The city of Oslo is situated in a sheltered fjord called Oslofjord, and is surrounded by many small islands which are full of vegetation, history, and cute red and yellow cottages. We enjoyed walking all over the city, watching the boats and ferries from the Aker Brygge area, and exploring Oslo’s beautiful parks. Scandinavian architecture is also very prevalent in Oslo, with the pinnacle being the Oslo Opera House with its minimalist design full of blunt lines and angles. We also took the ferry over to Hovedøya, an island just off the coast of Oslo, with nature reserves and an old monastery. Even just within the Oslo area you can see and experience the natural beauty of Norway.
Top Things to do in Oslo
Oslo Opera House
The Oslo Opera House is the home of the Norwegian Opera and Ballet, and opened in its current contemporary style in 2008. The roof creates a plaza that extends all the way to ground level, allowing pedestrians to walk to the top and experience amazing views of Oslo. The building is a great example of Scandinavian design with white lines and varying angles.
Tips: Walk to the top of the roof around dusk for great sunset views.
The Royal Palace
The Royal Palace in Oslo was built for King Charles III in the early to mid 19th century, who reigned as king of both Sweden and Norway. It is still the official residence of the Norwegian monarch and is surrounded by pretty public gardens, the Slottsparken.
Tips: For tours (they only offer guided), make sure to book in advance as they only offer 3-4 in English ones per day. You can also watch the changing of the guard. Check their website for information on daily times for both.
Oslo Cathedral was completed at the end of the 15th century and is used today for public events by the Norwegian Royal Family and the Norwegian Government. It has a relatively simple brick facade but the interior has beautifully adorned ascents, such as ornate chandeliers and a colorful ceiling design.
Tips: Visit Oslo's Stortorvet (main plaza) for various markets. There was a flower market when we visited, just outside Oslo Cathedral.
The Aker Brygge area is a fun spot to walk along the water, eat at one of the many cafes offering outdoor seating, or go shopping. The area consists of various bridges to connect the waterways and modern buildings with Scandinavian design. It is a great spot to people watch and enjoy food and drinks.
The Akershus Fortress is a medieval castle that was built in the 1290s by the reigning king to protect Oslo. The fortress offers great views of Oslo from above and also has a restaurant and bar along the waterside.
Tips: Visit in the morning hours for the best light for viewing the city and surrounding islands.
Frogner Park and The Vigeland Park
Frogner Park and Vigeland Park make up a really nicely manicured park and sculpture museum, with works by Gustav Vigeland, open to the public. Take a walk through the park starting from the main entrance on the 161 road to pass through the various sculptures and up to the Monolitten sculpture.
Tips: The number 12 tram goes straight through the city center to Vigeland Park, as an alternative to walking. Tickets are 33 NOK per single ride for an adult.
Parliament of Norway
The Parliament of Norway building is the center for political debate and decision making for the Norwegian Parliament, also called the Storting. The building is surrounded by nice gardens containing a fountain in the warm months, and ice skating in the cold months.
Tips: Guided tours can be booked on their website, and it is recommended to book in advance as tours run more often in the summer (July-August) than the remainder of the year.
Located just off the coast of Oslo, Hovedøya is a fun half-day trip for exploring the nature and history of the island. There is an old monastery and canon house you can also visit. We recommend packing a picnic on a nice day and enjoying it on the island.
Tips: Take the B1 ferry from the Radhusbrygga pier. Check the timetables, as the ferry makes a loop with the first and last stops at Hovedøya (you can minimize time on the ferry, or choose to take the longer route when you get picked up to take a little sightseeing tour). You can also disembark the ferry at one of the other islands too!
Food and Drink in Olso
Den Glade Gris
Known for their signature pork knuckle dish, Den Glade Gris is the spot to get your pork fix. The interior has a cozy ambiance and the food is really delicious - top rated in Oslo.
If you find yourself in Oslo during nice weather, visit one of the many outdoor cafes and bars along Aker Brygge’s Stranden. Perfect for people and boat watching while enjoying a refreshing aperol spritz or local cold beer.
Stop into this bakery to try a Norsk Kanelboller, Norway’s take on the Scandinavian cinnamon bun pastry (similar to Sweden’s kanebullar).
Other food in Oslo
Visit Ostbanehallen, a large and modern food hall, once the oldest part of Oslo’s central railway station.