Oslo is a beautiful city in a beautiful country for visitors of any age. Its close proximity to nature and its unique Nordic culture presents the opportunity to build up a special collection of experiences that you won’t find anywhere else. The 20s are for travelling, challenging yourself and finding your feet, and these 20 ideas for what to do in Oslo give you plenty of opportunities to help you on your way.
The Oslo Fjord is one of the Norwegian capital’s best features. Visiting the charming islands closest to the city centre takes just minutes via public transport, and you’ll find some of Oslo’s nicest and most quiet beaches here.
On a related note, there are so many different boat trips available during summers in Oslo that it would almost be a sin not to try one. Though many are a bit touristy, who can resist a fjord dinner to live music or a combined swimming and sailing trips to the archipelago? You can even take the ferry all the way to Copenhagen should you so wish!
Blå is Oslo’s most famous avant-garde club-come-marketplace-come-restaurant-come-art gallery depending on the date and time of day. It’s located in an old industrial complex just by the Akerselva river; pay special attention to all the little details such as the special water swan sculpture and the outdoor chandelier.
Okay, so unless you’re a professional ski jumper, don’t quite go all the way on this one. Holmenkollen ski jump, one of Oslo’s most famous landmarks, recently had a stroke of genius and added a zip line to allow mere mortals to experience some of what the pros feel when they make the crazy decision to put their faith in gravity and two thin little boards strapped to their feet.
You may think you know your way around a bottle, but we guarantee that you have never experienced anything like this before. Oslo is home to the world’s largest collection of mini bottles, with nearly 50,000 of the little guys spread across a three-storey gallery. It even features a mysterious slide down to the “horror room” for those brave enough…
It may not be a revelation that skiing is great in Norway, but what may be less well known is that you can reach your first full ski centre even within Oslo’s metro system. In winter, you can pretty much ski anywhere without sticking out like a sore and frozen thumb – it’s what Norwegians do.
Bet you didn’t see that coming. Norwegians love skiing, and a silly little thing like a complete lack of snow isn’t going to stop them. Norway is one of the only countries in the world where you can experience “roller skis” without suspicious glances from your compatriots, so why not try them out while you’re here?
Norwegian creatives tend to take a deep and somewhat dark look at human existence, be it the music of Grieg, Munch’s paintings or Vigeland’s sculptures. While Grieg was from Bergen, his contemporaries Munch, Vigeland and Ibsen were all large presences in Oslo.
Considered a masterpiece today, Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House play was considered scandalous by many when it came out in 1879 for its questioning of typical gender roles, its portrayal of marriage and its controversial female lead. Ibsen walked from his flat a few hundred metres away to the Grand Hotel at exactly the same time every day. Today, the square that he used to cross has been decorated with quotes from his works.
Who better to take inspiration from? Oslo hands over the Nobel Peace Prize every year. Guests stay at the Grand Hotel while the ceremony takes place at the town hall, which is also free to enter. Just on the other side of the road lies the Nobel Peace Center, which hosts permanent exhibitions on the famous award’s winners as well as changing thought-provoking installations.
Full disclosure: It’s a little mysterious how and when Norwegians know a lake will be safe enough to skate on. Perhaps it’s a genetically transferred instinct, like how birds know to fly south when it gets cold. What we do know is the skating happens every winter, even in tiny little park lakes in the city centre. Your safest bet is to hunt down a Norwegian ice-skater in action and ask for tips – otherwise, please keep to one of Oslo’s many ice rinks.
To be more accurate, this is tobogganing. Head to Korketrekkeren in Oslo for the biggest adrenaline rush you’re likely to ever experience on a sled while asking yourself the crucial question: Toboggan or not toboggan? The mountain course covers 1,500 metres (nearly 5,000 feet) and takes you from one metro station to another six stops further down, which means you can take the metro back up and do it again and again and again.
This is another Norwegian national sport. Everyone goes hiking all year round, but particular at Easter. Bring a Kvikklunsj chocolate bar and an orange to feel extra Norwegian.
Norway is a beautiful and magnificent country, but cheap it ain’t, particularly where alcohol is concerned. On the upside, you’ll really come to savour every drop of beer or wine that crosses your lips. The state has a monopoly on the sale of wine and hard liquor, so you’ll have to buy these from the Norwegian state in the Vinmonopolet shops; it does mean that they can buy and sell good wine at pretty decent prices, though.
Norway’s national day is crazy. You’ll never see so many people dressed up in odd but beautiful old-school folk costumes, enthusiastic flag-waving children or hung-over school students in red dungarees as you will in Oslo on the 17th of May each year.
Vettakollen neighbours Holmenkollen, has great hiking trails and will grant you some of the most beautiful views of Oslo and the fjord. You may even want to combine it with the next idea…
Norway’s allemannsrett (“everyone’s right”) gives you the right to camp almost anywhere in the countryside for a night or two – do check the specifics, though.
The floating sauna may be one of Oslo’s best-kept secrets. It is available for booking all year round if you can pin it down, which means that you can even challenge your inner Viking with a dip in the frozen fjord in winter before enjoying the sauna with up to 11 of your friends if you want to.
Skaugum is built up around a backyard in three floors and features a wide variety of (often free) concerts and DJs throughout the year, representing lots of different types and genres of music and a friendly atmosphere – particularly on the weekends.
One of the best features of Oslo’s beautiful Opera House is that you can walk all over it. The roof, which sometimes hosts outside concerts, is perfect for admiring the amazing sunsets that Oslo often gets; and at the height of summer, the sun only really sets around midnight – perfect for an evening outside with friends or a loved one.
Featured image by Claudia Regina.