From the stylish waterfront neighborhood of Aker Brygge to the green open spaces of Frogner Park and the snowcapped peaks of Holmenkollen, Oslo is a city that strives to please everyone. Whether you’re searching for independent cafes and incredible nightlife, peaceful places to relax and surround yourself with nature, or museums and galleries to indulge your cultural side, you’ll find what you’re looking for in Oslo!
With world-class opera houses, incredible artwork almost everywhere you turn, gorgeous botanical gardens, and some of the best music festivals in Europe, you’ll never be at a loss for what to do in Oslo, no matter when you visit.
Travel in the summer for the chance to chill by the water’s edge, enjoy outdoor movie theaters, or have a go at ziplining. Or visit during the winter to warm up in a steamy floating sauna, ice skate in the center of town, or discover the city’s magical Christmas markets.
With such a huge choice of cool things to see and do, you may not know where to begin. To give you a helping hand, we’ve put together a list of the absolute best things to do in Oslo. Add these fun activities and attractions to your Oslo bucket list, and you’re guaranteed to have a fantastic time exploring “The Tiger City.”
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15 Fun and Unique Things to Do In Oslo
1. Walk on the roof of the Oslo Opera House
Even if you’re not into classical music, the Oslo Opera House is still home to one of the coolest things to do in Oslo. If you’re not in the mood to go inside, take a walk on the roof instead and enjoy some of the best views of the city.
You don’t have to be sneaky – the roof of the Oslo Opera House was designed to be walked on! The standout building is in the very heart of the city. From here, you can see the fjord archipelago with its tiny brightly-painted wooden houses. You also get great views of the city that stretch all the way up to the rolling hills and towering mountains far away.
The Oslo Opera House hosts many events throughout the year, a number of which are performed outside during the summer. Check the website to see what’s happening when you’re there. It’s magical to watch a ballet display from this unique location!
2. Visit the Kon-Tiki Museum
For some of the best things to see in Oslo, check out The Kon-Tiki Museum. This fascinating exhibition focuses on the adventures of Thor Heyerdahl, a 20th-century anthropologist. It’s named after the remarkable wooden boat in which he sailed from Peru to Polynesia in 1947.
The point of his dangerous journey was to prove that Polynesians had the ability to emigrate from South America to the Central and South Pacific. His journey was a success and he proved his point!
That’s not the only perilous adventure Heyerdahl had. He also sailed from Morocco to Barbados on a papyrus reed boat to show others that ancient Egyptians could have crossed the Atlantic. Again, he was successful and proved his point.
Inside the Kon-Tiki Museum, you’ll get to see the original boats he sailed on. There’s also a replica of the Tigris, on which he sailed from Iraq to Pakistan. An underwater exhibition with models of fish and sharks, a 100-foot replica of an Easter Island cave, and a special display designed to captivate children make up the rest of the museum.
3. Check out the unusual statues at Vigeland Park
You’ll find one of the most unique things to do in Oslo in Vigeland Park. This park is open 24/7 and it’s free to enter. But the best part is that it’s home to some of the most bizarre statues you’ll ever see.
Vigeland Park boasts more than 200 sculptures created by 20th-century sculptor Gustav Vigeland. The statues are made from bronze and granite and feature the kinds of scenes you’ve probably only ever experienced in wacky dreams!
There’s a man fighting off four toddlers, a woman being ridden by a baby using her plaited hair as reins, a giant angry baby having a tantrum, and a man attempting to throw a woman into the water.
One of the most spectacular pieces is the colossal totem. It towers 46 feet into the sky and features 121 naked bodies. It took a staggering 14 years to carve out of a single piece of granite!
4. Walk around the University Botanical Garden
If you visit in summer, one of the best things to do in Oslo is to enjoy a leisurely stroll around the University Botanical Garden. This beautiful garden is the oldest of its kind in Norway and boasts 7,500 different species from all over the world.
The garden was established in Tøyen in 1814 and is a wonderfully peaceful and stunning part of the city. The highlight is the giant arboretum, which takes up most of the garden. Here you can admire 1,800 different plants of all colors, shapes, and sizes.
The plants are organized scientifically, and there’s loads of information telling you about them and the places they’re from.
As well as the plants, flowers, and trees, the University Botanical Garden is also dotted with woven sculptures designed and created by artist Tom Hare. Other interesting parts include the 1876 Victoria House (named after the Victoria water lilies in the nearby pond) and the 1868 Palm House.
The Scent Garden is another fascinating place. It was designed for visually-impaired visitors, but it’s something everyone can enjoy.
5. Start the day with smoked salmon
There’s no better way to begin your day in Oslo than with a freshly toasted bagel smothered with rich cream cheese and generously laden with smoked salmon. Norwegian smoked salmon is some of the best in the world, and it can be found all over, from fancy restaurants to simple cafes and grocery stores.
In Norway, smoked salmon is given a long time to mature. This gives it its unique, deep flavor, rich butteriness, and melt-in-your-mouth texture. It’s so good that you can eat it on its own with a tiny squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
Fiskeriet Youngstorget is one of the best places to buy smoked salmon and loads of other fresh and smoked fish. Here it’s served chilled with mustard-mayonnaise, toasted breadcrumbs, pickled seaweed, and a fresh fennel salad.
For something a little cheaper, buy your own smoked salmon and have a picnic. The brand Jackob’s in the grocery stores Ultra and Meny is incredible.
6. Relax in a floating sauna
When all the Oslo sightseeing gets to be too much for you, take it easy and spend a few hours in a floating sauna. Opposite the Oslo Opera House, you’ll find KOK, a sauna company that boasts two sauna boats.
The wood-burning saunas can get incredibly hot. When you need to cool off, you can step outside and enjoy the cool air. Or if you’re really brave, you can jump off the sauna and go for a swim in the sea!
You can’t buy anything in the sauna, so make sure you take enough water with you to avoid dehydration. While you can take a little alcohol with you (up to two units per person), you can’t take anything dark in color (such as Coca-Cola or red wine) which could stain the wood.
If you visit in spring or summer, you can even take a boat trip in one of the floating saunas. Relax and gaze through the floor-to-ceiling windows as your captain takes you past the highlights of the city. The saunas are driven by solar-powered electric motors and are eco-friendly.
7. Party at Oya Festival
One of the top things to do in Oslo is to go to a music festival. The city holds a bunch of amazing music festivals throughout the summer that attract all kinds of big international artists and bands.
Oya Festival began back in 1999 and has since transformed into one of the city’s biggest and most popular outdoor music events. The festival goes on for four spellbinding days in August and always has an incredible lineup. Some past artists include Florence + the Machine, H.E.R., Sonic Youth, and the Arctic Monkeys.
Around 60,000 people attend the festival each year to see the live music performances held on three stages. If you can’t wait for the festival to begin, you can warm up with the Club Night, which takes place the night before. It’s held in a number of small clubs throughout the city and gives you a taste of what’s to come.
As well as the music stages, Oya Festival also features a market where you can grab everything from organic eats to original records and cartoon posters.
8. Explore the Norwegian Folk Museum
Step back in time with one of the most fun things to do in Oslo and visit the Norwegian Folk Museum. Located on the Bygdøy Peninsula, this spectacular open-air attraction has been going on for more than 115 years!
The Norwegian Folk Museum is less like a typical museum and more like a small village made up of all kinds of urban and rural Norwegian buildings from the Middle Ages all the way up until the 20th century. Here you can see the original Gol Stave Church, which was built in the middle of the 12th century, in addition to over 150 other historical buildings.
While the village is fun to walk around, you’ll discover even more wonders if you step inside the buildings. Many of the structures feature indoor exhibits that boast traditional Norwegian outfits, medical history displays, and toys children played with centuries ago.
The best time to visit is during the summer months. This is when you can feed the farm animals that call the museum their home, go on romantic horse and carriage rides, and even learn how to make traditional lefse flatbread yourself!
9. Check out the Tjuvholmen Sculpture Park
For some of the best sights in Oslo, spend some time at Tjuvholmen Sculpture Park. Designed by Renzo Piano (who also designed the neighboring Astrup Fearnley Museum), the park is filled with all kinds of sculptures created by renowned contemporary artists from all over the world.
Antony Gormley, Louise Bourgeois, Ellsworth Kelly, and Anish Kapoor are just some of the artists who have their work publicly on display here.
Most of the giant sculptures are exhibited on lush lawns and artificial gravel beaches next to the fjord. They’re all remarkable and entirely unique, from the bright orange anchor by the water and the odd-looking face on some steps to a reindeer made from a motorcycle and a man walking in the water with stilts.
Even without the sculptures, this part of Oslo is a wonderful place to enjoy a walk. There are loads of cafes, bars, and restaurants here where you can have a break before continuing with your sightseeing.
10. Dig into a giant plate of meatballs
While Italy or Sweden may be the first place that pops into your mind when you think of meatballs, Norway does an amazing version of the classic dish, too. Similar to Swedish meatballs, Norwegian meatballs are smothered in a rich brown sauce and are a traditional comfort food dish you’ll find on practically every restaurant menu.
Norwegian meatballs are typically served alongside potatoes, steamed carrots, and tart cranberries. But some restaurants do their own spin on them and offer them with different accompaniments.
One of the best places to try this comfort food is in Kaffistova. This restaurant specializes in traditional Norwegian cuisine and opened in 1901. You can even see some of the original furnishings in the Norwegian Folk Museum!
Dovrehallen Bar & Restaurant is another fantastic place to dig into meatballs. Here they’re served with stewed cabbage. Because they’re freshly made and super popular, the meatballs aren’t available every day. But don’t be put off – there are plenty of other classic Norwegian dishes to try here, too!
11. Wander around Aker Brygge
When you’re in the mood for a casual stroll, one of the best things to do in Oslo is to explore Aker Brygge. This cool and trendy neighborhood is one of the most sophisticated parts of the city.
Lining the waterside, Aker Brygge is home to all kinds of chic cafes, glamorous cocktail bars, and high-end restaurants. You’ll also come across a handful of designer fashion stores and gorgeous boutiques here.
Up until 1928, this neighborhood was a rough shipyard surrounded by brick warehouses and factory buildings. Over time, the up-and-coming neighborhood was revamped, turning it into a place visitors would actually want to be. Today it’s one of the top locations to wine, dine, shop, and simply wander around.
This part of the city can get very pricey. If you’re hungry and don’t want to shell out the money to dine in one of the restaurants, we recommend ordering something from one of the food trucks instead. Sit on the pier, dangle your legs over the water, and enjoy your own budget al fresco dining experience!
12. Visit the Munch Museum
The Munch Museum is one of the most popular Oslo attractions. Here you can admire more than 26,000 works of art created by Edvard Munch, including 1,183 paintings.
As well as the permanent exhibitions, which are taken from Munch’s personal collections, the museum also boasts a busy events program with music, performances, movie screenings, and art lectures. The Scream painting is also on permanent display, and it’s worth visiting the museum to see that famous piece alone!
One of the largest single-artist museums in the world, the Munch Museum was created after Munch left all his works of art to Oslo in his will. An architecture competition followed to decide what the building to house the pieces would look like. Spanish architect Juan Herreros won the honor of designing it.
Standing around 200 feet tall in a tower shape, the museum stands out from the rest of the buildings and looks like a work of art itself. The “static zone” has strict conditions to preserve the artwork, while the “dynamic zone” features floor-to-ceiling windows with remarkable views of the city.
13. Have lunch at Mathallen
When you’re feeling hungry, one of the must-do things in Oslo is to stop by Mathallen. An incredible food hall that boasts dishes from all over the world, Mathallen is a foodie’s dream come true.
The immense industrial brick building is home to over 30 individual bars, restaurants, street food vendors, and specialty food stores.
Here you can dig into everything from Norwegian potato dumplings to French duck baguettes, Spanish tapas, Peruvian ceviche, Mexican tacos, Italian pizza, and Hungarian stews. Whatever you’re in the mood for, you’re guaranteed to find it here.
There are plenty of things you can take back home, too. Wine, olive oil, dried herbs and spices, chocolates, and candies are just some of the things you can buy that will be fine on a flight.
When you’re there, look for posters advertising events during your visit. Cookery classes, quiz nights, food festivals, and cooking demonstrations are all held regularly and are great fun to join in on.
14. Join in on the festivities in the run-up to Christmas
The run-up to Christmas is one of the most magical times of the year to visit Oslo. Known locally as Jul, Christmas is celebrated with all kinds of wonderful things, from traditional Christmas markets to dazzling ice skating rinks.
The Christmas market at the Norwegian Folk Museum is one of our favorites. The place is already whimsical enough, but cover it in a blanket of snow and decorate it with twinkling lights, and it becomes something even more incredible.
Head to Grünerløkka or Frogner to pick up some fantastic Christmas gifts or souvenirs. And SNØ, the only indoor ski resort in Norway, is an excellent place to go for guaranteed snow, whatever the weather.
Christmas Eve is the big celebration day for locals, so expect most bars and restaurants to be closed from late afternoon onward. Some places will be open, though. So if you fancy digging into a festive Norwegian feast of lamb, ribs, turkey, or fresh fish, look for restaurants advertising special Christmas Eve menus.
15. Get tipsy on aquavit
Norwegian aquavit is the most popular type of liquor in Norway. It’s loved so much that you’ll find it on practically every bar and restaurant menu, as well as in all liquor stores.
The one-of-a-kind alcoholic drink is made from distilled potatoes, giving it a vodka-like taste. But while vodka is fairly neutral in flavor, aquavit has a distinctive caraway taste.
For it to be official and genuine Norwegian aquavit, the drink must be made from at least 95% Norwegian potatoes and aged in oak barrels for six months or more. The final requirement is that it must contain dill or caraway seeds for the characteristic taste.
Linie is the biggest brand of aquavit, which you can pick up from any liquor store. If you’re not too keen on drinking the stuff straight, you’ll find all kinds of aquavit cocktails available from bars throughout Oslo.
It tastes amazing when combined with Aperol and sweet vermouth for an intense take on the classic Negroni. Or have it mixed with vanilla vodka, coffee liqueur, and espresso for a delicious dessert drink!
There you have it! The 15 best things to do in Oslo. What’s your favorite thing to do in “The Tiger City?”
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