Legends of heroes and trolls 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 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.
These include 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, enjoying 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 Museum and 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. He 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 originals.
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. Guided tours are available for the 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 of 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.
Found 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 preserved. 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 museum.
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.
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 spreads across the year, with 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.
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, Lou Reed, Johnny Cash, Van Morrison, Rod Stewart, Lenny Kravitz, Tom Petty, Eric Clapton, Mark Knopfler, Neil Young, Foo Fighters, Alanis Morissette, The Cardigans, Counting Crows, and Iggy Pop.
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 sell out fast so it is best to book them online in advance. 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, near the famous sculpture garden of Vigeland Park.
Norway achieved independence from the Danes, creating their constitution on this day back in 1814 and progressing 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, 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. The main events are children's parades, held in villages and cities all over the country.
The largest parade is 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 to a sea of Norwegian flags and banners.
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 cultural experience for foreigners travelling in the country.
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. Ride-hailing apps like Lyft are available. Much of the city is compact enough to explore on foot.
Oslo is probably most famous for being hemmed in by its main attractions, the natural glory of the fjord and stretching woodlands that offer so many scenic spots and outdoor activities for the fit and adventurous.
However, it is also an artistic, cosmopolitan city which offers numerous cultural and historical sightseeing opportunities. Many of Oslo's best cultural attractions can be found on the Bygdoy Peninsula, including the incredible Viking Ships Museum, the Kon-Tiki Museum, and the Fram Polar Ship Museum, leaving travellers in no doubt as to the seafaring and explorative laurels of Norway.
The Oscarshall Castle, Bygdoy Royal Estate, and Norwegian Museum of Cultural History can also be found on the picturesque peninsula. Other must-see attractions in Oslo include the National Gallery, which houses Edvard Munch's iconic painting 'The Scream', and Vigeland Park, which is the city's most visited tourist attraction.
The Oslo Pass gives visitors free access to more than 30 museums and sightseeing attractions and free travel on all public transport as well as many other perks. The card comes in versions valid for 24, 48, or 72 hours, and is great value for money. The pass can be bought at tourist information centres and many hotels, hostels, and museums, or can be ordered online.