When I looked out the window aboard the Oslo airport train two months ago, it took me several minutes to realize that all of the lush greenery was the same space occupied by the Christmas winter wonderland I had left last. After spending a another relaxing week in Norway’s capital city, I’m pleased to report back that there are just as many amazing things to do during summer in Oslo as there are in the winter, if not more.
This guide is a product of my first summer in (and second visit to) this wonderful city, and it should serve you well for your first visit as well.
Where to Eat and Drink
The Grand Hotel: Karl Johans gate 31, 0159 Oslo http://www.grand.no/en/default.html
The Grand Hotel has so much history, and the restaurant on the main floor (Grand Cafe Oslo) has excellent, upscale interpretations of Norwegian classics. However, you may also want to consider a drink at Eight Rooftop Bar, which gives you a view of the downtown core.
Ekebergrestauranten: Kongsveien 15, 0193 Oslo https://www.ekebergrestauranten.com/
The food is nice (their mussels are a thing), but people definitely flock to this restaurant for the spectacular view. Time it with a visit to Ekebergparken and preferably in the cooler evening. Patio seating is available on a first-come-first serve basis. [Pictured above: the view from the outdoor patio].
Summit Bar: Holbergs gate 30, 0166 Oslo https://www.radissonblu.com/en/scandinaviahotel-oslo/bars
This is a stylish bar on the 21st floor of the Radisson Blu Scandinavia Hotel with great cocktails and spectacular views of Oslo (including the Oslo Fjord). Summit was designed by the renowned architecture firm Snøhetta, which designed the bar to give its guests the feeling of standing on the top of a mountain. Keep in mind that you have to be at least 25 to enter.
Kunstnernes Hus: Wergelandsveien 17, 0167 Oslo www.kunstnerneshus.no
It may not look like much from the outside, but this somewhat boring-looking building is actually an artist-run exhibition hall for Norwegian and international contemporary art. The institution is organized as a foundation governed by Norwegian artists, and was created in 1930. (I will, however, always remember it as the place when a giant bird shat on me with great pomp and circumstance.)
Mathallen: Vulkan 5, 0178 Oslo https://mathallenoslo.no/en/
Located in the super-hipster neighbourhood of Grünerløkka, this is a fairly new international food hall. It’s clean and trendy, and there’s even dog parking available if you need it. Come for a quick lunch or to buy a few steaks to grill at home or at your Airbnb. [Pictured below]
Cafe Sorgenfri: Bryggetorget 4, 0250 Oslo https://www.cafesorgenfri.no/
This is a Danish-style restaurant that serves up fresh, elegant food. It is a perfect spot to go if you’re in the Aker Brygge neighbourhood. DW loves the Københavnerfat, which is essentially a Danish platter of open-faced sandwich offerings.
Restaurant Schrøder: Waldemar Thranes gate 8, 0171 Oslo http://www.restaurant-schroder.no/
Serving boiled vegetables, plain potatoes and large chunks of meat; keep in mind that this is not an excellent restaurant by modern standards. However, it is a rare opportunity to try traditional Norwegian home-cooked food in a restaurant setting. DW explains, “This is the kind of food that a great-grandmother might serve you”.
Paradis: Stenersgata 1, 0050 Oslo (and various locations) http://www.iskrembar.no/
The word for ice is is in Norwegian, so this popular gelato shop chain is also a little bit punny. The main location is situated in Aker Brygge, but they have a few different ones, including in Mathallen.
W.B. Samson: Various locations throughout the city https://www.samson.no/
This Norwegian bakery has all of the classic pastries you could need, and there a few in every Oslo neighbourhood. It is a chain, but it’s one I’ve enjoyed a few times. I would highly recommend the kanelsnurrer (cinnamon roll).
Burger Joint: Holmens gate 3, 0250 Oslo http://www.burgerjoint.no/
When you’re tired of eating cured fish and potato salad and crave a little bit of North American food, the burgers here are fun and pair well with their selection of beers. While it’s a casual pay-at-the-counter situation, it is still Aker Brygge, so even the picnic benches will still have fur throws.
What to See and Do
Oslo is one of the best cities in the world to experience both the historical and modern at the same time, and all the biggest tourist and government buildings are literally within a stone’s throw of each other. In fact, if you have a good pair of shoes on, you could potentially blast through the following attractions in about an hour:
The Palace (and Royal Palace Park): Slottsplassen 1, 0010 Oslo http://www.kongehuset.no/
Oh, you didn’t know Norway has a legit royal family? Well, it’s true. The royal residence, completed in 1849, is the current home to HM King Harald V and HM Queen Sonja (although they have their pick of places to live). Do yourself a favour and walk to the back to explore the peaceful and insanely beautiful gardens that seem too nice to be real.
Oslo Rådhus (Oslo City Hall): Fridtjof Nansens plass, 0160 Oslo https://www.oslo.kommune.no/politikk-og-administrasjon/radhuset/
It may not look like much on the outside, but Oslo’s City Hall is incredibly vibrant on the inside. From June to August, you can book free guided tours to explore its many murals and learn about its administrative functions.
Norwegian Operahouse & Ballet: Kirsten Flagstads plass 1, 0106 Oslo https://operaen.no/en/
Come for a show, or just come to photograph some highly Instagrammable architecture at one of Oslo’s most iconic waterfront buildings.
Akerhus Festning (Fortress): 0150 Oslo https://www.forsvarsbygg.no/no/festningene/finn-din-festning/akershus-festning/english/
Akershus Castle and Fortress was commenced in 1299 under King Håkon V and still stands today as an important historical landmark. The visitor centre has one tour which features a “700-year historical tour” and another which focuses on the fortress’s period as a prison. You can also just take a pleasant stroll through the grounds. At the time of publication, Akerhus Castle is closed for renovations until further notice.
Aker Brygge Wharf: Aker Brygge, 0250 Oslo https://www.akerbrygge.no/
Although built against a historical wharf, Aker Brygge a vibrant commercial district seeping with modernity and wealth. Both the outdoor and indoor areas are often used for photo and art installations and fashionable events. Most restaurants here are overpriced chains, but all their patios are excellent.
After you’ve had your fill of the city centre, plan a day trip or two to explore the beauty of Oslo’s nature and lifestyle.
Ekebergparken (Ekebergparken Sculpture Park): Kongsveien 23, N-0193 Oslo https://ekebergparken.com/en
One of the places that sums up this spirit of Norway the best is Ekebergparken. Covering 25.5 acres, this amazing sculpture park was founded in 2013 and financed by property director and art collector Christian Ringnes. I don’t want to spoil the experience for you, but you will find so much more than boring stone sculptures here, so be prepared to be disturbed and delighted.
Vigelandsparken (Vigeland Sculpture Park): Nobels gate 32, 0268 Oslo https://vigeland.museum.no/en
This is the world’s largest sculpture park made by a single artist and is one of Norway’s most popular tourist attractions. The art is weird, and fascinating, and is an excellent place to people and dog watch. It is open to visitors all year round, any time of day.
The island is right outside of Sandvika in Bærum. With so little sunshine in a year, summer weekends on this picture-perfect island are hectic and crowded. On the day we visited, it seemed like nearly half of the country’s population of 5 million must’ve been jostling for a spot in that parking lot. With a fluffy dog on leash and bottles of water ready to go, it was a wonderful way to spend a day. Be mindful of the nude beaches.
The Bygdøy Peninsula
The Bygdøy Peninsula is a wealthy residential area where some of Norway’s best museums happen to call home. You can get there by boat, or by bus, and should definitely set aside an entire day to explore it. In particular:
Norsk Folkemuseum (Norwegian Museum of Cultural History): Museumsveien 10, 0287 Oslo https://norskfolkemuseum.no/
This is, hands down, the most impressive museum I have ever seen. The mostly outdoor museum covers Norway’s history from the beginning of history all the way up until the early 2000’s–complete with Viking huts, Stave churches and Midcentury (not modern) vibes. If you go to the Bygdøy Peninsula, make this your first stop.
Vikingskipshuset (Viking Ship Museum): Huk Aveny 35, 0287 Oslo https://www.khm.uio.no/besok-oss/vikingskipshuset/
Of course, we couldn’t leave the Peninsula without visiting this one. As soon as I walked into the space, I instantly understood why the Royal Ontario Museum‘s Viking Exhibit (while excellent) was so underwhelming and somewhat historically frustrating to DW. All of the memories and stories I have ever heard about Vikings flashed through my brain, as I held my face up to each of the massive ships, each retrieved and painstakingly re-assembled from Viking burial sites.
The more I visit Norway, the more I love it.