Oslo Travel Information

Mother Earth Travel > Norway > Oslo > History

With its population of around 500,000, Oslo is one of the smallest capitals in Europe, and is flanked by nature on almost all sides. The city's communication system is convenient, with buses, trams, an underground system, trains and ferries. It takes you all around town, into the wilderness or out to one of the islands of the inner Oslo fjord, all in less than 20 minutes.

The transport hub is in and around Oslo Central Station, Sentralstasjonen. Diagonally across the street you find the main Bus Terminal. The train station itself is served by local, intercity and international trains, as well as the Airport Train (Flytoget). The shopping centre Byporten is adjoining the railway station. Across the street is another big shopping centre, Oslo City.

Walking west from the station, you are at the beginning of Karl Johans Gate, Oslo's parade street, partly pedestrianised. On your right as you walk up the sloping hill is Oslo Cathedral, dating from the late 17th century. It is open daily, free of charge. Further up the Karl Johan, passing shops, restaurants and pubs on the way, you get to the Parliament building, or Stortinget, on the left hand side, with its original neo-Romanesque architecture. Across the street, the 5-star Grand Hotel has greeted its guests for more than a century. Grand Café has been the favourite haunt of famous Norwegian artists such as playwright Henrik Ibsen. The little green spot of Studenterlunden on the other side has an open-air restaurant and a large pond, which becomes a very popular ice rink in the winter. At the end of it is the Neo-Classical National Theatre, built in 1899 and guarded by the statues of Henrik Ibsen and Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson. In addition to a magnificent rococo theatre hall seating 800, Nationaltheateret has its own gallery with a unique portrait collection. Back on the other side of Karl Johan, you find the oldest part of the University of Oslo, built in 1852. Inside, in the main Assembly Hall, you can see three great works by painter Edvard Munch; "Sun", "Alma Mater" and "History".

Just a short walk up Universitetsgaten, the most extensive collection of art in Norway is on display at the National Gallery (free entrance). You can see works by famous Norwegian artists such as Edvard Munch, Christian Krohg and J.C. Dahl as well as international names like Picasso, El Greco, Matisse and Van Gogh. Around the corner is the University Museum, divided into a historical section, displaying Viking finds, runic stones and religious art, and an ethnological section with artefacts from all over the world collected by Norwegian anthropologists. In St. Olavs gate there are two reasons to visit the Museum of the Applied Arts - the Norwegian and foreign applied arts, fashion and design items exhibited here, and the delightful, 19th century museum coffee shop Café Solliløkka.

Karl Johans Gate runs all the way up to theRoyal Palace, built by the 19th century king Karl Johan, who ruled the union of Sweden and Norway. Strolling in Slottsparken, the royal gardens surrounding the palace, you can look at memorable statues, enjoy a picnic or take a nap in the shade of a tree.

From here, you should be able to see the twin towers of Rådhuset, the Town Hall, facing Oslo´s harbour. It was inaugurated in1950, to coincide with Oslo's 900-year anniversary. The Town Hall is open every day except Sundays and frequently hosts various exhibitions. At the waterfront you can also find the main Tourist Office Further along the pier, Aker Brygge is beckoning with its exclusive shops, restaurants, pubs and bars. Probably the most packed area of Oslo in the summer!

From the harbour you can also take a ferry to Bygdøy and Dronningen, where the five most popular museums of Oslo are located, the open air Norwegian Folk Museum being the largest. It has more than 150 old, original buildings from all of Norway including a stave church. There is also a large collection of traditional costume, furniture, silverware, jewellery and artefacts. Only a short stroll away, in the Viking Ship Museum, the three ritual burial ships, in which Viking kings and queens were once buried, take you back in time.

Three other museums are located at Bygdøynes. At the Kon-Tiki Museum, you can see the papyrus boats Ra I and II and the Kon-Tiki raft, which the well-known explorer and anthropologist Thor Heyerdahl made for his oceanic voyages, trying to prove his theories on the spreading of ancient civilisations. The Fram Museum is dedicated to Arctic explorers Roald Amundsen and Fritjof Nansen and their polar ship "Fram". You might also want to take a look at the Norwegian Maritime Museum next door, recently extended.

Back in the city, Akershus Fortress stands guard at the harbour, originally a residence for kings, but later, in 1592 remodelled as a fort, armed with cannons. Today you can see the famous author Henrik Wergeland´s office, the Castle church, the Royal Mausoleum and the Resistance Museum. The army still uses parts of the fort, and you can see the daily changing of the guards.

Below the fortress, Akershusstranda leads to Vippetangen quay, from where boats leave frequently for the islands of the inner Oslo fjord. The trip across takes 5-30 min, depending on which island you would like to visit. At Hovedøya you will find the ruins of a Cistercian monastery built by monks from Kirkstead, England, during the twelfth century.

Back on shore, Akershusstranda leads uptown past the Astrup Fearnley Museum of modern art. Exhibitions change, with post-war pieces, but part of the museum is permanent. More modern art is on show in the innovative Museet for Samtidskunst at Bankplassen. Make a stop by Christiania Torv, where the big statue of king Christian IV's glove in the centre of the square points out the spot where he wanted to rebuild the city after the big fire in 1624.

To the west of the city, Frogner Park, which contains the Vigeland Sculpture Park and Museum, is the most visited tourist attraction in Oslo. Do not miss this quite amazing collection of 212 larger-than-life granite and bronze sculptures, representing all stages of life.

You have not seen Oslo unless you have been to Holmenkollen, the arena for big international skiing events every winter. Finish your day enjoying the panoramic views of the modest city of Oslo and the Oslo fjord from the famous ski jump tower. If you dare not exit the tower on a pair of skis, take the elevator back down and try out the three-dimensional ski simulator to experience how the real athletes do it.

The OsloCard is a discount card that is worth thinking about if you are staying for a few days and want to see all the sights.

You can buy the card at tourist information centres, the Central Station, Trafikanten, hotels, Narvesen-newsagents and certain post offices.

Some of the things included in the OsloCard are: free entry to most museums and places of interest; unlimited free travel on all public transport run by Oslo Sporveier (bus, tram, underground); free parking in municipal car parks; free minicruise on the fjord with Båtservice Sightseeing; discounted car, ski and skate hire; discounts in some restaurants.

You can buy the card for one, two or three days, and as single or family cards.