How to Spend a Day at Oslo's Waterfront

Boats on the sunny Oslo Fjord
Boats on the sunny Oslo Fjord | © eGuide Travel / Flickr
Louise Older Steffensen

The summer is here, and one of the best ways to enjoy the sun in Norway’s capital is to get out to the waterside by the Oslo Fjord. Oslo’s waterfront location is one of the city’s best features, and it comes to its full right in the summer when the fjord’s water sparkles enticingly and happy Oslowegians laze away the bright summer evenings at Oslo’s beaches and bars.
Norway may still be known more for its snowy winters than its summers, but southern Norway in particular actually serves up some very nice summers with its fair share of hot days. The feeling of light and warmth is further added to by the long days; around midsummer, darkness only really falls at midnight, and the light begins to break through again before 3am. Though it may get a little chilly at night, these conditions make evening strolls or enjoying a nice outside dinner with friends very tempting. Oslo is full of both classic and more unusual summer activities to do along the waterfront.

When You Have 99 Problems But the Beach Ain’t One

As with Norwegian summers, Oslo’s beaches may fall victim to the perception of the country as cold and frosty. Oslo actually has some very nice beaches on offer, both natural and man-made, and some within easy walking distance of the city centre. Some of Oslo’s nicest natural beaches can be found on Bygdøy, the peninsula which is also home to some of Oslo’s best museums (and many of its most well-off inhabitants).

The two most easily reachable beaches are located at either end of the city centre waterfront. One is Tjuvholmen at the end of Aker Brygge, the gorgeous re-invented industrial wharf-turned-upmarket neighbourhood a few hundred metres to the east of the city centre. Tjuvholmen beach has been created as an extension of the Astrup-Fearnley art gallery and features sculpted grass adorned with modern art pieces, a pebble beach and even showers. The other is even newer, opened in 2015, and consists of a 50-metre laned pool area, a 200m² (240 square yards) open basin and various in-built lounge areas. You’ll find all this at the floating Sørenga Sjøbad, an extension of the new Sørenga neighbourhood off Bjørvika.

Tjuvholmen by Aker Brygge

Hop on a Boat and Visit an Island

Unsurprisingly perhaps, the Oslo Fjord is full of islands and boats of all kinds all year round. There are lots of little mini cruises and sailing trips which take a couple of hours to pursue if you fancy a bit of class and elegance atop the seven seas. You can even find some with live music and three-course meals if you head to Aker Brygge. These are usually a bit touristy, although the fjord on a sunny day always makes for a lovely experience.

A much cheaper alternative is to hop on one of the Ruter boats, included in the local transport Ruter tickets, to one of the nearby islands in the fjord. The nearest, Hovedøya, takes just five minutes to reach from Aker Brygge and is small enough to walk around easily but large enough to include both forest, some lovely stretches of beach and the ruins of an old monastery. If you really want to fit in, bring one or two disposable BBQs from the mainland along with sausages, salmon or whatever else you feel like cooking (this is a major summer pastime in Oslo, and you will regret not bringing your own when you inevitably smell delicious hot dogs wafting off your Norwegian beach neighbour’s BBQ).

If you fancy a dip in the water but you’re mistrustful of the Norwegian summer’s capacity to warm you back up, you can also book one of Oslo’s coolest and most secretive attractions, the floating sauna.

View of Hovedøya

Go Cultural

If beaches and relentless sun isn’t your cup of tea or, the Old Nordic Gods forbid, the weather isn’t quite up to scratch, you’ll also find lots of cultural destinations to explore along the waterfront, including Akershus Fortress, the Opera House and the City Hall – that unavoidable looming brown building between Akershus Fortress and Akerbrygge. It is actually a beautiful and highly unusual building inside, with walls decorated by some of Norway’s most famous painters WWII-era painters telling the story of Norway. It is also where the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded every year and close to the Nobel Peace Center, which sheds light on its winners. From 2020, the waterfront area will be further enriched by the new National Gallery by Aker Brygge as well as a new Munch Museum next to the Opera House, so there’ll be no excuse not to visit the waterfront even for hydrophobes.

The Banqueting Hall at the City Hall

Finally, if one of those nifty disposable barbies isn’t your thing, you’ll find plenty of wining and dining opportunities along the waterfront. Head to Aker Brygge for the food trucks as well as a host of upmarket restaurants and bars, walk along Rådhusgata to find some of Oslo’s cosiest old restaurants or finish off the evening in style in the Barcode buildings at Bjørvika for some of the best views of the Oslo sunset you’re likely to find elsewhere. Repeat and rinse as desired.

Featured image by eGuide Travel.

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