10 Things You Must Do In Norway, Pt. 1: Oslo

Friday, 28 April 2017

Norway is one of the most beautiful countries on earth (it's not just me that thinks this, my trusty Lonely Planet agrees!). It's a once-in-a-lifetime travel destination for one simple reason: apart from a dearth of all-year-round sunshine, it is a country that has it all.

But when visiting a country that offers its visitors so much, how do you decide which activities and sights to cram into your ever-so-precious-and-always-too-scarce vacation time? Cue this little series of guides containing must-do things to do and see in Norway, starting with the country's spectacular capital city.

1. Visit Oslo

Unlike its well-frequented Scandi neighbours in Denmark and Sweden, Norway's capital has received considerably less interest from the throngs of tourists that flock to Europe every year, and within hours of my arrival I felt like I could take a reasonable guess as to why. Take Oslo at face value, and at first it can seem quiet and grey, and dare I say it, even a little dull! But scratch beneath the surface, and allow yourself to explore and you'll soon discover a city that is overflowing with art, character and history.

Its main allure, of course, is its proximity to nature. Surrounded by hills and forests, scattered with green spaces, and permeated by the beautiful Oslofjord, this city offers its visitors ample opportunities to enjoy natural landscapes and stunning vistas, and partake in associated leisure pursuits.

While you are there, you must...

2. Visit the Royal Palace

Oslo's Royal Palace sits proudly at the top of a hill overlooking the city centre, and happily, unlike most royal residences around the world, you can walk right up to the front door. There are guided tours of the interior in the summer months, but a walk around the pretty exterior of the palace can be just as agreeable.

3. Have a stroll around one of the city's pretty parks

While you're at the Palace, the Slottsparken (Palace Park) is one of the best of the city's green spaces, with hills, duck ponds, and, if you happen to visit in spring like we did, carpets of spring flowers and canopies of pink blossom.

Alternatively, the views of the city from the top of Ekebergparken are exquisite.

I'm also reliably informed that the sculptures in Vigelandsparken are well-worth seeing...but hey, we had to save something for next time!

4. Visit the Norwegian National Opera & Ballet

This modern, minimalistic piece of architecture juts out of the ground like a shard of glass...or ice if you will. Tourists throng to it to enjoy the pretty city reflections on its glass exterior and to hike up the steep incline either side of the building to its roof, from which spectacular views of the city can be seen.

5. Take a trip to the Holmenkollen Ski Museum and Ski Jump

The 4000-year Nordic history of skiing (and skis!) can be discovered in this well-curated museum, but take some time to admire the impressive ski jump first, which was used in the 1952 Winter Olympics, and still draws crowds for the annual ski festival in March.

6. Have lunch in Aker Brygge

This trendy, upmarket neighbourhood fringes the Oslofjord, with direct access to Oslo's harbourfront and the ferries which regularly frequent the islands of the fjord. The area has a seaside feel, with a wooden cladding promenade and pier, several boutique shops and restaurants which are constantly bustling with Oslo's socialites.

Our top restaurant picks include Lekter'n, which is built out into the fjord, with a bridge across to a permanently-moored boat...

And Louise Restaurant & Bar, which combines chic al-fresco dining with contrasting cosy and characterful interiors.

7. Visit Akershus Festning 

According to my brother-in-law, this medieval castle and fortress is one of Norway's archtectural highlights. Built in 1299, it has a grim history which can be discovered within the museums inside.

8. Get a boat to Hoved√łya

The Oslofjord island which is closest to the city also happens to be one of the best for discovering nature, exploring beaches and uncovering an exciting cultural history. A five minute ferry ride from the harbour, and measuring only 800 metres across in any direction, it's possible to explore the island with time to spare before lunch.

9. Stay in a historic hotel

Hotel Continental, Oslo has been owned by the same family for four generations, and they have built it into one of Norway's finest luxury five star hotels. With a prime city centre location, lavish breakfast spreads and luxuriously comfy beds, it's my top pick of places to stay within the city.

10. Have a drink in an Oslo institution 

Attached to the hotel, and just across the road from the National Theatre, this restaurant has been a favourite with families and tourists alike for several decades. The Viennese interiors, Norwegian-inspired food and immaculate service make it a place that has to be visited, if only for a glass or two of prosecco to celebrate your time in this wonderful city.

Of course, this list is not exhaustive, and as we are lucky enough to have family in Oslo, we will definitely be back to explore more of the city in due course.

Have you visited Oslo? What can I add to my to do list for next time?


  1. Love Oslo! Thanks for the recommendations.

  2. Norway is amazing country! :D
    I like a lot Oslo even last year i had offer for work there and to move. :D

  3. I think I'd love Oslo though it would be tough work to convince Mr S as he's all about the sunshine! I've just about got him to agree to Iceland...

  4. Looks like a wonderful place and your pictures are great too!

  5. The pictures are awesome. Such a dreamy place. Norway has never been on my wish list. Seeing your pics and insta stories, it is sure added to the ever growing list��

  6. Love Scandinavia and have good friends in Sweden who I do not visit enough. I note you didn't try one of Norway's dairy delicacies Brunost (or maybe you did)?