Our Best Suggestions for Things to Do in Oslo, Norway!
If you want things to do in Norway, visiting the capital city might be a great place to start! Oslo is absolutely one of those beautiful Nordic capitals that we can’t stop thinking about. From grand palaces to museums, gardens, and activities, there are plenty of things to do in Oslo’s city centre. If you want free things to do in Oslo, you are also in luck because we’ve included those, too!
We were in Oslo together in 2017 – but Lisa has been before to visit a friend of hers from when she studied abroad in the US. We didn’t really “go out” so we can’t really talk about what to do in Oslo at night but we did enjoy a great dinner and drinks (we met that Norwegian friend to say hi)!
Scandinavian cities like Copenhagen and Stockholm tend to get all the fame, but we had a great few days exploring the city of Oslo. So, whether you are looking for things to do in Oslo in August or the dead of winter, here are 19 great things to do in Oslo that are season appropriate and will keep you busy!
Things to Consider When Visiting Oslo
If you are thinking about heading to Oslo, you will definitely need to think about a few details of your trip. The city can be VERY expensive, so things like eating out or going for drinks can run up a hefty bill if you don’t watch your spending. Also good to know is that the currency used is the Norwegian Krone (NOK) and that credit cards are widely accepted, but maybe not at some grocery stores.
Best Time to Visit Oslo
The best time to visit Oslo will definitely change depending on what you want to see and do. Generally, the summer months from May to August are going to have the nicest weather and the longest sunshine hours. The late summer (August) will see the most rain, however. You can go in the fall around September and October for fall colours but the snow/rain can pick up at any time the closer you get to November.
That said, visiting Oslo in the winter is cold (just below freezing so not crazy cold) and brings snow and other precipitation. However, since Norway is a winter-loving nation, there is tons to do like cross-country skiing, skating, and a GIANT TOBOGGAN TRACK north of Oslo that we will cover below.
This is one of the reasons Oslo is on our list of awesome European cities to visit in winter. Don’t expect to see the Northern lights from the city or its outskirts, though. You’ll have to venture a little higher north for this – and this northern lights post might help!
The key for Oslo travel is to layer your clothing since the weather can change and become hotter/cooler in a matter of hours. In general, we recommend having a good rain/wind-resistant coat (like Eric’s Northface). It’s is the perfect outer layer since it can fold up small and be packed away if it’s not needed!
Getting Around in Oslo
Oslo is a pretty small and concentrated city. This means that a lot of the best attractions are in the city centre. They are generally all walkable. The city itself is pretty flat in places with rolling hills here and there as you head towards the water areas.
There is an underground metro system (subway), street-level trams, buses, and even (some) ferries which you can use with your transport ticket bought at a machine. Do keep in mind that there are zones for travel and different valid periods for different tickets. The transportation company is called Ruter, and you can learn more about routes and tickets on their website.
There is also something called an Oslo Pass, which allows for travel on all forms of public transport (including inner island ferries) AND offers free admission to top attractions, among other discounts on things like restaurants. This was designed with tourists in mind and can be bought for 24 hours up to 72 hours!
Where to Stay in Oslo
If you’re looking for a place to stay in Oslo, you’ll find a variety of accommodations around the city. We wrote a full guide on where to stay in Oslo, should you need it. In short, there is a good mix of hotels and apartments scattered around the centre (Sentrum) and the surrounding neighbourhoods. We stayed in an Airbnb in the up-and-coming neighbourhood of Grünerløkka and really liked the location.
Our apartment (complete with a nice host and a cute cat) was at the north end of the area – meaning we had a bit of a walk into the centre of Oslo. That said, we didn’t mind – it was a nice way to see more of the city! You can search for top hotels and accommodations in Oslo here.
There are a handful of hostels in Oslo – some are actually highly-rated and in great locations. Hostels in Oslo are more “upscale” and closer to a hotel than a traditional “hostel” that you might be imagining in your head. Since the city (and country) is expensive, this might be an option for you! Check out the posh hostels in Oslo here.
Top Things To Do In Oslo, Norway
Okay, here we go with the goods. Again, this is not an exhaustive list but we’re pretty happy with how it turned out! If you plan on checking out lots of attractions, the Oslo Pass might save you some major money.
Walk the Busy Karl Johans Gate
A great place to start exploring Oslo is to simply walk the length of Karl Johans Gate. This street is named after King Charles III John and runs from the Oslo Central Station to the Royal Palace. Along the way, you’ll find shops, cafes, restaurants, street performers, and a variety of attractions (which we mention below).
The part of the street closer to the Palace is an actual street with cars but you can walk the sidewalk until you arrive at the grand Royal Palace. Walking the whole length is a great way to get your bearings if you are new to the city. When we were there, a new style of Oreo cookie was being launched and so Oreo marketers were handing out free samples. Let’s just say we got to eat lots of Oreo cookies while we walked around Oslo!
Join an Oslo Walking Tour
Another way to get your bearings in a new city is by doing a walking tour. If you know us here at Penguin and Pia, you know that we LOVE walking tours (thanks, Sarajevo!). Local guides can provide amazing facts and tidbits of information that you might not get anywhere else. As a historically-rich city, Oslo is no different.
We usually find the “free walking tour” since they are good and you pay the tip for their service, but we aren’t opposed to booking an “actual” paid walking tour. If you want to tour Oslo and see the usual sights, you can look into the regular Oslo walking tour. If you have limits with mobility or just want to venture around the stress-free, you might consider an Oslo sightseeing bus tour with a guide.
If your stomach cares about Oslo as much as your eyes, then you can also hop on a food and beer tour in Oslo to learn all about local beers and different foods like “Brunost” – a type of Norwegian brown cheese that Lisa loves.
See A Giant Ship At The Viking Ship Museum
Want to see a giant viking ship? Good – you can do that in Oslo at the Viking Ship Museum. Here, you’ll find three historic ships from Viking times which are considered the world’s best preserved viking ships. One of them is known as the Oseberg Ship which is the centerpiece of the museum at over 20 metres in length. Fun Fact: It actually took 21 years to restore the ship!
We unfortunately haven’t been to the museum ourselves yet – but it even looks pretty impressive on photos. Eric has been to the Vasa Museum in Stockholm so we can imagine it’s good in Oslo! Lisa always thinks that the history of the Vikings is very interesting. Considering the ships were built between the year 800 and 900 – that sounds even more impressive. If you want to get your entrance ticket beforehand, you can do so here.
Address: Huk Aveny 35, 0287 Oslo
Admire The Sculptures at Vigeland Sculpture Park
At Vigeland Sculpture Park, located within Frogner Park, you can see some quite bizarre sculptures! Created by famous Norwegian sculptor Gustav Vigeland, you can find over unique 200 sculptures around the grounds. Vigeland also designed the outline of the park which is one of Oslo’s main tourist attractions.
One of the most popular ones is the “Angry Boy” (pictured above) depicting an agitated toddler. While it may be tempting, the museum asks that you don’t touch the baby’s hand to help preserve the bronze statue!
The park is always open and you don’t have to pay. You can also just come here for a walk or if you’re looking for some green space since the park is a great spot for a picnic. Lisa visited the park a few years ago with her Norwegian friend and it started raining like crazy. After only 10 minutes, they were absolutely drenched. Definitely a memory she won’t forget.
Address: Frognerparken, 0268 Oslo
Try Food At The Mathallen Market
As you might know, we are huge fans of food markets. Mathallen is an indoor food market similar to the ones that we have visited in Copenhagen with more than 30 specialty shops, eateries, cafés, etc. It’s great if you are looking for a snack or want to try some street food.
It can also be fun to just walk around the different stalls and look at the variety of foods that they offer. Since the market is indoor, it is also a great activity for a rainy day! You can check the stores on the website of the market.
Address: Vulkan 5, 0178 Oslo
Climb the Norwegian National Opera House
One of the buildings that Oslo is well-known for is the Norwegian National Opera. Located right by the harbour, the building was opened in 2008 and the architects won the Mies van der Rohe Award for European Architecture in 2009. Probably the most unique aspect of the building is that you can actually climb it and stand on top of it!
Lisa has been there twice now and the second time was when we went together. She says it was no less impressive than the first time she saw the building! We recommend that you walk to the top if you can because the view you get from up there is great. However, be careful when it is wet/raining/snowing since it can be a bit slippery in places.
If you want to see the inside, you could certainly enter to attend a performance or participate in a guided tour which is offered in English, German, and Norwegian. We haven’t been inside but having seen the outside it probably looks beautiful! You can check out the Opera House website for tour information and performances!
Address: Kirsten Flagstads plass 1, 0106 Oslo
Visit The Famous Munch Museum
The Munch Museum is an art museum and home to more than half of the paintings by Edvard Munch. In a generous act, his paintings were actually donated by himself to the city of Oslo in 1940. If you’re interested in art, we would recommend a visit. Munch is one of the few artists that we actually remember from art classes in high school.
One of his best-known pieces is “The Scream” and you’ve probably seen it somewhere before! You can also see some of Munch’s work in the center of Oslo – just walk around with open eyes. You can learn more about visiting the Munch Museum on the official website.
Address: Tøyengata 53, 0578 Oslo
Watch The Changing of the Guard At The Royal Palace
Let’s be clear for a second here – the Royal Palace in itself is worth a visit, but watching the change of the guard makes it a little extra special. The Royal Palace is the residence of HM King Harald V and HM Queen Sonja. The palace building itself was completed in 1849 in a neo-classical style. So, compared to some other palaces in Europe it’s actually not that old!
We didn’t really plan on seeing the changing of the guard but were in the area anyway and decided to walk over to see it. It happens every day at 1:30 pm in front of the palace. Usually, there is a small crowd but it wasn’t too busy when we were there (which was in March).
If you’re interested in doing a guided tour of the Palace in addition to seeing it from the outside, you can do that during the summer months. It is recommended that you book your ticket ahead of time on this website but any leftover tickets can be bought at the entrance before the tour. If you don’t want to do a tour, then you might consider spending some time walking through the beautiful Palace Park which is right next to the palace.
Address: Slottsplassen 1, 0010 Oslo
Learn About Norway At The Norsk Folkemuseum
The Norsk Folkemuseum is the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History. In fact, it is one of the world’s largest and oldest open-air museums. While there, you can see 160 buildings from different parts and time periods of Norway as well as a church that was built in the year 1200.
In addition to seeing the houses, you can also visit exhibitions where you can admire hand-crafted items like the traditional Norwegian costumes as well as weapons and toys. In the summer, there are also guided tours, carriage rides, and craftsmen demonstration.
Lisa went there a few years ago and it was really impressive to see some of the beautiful tall wooden houses. Unfortunately, she didn’t get to experience any of the craftsmen demonstrations but maybe we’ll go there together when we’ll be in Norway again since it would interest Eric as well! Here is the official website where you can learn more.
Address: Museumsveien 10, 0287 Oslo, Norway
Go Island Hopping In The Oslo Fjord
Since Oslo is located by the water with lots of smaller islands nearby, island hopping in the Oslo Fjord can be a great adventure. There are ferries going frequently between Aker Brygge and some islands close by. The best part is that you just need a regular public transport ticket or an Oslo Pass to use them.
We’ve actually sat on a bench in Aker Brygge watching the ferries come and go with lots of people getting on and off. You can check some of the ferry lines and options here. If you don’t want to use the ferries, then a great alternative would be to participate in a 2-hour sightseeing boat ride along the fjord.
Explore The Neighbourhood Grünerløkka
Grünerløkka was easily one of our favourite neighbourhoods in Oslo. The area is located east of the river Akerselva which crosses through Oslo. This is where we stayed in an Airbnb with the super nice lady and her cat.
We really liked the vibe of the area since there were lots of young people and lots of small cafés, restaurants, and bars. If you like thrift stores you’ll love this area, since there are quite a few. We had lots of fun wandering into the little store and looking through the trinkets and antiques they had in their stores.
Lisa’s Norwegian friend that we met in Oslo also recommended that we check out this area – and we would recommend you do it, too! Maybe you can even find a place to stay there and then visit one of the nice cafes for your morning coffee. Just an idea!
Relax In The Botanical Garden
Part of the University of Oslo, The Botanical Garden is actually the oldest botanical garden in Norway. It was first established in 1814 and today has lots of different flowers and other plants – approx. 1800 different ones!
You can also enjoy a scent garden which can make for a great experience. In addition to local plants, you can also find some exotic plants in the Plam House and the Victoria House. These places are open from 10 am until the evening in the summer months and until 4 pm the rest of the year.
Throughout the park, you can also find large, woven sculptures which look quite interesting. Overall, the Botanical Garden is a great place if you want to to take walk and get away from the busy city centre for a while. It’s also free, so you don’t have to pay an entrance fee!
Address: Sars’ gate 1, 0562 Oslo, Norway
Walk Through Akershus Fortress
Akershus Fortress is a popular medieval fortress that was built to protect the city and provide a royal residence. The building process was started in 1299 and was completed in the next century. That said, over the years it withstood a number of sieges and in the 16th and 17th century the fortress was modernized and converted into a Renaissance castle.
The fortress has been used as a military base, prison, and even seat of Norwegian prime minister at one point. Norwegian royalty is buried in the Royal Mausoleum of the Castle. In the summer, you can participate in guided tours through the fortress grounds but you can also explore it on your own (entrance is free).
Lisa wandered through the place with her Norwegian friend and it was really nice. She thinks it’s the perfect place for an evening stroll in the summer but can also visit in the early morning if you prefer since the opening hours are from 6 am (7:00 am from October – April) to 9 pm. The fortress is also a venue for various events and ceremonies which you can check out!
Learn About Polar Explorers At The Fram Museum
Fram is actually a ship that was used for exploring the Arctic and Antarctic. In fact, it is the strongest wooden ship that was ever built and holds the records for sailing farthest north and south. These days, you can actually climb on board the ship and learn all about how the crew lived and survived on the ship – with their dogs.
The museum also has a polar simulator which lets you experience the cold and dangers of their polar expedition. The museum is on the smaller side so there is not a ton to see, but if you are interested in ships and polar expeditions then check it out. You can also get a combination ticket for the Fram Museum, Norwegian Maritime Museum, and the Kon-Tiki Museum if you want to see some more ship-based museums during your time in Oslo. Here is information for the Fram Museum.
Address: Bygdøynesveien 39, 0286 Oslo
Get Cultured at the National Theatre
Called the Nationaltheatret in Norwegian, the National Theatre is something you can’t miss if you are walking through the centre along Karl Johans Gate. The beautiful building was built in the 19th century and is the home of the Norwegian theatre. Inside, there are three auditoriums that put on everything from classic shows to modern performances. If you are into theatre, this is the place to go when you are in Oslo. Here is the official website to check performance dates and times!
Address: Johanne Dybwads plass 1, 0161 Oslo
Visit The Holmenkollen Ski Museum & Tower
Since Lisa has grown up watching ski jumping on TV, she is quite familiar with the famous Holmenkollen Ski Jump. The ski jump is actually the oldest of its kind in the world! Even if you’re not into the sport of ski jumping, visiting the museum and learning more about the history of skiing as well as seeing Norwegian polar exploration artifacts can be a great experience. If you’re not into skiing but prefer snowboarding instead, you’ll be happy to hear that they also have an exhibition on snowboarding.
Unfortunately we weren’t able to make it to the tower, but hopefully we’ll be able to change that on our next visit because Lisa would really like to see it up close. As far as we know you can actually go up to the observation deck on top of the tower and get incredible views of Oslo. Depending on where you are in the city, you can also see it from away since it is quite close to the city. Also good to know: if you have the Oslo Pass you can actually enter the museum for free!
Address: Kongeveien 5, 0787 Oslo, Norway
Enjoy The Vibe Of The Aker Brygge Area
Aker Brygge is a neighbourhood in central Oslo that has a very modern feel and cool vibe. We walked along the wooden boardwalk and through the side streets in awe of some of the modern buildings. It’s also very nice to be so close to the water.
The former industrial area was transformed into a popular area for shopping, dining, and entertainment with high-end residential buildings as well. It’s a great place if you want to have dinner outside on a terrace while looking at the water. During sunny days, there will be lots of people around just sitting by the water and soaking up the sunshine – we did that in March and even though it was still quite cold it was very nice.
Soak Up The Summer At Sørenga Seawater Pool
This is a very seasonal thing to do but if you are in Oslo during the summertime you should consider visiting the Sørenga Seawater Pool. This is a large fjord pool with seawater from the Oslo Fjord and is popular among locals and tourists alike.
The pool is actually open all year round and you can go cold water swimming or use the sauna during the wintertime if you want. We haven’t been there yet, but think it would probably be fun to check out. You can learn more on the pool website.
Address: Sørengkaia 69, 0194 Oslo
Play In The Winter At The Oslo Winter Park Or Korketrekkeren
If you are in Oslo during the wintertime instead, consider checking out the Oslo Winter Park at Tryvann. The park is easy to reach with the subway line 1 from the city centre of Oslo. It is actually one of the largest ski resorts in the Oslo area with 18 slopes and 11 lifts. You can also rent your skis there if you want to give skiing a try for a day! Check our their website for prices and hours.
Address: Tryvannsveien 64, 0791 Oslo
If skiing is not your thing but you’d like to do a winter activity, how about the popular toboggan run in Korketrekkeren? The track is 2000 metres long and you don’t even have to walk to the top – instead you can take the subway! This massive run starts in Frognerseteren (also the name of the metro stop) and ends at Midtstuen metro station.
At the top, you can even rent sleds and a helmet or bring you own. The run itself has no entrance fee so the only cost might be your sled rental which is around 15 euro (150 NOK) for a sled and helmet from the shop close to the Frognerseteren station and down the hill from Frognerseteren Restaurant.
This sounds really fun and we would love to do it. Eric grew up in snowy Canada and did A TON of tobogganing in his days so for him this is extra special. Just remember that the weekends can be busy so try to go on a weekday if possible. Also, the run is only available when there is enough snow in the area and we have never been to Oslo during wintertime. You can read more information here!
Address: Holmenkollveien, 0710 Oslo
And there you have it – 19 of the best things to do in Oslo, Norway! As per usual, this list doesn’t include everything that there is to do but we think it’s a pretty good list. It’s always fun to research the things we have done – often we learn more than we did the first time we visited and it makes us want to go back with a new found appreciation for the place or thing! If you head to Oslo in summer or winter, let us know about your experience!
As always, Happy Oslo Waddlin’,