At the heart of Scandinavia lies Oslo: Norway’s modern yet traditional capital. Marrying sleek, stylish architecture with classic Nordic beauty, Oslo is beloved by locals and visitors alike. For a city so firmly connected to its Viking roots, Oslo has managed, in recent years, to grow into a hub of technology and innovation, but without losing its Scandi charm.
Oslo’s unique seafront location, nestled amongst the scattered fjords, also means that astounding natural beauty is only ever a short journey away. Its compact city centre and rich history make Oslo the perfect city for a weekend getaway, be it during their crisp winters or their bright summers.
Here are the top 12 things you can’t miss when visiting the Norwegian capital!
Top 12 Things To See In Oslo
Oslo Opera House
Home to the Norwegian Opera and Ballet, the Oslo Opera House is a striking, sharp-edged building juts out into the bay, its unusual shape reflected in the midnight-blue water.
It is unsurprising to learn that this white stone, the glass-panelled structure was designed to resemble an iceberg; the stainless steel ‘She Lies’ sculpture, which floats in the water just a few metres from the Opera House and rotates with the wind, also resembles a block of ice.
The interior is equally as impressive, with high ceilings, quirky shapes, and light wood detailing. The Opera House offers guided tours of the building in a variety of languages, with tickets reasonably priced at only 120 NOK (or £10), whilst tickets for various shows and concerts vary depending on the event.
For the best sunset-watching spot in the city, climb onto the Opera House’s infamous, sloping roof, which offers unparalleled views across the bay and out towards the city centre.
One of the city’s more modern neighbourhoods, Sørenga is a peninsula behind the Opera House, which reaches out into the fjords. Framed by futuristic, gunmetal grey apartment buildings, this area was part of the city’s urban redevelopment plan around 2011.
To reach Sørenga, you have to walk across a narrow footbridge, which lies close to the water; once you reach the peninsula, you are greeted by an array of chic restaurants and bars, each boasting a magnificent view out towards Oslo and the bay. At dusk, this neighbourhood is the perfect place to watch the sun sink over the city, casting everything in a pastel pink glow.
Sørenga is also home to the Sørenga Seawater Pool: a saltwater swimming area within the fjords, composed of a beach, children’s pool, and a large leisure area. Although the pool is open year-round, it is much more popular during the summer months.
Built-in the 1600s, Oslo’s Domkirke (or cathedral) stands proudly at the heart of the city centre. Its uniquely-designed, pastel green dome is visible from many different parts of Oslo, the church itself set into well-manicured grounds.
With a number of beautiful, intricate murals, painted onto the ceilings in the 1930s-1950s by Hugo Lous Mohr, and its extravagant gold detailing, a visit inside this cathedral is a must. The church is open to visitors every day from 10 am – 4 pm, and is free of charge.
Den Glade Gris
For good reason, Den Glade Gris is possibly the most talked-about restaurant in Oslo. With its cosy, chalet feel, red chequered tablecloths, and candlelit wooden interior, Den Glade Gris is one of the most unique dining experiences you could encounter.
Famous mainly for its delicious pork dishes, this traditional restaurant uses every part of the pig to ensure that no food is wasted. With Norwegian cuisine celebrated for its focus upon locally-sourced and -reared produce, and warm, hearty flavours, Den Glade Gris is as traditional as it gets.
The most popular dish is their pork knuckle, served on a bed of creamy mash with mustard gravy. There are also a number of fish dishes and vegetarian options, too, for less carnivorous guests.
Karl Johans Gate
Running through the heart of Oslo’s city centre, Karl Johans Gate is an elegant street is known mainly as the city’s primary shopping area. Its regal buildings boast a historically Scandinavian feel, which is unsurprising given that it is bookended by the Royal Palace.
Swanky store windows line the cobbles, beckoning you inside, with a range of chic bars punctuating the streets. At the opposite end of the street lies Oslo Central Station, with its iconic bronze tiger statue, which was gifted to the city for its 1000thanniversary. The beautiful cathedral is also located on this street, which encompasses many of Oslo’s main sights and monuments.
Oslo Street Food
At the foot of Torggata (one of the city’s hippest streets) sits Oslo Street Food. Located in an old 1920s swimming bath, this open-plan street food market offers a range of different cuisines and flavours, comprised of 4 bars and 16 different stands.
Its lively, convivial atmosphere and urban, industrial-style décor make it a popular favourite among students within the city and is the perfect place for a group of friends to meet. With everything from Caribbean dishes to Middle-Eastern Shawarma, adventurous foodies will love Oslo Street Food.
Coffee-lovers will adore this hip, youthful neighbourhood, which runs alongside the river, to the north of Oslo’s city centre.
Once an essential part of the city’s industrial hub, Grünerløkka is known now for its rows of coffee houses, vintage stores, and bars, making it popular among the city’s student population. You could easily while away an entire morning within this neighbourhood, admiring the strings of fairy lights, delicate cobbles, and blossoming flower stalls.
By night, this neighbourhood is equally lively, but in a laid-back way that is typical of Scandinavian cities. During the summer, tables and chairs spill out onto the streets, friendly chatter floating through the air.
An old industrial port, this newly-renovated area is now one of the city’s most popular hangouts. Its fish factories have been repurposed, now housing a range of upscale restaurants and bars which offer some of Oslo’s most luxurious dining experiences.
On a summer evening, you can find these restaurants teeming with al-fresco diners, enjoying a chilled glass of wine as they admire the view across the port. Aker Brygge’s venues also host a number of cultural events, such as photography exhibitions and concerts.
Yet another reason to pay a visit to lively Torggata, Peloton Bar sits at the street’s top corner and is open from breakfast to late in the evening. Serving everything from morning coffees and pastries to delicious pizzas and cocktails, a large part of Peloton’s appeal lies in its unusual décor.
Inspired by the world of cycling – a sport which is growing in popularity in this part of the world – you will find a variety of racing bikes propped up against the bar and mounted on the walls, along with brightly-coloured jerseys suspended from the ceiling. When the weather is bearable, outdoor seating allows you to enjoy the buzz of activity around the street, as you sip your cocktail or craft beer.
Thanks to Oslo’s location, surrounded on all sides by awe-striking nature, it seems inevitable that some of this rurality would seep into the city itself; the Akerselva river, with its raging waterfalls and rushing torrents, sets Oslo apart from other Scandinavian cities.
Running alongside this impressive body of water – which wraps around the Grünerløkka neighbourhood before dropping down towards the sea – is Kuba Park. The park itself is a long stretch of greenery which surrounds the river, dotted with benches, sculptures, and picturesque bridges.
Kuba Park also houses the Oslo National Academy of the Arts, which is Norway’s top art university. A wander through its redbrick grounds, complete with colourful works of art interspersed throughout the courtyard, will lead you down to the riverside; this is the perfect place to begin your walk along the banks of the river, winding your way back towards the city centre.
The Royal Palace
Arguably the most historically important building in the city, the Royal Palace’s lemon-yellow façade can be seen from Karl Johans Gate, rising from between the lush greenery of its surrounding Palace Park.
The palace was built in the early 1800s as the residence for King Charles III John, who was the king of both Norway and Sweden at the time. This Neo-Classical building is one of the most elegant in Oslo, set against a backdrop of beautifully-maintained, colourful gardens.
Although the palace is only open to visitors during the summer months, it is equally as impressive from the outside at any time of year. Tickets cost roughly 140 NOK (or £11.50), with full guided tours also available.
Hidden behind a curve of the river is Ingens Gate: a tiny bohemian street, decorated with a series of bright street art murals. Dangling above the narrow path is a decadent chandelier, which marks a door into the edgy Ingensteds nightclub.
Across the cobbles lies a fuchsia-pink bar with a terrace that hangs above the river, making it an ideal spot for a summer evening. Unusual artwork springs up at various points around this area, whose old, industrial buildings are now celebrated for their vibrancy and their uniqueness.
Make sure to stop and admire the street art here, as you continue your walk along the river!
Where To Stay In Oslo
Budget: Anker Hostel
This laid-back, centrally-located hostel is one of the most popular in the city. With its range of rooms and cosy lobby area, this is the perfect place to base yourself during a trip to Oslo.
Beds in a dorm start from only £20 per night.
Mid-Range: Thon Hotel Panorama
As the name suggests, this hotel is renowned mainly for its stunning 360-degree views of Oslo. Sitting just across the bay from the iconic Opera House, the Thon Hotel Panorama can’t be beaten for its location.
A night in one of their stylish Standard Double Rooms costs around £82.
Luxury: The Thief
An award-winning boutique hotel located in the swanky Aker Brygge neighbourhood, The Thief is one of the city’s best luxury hotels. Boasting a spa, a signature cocktail bar, and a rooftop restaurant, your stay at this bespoke hotel will be hard to top.
Room prices start at around £250 for a standard room.
Oslo Wrap Up
Oslo is a beautiful city that everyone should try to visit at least once. There’s so much to do in Oslo, from great dining to exploring the historical sights.
I hope this article has helped you plan your own trip to Oslo to discover this wonderful city for yourself!
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