4 Days in Oslo, Norway

You know that moment when your mother in law invites you round for the bank holiday weekend and you decide to take everyone to Oslo instead?

Oslo Opera House Reflections

I speak candidly when I tell you that this particular weekend break was every bit as whimsical, random and impulsive as my introduction leads you to believe, planned (in the loosest sense of the world) with a grand total of a fortnight’s notice.

weekend in Oslo

Easter Weekend in the UK is a cosy pocket of time for those of us who work hard and travel hard; there aren’t many other times in the year when can you can enjoy a 3 night break away without sacrificing even a day of annual leave but despite this, Pumpkin and I had never previously taken advantage of Easter weekend for travel purposes.

When I realised both he and I as well as my in-laws were free for the entirety of the weekend, I pounced opportunistically to try and coordinate a long-awaited family holiday. Pumpkin’s expression, when I proposed the idea, was predictable and familiar – the increasingly defeated face of an Instagram husband, wondering when the dust will finally be allowed to gather on his suitcase.

“But we’re going to Japan in just 3 weeks” he wailed in exasperation – the relevance of his point completely lost on me. 😀

Oslo travel tips recommendations
Oslo’s Modern and Innovative Opera House

Oslo, Norway, as a destination choice, came about completely by circumstance. Everyone wanted to visit a country they hadn’t previously travelled to (which ruled out most of Europe) yet we chose to stick to Europe given our limited time. A few internet searches later and I found myself booking a “bargain” weekend in Oslo but next time I dare to use the “b” word, I will be sure to do my research so I learn in good time that it is one of the most expensive cities in the world!

what to do with 4 days in Oslo

Unlike neighbouring capitals Copenhagen and Stockholm, Oslo, in many ways, seems to have fallen underneath the cluttered tourist radar, which makes it something of an ideal city break location; the streets are sparse, the tourist traps few and far between and the photogenic corners peppered across the city catch you completely off guard.

sights in Oslo

And to prove just how much of Norway’s mystical capital city you can see with just four days at your disposal (leisurely lie ins and afternoon coffee breaks included), here is my ultimate Top 20 Oslo guide. I rarely do chock-a-block compilation posts but I was taken aback by just how diverse an array of activities I found in this city and I left with the distinct feeling that Oslo deserves far more acclaim than it receives.

20 ways to spend 4 days in Oslo

Visit Oslo Cathedral

It might not have the grandeur of Notre Dame but an understated simplicity and quiet calm resonate against the low-lit, baroque interiors of Oslo Cathedral.

Oslo Cathedral InsideCathedrals Oslo Norway4 Days in Oslo

Stroll down Karl Johans Gate

As the main city boulevard in Oslo, we started our weekend in Oslo with an evening amble down Karl Johans Gate, which connects the Royal Palace to Oslo Central Station. Accommodation in and around this area may prove to be more costly but is an ideal location for anyone looking to explore Oslo for the first time.

Karl Johans Gate

Vigeland Sculpture Park

I won’t dwell on this too much as one day, I hope to devote a whole post to it but trust me, you need to visit the Vigeland Sculpture Park.

Vigeland Sculpture Park OsloVigeland Park best tourist attractions Oslo

In fact, if there is only one sight to see away from the centre of the city, let this park be it. With countless sculptures from the romantic to the plain weird, keep your cameras charged as you’re in for a visual feast of more 200 impressive statues and sculptures.

Oslo Angry Boy Statue
Oslo’s famous Angry Boy Statue

Feel Inspired at the Nobel Peace Centre

Nobel Peace Prize Centre Oslo

For anyone who follows the Nobel Peace Prize updates or has an interest in world affairs, a visit to Oslo would be incomplete without seeing the Nobel Peace Centre and whilst you are free to roam around inside independently, it is well worth timing your visit to coincide with one of the guided tours (included in your ticket price anyway).

Oslo Nobel Peace Centre Malala

With the help of the guide, we gleaned a deeper understanding about the history of the prize, the centre, the winners and the selection process.

top sights highlights Oslo

At the end of the tour, we found ourselves immersed in a sea of digital faces, faces of previous prize winners, who tirelessly campaigned for peace and toiled in the pursuit of world peace.

what to see in Oslo
Thought-provoking words from a young visitor at the Nobel Peace Centre

Oslo City Hall

Marvel at the colourful murals draping the inner walls of Oslo City Hall or, if like us, you turn up on Bank Holiday when it is closed, then you’ll just have to admire the exteriors, which aren’t quite as colourful!

Oslo City Hall Radhus

Freeze your socks off with a Oslo Fjord Cruise Boat Ride

When my father in law approached the front of the queue and saw the outdoor seating on the boat, he proclaimed “there must be indoor seating. If it’s all outdoors, I’m going back to the hotel” It may have been the end of the March but to us Brits (many of whom are far more flimsy in chilly climes than we would ever care to confess), the climate felt Arctic – not metaphorically either, as we weren’t that far away from the Arctic after all.

Oslo Fjord Cruise

To his credit, he didn’t go back to the hotel. Instead, he sweet-talked the boatmen, who gave him shelter next to them and gave him his own informal, private guided tour! Meanwhile, Pumpkin, Mum in law and myself snuggled under thick blankets provided to us on the boat, each of us hoping one of the others was taking photos, so fearful were we of our fingers losing circulation and falling off.

Oslo Fjord Boat CruiseOslo fjord boat trip

If you are a little more sensible, you will do this activity in the summer or come equipped with actual proper winter warmers. Being on a boat in Norway in winter (or spring apparently) is not time to be Carrie Bradshaw, ladies. Focus on packing warm!

Oslo Fjord Cruise Views
Views from the Oslo Fjord Cruise

Take a trip down primary school memory lane with a visit to the Viking Museum

Viking Museum Oslo

Explore original excavated ships from the Viking era and the treasures and historic relics found within them (and discover in the process, how much easier it is to remember Viking history when faced with life-size visual aids).

old VIking ship museum NorwayOslo top highlights

Eat Norwegian Salmon

You’re either a fish eater or your’e not. If you’re not, skip ahead to the next one of Oslo’s highlights but if you’re anything like me, you eat salmon by the truck load.

Norwegian Salmon

Aside from its health benefits and tasty flavours, salmon’s versatility makes it quite simply one of the easiest ingredients to cook with so I couldn’t leave Norway without trying some traditional Norwegian salmon.

Fine Dining with a View

Oslo romantic restaurants Ekebergrestauranten

Foodies – get ready to empty out your piggy banks and pack your glad rags because a meal at the Ekebergrestauranten, raised above the city on Ekeberg Hill, lends one of the most romantic views of Oslo with a side order of crisp tablecloths, succulent scallops and Norwegian and international specialty dishes.

Oslo best viewpoints Ekeberg Hillrestaurants with a view Oslo

Assess the cylindrical symmetry at the Storting Building of the Norwegian Parliament

Just off the Karl Johans Gate, there are no excuses to miss this attraction but my tip would be to ensure you see it by moonlight when it takes on an enchanting life of its own, guarded in the still of the night by a large white lion.

Oslo Storting Parliament Building

Inside tours of the Norwegian Parliament Storting Building are available but since we had done a very similar one a couple of months earlier in Budapest, we opted out this time.

Norway Parliament Oslo best sights

Ponder over the floating She Lies statue

Compare and contrast the more classic sculptures at Viigeland park with what appears to be a floating glass and steel statue in the Oslo Fjord.

She Lies Monica Bonvicini sculpture

Spoiler Alert: the She Lies Glass Sculpture by Monica Bonvicini doesn’t actually float but from a distance, your eyes will have you believe otherwise.

floating glass steel sculpture Oslo

Enjoy the crowd-free streets by day and night

There aren’t many European cities where you can stand in the middle of a road in the heart of the tourist district, photograph from every angle to your heart’s content and not risk being walked into by angry-faced hurried locals.

Visiting Oslo Travel Guide
Oslo’s Main Street – just a little more peaceful than an equivalent one in London

Visit the Opera House

Oslo Opera House white

Oslo’s opera house, unlike so many others that I have come across around the world, is the kind of sleek, modern, minimalist architecture you would never conjure up in your imagination when asked to picture an opera house. Brand spanking new after only being completed in 2007, Norway actually held a design competition for the creation of the new opera house.

Top Oslo Attractions Opera HouseInside Tour Oslo Opera House

But intentionally designed to be a space to be enjoyed by all and to part ways from the stereotypes affiliated with opera house attenders, the modern design and array of amenities were designed in the hope of attracting a greater subset of the population to the opera house.

Oslo Opera House Auditorium

Take a guided tour inside the opera house to see costumes being designed and behind-the-scenes workers in action and a seat in the auditorium (though again, if you’re visiting on a public holiday weekend.

weekend in Oslo itinerary

must see sights Oslo
The little touches inside Oslo’s innovative Opera House

Walk on the Opera House Roof

walking on roof of Oslo Opera House

Truth be told, I am much more inclined to take a tour of an opera house than to actually want to see opera in one – that’s just personal taste but even if you can’t be persuaded to get the inside scoop, at least take advantage of the architectural design concept, which allows you to walk across the roof of the opera house and  catch reflections of Oslo on the surfaces of the exterior.

walking on opera house Norwayvisiting Oslo travel blog guideOslo travel blog

Get a birds eye view of the city by night

Looking over Oslo at night from Ekeberg Hill left me wondering if I had entered Scandinavian Narnia with a few glimmers of electricity reminding me it was indeed reality.

Oslo night views

The glistening night lights, interspersed like dew drops across a web of barren tree branches, kept us standing and kept us staring despite the proliferation of goosebumps on our arms.

best night time view points Oslo

See the Changing of the Guards at Oslo’s Royal Palace

Head to the The Royal Palace in Oslo to try and catch a glimpse of Norwegian royalty, King Harald V and Queen Sonja, who call this building home.

Oslo Royal Palace

And if you fail at that mission (as you probably will), then set your sights on the changing of the guards instead.

Oslo Most Famous Monuments

The Museum of Cultural History

For someone who admits to usually shying away from visiting museums, I have certainly clocked up some serious museum loyalty points in the last twelve months. From the railway museum in York. the chocolate museum in Bruges and the pinball museum in Budapest (more to come on that later).

Museum of Cultural History Oslo

But after my fair share of light-hearted museums, in Oslo, I headed to the Museum of Cultural History to try and redress the balance (and convince myself I still have what it takes to be a proper culture vulture).

Shop and Dine at Oslo Central Station

Until I first visited New York City, the concept of a train station being worthy of tourist attraction status in its own right had never even remotely occurred to me.

Oslo Central Station

But a snoop around Grand Central Station soon changed my stance on that and at Oslo Central station, we found chic cafes, funky blue backdrops and a pub that served us our dinner one evening. This is Norway though so expect to cough up cash for your fish and chips.

Oslo Station train travel

Relax and breathe…

Oslo is an easy-going kind of city. It doesn’t have the chaos and crowds you’ll find in cities like Rome or Barcelona. It is a city where you don’t need to choose between touring the sights or lounging around as there is space in this city for both. I rarely pack my swimsuit on city breaks and was a little cross with myself when I had to sit on the side lines whilst Pumpkin had a dip in the hotel pool at Clarion Hotel Royal Christiania.

Clarion Hotel Royal Christiania Swimming Pool

The One That Got Away – The Norwegian Folk Museum

I’m cheating with this last one as I ran out of time to visit this museum myself but I bumped into someone I used to work with at Oslo Airport (small world!) and she fed back saying that this museum was well worth a visit. Reportedly one of Europe’s largest outdoor museums, visitors can get a feel for Norway’s traditional houses, arts and crafts and even join in for some pancake making!

Oslo travel tourist information

Norway is no stranger to tourism but from observing those around me, I have often found that the crowds are drawn in by the prospect of the luminescent Northern Lights, the magnificent panoramas of the Fjords and the winter beauty of cities such as Tromso and Bergen. Somehow, its pretty capital city gets lost in between but I hope I have managed to persuade you that it is most definitely worth a visit in its own right.

Oslo City Break Travel TipsOslo weekend break travel information

All the photos in this post were taken on the very snazzy new Samsung Galazy S7, which I had on loan for this trip from Three (perfect timing really since  I had no other camera during this trip having left mine on a train in London at the start of the year.) I’m not getting paid to say any of this and it was (sadly!) only a loan but unlike all the Apple-worshippers of the world, I have been a Samsung girl for as long as I can remember, mostly because I absolutely love the cameras on them and after using this new model in Oslo, it was a serious anti-climax going back to my exhausted old S4 Mini. #FirstWorldProblem or what?!

Have you ever been to Oslo? What would you add to this list?

42 thoughts on “4 Days in Oslo, Norway

  1. Like yourself, the first time I went to Oslo I was lured in by cheap flights, but little did I know that would be the beginning and end of anything cheap about the trip haha!

    Definitely agree with you about Vigeland Sculpture Park, it’s such an impressive area to visit. The Opera House is a beauty too, I never tire looking at it!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) June 2, 2016 — 8:13 am

      Haha, it was such a shock to the system Shing when I realised it was going to be anything BUT a bargain trip!! But I’m still so glad I went because as far as cities go, it was one of the most pleasant and unexpected destinations I’ve come across! Definitely doesn’t get the credit it deserves, as there’s so much to see and do and so much about it that’s so unique! Thanks so much for reading 🙂

  2. So pretty! I love that there’s loads to see and I must say although Bergen was gorgeous, there wasn’t a lot to really see!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) June 2, 2016 — 8:14 am

      I’ve seen photos of Bergen and it does look really beautiful and now that I’ve fallen a bit in love with Norway, I’d love to go back and see some of the more remote areas. Oslo is such a surprise of a city – we booked it thinking there wouldn’t be much to do at all and wondering how we passed the time and ended up struggling to choose and pick between what to do and what to skip! Highly recommend a city break there 🙂

  3. What an informative and beautiful post, Shikha! Touring Scandinavian countries has always been my dream and you totally inspired me to include Oslo on my itinerary when the day comes. 🙂

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) June 2, 2016 — 8:16 am

      Oh Nano, thank you so much for such a lovely comment! I’m so happy to hear you say that because I was just hoping to get across how much there is to explore in Oslo, especially because many people think about Copenhagen and Stockholm and cities like Oslo often get forgotten about and it came as a big surprise to me too! Knowing how well travelled you are, I’m sure it won’t be too long before your Scandinavian dream comes true – just wrap up warm! Even at the end of March, I was freezing! 🙂 x

      1. Yeah, I heard it is pretty chilly! So I’d probably go in Summer when we decide to tour that beautiful part of the world 🙂

  4. I love an impromptu holiday! Sadly every time I find myself with a few free days, airfares and hotel rates always seem to have skyrocketed so I end up staying at home. I visited Oslo back when I was about eight and all I can really remember was the sculpture park – bonkers but brilliant!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) June 2, 2016 — 8:36 am

      “Bonkers but brilliant” – yep pretty accurate description to sum it up Laura! I know what you mean about impromptu holidays being quite costly. I must admit, I’ve booked another one this month and searched high and low to find something that was a steal but either the flights were really expensive or the hotels were but in the end, I used my wedding anniversary as an excuse to throw caution to the wind! Will have run out of excuses next time the urge for a last minuet break hits 🙂

  5. Wow. This post is incredible. I have not been to Norway yet but when I do, this post is going to be my guide! I can’t believe you were only there 3 nights. You got up to so much!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) June 2, 2016 — 8:38 am

      Aaah thanks so much Mandy. I haven’t done too many of these “city round up” style posts but actually, it was quite good fun writing about all our highlights, especially given that our philosophy for most of this weekend away was just to wing it! I can’t believe I ever worried that we’d get bored in Oslo – even after all this, there were a few things I wish I could have done like the inside tour of Parliament, the Folk Museum etc! Highly recommend it for an easy weekend break 🙂

  6. What a great post! When I visited Oslo in Jamiary last year, it was covered in over a foot of snow, so loving all these pictures ☺️

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) June 2, 2016 — 9:07 am

      Thank you so much Becca! And thanks for all your Oslo tips, which came in really handy! It’s funny how you’re thinking it looks so lovely without snow when I’m dreaming of how pretty it must be IN the snow! But you’re braver than I am for surviving Norway in snow season – I was freezing on this trip and it was nearly April!! 😀

  7. Oslo looks incredible! I love your response to Pumpkin about Japan in three weeks, Mr S would say the exact same thing and receive the same reaction 😉

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) June 2, 2016 — 9:08 am

      Hehe, great minds Angie – applicable to us I mean not our husbands! 😀 It was such a lovely surprise of a city, as I had really never known much about it and booked it on a whim with no idea what we’d end up seeing or doing so it was a fun gamble that ended up really paying off!

  8. Oslo looks very appealing from your photos! The Viking Museum sounds like it would offer a good look at Norway’s past. You mention the cost – we’ve heard that Norway is one of the most expensive cities to visit (the restaurants are REALLY pricey, as you discovered; but the salmon is probably worth it…). We won’t visit Oslo, but we do get to visit Bergen, Flam and some other Norwegian places on a Baltic cruise later this summer – can’t wait! Glad you enjoyed your Oslo break!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) June 2, 2016 — 9:50 am

      I’m so jealous of your cruise Janice and George – I hear the Baltic cruises are magical and the photographs I’ve seen of Bergen are just stunning so I’m really looking forward to reading about that after you go! The cost was the only downside to the trip. I always think things can’t cost too much more than they do in London but in Norway, they most definitely do 😀

  9. This looks like a very interesting place to visit. I haven’t visited Norway before however I would be keen to someday. The architecture looks very interesting indeed. It’s a shame to hear that dining is so costly though, however it does look tasty looking at your photographs!

    Great review of your trip!

    Laura xo
    http://www.shehearts.net

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) June 2, 2016 — 9:52 am

      Aww thank you so much Laura for your lovely comment 🙂 I’m so pleased to hear that you liked the post and I’m just glad that it has shown that Oslo has so much to offer because I myself was guilty of never really looking into it as a destination or knowing much about it! The food is very costly so that’s one thing I would try and plan in advance next time because it was hard to research restaurants etc at the last minute but it’s a great destination choice for anyone who likes fish and seafood!

  10. I love everything Scandinavian but haven’t been to Oslo yet, it’s on the list though!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) June 2, 2016 — 9:53 am

      I’d only been to Copenhagen and Malmo before this trip Becky but I’m totally sold on Norway now. Would love to see the Fjords and to visit Bergen and some of the other regions next time!

  11. I cannot believe how much you managed to do in just a short weekend and with only a couple of weeks of planning beforehand! Oslo has never really been high on my list of places to visit (although I’d obviously never say no!) but the salmon alone is temptation enough 😉

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) June 2, 2016 — 9:57 am

      Yeh that’s the thing about it as a city, it had never been high on my list either and for some reason, it seems to fall under the radar but I now realise what a big mistake that was! I’d been to Copenhagen and Pumpkin had been to Stockholm, which I’m glad about because otherwise, we might not ever have picked Oslo and would never have realised what a hidden gem of a city we were missing out on!

  12. Yes, I’ve been! I pretty much did all the same things as you did:) But I managed to visit the Folklore museum:) it was great!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) June 7, 2016 — 6:14 pm

      Yes, I remember reading some of your Oslo posts before I went there myself Tanja! I’m so disappointed that we didn’t make it to the Folklore museum as it did sound amazing but I’ll definitely try and make a trip there if I ever return 🙂

      1. I’m glad you managed to do a lot:)

  13. Lovely snapshots of Oslo! I’ve never been and it looks amazing. I’m so jealous of the fact that you can easily go overseas on a long weekend! 😉

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) June 7, 2016 — 6:25 pm

      Awww, I guess it’s true that living in Europe has the big advantage of lots of easy weekend break options but equally, I’m quite jealous of the fact that you can get to destinations like Bali without needing to take a mammoth long haul flight! (Well not as long as ours anyway!) 😀 I highly recommend a visit to Oslo if you’re ever heading towards Scandinavia – it definitely doesn’t get the acclaim it deserves,as it’s a really lovely city. But maybe the fact that it’s less touristy is part of what keeps it so charming!

  14. Oslo sounds like a fantastic choice after all!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) June 7, 2016 — 6:28 pm

      I think there’s a lot to be said for picking cities that don’t immediately come to the forefront of our minds as obvious tourist cities Emma – it was full of quirky surprises and fun discoveries! Definitely recommend it for a super easy weekend break from the UK!

  15. So many good things to see and do in Oslo – I especially like the look of the art and architecture.
    I’d love to visit with a twin centre visit to the fjords.

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) June 15, 2016 — 10:20 pm

      That would have been my ideal first trip to Norway too Suzanne if we had been going for a bit longer. The Fjords and Bergen are meant to be gorgeous so they’d be next on my list for a future visit! Was so cold even in March though that I’m really re-thinking whether I’ll ever be brave enough to do a Northern lights trip!

  16. I’m always happy to hear such positive reviews of Oslo. That city is one of my favourite places in the world and I’m always sad when people choose not to give it a chance because it is no Copenhagen or Stockholm (I have a deep love for Copenhagen, too, and I now live in Sweden so Stockholm is always a pleasant option for a daytrip, but Oslo holds a piece of my heart). I chose Oslo as my destination for an exchange semester at the university 7 years ago and that was one of the best times of my life. That city is magical and has so much to offer. Too bad it’s expensive as hell (living there as a student proved chalenging, yes :D).

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) June 22, 2016 — 9:35 pm

      Eva, thanks so much for leaving this comment and sharing your own experiences of Oslo! I’m delighted to hear that you also found Oslo to be such a wonderful surprise. Having visited it, I completely agree that it is such a shame it gets overlooked when there is so much to see and do there….though I have no idea how you survived as a student there with those prices – even 4 days out there ended up really adding up cost wise! 😀

      1. I practiced good home economics skills 😀 I ended up spending more than students who had chosen different destinations for their erasmus exchange, but I loved every moment of it!

  17. Thank you for the post! I’m going to Oslo next week (by way of the scenic train from Bergen), and you’ve given me a lot to add to the list!

    Ashleigh

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) August 25, 2016 — 9:20 pm

      Thank you so much for reading & for your kind comment Ashleigh! Sometimes, putting together a blog post can take hours of time and effort and it’s always just so lovely to know that someone has found it useful in some way ☺ I’m so excited for you for your upcoming trip, especially because I’ve heard wonderful things about that scenic train ride and would love to have done it myself if we’d had more time in Norway! Have a wonderful time there & feel free to report back if you found additional things in Oslo that you would recommend too!

  18. Such an interesting post! 😆

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) February 11, 2017 — 10:11 pm

      Thanks so much Susan! I hope it has given lots of ideas of things to see and do in Oslo!

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