Take in the magnificent art, inspiring food scene and vibrant nightlife on a short break to Norway’s quirky and creative capital city. Here’s the best way to spend a long weekend in Oslo.
Morning: Start your day with a hand-brewed coffee
Norwegians take their coffee very seriously, so follow their lead and head straight to Mocca in the Briskeby neighbourhood. “Without a doubt, the best spot for a hand-brewed coffee or espresso shot on the west side of Oslo,” says food writer and photographer Anders Husa. “Don’t miss out on its delicious croissants.”
Afterwards, get your culture fix in leafy peninsular Bygdøy for a choice of first-rate museums. Walk to the Solli bus stop after coffee, and then jump on the 30 bus for the 10-minute journey to Bygdøy. If you’re visiting in the summer, get off at Bygdøy itself to visit the fascinating Fram Museum dedicated to polar exploration. Note that it opens earlier than the other museums at 9am between June and September.
Next, walk 15 minutes to either the Viking Ship Museum, which houses well-preserved Viking ships and artefacts, or the Museum of Cultural History for a journey into Norway’s past.
Afternoon: Dine at a legendary lunch spot
Return to the city centre on the 30 bus, and get off at Wessels Plass to walk down Karl Johans Gate, Oslo’s main pedestrianised street lined with shops and restaurants. Reach the Royal Palace by 1.30pm to watch the changing of the guard at King Harald V’s official residence.
Duck into the legendary Grand Café afterwards for avocado on rye bread or a monte cristo sandwich with dirty fries. Opened since 1874, it’s where playwright Henrik Ibsen ate lunch every day, while artist Edvard Munch once offered to swap a painting for 100 steak dinners. Fittingly, Munch’s most famous painting, The Scream, will hang in the brand-new National Museum, a five-minute walk from here, when it opens in 2021.
Wander past City Hall next to the Nobel Peace Center, where you can find out more about all the previous winners. The bustling former industrial site Aker Bryyge is a short stroll from here, and great for shopping and people-watching afterwards.
Evening: Sample an unmissable tasting menu
Walk 10 minutes to Imperial and The Tea Room, run by Luke Henderson and Jefferson Goldring, the former chef and sommelier at Oslo’s famous three-Michelin-star restaurant Maaemo. “They got together to create two concepts,” explains Anders. “Imperial is a colonial-style wine and cocktail bar with a snacks menu, and The Tea Room is a fine-dining restaurant next door where you can enjoy an elaborate, British-inspired tasting menu.”
Night: Discover Oslo’s best nightclub
After dinner, stop for a cocktail at Svanen, just a five-minute walk away. This former pharmacy has kept some of its original features, such as its wooden shelves. If you want to hit the dance floor, the hugely popular nightclub Jaeger is a three-minute walk from here and is free to enter before 11pm. “We play house, disco and techno but run a more pop-orientated night on one floor on Saturdays. Then we generally have quite big names from the international circuit on Friday nights,” says Ola Smith-Simonsen, the club’s co-owner, head booker and MD.
Morning: Explore Vigeland Park
Get to Oslo’s idyllic Frogner Park before the crowds descend. Call into Åpent Bakeri on the way to grab some coffee, freshly baked bread and pastries, and then find a spot among the tranquil lawns and lakes for a morning picnic. The Oslo City Museum is at the park’s southern end, while the famous Vigeland Park is west of the museum and home to more than 200 sculptures in bronze, granite and cast iron.
Afternoon: Snack on waffles and rummage for second-hand bargains
If you’re visiting Oslo on a Saturday, walk five minutes to Vestkanttorvet for the huge all-day flea market. Rummage for treasures among vintage clothes, handmade crafts, accessories and retro homeware. “It’s also a great place to try traditional waffles, which are typically Norwegian,” says food writer and blogger Helle Øder Valebrokk. “We eat them with sour cream and strawberry jam or farm butter and brown cheese.”
If it’s not Saturday, walk to nearby Majorstuen, and take metro line 1 for 20 minutes north to Holmenkollen, to visit the city’s ski museum and famous ski jump. It’s one of Norway’s most visited tourist attractions, complete with a viewing platform for astonishing views over Oslo, a ski simulator, a free Frisbee golf course and a white-knuckle zip-wire from the top of the ski jump.
Evening: Dine on internationally inspired cuisine
Return to the city centre for dinner at Katla, a relaxed restaurant from acclaimed Icelandic chef Atli Mar Yngvason. “It’s inspired by Mexican, Japanese and Korean flavours, but he uses mostly local Nordic products. I love the food, the frozen margaritas and the music,” says Anders.
Night: Discover Oslo’s lively bar scene
The city’s central strip, Torggata and its surrounding streets, is only a 10-minute walk away and crammed with some of the city’s best bars. Try Angst for cocktails, microbrewery Crow Bar for good music and weekend backyard parties, and Torgatta Botaniske for an extraordinary botanical cocktail bar filled with greenery. Finish at Tilt for Norwegian beer and two floors of classic arcade games; it’s open until 3.30am every day, with DJs playing indie, pop and rock every Friday and Saturday.
Morning: Take in Oslo’s breathtaking panoramic views
Start the day with coffee and pastries at Stockfleths, a popular two-storey café in Kvadraturen. From here, it’s a five-minute walk to Oslo’s distinctive Opera House. With its gleaming sloped roof that allows for panoramic views over the city, the mountains beyond and the fjord archipelago with its brightly coloured wooden houses, this sightseeing spot is unmissable.
Next, walk south for 15 minutes for a cheap and tasty lunch at Vippa. A former warehouse, this spot is now a brightly painted food hall packed with stalls serving everything from Syrian street food to Mexican tacos. Afterwards, walk 10 minutes to Akershus Fortress, built over 700 years ago to defend the city from attack. Stroll around the castle and its elaborate rooms, and then take in the scenes over the water from the grounds.
Afternoon: Hike through Norwegian wilderness
No trip to Oslo is complete without escaping to the beautiful Norwegian wilderness beyond the city. Take metro line 1 from Stortinget for a 35-minute journey to Frognerseteren. “It’s a very easy hike for beginners, but there’s a nice cabin called Tryvannstua to stop for hot chocolate on the way,” says Einar Tønnessen, a guide with tour group Oslo Hiking. “You’ll see three beautiful small lakes, and you might even see some moose.”
Evening: Discover Oslo’s Grünerløkka neighbourhood
Don’t let tired legs stop you from spending your evening in Grünerløkka, a former industrial area along the Akerselva River. It’s now lined with independent galleries, vintage shops and bars and restaurants. “It’s a little slice of Brooklyn by the river in Oslo,” says Ola. “They allow graffiti, so there are loads of graffiti walls all over, too.” Explore Oslo’s street art, and then head for dinner at SKAAL Matbar, which opened at the popular Olaf Ryes Plass in early 2020. “The owner is a former football player who just loves to gather people together and create a party vibe,” says Anders. “He also loves natural wine and has a skilled chef in the kitchen that makes amazing snack dishes.”
Night: Bar-hop around Oslo’s hippest area
There’s no shortage of unique bars in this area, so take your pick. Try Syng for its karaoke rooms and singalong movie screenings. Bettola has decently priced cocktails and vintage interiors, or try Bortenfor for its riverside terrace. Afterwards, see live music in the former diamond vault BLÅ, or head to Ingensteds for disco, house, funk and soul DJ sets.