Welcome to Oslo. In this guide we want to give you the most useful Oslo facts for new visitors. It is not a big city, although Norwegians like to refer it as a big city, as the other cities in Norway are much smaller.
You may wonder: Why is Oslo so small? How many people actually live in Oslo? The urban area has a population of 952.000 people. The Oslo metropolitan area has a population of 1.5 million, according to World Population. Norway is a really long country and it takes more than 24 hours driving in a car from the South to the North of the country. The policians have always taken care of the small districts and towns and have regularly given departments of the state to the districts that need jobs instead of having everything centralized in Oslo. This is the success formula for keeping the entire country alive. In other countries, e.g. Sweden, many villages in the North are completely dead because there are no jobs and the government has not taken action.
Where is Oslo located? Oslo is located at the head of the Oslo Fjord in the south of Norway, the country longest North of Europe.
The name of the city was “Christiania” (or “Kristiania” locally spelled) from 1624 to 1924, according to Wikipedia. Oslo is also known as the “Tiger City” (or “Tigerstaden” on the local people’s tongue). The famous Norwegian author Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson wrote the poem “Sidste sang” and this is how the Tiger launched for the first time. Today you will find tiger statues many places in Oslo, but the biggest one is placed outside of the Central Station at Jernbanetorget.
Oslo is the economic and administrative center of Norway. The city is known as a center of Norwegian banking, trade, shipping and industry. It is a significant centre for maritime industries and maritime trade in Europe.
It is also one of the smallest European capitals. What makes Oslo standing out from other capitals? It is surrounded by stunning Scandinavian nature and landscape. Oslo is a green oasis. You don’t need to feel urban in Oslo when you may feel bohemian instead. There are more trees and plants than skyscrapers in Oslo. Actually, the forest covers more than 50% of Oslo’s territory, according to Travelonspot. They also state that you can reach a park or green area in less than a 15 minutes walk, no matter where you are located in Oslo. There simply is no other capital where you can go skiing and kayaking, make excursions to an island or go ice skating – all within the city borders.
Did you know that the world famous Scream painting is NOT found in the Munch Museum but in the National gallery? Actually, many websites are not updated and you would be dissapointed. The Munch museum is still operative in Tøyen, although it will be moved to the new Barcode area in Bjørvika (near the Opera house) in 2021.
How cold can it get in the winter in Oslo? It may be as cold as -15 degrees Celsius in Oslo (that is equal to 5 degrees Fahrenheit) on the coldest days of the winter . Yeah, it is feeling like staying inside of a really cold freezer, and you should definitely bring some warm clothes. Don’t expect that cold weather. It is most normal to have temperatures around 0 degrees. Most of the recent winters have become quite mild.
How warm can Oslo get in the summer? It may reach 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit), although it happens very seldom. Average is more like 15-20 degrees on an average sunny day.
When is the best time of the year to visitig Oslo? The spring time is definitely the greenest time. It is amazing to discover all the colors Oslo can offer in the middle of May. I would say Oslo is most beautiful from the 15th of May and the next two weeks. Visiting Oslo can be done all year round. There are plenty of museums, malls and indoor activities so you will never become bored.
Do you want to see the colorful autumn in Oslo? It is very beautiful to see the red, yellow and brown colors in the landscape as well, from the middle of September and October. Yeah, Oslo looks like fireworks this time of year!
How is the weather in Oslo in general? As it is located in Scandinavia you must expect a bit unstable weather. It may be a bit partly cloudy, some sun and some smaller showers. Oslo has much less rain than Bergen on the western side. Oslo has also much less wind than the western coast. You can check out average weather on Holiday Weather. The most accurate daily weather forecast is given by the local weather providers Yr and Storm, and you can compare their forecasts at Pent.
Can I see the Northern Lights in Oslo? Aurora rarely appears in Oslo, so not very probable if you are here for a few days only. But it is normal to see Aurora Boreal in parts of the Southern Norway some few times throughout the year. Do you want to check if you will be lucky? Check out Norway Lights website that is updated daily.
Are you planning to visit Oslo soon? Or maybe you want to move to Oslo? Then you are lucky. The local currency is weak now compared to the American Dollar (USD) and Euro (EUR) and you will get much more value for your money than normal. E.g some years ago 1 USD was worth less than 5 kroner (NOK). Recently 1 USD = 8.39 kroner (NOK) (updated source: Finn Travel Currency Calculator July 7 2017).
How expensive is it in Oslo? Do you know how much money you will need there to maintain your current standard of living? Everybody knows that Oslo is one of the most expensive countries to visit. You can compare the cost of living at Expatistan’s site. Here you can type in your city and compare it with Oslo. E.g Cost of Living in Oslo Norway is 30% more expensive than Minneapolis – St. Paul, Minnesota, United States. Especially food and drinks are very expensive in Oslo, almost 50% more expensive than in Minneapolis.
Some price examples:
Basic Lunch in Oslo: 193 kroner ($23)
Combo Meal in Fast Food Restaurant like McDonalds: 100 kroner ($12)
0,5 liter (16oz) Beer in Supermarket: 30 kroner ($3.6)
Cappuccino in a cafeteria: 43 kroner ($5.14)
1 beer in neighbourhood pub or bar, 500 ml or 1 pt: 83 kroner ($10)
1 package of Marlboro cigarettes: 113 kroner ($13)
2 tickets to the movies: 257 kroner ($31)
Do I need to exchange money before I arrive Oslo? No. It is better to withdraw money in the ATM’s in Oslo, and they are located everywhere in the city center. Please note you will not need to withdraw much cash, as most places accept bank cards and credit cards. In Oslo you will not be charged any fee by the stores or restaurants for paying with the credit card. There is no minimum amount or limit so you can pay everything in the super markets and anywhere else with your card.
Have a walk along Oslo’s new shoreline
After relaxing in the sun at the Sørenga area you can simply walk over the bridge to the Opera again and walk along the Fiord Promenade. This is the best viewing point for beautiful views of the Opera House. From all the other angles, the Opera House is almost blocked by other skyscrapers. If you continue to walk along the waterside, there are just some few hundred metres to some pop up exhibitions. For the moment SALT is the exhibition, a nomadic art project of wooden buildings. There you will find one of the worlds largest saunas. There is also a 70-meter-long Arctic Pyramid, bringing a reminder of coastal Arctic landscape where people, for thousands of years, have lived in harmony with a rough climate.
Oslo facts for new visitors
After the cultural discovery you will have another chance to try out local and exotic food. A new food court has opened along the shoreline at Vippetangen, named Vippa. For the moment there are 9 street market stands inside of the building. There is also a live DJ playing music all day and one common bar where you can buy ISBJØRN beer and other drinks. You can choose if you want to enjoy the food inside or bring it out. The location is brilliant, next to the water and there are plenty of outdoor seats. In 2018 they are also planning to make a second floor here with a roof top terrace. You can choose between Vietnamese soup and vegetarian dishes, Norwegian hot dogs, Italian pizza, Chili con carne with nachos or rice, Pulled duck with french fries, Sushi, Syrian shawarma and falafel, Chinese dumplings and Thai wok.
You can check out Vippa reviews at Tripadvisor and Dagbladet. If you don’t want to walk along the shoreline from the Opera house, you can also take the bus 60 from Jernbanetorget (just outside of Oslo central station) to Vippetangen (last stop).
The Fiord Promenade continues along the cruise port and the Fortress, Akershus festning. On the top of the fortress, there’s a nice little restaurant named Festningen. Here you can also enjoy the outdoor seatings with stunning views of the harbour, Aker Brygge. But before you are heading towards the harbour, walk up to the right, and you will see Oslo City Hall. It is possible to discover the art and history and enter the guided tours as well.
The Parliament building and the Royal Palace are both located in Karl Johans gate, the most popular street (stretching all the way from the central station to castle).
They are both worth to check out and they are just some few hundred meters from the harbour area.