Oslo smells of varnished wood, sea and pine needles. Two days in the Norwegian capital are enough to fall in love with the Scandinavian lifestyle: a purer and more relaxed way of living, in harmony with yourself and nature. In this guide, you will find out what to see in Oslo and how to save some money if you are planning a trip to Norway.
Oslo, what to see in 2 days
Many people who visit Norway choose not to stop in Oslo or just pass through. Some consider it – wrongly – a boring city. On the contrary, in this article we will tell you why we loved Oslo and why you should visit it.
For your stay in Oslo, we recommend the Karl Johan Hotell, of the Best Western chain, a very central location and excellent value for money.
Walking around Oslo you will feel relaxed and happy. The city is modern, green and clean: there are very few cars on the roads, and many of them are electric. Public transport is efficient and always on time. The people are simple and kind: little make-up on the face, hair up, no snobbery. In a few minutes, you will feel emptied of negative thoughts.
We stayed in Oslo for two full days. Here you can find the itinerary that we followed and for which we used the Oslo Pass, a great solution to optimize costs. Click here to view the map with the itinerary.
Day 1: Oslo between history and modernity
Our first day in Oslo begins with art. In the Norwegian capital there are many interesting museums, some of which more traditional, others definitely unique.
Oslo National Gallery
Let’s start with a sacred monster, Edvard Munch. As you may know, the painter of The Scream was Norwegian, and Oslo holds his most known works. The most famous of the four versions of The Scream can be found at the Oslo National Gallery, along with other beautiful paintings by the same author. To take a picture of him you’ll have to compete with crowds of Japanese, but it’s worth it.
Oslo National Gallery
- Since 13 January 2019 the National Gallery has been temporarily closed. It will reopen in 2020 in a new building in Vestbanen.
Damstredet & Telthusbakken: strolling through colorful houses
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think about Norway? Colored wood cabins, of course! If you dream of living in a red cabin on the bank of a fjord, Damstredet and Telthusbakken will win you over.
These two streets in the center of Oslo retain traditional Norwegian architecture and are still inhabited today. The wooden houses follow one another in their pastel colors: blue, yellow, pink, but also dark blue, bottle green and vermilion red.
Walking through Telthusbakken, we were taking some pictures of the houses when a Norwegian lady stopped us for a chat. She thought it odd that someone was photographing something so common for her. I’ll tell you what was out of the ordinary: first the kindness of the woman – so different from the image we have of cold Nordic people – then the fact that she was hoeing her orchard. Yes, an orchard in the centre of Oslo.
Grünerløkka and Mathallen market
From Telthusbakken we continue towards the bustling Grünerløkka district, full of lovely cafés and designer shops.
For lunch, we make a stop at the covered Mathallen market, a redeveloped industrial area that houses 30 restaurants and delicatessen shops. Here you can eat well and spend little: we had a delicious fishburger at the Vulkanfisk stand, about 10 € each.
You can eat inside the market or outside if the climate allows it. Check the website for the latest opening hours.
The island of Hovedøya: sailing on the Oslo Fjord
Oslo is located at the bottom of a fjord about 100 km long. There are 40 islands in the fjord, some of which are inhabited and can be reached by ferry from the port of Oslo Aker Brygge.
A trip to the fjord is one of the experiences to be made in the city. It gives you a taste of the Norwegian way of life: outdoors, in contact with nature, sailing and fishing, not forgetting the small beaches, which are very popular in summer.
We visited the island of Hovedøya, the closest to the coast, just 15 minutes by ferry. Here there is a picturesque fishing port, with green and red wooden houses and boats swinging on the calm water.
If the weather allows it, you can relax on the two beaches of the island and have an outdoor barbecue. Also worth seeing are the ruins of a 12th-century Cistercian monastery.
With Oslo Pass, the ferry ticket is included, as is all public transport (except for transfers to and from the airport).
Aker Brygge and Tjuvholmen: architecture and nightlife along the pier
Back to the harbor after the excursion to Hovedøya, we walk through the Aker Brygge and Tjuvholmen areas along the piers. Here you can find many trendy, quite expensive clubs. The place is great for its nightlife, but also design and architecture, as shown by a truly extraordinary building.
Museum of Modern Art Astrup Fearnley
I’m talking about the Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, designed by Renzo Piano. The spectacular building recalls in its shape the sea and the sails, and it hosts an interesting collection of modern and contemporary art.
Astrup Fearnley Museum
- Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday 12 pm – 5 pm; Thursday 12 pm – 7 pm; Saturday and Sunday 11 am – 5 pm; closed on Monday
- Adults 13 €, students 9 €, free under 18 years old, free with Oslo Pass
It’s the golden hour now. We walk towards Akershus Fortress, on the opposite side of the pier from the museum. It is a castle built around 1300, which served as a military base, government headquarters, prison, and royal residence. We walk in the courtyards of the fortress, make friends with some seagulls and look at the view from the walls.
- The entrance to the fortress is free
- The main gate (Hovedporten) closes at 9 pm.
Sunset at the Oslo Opera House
For the sunset, we stop at the Oslo Opera House, another building not to be missed. Built right on the harbor, the Oslo Opera House seems to rise from the sea, reflected in its glass facades. You can climb and walk on the white roof of the building for a romantic view of the fjord.
Day 2: Bygdøy Peninsula and Vigeland Park
We spend the second day in Oslo discovering the western part of the city: the Bygdøy Peninsula and Vigeland Park.
On the Bygdøy Peninsula, there are some museums that you should definitely visit. Here Norwegian houses are so big and beautiful that you will immediately feel poor.
In spring and summer, the peninsula can also be reached by ferry from pier 3. The journey takes 10-15 minutes and the ticket is included in the Oslo Pass. Otherwise, you can get there by bus no. 30 from the city center in about half an hour.
The Norwegian Museum of Cultural History
First, we recommend a visit to the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History, a charming and timeless place. It is an open-air museum where you can discover the history and shapes of Norwegian houses. There are 155 of them, perfect reconstructions that come from regions all over the country.
Visiting this museum is like taking a trip through time and space without moving from Oslo. For example, you can see the interiors of the workers’ houses or the spectacular stavkirke, a reconstruction of a typical wooden church of 1200.
The visit takes at least 2 hours. We had lunch in the museum café, a good and cheap solution.
The Norwegian Museum of Cultural History (Norsk Folkemuseum)
- From May 13th to September 14th, every day 10 am – 6 pm;
- From September 15th to May 15th, weekdays 11 am -3 pm ; holidays 11 am – 4 pm
- Adults 13 €, free with Oslo Pass
The Viking Ship Museum
Any fan of Vikings here? It’s not every day you get the chance to walk under a Viking ship, so we recommend you visit this museum. Inside there are 3 ships: the Oseberg, the Gokstad and the Tune, plus the treasures and skeletons found together with the boats.
The museum is small, but discovering the history of these ancient and proud Norwegians is very interesting. What kind of courage did they have for facing oceanic journeys on those things?
The Viking Ship Museum
- From 1st May to 30th September, every day 9 am – 6pm.
- From October 1st to April 30th, every day 10 am- 4 pm
- Adults 10 €, free under 18, free with Oslo Pass
Fram Museum and the history of polar exploration
Exploring the North Pole is an adventurous and fascinating story. This place of ice, polar bears and magnetism was explored several times since the 19th century. Some expeditions were great successes, such as those of the icebreaker Fram. Others ended tragically, like those of the British ships Terror and Erebus (Ridley Scott made a TV series about that).
As well as discovering the history of polar exploration, you will be able to step on the Fram, the ship built by the explorer Fridtjof Nansen, and the Gjøa, the first vessel to cross the Northwest Passage.
- Everyday from 10 am to 4 pm
- Adults 12 €, students 5 €, free with Oslo Pass
The last stop during our Oslo trip is Vigeland Park, famous for the sculptures of the Norwegian artist Gustav Vigeland. It is located inside the larger Frognerparken.
The sculptures of Vigeland express an infinite tenderness: mothers, fathers, children and couples embraced in a harmony of forms. The perfect place for a romantic walk.
Oslo Pass: how it works and why buy it
The Oslo Pass is essential for visiting Oslo, as it includes free admission to 30 museums in the city. It gives you free travel on the metro, bus, tram, ferry to Bygdøy and the fjord islands. It also includes discounts in some restaurants, which is not to be underestimated given the high prices in Oslo.
The Oslo Pass can be bought at local tourist offices, booked online for a later collection or purchased directly on the Oslo Pass – Official City Card app. This solution is very convenient because it allows you to have a QR-Code on your phone to show at the entrance of museums and on public transport.
There are 3 options available:
- 24 hours: 395 NOK (40 €)
- 48 hours: 595 NOK (60 €)
- 72 hours: 745 NOK (75 €)
Prices shown are for adults. You can find all the info on the official website.
Oslo, where to eat without spending a fortune
We have already recommended a couple of great places to eat well without spending too much in Oslo: the Mathallen market and the Arkadia café of the Norwegian Folklore Museum. We also wanted to try the Rorbua restaurant, discounted for 20% with Oslo Pass, but we didn’t have time.
We usually love to discover new places and new food on the road, but with Oslo it was different. Eating something under 20 € each is very difficult, so you’ll have to make sacrifices if you have a limited budget like us.
Our solution was to stay in our apartment and shop at the supermarket: Kiwi and Rema 1000 are the cheapest. Even drinking a simple beer in Oslo is very expensive.
Where to stay in Oslo
Where to stay in Oslo? Once again Airbnb came to our rescue. Due to the high cost, we decided to rent an apartment. For 3 nights we paid the ridiculous amount of 167 €.
In Line’s loft we felt at home, surrounded by plants, colorful paintings, books, clothes and illustrations… It was like living someone else’s life, a life of joy, design and hygge.
How to reach Oslo
The city has two airports: Oslo Gardermoen (47 km from the city center) and Oslo Torp (110 km from the city center). Several low-cost airlines, including Ryanair, land in Torp: click here to find out how to get to the city center from the airport.
If you find a good offer, we recommend flying with Norwegian and landing at Gardermoen. From here you can reach the city center by Flytoget express train (direction Oslo S): the ticket costs around 19 € one way. To save money you can choose the NSB train or some bus companies. More info here.
If you are looking for practical hand luggage for your trip to Oslo, we recommend the Cabin Max backpack, which we always use for our travels in Europe.
We hope we have convinced you to visit this beautiful city. Do you need more information about Oslo or have any curiosity? Leave a comment below or send us an email.