You’ve probably read about all the cool things you can do and see in the Norwegian capital—there are so many, there’s practically something for every personality type. What happens, though, when you don’t have the time (or the budget) to try everything? How do you prioritize, making sure you won’t miss out on anything essential? We remove the guesswork and give you the absolute must-try experiences you should have in Oslo.
To say that Gustav Vigeland had some issues would be an understatement (one look at his sculpture of a man fighting and kicking babies should convince you), but a stroll through Vigeland Park, situated inside Frogner Park, is essential when visiting Oslo. This is, after all, the largest sculpture park made by a single artist in the world. Walk up to the Ovelisk, take a selfie with the naked statues, and check this one off your list.
To say Tim Wendelboe brews (or rather, aeropresses) the best coffee in Oslo is no exaggeration, it’s a fact. This coffee shop, micro-roastery and coffee brewing school in Grünerløkka has won the Nordic Roaster competition (a blind tasting) three years in a row. Tim himself is the 2004 World Barista Champion and 2005 World Cup Tasting Champion, and currently consults the new Noma in Copenhagen on coffee matters—so you know your cortado will be impeccable.
In contrast to the other two Scandi capitals, Oslo has a much younger vibe. This is partly due to the fact that a large fire in 1624 destroyed almost everything, so the city had to be rebuilt. The one thing that survived the fire? The Akershus Fortress, to this day standing by the waterside, unchanged (and free to enter). Walk within its walls that were built in 1300 and get a better understanding of how ancient this city actually is.
Edvard Munch is one of Norway’s most famous artists and definitely one of the most important painters of all time. It makes sense, then, that his presence can be felt all around the city. To begin with, Oslo Airport is now a mini Munch museum, so you can start your visit on the right foot. Then, there is the Munchmuseet on the Move project, which has already started and which will be concluded in 2019. Before the new Munch Museum opens downtown next to the Opera, temporary art spaces and exhibitions trace the museum’s move from Tøyen to the waterfront in Bjørvika.
This brick building in the industrial neighborhood of Vulkan, next to the Akerselva River, is like a cornucopia of flavors from all over the country. In Mathallen, you can find anything from cheese, ice cream, sausages, meats, fish, and vegetables from small-scale producers to curious desserts from Portugal, Italian pasta and wines, and more. Grab a table with friends (or sit outside if the weather is on your side) and take turns visiting each stand to try the goods.
It’s true that Oslo has many museums. Luckily for you, the ones you shouldn’t miss are all in one place: the Bygdøy Peninsula, just a quick bus (or ferry) ride from central Oslo. You should definitely visit the Kon-Tiki Museum—to see Thor Heyerdahl’s famous raft, the one that took him across the Pacific Ocean—and the Viking Ship Museum, where you’ll get to share the room with actual Viking ships and learn more about their military tactics. What will blow your mind, however, is the open-air Norwegian Folk Museum: you’ll get to walk amid traditional houses from all over Norway, make your way through an old village, and visit a stave church that dates back to 1200.
There’s a reason you see cranes all over the city: Oslo keeps changing. Within the last 10 years, iconic buildings like the National Opera and the Astrup Fearnley Museum set the tone for a city that’s unafraid to play with sharp angles and strange, geometrical shapes. Take a walk near the Barcode Project (12 buildings shaped to resemble a barcode from afar), explore the revamped neighborhoods of Vulkan, Tjuvholmen and Sørenga, and imagine what the new Deichman Library—currently under construction next to the Opera—will look like once it’s finished.
To get a table at Maaemo, Norway’s only three-starred Michelin restaurant, you’ll have to be smart and plan ahead—as in, at least three months ahead. Esben Holmboe Bang’s seasonal menu, with produce from the restaurant’s own farm, is totally worth it.
You can’t have a complete “must-do” checklist for any city without at least one drink along the way. In Oslo, let that one drink be a cocktail at Himkok, one of the world’s top establishments according to The World’s 50 Best Bars. The spirits here are of the utmost quality and have been produced in the bar’s onsite micro-distillery. Go for an aquavit-based cocktail and feel good about what a worldly and sophisticated drinker you are.
This must-try experience may sound weird and yet one of Oslo’s best value propositions is how easy it is to hop on a train from Oslo Sentralstasjon and explore Norway—or even Sweden. In case you’re wondering, the train to Bergen takes seven hours and every minute of the route is a scenic one.