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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?