A complete Oslo travel guide to make a short trip to the city memorable.
Founded in 1040, Oslo became Norway’s capital in 1300. A fire destroyed it in 1624, leading to the building of a new city, Christiania, and a location slightly closer to the royal residence in the Akershus Fortress. In 1925, the capital received the name we all know today. Oslo’s history of reinvention couldn’t be more relevant in 2018. Why? Because after decades of seemingly hiding from the spotlight, Oslo is undergoing another transformation. It has become the fastest-growing capital not only in the Nordic region, but in Europe as a whole. The change affects everything from the Nordic renaissance of the culinary scene to its culture and nightlife. Hence, our new Oslo travel guide.
The city is also surrounded by striking landscapes – mountains, sea, fjords, dense forests – and provides a wide range of outdoor activities to locals and tourists alike. And even though it’s been going through a fast urban development over the past few years, Oslo has implemented so many green initiatives that it has received the European Green Capital 2019 distinction. A pretty fascinating place, if you ask us. If you want to spend a weekend in Oslo and get to know this exciting Scandinavian city, we’ve got you covered. Read on to find out the best places to visit to make 72 hours in Oslo truly memorable.
You can’t get a more centrally located hotel than Comfort Hotel Grand Central. Situated in the Bjørvika neighborhood, right near the Oslo Central Station and a minute’s walk to the Karl Johan shopping area, this boutique hotel is a perfect choice if you want to be in the middle of the action. The chic, New York-style rooms are also sound-proofed to ensure a perfect night’s sleep. Book a room with fjord views to make your stay extra special.
For those who prefer a more upscale experience, the Thon Hotel Rosenkrantz Oslo is perfect. It features rooms with a sophisticated decor, designer furniture and state-of-the-art sound systems as well as suites with dining and lounge areas. The hotel has a stylish restaurant and bar, but the location in downtown Oslo also offers plenty of dining options. Situated close to the residential area of Holmenkollen, Lysebu provides a more serene hotel experience. The rooms focus on comfort and Nordic style, while the views include forests and mountains to immerse guests into nature. The hotel also provides access to an art collection, restaurant, and gift shop.
There are plenty of awesome restaurants in Norway’s capital, but we’ve selected some of the best for this Oslo travel guide. Kulturhuset, or “The Culture House”, is a great meeting place. Spread over several stories, this restaurant is ideal for grabbing coffee and breakfast in the morning or getting together with friends in the evening for drinks. Located in a building that dates back to 1892, Olympen has a classic look and feel. Think dark wood, old paintings, and brass details. The menu also celebrates Norwegian tradition with a range of hearty dishes complemented by a fantastic selection of beer and wine.
If you’re in the mood for Italian food, stop by Trattoria Popolare. On the ground floor, there’s a laid-back, traditional trattoria that doesn’t require a reservation, while the upper level houses a gourmet restaurant. Markveien Mat & Vinhus serves Scandinavian and European food made with the finest ingredients, but the extensive wine list truly puts this restaurant in a league of its own. Love steak? Then you’ll love Trancher. This restaurant serves only steak for the main course, with special varieties also offered on themed evenings. Le Benjamin is an informal French bistro with a friendly atmosphere, making it a perfect place to visit if you want to enjoy some authentic French food, cheese, and wine.
Prince Lunchbar opened its doors in 2001. Since then, it has become one of the most popular lunch bars in the city to get a delicious brunch. Many of the items on the menu are made daily on site, including the delicious bread and dressings. You can sit at the bar-style counter or order some sandwiches to go before heading out to explore the city with our Oslo travel guide. At Grilleriet you can order a range of grilled meat, fish, and seafood along with a drink and either choose the bar sitting area for a quick brunch or grab a seat near the open kitchen to see the chefs hard at work. This restaurant also has a huge bookcase filled with cookbooks from all over the world. Oslo travel guide tip: if you bring one that’s not in the collection, you can exchange it for a free lunch!
Explore the flavors of Middle Eastern cuisine while taking a breather from walking through Oslo by stopping by The Kasbah. The café’s signature dishes are traditionally made hummus and falafel, both made from scratch every morning. Like its name suggests, Fresko puts an emphasis on fresh ingredients. Apart from using organic fruit and vegetables along with purified water and no additives, this juice bar also packages its products in recyclable wrappers.
Kafé Celsius is probably one of the most historically rich coffee shops you’ll have the chance to visit. It’s located in a building from the 17th century, in a charming area filled with historical landmarks. During the warmer months, customers can enjoy their cup of coffee and bite to eat on the coffee shop’s terrace and watch the world go by. A must-visit café for coffee lovers, Tim Wendelboe is a renowned espresso bar with its own award-winning roastery. Order a cup of freshly brewed coffee or an espresso-based drink from the limited menu that changes with the seasons.
Popular with the locals, the small and cozy Bar Boca is perfect for a few cocktails with friends. It serves some of the best cocktails in Oslo, including signature cocktails and classics, and it also features a charming, 1950s-inspired decor. Fuglen channels the ‘50s-’60s era as well, welcoming customers in a warm and laid-back space. Apart from its evening bar persona, this place also doubles as a coffee shop and vintage shop by day. Refined and upscale but also friendly, Pigalle Cocktail Bar has a gorgeous art deco interior and a drinks menu that features both inventive and classic options. The bar has an outdoor seating area in the back garden and also offers barbecue food on its menu, which makes it ideal for staying up late on a summer evening.
After enjoying an Italian meal at Trattoria Popolare, you can stop by Bettola, next door to the restaurant. This cool cocktail bar offers creative and more traditional cocktails in a stylish, Italian vintage decor. Designed around a botanical theme, Torggata Botaniske has a special menu that includes botanical cocktails made with homegrown herbs and plants. The interior follows the same concept, featuring vine-covered walls and lush vegetation everywhere you turn. Himkok stands out among other bars. And not just because it’s also a micro-distillery that makes its own spirits. Fresh and bold, the menu features cocktails that combine western and eastern influences with a large dose of creativity added for good measure.
The Intercultural Museum provides the perfect opportunity to learn more about the cultural changes in the Norwegian society over the country’s history. As a bonus, you can also visit a museum dedicated to Oslo in the same building. At The National Museum you’ll have access to Norway’s largest collection of art, design, and architecture, making it a must-visit place. Equally important for art lovers, the Astrup Fearnley Museum houses a fantastic collection of contemporary art, including works by Olafur Eliasson, Damien Hirst, Cindy Sherman, or Tom Sachs. Plus, the museum’s building is a landmark in of itself, as it was designed by world-renowned architect Renzo Piano.
Vigeland Museum honors Norwegian sculptor Gustav Vigeland, but here you can also see art, sculpture, installation, and video based exhibits. Finally, no Oslo travel guide would be complete without the Munch Museum. Dedicated to Edvard Munch, the museum features thousands of paintings, prints, and watercolors which the artist donated to the city of Oslo in his will. The artworks change regularly and there are also occasional Munch-related exhibitions.
1857 is a non-profit organization run by artists and has a simple goal of connecting young artists from all over the world with the Norwegian contemporary art scene. The gallery changes its exhibitions frequently and organizes talks, performances, art fairs, and other events. For more contemporary art, you can visit Kunsthall Oslo. This non-profit art institution promotes Norwegian and international art and culture. Expect to see some amazing contemporary art here and maybe even catch an interesting event, talk, or film screening.
Henie Onstad is well worth the 15-minute trip to Høvikodden, so we had to include it in our Oslo travel guide. This modern and contemporary art museum was established in 1968. It features an impressive art collection donated by collectors Sonja Henie and Niels Onstad. You can admire artworks by Beuys, Picasso, and Weidemann here, among other iconic works spread over a huge exhibition space. The museum also has a sculpture park and a restaurant, and offers gorgeous views of the Oslo fjord.
Founded by three friends in 2013, Dapper is an eclectic shop that seems tailor-made for the cool urban dweller who loves quality products, modern design, and navigating through life on two wheels. The shop offers everything from apparel and accessories to footwear, grooming products, and cycling gear. Mitt lille hjem means “My little home”, which tells you pretty much everything you need to know about this charming shop. Here you can browse through home accessories, lighting, planters with plants, textiles, and kitchenware, to name a few.
An homage to timeless design, Futura Classics brings together products from the 1920s alongside the latest designs. The small independent shop carries a wide range of items. Expect to find stylish furniture, designer tableware, minimalist home accessories, and more. The shop also has gift collection, so you can pick up a few items for family and friends. The perfect finishing touch to this Oslo travel guide, Fransk Bazar is filled with vintage gems and antique items, which means that you can always find something special here. The collection includes furniture and lighting as well as home accessories, clothing, and art.