Fast-growing Oslo makes for a rewarding Nordic city break. While its striking modern architecture, world-class art and gentrifying neighbourhoods draw the crowds, Norway’s capital also offers visitors a crash course in the country’s culture, history and mythology.
Oslo is a city on the water, and if you time it right it offers a wonderful place for a sunny stroll along the fjord that shares its name. Once you’ve seen the Royal Palace, dramatic Opera House and Akershus Festning – Oslo’s fortress – it’s time to start exploring further. Frognerparken’s sculpture-filled pastures are a lovely place for a picnic while you take in Gustav Vigeland’s much-loved creations.
Headline museums in Oslo include the Viking Ship Museum and adjacent Kon-Tiki Museum, dedicated to adventurer Thor Heyerdahl’s balsa raft. Both are located in Bygdøy, a relaxed residential area of the city. Meanwhile, the Munch Museum in Tøyengata houses a huge array of works by The Scream’s creator.
Underlining Oslo’s winter credentials – and this is a great place to visit year-round – the Holmenkollen ski jump is an essential stop to explore snow sports and take in one of the city’s best views. Visit in winter and you’ll see locals on the metro heading for Nordmarka, an area of forest popular for cross-country skiing.
Oslo is also an emerging foodie destination, with areas like Grünerløkka and Tøyen offering reinterpreted Nordic staples, combined with influences from recent waves of immigration. Budget-friendly eating and drinking can also be found in the Bislett and Sankt Olavs Plass neighbourhoods, the latter of which has some lovely 18th-century streets to wander along, far from the waterfront crowds.
An hour by train from Oslo is the historic fortress town of Fredrikstad, which makes for a fascinating day trip.
If you like this…
● Hop on a train at Oslo’s Central station for the spectacular journey to Bergen, Norway’s largest west-coast city.
● Helsinki, Finland, is a less celebrated Nordic capital with a very different history.
Tom Hall is a travel writer and author of Lonely Planet’s Best Ever Travel Tips
This article was first published in the October 2019 edition of BBC History Magazine