Long overshadowed by Nordic cities like Copenhagen and Reykjavik, Norway’s unassuming capital is emerging as a must-see metropolis packed with cultural sites, incredible culinary adventures and enchanting attractions. Here’s some of the 10 best things to do in captivating Oslo.
See and Do
Oslo’s Opera House
Oslo’s Opera House is a breathtaking architectural masterpiece, designed like a gleaming iceberg emerging from the Oslofjord. Its cleverly-designed sloping roof invites visitors to ascend and take in panoramic views of the city and fjord. Beyond its stunning appearance, the Opera House is a vibrant cultural hub, hosting opera, ballet, and other performances that showcase Oslo’s artistic spirit.
Adjacent to the burgeoning cultural district of Bjørvika, the Opera House is a must-visit destination that blends contemporary design, artistic flare and an overarching sense of wonder. Even if you’re an opera newbie, try to take in a performance. Underscoring the Norwegian disdain for elitism, each seat is fitted with an instant translator so people of all languages and backgrounds can enjoy the show. Even if you can’t see a performance, treat yourself to a behind-the-scenes tour, where you’ll learn about staging, costumes and a more in-depth understanding of the building‘s architectural features.
Viking Bike Tour
In a city that prioritizes eco-friendliness and a car-free lifestyle, there’s truly no better way to explore Oslo than by bike. The Viking Oslo Highlights bike tour (which comes complete with horned bike helmets for those who want to channel their inner Viking) offers an engaging perspective on Norway’s capital, taking you through the city’s cultural, political and historic high points. Stops include iconic landmarks, such as the City Hall, Frogner neighbourhood, and a visit to the renowned Vigeland Sculpture Park.
The largest museum in the Nordics, the National Museum brilliantly showcases Norway’s rich cultural heritage, housing the nation’s largest collections of art, architecture, and design in a new facility just opened in 2022. The sweeping collection is possibly most famous for Edvard Munch’s The Scream, but it’s got plenty more to offer. Some of the standouts include Pile o’Sápmi, an incredible tapestry of 400 reindeer skulls by Maret Anne Sara , the royal costume collection, the bewitching Fairy Tale Room, and the almost one-thousand-year-old Baldishol carpet. You can also explore a fascinating collection of Norwegian artists like Hans Gude and Christian Krogh, as well as works by other luminaries like Pablo Picasso, Vincent van Gogh, and Henri Matisse, to name just a few
After you’ve toured the National Museum, be sure to check out Oslo’s breathtaking living museum — its verdant botanical garden. Spanning 45 acres and with over 5,500 plant species, this enchanting oasis (which forms part of Oslo’s Natural History Museum— also worth a visit) is a horticultural haven for nature enthusiasts and curious visitors alike. Meander along winding pathways as you traverse water gardens, a scent garden, greenhouses and captivating alpine landscapes.
Deichman Central Library
I know what you’re thinking. Who would ever put a public library on their list of must-do attractions? But just take one step inside and you’ll be a believer. A marvel of progressive and inclusive urban planning, the welcoming space is designed to be a cultural hub that will host events, exhibitions, and workshops, as well as a remarkable collection of books, videos and digital resources. Spacious and filled with light from large windows, the vast space is peppered with reading areas, study spaces, and creative zones.
Centrally located (the Munch Museum, Opera House and some of the city’s best sites are just a few minutes’ walk away), Att Revier is a unique aparthotel ideal for independent travelers who want to live like a local. More oh-so-hip apartment than hotel, the rooms ooze Scandinavian chic and feature high-end mattresses, 100% Egyptian cotton bed linens, rainfall showers, amenities from anatomē, and a smart TV. There are even larger apartments with stylish, fully loaded kitchens (yes, that is a mini dishwasher in the cupboard!) and even more spacious family units with bunk beds for the kids.
A reception desk is so passé! The focus at Att Revier is not on a fancy lobby but rather on creating a vibrant, inclusive community. Communal spaces are peppered throughout the hotel, like work areas, art displays, free laundry rooms and a bar and café (with some of the friendliest servers you’ve ever met). Do yourself a favor and plan to dine in a night or two at the hotel. It’s no exaggeration to say that Att Revier houses two of the city’s best restaurants: Null Null, focusing on exquisitely prepared, handcrafted pasta paired with carefully curated wines; and Sauvage, its bold, creative dishes just won the restaurant its first Michelin star.
Looking for a great meal with breathtaking vistas of the city and Oslo Fjord? Then you need to head to Ekebergrestauranten. This charming historic restaurant is famed for its elegant ambiance and sumptuous cuisine. Inside, the restaurant’s warm and welcoming atmosphere complements its gourmet Nordic cuisine, featuring locally sourced ingredients and innovative culinary creations.
What also sets Ekebergrestauranten apart is its setting amid the enchanting Ekeberg Sculpture Park, a fascinating outdoor gallery that showcases contemporary and modern art in a forest-like landscape. This unique fusion of art, cuisine, and scenic beauty makes Ekebergrestauranten a must-visit destination for food connoisseurs and art enthusiasts.
Tucked within the boutique hotel Att Revier, Null Null is a delightful Italian restaurant that brings the flavors of Italy to Oslo. True to its motto of “null null,” the spot offers a satisfyingly straightforward dining experience. The restaurant features a chic, modern aesthetic, with its long, sparsely decorated space exuding a quiet charm. The decor mirrors the restaurant’s philosophy, which is to proudly embrace the simplicity of Italian cuisine and to showcase raw culinary materials. The menu emphasizes both local and Italian ingredients, all of which are perfectly complemented by a thoughtfully curated wine menu. The rigatoni with crab and caviar is a must-try, offering an intriguing, balanced burst of smokey salty flavors that is incredibly tantalizing.
Pier 42 at Amerikalinjen
This cool boutique hotel in bustling Jernbanetorget square is home to Oslo’s best — and most fantastically creative — cocktail bar, Pier 42. The highlight is the Liquid Gallery of Art menu, where some of the world’s most famous works of art magically manifest in liquid form. The creativity and mixlogy talent are high here. Reading the menu and the story behind each art-inspired cocktails is half the fun but the real treat is the bespoke beverages. The one not to be missed is “The Scream” inspired by the iconic Munch painting. The intense, frothy concoction is incredible and comes in a fantastical sculpted screaming face. Cheers!