When translated into English, Oslo means expensive.
I kid, I kid, but seriously Oslo is expensive. On the night we arrived, we wanted a place to sit and review our big “Things To See In Oslo, Norway” list. We stumbled across this cute little pizzeria beside Oslo Cathedral called Cafe Cathedral.
One pizza, one beer and a shot of the local drink called Aquavit (more on that later) ran us about 420 Norway Crowns which in Canadian dollars is approximately $70.00. Let’s get this straight. There is absolutely no way I would spend 70 bucks on pizza and beer back home in Toronto. But with Oslo’s beer tax and seating charges, my advice is to keep an eye on your money cause things get real pricey, real quick.
But I digress. While Stopovers & Layovers are my thing, budgets are not.
That said, I had a lot of trouble getting past the whole 70.00 for a pizza thing. So through a new friend, I met in Stockholm named Rachel and a friend from back home, in Toronto named Shawn, I was told to get the Oslo Pass.
The 24 pass is perfect for one day in Oslo; the 48 pass is ideal for 2 days in Oslo while the 72-hour pass is excellent for 3 days in Oslo. Each version gives you access to all the museums, all transportation and 10 to 20 percent off selected stores and restaurants.
Whew! What a relief and let me tell you it’s worth every penny.
So with that in mind, this itinerary is based on the 24 & 48-hour pass I purchased at the tourism board in the Oslo S Train Station, but first a little history.
- Oslo Was founded in 1040 and established as a kaupstad (an old Scandinavian term for a market town) in 1048 by Harald Hardrada.
- The Diocese of Oslo, known traditionally as the Church of Norway’s bishopric for the municipalities of Oslo, Asker and Baerum was founded around in 1070.
- In 1925 Oslo changed its name from Kristiania.
Where To Stay In Oslo
Thon Hotel Opera
Thon Hotel Opera is beside the Airport Train terminal at the Oslo train station, which means access to every possible form of public transportation.
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Saga Hotel Oslo
The Saga Hotel Oslo is a four-star hotel located in Oslo’s City Center near the Royal Palace. The hotel was restored and modernized in 2011.
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Located in the center of Oslo is Thon Hotel Bristol, a 4-star hotel that features a sauna and a golf course. It was built in 2010.
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Getting to Oslo
There are direct flights to Oslo from most major cities in Europe as well as some North American and Asian Cities via SAS (Scandinavian Airlines). Also, there are direct flights to Oslo from:
Oslo and Istanbul via Turkish Airlines
- Olso and Athens via Aegean Airlines
- Oslo and Moscow via Aeroflot Russian Airlines
- Oslo and Paris via Air France
OSL Express is an airport coach with direct routes between Oslo east and Oslo Airport (OSL) at Gardermoen. If you’re travelling with a big group, you can use
PersonTransport Norge. They have cars, minibuses and buses which include airport and cruise transfers, sightseeing tours, school trips etc.
Torp-ekspressen operates airport buses between Oslo Bus Terminal and Sandefjord Airport Torp.
The train is a great way to take in the gorgeous Norwegian scenery. All trains to Oslo arrive at Oslo Central Station in the city centre.
Some approximate travel times by train from neighbouring cities are:
- Bergen to Oslo is 7 hrs
- Stockholm to Oslo is 4.5-5 hrs
- Gothenburg to Oslo is 4 hrs
- Oslo Airport to Oslo is 20 mins.
The Oslo Visitor Centre sells train tickets for Vy (formerly NSB) trains and the Airport Express Train.
Flytoget Airport Express Train is Norway’s high-speed train fast transportation for the business class and those in a rush. It offers service between Oslo Airport (OSL) at Gardermoen.
The Night Before
what to do in oslo norway
Oslo Opera House
Since we arrived early afternoon, we were able to check-in and headed back out to start exploring. The Oslo Opera House is the home of The Norwegian National Opera and Ballet, as well as Norway’s national opera theatre. Located in the Bjørvika neighbourhood at the top of the Oslofjord, the opera house’s main stage is 16 meters wide and 40 meters deep.
The angled outer surface of the building is covered with marble from Carrara, Italy and white granite. It was constructed to look like it is emerging out of the water – plus, it allows people to walk on top of it.
Remember that expensive pizza I mentioned earlier? Yeah, it was this place. The cafe is located on the main pedestrian walkway, which, of course, contributes to the high price but 70.00 CAD for a pizza, beer and a shot of liquor is a bit too much.
Things To See In Oslo
Once named Our Saviour’s Church, Oslo Cathedral is the main church for the Church of Norway Diocese of Oslo. “The bazaar halls” around the cathedral were built between 1841-1858. Architect Arnstein Arneberg completed the chapel on the south side in 1950. Also, the Norwegian Royal Family and the Norwegian Government use it for weddings and funerals.
Karl Johans gate (main street)
Karl Johans Gate is not a gate but rather a central pedestrian walkway. Here you’ll find night clubs, bars, jazz clubs by night and cafés, stores and shops. Karl Johans Gate is also the place were Oslo holds is street parades, particularly on May 17th, when Norway celebrates its constitution. Locals crowd the street dressed in national costumes.
One of Norway’s largest and most notable venues for the performance of dramatic arts is the National Theatre. It’s a place for drama, classic and innovative theatre as well as large celebrations. The main stage and the theatre itself was built in 1899the same year as the theatre.
The Royal Palace
The Royal Palace is where the current King and Queen live and its where the daily grind of the monarchy is conducted. The King presides over the Council of State, grants audiences and holds official dinners. Also, when foreign heads of state visit Oslo, they stay at the Palace. It is own by the state, and where most of the members of the Royal Court work.
(ferry ride included in the pass)
Bygdøy is where you’ll find a few of Oslo’s most famous museums. Although the peninsula is mainly a residential area, there are numerous trails for both cycling and walking.
The Norwegian Museum of Cultural History
(included in the pass)
Norsk Folkemuseum or The Norwegian Museum of Cultural History is in part an Open-Air Museum with 160 historic buildings. The main attraction is the beautiful Gol Stave Church.
Without a doubt, the open-air museum and the Gol Stave Church is one of the top things to do in Oslo.
The museum’s exhibits center from 1500 until the present time and the in-door exhibits feature Norwegian folk costumes, folk art, church art and Sami culture.
Viking Ship Museum
(included in the pass)
One of the must-see Oslo attractions is the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo. The museum contains one of the world’s best-preserved Viking ships items from Viking tombs around the Oslo Fjord. It also has displays of discoveries from the Gokstad, Oseberg and Tune ships, small boats, sleds, tools, textiles and utensils.
Rorbua Aker Brygge
(Dinner 20% off included in the pass)
The restaurant is furnished like a rorbu – a traditional Norwegian type of seasonal house that is used by fishermen. It’s considered one of the best Oslo restaurants because what it produces is typically North Norwegian – with classic dishes like cured cod, bacalao, whale meat and reindeer steak. When in season, they will serve up cod tongues, seagull eggs and lutefisk.
Dr. Jekyll’s Pub (Drinks)
Dr. Jekyll’s is a hidden gem in the centre of Oslo with over 500 types, styles and tastes of whiskey. It’s the kind of place the locals go for that after-work drink or meeting up with friends/business clients.
If you have only one day in Oslo, my good friend Chris over at Traveling Mitch put together an outstanding itinerary
What To See In Oslo
(Ski Jump & Ski Museum included in the pass)
The ski museum in Holmenkollen, located underneath the Holmenkollen ski jump, which happens to be the oldest of its kind in the world. The museum displays more than 4,000 years of skiing history, which includes snowboarding and modern skiing, as well as Norwegian polar exploration artifacts. The observation deck on top of the jump tower offers some fantastic panoramic views of Oslo.
Frogner Park and Vigeland Skulpturpark
Frogner Park is the largest park in central Oslo and a popular spot for the locals to enjoy some rest, relaxation and recreation. Inside the Frogner park, you’ll find Vigeland Sculpture Park, which is one of the most popular tourist attractions.
The Vigeland Sculpture Park was completed between 1939 and 1949 and is the world’s largest sculpture park made by a single artist – Gustav Vigeland. With over 200 sculptures in bronze, granite and wrought iron Gustav was also in charge of the design and layout of the park.
Oslo City Museum (Oslo Bymuseum)
Also located inside Frogner park is the Oslo Museum, which showcases the city’s history through models, paintings and photographs.
The museum’s exhibitions are in Norwegian, but a free audioguide “1,000 years in 20 minutes” is available in English. The museum also has an augmented reality app called “The City Detective,” which allows the user to look into Oslo’s past.
Akershus Fortress + Resistance Museum
(included in the pass)
The Akershus Fortress/Castle was believed to be constructed around the late 1290s, by King Haakon. The castle was once used as a military base, but today it’s used as a museum.
The Resistance Museum, located in a 17th-century building, has exhibitions that have re-created Norway’s World War II history from the years 1940-1945. Five years of domestic occupation documented through pictures, documents, posters, objects, models, original copies of newspapers and recordings. It’s quite impressive.
(Dinner or lunch 20% off included in the pass)
Christiania is a restaurant, bar and nightclub. The kitchen makes classic dishes with a twist and uses high-quality ingredients: pasta dishes, crispy duck salad, lobster soup and more. Christiania’s traditional afternoon tea is served between 11 am and 6 pm.
HIMKOK Storgata Destilleri (Drinks)
If you have some time and fancy a drink, you can head over to HIMKOK. It’s a cocktail bar and craft distillery that produces Aquavit, gin and vodka plus plants and herbs that it uses for its signature cocktails. It features professional bartenders and rustic interior in one of the oldest brick buildings in Oslo.
Day Trips From Oslo
I’ve asked three of my travel writer colleagues to give me their choice for day trips that are worth taking from Oslo if you have a day or two available in your 2 days in Oslo itinerary.
Here’s what they suggested.
One of our favourite places to go from Oslo – for the day or weekend – is to Asker, Norway. It’s a short train ride from the city center to this area west of Norway’s capital, which costs only about 80 Norwegian kroner, which is about $8.00 USD. Many people who commute to Oslo for work live here since the travel time is about 35 minutes one way.. And there’s a lot to do with picturesque views.
Their city center has a main street with shops and restaurants, including boutiques, small cafes, and housewares stores. The end of the street leads to a community center with a movie theatre and performances. Asker is on Oslo Fjord just like the main city, so they have prime waterfront views no matter the season. If you like boating, there’s a boating museum in Vollen, which is part of Asker, worth visiting for a very low entrance fee. Another favourite destination is the Asker Museum, which has historic homes on the property and an interesting museum with rotating exhibits. It looks dreamy during winter and breathtaking during summer with flowers in bloom around its gardens. There’s also a cute coffee and snack shop inside that sells traditional Norwegian waffles, that’s worth a visit.
One of the best trips in Norway is to experience Norway in a Nutshell and pay a visit to the tiny town of Flåm. It sits in an area lined by fjords that flow off of the massive Sognefjord. Many fjord ferries dock in Flåm so it has developed collections of eateries and tourist vendors. There are also some great attractions in the tiny village like the Stegastein viewing platform that offers sweeping views of the fjord from above. You should also check out the Flåm Church, a 17th-century wooden house of worship in the valley.
The main reason for visiting Flåm is to ride the Flåm Railway. It was built in 1924 and today it’s a world-famous railway that climbs a mountain to Myrdal, Norway. As the train ascends the mountain, you will rise over 850 meters from sea level.
The steepest track is over 50% grade. The journey is about an hour and is one of the most scenic train rides in the world. You’ll pass snow-melt waterfalls, mountain hamlets and blue streams as you climb. Along the train ride, you’ll make at least one stop at Kjosfossen Waterfall. It’s a stunning display of the gorgeous nature you can witness up-close in this region of Norway.
Eventually, you reach Myrdal station where you can choose to return to Flåm or continue along the Bergen Oslo line which traverses the majority of Norway.
Derek & Mike from Robe Trotting
The coastal town of Bergen is one of my all-time favourite cities in Norway. And although it’s a bit of a trek to call Bergen a day-trip from Oslo, it’s certainly worth the journey for anyone looking to explore Norway. Bergen is an absolutely picturesque city that combines old-world charm with accessible nature and rich culture. Bergen is compact and easy to explore. The city combines the charm or Trondheim, the culture of Oslo, and the views of Tromso into one mesmerizing destination.
Part of what makes Bergen so incredible is that the journey to get here can be just as spectacular as the experience when you arrive. Those coming from the north often arrive on the beautiful and popular Hurtigruten ferry that navigates the Norwegian coast from northern cities such as Kirkenes and Hammerfest. And those visiting Bergen from Oslo often travel via awe-inspiring Norway in a Nutshell tour that includes train, ferry, and bus connections that pass through some of the most breathtaking Norwegian landscapes.
Visitors to Bergen often spend their time near the waterfront. The Bergen market is a classic Norwegian market full of trinkets, food, and handmade souvenirs. The series of shops that line the Bryggen Wharf makes for one of the most iconic images of Norway, perfect for those looking for a shot for their Instagram feed. But the best views of Bergen come after a ride on the Floibanen Funicular to the top of Mount Floyen. Here you can look out over the whole city. And while you’re up there you can enjoy some of the cities best hiking and skiing trails.
Kevin from Wandering Wagars
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