Twenty-first century Oslo is a city transformed. For decades, travelers would head straight for the mountains or the fjords, but today they linger in this cosmopolitan European capital with world-class architecture, art, and museums. Were it not for Norway’s stunning natural environment, three days in Oslo would satisfy most travelers. That’s because the city is intrinsically linked to nature, surrounded on all sides by forest and fjord. Spend an entire weekend break in Oslo or tag on this three-day Oslo itinerary to a longer tour and you will not leave disappointed.

Should the weather be good, consider replacing any of these choices with a day trip to Drøbak, a delightful fishing village on the Oslofjord, or to Fredrikstad to wander the streets of one of northern Europe’s best-preserved fortified districts.

To conserve your budget, make the most of your hotel’s breakfast buffet and plan to eat light for lunch. Many hotels offer the opportunity to compose a packed lunch from the breakfast buffet (for an additional charge), or just grab some fruit and snacks from a supermarket.

boats in front of city hall in Oslo

Visit Oslo’s waterfront to have lunch. Photo © Jeynakanna/Dreamstime.com.

Day 1: Art and the Waterfront

A visit to the epic National Gallery affords the opportunity to see some of Edvard Munch’s most famous works with none of the crowds you might expect. Take a leisurely lunch in one of the excellent waterside restaurants on the Aker Brygge wharf, or grab a quick bite from a coffee shop and head instead to the Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art at the nearby Tjuvholmen development. In the afternoon, explore the buildings that inspired the castle in Disney’s Frozen at Akershus Fortress, before completing your tour of the waterfront with a stroll on the roof of Oslo Opera House. The nearby Oslo Central Station and Jernbanetorget square offer several options for dinner.

view across the water of the Oslo Opera House

Take a stroll on the roof of the Oslo Opera House. Photo © Tasphoto/Dreamstime.com.

Day 2: The Great Outdoors

Oslo’s excellent public transit brings forest and fjord within reach of all budgets. Take the metro to the Frognerseteren mountain lodge, where you can enjoy a slice of cake and a piping hot cup of cocoa before a walk through the forest to the world-class ski jump at Holmenkollen. On your way back to the city, stop off at Majorstuen and walk the short distance to take in the life’s work of Gustav Vigeland at the remarkable Vigeland Sculpture Park. For an informal dinner head to the busy streets of Grünerløkka, where most restaurants turn into lively nightspots as the time ticks by.

Monolith at Vigeland Sculpture Park in Oslo

The Vigeland Sculpture Park features hundreds of stone, bronze, and wrought-iron sculptures. Photo © David Nikel.

Day 3: The Museums of Bygdøy

The Bygdøy peninsula is home to some of the country’s best museums, clustered together amid the spacious homes of some of Oslo’s wealthiest residents. The Viking Ship Museum displays restored ships found in burial mounds along the Oslofjord, together with tools and other objects that reveal much about the daily lives of the Vikings. Continuing the maritime theme, the Kon-Tiki Museum tells the fascinating tale of Thor Heyerdahl’s Pacific expeditions through the original vessels and documentary films. Finally, watch actors bring an 18th-century farming community to life at the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History, a must-do during the summer. Splurge on dinner and drinks in the district of Frogner, which offers several high-end options.


Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Norway.