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Is Oslo Worth Visiting? Here Are 16 Reasons Why You Should Visit Oslo in Norway

Is Oslo Worth Visiting? Here Are 16 Reasons Why You Should Visit Oslo in Norway

At the end of our Norway road trip from Tromso to Lofoten, we flew to Oslo for three days to discover what the capital city had to offer.

After a breathtaking week of driving through the most incredible mountainous scenery in Northern Norway, would Oslo be able to live up to our high expectations, or would it pale into insignificance?

In this post, you will find out the answer to the often-asked question – is Oslo worth visiting?

Whether you’re seeking outdoor adventures like fjord-hopping, exploring world-class museums like Munch, or hunting for the impressive Oslo art pieces scattered around the city, there are numerous reasons why Oslo should be at the top of your travel wish list.

Read on to find out what makes Oslo worth visiting and why it is the perfect place to visit on a city break.

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Aker Brygge viewed from the hill at Akerhaus Fortress.

Oslo resembles an open-air art gallery #1

From historic statues to modern-day sculptures and urban street art, Oslo is like an open-air gallery. You will see art in some shape or form at every turn, whether along the waterfront, in a park, or one of the city’s suburban neighbourhoods. So, if you appreciate art and creativity, you will love wandering around and finding pieces dotted around the city.

Of all the art in Oslo, Vigeland Sculpture Park inside the city’s largest green space, Frogner Park, will shock and amaze you. It is a collection of over 200 statues featuring the human body in various poses and is eyebrow-raising, to say the least! You can read about Vigeland in more detail in this post: Vigeland Sculpture Park in Oslo: Norway’s Most Unusual Tourist Attraction.

You can go fjord-hopping in Oslo #2

Oslo sits on a fjord, not surprisingly called Oslofjord, consisting of several small islands. From Aker Brygge waterfront, it’s really easy to catch a ferry and spend the day hopping from fjord to fjord. You can arrange this activity independently or join a guided Oslofjord cruise. However you choose to visit the islands, just make sure you do because they are charming and a must-see in Oslo. There’s even one fjord island with a fabulous restaurant at its centre, a popular spot for locals and tourists.

If visiting the Oslo Fjord Islands sounds good to you, please read about it in my post: How to Visit the Oslo Fjord Islands in Norway: the Perfect Island Hopping Guide.

Oslo is a walkable city #3

Oslo is pretty compact and easy to navigate, making it perfect for a city break. Most of the major Oslo attractions are all close to one another, apart from places like the Vigeland Sculpture Park and the Holmenkollbakken Ski Museum, which are a short distance away. Another way to get around Oslo if your feet are taking a battering is by using the extensive tram network, which runs all around the city, or an electric scooter.

blue tram with electric scooters by it in Grünerløkka

Oslo has a fortress dating to the Middle Ages #4

No visit to Oslo would be complete without wandering around the 14th-century Akershus Fortress. Located high on a hill with stunning views across Aker Brygge and the Oslofjord, this fortress is an interesting place to visit during the summer (only the grounds remain open in winter). It’s Oslo’s oldest building, having survived The Great Fire in 1624, and The Norwegian Armed Forces Museum is based here if you are interested in militaria.

Collection of brick buildings in Oslo.
Red brick building with row of cannons in front of it in Oslo.

Oslo has over 50 museums #5

You will be spoilt for choice with the amount of museums in Oslo. In fact, Oslo has more than 50 museums ranging from the Nobel Peace Centre and the National Museum to the Munch Museum and Norwegian Folk Museum, so there’s sure to be a museum that sparks your interest.

White building with two towers at the entrance in Oslo.

Have fun in Aker Brygge – Oslo’s vibrant waterfront #6

Oslo’s waterfront, Aker Brygge, is an attraction in its own right. Walk along and see tall ships anchored in the port alongside cruise ships – quite a sight to see.

Cruise ship in post at Aker Brygge Oslo.

There’s also, you’ve guessed it, street art around the cruise terminal, which is tastefully done.

Aker Brygge is home to several museums, including the Oslo City Hall Gallery, and of course, it’s the boarding point for ferry rides and guided waterfront tours.

Red brick building in Oslo.
Sailing boats and a ferry on the waterfront in Aker Brygge Oslo.

Walk on the roof of the Oslo Opera House #7

Yes, you read that correctly! The modern angular glass opera house encourages visitors to walk on its (flat) roof for spectacular views across the water and out to the Oslofjord islands.

Modern angular glass building in Oslo.

Swim in the Oslofjord #8

That’s right! Grab your swimsuit and join the crowds in summer as they cool off in the water.

See modern art in Tjuvholmen #9

By Aker Brygge is Tjuvholmen, a waterside area home to a sculpture park, swimming platform and several world-class art galleries. It is a great place to watch the sunset before heading to one of the wonderful restaurants for dinner. You can learn more about Tjuvholmen in my post: 8 Best Things to See in Tjuvholmen: Oslo’s Modern Art Neighbourhood.

Enjoy Oslo’s Culinary Scene #10

It’s not all reindeer meat, loganberries and potatoes in Norway – no, sir. Unlike other parts of the country, Oslo is recognised for its food offerings, ranging from international street food to Michelin-starred restaurants serving up delectable dishes. Restaurants lining the Aker Brygge waterfront are a great option if you want a place to dine with a great view of the Oslofjord.

Explore the Hipster Neighbourhood of Grünerløkka #11

I am a sucker for street art, coffee shops, independent boutiques and artisan craft shops, and I hit the jackpot when I visited Grünerløkka.

A short stroll from the hustle and bustle of central Oslo will take you to an eclectic part of the city with a bohemian vibe. It’s a popular place for creatives, as is evident from the street art that covers buildings, the hip coffee shops and eco-conscious boutiques.

It’s also home to a lovely park, a few museums, and the food hub Mathallen, which offers dishes from around the world. You can learn more about the neighbourhood in my post 10 Best Things to Do in Grünerløkka: Oslo’s Quirky Neighbourhood.

Marvel at the Colossal Art Murals in Tøyen #12

Staying with the theme of urban artwork, close to Grünerløkka is Tøyen. It’s a multi-cultural neighbourhood with blocks of flats that have been brightened up by using gigantic murals. If you love street art, then you have to add Tøyen to your Oslo itinerary. Also, the area has a few cute places to grab a bite to eat and a drink while you watch the world go by.

Relax in the Botanic Garden in Oslo #13

If you have had your fill of street art, head to Oslo’s botanic garden and spend an hour or so in nature. Walk amongst the densely planted flower beds and wander through the adjoining park, where you will find the Museum of Natural History, a particularly interesting place for children.

If you love nature and gardens, you may like to read 13 Most Beautiful Botanical Gardens in Europe for Nature Lovers.

Glasshouse and other buildings in the Botanic Garden in Oslo.
Red brick buildings with an arched entrance door in Oslo.

See Olso’s Prettiest Street – Damstredt #14

Named Oslo’s prettiest street, Damstredt is lined with colourful wooden houses and vibrant flowers and is a great place to take photos; just be sure to arrive early, as it is a popular spot for Instagrammers!

Read here about Damstredet: The Prettiest Street in The Heart of Oslo

Go inside the Royal Palace and Gardens #15

The Royal Palace is located at the end of Oslo’s main street, Karl Johan. Constructed in 1849, the main palace building and gardens are open to the public during the summer months and offer a glimpse into the lavish life of the Norwegian Royal family. Karl Johan Gate has outdoor cafes, upscale boutiques, the National Theatre of Oslo and the Parliament Building.

Oslo Royal Palace with many windows and pillars.
Ornate building with pillars and a bronze statue of a man in front of it.

Book one of Oslo’s Guided City Tours #16

My Complete Three-Day Oslo Itinerary

First Day in Oslo (assuming you are arriving mid-morning)

  • Stroll along the waterfront and get a feel for Oslo’s main tourist area.
  • Head to Akerhaus Fortress and spend time wandering around the grounds.
  • Walk back down to Aker Brygge and find a restaurant with outdoor seating to do some people-watching. My recommendation is Cafe Skansen.

Second Day in Oslo

  • Take a walk along Damstredt.
  • Explore Grunnerlokka and stop for lunch at Mathallen.
  • Take a stroll through the Botanic Gardens.
  • See the urban art in Tøyen.
  • Jump on the tram to Vigeland Sculpture Park.
  • Walk back to the city centre through the Royal Park.
  • Enjoy dinner at a restaurant on Karl Johan Street.

Third Day in Oslo

A day trip in the Oslofjord, stopping at three islands.

  • Hovedøya – see the ancient monastery ruins and nature reserve.
  • Lindøya – this is a beautiful holiday island used by locals.
  • Gresshølmen – This island has a restaurant in the centre, reachable after a walk through the woods.
  • Head back to Aker Brygge and see the sights in Tjuvholmen, then have dinner and watch the sunset.

Where To Stay In Oslo

If you want to be close to the action, stay around the Stortingsgata area. I can recommend the hotel we stayed in, Hotel Christiania Teater, but be warned that at weekends, there are two nightclubs right by the hotel, and if you are a light sleeper, they will keep you awake. However, if you are a party animal, then this will suit you perfectly.

The hotel was built in the early 20th century and has been a concert hall, a theatre, a cinema, and even Norway’s first opera stage. Now, it is a boutique hotel and offers a great stay with a buzzing bar area, superb restaurant and works of art on every level.

You can find a great selection of alternative places to stay in Oslo here:

 

When to Visit Oslo

I visited Oslo in July, and the weather was glorious, and all the museums and tourist attractions were open. Bear in mind that winter will be different and potentially snowy. Some attractions shut down over winter, and daylight hours are short, with temperatures in Dec/Jan dipping on average to -5 degrees Centigrade. But it’s not all doom and gloom, as you could join a Northern Lights Trip from Oslo.

How To Get Around Oslo

Oslo has a fabulous public transport system.

Getting from Oslo Airport to the city is simple on Flytoget’s Airport Express trains. They depart every ten minutes throughout the day, taking 19 minutes to get to Oslo Central Station.

If you prefer to be met by a driver and driven straight to your hotel, then book a WelcomePickUp.

You must download the Reuter App to buy your tickets for Oslo’s trains, ferries, buses and trams.

Getting around the city is easy on foot; however, the tram is easy to use for longer distances, or book the Oslo Hop-On-Hop-Off Bus for City Tours.

If you are happiest on two wheels, you can hire a bike from Oslo Bike Hire in Centrum. They also offer guided bike tours of the city and beyond.

Entry Fees to Tourist Attractions in Oslo

If you plan to visit a few of Oslo’s most famous attractions, then you may find the Oslo Pass an economical way to do it. You can buy one online.

Conclusion – Is Oslo worth visiting?

Without a doubt, I would say yes, Oslo is worth visiting. Before I arrived, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had been to Copenhagen at Christmas and enjoyed it, but I had also read dull reviews of other Scandi cities, such as Helsinki, and hoped Oslo wouldn’t fall into the ‘not-much-to-do-here’ category.

Oslo couldn’t be further removed from that category. In fact, it has become one of my favourite European capital cities. Why? Because it is the perfect size for a quick 3-day European city break, it has a mix of modern and historic attractions and some of the best street art in Europe.

I love that it can feel very cosmopolitan in one area and have a completely different vibe in another. And to cap it all off, it’s a city on the water, and there are not many other places in Northern Europe where you go island hopping on a fjord. So take my word for it – visiting Oslo will both surprise and delight you. In fact – I can’t wait to return!

Please PIN for Future Travel to Norway

Are you looking for further travel information on Norway? Please check out the following posts:

16 Great Reasons Why Tromso in Summer Is Worth Visiting

Senja Norway: How to Spend One Day on Senja Island in Summer

14 Great Reasons To Visit Lofoten in Summer

Lofoten Links: Lodges and Golf in the Arctic Circle

Most Beautiful Lofoten Beaches In Northern Norway

What To Do In Å: Lofoten’s Most Remote Preserved Fishing Village

Do you need to arrange travel insurance, car hire or accommodation? Please check out my travel resources page to help you plan your trip.