72 Hours in Oslo

Oslo is amazing year-round. Summertime offers extra hours for daylight exploration of outdoor sights: ancient fortresses, quirky parks filled with statues, and lively public squares and pedestrian streets. Winter draws you into the art galleries, excellent restaurants, and the Nobel Peace Center. Yes, the capital city is definitely the place for time-crunched travelers to experience the most of Norway in a short visit.

0150 Oslo, Norway
Discover some of Oslo’s most important history at this medieval fortress and castle overlooking the city’s fjord approach. Built in the late 1290s by King Haakon V to protect the city from invasion, the complex has been in continuous use ever since, including as a prison and military site. A quick stroll around the free museum—not to mention the Norwegian Armed Forces Museum and Resistance Museum—is enough to transport you back in time. Watch out for the smart young soldiers patrolling the grounds. They’re not there to entertain tourists—the fortress is still an active military site.
Gamle Oslo, 0150 Oslo, Norway
For history buffs, Middelalderparken (the Medieval Park) is the place to go. The park is part of the ‘medieval city of Oslo', the part of Oslo that houses the most medieval ruins of once-upon-a-time cathedrals, churches and monasteries. Several buildings are still intact, like Akershus fortress (another afar.com highlight) and the beautiful Old Bishop’s Palace. Many of the ruins aren’t much to look at today; there are no ghostly structures and many of the ruins could be mistaken for random stones scattered on the ground, but don’t let that fool you into thinking that this place isn’t worth a visit. Walking here, you’ll walk with the ghosts of Oslo’s past. From here, you can gaze at the newly constructed business area known as ‘Bar Code’, and if you’re of a philosophical nature, it might get you thinking about what has been, what is, and what will be...
Brynjulf Bulls plass 1, 0250 Oslo, Norway
The Nobel Peace Center was opened in 2005 and is absolutely fascinating…and very humbling. It was established by Alfred Nobel (who was Swedish) in his will. He gave no reason for this but some feel it was to assuage his guilt over being the inventor of dynamite. The Nobel Peace Center is divided into 3 main areas (main exhibits; current Nobel Peace Prize winners; former Nobel Peace Prize winners) with various other smaller exhibits. You can find the Nobel Peace Center at Brynjulf Bulls Plass 1 in Oslo, Norway (situated in the old train station, in the heart of Oslo between Oslo City Hall and the shopping areas at Aker Brygge).
1 Bankplassen
Engebret Café is still as popular as when it opened its doors 157 years ago. Back then, it was known as a second home to some of the nation’s most prolific artists, including Henrik Ibsen, Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson, Edvard Munch, Knut Hamsun, and Edvard Grieg. The café still retains it artistic air, and is still favoured by writers, actors, and politicians, who come here mainly for the delicious open-faced-sandwich buffet. The menu varies throughout the seasons, featuring fish in the winter, seafood and vegetables in the spring and summer, and lamb, venison, and mushrooms during autumn. Whichever season you go, you’re sure to find something mouthwatering on the menu!
Pretty islet Lille Herbern is located in the Oslo fjord, south of the Bygdøy peninsula on the west side of Oslo. The islet used to be a waiting place for ships arriving to and departing from Oslo. Lille Herbern has been open since 1929 and is one of the older eateries in Oslo. The menu has a nautical feel, serving fresh seafood along with gorgeous views of the fjord. To get there, hop on a bus to Bygdøynes and catch the ferry from there.
13 Universitetsgata
Established in 1837, Nasjonalgalleriet (The National Gallery) houses the country’s largest public collection of paintings, drawings, and sculptures. The focus is mainly on Norwegian art, featuring works by Munch (his perhaps most famous work, The Scream, is on display here), but the museum also displays works by international artists, such as several French Impressionists. There’s also a completely charming café and small gift shop inside. P.S. Nasjonalgalleriet is connected to several other museums and galleries in Oslo (like The Museum of Contemporary Art, The National Museum of Architecture, and The Museum of Decorative Arts and Design) and your entry ticket gives you access to all of them – not a bad deal at all!
Slottsplassen 1, 0010 Oslo, Norway
His Majesty the King’s Guard have been in charge of the Royal Family’s safety since 1856. Since 1888, they’ve been on duty at all the King’s residences 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Some of the duties include ceremonial routines like the changing of the guards and the parade. The main changing of the guards takes place every day at 1.30pm. During the summer, they often include concerts or drill exercises with this ceremony. The parade takes place in the summer. Led by a Norwegian military band, the guards start marching from Akershus Fortress (another highlight on Afar.com) at 1.30pm and end their parade in front of the Royal Palace, where they change guards. The Royal Palace is worth a visit in itself, but if you don’t have time for that, make sure you at least catch the changing of His Majesty the King’s Guard!
Karl Johans gate
Stretching from Oslo Central Station in the East to the Royal Palace in the West, Karl Johans Gate is named after King Karl III Johan, who ruled Norway and Sweden in the 19th century. Along the street you’ll find many famous highlights, like the National Theatre, the Parliament, the Royal Palace (the pond of which serves as a skating rink in the winter) Central Station, The Grand Hotel - and of course, plenty of shops. The Bazaar Market (Basarene ved Oslo domkirke) is a particularly colorful place to spend your money. Popular with locals, travelers & gypsies of all sorts, no “must visit” list in Norway would be complete without at least a mention of the venerable Karl Johans Gate plaza.
More from AFAR
Sign up for our newsletter
Join more than a million of the world’s best travelers. Subscribe to the Daily Wander newsletter.
AFAR Journeys
Journeys: Food + Drink
Journeys: Europe
Journeys: Europe
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
Journeys: Africa + Middle East