The Oslo travel essentials planning guide will help you make the most of your upcoming visit and know what to do in Oslo. Despite the fact that Oslo is Norway’s capital and quite the bustling metropolis to boot, central Oslo retains a decidedly compact and cozy feel that is wonderfully walkable and eminently enjoyable.

Oslo travel essentials view of the harbor

Whether you are arriving in Oslo at the finish (or the start!) of a Norway in a Nutshell adventure, passing through Oslo on your way to board a Hurtigruten cruise, or perhaps using Oslo as the start of a road trip around the Norwegian mountains and fjords on your own, you really do want to plan at least an extra 48 hours into your itinerary to experience a taste of what this international city has to offer.

Oslo-Folk-Museum-Stave-2014

There are wonderful parks and green spaces, incredible museums, delightful cafes and food, and, because this is the capital, there is always something going on in the world of entertainment, be it arts, music or sports.

Oslo at night - Oslo Travel Essentials

To help you plan and make the most of your visit, we have assembled the following Oslo travel essentials in our Essentials series of planning guides:


Tourist Information | Useful Apps | Language Basics | Arrival / Departure | Getting Around | City Discount Cards Places to Stay | HITT-Recommended Sites & Attractions | Oslo Map


Tourist information

*Important! Although many online guides, maps and printed materials as of this writing still showed two Tourist Information Centers, this is wrong. We know. We traipsed in the freezing rain to where one was and found empty windows. There is now only one Oslo visitor center, open every day, all year, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. It is in the east hall adjacent to the Oslo Central Station (Oslo S) and can be accessed from inside the east hall or from outside via the Jernbanetorget (the square with the tiger sculpture).

Oslo MapOslo travel essentials apps

  • Visit Norway – The official travel app for Visit Norway (iPhone) provides basic information about nearby businesses and attractions when you are in Norway.
  • Oslo Travel Guide – Click here to download the official visitors travel guide app to Oslo and yes, it works even when data roaming is turned off. It is available for iPhone, iPad and Android.
  • RuterReise – For navigating the public transit options in Oslo, the RuterReiseapp provides a journey planner including displays of departure times in real-time, maps, and updated information about disruptions and delays. Search for stops, addresses or areas all over south-eastern Norway. Use the GPS location function or key in an address you are trying to reach.
  • CityMaps2Go – WE LOVE this app! Even with Wi-Fi and roaming turned off, the maps work and work very well, using the GPS function in your device to locate you on the map. It’s much harder to get lost and much easier to get to where you are going – and you can mark places to interest of you. We used the Oslo city map as well as the companion Wiki guides. app

Language basics

Learning at least a few key phrases of the local language will be helpful, even if the locals do speak a lot of your mother tongue. There are so many apps, websites, language programs and other resources, so a little exploring before you go. Here are two for Norwegian:

Arrival/Departure

Flights — There are three airports in the Oslo area:

  • Oslo Airport at Gardemoen (OSL – the region’s major international airport, which is 45 kilometers north of the city center)
  • Moss Rygge (RYG)
  • Sandefjord Torp (TRF – the second largest international airport).

Airport Trains All NSB Regional trains operating on the north-south line (Skien-Oslo-Lillehammer-Trondheim) go via Oslo Airport Gardermoen as well as NSB local trains Kongsberg-Eidsvoll. Airport trains also go to Rygge and Torp – click here for detailed information.

Airport bus — Flybussen runs efficient bus transport to and from airports in many major cities, including Oslo Airport. Getting to and from the Gardermoen airport on the bus is convenient. The ride takes 40 minutes (longer during rush hour) and departs every 20 minutes every day.

The Rygge-ekspressen bus service goes directly between Oslo Bus Terminal and Moss Airport Rygge and the ride takes approximately one hour. Click here for more information.

The Torp Express bus service runs from the Oslo bus terminal and the ride takes approximately two hours. Click here for more detailed information.

Getting Around

Train (NSB)  Think of Norway train lines somewhat like an x-y axis – one major line goes north-south, and another goes east-west, both with a few offshoots or onward connections to, say, Sweden. Click here to download a PDF map.  Once you know this, it’s easier to get around. The Oslo main station, Central Station (more commonly known as Oslo S), has several departures/arrivals daily on the east-west Oslo–Bergen route, considered one of the most beautiful in the world. We took it from Oslo to Bergen on an early winter day and can confirm that the route is certainly gorgeous, not to mention convenient and affordable. Of course, there are frequent departures to all points in Norway from Oslo’s Central Station.

HITT Tip: Click here to read HI Travel Tales’ “DIY Norway in a Nutshell” how-to, also packed with information about NSB’s extremely inexpensive “Minipris” early-purchase ticketsand other tips.

Countrywide transit – Use this incredibly useful site to find transportation of any kind (boat/ferry, train, bus, plane) outside (or inside) Ostfold or Akershus counties.

HITT Tip: To do this well, you need to know what county you are heading to or from since navigation is by county. Click here to refer to a county map.

Local/county transportation – Ruter is the name of the public transport system in Oslo and the surrounding county, Akershus. City buses, regional buses, trams, subway/metro, ferries and local trains are included in Ruter’s ticket system. All travel is free in Zone 1 and 2 with a valid Oslo Pass – which is pretty huge area, but alas, does not cover rides to and from the airports. Click here to view a Zone map of the Ruter system.

City discount cards

The Oslo Pass (available for purchase from the Tourist Information office just outside the Central Station, most major hotels, and other locations) is worth purchasing IF you plan your time and museum/attraction visits well. Many museums and historical sites are free with the Oslo Pass, as is riding all public transport in the city. The Oslo Pass gives you unlimited free travel by bus, tram, underground, boat and local train with Ruter AS and NSB (Norwegian State Railways), within Zones 1 and 2. Discounts are also available at many restaurants, bike rentals, retail locations, and attractions (discounts range from 10 percent to as much as 100 percent depending on the season so check Oslo Pass for details).

Places to Stay

Certainly choices are broad, from pensions and guesthouses, to private homes/apartments or camping. If however you choose hotels, you just can’t go wrong with the Nordic Choice Hotels’ Clarion Collection brand. Rooms are comfortable, staff always friendly and helpful, and the food is simple, plentiful and delicious. Best of all, included in the price of your Clarion Collection stay is a breakfast buffet (normal at almost all hotels in Norway), afternoon tea (with pancakes or waffles, of course) and even a light evening meal that includes salads, soup, breads, cheeses, dessert and even a hot main dish. In Oslo, one choice we absolutely loved when we stayed there is the Clarion Collection Hotel Bastion. It is close to the station and central to town yet very walkable and very quiet.

HITT Tip: The Fjord Pass is promoted as offering discounts at non-brand specific hotels all over the country. Feel free to explore it, but we found prices to be no different than hotel rates and definitely more expensive than pre-paid rates.

Oslo travel essentials recommended sites and attractions

Norway’s Resistance Museum — The Resistance Museum is located in a 17th century building on the grounds of Akershus Fortress, right adjacent to the memorial for Norwegian patriots executed during the war. It is a fantastic museum – plan on a couple of hours (or more depending on your passion) to view the displays covering five years of occupation recreated with pictures, documents, posters, objects, models, original copies of newspapers and recordings. Nearby is the Armed Forces Museum, which is nice enough if you have the time, but really nothing special otherwise. Admission is NOK 50 or free with an Oslo Pass. Getting There: Akershus Fortress, Building 21 0015 Oslo

Akershus Fortress — Akershus Fortress, located in the city centre overlooking the Oslo fjord, is a great place to take in wonderful views of Oslo as well as the surrounding fjord. The building of Akershus Castle and the fortress began in 1299 under King Håkon V. The medieval castle, which was completed in the 1300s, was strategically located at the end of the headlands overlooking the fjord. King Christian IV (1588-1648) modernized the castle and had it converted to a royal residence. Admission is free.

Oslo Travel Essentials Askerhus Fortress

The Viking Ship Museum — The Viking Ship Museum presents historic Viking ship discoveries discovered during excavations at Gokstad, Oseberg and Tune as well as other finds from Viking tombs around the Oslo Fjord. Most significant are the displays of the world’s two best-preserved wooden Viking ships, built in the 9th century. Admission is NOK 80 or free with a valid Oslo Pass. Getting there: The Viking Ship Museum is served by the 30 bus to Bygdøy. Huk aveny 35, 0287 Oslo (or, if you like a long walk, hoof it through town, around the inlet, and back through a beautiful park to this museum as well as several others nearby.)

Oslo Viking Ship Museum

Norwegian Museum of Cultural History — Located on Bydgoy next to the Viking Ship Museum the Museum of Cultural History is a large open-air museum that is full of wonderful replicas of traditional Norwegian buildings throughout Norwegian history. The most famous building is the intricately carved stave church – which is truly stunning. Admission is NOK 80 or free with a valid Oslo Pass. Getting there: The Museum of Cultural History is served by the 30 bus to Bygdøy. Museumsveien 10, 0287 Oslo (also near the Viking Ship Museum)

Edward Munch Museum — Edvard Munch – probably best known for modern painting known as “The Scream” — 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 the artist, consists of paintings, graphical prints and drawings. By constantly changing the exhibitions, the museum presents the variety in his life. Be sure to visit the museum website prior to planning your trip as the museum does close for short spans due to exhibition changes. Admission: NOK 100. Free with valid Oslo Pass. Getting There: Tøyengata 53, 0578 Oslo, Norway

Oslo Domkirke (cathedral) — This is considered the most important church of Oslo where all the royal ceremonies have been held for centuries. It has a delightfully rich interior. Admission: Free. Getting there: Karl Johans Gate 11, 0154 Oslo, Norway

Old Aker Church – The church is and old medieval building and is listed as the oldest remaining building in Oslo dating back to the 11th century. Admission: Free. Getting There: Akersbakken 26, 0172 Oslo, Norway

Just wander

Take the time to wander down Karl Johans Gate, starting at the Central Station. Karl Johans Gate is the main street in central Oslo and features a tree-lined promenade bordered by restaurants, cafes and upscale stores. There is, naturally, great people watching and at the end of the walk you will find yourself at the Royal Palace, home of the Norwegian royal family. Don’t miss the Frogner neighborhood and the Vigeland Park with its spectacular lineup of Gustav Vigeland’s works. If the weather is nice – remember, this is Scandinavia – the park is a popular destination for jogging, walking and picnicking.

Oslo-Vigeland-Scupltures-2014

What to do in Norway

In the map below, pins mark the location of all the sites mentioned in our articles on Norway. Zoom in or out on the map using the controls. Switch easily from map to satellite view. Click on each pin to pull up a tooltip with the name and any additional information. For more detailed planning help, refer to our What to do in Oslo and What to do in Bergen travel guides.

Oslo Main Train Station

Think of Norway train lines somewhat like an x-y axis – one major line goes north-south, and another goes east-west, both with a few offshoots or onward connections to, say, Sweden. Click here to download a PDF map.  Once you know this, it’s easier to get around. The Oslo main station, Central Station (more commonly known as Oslo S), has several departures/arrivals daily on the east-west Oslo–Bergen route, considered one of the most beautiful in the world. We took it from Oslo to Bergen on an early winter day and can confirm that the route is certainly gorgeous, not to mention convenient and affordable. Of course, there are frequent departures to all points in Norway from Oslo’s Central Station. Read our What To Do In Oslo planning guide here.

Bergen Main Train Station - Bergen

Myrdal Train Station

Flam Train Station

Gudvangen Ferry Terminal

Roros Visitors Center

National Museum of Decorative Arts - Trondheim

http://hitraveltales.com/eight-reasons-to-visit-trondheim/

Ringve Music Museum - Trondheim

http://hitraveltales.com/eight-reasons-to-visit-trondheim/

Trondheim Museum of Art

http://hitraveltales.com/eight-reasons-to-visit-trondheim/

Old Town Bakklandet - Trondheim

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Nidaros Cathedral - Trondheim

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Archbishop's Palace and Museum - Trondheim

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Old Town Bridge - Trondheim

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Kristiansten Fort - Trondheim

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Sverresborg - Trondelag Folk Museum - Trondheim

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Stiffsgarden Royal Residence - Trondheim

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Medieval Church Ruins in the Library - Trondheim

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Alesund and Sunnmore Tourist Office

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Centre of Art Nouveau - Alesund

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Fjellstua Viewpoint - Alesund

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Theta Museum - Bergen

Theta Museum — It was a secret room then and, for many, it still remains a secret museum and hidden room today. It is the itty-bitty Theta Museum, a minute 170-square-foot (16 square meters) low-ceiling room hidden away on an upper floor of the Bryggen wharf area in Bergen. The museum was the headquarters of the Theta Group, an important part of the Norwegian Resistance during WWII. Its hours are quite limited to plan around them to not miss this gem! Click here to read our What To Do In Bergen travel planning guide.

Bergen Maritime Museum - Bergen

Bergen Maritime Museum — The Bergen Maritime Museum presents the history of shipping, its development and importance to Bergen and Norway. We loved the museum’s vast collection of ship models – including Viking ships. Getting There: The museum is situated 150 meters from Johanneskirken (the red church), in the middle of the University campus.. Admission is NOK 50 or free with a valid Bergen Card.  Click here to read our What To Do In Bergen travel planning guide.

University Museum of Bergen

University Museum of Bergen — Although the Natural History Museum is undergoing restoration and will not reopen until 2018, the History Museum is well worth a look, containing some of the largest cultural collections in Norway. Since it is adjacent to the Maritime Museum, time your visit to enjoy both on the same day. Admission is NOK 50, or free with a valid Bergen Card.   Click here to read our What To Do In Bergen travel planning guide.

Bryggen - Bergen

Bryggen — This is what you likely think of when you think of Bergen. In 1360 the Hansas – a German guild of merchants – set up one of their import/export offices on Bryggen and dominated world trade for the next 400 years.  Though destroyed many times by fire, each time it has been faithfully rebuilt, on top of foundations that were created in the 11th century. Now on UNESCO’s World Heritage list, Bryggen is made for wandering, slowly. Meander through narrow passageways and enjoy the myriad of tiny shops, offices and artist studios.  Click here to read our What To Do In Bergen travel planning guide.

Fløibanen Funicular - Bergen

Fløibanen Funicular — Do not miss the breathtaking view from atop Mt. Floyen, 320 meters (1,050) feet above sea level). Certainly one of Norway’s most-often mentioned attractions, the Funicular runs every 15 minutes from early morning until 11 p.m. The journey lasts approximately 8 minutes up or down. We watched for Northern Lights from the summit one evening during a recent visit, though swirling mist obscured a view of the sky, but not the twinkling lights below. Admission is NOK 85 round trip or NOK 43 one-way. Bergen Card is valid for a 50% discount May 1 through September 30 and gives you a free ride the rest of the year.  Click here to read our What To Do In Bergen travel planning guide.

Bergenhus Festning - Bergen

Bergenhus Festning – A bit further up the road from Bryggen Historic District, take the time to visit the historic fort, Bergenhus. Here you will see the Rosenkrantz Tower, considered one of the most important renaissance monuments in Norway and, when open, offering an impressive view of Bergen. Plus, there is Hakon’s Hall, built by King Håkon Håkonsson as a royal residence and banqueting hall in the 12th century – granted you won’t need a lot of time there. Bergenhus Festning, 5003 Bergen. Admission to each is NOK 70 or free with a valid Bergen Card. Click here to read our What To Do In Bergen travel planning guide.

Hanseatic Museum - Bergen

Hanseatic Museum — One of the best-preserved buildings in Bergen, the Hanseatic Museum shows how the German merchants from The Hanseatic League lived and worked. From 1350 to 1750 these merchants traded stockfish (chewy, dried fish) and grains from their office in Bergen. It is the only house on Bryggen that has kept its original interior. In summer, there are daily guided tours in Norwegian, German, French and English. Admission NOK 90.  Click here to read our What To Do In Bergen travel planning guide.

Bergen Aquarium - Bergen

Bergen Aquarium – The Bergen Aquarium claims to house one of the largest collections of North Sea fish and invertebrates in Europe. The aquarium features indoor 60 tanks, a shark viewing tube, and two outdoor pools with seals and penguins. Cost – From March 1 to October 31, entrance runs NOK 200. A Bergen Card discounts that by 25%. The rest of the year, entrance is NOK 150 or free with a Bergen Card. Since the aquarium website is only offered in Norwegian, click here to find aquarium information on the official Tourist Information website, thankfully in English.  Click here to read our What To Do In Bergen travel planning guide.

Det Lille Kaffekompaniet - Bergen

Bergen is made to get lost in on foot because it’s so compact and so walkable, albeit hilly. Explore narrow side streets, particularly those around the base of the funicular’s lower terminal off Lille Øvergaten. Just follow your nose. Take the time to sit and enjoy a coffee and delectable in one of the many small cafes you will encounter … we loved Det Lille Kaffekompaniet in the Lille Overgaten. Click here to read our What To Do In Bergen travel planning guide.

Skottegaten - Bergen

Bergen is made to get lost in on foot because it’s so compact and so walkable, albeit hilly. Explore narrow side streets, particularly those around the base of the funicular’s lower terminal off Lille Øvergaten. Just follow your nose. Also worth exploring is the hilly area all around Skottegaten just west of the main part of the old town and between there and the Hurtigruten terminal. Your nose and your feet will be your guides. Click here to read our What To Do In Bergen travel planning guide.

Hurtigruten Terminal - Bergen

Shipping and ferry services are Bergen’s connection to the outside world as well as much of Norway. You will arrive or depart from here by ferry for part of the Norway in a Nutshell tour, if you choose that version. And this is also where the well-known Hurtigruten (the Coastal Express) ferry tours depart daily for trips up to Kirkenes in the far north (stopping in numerous Norwegian coastal towns and villages along the way). Click here to read our What To Do In Bergen travel planning guide.

Hurtigruten Terminal - Kirkenes

Hurtigruten Terminal - Trondheim

Vigeland Park - Oslo

Don’t miss the Frogner neighborhood and the Vigeland Park with its spectacular lineup of Gustav Vigeland’s works. If the weather is nice – remember, this is Scandinavia – the park is a popular destination for jogging, walking and picnicking. Read our What To Do In Oslo planning guide here.

Royal Palace - Oslo

Take the time to wander down Karl Johans Gate, starting at the Central Station. Karl Johans Gate is the main street in central Oslo and features a tree-lined promenade bordered by restaurants, cafes and upscale stores. There is, naturally, great people watching and at the end of the walk you will find yourself at the Royal Palace, home of the Norwegian royal family. Read our What To Do In Oslo planning guide here.

Old Aker Church - Oslo

Old Aker Church – The church is and old medieval building and is listed as the oldest remaining building in Oslo dating back to the 11th century. Admission: Free. Read our What To Do In Oslo planning guide here.

Oslo Domkirke - Oslo

Oslo Domkirke (cathedral) — This is considered the most important church of Oslo where all the royal ceremonies have been held for centuries. It has a delightfully rich interior. Read our What To Do In Oslo planning guide here.

Edward Munch Museum - Oslo

Edward Munch Museum — Edvard Munch – probably best known for modern painting known as “The Scream” — 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 the artist, consists of paintings, graphical prints and drawings. By constantly changing the exhibitions, the museum presents the variety in his life. Be sure to visit the museum website prior to planning your trip as the museum does close for short spans due to exhibition changes. Admission: NOK 100. Free with valid Oslo Pass. Read our What To Do In Oslo planning guide here.

Norwegian Museum of Cultural History - Oslo

Norwegian Museum of Cultural History — Located on Bydgoy next to the Viking Ship Museum the Museum of Cultural History is a large open-air museum that is full of wonderful replicas of traditional Norwegian buildings throughout Norwegian history. The most famous building is the intricately carved stave church – which is truly stunning. Admission is NOK 80 or free with a valid Oslo Pass. Read our What To Do In Oslo planning guide here.

The Viking Ship Museum - Oslo

The Viking Ship Museum — The Viking Ship Museum presents historic Viking ship discoveries discovered during excavations at Gokstad, Oseberg and Tune as well as other finds from Viking tombs around the Oslo Fjord. Most significant are the displays of the world’s two best-preserved wooden Viking ships, built in the 9th century. Admission is NOK 80 or free with a valid Oslo Pass. Read our What To Do In Oslo planning guide here.

Akershus Fortress - Oslo

Akershus Fortress — Akershus Fortress, located in the city centre overlooking the Oslo fjord, is a great place to take in wonderful views of Oslo as well as the surrounding fjord. The building of Akershus Castle and the fortress began in 1299 under King Håkon V. The medieval castle, which was completed in the 1300s, was strategically located at the end of the headlands overlooking the fjord. King Christian IV (1588-1648) modernized the castle and had it converted to a royal residence. Admission is free. Read our What To Do In Oslo planning guide here.

Resistance Museum - Oslo

Norway’s Resistance Museum — The Resistance Museum is located in a 17th century building on the grounds of Akershus Fortress, right adjacent to the memorial for Norwegian patriots executed during the war. It is a fantastic museum – plan on a couple of hours (or more depending on your passion) to view the displays covering five years of occupation recreated with pictures, documents, posters, objects, models, original copies of newspapers and recordings. Read our What To Do In Oslo planning guide here.

Clarion Collection Hotel Bastion

Honningsvag

Honningsvag is a small fishing port far up the northern coast of Norway, nestled in a pocket among islands and fjords north of Tromso. From the Hurtigruten ship heading north, the town is uber-cute, hugging the base of a hill. Aside from fishing, it is the capital of the “North Cape” areaRead our Photographer’s Diary story on Honningsvag here.



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Heads up! This information on What to do in Oslo, Norway was accurate when we published it on HI Travel Tales, but, as we know, traveling is all about changes (and inflation, sadly). Please be sure to confirm prices, transportation schedules, hours of operation, safety and health considerations, request for perfect weather during your entire visit, and any other important details before your adventure.