Oslo is one of Europe’s fastest-growing cities – its population is approaching 700,000 and new neighborhoods with eye-catching architecture are popping up all the time. The largest city in Norway is quickly transforming into a cosmopolitan hub with an abundance of world-class museums, restaurants and art but still maintains the relaxed atmosphere of a much smaller town.
Guest post by Kevin Hodgon
Blog: Kevin’s Travel Diary
The city is nestled between the Oslo fjord and hundreds of square miles of forested hills and is a green city in more ways than one. The compact city centre is easily explored on foot or by bike, and an efficient public transport system makes the whole city accessible without a car.
Norway’s capital since 1814, Oslo is home to the Norwegian government and the Royal Family.
The country’s largest cultural institutions, which include the Norwegian Opera & Ballet, the National Theatre and the National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, present first-rate art exhibitions and opera, ballet and theater performances.
What’s the best time to visit Oslo?
The best time to visit Oslo is from May to August when the temperatures rise, but the room rates in the city remain surprisingly affordable – between £80 and £150 a night. This is also the best time to experience some mild temperatures, which average in the mid-60s, but it can get chillier, so make sure to bring a jacket. Like Stockholm, Oslo can experience nearly 24 hours of daylight, with the famous Midnight Sun usually appearing in June or July. On the flip side, there are winter days of near total darkness. This is matched with frigid weather and temperatures diving into the teens.
Oslo’s spring and summer are some of the most popular travel periods, especially between May and July. July tends to see a dip in business travel, so leisure tourists might have a chance to save on traditionally expensive accommodations at this time.
• St. Hallvard’s Feast Day (May)
• Downtown Summer Festival (June)
• Oslo Live Festival (June-July)
• Oya Festival (August)
These months are ideal for those interested in winter sports (there are some great skiing opportunities north of the city). But temperatures hover around freezing and the daylight hours are short, if present at all, so don’t leave home without the faux parka.
• Oslo Marathon (September)
• Oslo World Music Festival (November)
• Nobel Peace Prize Awards (December)
• Great Annual Christmas Fair (December)
The best time to go to Oslo suitable for most travelers is early summer, especially the months of June and July.
Although southern part of Norway does not have the Midnight Sun, you can still enjoy the daylight until 19:00/20:00 when the sun sets down. And with the warm weather, there are many things to do and places to go in Oslo.
The months of June and July are also the time of Oslo’s highest tourism levels, so while all sights and attractions will be open, you will see some tourist crowds.
So when should you go to Oslo if you want to avoid the high travel season? May and September are wonderful alternatives and also offer lower rates – the weather in Oslo will still be mild enough for outdoor activities and sightseeing.
For travelers, the quietest (and likely cheapest) month in Oslo is October. The summer is over, but the ski season hasn’t started yet.
What’s good to know about Oslo?
To the rest of the world, Norway is where Mother Nature has created one of her finest works of art. Against such a wonderful natural canvas, it’s easy to forget that man can also be artistic, and many a visitor has been left surprised to discover that Oslo is home to world-class museums and galleries rivaling any other place on the European art trail.
But even here Mother Nature has managed to make her mark, and Oslo is fringed with forests, hills and lakes awash with opportunities for hiking, cycling, skiing and boating.
Add to this mix a thriving cafe and bar culture, top-notch restaurants, nightlife options ranging from opera to indie rock, and a large and visible immigrant community who add their own colourful touch to the city, and the result is a thoroughly intoxicating place in which to forget about the fjords for a while.
One Day in Oslo Itinerary
Oslo is not a big city, so like always I recommend walking. You can walk almost anywhere, but for this itinerary, you will need a city transport card. I hope you’re ready, you’re going to need to get an early start as I’m going to take you around Oslo’s best attractions in one day. Start at 9am at the latest and finish around 6pm. Follow this guide and make the most of your trip even if you’re short on time. These are the top sights and things to do during your one day in Oslo.
Start your day at Akershus Fortress
Start at the Akershus Fortress, this place is an amazing place to walk around on historical grounds, and from the top you have stunning views of the harbour. During clear summer months, the sunset views are incredible from here, although sunset is quite late. (about 1 hour and 30 minutes needed here).
Stroll around the harbour
After you’ve explored the historical grounds, head down towards the harbour. On route you will pass the City Hall on the right, so go and explore it. After that, you will see the harbour on the left, and if you continue forward you’ll see the dazzling white tiles from the famous Opera House straight ahead.
The Opera House offers great views over the Oslofjord, it’s free to walk inside the foyer and on the roof of the building, so go explore. (about 30 minutes needed here)
Check out Holmenkollen ski museum and ski jump
Next, with your back to the harbour, head forward and towards the nearest subway station. You will take a trip to see Holmenkollen ski museum and ski jump, one of Oslo’s top attractions. Take metro 1 for about 15mins and get off at stop Holmenkollen (the view from the top of the subway station alone is worth the trip). From here, it takes around 10 minutes to walk uphill to the ski jump (follow signs), so be prepared for the most stunning 360 degree views – the view is really breathtaking (about 1 hour needed here). There is a nice cafe here for a lunch stop. (30 minutes for lunch).
Head back down to the city centre and towards the harbour. At the harbour, you will see the tram station on the right. Jump onto tram 12 and get off at the entrance of Vigeland park. (about 1 hour and 30 minutes needed here)
Visit Vigeland park and its artwork
The Vigeland park is the world’s largest sculpture park made by a single artist and again one of Oslo’s most popular attractions. This unique park has more than 200 sculptures in bronze, granite and wrought iron. Take a little wander around this park, but don’t miss the spectacular artwork in the middle.
For this next part, and for someone who doesn’t know the city, it’s easier if you catch the tram back to the harbour again. Then over to the bus station and catch bus 30 towards Bygdoy from Radhuset. Now we are heading towards the Viking ship museum.
Visit the Viking ship museum
The Viking ship museum is a must whilst you’re in Oslo, the museum displays the world’s two best-preserved wooden Viking ships built in the 9th century, as well as small sledges, wooden boats, tools and other household items. (about 1 hour and 30 minutes needed here)
The Norwegian Museum of Cultural History
Head outside and pretty much next door is the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History. The Folk museum is an open-air museum with around 150 traditional houses from all parts of Norway and a stave church from the year 1200. The indoor museum shows traditional handicraft items, Sami culture, weapons, toys and folk costumes. (about 1 hour and 30 minutes needed here).
Spend an evening at the harbour promenade
Once you have finished exploring both museums, head back to the city centre for the last time today. To the side of the harbour is the harbour promenade where you will find plenty of restaurants and bars. Now, I don’t know about you but after this itinerary, I’m knackered and I deserve a nice cold beer, on an outside terrace overlooking the harbour! Enjoy!
Where to stay in Oslo?
Oslo, being the capital of Norway, offers a vast number of possibilities when it comes to accommodation. Of course, it offers not only luxury options, since you can literally find anything in accordance with your budget. As anywhere else in the world, hotels and hostels are the most popular types of accommodation. Here are a few of my favourites:
Saga Poshtel Oslo Central
My first choice is Saga Poshtel Oslo Central. This hostel is in a great location, 10 minutes away from the Akershus Fortress, making this a great place to stay for this Itinerary. They offer free wifi, a communal kitchen and a great buffet breakfast for your early morning start. It is also a great place to meet like-minded travelers in their comfy communal TV lounge.
Citybox Oslo Hotel
Another great place with great service is the Citybox Oslo Hotel. The Citybox Oslo Hotel is within 10 minutes of all the main attractions, and they offer friendly service with clean modern rooms. You can’t go wrong with this one!
The Grand Hotel
This hotel is on a grand scale, and no wonder they call it The Grand Hotel. Even if you don’t stay here, pop in and take a look around, it is such an incredible hotel with excellent customer service.
Norway is not exactly the cheapest country in the world, so every opportunity you get to save should be taken without too much thought. LockTrip is one such opportunity because it allows you to book accommodation at the lowest possible prices. This translates to up to one third of the standard price remaining in your pocket, which really is a spectacular deal. Check the website and see which Oslo accommodations you can find there – you won’t be sorry!
Extra tips for visiting Oslo
From the airport
Oslo Gardermoen International Airport has a motorway and high-speed rail link to the city centre.
Numerous domestic flights also go in and out of Gardermoen.
The harbour is the most expensive area for restaurants. If you’re on a budget, head about 10 minutes away from the harbour for a cheap option on restaurants. For a bigger guide on Oslo’s prices see this great guide.
A 24-hour ticket will cost 90 NOK, other options are available for a longer stay.
There are banks with ATMs throughout the city centre, with a particular concentration along Karl Johans gate. The tourist office and post office in Oslo S exchange money (into Norwegian kroner only) at a less advantageous rate (usually 3% less than banks). Forex is the largest foreign-exchange service in Scandinavia.
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