I fell in love with Oslo when I first visited the city. I’d just turned 21 and finished University when I embarked on a three week Scandi Adventure with one of my best friends.
We spent three days in Oslo at the start of our trip, and absolutely loved it. So much so in fact, that no other city we subsequently visited could compare (several times a day a conversation would start with one of us sighing “if only we were back in Oslo…”). There were just so many things to do in Oslo!
Oslo was on my mind for months after I returned home; and luckily, I got to visit again – this time for New Year’s Eve 2015, and then again in May 2018, after a couple of days in Gothenburg.
Oslo is one of my favourite cities in the world (at one time, I actually favoured it over Copenhagen, believe it or not!). These are my favourite things to do in Oslo…
Visit Aker Brygge
When I first visited Oslo in June 2014, Aker Brygge was being developed as a premier shopping destination. We spent hours sat in the sun watching the boats, and picking out our future apartments.
When I returned to Oslo in December 2015, the redevelopment of Aker Brygge was finished, and it looked like a whole new place.
Complete with a modern shopping centre, you can spend late nights shopping before stopping for a bite to eat and something to drink (and still pick out an apartment!), making it one of my favourite things to do in Oslo.
Snack on cake and sip on tea at Espresso House as you people watch, or munch on pizza at Peppe’s (it’s by no means an upmarket restaurant, but you can’t beat their chicken satay pizza!)
Go on a Fjord Tour
Aker Brygge marina is where the Oslo fjord tours begin, and seeing the fjords should definitely be on your list of things to do in Oslo! It’s what Norway is famous for, after all.
We booked with Fjord Tours, which took us on a two hour boat tour. In addition to sailing past all of Oslo’s top attractions, we ventured into the Oslo fjord, where we saw several islands which were dotted with colourful summer houses.
It was New Year’s Eve when we went on the tour, and because the seating was outdoors, we were FROZEN thanks to the wind whipping in our faces! So whilst I wouldn’t recommend it in the middle of winter (unless you’ve got somewhere to shelter); the 299 NOK ticket price is well worth it when the weather starts warming up.
Make sure you put the fjords right at the top of your list of things to do in Oslo! Alternatively, you can catch a shorter trip to one of the islands. We went to Bygdøy during our trip in May, so we could go to the outdoor folk museum – similar to the one found in Aarhus.
Shop ‘Til You Drop in Majorstuen
Of course, I did my fair share of shopping in Oslo. Whilst they’ve got good high street shops on Karl Johan’s Gate (hello Weekday!), my favourite area for shopping was in the upmarket district of Majorstuen.
With the tourist crowds focusing on central Karl Johan’s Gate, it meant that the streets and shops were noticeably less busy in Majorstuen. Plus the Monki and Moods of Norway stores (which had a pink glittery tractor outside at the time of visiting!) here were much bigger than their city centre counterparts; and they had a Brandy Melville. Need I say more?
If you love shopping as much as I do, then you should put shopping in Majorstuen on your list of things to do in Oslo!
An iconic tourist attraction, it’s a must-visit when looking for things to do in Oslo! Just catch the tram or T-bane to Majorstuen, and walk ten minutes directly down the road until you reach the main gates of Vigeland Park.
It’s the world’s largest sculpture park made by a single artist (Gustav Vigeland), featuring over 200 statues.
Entry is free, so spend as long as you want gazing at the… erm, imaginative statues! There may indeed be some poses you’d like to try and recreate!
There is an open-air pool in the summer (Frognerbadet), so when the sun is shining, you really can make a full day of it here (who says Oslo has to be expensive?!).
One thing’s for sure is you’ll have a lot of laughs visiting Vigeland Park, which makes it reason enough to visit.
Bar Hop in Grünerløkka
Ahh, the hipster district… visiting here is one of my favourite things to do in Oslo!
Situated around the main street of Thorvald Meyers Gate, connected by several backstreets, there are lots of unique shops, bars and restaurants to explore here.
Now controversially, despite my general hatred for tiki bars (blame the sticky floors and overbearing smell of rum), I actually really like Aku Aku. You can find it halfway along Thorvald Meyers Gate, and it’s where you’ll usually find me on evenings in Oslo (make mine a Coco Loco!).
Prices for cocktails are really reasonable here, and the atmosphere is good too – if you come here early however, be prepared to stand… it’s highly unlikely you’ll get a table.
Just down the road, Munchies do really nice burgers at good prices, and I’ve heard that The Nighthawk Diner opposite is good too. To be fair, I also like stopping off at 7-11 to get the peanut stacker cake as dessert (it’s AMAZING!).
Next time I’m in Grünerløkka I’ll be trying Chair and Blå – I always have good nights out in Oslo! However, my favourite bar in Oslo is actually in the city centre – Torggata Botaniske – and is somewhere you SO need to visit next time you’re in the Norwegian capital.
Pose by the Royal Palace
The Royal Palace is the residence of King Harald V and Queen Sonja, and is located right at the top of the hill on Karl Johan’s Gate.
It’s surrounded by a grassy park area, and at the back of the castle lies upmarket Majorstuen (hei hei shops!).
In the summer, you can tour the inside of the Palace if you want, for 135 NOK. Back in the first time I visited, it just so happened that the King was in town that day, so the red carpet was rolled out, and there was a procession of cars and soldiers on Karl Johan’s Gate.
Norway’s version of Buckingham Palace; of course it should be on your list of things to do in Oslo!
Visit The Scream (It’s Not Where You’d Think!)
Edvard Munch: Norway’s most famed artist. Naturally, you’ll want to see his iconic painting, The Scream, when you’re in Norway’s capital. So head to the Munch museum by Tøyen, right? WRONG.
Despite the museum being dedicated to Munch’s complete works, it’s missing his most famous painting.
So unless you are massively interested in Munch’s work, I’d give it a miss and head to Oslo’s National Gallery instead.
Unfortunately we made the mistake of paying 100 NOK each to visit the Munch museum, and were left scratching our heads wondering where The Scream was (I really wanted to recreate the look).
By the time we realised it was at the National Gallery, it was too late as it was New Year’s Day and our last day in the city, and the gallery was shut. So, on my latest trip back to Oslo, I made sure to finally see The Scream in real life, and it didn’t disappoint! You can find the opening times here.
Norway’s in Scandinavia, so surely it’s always suffering from sub-zero temperatures and constant snow storms, right? Erm… no. In fact, when I first visited in summer it was a sunny 25 degrees!
When I visited for the second time in December, I was excited at the prospect of getting to go sledding (it’s just not something you can do in the UK… sure it’s cold in winter, but the rain washes away any chance of snow!).
Unfortunately when we were there, the snow wasn’t thick enough to sled on, but if you visit Oslo in January or February, you’ve got a good chance of being able to go tobogganing!
Oslo’s toboggan run Korketrekkeren is 2,000 metres long, and one ride lasts 8-10 minutes. It starts at Frognersetern and ends at Midstuen metro station, so you can catch the T-bane back to the top and go sledding again!
A day’s sled rental is between 100 – 150 NOK per day, but riding down the hill is free. Where else can you spend a fun day tobogganing? This makes it firmly onto my list of the top things to do in Oslo!
Climb to the Roof of the Opera House
The Opera House – like Vigeland Park – is another classic tourist attraction; but no trip to Oslo is complete without climbing up the roof!
The first time I visited the Opera House was around 1am on a Friday morning. My friend and I had had drinks with a friend of my dad’s, who’d recommended visiting the Opera House.
So why not visit it at night, we thought? Despite being mistaken for prostitutes on our trek across the city, the view at the top of the Opera House was worth it, as we saw the city’s lights reflected in the sea. Best of all, we were the only people there.
Visiting in the day, obviously it’s going to be pretty busy, but it’s definitely worth paying a visit when in Oslo. After all, there aren’t many other buildings where you can climb up the walls and stand on the roof!
Use Oslo as a Base for Norwegian Sightseeing
I’m not trying to say that you should escape the city as soon as possible (I love Oslo, why would I do that?); but if you’ve got some spare time, then it makes sense to use the opportunity and explore more of Norway.
With Norwegian, Widerøe and SAS all operating regular domestic flights from Gardermoen airport, along with NSB running trains to virtually everywhere in the country, get out and explore Norway!
When my friend and I were in Norway, we caught the overnight train from Bergen to Oslo, which took about seven hours (the flight only takes 40 minutes). Bergen is beautifully picturesque, with its colourful wooden houses a backdrop to the harbour; acting as the gateway to the Western fjords.
We also caught the hour’s flight up to Trondheim for a couple of days. Mainly we went to go Cloudbusting (that was a fail), but we also got to visit Hell and eat delicious cupcakes!
The next place I’d love to visit in Norway is Tromsø, which is in the Arctic Circle. Even if you don’t want to venture that far away, you could travel to the outskirts of Oslo and visit the countryside… it’s all beautiful!
Whilst they’ve all made my list of top ten things to do in Oslo, I’d just like to say a quick shout out to 7-11. But why, you’re probably asking? Well Norwegian 7-11’s are my favourite (yes, I’m aware I sound quite sad saying that, but bear with me!) as they do the BEST cinnamon buns, as well as amazing cake. Just have one bite of a peanut butter stacker, and you’ll be craving one every single day (I’m talking direktørsnegl-worthy deliciousness when in Copenhagen here!).
Find out more about what I got up to on my first ever trip to Oslo here. If you’ve been to Norway’s capital and have suggestions as to what I should do next time I’m there, please let me know! I’m desperate for an excuse to go back.