If you take a vacation in Norway, you should spend at least some of your time in the country’s capital, Oslo. This city sits on the southern coast of Norway, and it is known for its Viking history, its museums, and its green spaces. Oslo is surrounded by stunning countryside, which means that outdoor activities, such as skiing, are also popular. So that you get the best experience of this beautiful and diverse country as possible, here are the 20 best things to do in Oslo, Norway, for first-timers.
20. Have Fun at Tusenfryd
One of the top family attractions in Oslo is Tusenfryd, which is the largest amusement park in Norway. It is located just south of the city, and it is open from April to October. There are more than 30 attractions and rides to enjoy in this park, with something for people of all ages. These include six roller coasters, a huge water ride, traditional arcade games, children’s rides, and a 3D ride. There is also a water park attached to the amusement park that has a large pool and four waterslides.
19. Stroll Around University Botanical Garden
University Botanical Garden is the oldest botanical garden in Norway, and it opened in the central Toyen neighborhood in 1814. At this garden, there are more than 7,500 species of plants and trees. Originally the gardens were part of the Medieval Nonnester Abbey, but Frederick VI of Denmark then acquired them. In 1812, he donated the gardens to the University of Christiania. The garden boasts sculptures by Tom Hare, a Palm House, the Victoria House, and two greenhouses. There is also the Scent Garden, which was designed for visually impaired and disabled visitors.
18. Have Fun at the Norwegian Museum of Science and Technology
The Norwegian Museum of Science and Technology sits just outside Oslo, but it is worth making the short trip. It is easily accessible by bus, train, or tram, and the journey is only minutes from the center of the city. There are 25 exhibitions, some temporary and some permanent, along with 80 interactive stations for children to enjoy during their visit. One area that is enjoyed by children and adults alike is the Teknoteket. It is a digital workshop where visitors can get creative and use high-tech tools to create or build various things.
17. Go to Munch Museum
Edward Munch is one of Norway’s most famous artists, and the Munch Museum is dedicated to his life and work. Even if you have already seen his most famous painting ‘The Scream at the National Gallery, it is still worth visiting the Munch Museum. It boasts more than 1,200 paintings by the artist, which over half the paintings that he created in his lifetime.
16. Visit the Royal Palace
A Neoclassical place, this building was constructed on the orders of King Charles III. However, it was not completed until 1849, which was five years after the king’s death. Therefore, King Charles III never resided in the palace, and its first royal resident was Oscar I and his wife, Josephine. Now, it is the official seat of King Harald V and Queen Sonja. It is possible to book a tour of the palace, or you can simply admire the exterior of the structure and the grounds. If you are at the palace at 1.30 pm, you can watch the changing of the guard.
15. Shop and Dine at Aker Brygge
Aker Brygge is a waterside development for shopping and dining. If you want to enjoy some retail therapy during your trip, then this is where you should head. It is also one of the best places to dine, both during the day and at night. There is everything from casual cafes to fine dining restaurants at this development. It is also an excellent place to sit by the waterside and watch the activities of the harbor.
14. Visit the Holmenkollen Ski Tower and Museum
Since the late 19th-century, Holmenkollen hill has staged ski jumping competitions. It also hosted the ski jump events for the Winter Olympics in 1952. The ski jump is an impressive sight, and it is hard to believe anyone has the bravery to descend down the slopes and jump. There is an observation deck at the top of the slope that offers views over Oslo and the fjord. Next to the skiing tower is a museum that has artifacts from Norwegian polar exhibitions, including skis and snowboards.
13. Go to the Kon-Tiki Museum
The Crazy Tourist recommends including a visit to the Kon-Tiki Museum in your vacation itinerary. This museum focuses on the adventures of Thor Heyerdahl, a 20th-century anthropologist. The museum is so-called because it is named after the balsa wood raft that the anthropologist used to sail between Peru and Polynesia in 1947 to prove that Polynesians had emigrated from South America to the South Pacific. Using a papyrus reed boat, he also sailed from Morocco to Barbados in an attempt to prove that the Ancient Egyptians could have sailed across the Atlantic. You can see both vessels at the museum, along with many other exhibitions relating to this man’s adventures.
12. Visit the Norwegian Folk Museum
A great place to learn about the history of Norway is the Norwegian Folk Museum. It is an open-air attraction on the Bygdoy Peninsula that has been open to visitors for more than a hundred years. One of the structures in this attraction is the Gol Stave Church that was originally built in the 12th century and relocated to its current location in 1884. It is just one of 155 historic buildings included in the grounds of the museum. After walking around the various monuments, you can enjoy the indoor exhibits, which include collections covering the history of medicine, toys, handicrafts, traditional costumes, tools, weapons, and the Sami culture.
11. Learn About the Explorers at Fram Museum
Fram Museum is located on the Bygdoy Peninsula. It is dedicated to the bravery of the polar explorers at the turn of the 20th-century. Some of the explorers on which this museum focuses are Roald Amundsen, Otto Sverdrup, and Fridtjof Nansen. One of the most important exhibits at the museum is a wooden ship called Fram, which all three explorers used in their expeditions of the Arctic and Antarctic between 1893 and 1912. Visitors to the museum can climb on-board the vessel and learn how the explorers and their dogs survived in extreme conditions.
10. Go Sightseeing on a Boat Trip
A fantastic way to see the sights, enjoy the refreshing air and admire the cityscape is to take a boat trip along the Oslo Fjord. According to Heart My Backpack, several boat tour operators are offering various packages. It is a great introduction to the city, so it is something you should do at the beginning of your visit.
9. Enjoy an Unusual Sauna Experience
Scandinavia is famous for saunas, but Oslo offers some sauna experiences with a difference. One option is the sauna boats that sit in the harbor. They offer passengers the chance to relax in the sauna before plunging into the icy ford, then warming up again with some traditional Norwegian cuisine on the boat. Another option is to visit SALT, which is also in the harbor. SALT is a project that has combined various experiences as it has three saunas, various art exhibitions, a café, a market, and concerts. It also hosts various events around the year.
8. Sample the Food at Vippa
Vippa is a large food court in Oslo, and it is housed in an old industrial building at the tip of the city. It is popular with both locals and tourists alike. The food court is filled with stalls, each offering a different type of cuisine. Both traditional Norwegian dishes and international cuisines are available. It is an excellent dining option if you have people in your traveling party with different tastes, as you can each get something from a different stall, but then sit together in the court’s seating area. The food court has a relaxed atmosphere, and it also boasts excellent sea views to enjoy while you dine.
7. See a Performance at the Oslo Opera House
The Oslo Opera House is considered one of the most iconic modern buildings in Scandinavia. It was designed to resemble the glaciers of this part of the world. It sits on Oslo’s waterfront, and it is an eye-catching sight. You can walk across the top of the building, which is the best way to appreciate this impressive structure’s architecture. Throughout the year, there is a packed schedule of performances, which are predominantly either ballet or opera. If you wish to see a ballet or opera performance during your visit, it is advisable to book your tickets in advance.
6. Visit Oslo Cathedral
Oslo Cathedral is one of the city’s most iconic landmarks. Although the original cathedral has stood for hundreds of years, there have been multiple renovations and additions to the structure. Inside the cathedral, the ceilings have beautiful frescoes that were painted by H.L. Mohr.
5. Stroll Through the Sculpture Parks
There are several sculpture parks to enjoy during your visit to Oslo. The first of these is Vigeland Park, which is the largest sculpture park in the world. It is fascinating to visit if you are interested in art and sculptures, as the entire park was the work of artist Gustav Vigeland. More than 200 sculptures within the park are made from either granite, wrought iron, or bronze. Surrounding the park are some of the city’s best restaurants., so you can enjoy a meal after strolling around the park seeing the impressive sculptures. Another sculpture park to include in your itinerary is Ekeburg Sculpture Park. This park has 31 sculptures surrounded by woodland, and the park overlooks the city. It is said that Munch was inspired to paint ‘The Scream’ at this park. Some of the artists who have contributed sculptures include Damien Hirst and Salvador Dali.
4. Go to the Viking Ship Museum
Norway is famous for its Viking history, and you can learn more about this at the Viking Ship Museum in the Bygdoy area of the city. At this museum, there is an impressive collection of Viking ships, including the Tune, the Gokstad, and the Oseberg. There are also various artifacts on display that relate to Viking history. Both children and adults will enjoy a visit to this attraction.
3. Explore the Akershus Fortress
Hand Luggage Only recommends exploring the Akershus Fortress during your visit to Oslo, Norway. The fortress was built in the 13th-century to protect the city from invaders. Within the fortress, there is also a Renaissance castle that was once home to royalty. From the castle, there are stunning views across the Oslo Fjord. Take along your camera to capture the sights.
2. Spend Time at the Oslo Fjord Islands
The Oslo Fjord has several islands, including Gressholm and Hovedoya, both of which you can visit on a ferry. They are fantastic places for hiking, swimming, picnics, or simply taking a stroll. On Hovedoya, there are pretty beaches, lush forests, and monastery ruins to explore. It is possible to buy a ferry ticket that takes you island hopping for the day.
1. See the Art at the National Gallery
According to Time Out, the best things to do in Oslo, Norway, for first-timers is to see the art at the National Gallery. The gallery was established in 1837, and it is the largest public collection of art in Norway. There are some stunning works of art to see, including examples in a variety of styles and from across various artistic eras. Some of the museum’s highlights are Edward Munch’s ‘The Scream’ and Gustav Vigeland’s sculpture ‘Mother and Child.’ Another interesting section of the museum is the room that is dedicated to art that depicts fairy tales.