Planning a trip to Oslo? If you have 2 or 3 days in Oslo, we have the perfect weekend itinerary written by a local to make the most of your short visit. Read on for the best things to do, where and what to eat, where to drink and where to stay in Oslo and other essential insider information.
-Written by Lena from Travelletters–
Oslo is the capital of Norway and its biggest city, with a population of approximately 700,000. Norway is located on Scandinavian Peninsula simply referred to as Scandinavia. The city centre is situated at the end of the Oslofjord. To the north and east, wide forested hills (Marka) rise above the city. Oslo can be visited both in winter and summer, due to its perfect location for seasonal activities.
Oslo has several museums and parks, holds several festivals and in 2018 Oslo was named one of Lonely Planet’s Top Ten Cities to visit. Did you know that Oslo is the only city that hosts the Nobel Prize award outside of Sweden? You can even attend the the Nobel Peace Prize award in December, if you can get the tickets.
Top Things to do in Oslo in 2 or 3 Days
Folkemuseum – The Norwegian museum of cultural history is dedicated to Folk Art, Sami (the Lapps) and Viking cultures. The museum is located in Bygdøy.
The Kon-tiki museum – houses vessels and maps from Thor Heyerdahl’s expedition – Kon-tiki raft and RaII. The museum is located in Bygdøy, close to Folkemuseum.
Other museums located in the same area, and which can be visited at the same time are:
– The Viking ship museum
– The Olso city museum
– Fram museum
The National museums exhibition avenues are the National Gallery, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the National Museum, the Museum of Decorative Arts and the National Museum of Architecture.
Outdoor attractions in Oslo
Holmenkollen National Arena is known for biathlon and Nordic skiing venues, and hosts annual World Cup tournaments. It takes you 30-40 min by tram (which is a metro line1) to get to the arena and on your way you will get the most amazing views of Oslo from above. During winter you can go cross-country skiing, downhill or toboggan. You can rent needed equipment on the spot. During summer you can go downhill biking, visit climbing park, try Holmenkollen zipline, hike and much more.
While you are up here take a metro higher up to the end station to visit Frognerseteren Café and Restaurant. Have a coffee or hot chocolate (depending on the season and your desires), their famous apple tart and enjoy beautiful views of Oslo.
Oslo has several beautiful statue parks that are worth visiting.
Vigelandsparken is located in Frogner Parken in city centre. It is free to access the park. Vigelandsparken contains over 212 sculptures by Gustav Vigeland including an obelisk and the Wheel of Life. Another popular sculpture is Sinnataggen, a baby boy stamping his foot in fury. This statue is very well known as an icon in the city. During summer you will see park filled with people having picnics, if weather allows. The park is world’s largest sculpture park made by a single artist and super popular attraction. It is open during the whole year.
Ekeberg parken is another sculpture park located on Ekeberg hill with beautiful view of Oslofjord, the city and Holmenkollen. It is situated next to Ekeberg Restaurant and can be reached by tram or car. It takes 10 min to get there depending on the traffic. The Park is located in the wooden area, which will give you nice shadow during summer heat. Ekeberg parken is open every day all year and has free admission. You can also book private guided tour.
Oslo Opera House is located in Bjørvika – The barcode, right by The central railway station. The opera house is known for its cool construction that allows you to walk on top of it.
The Royal Palace – is located at the end of the Main Street Karl Johan. Start your walk at the top of Karl Johan, The central railway station end. You will pass by many shops, some cafes and restaurants. On your left hand side you will see The Parlament building with two beautiful lion statues guarding the entrance. A little bit further down the street, still on your left hand side you will see The National Theatre. Continue towards the Palace and on your right hand side you will fine Oslo University.
The Royal Palace is open to the public during summer, for guided tours only. It is free entrance for kids under age of 3. Adult price is approximately 15 Euro.
Aker Brygge and Tjuvholmen is the harbor area in Oslo. It is extremely popular during summer months and during warm weather. The area is filled with restaurants, bars and shops. Tjuvholmen is the new borough, with cool architecture; cool restaurants and a little bit more sophisticated and reach audience.
What and where to eat in Oslo
The city’s cuisine has a strong maritime theme and is now a foodie hotspot thanks to what’s known as New Nordic cuisine — food that revolves around nature, purity, freshness and simplicity. You can also have some of the Norwegian quirky specialties such as rakefisk, lutefisk and pinnekjøtt, which are all traditional winter specialties.
Oslo has a few restaurants with Michelin stars – Maeemo has 3 stars and waiting list several months long. Statholdegaarden and Kontrast have 1 each. Oslo is expensive but you can have many good quality meals at cheaper places.
Other high quality restaurants are asian Dinner, asian Kamai, asian fusion Hanami, tapas Escalon or italian Villa Paradiso.
But what you probably don’t know about Oslo is that the city runs on coffee. In terms of coffee connoisseurship, nowhere can match the capital city of Oslo, from small-batch artisan roasters to specialist espresso bars run by former barista champions (according to a report from Lonely Planet in 2017). Visit Tim Wendelboe’s coffee bar – one of the best in Oslo, with only a few seats. Check also out Oslo’s hipster area Grünerløkka and have coffee at Supreme Roastworks.
Mathallen is an indoor food court with 30 specialty shops, cafés and eateries that offer high-quality products from Norwegian small-scale producers as well as special foreign imports. They also hold different food and drink courses.
Vippa Oslo is an upcoming food, culture and education centre located at the edge of Vippetangen, right by the Oslo Fjord. Vippa offers food and drinks in great surroundings as well as afterwork, concerts, lectures and other exiting events. Vippa is the host of multiple food stands offering sustainable and diverse food to Oslo’s increasingly bustling foodscape. Vippa’s vision is to bring together cultures through cuisines.
Going out in Oslo
Oslo’s nightlife is busy during the period of late November and up to Christmas, due to Christmas parties and during summer months. People dress up and go to fancy restaurants and nightclubs. Oslo has plenty of bars, discos and clubs for different age groups and orientations, and Norwegians are very open-minded.
If you are looking for something new, check out Bar ISM, just outside National Theatre. On the ground floor the concept is “Guilty pleasure”, but downstairs and behind closed doors they have a small room (you have to book in advance) with space for 10-12 people. It is sophisticated sort whisky and cigar concept, where they will make your drink based on your taste. They have different theme every week – which can be anything between sustainability or 3rd world issues. Remember to dress up when going out in Oslo.
Shopping in Oslo
Oslo has two shopping malls by the central railway station and a few more along or near the main streets. Norway is expensive, but if you visit it during winter months, especially in December or January, then you will hit the sales. But there are also many small shops that promote up and coming young designers or small brands.
Where to stay in Oslo
There are many hotels in Oslo, both large chains like Choice, Thon and Scandic, but also small brands. Lately AirBnB has taken some of the market. If you want to stay at one of the coolest hotels in Oslo, I recommend The Thief at Tjuvholmen. Hotel Opera near the Opera House is very nice too. They are both located very central, but in two different areas. But like in any other city, hotels get cheaper the farther away from the center you stay.
Insider Oslo Travel Tips
Getting around Oslo
Oslo is not a big city and it is easy to get around by public transportation or walking in the centre. However, if you get an “Oslo pass” for 24, 48 or 72 hours it will give you many discounts and some freebies.
What you get with Oslo Pass:
- A free access to public transportation within zones 1 and 2 which covers the whole of Oslo and some suburban.
- Get the pass at hotel your are staying in, Oslo Visit Centre and some museums. Some places sell Oslo Pass only during summer period.
- Free access to most of museums
- Free or discounted prices for Sightseeing tours
- Discount at various cafes and restaurants
- Free and discounted prices for different activities.
Check for more information and prices on Visit Oslo official site.
Best Time to Visit Oslo
My favorite time to visit in Oslo is late spring. The kids are still in school and the public summer holidays haven’t started yet. The tourists are only beginning to arrive. Everything is blooming and the weather can be really beautiful and more stable than during the summer. Next best time to visit Oslo would be late August or early September. People are back to work and there are much fewer tourists. The weather can still be beautiful and if you are lucky to experience a few days of Indian summer you will have an amazing time. Winter in Norway can be wet due to both rain and snowfall, it is dark, cold and long. But if you are a ski enthusiast there are slopes at Holmenkollen hill. Take the tram up (line 1), rent equipment and off you go!
Tip – Always bring a jacket and a sweater when traveling to Norway – any time of the year. We can get all four (4) seasons during one day. If you have a space for an umbrella it’s great, if not most hotels have umbrellas they lend out for free.
Bio: Hi! We are Lena and Steinar from Norway, dreamers working 9-5. We love our jobs but also traveling. We are not digital nomads and nor have we desire to become such. If you are just like us, in love with both worlds, we can show you that it is definitely possible to have both. Read more on our blog Travelletters and follow us on Instagram and Pinterest.