Small for a capital city, Oslo is charming no matter the season with world class museums, art galleries, restaurants and nature's wonders just a stones throw away. Read more...
Oslo is an interesting mix of history, modern architecture, contemporary museums and hundreds of protected parklands, hills and lakes. Situated on the northernmost tip of Oslofjord, the Norwegian capital may be small but still manages to pack a punch with a busy cultural calendar year round.
Norse sagas tell of Oslo being founded in 1049 by King Harald Hardråde and it has been an important place in Norway for maritime industry ever since. There a number of interesting museums delving into this maritime history on the Bygdoy Peninsula. The Fram Museum houses the 19th century polar explorer ship, Fram, and the Viking Ship Museum has three 9th century reconstructed Viking ships on display. The island peninsula also hosts other notable museums including the Holocaust Museum and the open air Norwegian Museum of Cultural History, where visitors can explore reconstructed medieval buildings and lifestyle exhibits. The hop-on-hop-off mini cruise takes visitors along this coast, as well as to Hovedøya island, where the remains of Hovedøya Abbey can be explored. Founded in 1147, these ruins are the most complete and extensive of a medieval monastery in Norway.
In the city centre, notable sites include the Royal Palace and grounds; the Nobel Peace Centre; the Munch Museum; the City Hall (with colourful interior wall murals); and the Akershus Fortress, a medieval castle built to protect Oslo that has also served as a prison. The hop-on-hop-off bus offers a tour through this area, stopping at all major sites. On a sunny day, taking a picnic to Vigeland Sculpture Park is a wonderful activity, the world's largest sculpture park made by a single artist. The park is has over 200 sculptures and is open to visitors all year round.
The redeveloped waterfront area, colloquially known as Barcode, is home to increasingly impressive and cutting-edge architecture, with many soaring skyscrapers and the impressive angular Opera House. An Oslo Pass is well worth the investment, allowing visitors free public transport and free or discounted entry to many of these sites.
All of this and more is available in Oslo, where nature is just a stones throw away! Over two thirds of the city are protected areas with forests, hills and lakes (343 lakes to be exact!). In the warmer months, hiking, cycling and boating opportunities abound in the nearby fjords and mountains, while the winter brings opportunity for snow fun. Holmenkollen is the recreational ski area of Oslo and home to the Holmenkollen Ski Museum and the daunting 96m long ski jump.
With all the conveniences and attractions of a modern capital as well as cosy cafes, hip bars and trendy restaurants, somehow Oslo still manages to retain a small town charm. While not initially as impressive as her Nordic counterparts, Oslo often surprises travellers with her beauty and has them coming back for more.
Incorporate Oslo into your next holiday, as a starting point to explore the wilds of Norway or as a stop off along a multi-country itinerary.