Images courtesy of Innovation Norway

Oslo

The capital and largest city of Norway is situated in a beautiful location curving around the innermost shore of the Oslofjord and surrounded by hills and forests. The largest city of Scandinavia, Oslo has a traditional charm and relaxed feel about it; spread over a large area, it never seems overcrowded, offering a wealth of top attractions. Boasting a charming mix of medieval architecture, green spaces and modern conveniences, Oslo is a fantastic destination in its own right as well as being a convenient gateway to Norway’s wider attractions.

Whether you’re looking to book a fun break with friends, a family holiday or a romantic break for two, Oslo has got it all. The oldest of the Scandinavian capital cities, Oslo has a laid-back atmosphere with attractive architecture, spacious streets and picturesque squares. The city’s collection of world-class museums, reflecting the nation’s colourful history, can keep you busy for days. As for restaurants, bars and cafes, you are spoilt for choice with everything from the traditional to the contemporary. Shoppers will enjoy exploring the city’s hundreds of independent shops, markets and boutiques, while many visitors will be content to simply wander the city’s charming streets.

With its vibrant culture, lively nightlife and proximity to some of the most stunning scenery in Europe, Oslo is the perfect destination for anyone wanting to combine a cosmopolitan city break with a chance to get back to nature.

Further afield, holidays to Oslo are perfectly placed for exploring the famously beautiful Norwegian landscape. Follow one of the many hiking trails into the countryside surrounding the city, join a boat trip exploring the fjords or discover unspoiled seaside villages and towns. Back in Oslo, there’s plenty to do once the sun sets. Treat yourself to some traditional Norwegian cuisine in candlelit restaurants, enjoy an evening in one of the city’s renowned jazz bars or dance the night away in one of the many nightclubs.

Visitors can take advantage of the Oslo Pass, which allows free travel on public transport, free parking and many museum and sight admissions.

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Enjoy the Norwegian National Opera & Ballet, Norway’s largest performing arts institution, with over 600 employees working in about 50 professions and trades. After the opening in 2008, the Opera House in the old harbour area of Bjørvika soon became a landmark in Oslo. Designed by the Norwegian architects Snøhetta, it is the first opera house in the world to let visitors walk on the roof. The new opera house offers a rich and varied programme from three stages: The Main House (1369 seats), Second House (400 seats) and the Studio (200 seats). The Opera Roof and Foyer are also used for concerts.

Explore Aker Brygge wharf with its unique sea-front boardwalk and distinctive mix of old shipyard buildings and modern architecture. Aker Brygge, one of Oslo’s prime attractions, is a popular area with a shopping mall, apartment buildings, offices, restaurants, bars and a theatre. For more than a century it was the site of a shipyard, Akers Mekaniske Verksted. The architecture at Aker Brygge is distinctive, with its combination of old, venerable shipyard buildings and modern architecture. In the summer months Aker Brygge is Oslo’s number one meeting place, teeming with people both day and night, enjoying its numerous attractions.

Visit the medieval Akershus Fortress, located in the city centre by the Oslofjord, a great place to discover Oslo’s history and a beautiful place to enjoy a summer day. The building of Akershus Castle and Fortress began in 1299 under the reign of King Håkon V. The medieval castle, which was completed in the 1300s, had a strategic location at the very end of the headland, and withstood a number of sieges throughout the ages. King Christian IV had the castle modernised and converted into a Renaissance castle and royal residence. During the 17th and 18th century the castle fell into decay, and restoration work only started in 1899.

Take a stroll around the fascinating Vigelandsparken (Sculpture Park) with its 200 sculptures in bronze, granite and cast iron. Enjoy the fantastical creations of Gustav Vigeland in this open air sculpture park. Vigeland was also responsible for the design and architectural outline of the park. A monumental artistic creation with a human message that is well worth seeing. Vigelandsparken is one of Norway’s most visited attractions with more than 1 million visitors every year. The park is open all year at all times and is a popular recreation area.

See a trio of Viking long ships rescued from ritual burial grounds in the south of the country at the Vikingskipshuset (Viking Ships Museum). The museum presents great Viking ship discoveries from Gokstad, Oseberg and Tune as well as other finds from Viking tombs around the Oslofjord. The museum displays the world’s two best-preserved wooden Viking ships built in the 9th century, as well as small boats, sledges, a cart with exceptional ornamentation, implements, tools, harness, textiles and household utensils.

Spend some time at the Nasjonalgalleriet (National Gallery), Norway’s most ambitious collection of fine art, with a bit of everything from Munch to Manet, Dahl to Degas. Norway’s largest public collection of paintings, drawings and sculptures. The National Gallery’s central attractions include Edvard Munch’s The Scream and Madonna, and paintings by Cézanne and Manet. The museum’s exhibitions present older art, with principal emphasis on art from Norway. The permanent exhibition shows highlights from the collection and national icons from the romantic period until the mid-1900s. Also on display are works by international painters and sculptors, including the French impressionists.

Check out the Munch-museet (Munch Museum). Edvard Munch has a unique position among Nordic painters and is considered a pioneer in expressionism. The Munch Museum’s collection, left to the city of Oslo by Edvard Munch, consists of a large number of paintings, graphical prints and drawings. By constantly changing the exhibitions, the museum presents the variety in his production. The museum offers audio tours in Norwegian and in English and a permanent documentary exhibition. Films about Edvard Munch’s life and art are screened during the museum’s opening hours.

Walk around the beautiful Botanisk Hage, (Botanical Garden). The Botanical Garden is a green oasis in the city of Oslo – a place to get inspiration and experience beauty. It is an ideal place to relax from the stress of city life, and to enjoy the botanical variety and diversity to be found here. Most of the area is designed as an Arboretum, with approximately 1800 different plants. The garden holds a large and varied collection of trees and shrubs planted in a systematic fashion. The Scent Garden is arranged as an experience for all, but especially the blind, mentally handicapped and wheelchair-bound. The Palm House from 1868 and The Victoria House from 1876 present exotic plants from other parts of the world.

Visit the Holmenkollen Ski Museum & Tower, an historic landmark in the Norwegian consciousness, Holmenkollen embodies more than a century of skiing competitions. Inside the ski jump is the Holmenkollen Ski Museum, the oldest of its kind in the world. The museum presents over 4,000 years of skiing history, as well as Norwegian polar exploration artefacts. The observation deck on top of the jump tower offers panoramic views of Oslo.

In winter access to ski areas is only minutes away. The largest ski centre in Oslo is Oslo Winter Park Tryvann with six lifts, fourteen slopes and one of the largest terrain parks in Norway, offering skiing and snowboarding. Oslo boasts 1600 miles of prepared cross-country ski trails. Not many capital cities can afford a complete ski experience within the city limits!

During the summer months the stunning Oslo archipelago is perfect for island hopping. Visit Hovedøya, a short ferry ride from the city centre, to laze on the beach, swim or walk through the woods.

Image courtesy of Hagelund/Birdseyepix.com – Visitnorway.com