This Scandinavian City Just Won the Internet With Its Hilarious New Tourism Ad

The self-deprecating reflection has us ready to pack our bags and head to the “underdog” of the Nordics.

Halfdan, the unimpressed star of the new Visit Oslo ad, standing inside the Vigeland Museum.

Halfdan, the underwhelmed star of the new Visit Oslo ad, stands inside the Vigeland Museum.

Courtesy of Visit Oslo

“I wouldn’t come here, to be honest,” says Halfdan, a distinctly unimpressed Oslo thirtysomething as he walks around his hometown, trying to uncover its appeal. “Is it even a city?”

It’s the start of what is being hailed as the best tourism ad of the summer, a deadpan, downplayed, 1 minute, 45-second video, during which our local guide points out a lot of things about Oslo that he thinks aren’t that great—but, in fact, are. You don’t have to queue to get into restaurants, for example: “What does that tell you?” he asks, suggesting that the beautiful plate of food in front of him isn’t all that.

You might bump into a member of the royal family while just walking across town—a walk that takes only about 30 minutes: “Try that in New York or Paris,” he comments in a disappointed tone, as if this city isn’t big or impressive enough. In front of Norway’s most famous painting, The Scream by artist Edvard Munch, he shrugs and comments that it’s “not exactly the Mona Lisa.” He muses out loud if an art gallery is even worth going to if you don’t have to wait a couple of hours to get in. All this while walking around a perfectly scenic city where people are seen swimming, drinking in designer bars, and enjoying a relaxed pace of life. It’s heavy on the irony.

The advert is the brainchild of Visit Oslo marketing director Anne-Signe Fagereng, who wanted to do something different. “We wanted to try to use our position as an underdog in terms of European city breaks,” she said. “Oslo is kind of the unknown brother of Stockholm and Copenhagen, and we wanted to make sure the world caught up to what’s been going on in the city in the last 20 years.”

It’s also a great way to show off the dry sense of humor you’ll find in Norway’s capital—along with its lack of elitism, openness, and approachability. The ad was created with content agency NewsLab, based in Oslo, led by director August Jorfald. The idea came, in part, from his experiences traveling in Europe.

“There’s something sad and weird about being a tourist right now,” he said. “There’s an ambivalence about it, especially in cities like Barcelona and Paris, cities that are struggling with too much tourism. I am a tourist but I want to experience something real as well. I seek out these authentic experiences when I travel, like the best place to drink a pint when I’m in Liverpool—that’s what I’m looking for. Oslo is appealing because it’s a city where people live, but they don’t live for tourism.”

The ad was inspired by Norwegian director Kristoffer Borgli’s Scandinavian Week commercial for Belgian TV in which a bored Norwegian tour guide half-heartedly shows a TV crew around a fjord, and Joachim Trier’s film The Worst Person in the World, set in Oslo.

“The difference is that we focused on showing Oslo at its best, getting up early and late to find the right transition light,” said August. “The contrast between what Halfdan says and what the shots show is the greatest right there.”

For Fagereng, the results have been astonishing, with more than 13 million views on X, Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok, and counting. “I didn’t know ads could still cut through like this anymore,” she said.

Jorfald’s reaction to the ad’s success is typically downplayed: “It’s difficult to say why it’s so popular,” he said. “I just wanted to make something I enjoyed myself. That’s the top motivation in terms of making something creative.”

Perhaps the success is that undiscovered gems are hard to find these days, and while Southern Europe struggles with heat and overtourism, this quiet, cool capital city in Northern Europe is shaping up to be the stress-free vacation of our dreams.

Laura Hall is an award-winning author, travel writer, and journalist based in Copenhagen.
From Our Partners
Sign up for our newsletter
Join more than a million of the world’s best travelers. Subscribe to the Daily Wander newsletter.
More from AFAR