Norway's capital city is industrious, elegant, and creative, with outdoor attractions, museums and galleries, and plenty of nightlife. It's small enough to see by foot and has a superb public transportation system.
Oslo is great if you want to blend cultural activities with sports, shopping, or fine dining. You can feast on artworks by Norwegian painters like Edvard Munch, learn about one of the world's great writers at the Ibsen Museum, or catch a classical concert at the Oslo Konserthus.
Lovers of the outdoors can catch a tram to ski slopes at Holmenkollen or cycle in forests like Sognsvann. History fans can tour sites like the Royal Palace, while in the evening everyone can enjoy Grünerløkka where bars like Ryes and Schouskjelleren serve fabulous food and drink all night long.
Norway has a proud artistic tradition and Oslo has always been its epicenter. There are museums dedicated to heroes like Edvard Munch and Henrik Ibsen, alongside huge cultural institutions like Norway's National Gallery.
There are some great places to ski within a short tram ride of the city center including the 1.5 mile-long Korketrekkeren and the Oslo Vinterpark.
Spend an evening at beer halls like Dovrehallen eating meat and potato dishes or splurge at acclaimed eateries like Maaemo.
Shopping is another great attraction of the Norwegian capital. In neighborhoods like Grünerløkka, you'll find upmarket men's boutiques like Dapper alongside women's boutiques like Mitt Lille Hjem and plenty of second-hand vintage stores as well.
Located in a natural harbor in southern Norway, Oslo is fringed by mountains and forests, and seems made for its setting. Don't miss the view from Holmenkollen (the main ski jump), which offers a gorgeous panorama of the city.
Oslo's greatest attractions are all within walking distance, on the cobbled streets of the charming city center. Near the contemporary Central Station, the 17th-century Oslo Cathedral stands out on a lively public square. Wander towards the water where the medieval Akershus Fortress introduces the saga of the Norwegian Resistance. Aker Brygge across the way is a haven for shopping and eating with beautiful views of the harbor, and, of course, the Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art.
At the end of Karl Johans Gate, actually a majestic shopping street, the Royal Palace stands, flanked by gorgeous gardens. The official home of the Norwegian monarchy, the palace itself is not open to the public, but just walking through the perfectly groomed landscape is a high-class treat. A changing of the guard also enthralls visitors on a daily basis. The gates are also abordered by both the National Theater and the National Gallery, creating a trifecta of fascinating sights.
This 110-acre park is the largest in Oslo and the city's most popular public recreation zone, though it was once the grounds of a extravagant manor. The luxury has remained, however, and the impeccable landscaping continues to host families and friends' gatherings among rose gardens and well-kept fields. Go for a dip at the Frogner Baths, explore the remarkable Vigeland Sculpture Installation right in the middle of the park, or just laze the day away in one of its many delightful corners.
Oslo's Opera House is an architectural masterpiece and the pride and glory of the city. It is enormous yet minimal, and looks so feather-light it seems it could just slip away into the water. The interior is just as stunning, and it is home to the National Opera, Ballet, and Theater. Even without tickets, it is an unforgettable experience to walk up the shallow incline of the roof and look out over the bay.
Norway's oldest museum of natural history is full of fascinating specimens. The institution has a comprehensive spectrum of exhibitions, displaying thousands of species in the Botanical Gardens, and offering an up-close look at wild creatures in the zoological galleries. The highlight of the famous geological halls is "Ida" - the oldest and most complete fossil of an early primate known today! The sprawled fingers and curved spine of this intriguing cousin are an unforgettable sight.
If you want to focus on sightseeing, museums, and shopping, Oslo is at its best in the summer. While temperatures rarely top 80 degrees Fahrenheit, you can expect warm weather (and even head to beaches like Tjuvholmen as it gets really warm). However, winter is great too, especially if you love to ski. There's not really a bad time to visit.
Gardermoen (OSL) is Oslo's major international airport. As it's around 30 miles out of town, getting in can take a while, but there are plenty of options. Flytoget trains leave every 10 minutes, take 20 minutes, and cost kr200, but NSB trains are cheaper at kr90, even if they take a little longer. Buses cost kr150, while taxis will set you back about kr800.
Some travelers arrive in Oslo via the Swedish city of Gothenburg, which connects Oslo to mainland Europe. If you get in by train, you'll arrive at Oslo Central Station, which is on all of the city's train lines, and is within walking distance of city center hotels.
Driving to Oslo is another option for those on round-Europe trips. The best route to the city is via Sweden's E6 highway, which runs from Gothenburg and Copenhagen. If you rent a car from outlets like Hertz or Europcar, take the E16, then switch to the southbound E16 into town.
Oslo is Norway's major bus terminus and there are international services from Denmark, Finland, and Sweden as well. Most buses are provided by Swebus and Nettbuss, who run services into the Oslo Bussterminal, around 600 meters southeast of the center of town.
Oslo has a wide range of accommodation options in every price bracket. If you want to stay in genuine luxury, try city center options like the Grand Hotel Oslo, which houses the world's Nobel Prize winners during the awards ceremony. Other great boutique hotels include the First Hotel Grims Grenka and the oddly named but comfortable The Thief hotel, while budget travelers can find dorms for low prices at Anker Hostel.
Central Oslo - the nerve center of the Norwegian nation, central Oslo includes historical attractions like Akershus Castle and the National Gallery, as well as many of the city's best hotels.
Grünerløkka - the city's shopping and nightlife nexus, Grünerløkka is a favorite place for younger visitors. Historically a working class area on the east bank of the Akerselva river, it's now a hive of clubs, restaurants, boutiques, and bars.
Eastern Oslo - Oslo's eastern neighborhoods are affluent, comfortable, and full of attractions, including the Munch Museum and the Botanisk Hage, Oslo's Botanical Garden, while kids will love Oslo Zoo as well. It's not great for nightlife or dining, but it's the ideal base for families during their visit.
Oslo has an excellent public transportation system, with its subway/Metro (the T-Bane), trams, buses, trains, and even ferries. Prices vary depending on how many zones you travel through and you buy tickets for specific zones. So a single ticket would be kr30 within a single zone, but more if you cross the zone boundaries. A good option is to buy day passes for kr90 or week passes for kr220.
Taxis in Norway are handy for getting home after a late night concert, but they can be expensive. There's a set rate of around kr15 per mile, which rises to kr18 after the first 15 miles (so most journeys in town will be covered by the lower rate).
If you want to explore the fjords to the north of Oslo or carry ski equipment around the city, renting a car is a good option. Rental outlets include Europcar, Sixt, and Hertz, and daily rates can be as low as kr230 per day. Just be sure to give trams plenty of room!
Oslo is Norway's fashion and design center, and it's also the country's retail hub, so if you're into fashion, jewelry or art, it's a great place to hunt for bargains. Bogstadveien is the major shopping street for chain stores. But shopping in Grünerløkka is more fun. Visit on Sunday to check out the antiques and crafts market and check out small stores on Markveien like Velouria Vintage or Galleri Markveien.
Vacationers can save plenty of money during their stay in Oslo by self-catering and shopping at supermarkets like Rema 1000, Bunnpris, and Kiwi. Expect prices to be around kr60 for a gallon of milk and kr10 for a pound of apples.
Food is one of the greatest attractions in Oslo. In the city center, Maaemo is one of the icons of the "New Nordic Cuisine" and has two Michelin stars, but booking early is advisable. Statholdergaarden blends an elegant setting with gourmet food, while just out of town Grefsenkollen has a homely, rustic feel as well as expert chefs. If your budget is creaking, there are also Thai, Indian, and pizza joints like Pizza da Mimmo that can fill you up with great food at a reasonable price. Expect pizzas and kebabs to cost around kr180, while three-course gourmet meals can cost upwards of kr600.