Oslo is the capital and largest city in Norway. It is the third largest city in Scandinavia, as well as the economic, political, and demographic center of the country. Now, that being said, Oslo is much more than just any old big city. One of the largest capitals in the world by area, founded in 1048 by King Harald Hardråde with a long and tragic history, returned back into Norwegian rule from Swedish sovereignty in 1925, and has been shining ever since.

If you are coming to Norway, there is a very good chance you will be passing through or staying in Oslo at some point. As you will already be in the city, before rushing straight out to the fjords and mother nature, spend some time getting to know the city’s charms. You won’t be disappointed. Traveling slowly is the best way to enjoy Norway anyway.

Almost 25% of the population here is of non- Norwegian origin, leading to the most ethnically and culturally diverse city in Scandinavia. Oslo is often called the “melting pot” of the country, bringing you a plethora of choices when it comes to shopping and food options.

Boasting forests, lakes, thousands of biking, skiing, and hiking trails, the city brings nature to you in true Norwegian style. If you only have a short while to explore the county, fear not, being in Oslo means you are surrounded by the Oslofjord as well as thousands of islands and hundreds of beaches waiting for you to discover them.  After you’ve gotten your nature fix, come relax at the countless cafes and bars serving a wide barrage of food. Check out the thriving music scene, experience one of the many festivals the city host, or indulge in the many museums the city holds.

Spotlight on The Oslo Opera House

Norway has always been known for nature but the Oslo Opera House, by the Snøhetta architectural firm, is a project looking to cement the capital on the cultural scene and attempt at modern architecture. Built to look like a glacier floating in the waters of the Oslofjord, the structure is full of subtle architectural elements to help make it blend into and camouflage into the surrounding harbor.

The Opera House has won both the prize for best cultural building at the World Architecture Festival in Barcelona in 2008 as well as the coveted Mies van der Rohe award for best European contemporary architecturee in 2009. Noteworthy details of the structure are the mixture of slopping angles and flat surfaces from the building top which will catch you off-guard if you are not observant. Beautiful 15 meter high windows allow the sunshine to illuminate the interior of the building, lighting up the wave wall made of golden oak and the musical rods that greet you as you enter through the front. With free Wi-Fi, plenty of space, a great restaurant waterside, and an accessible roof top to soak up some sunshine, it is clear why this is a big hit with the locals of the city as well as the foreign admirers.

The Opera House, which open and welcomes visitors, is the centerpiece of a larger construction project. The surrounding area, a waterfront redevelopment project, is still under construction, dated to be complete by 2020. This whole project is estimated to cost 500 million euro and started in 2008.

Highlights in and around Oslo

  • Oslo Opera House
  • Oslofjord- A 120 km long fjord surrounding the city with thousands of islands and hundreds of beaches just waiting to be explored! (Any Inter City Train for Skien or Halden)
    • Ferries to the islands also leave from Vippetangen quay. Most notable island are: Langøyene, Hovedøya, and Hulk on the Bygdoy peninsula
  • Vigeland Park- Part of the larger Frogner Park, the sculpture park is 10 minutes away from the city center and displays 212 sculptures in Gustav Vigeland’s very unique style, everything from giant babies, entwined lovers to angry beggars
  • Akershus Festning-  A 12th century medieval castle close to the city center with great viewpoints of the surrounding fjords and around. Occasionally used for concerts and dances, some dungeons, lavish rooms, banquet halls can see be seen.  (Tram 12 to Rådhusplassen, bus 60 to Bankplassen)
  • Seeing and learning about Viking ships- Kon tiki and Fram Museums display models of the Viking ships used to discover the northwest passage and of Thor Heyerdakl’s voyage to Peru and Polynesia.
  • Tryvan winterpark- The most used ski resort in Norway. You can also check out Nordmarka, in the city’s forest center, which hold 14 slopes and a lift.
  • The National Gallery- Where you can Edvard Munch’s painting The Scream


Detailed information on transport in and out of Oslo is found here.

Perfect for

  • Art
  • Shopping
  • Food- Not just Norwegian cuisine, Oslo carries a large immigrant population. Hence foods from all regions of the world can be found here
  • Coffee- Ranked one of the best coffee cities in the world. Norwegians definitely partake in the coffee craze
  • Island hopping- You don’t even need to go out of the capital to see the fjord and island
  • Skiing– Over 2400km of ski tracks are found in Oslo, as well as the famous Holmenkollen Ski Jump. For more information check out www.skiservice.no and www.skiforeningen.no
  • Hiking- A great place to set off in a hike in any direction across Norway. There are 1200km of trails in the city for short hikes around Nordmrka and Frognersetern in the forest center. For longer hikes, visit the DNT offices to get information on the many tourist cabins hikers can access all over the country as their rest base.
  • Cycling- Tourist offices provides free cycling maps for those interested
  • Festivals- Music, art, food, you name it, it happens in Oslo
  • Museums – You could spend many a day

What to combine it with

  • Any other trip in Norway. Chances are you will travel in and out of Oslo at some point on your way to any destination. Boat. Car. Flights. Bus. Train. All roads lead to Oslo.
  • International trips- Also a great connecting base for trips to Stockholm or Gothenburg in Sweden, Finland, Russia, and Denmark
  • Stavanger and the pulpit rock
  • Bergen and the western fjord region
  • The arctic- Svalbard. Tromsø. Alta. Trondheim.
  • Lofoten Island– Raw nature and you
  • Norway in a Nutshell- Most popular route through Norway taking in some of the best sights
  • Oslo- Bergen railway- Combined with the Flam railway, amazingly scenic trip along with a good mode of transport from place to place


(Opening photo: Brent Tranberg)

What would be your favorite thing to do in Oslo? Let us know!