Oslo is Norway’s capital city and located on the southern coast in the Oslo Fjord. The city has so much to offer its visitors with a huge arts scene, lots of museums, Viking landmarks, stunning nature and plenty of restaurants, cafes, bars and shops too.
My husband and I are a bit obsessed with anywhere in Scandinavia, and it’s our favourite area in Europe. We have been to other cities in Scandinavia, and I have been lucky enough to travel to Oslo before with my work and had a short layover there. My husband has always wanted to go to Oslo, so for his birthday I decided to book some flights and accommodation, and gave him a guidebook to unwrap. His birthday is in September and I booked our trip for January as We love visiting Scandinavia in the winter months, and thought January is always such a crappy month so what better way to cheer up January than jet away for city break!
We went to Oslo the last weekend of January and spent 2 nights in the city which is plenty of time. I would recommend no more than 2-3 days in the city centre as you can easily see everything, and what with Oslo being so crazy expensive unless you have an unlimited budget costs can just spiral. We spent about £400 in 2 days for 2 of us. This did include trains to and from the airport, food, drink, boat tour and sauna etc. You can get flights and accommodation quite reasonably priced but do expect you will spend quite a lot on spending money while there.
Even though Oslo is super expensive we both really enjoyed our trip and fell in love with the Fjord and the area Bygdøy in the city. We made the most of our trip and didn’t hold back on things we wanted to do because of the cost. Oslo makes an excellent city break as it has such a good mix of urban life as well as lots of nature to enjoy.
Sights & Activities
Aker Brygge is an upmarket district set along the waterfront, and provides al fresco dining in the many restaurants that line the boardwalk. Not only are there lots of restaurants, cafes and bars but also a good selection of shops. It’s a really lovely area to take a stroll and there is always something happening in this area. We had a little stroll along Aker Brygge and it had a really good vibe and buzz to it.
Akershus Fortress is a castle and fortress which is located just back from the waterfront, and has stood overlooking Oslo since the early 1300s, and withstood many sieges over its times. The castle was however modernised in the late 1500s by King Christian IV who had it changed to a more renaissance style, and made it into the royal residence. It’s free to wander around the castle and there is a visitor information centre there too. Guided tours are available to visitors but only during the summer months.
We visited the castle after lunch at Vippa and had a walk around it and admired the views of Oslo Fjord which it looks over. To be honest it’s great to visit as it’s one of Oslo’s main historic landmarks but it’s not very big so can easily be explored within 30 minutes or so, but when in Oslo it should be on your city itinerary.
Bygdøy is located west of the capital and is a peninsular which is mostly residential and home to several of Oslo’s most popular museums such as the Norwegian Maritime Museum, Kon-Tiki Museum, Viking Ship Musuem and The Fran Museum to name but a few. We aren’t really Musuem people we came to Bygdøy to explore this peaceful peninsulars beaches and beautiful landscape more than the museums.
We did pop into the Viking Ship Museum but just to view one of the ships which you can do from the gift shop, so if your not massively into museums and don’t really want to pay to enter then you can just nip into this one, obviously if you wanted to see more of the Musuem you would have to pay to enter.
Bygdøy has lots on offer for any visitors we loved all the beaches and small coves. The most popular beach is Huk which is a small beach popular with locals and residents during the summer months and there is a volleyball court too. Our trip to Oslo was in winter but we still enjoyed walking along the beaches and they were all pretty quiet with just a few locals walking their dogs. There are plenty of walking and cycling trails too, but I imagine these would be much nicer to do in the summer months.
As well as having beautiful beaches and museums this area of Oslo is mainly residential however we loved walking around and seeing locals going about their day, and also seeing the typical Norwegian style of housing. Bygdøy is easily reached by regular buses or during the summer months there is a 15 minute ferry ride which takes you there. We got dropped there on our Oslo Fjord tour, and got picked up again on the tour. So if your planning on booking a boat tour of the Fjord and would also like to spend some time in Bygdøy then I would suggest combining the two together. This was our favourite area in Oslo, so really recommend visiting this surburb of the city.
Damstredet & Telthusbakken
Damstredet and Telthusbakken are both small streets located in the city centre. Both streets have well preserved inhabited wooden houses which date back to the late 1700s and early 1800s. Damstredet is a small cobbled street and was just adorable and really olde worlde, this was my favourite out of the two streets. However Telthusbakken was also lovely and the traditional wooden houses were gorgeous. I would recommend visiting both streets as they aren’t too far apart from one another, and it’s great to see the traditional style homes being well persevered and lived in.
Greenboat Sauna was one of my favourite memories made in Oslo, I honestly cannot recommend this activity enough. What’s more Scandinavian than a sauna?! Greenboat Saunas are floating saunas on the waterfront of Aker Brygge, they can easily be found and are visible from the promenade. The saunas can be hired privately or open to the public during set hours. Check the website for times as they do vary. We knew we wanted to visit a sauna and had originally looked at some of Oslo’s other saunas such as Oslo Fjord Sauna and KOK Sauna but both didn’t really have public open times which suited us, as ideally we wanted to finish our day in the sauna, and not go in the morning.
We had a google and discovered greenboat saunas which were a little more expensive than that of Oslo Fjord Sauna however there are 2 saunas at the site which meant it didn’t feel overcrowded, and essential oils were available as well as drinking water and kayaks and paddlboards were available if you wanted to use them and no time limit on when you had to leave!
We paid NOK 200 each which is approximately £16, and we arrived at 3pm and left about 5pm so we thought it was pretty good value, we spent plenty of time in the sauna and plunging into the ice cold fjord. My husband Sean jumped from the sauna roof into the fjord or if your a wimp like me when it comes to the cold, you can climb in from one of the ladders outside or there are hatches in the cabins which you can climb down into the water.
All you need to take is towels and swimwear, the changing rooms are open and mixed so if you don’t like the idea of trying to change with a towel wrapped around you I would suggest wearing your swimsuit underneath your clothes prior to arriving, although we managed fine with just getting changed behind our towels. If you can I would recommend going before sunset as it was so relaxing sat in the sauna watching the sun go down, and as the saunas are cozy you end up chatting to other visitors and it just had a really great atmosphere! This is an absolute must when in Oslo, we had such a great time I can’t rave about it enough!
Grünerløkka is Oslo’s hipster area full with lots of street art, indie boutiques, design shops, markets, cafes, bars, clubs and restaurants. The area sits east side of the River Akerselva, and has lots of green spaces and parks to explore. If art is your thing this is the area to come to as it’s home to lots of independent art galleries, I love street art and loved wandering the streets and discovering unique art, sculptures and murals on the city walls. Markveien is a popular street in the area lined with many of Oslo’s vintage and second hand shops a long with other niche shops, when visiting Grünerløkka be sure to check out Markveien!
Karl Johans Gate
Karl Johans Gate is the Main Street in Oslo and is busy with lots of high street shops, restaurants and cafes. The street is really central and great if your a shopaholic like myself, although we only went to a few shops. One of my favourite shops is Monki and every time I visit a Scandinavian city I seek one out! There are aslo lots of gorgeous scandi home shops too if your an interiors lover!
A boat tour around Oslo Fjord is a must do! I had read mixed reviews prior to our trip, but I always decide to try something for myself rather than go by the reviews, and I was so glad we did go. During the winter months there isn’t as much choice with boat tours and only one tour seemed to be running which was operated by Norway Yacht Charter Båtservice. They only have a few tours running through the week we decided to do the 10.30am Saturday cruise which was a 1.45 hour cruise of the Oslo Fjord, and then dropped us at Bygdøy, and then picked us back up a few hours later and returned us back to City Hall.
The tour we went on was on a traditional style boat, and it was a really relaxing tour with gorgeous views over the Fjord and small villages. It wasn’t too over crowded and the boat had a bar on where you could purchase food and drinks, and the crew also provided blankets for everyone which made it feel cozy on a cold winters day. The tour is quite pricey as it was almost £34 each but we had a really good time and like everything in Oslo nothing is cheap!
It’s an amazing trip and so nice to escape the city, I would recommend if going in the winter to wrap up warm and try and arrive to the ticket desk in plenty of time to ensure you get a ticket and don’t miss the boat, as there isn’t a huge choice of tours available in the winter months, and I would suggest opting for the tour that drops you in Bygdøy especially if you were considering going there anyways.
Oslo Harbour Promenade
Oslo Harbour Promenade stretches almost 6 miles along the city’s waterfront and has lots going on along the waters edge with street art, food, shops, sport activities, boat trips and views of the city as a backdrop. Oslo Opera House, Akershus Fortress and Vippa Street Food are some must visits too! There are large orange information towers which mark the walk along the Harbour Promenade to help you find your way.
Oslo Opera House
Oslo’s Opera House is Norway’s National opera and ballet theatre. The large white angled building offers visitors the chance to walk onto its slanted roof which provides panoramic views over the city. The modern building is one of Oslo’s top architectural attractions, and it’s a great spot for sunrise or sunset too, there are also good views of the ‘She Lies’ sculpture which floats in the water just by the Opera House which is made of glass and stainless steel.
The Storting Building is the Parliament building of Norway and has been there since 1866, tours are available book however it’s a nice building to walk around and a lovely square which it overlooks, which had an ice rink while we visited. There are also lots of beautiful buildings and trees that line the square.
Food & Drink
Heidis Bier Bar
Heidis Bier Bar was located across the road from our hotel and has a huge selection of beers which was great for my husband! I’m not a beer fan so ended up with an alco pop as they didn’t sell any rose wine. The bar is part of a chain and is great place for any beer lovers!
Kafe Fjord is located in the Norwegian Maritime Museum in Bygdøy. There aren’t many options for places to eat in Bygdøy, and after walking around we wanted to get some lunch before getting back on the boat to city hall. So we went into Kafe Fjord as it was quick and easy, and somewhere warm to sit and wait for the boat to come back and has a view over the pier. We had a vegetarian quiche each and a hot drink, which was about £30 so it is expensive but everywhere is in Oslo. The food was nice but overpriced but there aren’t many options for cheap eats in Bygdøy so we didn’t have much choice and this was still the cheaper option compared to another restaurant we saw there.
Oslo Street Food
Oslo Street Food is a huge centrally located indoor street food hall with lots of choice of stalls and bars. It was popular with lots of locals that looked like they had come for after work dinner and drinks. We visited on our first night in Oslo which was a Friday and the place was heaving, we found a table in a quiet corner and opted for veggie gyros and grabbed some drinks from the bar. The food we had was delicious so really recommend coming here for either lunch or dinner.
Mathallen is another food hall with a variety of vendors selling food and drink along with speciality shops selling a variety of niche food. Mathallen had a bit more of an upmarket vibe to it, and many of the vendors had sectioned areas for seating. We came here on our final night and decided to eat at the Noodles stand as we both love Asian food, and this small eatery had a really nice seating area and was beautifully decorated (definitely aimed at girly girls). It had a restaurant feel to it rather than street food, as you ordered from your table with one of the staff. It was quite pricey but again food in Oslo is not cheap! We had a bao to share to start with and then had a stir fry each, all of which was delicious!
Stockfleths is a famous coffee shop in Oslo and has been around since 1895, and now is a chain and had several placed all around the city. We visited the one in Karl Johans Gate for a chai latte and cinnamon pastry. The service was really good and the staff were really friendly. It’s great for a quick pit stop when exploring the city.
Vippa is a sustainable street food court situated along the waterfront in a converted storage warehouse. The food hall has a selection of food stalls serving a variety of food which is all ethically and sustainably sourced, and Vippa focuses on composting and recycling to ensure it stays green. There is a also a huge focus on community projects and helping locals and people from all around the world to learn new skills. We arrived for lunch just as it opened so it was really nice and quiet! There is an outside undercover seating area too which is really nice as it has views over the fjord.
We decided to order a few dishes and tried some vegetarian dumplings and got some tacos and nachos all were so tasty! This was my favourite street food venue we visited in Oslo as it was really quirky and I loved how ethical and sustainable everything was!
Hotel Verdandi is a new modern centrally located hotel, and only a few minutes walk from the waterfront. Many of Oslo’s main attractions are also within walking distance. The hotel itself is clean, modern and really well decorated. We booked a small economy double which cost about £150 bed and breakfast for 2 nights which we thought was good value for Oslo.
The room was snug but stylish and comfortable with a bathroom which was small but had a good shower and was spotlessly clean. The breakfast was located across the road in the Foodie Restaurant, it was tasty and had a really good choice available with hot food, continental items, pastries and all the usual components you find at breakfast buffets. We enjoyed our stay and would definitely recommend it.
When booking accommodation in Oslo try and opt for a breakfast inclusive option as food is so pricey in the city it’s good to not have to go out and buy breakfast. If you want a modern hotel with a good location then Hotel Verdandi is a great choice!
Transport & Getting Around
Oslo is a really pedestrian friendly capital city and you can easily reach most places by foot. Public transport is really good in Oslo and efficient with buses, trains, trams and ferries. We used the Flytoget Airport Express train which runs every 15 minutes or so between Oslo airport to Oslo Central Station and only takes about 20 minutes, it cost about £17 per person each way. We didn’t even consider a taxi as this seemed like a quick and easy option which is was.
My top tips for any visit to Oslo is to download the Visit Oslo app. It really helped us plan our trip and find things to see and do, its free to download and great to have to hand when exploring the city for plenty of inspiration.
Oslo is probably the most expensive city in Europe we have ever visited and food and drink prices are extortionate! If your on a tight budget I would recommend booking accommodation that includes breakfast. We met a couple in the sauna that we got chatting to who said they made up a packed lunch from their hotel breakfast. I thought it was a good idea as you can easily make a sandwich up at breakfast as there is always bread, cheese, meat and sometimes salad etc, and take some fruit and there you have it – a free packed lunch. If you are going to do this then go prepared and take a Tupperware box of something to pack your lunch in.
There are also plenty of 7-elevens in Oslo if you wanted to get snacks and bits for lunch, however even the food in there was still pretty expensive we bought 2 bags of sweets and that cost about £6! So maybe just see what the difference is between grabbing food from supermarkets and shops to that of restaurants and some of the street food places. We opted to try all the street food places in Oslo as we thought it was a good in the middle choice as it was nice to eat out better than grabbing food from shops but then not quite as expensive as eating in restaurants.