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Oslo has many things to offer, both as a gateway to Norway’s incredible nature and as a hub for many fascinating museums, sports venues and other cultural institutions. Below are some some of Oslo’s most interesting places to visit to learn more about this northerly nation and experience some of Oslo’s most unique and popular attractions.
This is home to the world’s best-preserved Viking ships which, unusually, were used as grave sites for four important members of Viking society. Both the ships and the burial findings are on display including a large, beautifully intricate wagon, amazingly well-maintain clothing items and the skeletons themselves. The Vikings have played a huge part in Scandinavian culture and the Viking Ship Museum is the perfect place to start your trip to Norway.
For the more active Oslo visitor, a hike in Nordmarka Forest makes for a perfect natural break from the city. The forest has many trails to follow at different activity levels as well as lakes to find and cabin cafés to enjoy. It is a great place for a day-long hike or multi-day backpacking adventures.
This amusement park is lots of fun for the whole family. It is Norway’s largest with over 30 fun roller coasters and other amusement attractions, great games, shops and places to eat. During the summer the water park, BadeFryd, is also open.
For an insight into Norwegian art, including the famous Munch painting “The Scream”, head to the National Gallery. It is Norway’s largest public collection of paintings, drawings and sculptures (it is free on Thursdays).
Akershus Festning is an old medieval fortress which has guarded Oslo from attacks by foreign navies – usually the Swedes – for centuries. It also houses a renaissance castle where several kings and queens have lived and multiple ghosts now haunt the rooms, if rumours are to be believed. Access to the fortress grounds is free and gets you some of the best views of the Oslo Fjord – perfect for a stroll on a chilled summer evening.
The Natural History Museum combines the Zoological and Geological Museums. The museum is situated right by the Botanical Gardens, and all three parts are worth a visit and will give you a comprehensive view of the flora and fauna of Norway, and further afield, during the summer.
This museum celebrates the men and women who have received the Nobel Peace Prize, which is handed out next-door at the City Hall each year. The museum gives you the opportunity to delve into the lives and achievements of the winners and usually has special exhibitions about that year’s Nobel Peace Prize winners.
Norway has a close relationship to the Arctic, and Fram made it possible for Norwegian explorers to venture both to the extreme north and extreme south of the globe, making Norway one of the first nations to properly explore both these areas. The museum is definitely worth a visit if you want to find out more about Norway’s maritime history and what life was like on-board these hazardous explorations.
Skiing and Norway go hand-in-hand and Holmenkollen Ski Museum and Tower should be high on your list in Oslo. Holmenkommen is used for international competitions in ski jumping and it is hard to fully appreciate just how steep the slope really is until you see it in real-life. The museum explores no less than 4,000 years of skiing, while the observation deck at the top of the tower offers fantastic views of Oslo below.
This is one of Norway’s most visited attractions. The park is home to more than 200 sculptures in bronze, granite and cast iron – displaying human emotions and life stages in graphic ways. The artist behind them is Gustav Vigeland, who was also responsible for the design and architectural outline of the park. His large house and studio, built on the premises, is now a museum dedicated to the artist. The park is free and open all year round.
For an introduction to Norwegian culture, this is the place to go. It is one of the world’s oldest and largest open-air museums with 155 traditional houses, farms and apartment blocks transferred here from all parts of Norway. One of its masterpieces is a stave church dating back almost a thousand years. During the summer, the museum offers freshly-baked lefse – a traditional soft type of flatbread, handicraft demonstrations, horse carriage rides and much more.
Even if you do not manage to see a show here, the building is worth a visit in itself. If the weather is good, take a walk on the roof with the locals or see it from a distance and admire the way this beautiful building appears to rise out of the waters of the Oslo Fjord.
Dating back to 1697, Oslo Cathedral has been a prominent part of the city ever since. It has been rebuilt and renovated numerous times, with its current tower added in 1850 and its interior renovated after the Second World War. It is a wonderful mix of many styles and comes across as distinctly Norwegian inside and, with its easily accessible location in the middle of the city, is definitely worth a visit.
Oslo’s City Hall is huge and very easy to spot from afar. The rather stark façade has many sculptures to discover, and the insides are surprisingly decorated and colourful. The wall frescoes were painted by many of Norway’s most prominent artists between the 1920s and 1950s, and they display a fierce glimpse into Norwegian history. Be sure to grab a free brochure from the right-hand corner by the stairs as you enter the main downstairs reception room, where the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded every year.
The Aker Brygge area of Oslo has been built up from an abandoned shipyard and is today one of the most attractive and expensive areas of the city to live in. Its restaurants, bars and art galleries are bustling during both day and night as people enjoy shopping, eating out and the impressive architecture that meticulously combines old and new.
Although the palace is not open to the public, the impressive building at the end of Karl Johansgate is worth a look. The grounds and gardens are free for visitors to wander around and it is worth waiting around for the regular changing of the guard. It is not unusual to meet one of the royals out on a casual stroll around Oslo; one of the most telling displays of Norwegian society’s egalitarianism.
When winter hits Norway, Norwegians take to their skis quicker than even the keenest fish take to water. Only a 20-minute metro ride outside of the city, you’ll find Tryvann, one of the closest ski resorts to reach from the capital. With 18 runs of varying difficulty as well as a ski hire centre on site, there is everything you need for a good day on the slopes.
Based in one of the new buildings in Aker Brygge, which was designed by world-renowned architect Renzo Piano, this art museum is home to a collection of modern and contemporary art. There are always new and exciting exhibitions with work from international artists to explore, and the gallery’s café features one of the city’s most beautiful views of Oslo Fjord.
Situated in Vigelandsparken (The Vigeland Sculpture Park – also called Frognerparken) in an old farm villa, which once belonged to the city’s richest merchant family, the little Museum of Oslo traces the city’s history over the past 1,000 years in a comprehensive and concise way that’ll give you a good understanding of the city.
Anyone but the most hard-pressed aquaphobes out there should make a bee-line for Oslo’s Fjord when they arrive and luckily, it is almost impossible to miss. In good weather, exploring it further through island hopping is a hugely enjoyable experience. The white ferries at Aker Brygge are part of the public transport network and can be used like buses. Discover islands such as Langøyene, Gressholmen, Lindøya and Hovedøya, each of which offers opportunities for swimming, sunbathing, barbecuing and camping.
Featured Image by George Brown.