When you think of Norway’s capital, you think Vikings. However, there is so much more! But first, you need to get into city center. From the airport, take 20 minute ride on the Flytoget train into town. Oslo was my first foray into the Citybox hotel concept, and I have to tell you that the great location and good price was worth missing out on a few frills. I actually think that it’s better than the nearby Thon and Comfort hotel offerings. For a fancier hotel with a central location, I suggest Hotel Bristol.
If you’re excited to get to the Viking stuff, you need to head to Bygdøy Peninsula. This can be done by boat in the summer or by Bus 30. There are many world-class museums here. First, enter the Viking Ship Museum, which houses the world’s best preserved Viking ships that were found in Viking tombs. Remember, most of the ships were burned for burials, so these are rare finds. The multimedia exhibit is fantastic and the ships are portrayed in a church-like building that fits the sense of awe you’ll feel.
Nearby is the must-see Norwegian Folk Museum. This open-air museum has been around for more than a century. I ran with excitement to see the Gol Stave Church from the 1100s. There are quite a few Viking churches in Norway still, but many have been refurbished from fires or are in remote locations. Gol is a great example of a Viking Church and it’s literally right here! There are over 150 buildings here and you can learn a lot about the Norwegian culture. At certain times, you can see how flatbread is baked (and even get a taste), see crafts made, and visit some farm animals.
If you want some more recent history (19th/20th century), the Fram Museum is here as well. This museum teaches about polar exploration and houses the wooden Fram ship that went on polar expeditions. One more sight here is the Kon-Tiki Museum. This features Thor Heyerdahl’s balsa wood raft, as seen on his documentary film, that he took out on several ocean voyages. If you aren’t full of boats yet, the peninsula still has one more museum to check out – the Norwegian Maritime Museum.
A two mile journey north is Frogner Park and the Vigeland Museum. The park features over 200 sculptures, many impressively bizarre works from Gustav Vigeland. The museum was the home and workplace of Vigeland. For dinner, try the nearby restaurant Lofotstua AS. Authentic and delicious Norwegian seafood is their specialty.
On another day, take a beautiful stroll west through Oslo’s City Center. Start off by the 17th-ceutnry Oslo Cathedral and then head west along Karl Johans Gate. This leads you directly to the Royal Palace. This 1849 royal palace offers guided tours of the plush state rooms and a changing of the guard routine outside. Then, head south to grab a look at City Hall and its fountains. You can’t miss the modern red brick building. If you’re hungry, head southwest around the water directly to Aker Brygge. This area underwent redevelopment to become a shopping and waterfront dining mecca, merging old factories with modern décor. Eating at Rorbua was memorable. I had the Nordnorsk Fjøl platter, which features smoked whale (a non-endangered kind), marinated dry fish, moose salmon sausage, smoked reindeer heart, pepper trout, and smoked halibut. I must admit that some of these dishes were odd tasting and some were homeruns. But, the foodie in me was highly satisfied by this platter-of-a-lifetime to remember.
As you leave the restaurant, you have several options. Right next door is the cool Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art. Back toward City Hall is the Nobel Peace Center that covers the history of this great award. You can also see the construction on the new National Museum. When complete, this will be the new home of the famous painting The Scream by Munch. After you see one of these attractions, head to Akershus Fortress. This beautiful must-see 13th century medieval castle turned fortress features many paths to wander and you’ll be torn between checking out the views of the waterfront or the buildings themselves. There’s a lot of history here that guided tours can thoroughly explain. I found it especially nice to walk the grounds at dusk. The buildings are lit up splendidly and you can look out across the water to see the Aker Brygge lights.
You'll never run out of things to do in Oslo and there's still more to explore no matter what your interest. Real Munch lovers can go to his museum in the Sofienberg district. Along the waterfront, the modern architecture of the Opera House is something Norwegians proudly show off. Guided tours are available. If you enjoy hiking and picnicking, grab the metro north to Sognsvann Lake. If you're into winter sports, an hour north is the Holmenkollen Ski Jump and Museum. It's actually the most visited attraction in Norway and gives a good look at the 4,000 year history of ski jumping and other ski-related activities. Of most interest to me was the Viking ski carvings and the ski simulator. You can also get a nice view from the ski tower.
There’s a good chance you’re here as the starting point for a fjord tour, and for that we have a separate travel guide here.