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Oslo, the capital of Norway, is located on the beautiful Oslofjord, surrounded by mountains and water. Oslo is a cultured and fun city, with architecture both historical and modern, a growing gastro scene and plenty of vibrant green spaces. If you only have one day in Oslo, our 24 hour city guide will show you the best of this Scandinavian city.
Oslo is a fantastic city to visit year-round. Summers are mild, with long daylight hours and warm, sunny weather typical of the region, but mobs of visitors descend upon Norway’s many sought-after tourist destinations.
Shoulder seasons of spring or fall are ideal for temperate weather. Not as cold as winter, though not as balmy as summer, there are less tourists, giving you better visiting conditions, and hotels and airlines lower their prices accordingly.
Winter is an absolutely marvellous time for 1 day in Oslo. You’ll get or snowy, sparkly weather, almost no tourists, and bottom-of-the-barrel prices. Winter is cold, of course, and the days can be quite short, but if you layer accordingly, nothing beats Oslo in the wintertime.
A common misconception about the region is that it is “dark all the time” in winter. While the days are certainly shorter, it is by no means dark 24 hours a day. In fact, the sun rises at around 9 and starts to set at around 4, which is plenty of time to do daytime activities and is further lengthened by dawn and dusk. Lastly, this type of soft winter light is excellent for photos!
Oslo Airport, alternatively Oslo Gardermoen Airport or simply Gardermoen Airport is the main international airport serving Oslo, located 49km from the city center. The large airport and Oslo’s centrally located train station make it an ideal jumping-off point for adventures in the rest of the country, such as Tromsø, Trondheim, or Svalbard, or the start if a Norway in a Nutshell tour.
You have several options to get into downtown Oslo from Gardermoen airport;
- Transfer – the quickest and most convenient option, you can book in advance with Intui Travel.
- Taxi – grab a cab which will cost around NOK 700-800 and take about 45 minutes.
- Train – the Flytoget Airport Express departs every ten minutes for Oslo Central train station. The 20 minute journey costs NOK 204.
- Bus – the Airport Express SAS Flybussen coach runs between the airport and Oslo city centre every 20 minutes. The journey takes 40 – 50min and costs around NOK 180.
The Clarion Hotel The Hub is just a two minute walk from Oslo Central station. Originally built for the 1950 Winter Olympics, the Clarion is Oslo’s largest hotel. With contemporary decor and an impressive selection of modern art, plus the wonderful rooftop Norda Restaurant, this is a great Oslo hotel choice.
See & Do
The majority of this one day Oslo itinerary is easily managed on foot, with the exception of the Bygdoy peninsula, to which you can catch a ferry, and the Mathallen Food Hall, which might require an Uber or metro journey. Otherwise, all the top things to see in Oslo in one day are within a few kilometres of each other in this compact and accessible city.
Visit Oslo Opera House
Start your Oslo one day trip at the Opera House. You can walk up to the roof, which slopes from ground level and has lovely views of the Oslofjord. To clarify, you’re allowed, and in fact encouraged, to walk up to the roof to see the views of the city! The Oslo Opera House is made from glass and Carrara marble, and has a variety of art installations to enjoy, such as the floating “She Lies” by Monica Bonvicini in the water below.
Oslo Central train station and Opera House are located pretty much in a straight line to the Royal Palace, along the Karl Johans gate, a shopping street and one of the main hubs of the city. As you walk, you’ll see the Norwegian National Theatre, the Stortinget, or Norwegian Parliament building, buildings of the University of Oslo and Eidsvolls Plass, known as Oslo’s National Mall. A slight detour from this route will take you past Oslo Cathedral.
Just a five minute walk from here is the National Gallery, which is currently being transformed into the largest art museum in the Nordic countries, where older and modern art, contemporary art, architecture and design will be displayed under one roof. The new Nasjonalgalleriet is due to open in 2022 and will house, amongst other famous Norwegian art, the infamous painting by Edvard Munch, The Scream.
Each winter, the nearby Spikersuppa Pond is a great place to practice your ice skating, time permitting!
Window Shop on Karl Johans Gate
Do some window-shopping along the Johan Karl, and pop into the variety of boutiques, coffee shops, and more. Be sure to check out the Freia store for delicious Norwegian chocolate, definitely the country’s most famous chocolate brand.
Explore the Royal Palace & Grounds
Explore the Palace Park, Palace Square, and Royal Palace area, at the terminus of the Karl Johans gate. The Norwegian royal family still lives here full-time, and the palace becomes one of Oslo’s best free an attractions in the summer, when it’s open for guided tours.
A real Oslo must see is the changing of the guard that happens at 1.30pm every day, all year round, come rain or shine!
Stop in at Oslo City Hall
Oslo City Hall, or Rådhuset, is home to the the city’s administrative body and City Council. The whole Pipervika area was renovated and rebuilt to make room for the new city hall in the 1920s. It took 30 years for city hall to be built, including a pause in construction at the outbreak of World War II. In 1950, the Oslo City Hall, designed in the Functionalism architectural style, was finally completed.
A large brutish building finished in clumpy brown brick, city hall can feel at odds with Oslo’s contemporary and minimalist Scandinavian architecture. Nevertheless, in 2005, Radhuset was dubbed Oslo’s “Structure of the Century”. As well as being an administrative building, City Hall is the location of the Nobel Peace Prize Award ceremony and is also a museum of Norwegian art and culture, Oslo’s answer to London’s Tate Modern.
Visit the Akershus Fortress
This must do Oslo attraction is a medieval palace and fortress complex which dates back to the 1290s. Akershus Fortress has worn several hats throughout its history, alternatively serving as the seat of county government of Akershus prior to it being incorporated into Oslo, a royal residence, a prison, and the Prime Minister’s office. While you’re here, you can visit the fortress for free, or the palace for a NOK 70 fee. There are also a few museums, including the Norwegian Resistance Museum, on the fortress grounds, but if you are only in Oslo for a day, prioritize exploring the fortress portion.
From here, catch the Bygdoyfergene, or boat to the museums. Operating between March and October, the ferry leave City Hall Pier 3 every 30 minutes. The ferry is included in the Oslo Pass, which you can find out about below.
Explore the Bygdøy Peninsula
The Viking Ship Museum and Norwegian Museum of Cultural History (dedicated to Sami and Viking folk cultures) on the Bygdoy peninsula give a real flavour of viking life in Norway. Vikings were gifted craftsmen and you’ll find genuine Viking vessels in the ship museum, that were unearthed from burial mounds in Gokstad, Oseberg and Tune dating back as far as 820 AD.
As well as being a green haven in the city, full of walking and cycling trails, the peninsula is also home to a number of other museums, making it one of the best things to do in Oslo. The Fram Museum is all about the Polar ship Fram, the strongest wooden ship ever built which holds the records for sailing farthest north and farthest south. You also have the Norwegian Maritime Museum, and finally, the Kon-Tiki Museum, dedicated to Thor Heyerdahl, who gained worldwide fame when he crossed the Pacific Ocean on the balsa wood raft Kon-Tiki in 1947.
Explore Aker Brygge
Explore the hip and recently revitalised Aker Brygge area. A former shipyard, the area has been totally remodelled, with sleek, glass buildings, eateries and bars along the pier, which include a “boat bar” in the summertime, and a contemporary and modern shopping center. The Nobel Peace Prize Centre, a showcase for the Nobel Peace Prize and the ideals it represents, is located here, as well as Oslo’s Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art.
Take a Fjord Cruise
Explore the Oslofjord on an evening cruise. There’s no better way to see the city than from the water which surrounds it. Most cruises are on restored wooden ships, traditional to the region, although there are no modern hybrid and electric boats cruising the water too!
Following in the footsteps of Copenhagen and Stockholm, Oslo has developed into a culinary gem. Local and sustainable ingredients, classic Nordic seafood and an emerging plant based food scene has created a food lovers paradise.
The Mathallen Food Hall
Along the banks of the Akerselva River in the up and coming Vulkan district is he Mathallen Food Hall, a great place to check out classic Norwegian fare. It is definitely a bit touristy, but has over 30 stalls dedicated to Norwegian gastronomy, perfect for those only in the city for a short time.
This is a perfect place for lunch or an early dinner, on weeknights it closes at 6pm and 8pm on Saturdays.
Top Five Oslo Travel Tips
- If you’re visiting in winter, don’t miss the Christmas markets! While not quite as cute as their counterparts in Austria or France, Oslo’s have a distinctly Nordic vibe that is simply adorable. You have two options: outdoor Jul i Vinterland (right by the Royal Palace), and indoor-outdoor Julemarked, on Youngstorget Street, a few blocks away. If you have time, absolutely meander through both! Jul i Vinterland has a Ferris Wheel, and both have stalls selling traditional winter goodies like juleglogg, a seasonal mulled wine drink, as well as lovely little nooks selling seasonal gifts like ornaments, scarves and hats.
- Perhaps the biggest tip for Oslo (and Norway in general) at any time of year, but especially in the winter, spring, or fall, is that the weather can be very fickle. It’s best to wear solid, comfortable shoes that are somewhat water-resistant, pack layers such as long-sleeved shirts or sweaters, and have a rain jacket with you that’s easy to take on and off if the weather changes. Umbrellas can be bulky and hazardous if it gets windy, so something with a good hood is usually better.
- You won’t see the Northern Lights or any polar bears in the Norway capital -you need to go much further north for both.
- Oslo is a really bike friendly city. Rent a bike for a day and get around the city faster, meaning even more sightseeing in Oslo!
- Oslo has a fantastic public transit system, a network of trams, buses, metros, and even ferries, all connected on the same ticket! If you’re only in town for a short time, it may be worth getting the 24 hour Oslo Pass, which includes unlimited public transit in “zone 1” and admission to Oslo’s museums. Note that it does not include airport transit, as that is considered “zone 2!”
Do you have just a little longer to spend in Oslo?
Do you have time to explore Oslo in two days? Or perhaps you have just another half day? If so, add these top things to do in Oslo to your itinerary;
- Take a one day trip from Oslo to Frogner Park, home to the Vigeland Sculpture Park. Located about half an hour from the center of the city by tram, Vigeland Park is the world’s largest sculpture park made up of works from merely one artist. There are over 200 pieces by Gustav Vigeland, sculpted from 1924 to 1943 and later given to the city of Oslo. A lot of the sculptures are on the bizarre side, but well-worth visiting. Frogner Park, a former manor house and Baroque garden, is gorgeous, and the surrounding Frogner neighborhood is lovely for a wander.
- Two adorable historic streets to check out are Damstredet and Telthusbakken. A mere 160 and 300 meters in length, respectively, both are charming and cobblestoned, reminiscent of times gone by. Damstredet was once a shantytown, but its wooden houses survived, and are a great photo spot. Nearby, the Vår Frelsers cemetery is the final resting place of Norwegian greats like Henrik Ibsen and Edvard Munch. Near Telthusbakken, check out the medieval Gamle Aker church and nearby gardens.
- A mere tram ride away will make you feel like you’re in a different world in Nordmarka, a massive outdoor recreation area on the city limits. Gape at the Holmenkollen Ski Jump (yes, people voluntarily jump off of it!) and enjoy hiking in the summer and cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and other typical Norwegian activities in winter.
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