With over 1,000 years of vivid history, and surrounded by dense green forest, Oslo is a perfect city to explore for city lovers and nature enthusiasts alike.
A diverse city different to the sprawling metropolises of London and Paris, Oslo is compact and easy to get around, but make sure you bring a bulging wallet when you visit. Oslo is regarded as one of the most expensive cities in the world, second only to Tokyo in a 2011 survey, but don’t let that put you off. Alongside being an expensive destination, it was ranked number one in a 2012 survey that judged the quality of life in major European cities.
Indeed, the history and attractions that Oslo has to offer keeps visitors coming back year after year, and there really is something for everyone in Norway’s capital – whether you want to learn about the Viking heritage, try a spot of cross-country skiing, or party at one of the famous music festivals held in the city.
Why visit Oslo?
In East Oslo is the district of Grønland and the nearby Medieval Town, where you can see the ruins of old Oslo. Archaeological digs in the area have found evidence that people lived there up to 10,000 years ago. Restaurants and pubs in Grønland are generally a bit cheaper than in West Oslo, so if the city is being a bit hard on your pocket, head here to give your wallet a break.
To enjoy the biggest party of the year, make sure you are in Oslo during August and snap up some tickets to the Øya music festival. It has been running since 2002, and takes place over five long, hedonistic days in the Medieval Park within the Gamlebyen district. Over 200 different bands from all over the world play at the festival, big names and small names alike, but only the best musicians get a chance to take to the stage. Unlike many city festivals, you can camp right next to the music stages at Ekeberg Camping to really complete the festival experience.
For the best views over the entire city, you should head to the top of the huge ski jump at Holmenkollen. The towering ski jump stretches high into the air, and within the tower is a museum that reflects the close ties the sport has with Norway’s history. The observation deck at the top of the jump gives panoramic views over Oslo, and shouldn’t be missed.
To get away from the bustle of the city, head over to Vigeland Park and wander around the largest sculpture park made by just one artist in the world. Gustav Vigeland was responsible for creating all the 200 different sculptures in the park, made from iron, granite and bronze, and each one completely unique. An accompanying museum explains the history behind the sculpture park and how it was created.
If you’re coming from outside of Norway the best way to arrive in Oslo is either by plane or boat. Flights arriving at the international airport come from all over Europe and beyond. Also, the large sea docks have ferries that connect to Denmark and Germany, along with a number of Norwegian cruise lines that travel between the UK, Scandinavia, and the Baltic States. Once in Oslo, the public transportation system is world class, and simple to use, too. There is the underground Metro system, the over-ground Tram system, and an extensive commuter rail network.
Places to stay
You can sometimes struggle to find a place to bed down for the night in Oslo, and there is a lack of options for backpacker and low-budget travellers. That said, if you book in advance you should be fine, and there is different accommodation to suit a variety of tastes and budgets. Be wary of arriving on the week the Nobel Prize Ceremony is being held, because many hotels will double their rates. Haralsheim Youth Hostel is a good choice for low-end accommodation, and close to all the action the city has to offer. The Thon Hotel Bristol is a step up, with the elegant feel you’d expect of a hotel that’s been around since the 1920s. Top of the list has to be the Grand Hotel Oslo – with everything you could desire from a hotel – but expect to pay heavily for it.
Time to go
A visit to Oslo is great at any time of the year, but it will be a bit warmer in the summer if you’re not a fan of the cold. On the other hand, the winter time brings with it snow, which beautifully transforms the city’s landscape. Whenever you choose to go, whether it’s for a day or a week, you’ll find plenty to see and do!
Check out the Visit Oslo website.