Oslo is in the southeast of Norway between the waters of the Oslofjord and the green, forested hills. With around 454 km² (175 sq mi), it has an unusually large land area of which two-thirds are forests, hills and lakes.
As the capital of Norway, Oslo is the country’s economic, cultural and scientific centre. It is a vibrant and multicultural city (about a quarter of the population comes from other countries). It’s also one of the gateways to visit the Norwegian Fjords.
Discover things to do and places to see in Oslo, a relaxed and easygoing capital city, ranked among the best in terms of quality of life.
1. Historic Centre
Oslo’s historic area corresponds to King Christian IV’s town from the Renaissance – Christiania. Also known as Kvadraturen (“the quadrature”), because of the rectangular street pattern, it is a compact area developed around the main pedestrian street Karl Johan gate, designed by the architect H. Linstow. Roughly, one may consider that Oslo’s city centre is delimited by the central station to the east, the Royal Palace to the west, and Akershus Fortress to the south.
A few buildings from the 17th and 18th centuries can still be seen in Kvadraturen, such as the city’s oldest restaurant, Café Engebret. In addition, you’ll find some of Oslo’s main tourist attractions: the National Theatre, the Royal Palace (Slottet), the National Gallery, the University, the City Hall (Rådhuset), the Cathedral, and the Norwegian Parliament (Stortinget). This is also a popular commercial area with shopping centres such as Byporten, Paleet and GlasMagasinet.
2. Opera House
The Opera House is the city’s newest and proudest building, having received several prestigious awards. Located right at the harbour, it invites visitors at the pedestrian plaza to climb its roofs and enjoy panoramic views of Oslo and the fjord. The large glass windows provide glimpses of opera and ballet rehearsals.
3. Oslo Museums
Oslo has more than 50 museums and galleries spread throughout the city to suit all interests. Some of the most interesting are the Munch Museum, devoted to the Norwegian painter Edvard Munch, the National Gallery, where you’ll find Norway’s largest public collection of paintings, drawings and sculptures, and the Ibsen Museum, devoted to the life and work of the Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen who lived during the 19th century.
In Bygdøy peninsula, you’ll find several of Oslo’s most popular museums, such as the open-air Museum of Cultural History (Norsk Folkemuseum), and the Viking Ship Museum (Vikingskipshuset).
4. Akershus Fortress
Akershus Fortress is the place to discover the history of Oslo and enjoy a summer day. King Håkon V ordered construction of the medieval castle in a strategic location, which was completed in 1300. Later, King Christian IV (1588-1648) converted the building into a a Renaissance castle and royal residence. Today, the fortress no longer serves as a royal residence, but the city still holds important events in it, such as concerts, public ceremonies and celebrations. There are guided tours to Akershus Fortress during the summer months.
5. Frogner / Vigeland Park
Oslo is a city surrounded by green, with amazing landscapes. One of these areas is Frogner Park, the largest park in the city, located about 3km (2mi) from the centre. Here, you’ll find one of Oslo’s main attractions consisting of more than 200 sculptures in bronze, granite and cast iron by Gustav Vigeland. Sculptures of nude people depict several aspects of human existence, such as family, work, anger, motherhood, sex, brotherhood.
6. Oslofjord Islands – Hovedøya
The islands of the Oslofjord make a great a day trip from Oslo. Hovedøya island is the closest to the city centre. Here, you’ll find beaches, hiking trails, and cultural heritage, namely the medieval ruins of a Cistercian monastery dated from 1147. There are ferries to Hovedøya from Aker Brygge, close to the city centre, all year round.
7. Oslo Winter Park
If visiting Oslo during winter or early spring, you may want to try some winter sports at Oslo Winter Park. Located in Tryvann, a 40-minute subway journey from the city centre, this large ski resort offers a variety of challenges 530 metres (1,742 feet) above sea level. The winter season at Oslo Vinterpark is between December and April. The ski area includes ski school, rental, and repair, and a café.