things to do in Oslo at night
Take a tram to Ekeberg and enjoy the views of Oslo and Holmenkollen. The city views are stunning during winter when the air is crispy, and the city lights are on. Note of caution – it is freezing at Ekeberg on a winter night because of the wind.
Although this picture doesn’t say a thousand words, I took it at Ekeberg Hill, and you can see Holmenkollen Ski Jumping Arena, The Royal Palace, the Barcode (Bjørvika), the moon and the sunset 🙂
If you are looking for something more fun to do in Oslo at night than taking photos, I suggest you visit a bar called ISM. Their concept is super cool – on the main floor it is “guilty pleasure,” and you can order any drink you want. In the basement, however, it is a private party only. You don’t have to be many, but you have to pre-book. There they have a weekly theme, and they make their drinks accordingly to the topic. The idea of our visit was sustainability in the third world. It meant they poured their drinks into containers made in the third world out of sustainable material and the ingredients used for drinks came from the area of the theme, which in our case was Asia.
Remember to dress up when going out in Oslo at night. 🙂 If you are going out for just ONE night this is the place. There are plenty other places in Oslo on the main street Karl Johan, Aker Brygge, Tjuvholmen, and Grünerløkka.
Where to eat in Oslo
If you have purchased Oslo Pass check where you get the discount, there are some decent places on their list. But as a local, I would recommend you have a lunch or dinner at Østbanehallen – Oslo Central Station. It is a concept with several restaurants in one hall with very relaxed atmosphere and an excellent place for watching Norwegians hurry home from work.
Another great place with a similar concept, yet different, is Mathallen – food court. It is a venue with over thirty small and unique eateries that serve Norwegian and international cuisine. The atmosphere is relaxed and laid back. Mathallen is located at Grünerløkka and is an excellent place to have lunch.
Vippa Oslo is an upcoming food, culture and education center located at the edge of Vippetangen, right by the Oslo Fjord. Vippa offers food and drinks in chill surroundings as well as concerts, lectures and other exciting events. Vippa is the host of multiple food-stands providing a sustainable and diverse menu to Oslo’s increasingly bustling foodscape. Vippa’s vision is to bring together cultures through cuisines.
Where to stay in Oslo
There are many hotels in Oslo, both large chains like Choice, Thon, and Scandic, but also small brands. Lately, Airbnb has taken some of the markets. If you want to stay at one of the coolest hotels in Oslo, I recommend The Thief at Tjuvholmen. Thon Hotel Opera near the Opera House is very lovely too. They are both located very central but in two different areas. But like in any other city, hotels get cheaper the farther away from the center you stay.
Another great city to visit in Norway is a city of Bergen on the west coast. Read Travelweekli’s 4 Day Bergen Norway Itinerary for tips for Bergen
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I hope you enjoy your time in Oslo and if you have any questions don’t hesitate to get in touch with me HERE