Seven relaxing things to do in Oslo, Norway

Oslo Opera House

Last weekend I visited Oslo, the capital of Norway. I was there for less than 48 hours, but the trip was utterly relaxing. The crisp Spring air, the glistening sunlight and the wilderness of the forests and fjord – always nearby, whichever part of town you’re in – seemed to cast an air of calm over the biggest metropolis in this part of Scandinavia.

Oslo is a small city, with only 600k inhabitants. Although it has a good public transport infrastructure, it’s possible to cover a great of it on foot, even the places that are outside the central areas. Here are my recommendations for seven things to do if you have little time to spare and want to experience the best of Oslo’s treasures,  but would still like to move at Oslo’s relaxed pace.

Oslo Opera House

Walk on the roof of the Oslo Opera House

Oslo’s new Opera House, built in 2007, is only a few minutes away from the central station, on the edge of the Oslofjord. It’s designed to look as though it’s rising out of the water.

Oslo

Christian Radich sailing ship, in the Oslofjord

The home of the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet is eye-catching both inside and out. If you walk up its clean-cut lines to the roof, you can see across to the forest, the fortress castle, and look out onto the construction work that will bring other cultural hotspots to this central part of town. On a bright day you can even do a spot of sunbathing.

Oslo Opera House

Stroll past Picasso’s The Fisherman

In the late 1950s and the early 1970s the Spanish artist Pablo Picasso designed five murals for the Regjeringskvartalet (‘Government quarter’) buildings in the centre of Oslo. The Fisherman was created in 1970. It sits on the end of a building damaged in the 2011 bomb attack by Anders Breivik, and there is talk of the mural being taken down and reconstructed elsewhere. So if you want to take in this commanding artwork while strolling through a quiet area of town, now is your opportunity.

Oslo

Visit some celebrity graves

When I say ‘celebrity’, I mean the long-dead, artistic variety. Henrik Ibsen, Norway’s most celebrated playwright, and Edvard Munch, the painter genius behind ‘the Scream’, are both buried in the Var Frelsers cemetery, in the Gamle Aker district.

Munch grave

The cemetery is in a tranquil spot, and if you visit on a winter’s evening you’ll see the graves lit up by candles.

Var Frelsers cemetery

Walk down an olde-worlde street

In the area close to the Royal Palace, there are many historic streets that are worth exploring. They do tend to get crowded, though, especially in the summer.

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An alternative is to explore the areas where most Oslo-dwellers live, before you hit the suburbs and the charming rusty-red wooden houses. These streets tend to be made up of utilitarian-looking blocks of flats, but there are still some olde-worlde treasures to be found, like Damstredet, a 19th-century cobbled street just a stone’s throw away from Var Frelser cemetery.

Damstredet

Damstredet

Have coffee at Supreme Roastworks

Norwegians take their coffee drinking very seriously. At Supreme Roastworks, a micro roastery on Thorvald Meyers gate, I was treated to a delectable latte, and my friend let me try a sip of his colombian roast, the day’s speciality which was made on the premises. I’d never tasted anything quite like it: a bitter, smooth coffee with strong undertones of honey. Yum. And our round of three gourmet drinks came to just over £10, which is hardly more expensive than regular London prices.

Supreme Roastworks

Supreme Roastworks

Visit the Munch Museum

The Munch Museum is set to relocate to a plot on the waterfront, which is currently being built next to the Oslo Opera House. The museum is home to over half of Munch’s artworks and if you hold an Oslo Pass, which allows you unlimited travel on the city’s public transport, entry is free. It’s located at Toyen, a subway stop five minutes from the centre, or twenty minutes away on foot. There’s plenty on offer to family visitors, including ‘BabyScream’, guided tours for those on parental leave (these are in Norwegian so perhaps aren’t suitable for overseas visitors, but I wanted to mention it as I love the idea of tours to help stave off baby-brain….)

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Take a walk in the forest

Although it’s not a regular feature of a city break, I don’t think you can have the complete Oslo experience without a trip to the Nordmarka forest. It’s only twenty minutes away from the centre, accessible by public transport, with a train ride taking you through the picturesque Oslo suburbs to one of the stops with forest access: Frognerseteren and Sognsvann are popular places to start.

Oslo

The forest trails are well-signposted, and there are always plenty of other people enjoying the forest, but as the trees extend for hundreds of kilometres it’s worth getting hold of a map from the Oslo Visitor Centre. The forest is full of sights and sounds: termite mounds, colossal funghi, Norwegians ranging in age from tiny babies in slings, to couples in their nineties; you might even catch a rare sight of a moose, if you walk quietly and peer in between the trees. You can stop for lunch or coffee and cake in one of the forest cabin cafes, or even stay the night in a cabin if you want the genuine Norwegian experience. I’ve posted more about our walk in the forest here.

Oslo seems to have the best of both worlds: it’s a modern city with plenty to keep culture enthusiasts happy. But it also has a glorious wilderness around it, which the city-dwellers take advantage of in all weathers. Have you visited the Norwegian capital? What did you like best?

Read more about Oslo here:

14 fabulous, fun things to do in Oslo (and some of them are free!)

Top museums for families in Oslo

Tunco, a dining experience in Oslo that won’t break the bank

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20 Comments

  1. April 29, 2016 / 12:04 pm

    Isn’t it a gorgeous city? I went there a few years ago in the winter with friends. We had a blast, and I’d also add the viking museum to your list, it’s in a beautiful location and very peaceful and interesting.

    • Nell
      Author
      April 29, 2016 / 8:53 pm

      Oh that sounds perfect – I brought viking paraphernalia back for the kids and they were very excited. I’ll have to take them along next time!

  2. April 29, 2016 / 6:09 pm

    Wow that blue sky is so blue! As in, much bluer than the ones we tend to see. Stunning. Sounds like a fab place.

    • Nell
      Author
      April 29, 2016 / 8:51 pm

      The sky really was a different colour. I hadn’t quite expected that! It seemed much clearer and brighter. I’ve completely fallen in love with the frozen north!

  3. April 30, 2016 / 1:20 pm

    Looks like a beautiful city!! We did Rome and Istanbul over the Easter Holidays, loved it! Been considering our next trip. Was there much for children?? Xx

    • Nell
      Author
      May 2, 2016 / 5:13 pm

      This was a blissful kid-free getaway, and I was only there for two nights, so I didn’t get to properly explore the places geared towards families. There were LOADS of children in the forest though, and I’m looking forward to visiting with my own kids. Apparently the International Museum of Children’s Art, Tusenfryd Amusement Park and the Natural History Museum are great for families.

  4. May 2, 2016 / 9:57 am

    Scandinavia is a part of the world that we would love to explore. Oslo looks like such a beautiful place to visit. It is definitely on our to do list x

    • Nell
      Author
      May 9, 2016 / 12:28 pm

      You should definitely go soon!

  5. May 3, 2016 / 11:54 am

    For such a small city, we were amazed at how much there was to do. I’ve got some ideas from you for a future trip as I didn’t get round to the Munch museum and am tempted by that coffeehouse!
    #citytripping

    • Nell
      Author
      May 9, 2016 / 12:28 pm

      Ah yes – it’s a city that you could visit several times. I’m itching to go back!

  6. May 4, 2016 / 8:49 am

    I’d love to visit Oslo I’ve heard such great things about it and now your post just fuels the wanderlust. Apart form those coffees which were a reasonable price is it very expensive? I’ve heard it is.

    • Nell
      Author
      May 9, 2016 / 12:30 pm

      It was pretty expensive – around the equivalent of £8 for a glass of wine, etc. Alcohol was the most expensive thing, I found. Public transport was slightly cheaper than here in London, though.

  7. May 5, 2016 / 4:23 pm

    What gorgeous photos, this looks such a lovely city to wander around. I’ve never been to Oslo but it’s one that’s very much on my list, especially on the waterfront – I’m very tempted by the gourmet coffee as well! #citytripping

    • Nell
      Author
      May 9, 2016 / 12:30 pm

      We went to the waterfront area in the evening, and it was stunning. You should go!

  8. May 5, 2016 / 7:33 pm

    Fantastic suggestions! Norway is somewhere I have been looking at going so this is a brilliant starting point. I love that you can wander into the forest…a city with many aspects to it. Thanks for linking to #citytripping

    • Nell
      Author
      May 9, 2016 / 12:31 pm

      It’s a pleasure! You should definitely pay Oslo a visit some time.

  9. Bee
    May 10, 2016 / 9:37 pm

    Thank you for sharing with me via the #BlogHour chat – I found this really interesting and thank god the coffee’s were actually quite cheap! That’s what I’m slightly worried about, It sounds like there’s plenty of free things to do though which is great!
    Bee | QueenBeady.com

    • Nell
      Author
      May 12, 2016 / 8:43 pm

      Yes, it’s not a cheap place to visit, but you can always find something inexpensive to do there.

  10. May 11, 2016 / 6:19 pm

    Love to see Oslo from a visitor’s point of view!

    • Nell
      Author
      May 12, 2016 / 8:46 pm

      Thank you!

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