Why Oslo, Norway should be your next vacation destination

Oslo buildings / architecturePhoto: Alina Shchurova / Unsplash

Oslo is Norway’s buzzing capital and one of Europe’s most cutting-edge cities. Pair the gastronomy, heritage, and entertainment of Oslo, Norway with its proximity to the country’s untamed nature, and you’ve got a Scandinavian city with true soul.

In Oslo, Norway, you can polish off a traditional hveteboller for breakfast, take in some of the world’s oldest Viking ships, admire art by Edvard Munch, catch a death metal show, and dine on Michelin-starred dishes – all in one day.

Let’s dig into the details of grub, design, and culture, which are all blooming in this oozing-with-Scandi-cool capital city.

Oslo opera house reflection
Crowds mingle outside of the innovatively designed Oslo Opera House. Photo: Oliver Cole / Unsplash

Oslo things to do: The best of Norway’s capital

If you’re wondering “What is Oslo famous for?”, we’ve got you covered. From the tastiest treats and best places to party in Oslo, to the city’s most marvelous museums and can’t-miss landmarks, we’re bringing you the best of Norway’s modern metropolis.

By the end of your read, your question just might change to “How do I move to Oslo?!”

Museum hop

The Astrup Fearnley Museum, located in Oslo’s southwestern Aker Brygge area, is comprised of contemporary art by some of the world’s most renowned modern artists.

The collection is housed in three pavilions under a glass, sail-shaped rooftop designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano (b. 1937). Don’t miss the Tjuvholmen Sculpture Park, also designed by Piano, which surrounds the museum.

Another must-see sculpture park is Vigeland Sculpture Park; one of the world’s largest, and most fascinating. It features over 200 sculptures by Gustav Vigeland (1869–1943), who also designed the park’s layout.

Vigeland sculpture "Dancing young woman"
Gustav Vigeland’s bronze “Dancing Young Woman”. Source: Sabinurce / Pixabay

Norway’s most extensive collection of art, which features household-name works like Norwegian painter Evard Munch’s The Scream and a self-portrait by Vincent Van Gogh, is housed in Oslo’s centrally-located National Museum.

Four kilometers west, the Munch Museum presents the world’s largest collection of Munch paintings. 

Oslo’s Viking Ship Museum is headlined by three well-preserved Viking ships from the 9th century. Find the museum and its treasures on the western Bygdøy peninsula.

Viking ship
Vikings are famous for their longships – the seafaring counterparts of the on-land Viking longhouses. Photo: Steinar Engeland / Unsplash

Pro tip: With bike rental options aplenty and excellent public transport, environment-loving Oslo allows you to museum hop sustainably.

Feel the music

There’s no deficit of entertainment in Oslo, Norway. The city’s waterfront Oslo Opera House was built by daring Norwegian design studio Snøhetta not afraid to match the elegant with the avant-garde.

Beneath the theater’s LED-lit chandelier masterpiece, catch productions from Juoiggas i operaen, presented by the Sámi National Theater, to Romeo and Juliet

Oslo Opera House
The outstanding Oslo Opera House features an entirely walkable rooftop with panoramic views of the surrounding city and Oslofjord. Photo: Alexandra von Gutthenbach-Lindau / Pixabay

Maybe you’d just like to dance until the sun comes up (which will actually be quite early in summertime Oslo, though the city doesn’t officially experience the midnight sun).

Cross-genre music festivals and live gigs pop up all across the city, which also has an up-and-coming club scene able to please even the most hardcore strobe light lovers.

Have a feast

In Oslo, the cuisine is as innovative as it is authentic.

The must-try specialty in town is seafood, which you can enjoy with a view of the Oslofjord at waterfront restaurants like Louise (decorated with over 1,000 once-used nautical objects), Sjømagasinet (which cooks almost all its goodies on a charcoal grill), and Solsiden Restaurant (one of the best spots to watch the sun set over the fjord). Don’t miss out on the local fish specialty of lutefisk (cod cured in lye).

For hearty Norwegian specialties like fårikål (lamb and cabbage stew) and kjøttkaker (Norwegian meatballs), at reasonable prices, head to Restaurant Schrøder, Kaffistova, or Dovrehallen.

At the city’s oldest restaurant, Engebret Café (opened in 1857), you can taste game (think reindeer and moose). 

Moose burger with berries
In Oslo, you can order game delicacies like wild moose burgers with forest berry relish. Photo: Sharon Ang / Pixabay

We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention Maaemo, the city’s three-Michelin-starred celebrity. Maaemo cooks up 100% organic and locally sourced ingredients like seafood, vegetables, meat, and berries, topped with herbs from Norwegian producers. 

For casual dining in a fun atmosphere, head to Oslo Street Food, which is comprised of various food stands and seat-yourself long tables.

Here, the DJs are on deck, the beer is flowing, and the crowd (the space sits up to 550) is spirited.

Oslo weather: A mix and match of the elements

In Oslo, temperature largely depends on the season.

January is usually the city’s coldest month, with temperatures averaging between -5 and 0 degrees Celsius. July, on the other hand, when temperatures flip-flop between 14 and 23 degrees Celsius, is the warmest. 

Oslo gets an average of 1668 sunshine hours per year. For reference, one of the sunniest places on Earth is Yuma, Arizona, with 4015 hours of sunshine per year. Conversely, one of the least sunny cities is Totoró, Colombia, with 637 sunshine hours per year.

Oslo’s average is about the same as cities like Paris, Juneau, London, and Berlin.

Oslo winter and Oslo summer are like night and day; almost literally. Oslo is too far south to experience the northern lights and midnight sun phenomena, but the city does experience a significant change in daylight hours.

The city’s seasonal extremes can seem surreal. For example, in December, the month with the least amount of daylight, the sun sets around 3:15 PM and rises around 9:10 AM; totaling about 6 hours of daylight.

In June, the month with the most daylight in Oslo, the sun sets at about 10:45 PM and rises around 3:50 AM; totaling almost 19 hours of daylight. 

Oslo sunset
An early winter sunset over Holmenkollen hill in Oslo. Photo: Michael Ankes / Unsplash

Oslo population: From the Stone Age to today

The land today known as Norway is thought to have become habitable around 10,000 years ago – when the last global glacial period let up. Though scientists believe Norway was inhabited earlier, the oldest human skeleton found in the country was dated to 6600 BC.

The man was buried in the modern-day town of Stokke, which sits 110 kilometers south of Oslo, also on the Oslofjord. 

The populations of Norway and Oslo were, back in the Stone Age, undoubtedly very small.

They gradually increased, since the country’s long coastline and countless fjords were rife with opportunities for fishing. Around 2500 BC, farms also began to spread, especially around Norway’s more fertile and southern areas – which included Oslofjord. 

By the Viking Age (beginning in the 9th century), Norway’s total population is thought to have reached between 150,000 and 200,000. 

Viking boat in a fjord
A Viking boat sails down a Norwegian fjord. Photo: Flore W / Pixabay

Oslo first became a small town around 1000 AD as communities continued to expand. By 1300 AD, Norway was home to around 500,000 people and Oslo about 3,000. Both of these numbers probably diminished by half during the mid-14th-century Black Death plague.

Oslo was renamed Christiania in 1624 after King Christian IV. By the 1650s, Norway’s total population probably reached almost half a million again. 

Around 1800, Norway’s number of inhabitants was 883,000. Christiania (spelled Kristiania briefly between 1877 and 1925) became the official capital in the important year of 1814.

Due to an influx of migrants from the country’s rural areas, Kristiania’s population drastically increased from 12,000 in 1800, to 60,000 in 1850, and 230,000 in 1900.

By the early 1900s, Norway’s population numbered two million. In 1925, the country’s capital was changed back to its original name – Oslo. 

Today, Norway’s population is 5.4 million and Oslo’s around 600,000 – and the number of sights to see and things to do isn’t too far behind!

Source: Norway Today

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