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. It is therefore a city that definitely should have a place on any traveler’s bucket list. Yes, one day in Oslo can be a real treat, so here’s how to make the most of the time you have here. Prepare for a beautiful day of sightseeing!
GUEST POST BY KEVIN HODGON
BLOG: Kevin’s Travel Diary
Oslo 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 center 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. 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. Oslo’s spring and summer are 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.
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.
As for the events, you will want to keep an eye out for St. Hallvard’s Feast Day, Downtown Summer Festival, or Oslo Live Festival if you’re visiting from May to August. However, there is a lot to enjoy in the city during Christmas time too thanks to the Great Annual Christmas Fair.
One final tip – the quietest (and likely cheapest) month in Oslo is October. The summer is over, but the ski season hasn’t started yet. May and September are also good months to visit if you want to avoid crowds.
A few facts about Oslo
Oslo is the home of the Nobel Peace Prize, which is awarded in this city every year in December.
The city also has a strong connection with London seeing how the Christmas tree that is set up at Trafalgar Square every year comes from Oslo’s beautiful forests. In fact, this tradition goes back more than 75 years. The tree is carefully chosen and its moving from the forest is overseen by the British ambassador and Oslo’s mayor. Neat, huh?
Oslo was also Europe’s Green Capital in 2019, and environmentalism is very much alive and kicking around here. In fact, the city has the largest percentage of electric cars in the whole world – more than 50,000 of them roam the streets every day! Also, about one-half of the city’s waste gets recycled.
One more impressive fact – about two-thirds of the city’s population have a university degree.
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 9 am at the latest and finish around 6 pm. 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 things off at the Akershus Fortress. This is an amazing place to walk around on historical grounds, and from the top, you have stunning views of the harbor. During clear summer months, the sunset views are incredible from here, although the sunset is can come quite late, especially in summer.
Stroll around the harbor
After you’ve explored the historical grounds, head down towards the harbor. On route, you will pass the City Hall on the right, so go and explore it. After that, you will see the harbor on the left, and if you continue forward you’ll see the dazzling white tiles of 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 do go and explore – it will be well worth it.
Stop at Munch
Edvard Munch is probably the best-known Norwegian painter, and he left his collection to Oslo after his death. And the city is indeed taking very good care of it! Munch, the museum, is actually next to the Opera House, so you won’t have to go very far. And apart from the artist’s collection, this beautiful building has other contemporary pieces on display.
Munch’s most famous creation, The Scream, is also in this museum. Do keep in mind that there are several versions of the masterpiece, and Munch houses eight at the moment. At least one will always be displayed on the 4th floor.
Find a nice place for lunch
By now, you must be getting hungry, so head back down to the city center and go towards the harbor. There are plenty of great restaurants here serving all kinds of dishes.
Seaport Restaurant, for example, serves seafood, pizzas, but also some Turkish dishes, all very, very tasty. Den Glade Gris is a bit away from the harbor, but it serves excellent traditional Norwegian dishes and boasts a wonderfully comfortable atmosphere. Ruffino is a great Italian place, and Mehfel will satisfy anyone who is looking for some good Indian food.
Check out the Holmenkollen ski museum and ski jump
Next, with your back to the harbor, head forward and towards the nearest subway station. You will take a trip to see the Holmenkollen ski museum and ski jump, one of Oslo’s top attractions. Take metro 1 for about 15 minutes 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 the signs), so be prepared for the most stunning 360–degree view – it really is nothing short of breathtaking
Once you’re back in the harbor, jump onto tram 12 and get off at the entrance of Vigeland Park.
Visit Vigeland Park and its artwork
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 stroll 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 harbor again. Then over to the bus station and catch bus 30 towards Bygdoy from Radhuset. Now we are heading towards the Folkemuseet.
The Norwegian Museum of Cultural History
The next stop on your Oslo itinerary 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. Plenty of exciting things to see and experience, and learning about the Sami is very fascinating indeed. Do not miss out!
Spend an evening at the harbor promenade
Once you have finished exploring the museum, head back to the city centre for one last time today. To the side of the harbor is the harbor 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 harbor! But a nice dinner sure wouldn’t go amiss, either.
Louise Restaurant & Bar is the perfect place for that, but I would recommend HIMKOK Storgata Destilleri if you’re in the mood for a cocktail – it’s the best cocktail place in town! Dr. Jekyll’s Pub also comes highly recommended, and if you don’t mind leaving this area, head to the Summit Bar for a drink with a spectacular view. In any case – 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 just luxury options, since you can literally find just about anything in accordance with your budget. There are plenty of hotels and hostels for any type of traveler, but here are a few of my favorites:
Kristian IVs Gate 7, 0164 Oslo, Norway
When it comes to choosing a luxurious stay in Oslo, Hotel Bristol is the one to beat. Its lavish interior will leave you speechless, and the location is pretty much perfect. You can easily explore the city here, plus the hotel offers a great gym and sauna. Furthermore, Bristol Grill serves excellent Norwegian food, and the Library Bar tops everything off with live piano music for a truly exquisite feeling. This bar has been around for a century, so it’s really worth checking out. Enjoy!
Clarion Hotel Oslo
15 Donning Eufemias gate, Gamle Oslo, 0510 Oslo
A wonderful modern hotel, Clarion Hotel Oslo has everything you need for a fantastic stay. The location is excellent, the fitness room is well-equipped, and the rooms are extremely comfortable and come with free toiletries. The incredible breakfast simply needs to be mentioned separately because here you get a fantastic buffet full of organic products. The bar and the restaurant are also on an exceptionally high level. Wonderful!
Citybox Oslo Hotel
Prinsens gate 6, 0152 Oslo, Norway
Another great place with great service is the Citybox Oslo Hotel. The Citybox Oslo Hotel is within 10 minutes of all the main attractions, so if you want to explore the city this is the place to stay in. The service is very friendly, and clean modern rooms provide plenty of comfort. Citybox is extremely popular among travelers for these reasons, and if you want a reasonably-priced hotel ideal for sightseeing, this is most certainly it. You can’t go wrong with this one!
Myrerskogveinen 54 A, 0495, Oslo, Norway
For those of you looking for an Oslo hostel, Oslo Hostel Rønningen is the place to visit. Now, this hostel is in a quiet location outside of the city centre, but the heart of the city can be reached quite easily. What’s particularly interesting is that you can enjoy plenty of activities, from volleyball to table games. They even have a soccer field! If you’re traveling in a group, you’ll love it, and if you’re alone, you’ll have plenty of ways to meet new friends.
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!
Day trips from Oslo
For those of you staying more than one day here, Oslo has plenty of interesting day trip options. The nature in this part of the world is quite stunning, but you may also get an opportunity to visit some other towns and cities (maybe even countries) to get a better feeling of Scandinavia. Here are a few popular day trip destinations that are certainly worth considering.
Heading to Lillehammer is always a good idea. After all, this is the city that hosted the 1994 Winter Olympics. But the place offers so much more than just a reminder of that! Check out Maihaugen, an open-air museum with jaw-dropping exhibits, enjoy the city’s art scene, and generally get a better feel of Norway, its history, and its way of life. Lillehammer really is a fantastic place to visit, and you won’t regret investing a day to explore it.
Norway is famous around the globe for its fjords, and you can easily organize a day trip from Oslo to explore them. There are plenty of fjord cruises that take off from the city’s harbor, so you can just hop on a boat and enjoy. Be they half-day cruises or full-day cruises, you won’t regret booking them! Explore the options and choose the one that suits you best – the nature will leave you speechless.
Oslo is fairly close to the Swedish border, so it may be quite tempting to hop over and visit another country while you’re here. The ideal destination for that is the city of Karlstad, a place with plenty of museums and the wonderful Lake Vänern to enjoy. The city also gets plenty of sun, so you can really have a very pleasant day trip here. Investing between two and a half and three hours to get here seems like a small price to pay, especially if you get an early start!
A day trip from Oslo to Flåm will probably be the most scenic train trip you ever take. The untouched nature of this part of the world is absolutely magical, and after a while on the train, any trace of humans will literally disappear. Eventually, you will reach Flåm, a charming little town northwest of Oslo where you can rest, relax and thoroughly enjoy the view of the fjords. Perfect for those who want to leave city life behind them for a while.
Extra tips for visiting Oslo
From the airport
Oslo Gardermoen International Airport has a motorway and high-speed rail link to the city center.
Numerous domestic flights also go in and out of Gardermoen.
The harbor is the most expensive area for restaurants. If you’re on a budget, head about 10 minutes away from the harbor 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 with 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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Make sure you have everything you need
What to pack for your next trip?
Make your next trip as simple and as enjoyable as possible by packing smart. It’s amazing how much stress top travel items can save you, so choose carefully.
Things like lightweight travel backpacks, for example, are ideal for short trips and allow you to move around with ease, and a passport holder will make sure you keep your documents safe at all times.
Check our travel checklist guide for 2021 to make sure you haven’t missed anything, and travel to your next destination in style and with maximum comfort.
Kevin Hodgon is a travel blogger who loves unusual trips. On his travels, he likes to explore at a fast pace cramming as much as possible into his day, but not overdoing it to miss the beauty around him. Kevin loves to talk about his experiences and share his travel knowledge via guides and articles on his blog. More of Kevin’s work can be found on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or his Blog.