The picturesque, cosmopolitan city of Oslo is the capital of Norway. Located in the southeast corner of the country, this coastal city is bursting with greenery and outdoor activities, cool museums, lots of art, amazing seafood, and more.
Oslo makes for an excellent base to explore southern Norway as well as a fun weekend getaway destination. There are plenty of hiking and biking trails nearby, as well as ample opportunities to swim, fish, go boating, and ski.
While not the cheapest city in the world, it’s nevertheless worth a visit to see the incredible fjords and take in the relaxed place of Scandinavian life. I loved my time here and I’m confident you will too!
This travel guide to Oslo can help you plan your trip, save money, and see the best the city has to offer.
Table of Contents
Top 5 Things to See and Do in Oslo
1. Visit the National Gallery
2. Explore Akershus Fortress
3. Wander Vigeland Sculpture Park
4. Check out the Viking Ship Museum
5. Explore Nordmarka Wilderness Area
Other Things to See and Do in Oslo
1. Take a free walking tour
One of the best ways to learn about a new destination is to take a free walking tour. You’ll get to see the main sights while having an expert local guide on hand to answer your questions. I always start my trips off with a free walking tour as they are the best way to get oriented and learn a little bit about the local history and culture. Free Tour Oslo offers an insightful 90-minute tour around the city. Just be sure to tip your guide!
2. Visit the Blomqvist Auction House Gallery
Established in 1870, Blomqvist is one of the oldest and largest auction houses in Norway. Located in the city center, it is an excellent place to stop to see traditional Norwegian art and antiques such as glass, silver, china, furniture, carpets, and even jewelry. Sure, you may not want to fork out a fortune on art or antiques at their auctions but it’s a nice gallery to spend some time exploring. You can also visit their website to see what is available for auction as there is an ever-rotating list of art and antiques on offer.
3. Learn some Norwegian history at Norsk Folkemuseum
There are many museums throughout Oslo showcasing Norwegian history and Viking tales, but this is the most interesting. Home to over 150 buildings, this open-air museum lets you immerse yourself in the history of the country. The biggest attraction is the Gol Stave Church, which dates to 1200 CE. Other incredible sights to see are the 14th-century farmhouses and the 18th-century tenement buildings. This is a fun activity that blends entertainment and education, so it’s a great choice for anyone traveling with children. Admission is 140 NOK.
4. Go swimming
Oslo has many outdoor areas that are ideal for swimming, from rivers to lakes to the Oslo fjord itself. The water here is clean and safe too. Tjuvholmen City Beach, Sørenga Seawater Pool, and Huk (Oslo’s popular beach for a younger crowd) are three places worth checking out if you’re looking to take a dip. You’ll usually see plenty of locals enjoying the water — even in the winter!
5. Kampen Ecological Children’s Farm
Located in Eastern Oslo, “Kampen Barnebondegård” is an urban ecological farm that was set up for children to learn about vegetables, herbs, and animals (they have horses, pigs, sheep, goats, chickens, and more!). On weekends, there’s a small cafe available with homemade treats. It’s a great stop for a laid-back, kid-friendly afternoon that’s both fun and educational. Admission is 50 NOK for kids and 200 NOK for adults. Hours are limited outside of the summer so be sure to check their website before you go.
6. Shop in Grünerløkka
Located slightly north of Oslo’s city center, Grünerløkka is ideal for an afternoon of perusing independent shops. You can expect to find artisanal handicrafts, clothing, pottery, and various other trinkets, in addition to record shops and second-hand bookstores. There are cafes, flea markets, and bakeries here too, making it ideal for a relaxing day of exploring the city on foot. There are also a few clubs here so at night the area livens up even more.
7. See the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet
Norway’s largest performing arts institution, located east of Oslo’s city center in Bygdøy, is home to the world’s first opera house rooftop. It’s accessible to visitors and is a popular spot for watching the sunset. Ticket prices for the opera and ballet vary for each production but expect to pay at least 200 NOK (discounts are available for students, seniors, and children). There are also occasional “balcony concerts” performed by students, which are free and a great way to enjoy music on a budget. Even if you don’t see a show, be sure to spend an evening here. There are always lots of locals hanging out and enjoying the summer weather. You can also take a one-hour guided tour of the building for 120 NOK.
8. Stroll along Aker Brygge wharf
Perfect for an afternoon stroll and host to the largest concentration of restaurants in Oslo, Aker Brygge is located southeast of Oslo’s city center. Enjoy a wide array of foods ranging from French cuisine to traditional Nordic dishes, or a simple day of window shopping and architectural admiration. There are also lots of food trucks around here in the summer. The wharf has something for everyone and is a great place to spend a couple of hours window shopping, people watching, and admiring the view of the fjord.
9. Wander through the Botanical Garden
The perfect place to relax after exploring the city, Oslo’s Botanical Garden has over 1,800 different plants. Largely set up as an Arboretum, the Botanical Garden also offers two greenhouses of exotic plants (which date to 1868 and 1876 respectively) and a “Scent Garden” designed specifically for the blind so they could enjoy a sensory experience. There are lots of benches so you can sit down with a book and relax, as well as works of art throughout the garden. Entry is free.
10. Join the Korketrekkeren Toboggan run
The toboggan run begins in Frognerseteren and is an exciting way to take part in a traditional Norwegian winter activity. The track is over 2,000 meters long and sleds are available for rent (including helmets) for 150 NOK per day. You can take as many rides down the track as you like as it’s free to ride. The ride itself takes almost 10 minutes and then it takes about 15 minutes to get back to the top. The track is only available when there is snow so the schedule varies, but it’s incredibly fun and popular with the locals!
11. Visit the Fram Museum
Located on the Bygdøy Peninsula, this museum is all about Norwegian polar exploration. Opened in 1936, the museum honors explorers like Roald Amundsen (who led the first expedition to the south pole in 1911) and Fridtjof Nansen (who crossed the Greenland interior on skis in 1888). You’ll learn about the expeditions and how the people (and their animals) survived the harsh conditions. The museum also has exhibits of the animals of the polar regions, such as penguins and polar bears, as well as a Northern Lights show to give you a sense of what the Aurora Borealis actually looks like. Admission 140 NOK for adults and 50 NOK for kids.
12. See the Kon Tiki Museum
Another museum about exploration, the Kon Tiki museum highlights the adventures of Thor Heyerdahl, the 20th-century explorer and anthropologist. In 1947, Thor sailed from Peru to the Polynesian islands on a balsa wood raft to prove that Polynesians migrated from South America, not Asia. He also sailed from Morocco to Barbados on another traditional raft to prove that the Egyptians could have crossed the Atlantic. At the museum, you’ll get to see his two boats and learn about his voyages, discoveries, and challenges. Admission is 140 NOK.
13. Take a fjord cruise
Oslo is enveloped by the Oslo fjord. It’s full of narrow sounds and serene bays, and there are tons of small islands dotting the waters. Cruises usually last a couple of hours and take you up and down this idyllic landscape. They’re available all year round, as the fjord is stunning in every season (though it’s especially beautiful in the summer). Expect to pay around 360 NOK for a cruise.
Oslo Travel Costs
Hostel prices – Accommodation (much like everything in Norway) is not cheap. Hostels start around 275 NOK per night for an 8-person dorm. Private rooms cost around 800-900 NOK. Free Wi-Fi is standard and most hostels also have self-catering facilities. Free breakfast is rare, though it is offered by a couple of hostels in the city.
Additionally, most hostels in Norway charge a 50 NOK surcharge for linens, as is the custom in Scandinavia. You can bring your own, however, you cannot use a sleeping bag instead.
For those traveling with a tent, wild camping is legal (and free). Norway has ‘Freedom to Roam’ laws (called “Allemannsretten”) that allow anyone to camp anywhere for up to two nights as long as it’s not on cultivated land.
You’ll need to make sure you are not camping near someone’s house, that you take all trash with you when you leave, and that you aren’t in a farmer’s field or garden. But other than that, you can pretty much pitch your tent anywhere!
If wild camping is not your thing, campgrounds are also common though many require a Camping Key Europe card. You can purchase it at your campsite for 160 NOK or online for 140 NOK. Most campsites have modern facilities, including toilets and showers. Expect a basic tent plot with space for two people to cost around 200 NOK per night.
Budget hotel prices – A three-star budget hotel (there are no two-star budget hotels in Oslo) starts around 600-800 NOK for a double room. Expect basic amenities like free Wi-Fi, coffee/tea makers, and a TV. Some hotels include a basic free breakfast too. For a hotel with a pool, expect to pay at least 1,200 NOK per night.
Private rooms on Airbnb average around 400 NOK per night while a whole apartment or house costs at least 750 NOK per night.
Food – Food is expensive in Oslo — there are just no two ways about it. A lot of food has to be imported so anything that isn’t grown here is going to be pricey. Seafood is incredibly popular, with smoked salmon being one of the country’s staples. Cod is also super popular, as are prawns and crab (locals host “crab parties” when they are in season). Lamb is the most popular meat, and open-faced sandwiches are the go-to choice for both breakfast and lunch (usually composed of dark bread, cheese, and either meat, seafood, or vegetable topping).
Street food like hot dogs costs between 25-45 NOK and you can usually find “cheap” meals of traditional cuisine for just under 200 NOK at inexpensive casual restaurants. For a multi-course meal with table service, expect to pay double that.
Fast food (think McDonald’s) costs around 100 NOK for a combo meal while Chinese food starts at 150 NOK per main dish. A basic large pizza starts at 110 NOK (140 NOK for one with more toppings).
Beer at the bar costs around 90 NOK though you can get it for less than half that price if you buy it at the store. Lattes/cappuccinos cost around 45 NOK while bottled water is 30 NOK.
Grocery shopping here is the cheapest way to get by on a budget. Expect a week’s worth of groceries to cost around 725 NOK. This includes basic staples like rice, pasta, vegetables, and some meat or fish.
Backpacking Oslo Suggested Budgets
On a backpacking budget of 555 NOK per day, you can stay in a hostel dorm, cook all your meals, take public transportation to get around, limit your drinking, and do free activities like swimming and hiking. If you plan on drinking, add 50-150 NOK per day.
On a mid-range budget of 1,325 NOK per day, you can stay in a private hostel room or Airbnb, eat out for most meals at food trucks and cheap casual restaurants, take the occasional taxi to get around, have a couple of drinks, and do paid activities like museum visits or opera performances.
On a “luxury” budget of 2,425 NOK or more per day, you can stay in a budget hotel, eat out for all your meals at cheap casual restaurants, drink more, rent a car to get around, and do more paid activities and guided tours. This is just the ground floor for luxury though. The sky is the limit!
You can use the chart below to get an idea of how much you need to budget daily. Keep in mind these are daily averages – some days you’ll spend more, some days you’ll spend less (you might spend less every day). We just want to give you a general idea of how to make your budget. Prices are in NOK.
Oslo Travel Guide: Money-Saving Tips
Oslo is an expensive city in an expensive country. It’s hard to visit on a budget. It takes some work to save money and you won’t be able to eat or drink out a lot. But it can be done! Here are some tips to save money in the city:
- Cook your own food – Food is very, very expensive in Norway so the best thing you can do is cook your own meals. Go grocery shopping and stick to buying local and seasonal food.
- Eat cheap – If you do decide to eat out, your cheapest options are shawarma and pizza. These usually cost around 100 NOK and can be found all around the city.
- Stay with a local – The best way to avoid expensive hostels is to not stay in them! Couchsurfing can connect you with local hosts who offer free accommodation (usually just on a couch). It’s not fancy, but you’ll get insider tips and a free place to stay — all while making a new friend!
- Camp – Free public camping laws allow you to camp in the parks and public lands for free as long as you have your own tent. You can stay up to two nights in an area as long as you are quiet and respectful. Make sure to leave the area as you found it! If you plan on camping a lot, make sure to get the Camping Key Europe card. It’s 160 NOK (140 NOK if purchased online) and offers discounts to most of Norway’s campgrounds.
- Get the Oslo Pass – If you plan on visiting lots of museums and using public transportation, this pass is going to save you money. The 24-hour pass is 445 NOK while you can also get a 48-hour pass for 655 NOK and a 72-hour pass for 820 NOK.
- Stay sober – At 90 NOK per drink (often more!), going out destroys your budget. While Norwegians love to go out and have a good time, if you are on a tight budget, skip the drinks. Better to save your money for sailing around the fjords.
- Buy your drinks at the store – If you do plan on drinking, buy your drinks at the Vinmonopolet (the state-run chain of stores that sell alcohol). You’ll save 50% or more doing this!
- Travel with friends – If you rent a car to get out of the city (which is the best way to see the surrounding areas), try to find people to join you to share costs. You can use the Couchsurfing app or just ask around in hostels to find people. This will help you save money on gas and rental prices — which can eat into your budget quickly!
- Bring a reusable water bottle – The tap water here is super clean, so bring a reusable water bottle to save money and lower your plastic usage. LifeStraw makes a bottle with a built-in filter so you can always ensure your water is clean and safe.
Where to Stay in Oslo
Oslo only has a few hostels but they’re all pretty comfortable and social. These are my recommended places to stay in Oslo:
How to Get Around Oslo
Bus – Public transportation in Oslo is efficient, reliable, and clean. Tickets are priced per zone and start at 38 NOK. You can get a 24-hour pass starting at 114 NOK for one zone and a 7-day one-zone pass starting at 302 NOK.
You can buy your ticket onboard, however, it is more expensive that way. To save time and money, download the RuterBillett app. It’s the city’s app for public transportation.
Additionally, free public transportation is included with the Oslo Pass, which can save you money if you plan on seeing a lot of sights.
While you can get on most buses and trams without showing a ticket, ticket patrols are common and the fines are heavy. Don’t risk it — always purchase a ticket!
Subway – Oslo is the only city in the country with a metro system (known as the “T-Bane”). Tickets are 38 NOK and the passes above also work for the metro system. There are 5 lines and around 100 stops with service beginning between 5:30am-6am and ending between 12:30am-1am. It’s fast, reliable and an easy way to get across the city.
Taxi – Taxis are prohibitively expensive here. Rates start at 100 NOK and are 14 NOK per kilometer. Avoid them!
Ridesharing – Uber is available in Oslo (it’s the only city in the country where they operate). However, it’s comparable to the taxis here and should be avoided.
Bicycle – Cycling is a great way to get around the city as everything is compact and lots of locals cycle as well. You can find rentals for 59 NOK per day from Oslo City Bike. It’s the city’s bike-sharing program and there are over 250 stations around the city where you can get a bike. You just need to download the app to sign up and pay.
Car rental – Car rentals start at around 400 NOK per day for a multi-day rental. If you’re just staying in the city, you won’t need a vehicle, however, having one will let you explore the many parks and forests outside the city.
When to Go to Oslo
The ideal time to visit Oslo is from June to August when the weather is warm and the days are (really) long. The country is at its liveliest during this time and locals take advantage of the good weather at every opportunity. The parks are always full and there are always fun events happening around town. Temperatures hover around the 60s and 70s°F (20s°C). Not too hot, but warm enough to swim, hike, and lounge about.
The downside to visiting in the summer is that, since Norway has a very short summer, Oslo can get busy so be sure to book your accommodation in advance. That being said, “busy” in Oslo is a far cry from “busy” in cities like Paris, Berlin, or London.
The shoulder season makes for a good time to visit as well, with temperatures ranging from 40-50°F (4-10°C). May typically has decent weather with occasional rain, while September gives you cooler temperatures and changing leaves. You’ll beat the crowds and still be able to explore the city on foot without the weather getting in your way (too much).
Attractions begin to close around late September/early October, or at the very least reduce their hours. The days begin to get dark early in October and temperatures start dropping around this time too. However, prices also decrease, and you’re likely to find cheaper airfares and accommodations. Be sure to pack layers if you plan on visiting during this time of year as it can be quite cool — even during the day.
The winter is very cold and sees a lot of snow and darkness. In the depths of the winter, you only get a few hours of light each day, and temperatures plummet below 32°F (0°C). The plus side of traveling during the off-season, however, is that you’ll be offered the cheapest accommodations, and fees for certain attractions are lower as well. You can also take advantage of all the winter sports, such as cross-country skiing and downhill skiing. This is also the prime time to see the northern lights.
How to Stay Safe in Oslo
Norway is one of the safest countries in the world. In fact, it ranks 17th on the list of the world’s safest countries! However, it’s still good to keep an eye out for pickpockets, especially around the train stations and on public transportation. Be aware of your surroundings and use common sense and you should be just fine.
Solo female travelers should feel comfortable traveling alone — even a night — here in Oslo. Taxis are quite safe and crime is rare against solo travelers. But keep your wits up and never travel alone at night if you’ve been drinking, just to be safe.
The tap water in Oslo is safe and clean — in fact, it’s the second cleanest in the world. There is also no real risk of natural disasters or terrorism here either.
If you go hiking, always bring water and sunscreen. Be sure to check the weather before you go as well.
If you rent a car, don’t leave any valuables in it overnight. While break-ins are rare, it never hurts to be safe!
If you experience an emergency, dial 112 for police, 110 for fire, and 113 for ambulance services.
At the end of the day, always trust your gut instinct. If a taxi driver seems shady, stop the cab and get out. If your hotel is seedier than you thought, get out of there. Make copies of your personal documents, including your passport and ID as well. It never hurts to be prepared!
Worried about travel scams? Read about these 14 major travel scams to avoid.
The most important piece of advice I can offer is to purchase good travel insurance. Travel insurance protects you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. You can use the widget below to find the policy right for you:
Oslo Travel Guide: The Best Booking Resources
These are my favorite companies to use when I travel to Oslo. They are included here because they consistently find deals, offer world-class customer service and great value, and overall, are better than their competitors.
- Skyscanner – Skyscanner is my favorite flight search engine. They search small websites and budget airlines that larger search sites tend to miss. They are hands down the number one place to start.
- Momondo – This is my other favorite flight search engine because they search such a wide variety of sites and airlines. I never book a flight without checking here too.
- Airbnb – Airbnb is a great accommodation alternative for connecting with homeowners who rent out their homes or apartments.
- Hostelworld – This is the best hostel accommodation site out there, with the largest inventory, best search interface, and widest availability.
- Couchsurfing – This website allows you to stay on people’s couches or in their spare rooms for free. It’s a great way to save money while meeting locals who can tell you the ins and outs of their city. The site also lists events you can attend to meet people (even if you’re not staying with someone).
- Booking.com – The best all-around booking site that constantly provides the cheapest and lowest rates. They have a no money down policy, great interface, and the widest selection of budget accommodation. In all my tests, they’ve always had the cheapest rates out of all the booking websites.
- Intrepid Travel – If you want to do a group tour around Sweden, go with Intrepid Travel. They offer small group tours that use local operators and leave a small environmental footprint. If you go on a tour with anyone, go with them. And, as a reader of this site, you’ll get a discount when you click the link!
- Rome2Rio – This website allows you to see how to get from point A to point B the best and cheapest way possible. It gives you all the bus, train, plane, or boat routes that can get you there as well as how much they cost.
- World Nomads – I buy all my travel insurance from World Nomads. They have great customer service, competitive prices, and in-depth coverage. I’ve been using them since I started traveling in 2003. Don’t leave home without it!
- EatWith – This website allows you to eat home cooked meal with locals. Locals post listings for dinner parties and specialty meals that you can sign up for. There is a fee (everyone sets their own price) but this is a great way to do something different, pick a local’s brain, and make a new friend.
Oslo Gear and Packing Guide
If you’re heading on the road and need some gear suggestions, here are my tips for the best travel backpack and for what to pack!
The Best Backpack for Travelers
Straps: Thick and cushy with compression technology that pulls the pack’s load up and inwards so it doesn’t feel as heavy.
Features: Removable top lid, large pocket at the front, hydration compatible, contoured hip belt
If you want something different, refer to my article on how to choose the best travel backpack for tips on picking a pack and other backpack suggestions.
What to Pack for Your Trip
- 1 pair of jeans (heavy and not easily dried, but I like them; a good alternative is khaki pants)
- 1 pair of shorts
- 1 bathing suit
- 5 T-shirts (Unbound Merino is my preferred company. If you’re a member of NM+, you can get 15% off your purchase)
- 1 long-sleeved T-shirt
- 1 pair of flip-flops
- 1 pair of sneakers
- 6 pairs of socks (I always end up losing half)
- 5 pairs of boxer shorts (I’m not a briefs guy!)
- 1 toothbrush
- 1 tube of toothpaste
- 1 razor
- 1 package of dental floss
- 1 small bottle of shampoo
- 1 small bottle of shower gel
- 1 towel
Small Medical Kit (safety is important!!!)
- Hydrocortisone cream
- Antibacterial cream
- Hand sanitizer (germs = sick = bad holiday)
- A key or combination lock (safety first)
- Zip-lock bags (keeps things from leaking or exploding)
- Plastic bags (great for laundry)
- Universal charger/adaptor (this applies to everyone)
- LifeStraw (A water bottle with a purifier)
Female Travel Packing List
I’m not a woman, so I don’t know what a woman wears, but Kristin Addis, our solo female travel guru, wrote this list as an addition to the basics above:
- 1 swimsuit
- 1 sarong
- 1 pair of stretchy jeans (they wash and dry easily)
- 1 pair of leggings (if it’s cold, they can go under your jeans, otherwise with a dress or shirt)
- 2-3 long-sleeve tops
- 2-3 T-shirts
- 3-4 spaghetti tops
- 1 light cardigan
- 1 dry shampoo spray & talc powder (keeps long hair grease-free in between washes)
- 1 hairbrush
- Makeup you use
- Hair bands & hair clips
- Feminine hygiene products (you can opt to buy there too, but I prefer not to count on it, and most people have their preferred products)
For more on packing, check out these posts:
Oslo Travel Guide: Suggested Reading
Out Stealing Horses, by Per Petterson
This is a deep, reflective, and poignant novel set in the easternmost regions of the country. Written in 2003, the book paints a vivid picture of life after the German occupation, jumping in time to reveal the truth behind the main character’s past and the tragedies that have befallen him. In classic Scandinavian taste, it’s a touch melancholic, but nevertheless a worthwhile read. It won numerous awards and was adapted into a film in 2019.
The World of the Vikings, by Richard Hall
If you’re looking to learn about Norway’s Viking past, The World of the Vikings does a great job of constructing a historical narrative that’s easy to follow without being overly academic or boring. The book focuses on the facts and strips away some of the more romanticized stereotypes of the culture while providing lots of photos and information about the discoveries we’ve used to inform ourselves of the Viking era.
Shadow on the Mountain, by Margi Preus
This is more of a young adult read but it’s an interesting topic inspired by the true adventures of a spy during the Nazi occupation of Norway who just happens to be a teenager. Based on true events, the book captures what life was like during the occupation and how the Norwegian resistance went about its operations on a day-to-day basis. It’s a quick read yet insightful at the same time.
One of Us, by Åsne Seierstad
In July 2011, Anders Breivik killed 77 people and injured over 300 more in what is considered the worst act of terrorism in Norway’s history. One of Us is a powerful, gripping read that paints a portrait of both the killer and his victims. This is one of the most formative events in Norwegian history and comprehending it will go a long way towards helping visitors understand the psyche of modern Norway.
The Snowman, by Jo Nesbo
This dark crime novel is the 7th in a series, however, it can be read on its own. Norway — like much of Scandinavia — loves its gritty crime novels and The Snowman is one of the best. Written in 2007, it’s a suspenseful roller coaster of a novel with plenty of twists and turns to keep you on the edge of your seat. It was also adapted into a film.
Oslo Travel Guide: Related Articles
Want more info? Check out all the articles I’ve written on backpacking/traveling Norway and continue planning your trip: