While the countryside of Norway gathers far more attention than the actual capital, I, for one, find this highly unfair. Mind you – I absolutely loved the fjords, and it’s still today one of my favorite travel experiences. But I genuinely think that Oslo shouldn’t be left out, and shouldn’t be a simple transit stop.
Here’s how I decided to ignore the city’s bad reputation (some people like to call it boring – I beg to differ!) and how I spent my 72 hours in Oslo – which, for the record, was much, much too short of a stay – I could have definitely pictured myself living there for a few months!
Why not start with a bang and go on a mini hop on/hop off cruise in the harbor? Not only is it a great way to spend laid-back time in the sun, see the fjord and islands in a brand new, unique perspective, the boat itself is quite awesome too! Not to mention the views of the magnificent Opera House, one of the most iconic buildings in the world.
I recommend this activity especially for the orientation-challenged travelers – seeing the city from this angle will definitely help getting around afterward.
But what really is the highlight of this boat ride – even though the Opera House IS pretty darn awesome – is definitely the museum island, also known as Bygdøy. The small but quaint peninsula is home to 6 of the city’s best museums, including the above-pictured Viking Ship Museum. I also recommend the FRAM, the Kon-Tiki and the Holocaust Museum, among others. A fun day, I guarantee you!
After a long day of museum hopping, why not explore the city’s newest hip neighbourhood – Aker Brygge?
Up until just a few years ago, Aker Brygge was just a busy shipyard but it was recently transformed into one of Oslo’s most popular spots for tourists and locals alike, thanks to its car-free zonage. The area is filled with hundreds of fun restaurants (half of them have patios for some al fresco dining!), modern bars and cafés. A must-do at sunset when the city is buzzing and the light shines on the harbor!
Unless you have been living under a very big rock, you probably heard about this little ceremony held every year in the Oslo City Hall called the Nobel Peace Price? Ring a bell? Indeed, one of the world’s most awaited ceremonies of the year takes places right here, and is available for visit – but only with by pre-booked guided visits.
After visiting the Town Hall, I suggest to hop on the streetcar and head west. Did anyone say photogenic park?
Frogner Park – more widely referred to as Vigeland Sculpture Park – is Norway’s top tourist attractions, with over 1 million visitors every year – where else can you see spread a 320,000 m² green space covered in 212 unique bronze and granite statues, each portraying a different part of the “wheel of life”? While the park isn’t exactly close to the core center of the city, it’s truly worth the trek. Especially if the weather is nice, because that means you can kill two birds with one stone and visit both the upscale Majorstuen and the chic and lively Frogner areas while you’re there. I especially recommend the latter, with its swanky interior design shops, high-end cafés and picturesque residential streets. A definite must-do if you really want to get a feel of the city outside the main tourist zone.
No visit to Norway’s capital would be complete without a thorough stop at the Akershus Fortress. The history of the castle goes all the way back to 1299 and withstood a number of sieges throughout the years. A place deeply anchored (pun intended – the harbor is right by it!) in Norwegian history that truly does not disappoint – especially after a gorgeous stroll in the park around it!
And last but not least, what would Scandinavia be without its hipster crowd? Oslo is no exception, and while just about everyone in the city is beautiful and hip, the people of Grünerløkka take this Nordic cool concept just a little bit further.
The borough seems to be deep into all things epicurean – be it quaint cafés, vintage shops, trendy restaurants and lively squares. One of my fondest memories of my trip to Oslo is the two hours I spent on a patio sipping coffee and basking in the sun while trying to decipher the conversations around me.
Sometimes it’s the simplest of things that make the biggest difference, right?
Oslo will always have a special place in my heart. Between the world-class museum, the splendid waterfront and the delicious food scene, it’s hard to not have a good time. So if you eventually make it all the way to Norway, do yourself a favor and don’t just transit by Oslo.
Explore it, discover it, and feel it for what it really is. Oslo is amazing!
- The National Gallery of Oslo
- Munch Museum
- Royal Residence
- Holmenkollen Olympic Ski Museum & Tower
- Hovedøya Island
- Nobel Peace Center
72 Hours in Oslo – Good To Know
- I strongly suggest getting an Oslo Pass for the duration of your stay. It includes entrance to most museums, public transit, and other awesome features. If you plan on doing a lot of sightseeing, the pass definitely pays for itself. Especially when you factor in the aforementioned mini-cruise, which is included in the pass!
- Don’t hesitate to use public transit. It’s efficient and will save a massive amount of time if you’re only in the city for a short stay.
- In case you didn’t know, Oslo is pretty far up north on the globe. Make sure to factor in daylight hours if you visit in the fall or winter time.
- Scandinavian restaurants tend to close incredibly early by continental Europe standards. Early dinner is the way to go!