Oslo has gained a reputation for being a safe and cosmopolitan city even by the high standards of other Scandinavian cities, and Norway itself reliably tops polls of national happiness and quality of life year after year. So why don’t more international travellers visit the Norwegian capital? That may be about to change, as Oslo’s tourism industry continues to gain traction and more people discover what’s on offer.
Even leaving aside the historic buildings, quaint streets and ultra-modern attractions of the city itself, Oslo’s location close to picturesque scenery is enough to make it a favourite stop for those in the know. Whether you’re interested in Viking history and want to see where it all started or you’re drawn to the fjords on a sailing excursion, there are many reasons to visit Oslo.
The Tourist Trail
If this will be your first visit to the city, seeking out the top attractions of Oslo will give you a taste of the place before you head off the beaten track to discover its lesser-known delights for yourself.
If you like museums you’ll be spoiled for choice with institutions dedicated to various aspects of the city’s heritage, from the Viking Ship Museum featuring well preserved and restored longboats and other relics and the gigantic Polar Ship Fram Museum, and going right back to prehistory with terrifying dinosaur skeletons at the National History Museum. The National Gallery houses an extensive collection of Scandinavian and international art and the Nobel Peace Centre symbolises Oslo’s dedication to peace.
For photo opportunities, the Vigeland Sculpture Park can be an entertaining day out for all the family, receiving more than one million visitors each year, while Akershus Fortress and the distinctive Norwegian National Opera and Ballet building shouldn’t be missed.
One of the main reasons Oslo makes for an enthralling city break is the abundance of outdoor activities and day trips close to the city, many of which can fit comfortably into a weekend break. Sailing trips along the Oslo Fjord are the chance to see the natural beauty of Norway’s unique coastline and to spend time relaxing on the beach in the summer – yes, Oslo has summer too. If you’re visiting in the winter, head to Holmenkollen for world-class skiing or take a relaxing stroll along Akerselva River to leave the city centre behind and delve into Oslo’s industrial past.
There’s no denying that Oslo can be an expensive city to dine out for the uninitiated, but not if you do your research to find restaurants that offer the best value for mouth-watering meals. Oslo features several Michelin-starred restaurants that are well worth a visit for serious foodies, particularly Maaemo which specialises in local delicacies and uses 100 per cent organic produce. If you’re looking for something more rustic, restaurants like Von Porat offer an affordable alternative to flashier establishments in the Mathallen district or if you’re self-catering you should consider a trip to the city’s popular farmers markets and traditional fishmongers to try your hand at creating classic Norwegian meals yourself.