The 12 best things to do in Oslo

Beautiful, serene Oslo is full of interesting things to see and do – many of them absolutely unique to Norway’s capital city.

On my recent trip to Norway for Norway in a Nutshell I only had one day in Oslo, so I asked for a little help compiling this list from some of my favourite travel bloggers. Here are the 12 best things to do in Oslo, as recommended by travel bloggers.

1. Visit the National Museum to see The Scream

The oldest version of The Scream in Oslo's National Museum
The oldest version of The Scream in Oslo’s National Museum

Edvard Munch created four versions of his most famous picture, and the oldest one, painted in 1893, is on display in the National Museum. He said that the painting was inspired by a walk he took at sunset beside one of the fjords near Oslo; as the sun set and the clouds grew firey red, he suddenly felt a “scream passing through nature”.

If you’ve been to see the Mona Lisa then you’ll be surprised at how few people you’ll share the Scream with. There were quite a few selfies going on but nothing like the crowds you’ll see in front of some other famous works.

The National Museum is relatively small, but well worth visiting. As well as the Scream there are some stunning works by lesser-known Norwegian artists – I fell in love with the seascapes by Peder Balke.

2. Oslo Opera House

Walking on the roof at Oslo's Opera House
Walking on the roof at Oslo’s Opera House

If you visit Oslo, you have to see the amazing Opera House. Opened in 2008, it’s a stunning building which slopes directly up from a public plaza so you can walk straight onto its roof for views over the Oslofjord. It looks a little like an iceberg, a little like a boat (it actually looks a lot like the boat that took us around the Nærøyfjord) and it’s really fun to clamber all over it.

The Opera House is home to the Norwegian Opera and Ballet, and if you have the chance it’d be a wonderful experience to watch a performance there.

3. Royal Palace

The Royal Palace in Oslo
The Royal Palace in Oslo

The Royal Palace in Oslo looks like it’s been taken straight out of a Wes Anderson film. A suitably majestic, symmetrical building in a delicate shade of primrose yellow, it’s been home to the Norwegian monarch since 1849.

If you visit Oslo during the summer, you might be able to take a tour of the Royal Palace. Daily guided tours in English and Norwegian are usually available between June and August, and take about an hour.

4. Østbanehallen

The Østbanehallen used to be part of Oslo Central Station
The Østbanehallen used to be part of Oslo Central Station

One of the most interesting places to eat in Oslo is Østbanehallen. This large hall was formed out of the oldest part of Oslo’s Central Station, and is now full of restaurants, delis, coffee shops and bars.

You can pick up ingredients for indulgent self-catering at the food market, or visit the Royal Gastropub, in what used to be the royal waiting room. Oslo’s main tourist office is also located here, but the building itself is also worth a look.

5. Holmenkollen ski jump

The HolmenKollen ski jump in Oslo
The HolmenKollen ski jump in Oslo

By Aga from Worldering Around

You can’t visit Oslo without stopping by one of its winter sports attractions – the Holmenkollen Ski Jump. Holmenkollen is the world’s most modern ski jump, regarded as one of the three most famous sports arenas globally. It was made from 1000 tons of steel with the start housing hanging 64 meters above the ground.

In the mountain below the ski jump you can visit The Ski Museum. The world’s oldest museum specialised in skiing allows you to experience various exhibitions showing over 4000 years of ski history.

One of the best things to do in Oslo in winter is to go to Holmenkollen for the ski jumping competition. The first one was held there already in 1892 and since then the competitions took place every year until 2008. Nowadays, you can still attend the competitions, but their exact schedule depends on the season.

The Holmenkollen Ski Jump is also worth a visit even if you are not a fan of winter sports. The place is great for some exercising, admiring the spectacular views of the city or eating in some of the picturesquely located restaurants.

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6. Viking Ship Museum

The Oslo Viking Ship Museum
The Oslo Viking Ship Museum

By Halef from The Round The World Guys

One of my favourite museums of Oslo is the Viking Ship Museum. Of course, Vikings are associated with Scandinavia, and Norwegian culture in particular. This is an amazing museum you can add to your “Best things to do in Oslo” list!

The museum’s structure was built to house two remarkably well-preserved funerary Viking ships that were discovered in early 1900s. These ships date back to the 800s. When a prominent figure died, the Vikings would build an entire ship to bury the bodies along with their worldly possessions. You can learn about Viking culture, their lives, beliefs, and customs by seeing all of the artefacts recovered from the burial ships.

If you are planning a visit to the Viking Ship Museum, consider getting the Oslo Pass to cover the trip. It is a great way to save money in notoriously expensive Oslo. The Oslo Pass covers your transportation and gives you free admission to several prominent Oslo attractions and activities. That way, you can also visit the nearby Folks Museum for free!

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7. Oslo Rådhus

The Rådhus in Oslo has amazing decoration
The Rådhus in Oslo has amazing decoration

By Manouk from Dutch travel blog Groetjes Uit Verweggistan

The city hall of Oslo, called Rådhus, might not be the first place you think of when discovering the city. But please do visit it! The building is made out of red brick and has two towers. You can visit the Rådhus for free. Enjoy the beautiful wall paintings, sitting on a bench in the Main Hall. They depict Oslo and Norway during the period in between the First and Second World War. The Main Hall is a great place to have a little rest of your adventures in Oslo. We also decided to save some money and eat our packed lunch on the benches.

Do you recognize the main hall? Absolutely possible, because each December this is the location of the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony.

But do not stop here, because you are also allowed to go upstairs. Climb the stairs and enjoy the many beautiful rooms, with even more wall paintings! You can visit all of them for free as well. It might look like you are not supposed to walk around, but you will not be sent away. Downstairs you can find flyers explaining the history of the building if you are interested.

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8. Nordmarka

The Nordmarka forest area in Oslo
The Nordmarka forest area in Oslo

By Lizzie from Wanderlust and Life

One of our favourite things to do in Oslo is to visit Nordmarka, which is a forested area only 30 minutes outside Oslo city centre. Filled with natural beauty and some incredible views of the city, Nordmarka is popular with visitors in both the summer and winter months. We got the train from downtown Oslo to Frognerseteren Station. From there we decided to just walk around and explore. There are a number of forest trails that are marked so you don’t get lost, and there is also a café close to Frognerseteren Station which serves food with a view.

Nordmarka is a great place to go any time of the year. In the winter, it becomes a frosty wonderland with several ski routes and a number of outdoor winter activities. And in the summer when we visited, it can be just as beautiful. You can go hiking or biking, or even canoeing on one of the picturesque lakes in the area. One of the best things about visiting Nordmarka though, is that it is a relatively cheap excursion in what can sometimes be an expensive city.

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9. Norsk Folkemuseum (Norwegian Museum of Cultural History)

The Norsk Folkemuseum in Oslo
The Norsk Folkemuseum in Oslo

By Josie from Josie Wanders

While in Oslo I really enjoyed visiting the Norsk Folkemuseum – the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History. In the main buildings are all sorts of cultural artefacts from artworks to clothing to weapons to household items. There are lots of historical photographs, and whole rooms set up as they would have been at a particular point in time. While interesting to look at, if this was all that was to the museum I would likely have forgotten it.

What made it really memorable was the open air museum. Here there are about 160 traditional historical buildings that have been brought here and reconstructed. Some are from particular regions, some show different aspects of life, like rural buildings versus urban buildings. Some of the oldest building date back from medieval times, some are much more recent. I underestimated how much there was to see here, so make sure plenty of time is allowed.

Located right next door to the popular Viking Ship Museum, so it’s easy to also visit the Norsk Folkmuseum when you are in the area.

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10. Kon Tiki Museum

By Linn from Brainy Backpackers

The Kon Tiki Museum is probably my favourite museum and a must visit while in Oslo. Thor Heyerdahl was a world-famous Norwegian explorer who first crossed the Pacific Ocean on a raft made of balsa wood. The expedition was initiated to prove that indigenous South Americans sailed to the South Pacific. In the museum, you will find the original balsawood raft, Kon Tiki, who took Thor Heyerdahl and his crew across the Pacific and proved his theory.

Thor Heyerdahl also completed similar expeditions in several reed boats, Tigris, Ra, and Ra II. The latter is also exposed in the museum. The explorer also led numerous archeological excavations in Easter Island, Galapagos, and Túcume. The museum has a lot of interesting information about all his work, and it is easy to learn both for adults and kids.

Getting to the Kon Tiki museum is easy by bus to Bygdøy, and there are several other interesting museums in the same area, like the Viking Ship Museum and the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History.

11. Boat trip on the fjords

Taking a boat trip on Oslo's fjords
Taking a boat trip on Oslo’s fjords

By Anna from Would Be Traveller

If you’re a nature lover, you’re in for a treat in Oslo! In fact, thanks to Oslo’s enviable coastal location and its proximity to the water, one of the best things to do in Oslo is a trip on the Oslo fjords. Visitors can hop on a tour boat from the pier outside City Hall, and embark on a variety of cruises.

While perhaps not quite as impressive as the rest of Norway’s fjords, the Oslo fjords are still worth seeing if you don’t have much time in the country. Fjords are landscapes formed by glaciers, creating expanses of water surrounded on either side by steep cliffs. In Oslo, the fjords have created a series of little islands, famous for their brightly coloured summer houses and idyllic bays.

If you’re short on time, the tour company Båtservice offers a two hour fjord sightseeing cruise for less than £30GBP per adult – or it’s free with a 72 hour Oslo Pass – making it a budget friendly activity in Oslo too. There’s also the option to take an evening cruise, or a hop-on-hop-off service that can drop you off ready to explore the islands before hopping back on a later boat. No matter what you choose, you’ll love what there is to see!

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12. Nobel Peace Center

The Nobel Peace Center
The Nobel Peace Center

By Sharon from Dive Into Malaysia

The Nobel Peace Center is a museum dedicated to Alfred Nobel, the Nobel Peace Prize, its winners and peace in general. It’s a two level center with a lower floor with temporary exhibits and an upper floor focused on previous winners and the peace prize.

When the Nobel prizes started at Alfred Nobel’s bequest, he specified that the Peace Prize must be given out by the Norwegian Parliament making Oslo the site where this prize is awarded annually. The other awards are given out in Sweden.

It’s an interesting place and we particularly liked hearing the stories of previous winners. This is done via items, audio, video and information boards. It is very inspirational! There is also a garden of 1000 fibre-optic lights and activities for children.

The center itself is located near the wharf where the Bygdoy Peninsula ferries depart so it’s easy to combine a visit here with attractions located there.

Have you visited Oslo? What are your must-sees?

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