48 hour guide to Oslo, Norway
After a few days of being one with the small town charms of Bergen and Flam, we finally got a taste of our first big city in Norway. Oslo is the whole package: history, architecture, nightlife, shopping, and good food. We spent the next 48 hours hustling to experience as much as we could before moving on to see friends in Gothenburg, Sweden. Check out our 48-hour guide to Oslo.
Downtown Oslo buzzes with an electric atmosphere. Tourists and locals walk along the streets passing boutique shops, flower markets, large plazas, and lively bars. While Bergen and Flam preserved the old Norway, Oslo embraces a hybrid of both old and new in interesting ways. Here you can watch the royal guard march back and forth in front of the palace, then take a ferry ride and marvel at the modern angular shapes of the Oslo Museum of Contemporary Art. To spend anything shorter than 48 hours would do Oslo a great injustice.
The royal palace
Trinity church interior
I just love the spire rooftops
Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art
Akershus Castle and Fortress
A trip to Oslo isn’t complete without visiting the Akershus Castle and Fortress. Many castles that offer tours will block off large portions of the castle to viewers, but here the connection between rooms and passageways is seemingly endless. Step inside a dark and cold prison cell, or marvel at the long and lavish dining halls. Sit quietly and study the many paintings and tapestries on the walls, or walk the grounds of the fortress, overlooking the water.
The neighborhood of Grünerløkka marries hipster vibes with old town charm. Columns and columns of tall, narrow windows stitch together to form a continuous quilt of rectangles on colorful backdrops. The area is concentrated with liveliness. During the day, locals can be seen sipping coffee outside cafe’s and restaurants while tourists amble about perusing the boutique windows. By night, you can take your pick between fancy cocktail bars, laid back craft beer pubs, or visit the local’s favorite tiki bar.
Take a ferry from Bygdøyfergene- City Hall pier and journey into the residential area of Bygdøy. You can also take a bus from city center, but the ferry ride is inexpensive and very pleasant. It is here that several museums are clustered closely together, making it easy to spend half the day here. The two we spent time at were The Viking Ship Museum and Norsk Folk Museum. When you’re ready to return, there’s a lovely restaurant right at the dock for a quick bite to eat.
Viking Ship Museum
The Viking Ship Museum draws crowds by the bus load daily. It holds some of the best-preserved Viking ships in the world. These ships were built for burial purposes for important people. As you walk around these beautiful vessels, admiring the curvature of the bow from just an arm’s length away, you can feel history vibrating from every wooden plank and metal spike.
The intricacy of the detailed carvings sheds some light on the artistry that it took to create these elegant vessels.
Stand and watch the short animated video projected onto the ceiling every 3o minutes to an hour. It tells a story of how a viking ship is made, sails to sea in battle and conquest, then ends its life as a burial grave for a viking king. For a moment you forget where you are and lose yourself in the captivated graphics and sounds and feel a little closer to what life might have been like back then.
Video Owned by Vasa
Norsk Folk Museum
The Norsk Folk Museum is a 10-minute walk from the Viking Ship Museum. Upon entering, you are transported back in time. This expansive outdoor museum offers a glimpse of normal Norwegian life during different eras as far back as the 1500s. Watch simple villagers, played by museum workers, collect their food from the local garden and work in the mock town. You can enter log wood homes, and run your hands across the worn wood walls of the Stave Church. The museum is truly one of a kind and great for families.
In a nutshell…
Oslo is a diverse city and we had an amazing time exploring the different neighborhoods and museums. There were definitely more things we wanted to see that we didn’t have time for, and we wanted to point them out so that if you have planned a few more days, you’ll have some other things to consider.
- The Oslo Opera house – Famous for its gorgeous architecture, I read that going for the slanted room alone was worth it. Alas, we ran out of time.
- The Astrup Fearnley Museet (Oslo Museum of Contemporary Art) – another stunning modern architecture building and for those who love contemporary art, it’s sure to be a fun few hours.
- The Vigeland Sculpture park – We really wanted to see this, but it was a little farther away and would have meant sacrificing a lot to take the time to go see it.
- The Fram Polar Ship Museum – Also on Brydoy, we could have made this our third museum of the day, but we were tired and chose to head back to the city center for drinks.