watefront-oslo-154522-shutterstock

Oslo – our capital city of Nordic chic

Whether you prefer opera or the outdoors, you’ll feel at home in our capital, filled with iconic architecture and surrounded by nature.

Oslo, our vibrant capital is a thriving, exciting place of old and new culture. Its museums proudly showcase Ibsen, Munch, and the winners of the Nobel Peace Prize, while the restaurants and bars here are at the forefront of the international culinary scene.

The surrounding hills are also easy to reach for hikers and skiers, promising panoramic views across the harbor and the island-dotted Oslofjord beyond.

A short history of Oslo

It’s hard for us now to imagine our modern capital hundreds of years ago when it was only a small but busy trading post. The settlement, then known as Ánslo, was founded by King Harold Hardrade in 1040 and quickly became a strategic city for Scandinavia.

The city’s history is deeply intertwined with our Scandinavian neighbors. Oslo was renamed Christiana under the reign of King Christian IV Denmark during the 17th century. It also acted as Norway’s capital during a union with Sweden from 1814-1905. When Norway gained its independence, the city took back its identity and its name: Oslo.

akershus-fortress-oslo-153696-shutterstock
havnelageret-oslo-136476

In the 1970s, Oslo’s fortunes shifted again with the discovery of the Ekofisk oil field, which helped it evolve into the prosperous city you see today. Now, Oslo is as well known for its historic buildings, such as the Royal Palace and Akershus Fortress, as it is for its modern architecture.

It’s easy to explore, too, as André Finstad, Hotel Manager of Clarion Hotel The Hub, says: “Oslo is safe, friendly, and really compact. You can walk everywhere.”

At the city’s heart is Bjørvika, part of Oslo’s historically industrial waterfront that has recently been revitalized. Here, you’ll find a neighborhood of modern buildings, including the iceberg-inspired Oslo Opera House with its striking ‘wave wall’ flowing into the harbor’s water.

“The building’s surface is covered by white marble, which makes it look like a swan or a mountain covered with snow,” says Eva Gran, Head of Guided Tours at The Oslo Opera. “It’s a beautiful landmark.”

City days in Oslo are lively with visitors heading to the museums, design shops, cafés, and parks. In the evenings, restaurants and bars, such as those in the trendy district of Grünerløkka, fill with tourists and locals.

It’s easy to escape city life, too. “From the city center, it’s only a few minutes’ walk to a bus, tram, subway or train to the countryside where you can go climbing, kayaking, hiking, and cross-country or downhill skiing.” says Anniken Nilsen a recruitment specialist who works in Hurtigruten’s Oslo headquarters opposite the Opera House. “I love going for walks with my partner and our dog in the countryside, or Oslo Marka as we call it. The surrounding nature feels airy and refreshing.”

The best things to do in Oslo

Oslo Opera House at Bjørvika in summer

1. Walk the waterfront

The new waterfront at Bjørvika is “Oslo in a nutshell,” says Eva. “It has everything you need for a super and exciting day in the Norway capital. Here, you find the Opera House, the new Deichman library, and the new Edvard Munch museum as well as nice cafés, restaurants, and bars. Or you can swim in the fjord and visit one of the many saunas in the area.”

There’s more waterfront to see beyond Bjørvika. “I love doing the walk up through Akerhus fort on the hill and over to the modern area of Aker Brygge built over the fjord,” says Jean-Pierre Wu, frequent visitor to Oslo. “There are lots of great eateries here and even a little beach area at the peninsula.”

national-museum-oslo-157451-tommy-simonsen

2. Find inspiration

“Oslo has become a great city for art lovers! You have the amazing new National Museum, home to Oslo’s largest collection of art, architecture and design, contemporary art in Astrup Fearnley Museum, and there are a lot of art galleries all over town,” says Eva.

At the Ibsen museum, you can step inside the apartment of the famous playwright Henrik Ibsen, who lived in Oslo from 1895 until his death in 1906. Visit the Nobel Peace Prize Center for a modern, interactive introduction to the prize and its inspiring winners since its inauguration in 1901.

outdoor-bar-oslo-136468

3. Have a feast

Oslo’s restaurants embrace the cuisine of all cultures, and Vippa Oslo is a prime example. With its open-air tables warm in the sunshine on the edge of Vippetangen, next to Oslofjord, the food court here is also an exciting venue for exhibitions and concerts from around the world.

For fresh fish in a more formal environment André recommends Fiskeriet: “It’s one of my favorite restaurants – I love the fish soup and you can choose your fish each day. It's super fresh.” For a meal with a view over the harbor, try Norda on the 13th floor of the Clarion Hotel The Hub.

The Holmenkollen ski jump in with the Oslo skyline in the background, Norway.

4. Step into skiing history

For panoramic views of the city and the fjord, head to the Holmenkollen Ski Museum and Tower, around 45 minutes on the metro. Here you’ll find the world’s largest collection of skiing paraphernalia.

Take in the views from the top of the ski jump, imagine what it’s like to launch yourself down there, then recreate the rush in a ski jump simulator. If you can visit during a ski jump event, you’ll find an electric atmosphere. “Skiing is very important to Norwegians and the stands are full whenever there is a ski race in Holmenkollen,” says Anniken.

cycling-autumn-oslo-153699-shutterstock

5. Wander without aim

“Like most capital cities, Oslo is a great place to get purposefully lost in," recommends Jean-Pierre. “I’ve discovered boutique shops, cozy cafés, and hidden bars just by going off the beaten path. Oslo is also changing all the time – every visit offers something new and special.”

Jean-Pierre’s personal ritual whenever he’s in Oslo: “Get an electric bike and cycle over to a fjord-side park called Huk on Bygdøy island. It’s the perfect place in summer to catch the sunset and watch locals jump in the fjord.” He admits he hasn’t been convinced to join us Norwegians for a swim… yet!

Vigeland Sculpture Park, Oslo

6. See art outdoors

Stretch your legs with a stroll around Vigeland Sculpture Park, in Frogner Park. It displays more than 200 sculptures by the prolific Norwegian artist Gustav Vigeland; it’s the world’s largest sculpture park by a single artist.

Look out for the one of the angry little boy stamping his foot – if you have young children in your life, you’ll easily be able to relate! Some of the striking statues are inspired by Norwegian mythology, making it a great introduction to the stories you might hear on your voyage on The North Cape Line.

anniken-nilsen-hurtigruten
What I love most about Oslo is the proximity to everything! We have everything right here, but if I ever get tired of city life, it’s easy to get to the countryside. There is always something new to see or explore.

Anniken Nilsen

Recruitment Specialist at Hurtigruten

What is the weather like in Oslo?

Being in the south of Norway, Oslo is generally blessed with warmer and drier weather than other parts of Norway. This is especially compared to some coastal cities like Bergen which is known for its frequent rainfall.

JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec

Max temp (day)

26°F

26°F

35°F

46°F

59°F

64°F

68°F

64°F

59°F

46°F

35°F

28°F

Min temp (night)

17°F

15°F

23°F

33°F

42F

46°F

51°F

5F

44°F

37°F

30°F

23°F

Thanks to the warmer waters of the Gulf Stream, Oslo isn’t as cold as you might expect for a European city this far north. It’s also usually more of a ‘dry cold’, compared to the damp ‘wet cold’ in other countries.

There’s still enough daylight hours in winter to fit in a few hours skiing around Oslo before retiring to the warmth, too. “In winter, we make the most of the snow and go skiing, “says André. “It’s said Norwegians are born with skis on, so we use every opportunity to go!”

Skating Rink at Eidsvolls plass in Oslo
Oslo Christmas Market. PHOTO: VISITOSLO/FARA MOHRI

When spring arrives, there is a noticeable excitement in Oslo. Vårfolelse – or ‘springfulness’ – is definitely in the air and you’ll find the city’s residents enjoying the first utepils (outdoor beer) of the year, perhaps along the waterfront or over in Grünerløkka. May sees up to 17 hours of daylight so there’s also plenty of time to take longer walks or hikes in the mountains.

When the temperature rises, locals flock to the fjord to sunbathe, swim, and make the most of the season. There’s a clear buzz and happiness to the city that only happens in summer. It perhaps helps the joyous mood that the days are long and bright. Oslo is too far south for the Midnight Sun but when the sun sinks low on the horizon towards the end of a summer’s day, it casts long shadows and a warm glow down the city’s lively streets.

The crisp fall months of September and October see pastel skies fading into the fjord as the warmer days come to a close. The forests lining the fjords turn gold, red, and orange, and parks are painted in similar shades. One of the best ways to take in the beauty of fall is to walk the Akerselva river that runs from the center of Oslo all the way to Maridalsvannet, a large lake north of the city.

Getting to Oslo from your Hurtigruten ship

You can walk between the Revierkaia cruise terminal and the center of Oslo in around 10 minutes.

As your ship sails through the harbor and fjord, past islands dotted with wooden houses, look towards Oslo and you’ll see the modern Opera House appearing to rise out of the water, as well as Akershus Fortress on the headland. This modern city with a long history really is the perfect place to start or end your voyage on The North Cape Line.

Port address: Revierkaia, Revierstredet, 0150 Oslo

Latitude: 59.9°N

ms-trollfjord-oslo-34293

Neighbouring ports of call

kristiansand-143762-shutterstock

NEXT PORT

Kristiansand

Close to the southern tip of Norway, Kristiansand is one of the country’s sunniest cities and the country’s fifth largest.