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Bjørvika District in Oslo
Photograph: Franco Francisco Maria /

The 12 best things to do in Oslo

The home of Scandi cool? The best things to do in Oslo cover everything from food courts to the hip Grünerløkka district

Written by
Ellie Ross

Oslo isn’t the cheapest city on the planet, but the Norwegian capital is worth every single øre. With an advantageous location between the mountains and the sea, the best things to do in Oslo embody the ‘something for everyone’ dream, from world-class museums to innovative restaurants via a blossoming culture cool, and all the Scandi cool that you can dream of.

Oslo is at the forefront of historic and modern trends yet still goes about its business in a charming manner. That’s the Norwegian way, really, excelling at everything without breaking a sweat and being darn friendly about it all the while. Fun, compact, vibrant and creative, get ready to fall in love with Oslo.

Best things to do in Oslo

Oslo Fjord

1. Oslo Fjord

What is it? In summer, the water bustles with sailboats and the islands that dot the inner Oslo Fjord – including Hovedøya and Gressholmen – are ideal for swimming, beach picnics and hiking.

Why go? It only takes five minutes by ferry to reach the main island, Hovedøya, with its lush forests, beaches and monastery ruins – and it costs just 38 NOK (the same as a bus). Buy a day pass, and jump from island to island, or book a guided tour.

Nobel Peace Centre
Johannes Granseth / Nobel Peace Center

2. Nobel Peace Centre

What is it? This interactive exhibition is dedicated to the acclaimed Peace Prize and its previous winners. While the permanent exhibition is about the winners, its ever-changing exhibits range from photos capturing extreme wealth to those examining anorexia.

Why go? It offers a fascinating insight into the significance of the Peace Prize, as well as issues relating to war, peace and conflict resolution. It’s also super family-friendly, and children under 16 get in free.

Oslo Opera House
Erik Burg

3. Oslo Opera House

What is it? One of Scandinavia’s most iconic modern buildings, the Opera House is a 21st-century marvel. Designed to resemble a glacier rising out of the fjord, its prime role is to showcase opera and ballet performances.

Why go? In many ways, this building was the start of a new era for Oslo and the regeneration of its waterfront. Don’t miss a walk on top of its roof for a superb architectural experience, with wonderful city views to boot.


4. Vippa

What is it? The city’s food court, located inside an old industrial building. The various stalls serve a mixture of affordable, international cuisine, such as pulled pork tacos and crab sandwiches.

Why go? Its location at the tip of the city makes it slightly off the tourist route. It’s popular with locals who enjoy the eclectic mix of Oslo’s food cultures in a relaxed atmosphere with superb sea views.

Urban sauna

5. Urban sauna

What is it? One of the coolest things to do in Oslo is to sizzle in an urban sauna. The harbour has a number of places where you can heat up besides the coals – before a refreshing plunge in the fjord. 

Why go? The health benefits of saunas are well-documented and this is a great way of embracing local life. SALT is a nomadic art project where you can relax in water-filled barrels, while KOK is a floating sauna with epic fjord views.

Ekeburg Sculpture Park

6. Ekeburg Sculpture Park

What is it? Around a 30-minute walk from central Oslo, this wooded park featuring 31 sculptures beautifully overlooks the city and is where Munch found his inspiration for The Scream. 

Why go? Always open and free to visit, the park features works by artists including Salvador Dali and Damien Hirst and has a top-notch restaurant, Ekebergrestauranten (we recommend the mussels).

Tim Wendelboe
Tim Wendelboe

7. Tim Wendelboe

What is it? Oslo is having a coffee moment, with world champion baristas such as Tim Wendelboe importing, roasting and grinding coffee beans with pizazz. There are dozens of independent coffee shops popping up all over town, serving everything from black, filtered brews to espressos.

Why go? Norwegians are the world’s second-biggest coffee drinkers, so to skip sampling their ‘lightly roast’ drink is to miss a key part of local cuisine. Try it at Tim Wendelboe.

Bon Lío
Bon Lío

8. Bon Lío

What is it? A cute little local gem serving delicious and authentic Spanish tapas, wine and cocktails in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. Head chef and owner Cato Wara was born in Norway but grew up in Mallorca, so his cooking is Nordic-Spanish.

Why go? It’s an intimate space – seating only around 35 diners – and is often packed, so book ahead. It’s not cheap, but for that, you get ten scrumptious courses made with the finest Spanish and Norwegian ingredients.

Sky Photo

9. Holmenkollen

What is it? A huge Olympic ski jump, located within easy reach of the city by Metro, with a viewing platform and a museum that delves into skiing history and polar exploration, plus snowboarding and modern skiing.

Why go? No trip to Oslo is complete without taking in the panoramic vistas from the top of this impressive tower – the best views in the city. Book a whole day tour, including the ski jump.


10. Vaaghals

What is it? Located in the Barcode area, a short walk from Oslo’s central station, this restaurant is a great place to come and sample traditional Norwegian dishes and share platters with friends in a laid-back atmosphere.

Why go? If you want to experience a uniquely Norwegian way of communal dining, this is it. The restaurant celebrates ‘skifte’, an old tradition where food is passed around the table, with sharing plates made using fresh, locally-sourced seasonal ingredients.

Akerselva River
Photograph: Shutterstock

11. Akerselva River

What is it? The 5.1 mile-long Akerselva river starts at Lake Maridalsvannet and flows right through to downtown Oslo, dividing the east and west sides of the city. The trails along the river are perfect for hiking and cycling.

Why go? Strolling along the river is a great way to explore different neighbourhoods, including Grünerløkka, the hipster area, where you’ll find vintage boutiques, quirky cafes and pubs stretching along the riverbanks. Try Nedre Foss Gard for al-fresco dining and Ingensteds night club.

Marian Broz(Mario)

12. Himkok

What is it? Housed inside one of the oldest brick buildings in downtown Oslo, this ‘hidden’ speakeasy bar serves avant-garde cocktails made with spirits distilled on-site and featuring quirky ingredients, such as Norwegian brown cheese, ginseng and horseradish.

Why go? Find out for yourself why this was named among the top 20 bars in the world. It also has a cider bar, outdoor kitchen and greenhouse growing plants and herbs used in drinks and food.

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