Oslo travel guide
Legends of heroes, trolls and princesses roaming the countryside outside this charming city attract many travellers looking for a Scandinavian holiday. Oslo, situated at the end of a 70-mile (110km) long fjord, is Norway's capital and its largest city, rich in culture and folklore and with a fascinating Viking history. Oslo is the gateway to some of Norway's most scenic areas, with forests, lakes and hiking trails just a subway ride away, but a holiday in Oslo is a joy in its own right. This sophisticated city offers cultural attractions, nightclubs, cafes, and chic boutiques enough to tempt any urban soul.
Oslo is an eclectic mix of old medieval buildings, churches and modern architecture, sitting among the green trees and forests that form the balance of nature and civilization. Around the city there are numerous museums, art galleries and places of interest, especially the Edvard Munch Museum and the Norwegian Folk Museum on the sought after Bygdoy Peninsula. Other attractions include Vigeland Park with its interesting collection of sculptures, and the medieval Akershus Fortress dominating the seafront.
Although Oslo has a small population compared to other European capital cities, it retains a true vibrancy. The city centre is filled with restaurants, bars, cafes, clubs and theatres and has a very cosmopolitan feel, with street artists hanging around the main street, Karl Johans Gate. Oslo is renowned as a city of culture and the City Hall hosts the annual awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize.
Vigeland Park is Oslo's most visited attraction, and one of the
most popular tourist attractions in Norway. It is a vast green area
of duck ponds, trees and lawns that is a monument to the celebrated
Norwegian sculptor Gustav Vigeland, who spent 40 years creating the
life-size statues that decorate the walkways and open spaces. There
are more than 200 works presenting the human form in a variety of
poses and conveying a range of emotions. At the centre of the park
is the most impressive piece, the Monolith, a gigantic mass of
writhing bodies carved from a single column of stone, and believed
to be the largest granite sculpture in the world at a height of
46ft (14m). Surrounding the column are groups of human sculptures
in various forms of interaction with each other. The most famous
and most photographed piece is the Angry Boy, a fat child stamping
his foot. There are many more sculptures to be seen in the park and
in the nearby Vigeland Museum, featuring a display on the
development of the artist's work and his sketches and plaster
To avoid confusion, visitors should note that although the attraction is commonly called Vigeland Park, the collection of sculptures is technically in a middle section of Frogner Park.
The Kon-Tiki Museum
Situated on the Bygdoy Peninsula, the Kon-Tiki Museum contains
the iconic balsawood raft, the Kon-Tiki, on which Thor Heyerdahl
made his famous journey across the Pacific in 1947 to prove the
theory that the first Polynesian settlers could have sailed the
4,300 miles (6,923km) between Peru and Polynesia. The museum also
contains the original reed raft, Ra II, on which Heyerdahl sailed
across the Atlantic in 1970. Besides the rafts there is a huge
stuffed whale shark, artefacts from his expeditions and exhibits
from his visits to Easter Island, as well as an intriguing
collection of archaeological finds from Easter Island, Galapagos,
East Polynesia and Peru.
For travellers interested in the seafaring adventures of Norwegian explorers this museum is a gem: seeing the craft used to make the famous expeditions is thrilling and the voyages can be tracked through news articles and other memorabilia. It is a speciality museum and may not appeal to everybody visiting Oslo, but for those who enjoy such things the Kon-Tiki is an informative and interesting museum which generally scores high with tourists. The museum is located just opposite the Fram Polar Ship Museum, and the two attractions are best combined. Entry to the Kon-Tiki Museum is free with the Oslo Pass.
Address: Bygdoynesveien 36, Bygdoy Peninsula
The Viking Ships Museum
Situated on the Bygdoy Peninsula, the Viking Ship Museum houses
three 9th-century Viking ships that were excavated from ritual
burial mounds in the south of Norway. Their excellent condition is
due to the clay in which they were embalmed. Viking ships were used
as tombs for royalty who were buried with everything they might
need in their life after death. The biggest and best preserved of
the ships is the Gokstad, and the finest is the Oseberg, a richly
ornamented dragon ship with an intricately carved animal head post,
that was the burial chamber of a Viking queen. The elegantly carved
sleigh used by the Viking royalty, and a hoard of treasure was
found on the buried ship and is displayed at the back of the
Raised platforms allow visitors to view the inside of the ships' hulls. The museum is small and not interactive, but the ships are fascinating and make an impact the moment you see them. The museum is considered a must in Oslo and a visit is one of the best ways to get a taste of the intriguing Viking culture. Most of the displays have some explanation in English, but there is also free wifi in the museum which can be used to get additional information in English. Entrance to the museum is free with the Oslo Pass.
Address: Huk Aveny 35, Bygdoy Peninsula
Norwegian Wood Festival
This festival, held annually in June in Oslo, is one of the highlights on the country's musical calendar, if not the highlight, attracting many of the world's top artists as well as plenty of local Scandinavian bands. Norwegian Wood, named for the famous Beatles Song, has an impressive list of past performers, including the likes of Bob Dylan, Sting, David Bowie, Tori Amos, Lou Reed, Johnny Cash, Van Morrison, Rod Stewart, Lenny Kravitz, Tom Petty, Eric Clapton, Mark Knopfler, Neil Young, Foo Fighters, Alanis Morissette, Travis, The Cardigans, Counting Crows, Iggy Pop, Faithless and many many more. As clear from the list of performers this outdoor festival primarily celebrates rock music, but there are exceptions. The timing is perfect for those wanting to travel during the Norwegian summer and experience the Midnight Sun. Tickets are limited and they sell out fast so it is best to book them in advance online. Children under five get in free of charge accompanied by an adult. You can buy a festival pass for all four days, or just a single day pass. The festival is always held at the Frognerbadet, which is very near the famous sculpture garden of Vigeland Park.
Venue: Frognerbadet; Date:16 - 18 June 2016; Website: www.norwegianwood.no
Norway achieved Independence from the Danes, creating their constitution on this day back in 1814, and progressed to become one of the most successful countries of the twentieth century. Independence Day is the biggest day of the year in Norway and the whole country celebrates with parades and music, performances and parties throughout the long spring nights. The Norwegian Independence Day is notably non-military in flavour, compared to independence celebrations in many other countries, and the main event is children's parades, which are held in villages and cities all over the country. The largest parade is held in Oslo, where some 100,000 people gather in the city centre to participate in the main festivities, marching past the royal palace, where the royals wave from the main balcony. Norwegian flags can be seen everywhere! Traditionally people wear red, white and blue ribbons and clothes, but it is also common to wear traditional outfits of various kinds. The Norwegians are proud and celebrate the day with gusto and much jollity, making it a wonderful experience of the culture for foreigners travelling in the country.
Venue: Throughout the country; Date:17 May annually;
Location: The airport is situated 31 miles (50km) northeast of Oslo.
Time: Local time is GMT +1 (GMT +2 between the last Sunday in March and the last Sunday in October).
Contacts: Tel: +47 64 81 20 00
Getting to the city: An Airport Express train and a variety of taxis go to the city centre. An airport bus travels between the Oslo Bus Terminal downtown and the airport.
Car rental: Car rental companies include Avis, Budget, Europcar and Hertz.
Airport Taxis: Taxis are available to the city centre.
Facilities: Facilities at the airport include banks, bureaux de change, ATMs, left luggage, duty-free shopping, tourist information and a hotel reservation kiosk. Business facilities are available. There is a selection of bars, shops and restaurants.
Parking: Outdoor and indoor parking is available for a fee at Oslo Airport (with outdoor parking the cheaper option).
Departure tax: None.
Oslo is a relatively small city and parking is at a premium so a car is a bit of a liability. Fortunately, there is an extensive and superbly efficient public transport system involving buses, trams, subway, trains and ferries. The city is served by 50 bus lines and eight tram routes, all starting from Jerbanetorvet at Oslo S Station. The subway is called the Oslo T-Bane and there are five underground lines covering the city. All public transport runs from 5.30am to midnight, with tickets available from bus drivers or vending machines at stations. The Tourist Ticket allows for unlimited use within 24 hours, while the 1, 2, and 3-day Oslo Pass allows unlimited travel on any form of public transport, and includes free museum admissions and other discounts. Ferries operate on a seasonal basis, between April and September, linking the City Hall to the museum-studded peninsula of Bygdøy. There are also ferry services to the harbour islands. Metered taxis are easy to come by, and can be found at ranks near shopping centres, city squares, stations and other gathering points. Cabs can also be ordered by telephone from a central office, or from taxi ranks. Much of the city is compact enough to explore on foot.
Oslo enjoys a humid continental climate. Although well into the northern latitudes, Oslo's climate is fairly temperate thanks to warm air being wafted across the Atlantic from the Gulf Stream. Summer weather in Oslo is mild and pleasant, with frequent hot spells, and plenty of long sunny days. In summer, between June and August, temperatures average between 54°F (12°C) and 75°F (24°C), but during heat waves the temperature can rise above 86°F (30°C). In winter, between December and February, temperatures tend to hover just below freezing. Winter temperatures average between 19°F (-7°C) and 30°F (-1°C). Snow is plentiful in winter, making the city a great winter sports venue, and moderate rainfall is spread across the year, the rainiest month being July or August. There is great variation in daylight hours between summer and winter, with midsummer enjoying 18 hours of daylight (when it never gets completely dark), and midwinter getting a mere six hours of daylight.
The peak season for a holiday in Oslo is between June and August when the sun shines during the long days of the midnight sun. Winter offers a different kind of Oslo holiday, when the city is coated with snow and days are dark, brightened by the glow of lights emanating from inviting warm restaurants and hotels.
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