Oslo is a beautiful city, and no matter of season Oslo is worth a visit. Even if you have just a short stopover in Oslo, you can discover the essence of Oslo in just one day. This is the only guide you need in Oslo for a short visit.
The first thing you should do is to check if you will arrive at Oslo Airport Gardermoen (OSL) or Sandefjord Torp Airport (TRF). Some of the low fare airlines (mostly Wizzair and Ryanair) use TRF, which is located almost 2 hours by bus or train from the city center of Oslo. Read more about how to get to and from Sandefjord Torp here.
Money exchange at the airport
Currency facilities at Oslo Airport OSL are served by DNB, the largest bank company of Norway, and there is really no competition at all on the airport. Their airport office is open from 5:30am until 11pm. DNB has installed several ATMs where you also have a 24-hour depositary Coin roll dispenser. You may consider to withdraw some money in the local currency if you feel more comfortable paying in cash. There are plenty of ATMs on the airport. But you can also pay with credit cards on the ticket machines on the airport. In general most shops, cafeterias and restaurants accept credit cards in Norway and they don’t charge you a fee and there is no minimum amount. When you will arrive at Oslo Central Station you have more options. There are ATMs from Nordea and you also have the Forex currency exchange shops that don’t charge you any fee.
How to get to Oslo from the airports
It is really convenient to take the train from Oslo Airport to Oslo city center. If you take the public train (NSB) you will have 3 hourly departures from 6:43am until 11:43pm. You can check your current train at Ruter or NSB. Just type in “Oslo Airport” in the From Field and “Oslo Sentralstasjon” in the To Field. “Sentralstasjon” means the central station, and it’s the hub for all the trains in Oslo. At Oslo Central Station all the trains depart and arrive and the central station building is normally the busiest place of the city center. There are plenty of restaurants, cafeterias, shops, pharmacies, money exchange services and super markets inside of the Oslo Central Station. There are also public toilets (they charge a 10 kroner fee for using it). Read more on Oslo S’ official website. If you take the stairs down from the central station you will find the old station building Østbanehallen. This old building was completely refurbished in 2014 and looks very beautiful now. It is a food court with restaurants serving sushi, burgers, pizza and pasta. There is also an ice cream shop, cafeteria and some bars where you can enjoy a drink until late in the evening. Some of the bars are open until 11pm or even later in the weekends).
The ultimate Walking Tour in Oslo – City by foot
If you are looking for a free guided walking tour, you can meet up at Jernbanetorget (next to The Tiger statue) at 10am every day. They even schedule an additional tour at 4pm every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The tour takes 90 minutes and will take you to the Opera House, Harbour and Parliament, and you will learn the basics about the history and some practical information. If you prefer to walk on your own, it is very easy to do the walking trip without any guide. From the Oslo Central Station walk towards track 18-20. Just walk out the entrance between the Espresso House and Narvesen kiosk and walk straight out for 100 meters and you will find the Opera House. It opened in 2008 and is already established as one of the biggest landmarks of Oslo. The Opera House is a beautiful architectural monument and one of the most successful architectural buildings of the entire capital, a building most Norwegians should be very proud of. It should be your number one attraction, and you should definitely compare it with the world’s most famous Opera House in Sydney. Oslo has got a mix of stone, glass, timber, oak tree and metal materials. This is very traditional Norwegian design, and it was created by Norwegian architects, Snøhetta. It is really nice to walk on the roof of the Opera House, it’s feeling almost like snow. The Carrara stone material is imported from Italy and gives a nice esthetic look. Be careful as it may be a bit slippery in the winter. There are also many interesting events throughout the year which are open for everyone to join, like free outdoor concerts and TV shows. You should also have a look inside of the Opera building which is normally open until late. There can be as many as 1900 audience members in the building. 1400 in the main auditorium, 400 in stage 2 and 150 in rehearsal room 1, which doubles as a black box theatre. If you want to have a guided trip of the entire Opera building, you can check out prices and visting hours here. There are also some restaurants and bars in the Opera house. One of them with a beautiful sea view. If you want to learn more about the design and the architecture plans of the Opera you can check out Deezens article.
Discover the Barcode area of Oslo
The surroundings of the Oslo Central Station are also worth to check out. Next to the Opera, you have the Barcode area, the new business district in Oslo. The architecture here is so unique and stand out from the rest of the design of buildings in Oslo. There are already many places to eat and drink along Dronning Eufemias gate. The first restaurant you will find on the way from the Opera is Vaaghals which is an authentic and innovative Norwegian restaurant, and you don’t find many similar restaurants like this one in Oslo. The chefs here use Norwegian ingredients to prepare the most flavourful Norwegian and international dishes. Food is put on the table and passed around. The concept is that food is meant for sharing, so here you can bring your friends and enjoy the companionship.
Next to it, the Barcode Passage is a building with a Narvesen kiosk, another Espresso House, Joe and the Juice, TacoPop (Mexican Food) and a Bambus Sushi restaurant.
You will also find Stock on the corner of the Barcode Passage which is a less formal restaurant, but still they serve quality food made from scratch. They also have a nice bar, and it is probably the best place on Barcode to eat if you don’t have company.
If you continue down the Eufemia Street you will find an Italian restaurant and next to it there is a Japanese restaurant, Nodee. They also have a panoramic elevator, taking you up to the 13th level where they have a trendy bar and a beautiful roof top terrace with views towards the water side. On the 14th level they have a restaurant. It may be a bit noisy as there are not much space between the tables, but we like the atmosphere.
If you continue some few hundred meters and head to the right, you will arrive Sørenga, which is a new waterside resort. There are lots of new apartments in this elegant area next to the sea. They have also made a public beach area which is open for everyone, and it is very popular on sunny days of the summer. You will also find plenty of new restaurants and cafeterias along the waterside. There is a bridge connecting Sørenga with the Opera building, and it is a time-saving shortcut.
The restaurants in Sørenga
Hakkaiza is an elegant Asian restaurant with wok dishes, dumplings, springrolls, fried chicken and noodle on the menu. The location is brilliant and the seating area is beautiful. Open every day.
Cargo is an Italian restaurant serving anti-pasti, pizza from a stove-oven, fresh pasta, meat and fish straight from the grill. The restaurant has a beautiful indoor area, but it is also great to enjoy the sun on the outdoor area near the waterside. They also have a cocktailbar if you only want to enjoy a cold drink.
Bun’s Burger is surprisingly the highest ranked of the Sørenga restaurants on Tripadvisor. For the moment it is number 51 of 1142 restaurants. It is an American bar serving Norwegian’s favorite food – burgers. Most of the guests are very happy with their awesome burgers, great beers and excellent service.
There is also a cafeteria there if you only want to buy a hot drink and enjoy the sun.
The newest restaurant at Sørenga is Coyo which we already have visited and written a honest review about here.
Stay tuned, as the entire Opera and Barcode area are not completely finished. They are constructing the new main library of Oslo and the new Munch Museum, and during the development process the area is noisy and looks like a mess. But we are looking forward to seeing the future of this new area of Oslo.
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.
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.
Aker Brygge and Tjuvholmen
Just walk down again afterwards to the sea and you will find the most popular part of Oslo for nightlife and recreation. But before we are going to cover that, we will mention that Aker Brygge also is the home of the Nobel Peace winner’s museum and the new National Museum which opens inn 2020. In the summer it is very popular to take the ferries to several islands located near Oslo. You will find the ferry stop near the Town Hall. If you already have bought a Ruter ticket for public transport, most of the ferries are included (except that one going to the Viking ship museums). We would recommend you to take a ferry to Lindøya. It is a very beautiful island consisting of 300 residential, cozy cottages, all in green, yellow and red and never more than 40 square meters in size, making this island unique and beautiful. Here you can relax in the sun and walk along the waterside. There are even two smaller “islands” with a bridge connection from Lindøya. The first one you will discover is “Stadion” where you can plunge into the ocean from a diving board. The small bridge leads to a slope where you can enjoy the views of the other islands. The second one is “Kjøkkenet” or “The Kitchen” where the wives used to walk to cook and prepare food for the families. This was back to the 1920s. Today it is a place you can sit and relax and enjoy the views. You even have public showers, available for everyone. Please note that BBQing is not allowed on the two mini islands or Lindøya itself. Lindøya also has got a supermarket and a public toilet located on the middle of the island. The trip from Aker Brygge to Lindøya takes 30 minutes and you can walk around it in less than one hour. This makes it a perfect short getaway from the stressful city life in Oslo. If you want to do BBQing you should consider to visit Hovedøya instead that has dedicated grill spots.
Aker Brygge has a rich selection of high quality restaurants, cafeterias, ice cream shops and bars. You may be sure the entire area is full of people on sunny days. They have extended Aker Brygge with the new resort Tjuvholmen which also contain a spa, hotel, a roof top terrace and a public beach. This is also the place where you find the Astrup Fearnley Museum. It is a private museum of contemporary art. This summer you have the opportunity to see a large group exhibition of Chinese Temporary art. The building itself is quite beautiful and has a modern architecture, like most of the residential area that surrounds Tjuvholmen, so if you are really no into museums you can just have a walk around it.
Discover the trendy bars and cafeterias in Grunerløkka
From Tjuvholmen you can take bus 21 towards Helsfyr, but walk off at Sannergata, which is at Grunerløkka. It is the trendiest area of Oslo for small coffee shops, popup shops and bars. The style is more bohemian and relaxed. You have some beautiful parks on the way down… Birkelunden is the first one you will find. Then Olaf Ryes plass which is also a relaxing place to enjoy a cup of coffee. And last but not worst, Sofienbergparken is the biggest of the three parks.
Why not have a drink at Tea Lounge located in Thorvald Meyers gate 33B, which is the unique place for drinking a cup of tea in Oslo. Yeah, indeed there are so many coffee shops, but almost no tea places in Oslo. This is the exception. Here you find unlimited choices of tea, very yummy. But Tea Lounge is something more than just a tea house. In the evening the atmosphere changes from a tea house to a cozy bar where you can order beers on tap or why not order a special drink. Please note that tea is not served after 8pm, which could be a bit disappointing. A little bit longer down Grunerløkka you will find Oslo Velo in Seilduksgata 23 which is more than just a bicycle shop. Here you can eat baguettes, sandwiches or cakes if you are hungry. They also serve healthy juices and coffee, and you can enjoy the drink in the “velo” environment surrounded by bikes in the roof.
Further down, you can enjoy the Mathallen Vulkan along the river Akerselva which is a cozy food market where most of the food is prepared for you, ready to eat. You find everything from fresh coffee breweries, bakeries, fresh fruit and fish to Scandinavian restaurants, Mexican tacos, Asian tapas, Basque Pintxos, sushi and much more. Make sure to not come here on a Monday as Vulkan is closed.
Museums in Oslo
If you want to check out some museums, you should plan in the early morning, because most museums are only open between 10am and 4pm (until 6pm in the summer). If you only have time to visit one museum, you should visit The Norwegian Museum of Cultural History (Norwegian Folk Museum) in Bygdøy. It has an Open-Air Museum with 160 historic buildings. It covers all the Norwegian folk costumes, folk art, church art and Sami culture. This museum is very popular and is ranked as activity #6 of 390 on Tripadvisor.
Not far from the Folk museum, you will also find the Viking Ship Museum, Kontiki and the Fram Museum. If you are interested in explorers, you should check out the museum about the explorer Thor Heyerdahl who is famous for his Kon-tiki expedition. Heyerdahl sailed more than 8000 kilometers across the Pacific Ocean in a handmade float from South America to the Tuamotu islands. The Kontiki museum is not big, but is very interesting, well worth to visit.
Vigelandsparken, the world’s largest sculpture park
This is the number one attraction in Oslo. Vigelandsparken is unique. It belongs to your bucket list – no matter if you’re a Norwegian or not. If you have 2 hours in Oslo, just go to this park.
The world’s biggest sculpture park created by one and only artist. You will be amazed of Gustav Vigeland (1869-1943). The park is open 24/7. They have also some lights so you can see most of the sculptures also in the darkness. You will find more than 200 skulptures in bronze, granite and wrought iron. Vigeland himself has been the architecture of the 320.000 meter2 park. The park was finished in 1949.
The park is divided into 5 units: The Main Portal, The Bridge with a kids area, Fontain, Monolith and Wheel of Life.
The most popular sculpture is the smallest one: Sinnataggen (The angry boy), only 83 cm tall. It is Vigeland’s most famous sculpture and many people want to grab his hand. Through they years this sculpture has been stolen but always been found afterwards.
At the highest point of Vigeland Park, the 17 meter tall Monolith, which consists of 121 figures, is cut out of a single granite block – hence the name. It took 3 sculptors 14 years to build the Monolith! Humans are sucked upwards toward the sky. Here we see vigil and mastery of despair, but also hope. Absolutely recommended to see.
Where is The Sculpture Park located? Vigelandsparken is a part of Frognerparken. It is a beautiful park which also contains Frognerbadet (Open Air Public Bath /swimming pool), Frogner stadion, tennis courts and some kiosks.
How to get there: Take tram Line 12 from Jernbanetorget to Vigelandsparken. The trip takes 15 minutes and the tram stops just outside of the park.
Beside of the park, there is also a museum of Vigeland, where you have to pay to enter. We think that the park is much more important to visit than the museum, but if you want more insight about Vigeland you could consider to do that as well. You can check out more info on the Vigeland Museum’s Website.
Address: Nobels gate 32, 0268 Oslo
If you still have some time left, you can catch Metro Line 2 from Majorstuen to Ekraveien. The trip takes only 10 minutes. From there you can walk to Bogstad Camping in 15 minutes. Here all the camping tourists stay in their tents, vans or motor homes. There is also a supermarket here open until late every day. Next to Bogstad Camping you will find Bogstadvannet which is a beautiful, hidden pearl outside of Oslo. Here you can walk around the entire water. There is also a golf course and a farm, Bogstad Gård which is worth a visit. Next to the farm, there are some few local shops, a museum, cafeteria and restaurant. If you want to walk along the entire water, you need some few hours as it is more than a 12 kilometers promenade. There are many benches and seating areas, where you can relax if you want to have a break. There are also some dedicated barbecue areas around the water.
Oslo is a small city with short distances, so you can do all of this in 24 hours! Just begin with the museums and do the walking in the afternoon and evening. If you want to add something to the “essence of Oslo”, please do not hesitate to contact us.