Oslo has a come a long way from its yesteryear image as a mundane and staid city to a zestful metropolis that is becoming increasingly recognized for its allure. This great city lies in an almost unsurpassed location and is blessed with a lively waterfront area and a spate of top-notch cultural attractions. Although one day in Oslo is not enough time to explore all the city’s gems, it’s still enough to see some of the best attractions in the city. Here’s our lowdown on how best to spend 24 hours in Oslo 🙂
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How to Get Around Oslo
Oslo is primarily a city that is meant to be walked and many of the city’s attractions lie in the central part of the city. Of course, in order to make the most of your day in Oslo, you should make use of the city’s extensive and efficient public transportation system, especially when going to the museum rich Bygdøy peninsula. You can find information about ticket prices and how to plan your journey here. Alternatively, you could purchase the Oslo Pass which includes unlimited travel within Oslo as well as free entrance to a number of attractions. I think that for the attractions we’ve listed in our itinerary, the savings with the Oslo Pass are negligible.
Should you be visiting Oslo between April-October, getting around on bicycle is also a good alternative. Biking in Oslo can be fun and renting a bike is rather easy and cheap. You can find more information about bike rental here.
I would advise against using taxis as they are expensive, and you’ll unnecessarily run up a high tab.
Your One Day in Oslo Itinerary
This itinerary covers most of the important sights in Oslo. For your convenience, this post includes a free map of the top sights in Oslo. You can find adresseses of the attractions by clicking on the icons in the map. We understand that everyone travels at a different pace so feel free to choose the destinations according to your own pace. The earlier you start your day the more time you’ll have to see the attractions. Below we have compiled a list of the best things to see (or eat) in Oslo in one day:
- Vigeland Sculpture Park
- The Royal Palace
- National Gallery
- Traditional Norwegian Lunch
- Norwegian Museum of Cultrual History
- Viking Ship Museum
- Akershus Fortress
- Oslo Opera House
- Aker Brygge
Start your one day in Oslo sightseeing tour with a delicious breakfast at Erlik Coffee, one of the best cafes in downtown Oslo. Enjoy some fresh brews, brownies, and muffins in a cozy setting.
2. Vigeland Sculpture Park
Vigeland Sculpture Park is a sculpture park dedicated to Norwegian artist Gustav Vigeland. It lies withing the much larger and wonderfully manicured Frogner Park, that happens to be the largest park in Oslo. Not only did Vigeland design the park himself, it is also home to more than 200 of his statues. All the statues are centred on the Human Condition theme of the park, illustrating relationships between men and women, adults and children. One of the most popular pieces is the statue of ‘The Angry Boy’. You can find him on the main bridge. The statue is made of bronze and covered in a typical green patina. However, due to visitors constantly touching the hand of the Angry Boy the patina has disappeared and as a result the statue sports a golden hand.
The soaring monolith is definitely the focal point of the park. This highly symbolic sculpture comprises of 121 intertwined figures, meant to represent the struggle of humanity. The monolith was carved out of a single slab of granite and its carving took over 14 years. Other notable highlights here include the ‘Wheel of Life’, a wreath depicting four people and a baby floating in harmony and the large fountain in the center of the park.
While you are in the park, you could also pop into the Vigeland Museum to the south of the park (80 NOK or free with the Oslo Pass). Alternatively, you could also visit the Oslo City Museum, located in the southern end of the park. It’s free to visit on Saturdays or 70 NOK all other days (free with the Oslo Pass). Entrance to the Vigeland Sculpture Park is free and it is open 24/7.
3. The Royal Palace
Your next stop is Oslo’s bustling city center, starting at the Royal Palace. As you might guess, the palace is the home of the Norwegian royal family. Its lush park is also a welcome breath of green in the dense city center. You can visit the gardens year-round, but the palace is only open to visitors during the summer. In order to visit, you need to book a guided tour online before you arrive (135 NOK). It’s not worth it in my opinion, just wander about the gardens. The changing of the guard takes place in front of the palace every day at 13:30.
From the Royal Palace, you can also explore Karl Johans Gate (or just Karl Johan), Oslo’s busiest thoroughfare and main shopping street. The lower part is pedestrianized while the upper section is used for parades.
More than a 100,000 pedestrians use the street daily. Many of Norway’s leading institutions are situated here, including the Norwegian Parliament (Stortinget), the university and the National Theater. You can see some fine examples of Neoclassical architecture here. Karl Johan is home numerous cafes, just in case you are craving a cup of coffee or a piece of cake again 🙂
4. National Gallery
The National Gallery houses Norway’s largest public collection of paintings, sculptures and drawings. A strong emphasis lies on Norwegian art of the 19th and 20th centuries. Not surprisingly, a large part of the museum is dedicated to works by iconic Norwegian artists, including Adolph Tidemand and Harald Sohlberg. The main reason that drew us to the National Gallery though was Edvard Munch’s ‘The Scream’, which both Jacky and I had yearned to see for a long time.
The lovely thing is, you will get to see some of Munch’s work as well as a selection of other pieces by artists such as El Greco and Pablo Picasso. Although I must say, it was a real treat to find works by impressionist Claude Monet in this corner of the world!
Entrance to the museum costs 120 NOK. Please note that the National Gallery in closed on Mondays.
Unfortunately since January 2019, the National Gallery has been closed because it is relocating to a new location in Oslo and is slated to open sometime in 2020. To compensate for this, you can visit the Historical Museum (Historisk Museum), that is presided over by the University of Oslo. You can gawk at the rare objects from Viking and medieval times as well medieval ecclesiastical art that is particularly well represented. There is also a rich collection from the Arctic cultures. Opening hours of the Historical Museum are 10:00 – 17:00 (May-Sep) and 11:00 – 16:00 (Oct-Apr). Entrance costs 100 NOK.
5. Traditional Norwegian Lunch
Treat yourself to some traditional Norwegian specialities such as lamb and cabbage stew, marinated salmon, dumplings, and reindeer medallions for lunch. Gamle Raadhus is one of the most renowned places in Oslo for a hearty meal.
6. Norwegian Museum of Cultural History
Next, you are going to see two of Oslo’s most popular museums on the leafy Bygdøy peninsula. First up is the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History (Norsk Folkmuseet), an open-air museum dedicated to the cultural heritage of Norway. Its collection comprises of 150 buildings which have been relocated to this location from all over Norway. You could even say it’s… Norway in a Nutshell 😛
We really enjoyed the Gol Stave Church due to its unique exterior, so representative of Norway. Jacky and I have been to several open-air museums in the Nordics, including Skansen in Stockholm/Sweden and Luostarinmäki in Turku/Finland, but many of the exhibits still surprised us. During the summer there are also demonstrations of traditional handiwork.
Within the museum, you can also buy some freshly made bread or candy from an old-time candy store. Be aware though that you can only pay in CASH in both places. In the end, we had to leave without freshly baked bread or sweet treats 😞
You could probably spend an entire day in here, but about an 60-90 minutes is enough to see some of the museum’s highlights. The museum is open daily from 10:00 – 17:00 (May-Sep) and 11:00 – 16:00 (Oct-Apr). Entrance costs 160 NOK.
7. Viking Ship Museum
Oslo’s Viking Ship Museum is home to three exceptionally well-preserved Viking ships which fill the most of the museum’s interiors. The ships were excavated from the Oslofjord between 1867 and 1904 where the blue clay soil had preserved them amazingly well for about 1,100 years. Due to their age, you cannot access the ships, but they are very impressive nonetheless. The museum’s crown jewel is the Oseberg ship, a decorative ship, with several ornate serpent carvings covering its hull, that was likely was built to be used specifically as a burial vessel. The Gokstad is the largest ship of the three at 24 meters in length. Tune, the third vessel isn’t as well preserved as the other two.
Now, I would just like to state that although the ships themselves are beautiful and we recognize their historical significance, there’s not much else to see in the museum. There’s also a lack of information about the Vikings themselves. We concluded that it is very well worth a visit if you have an Oslo pass, but may otherwise skip it in favor of some of the other museums. However, the museum is set to be expanded in the upcoming years which we’re excited to see!
The Viking Ship Museum is open daily from 09:00 – 18:00 (May-Sep) and 10:00 – 16:00 (Oct-Apr). Entrance costs 100 NOK.
8. Akershus Fortress
Akershus Fortress is one of the most popular attractions in Oslo. It dates to the 13th century and consists of a medieval castle, historic buildings and museums. The castle once served as a royal residence and is now used for state functions. Its setting on a hill at the head of Oslofjorden has seen it thwart attempts to invade the city from sea. While it is still under military jurisdiction today, it is open to the public every day between 06:00 and 21:00. Although you might not have time to see some of the locations on site, it is still worth poking your head in to see the castle up close and
9. Oslo Opera House
Not far from the medieval fortress lies the modern Oslo Opera House. The unique design was chosen out of 350 entries of a design competition in the early noughties. The opera house has 1,000 rooms and is the workplace for over 600 people. The building’s landmark design and architecture gives the impression that a white granite glacier is sliding into the Oslofjord. I would love to see it in winter because I’ve heard that natural ice flows makes it indistinguishable from its environment. The best thing about the building is the large walkway that leads up from the ground level to the roof. Visitors are invited to relax in, on, and around the building while enjoying a scenic view of Oslo Fjord.
10. Aker Brygge
Cap off your one day in Oslo by heading to the bustling Aker Brygge district, a high-end waterfront neighborhood in Oslo. Since the 1980s this place has undergone an extensive transformation from being an industrial eyesore to a vibrant entertainment quarter full of lively bars and chic boutiques. It is also home to some of the city’s best restaurants and cafes. Aker Brygge is beloved among Oslovians and doubles as a recreational space for the people of Oslo in the evenings and on the weekends. Take a stroll along the promenade and grab an ice cream and sit down by the water. Or, grab a delicious dinner in one of the many restaurants! Not only is Aker Brygge the perfect place for people watching, it also offers splendid views of Akershus Fortress.
Across the bridge from here lies Tjuvholmen, another upcoming district with a similar backstory as Aker Brygge. It is also home to lavish examples of contemporary architecture and is home to a slew of fancy condominiums. Tjuvholmen is also the location of Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, one of Norway’s leading museums showcasing contemporary art.
You deserve a great dinner to cap off your 24 hours in Oslo. Take this opportunity to check out Jarmann Gastropub, one of the many places lining the Aker Brygge waterfront. They’ve got a great selection of eclectic beers and hearty grub. If you want to try something different, New Delhi is a fantastic choice.
Extending Your Stay
Ideally, I would recommend that you spend 2-3 days in Oslo. There are many beautiful sights which we had to exclude from our one-day tour, such as the Fram Museum, Holmenkollen Ski Jump Arena, and the trendy
Grünerløkka district. Accommodation in and around central Oslo provides convenient access to most of the main attractions. Hotel prices in Oslo are pretty high similar to the other main cities in the Nordics. Here are our recommendations on where to stay in Oslo:
Hostel: Anker Hostel, good no-frills option in Grünerløkka, 10 minutes from Oslo Central Station.
Budget: Citybox Oslo, nice budget hotel, only a 2-minute walk from Oslo Central Station.
Mid-range: Thon Hotel Rosenkrantz, chic pick within 2 minutes of Karl Johans Gate, only a 10-minute walk from Oslo Central Station.
Splurge: The Thief, sumptuous top-choice in Tjuvjolmen, and a 5-minute walk from Aker Brygge.
Now, what do you think? How would you spend one day in Oslo? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!