Oslo is Norway’s capital and largest city. It is in the East of the country in the Oslofjorden fjord, extending over an inlet of the Skagerrak strait. It is surrounded by green hills and mountains and includes 40 islands and 343 lakes.
Oslo offers ski slopes for alpine skiing and ski trails for cross-country skiing in the winter. In the summer, the mild temperature makes it comfortable to swim. There are several well-visited beach resorts.
Fun Fact: Oslo is one of the world’s northernmost capitals and so gets only 6 hours of sunlight in the winter. In high summer, sunlight hours soar to 18 hours, making its climate markedly different between seasons, with cold yet relatively dry winters.
Things To Do In Oslo
Oslo is the demographic, economic, and political center of Norway. As the capital city, Oslo prides itself as one of the world’s most sustainable cities. While it holds an array of historic monuments, Oslo is perhaps most famous for its modern architecture, including striking and daring projects launched at the turn of the millennium.
The city has a good selection of cultural institutions and a good selection of restaurants, as well as nightlife in general.
While it is an expensive city for overseas visitors, many of the best things are free of charge, notably Oslo’s proximity to wild nature and variety of outdoor activities.
Fun Fact: In 2010, Oslo was ranked as the world’s most expensive city to live in by the Swiss wealth management company UBS AG.
Buildings & Architectures
Architecture in Oslo may at first seem dull. Unlike Stockholm, downtown Oslo has only scattered monumental buildings where in particular the Parliament-Palace axis (upper part of Karl Johan Street) has a certain grandeur. This central area and the public buildings there were designed after Oslo became the capital of Norway in 1814.
The charm of Oslo can also be found in the affluent inner-city suburbs of for instance Frogner and Fagerborg as well as above St.Hanshaugen park.
The districts surrounding the very center is characterized by the city’s rapid expansion after 1850. These areas were developed when horses were still the most important transport, and blocks of flats from this period usually has a gate (known as port) from the street into the back yard where horses were kept.
Oslo also has many exciting building projects, and the city’s whole waterfront is undergoing a thorough change.
Oslo has an amazing number of museums, among them the Viking Ship Museum, with the Oseberg and Gokstad ships. Many of the museums are located next to each other and don’t take long to visit.
Note: If you are planning on seeing several of the expensive attractions in a short period of time, then the most cost-effective way to do this is to buy an Oslo Pass. It includes unlimited entry to more than 30 museums and the Holmenkollen ski jump (but not the Royal Palace), free travel on Oslo’s quite expensive public transport (Ruter and ferry to Bygdøy), and even limited discounts on some restaurants and other attractions (395 kr for 24 hrs).
Pro-Tip: Students get a 20% discount on the Oslo pass.
You could also buy a “travel card” allowing unlimited travel on public transport (sadly, no student discount on this). You can buy 24, 48, or 72 hour Oslo passes or travel cards. They can be purchased at Tourist Information Offices in Oslo.
Viking Ship Museum and Historical Museum
Museum featuring the Tune, Oseberg and Gokstad Viking ships, found in burial mounds. Free for children under 18.
Oslo has many art galleries, of which the National Gallery and the Munch Museum are probably the most famous.
Astrup Fearnley Museet is a new art collection of modern art that is worth a visit.
The sculpture parks Frogner Park with sculptures by sculptor Gustav Vigeland and Ekeberg Park with internationally renowned artists are very sizable.
Visit Wooden Houses Area in Oslo
Northern Europe has a distinct wooden house tradition. Wooden houses are not allowed downtown, but these charming houses can be found in large numbers in villa suburbs such as Bygdøy and Holmenkollen, or former workers’ areas such as Rodeløkka, Kampen, Vålerenga, Damstredet, Hellerud or Telthusbakken.
History Facts: The 1624 fire destroyed much of old Oslo (some churches and Akershus castle remain) and central Oslo is dominated by the city that was designed after the fire.
Wooden housing areas of Oslo like Kampen (bus 60), Vålerenga (bus 37), Rodeløkka (tram 17, bus 31 to Sofienberg), and Telthusbakken (bus 34/54). They are a “must” for lovers of old wooden townhouses.
In Kampen, you can find a very cozy Elvis café by the church, and in Vålerenga Restaurant Smia is also located by the church.
Visit the local city district Grünerløkka
A part of the city filled with cafés, bars, small fashion and designer shops, nice parks. The river Akerselva runs on the west side, with a selection of (well hidden) bars, clubs and cafés nearby.
Explore the archipelago of the Inner Oslofjord
Islands with many beaches, hiking trails and sites of cultural heritage are just waiting to be discovered. In the summer there are ferries from the dock by the city hall to islands such as Hovedøya, Langøyene, Bleikøya, Nakkholmen, and Gressholmen.
Bring along a picnic basket, sunglasses, and swimwear!
The easily accessible nature and many trails are just a short boat, metro, or bus ride away from anywhere in the city. Both in the inner city and especially in the forests of southern and northern Oslo there are countless hiking and cycling opportunities.
Explore the Oslo forest (Marka)
Oslo is surrounded by wide forested hills within reach metro, tram or pass. There hundreds of lakes, hills, and small summits. There are fine roads and paths in these forests, hiking is possible everywhere, fine roads are accessible by bicycle, baby stroller, and wheelchair.
Sone of the nice gateways to the lovely nature are:
- T-bane to Frognerseteren (bus line 1)
- Sognsvann (bus line 3)
- Romsås (bus line 5)
- Bogerud (bus line 3)
- Skullerud (bus line 3)
- Ellingsrudåsen (bus line 2)
- Movatn or Snippen (local trains going towards Hakadal, Roa, Jaren, and Gjøvik)
Bring something to drink and snacks (and do a bit of planning as buses and trains do seldom run more than once per hour). Also, be prepared for some muddy sections of the trail as they take you through some pretty thickly wooded areas.
Biking Tour of the City
Discover the city and its major tourist sites by bike: from April through October, guided tours in English are available daily with Viking Biking.
Note: Freshwater fishing (Trout, pike, perch, etc.) requires a fishing license.
The ski season in Oslo is variable, but there may be enough snow and possibilities for good skiing conditions from December to early April. This is the darkest time of the year, but in Oslo, the skiing days are extended by the fact that many ski trails and ski slopes are artificially lit.
The Oslo forest has a wide network of groomed cross-country trails. Trails begin at where the built-up area ends within metro, bus or tram from downtown Oslo. Cross-country skiing is popular among the people of Oslo and during winter skiers with gear are frequently seen in the streets.
There are also ski-lifts and slopes for alpine skiing in the Oslo forest, such as Oslo Winter Park and Oslo Skisenter (Grefsenkollen) and the Tryvann Ski School for beginners.
There are ski lifts and slopes in Bærum and Nittedal near the city. Within reasonable distance for a day trip, alpine alternatives are Kongsberg and Norefjell.
Oslo is one of the most expensive cities in the world. Still, there are possibilities for getting bargains in Oslo during the big sales. The prices of famous brands are not higher in Oslo than in London or Paris, often lower even if they are not on sale.
Pro-Tip: The big sales are in January and August, sometimes in between. The Norwegian word for the reduced price is “Salg” or “Tilbud”.
If you are out to shop there’s plenty to choose from. The main pedestrian street Karl Johans gate has plenty of shops of dubious quality.
The street Bygdøy allé (which is locally famous for its chestnut trees) (bus 20, 31) has regained its reputation of being a shopping street the past few years by establishments that focuses on kitchens, kitchenware, interior designs, exclusive Norwegian furniture, light design, and others.
The Møllergata street was earlier known as the furniture street. You will still find a few good but rather expensive shops for Norwegian furniture in this street.
- Oslomarka is a large forest surrounding the city. This is an important recreational area for the citizens of Oslo, and quite unique for a capital
- You can also visit the Tourist Association at Storgata (at Kirkeristen tram stop) for good maps and inexpensive accommodation alternatives in Oslomarka
- Tusenfryd Amusement Park, the largest amusement park in Norway, is a 20-minute bus ride from central Oslo on Bus route no. 500 or route no. 521 from Ski Railway Station. Carousels, roller coasters, ghost castle, etc.
- Kongsberg is a beautiful city well known for its silver mining history. The city is about an hour and a half west of Oslo by train or bus. The Kongsberg International Jazz Festival is hosted here every year in early July
- Fredrikstad is a very enjoyable city not far from Oslo, with an old, walled old town and lots of street life in summer
- Tønsberg is an attractive seaside town with an attractive city center. It’s the oldest town in Norway, and even if this isn’t instantly visible, there’s lots of history to digest
- Drøbak is another of the picturesque, small seaside towns dotted all over southern Norway, and the closest to Oslo. Nice place to get away from the big city bustle, even if Drøbak also can become crowded in summer
- Son (pronounced soon) is also one of the coastal pearls. Son is a small, picturesque ‘artist town’, because many well-known painters and writers have resided there. It has good restaurants
- Drammen was earlier a totally unremarkable industrial city dubbed “the biggest road crossing of Norway”. Even if traffic is still rife, the city has gone through a facelift, and their center is as cozy as any
Wi-Fi and Internet
Most of the hotels offer free Wi-Fi.
Most of the internet cafes are located in the city center or eastern part of town. Look for small shops selling telephone cards. They usually have internet terminals.
If you carry your own device WLANs will be easy to find at cafes, hotels, bars, museums, supermarkets and even in parks.
Oslo is generally a safe city, but as in any metropolitan area, some caution is warranted. Violent crime is rare, but not unheard of. Avoid getting into quarrels in taxi queues after closing hours of bars.
Avoid groups of drunk young men. The police advise that the area along the Akerselva river from Grønland to Cuba is best avoided after dark. It is known for instances of rape, muggings, and drug dealing.
Women should remain vigilant at night and when clubs and pubs are closing. Avoid walking alone through parks and poorly lit areas of the city. Do not, under any circumstances, use “pirate taxis” or other unofficial transportation.
Theft and pickpocketing is a nuisance. Normal precautionary rules apply:
- Watch out for pickpockets in crowds and public transport
- Do not leave your belongings unattended
- Avoid leaving your mobile phone and wallet on café tables
Common scams occur in Oslo, and there are recent reports on the “street guessing game” being perpetrated on the street – don’t get involved in street-betting as it is certain to be a scam.
Winter conditions in Oslo
Pay particular attention to winter conditions when driving. Do run with vehicles that are equipped with good winter tires. The roads and streets of Oslo can be very slippery, especially if there is a lack of snow clearing and gritting, so drive slowly and carefully.
In winter watch out for icy patches, and when wandering in the forest beware when crossing snowy clearings – they may well be frozen lakes with snow over them, which may look safe but could crack.
Finally, beware of heavy snow and icicles falling from the roofs in temperatures just above the freezing point. In Oslo, there are usually red/yellow signs upwards, and some areas are occasionally cordoned off.
The tap water of Oslo is among the cleanest in the world. Do drink tap water instead of bottled water, which does nothing but drain your pocket of much-needed kroner.
In front of the city hall, you will find a drinking water station. Close to the harbor.
To be on the safe side, boil water obtained from lakes, rivers, streams and other outside sources of water if trekking and/or camping in the Oslo forest (Marka). Do not obtain water from ponds, large puddles and other bodies of standing water.
There are few wild animals that can hurt. However, some people get wasp stings and tick bites. In case of complications, consult a doctor. The only poisonous snake is the common European adder. In case of an adder bite, seek medical attention immediately.
Traffic in Oslo
Cars are required to yield to pedestrians at marked and signed crossings and will be heavily fined if they don’t. However, this rule does not apply to trams (streetcars); the trams have the right of way. Oslo has a web of tram lines downtown and as the trams are fast and heavy, you will certainly lose if you attempt to challenge one.
Trams need up to 1.3 meters space on each side of the track, keep a generous distance to trams curves.
Oslo is not one of the most suitable cities for driving. In central Oslo, it is recommended to travel collectively. Public transport in Oslo is well developed, it saves time and the environment.
Driving requires a high level of attention all the time. There are few parking spaces along the streets, and many streets are pedestrian-only as well as there are plenty of dead-end roads and one-way streets.
For more information on the most common phrases in Norwegian, see the Norwegian phrasebook article.
Norwegian (norsk) is a North Germanic language spoken mainly in Norway.
However, Norwegian has many similarities with the other Scandinavian languages: Swedish and Danish. In Norway there are many Norwegian dialects, all present in the capital.
Dialects have large variations in tone and many local dialect expressions. Nevertheless, it appears that all Norwegians understand each other. Although it is relatively easy to communicate with Norwegians in English, it might be useful to learn some common Norwegian phrases.
July 19, 2019 12:14 pm
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