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Akerselva River
Photograph: Shutterstock

The 13 best things to do in Oslo

The best things to do in Oslo cover everything from museums to the hip Grünerløkka district

Written by
Ellie Ross

Forget all your reservations regarding what you’ve heard about price tags; the magic of Oslo is worth every single krone. The Norwegian capital has an advantageous location between the mountains and the sea, a green-first approach to life that should be the norm the world over and a cooler-than-cool aura that you can’t fake. Oslo is home to world-class museums, innovative restaurants and a burgeoning coffee culture that will soon be the envy of the rest. Don’t be surprised; it is the Norwegian way.

The Norwegian capital is also, arguably, the capital of Scandi cool and the range of things to do in Oslo covers all manner of tastes and interests. The galleries here are at the forefront of historic and modern trends, while the nightlife is far more exciting than its reputation suggests. Okay, you can maybe complain about the prices found in the latter, but it is worth it for the, you know, everything else. Fun, compact, vibrant and creative, there’s something for everyone in Oslo.

Done something on this list and loved it? Share it with the hashtag #TimeOutDoList and tag @TimeOutEverywhere. Find out more about how Time Out selects the very best things to do all over the world.

Best things to do in Oslo

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 costs just 38 NOK (same as a bus). Buy a day pass and jump from island to island, or book a guided tour.

What is it? Established in 1837, this is Norway’s largest public collection of art. Highlights include Edvard Munch's The Scream, Gustav Vigeland's Mother and Child sculpture and an entire room dedicated to art depicting fairy tales.

Why go? If you’re time-poor but want to see work by Oslo’s most famous son, head here. The Munch Museum is only two stops on the Metro, but the National Gallery is right in the city centre. Get an Oslo Pass to see them both. 

Urban sauna

3. 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 beside 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.

What is it? Opened in 2005, 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.


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).

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.


What is it? One of Scandinavia’s most iconic modern buildings, the Opera House is a real 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 marked 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.

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 sharing 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.


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.

Akerselva River
Photograph: Shutterstock

10. 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.


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 it is to miss a key part of local cuisine. Try it at Tim Wendelboe.

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.


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.

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