Heading to Oslo for a long weekend? Here’s my three-day city break itinerary for what to see and do in Norway’s capital city.
Oslo – Day 1
One of the best ways to start a visit to any city is to walk its streets, so I recommended starting your three days in Oslo with a walking city tour.
Like most places in Scandinavia, Oslo is pretty expensive, but you’ll be happy to hear that free walking tours take place at least once a day, and twice at weekends. Your guides are local volunteers, so if you enjoy your tour – and you will – why give them a tip to say thank you?
After your tour, head on a tram to Grünerløkka: Oslo’s quirky and hip district full of street art, vintage shops and funky bars. Grab a light lunch at one of the area’s cute cafes before a bit of exploring.
Be sure to take a stroll along this picturesque stretch of the Akerselva River and visit some of the area’s pretty parks before heading to the top of Damstredet, which is known as Oslo’s prettiest street.
After climbing that steep hill, treat yourself with a sit down and drink at the wonderful club and bar Blå, where you can wrap yourself up in a blanket outside by the edge of the river. If you visit on a Sunday you’ll also get a chance to explore the Grünerløkka markets – there’s one all around Blå, and a short walk away you’ll also find the Birkelunden bric-a-brac market.
Finish your first day with an early dinner at the Mathallen food hall, an indoor food market with over 30 specialty shops, cafés and eateries.
Oslo – Day 2
After your chilled out introduction to Oslo, today’s a packed one! Start early and make your way down to the harbour where you can catch the ferry to the Bygdøy peninsula. Although mainly a residential area (with gorgeous homes that will have you dreaming of #scandihousegoals), it’s also home to some of the city’s most popular museums, and all with a maritime theme.
Get off at the ferry’s first stop, Dronningen, and take a short uphill walk to your first stop, the Viking Ship Museum. Here you’ll see three of the world’s most complete Viking ships and discover the stories behind them.
You’ll only need about an hour here, then it’s time for the 10-or-so minute walk to the next two museums. There’s a great little café along the way filled with mismatched furniture and overflowing with bric-a-brac that you can buy – including even the cutlery! Both the prices and service are good, so it’s a great place for a drink or a snack before getting stuck in to the two biggest museums in Bygdøy.
Once there your first stop should be the Kon-Tiki museum, which tells the tale of the (possibly insane) Norwegian adventurer Thor Heyerdahl, whose crazy trips included crossing the Pacific Ocean on a balsawood raft (the museum’s namesake, the Kon-Tiki) and later crossing the Atlantic in reed boats built off ancient Egyptian plans. Surprisingly he lived to a grand old age! At the museum you can hear all about why he planned these trips, the challenges he and his fellow adventurers faced, and see the actual ships he built and used.
Saving the best for last, after possibly stopping for a quick hotdog from the vendor outside, it’s time to go into the Fram museum, which is dedicated to polar exploration.
Here you can learn all about some amazing Norwegian polar explorers and their adventures into the world’s harshest environments. Informative, interactive displays – including a polar simulator (spoiler – it’s cold!) really bring their stories to life, but it’s this museum’s centrepiece that both kids and big kids alike will love.
At the museum’s heart proudly stands the Fram – the strongest wooden ship ever built, it still holds the record for sailing both the farthest north and south. Reminding me of the SS Great Britain in Bristol, you’re invited (after going up three floors to get to its bridge) to board the ship and explore its innards, seeing everything from the engine room and anchor through to the kitchen, offices and bunks.
From here there’s a short 5-minute walk to the other ferry stop, which will take you back to Oslo’s harbour and the city centre. Relax with what time you have left of the afternoon, before heading to Mama Pizza for dinner. Fresh tasty Italian-style pizza awaits you here, and is one of Oslo’s highly recommended well-priced restaurants.
Oslo – Day 3
Heading back in the direction of the harbour, your third day in Oslo starts with a visit to the Akerhus Fortress, which is a great place to learn more about Oslo’s history. The fortress’ grounds themselves are free to visit, so explore to your hearts content, but if you’d like to learn more then visit the castle museum or the resistance museum, which focuses’ on Norway’s resistance group from the World Wars.
From here it’s a short walk to the Nobel Peace Centre; an Oslo must-visit. The entrance greets visitors with regularly changing exhibitions, and during our trip there was a very thought-provoking exhibit on Syrian refugees.
Once you move on you’ll then start to be wowed by all the amazing people who’ve received Nobel awards. A special exhibit introduces you to the latest winner and talks about their challenges and successes, and then you move into a room called the Nobel Field, where every winner is given an interactive screen and surrounded by thousands of lights. Making your way through the ‘field’, you can stop anywhere that takes your fancy and click on a name or face to find out more about this award winner and what they did that was so special. Highlighting the worst and best of humanity, you can’t help but be affected by a visit here.
In addition, in a thin hallway covered in Nobel Peace Prize winner wallpaper (yes it’s a thing, and I want it!) you can delve into a virtual information vault all about every prize and award winner, before then moving on to a section of the museum dedicated to the man himself, which tells his life story and how he went on to start these awards. The short version is that as a creator he invented dynamite. This made him a millionaire but he despaired when he discovered how he’d created something that was used to kill, destroying families and wrecking lives. So he decided to give back by funding these awards to support those working hard to bring peace to their societies. How lovely is that?!
By the time you’ve gone through both these sites you’ll be ravenous and so why not treat yourself on your final day in the city with a special meal at one of the city’s most renowned venues?
Head to the Grand Hotel Oslo for an impressive afternoon tea in a gorgeous setting (review coming soon!) and then after a relaxing couple of hours hop on a bus and head over to the Vigeland Sculpture Park.
Gustav Vigeland was one of Norway’s most renowned artists. As well as a museum dedicated to his work you’ll find this amazing park, which is home to 200 of his sculptures including famous works such as the Wheel of Life, the Monolith and the Angry Boy.
His style is definitely unique I’d say, and some of the sculptures are quite entertaining! This park is actually one of the city’s biggest tourist attractions, so be sure to make the time to visit!
After all this high culture it’s time to end your trip to Oslo with a bit of fun! Why not spend your final evening in Tilt, a quirky bar in the heart of the city where alongside a great selection of microbrews and imports on tap, with beers changing every week, you’ll find pinball machines, arcade games and even shuffleboard.
Oh, and if for some crazy reason you do get hungry, you’re a hop, skip and a jump away from what is considered one of Oslo’s best burger joints: Illegal Burger.
Outside it looks like an empty, closed shop, but push through the doors and you’ll come across a buzzing, if basic, burger bar where you can enjoy a wide selection of burger creations for a cheap (by Oslo standards) price! I found the burgers tasty but greasy – similar to what you’d expect from a UK burger van, but the potatoes were amazing. These were chunky chips that were crisp on the outside and soft and fluffy in the centre, covered in chunky salt and with a small bowl of mayo. Delicious!
A three-day Oslo itinerary!
So there you have it, my three-day guide to Oslo. I hope this inspires you to visit the city, or for those already heading there, that it gives you some fresh ideas on what to see and do.
Oslo has so much to offer you could never squeeze into into just three days, so for those who have more time, or want to tailor their itinerary to suit their interests better, here’s some other great places worth visiting:
Oslo City Hall: Love or hate it, this monster of a building definitely has character! As well as exploring its many external sculptures, if you book in advance you can get a tour inside…
Stortinget: For something quite different, you can also go on a free tour of the Norwegian parliament building, Stortinget. These are first come, first served, so make sure to get there around half hour early for a chance of getting in, as there’s a maximum of 30 people per tour, and only two a day..
Holmenkellen: For sports fans and adrenaline junkies take the tram all the way up to Holmenkellen. As well as amazing views of the city and the ski museum, if you dare you can even can zipline down the old ski jump!
If you’ve already visited the city and have your own recommendations to add I’d love to hear them – please share in the comment section below!