Summer in Oslo: Top sights and things to do
It might not be the first destination that comes to mind when deciding where to go on your summer holiday, but Norway’s capital has plenty to offer adventure seekers, city breakers and families looking for something other than an all-inclusive beach resort.
When you factor in surprisingly warm weather for a Nordic city, coupled with endless days, you have the perfect recipe for a summer break to remember.
Check out our mini-guide for the best attractions, places to eat and where to stay on your summer trip to Oslo.
From May to September, Oslo experiences long days and short nights, with up to 19 hours of daylight during June. Those simply making a pit-stop in the Norwegian capital and heading further north during summer might even catch the midnight sun, a natural phenomenon where the sun doesn’t set for several weeks.
Norwegians truly come alive at this time of year after a cold winter, and the excitement and renewed zest for life is palpable.
In Oslo, the tendency is to take advantage of the long summer days, by dining al fresco, taking a late night dip in the sea or simply heading to a view point to watch the sunset, which can be a particularly beautiful experience at 11pm!
Summer in Oslo is all about the sea. Norwegians are either swimming in it, fishing, or looking impossibly elegant on board a variety of vessels.
From the glamorous yachts that are anchored at Aker Brygge in Oslo to the traditional boats on the fjord, this is a place that has never forgotten its Viking past or prowess on the waters.
One way to enjoy a summer evening is to hop aboard a wooden sailing ship for a scenic cruise along the southern shores, complete with a delicious dinner buffet.
Also, Sørenga is just a stone’s throw from the famous opera house and here you can swim from the pier.
If you have little ones to entertain you can do as the locals do and head for the beach. Take a trip to the Bygdøy peninsula, where you have kilometres of beaches to enjoy such as Huk and Paradisbukta (and some of the city’s best museums).
Those making Oslo their base for a Norwegian summer trip will never be short of things to see and do. The warmer months of the year make for a great time to experience the city.
One stand-out feature of the capital is its many beautiful city parks. Frogner Park is the largest of them all, and it’s a great place to head if you’re travelling with kids, as it’s home to Norway’s largest playground.
Vigeland Park is located within Frogner Park and features world-famous sculptures. It’s the perfect option for a summer stroll, and has the added plus of being just in front of an open-air pool and café.
Quality is the hallmark of Norwegian shopping. From quirky designers to high-end fashion and everything in-between, there’s something for everyone.
Norwegian beauty products are a good place to start. There’s been an explosion of home-grown ranges on the market in recent years. They might still be something of a secret but they’re worth checking out.
Elde is one such brand inspired by contemporary Norwegian lifestyle and rituals. There is also the provocatively named ‘Bad Norwegian’ for men only, with its distinctive packaging.
Did you know soaps could be über cool? Check out the cold-pressed soaps range created by Neven, who are on a mission to change the world one soap at a time.
If you want to bring some elusive Norwegian ‘kos’ home, then you’ll be delighted by the array of soft furnishings and, of course, candles on offer in Oslo. Kos is a lot like Danish ‘hygge’, but Norwegian style, and means getting cosy and comfortable, or doing something that’s good for your soul.
All of these and more can be found at Steen & Strøm, the grand old lady of department stores, found in the ultra-chic shopping zone in downtown Oslo. There are plenty of other great shopping areas, too, especially around the main pedestrian street, Karl Johans Gate.
Did somebody say spa?
Farris Bad in Larvik and The Well just outside Oslo are two spas that truly deliver. So, if you’re feeling the need to indulge in some serious Scandinavian pampering, then you’ll have plenty of choice.
Like its Finnish and Swedish cousins, Norway boasts fantastic spa facilities, where you can unwind in beautiful surroundings. Views of the sea or lush forests await you, and it’s a memorable experience for both body and soul.
The Norsk Folkemuseum, also known as the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History, is one of the world’s largest and oldest open-air museums, with 155 traditional houses from all parts of Norway and an amazing stave church from the year 1200.
During summer, you can get some freshly-baked ‘lefse’ bread, take the kids to feed the animals or even enjoy some traditional folk music and performances.
The Holmenkollen Ski Museum is located right under a ski jump, and is the oldest of its kind. Here you can learn about why skiing is so important to Norwegian culture, and get some good snaps of the panoramic views from its observation deck atop the jump tower.
At the Viking Ship Museum, which, like the Folkemuseum, is located on the Bygdøy peninsula, you’ll find the world’s best-preserved Viking ships as well as many interesting finds from around the Oslo fjord.
You can use your ticket from the Viking Ship Museum to get free entry to Historical Museum – home to large collections from the Middle Ages and prehistoric times – within 48 hours.
After something a little more arty? At the Munch Museum you’ll find the largest collection of Edvard Munch’s works, featuring thousands of prints, paintings, drawings and more.
Tip: Fascinated by the Vikings? Check out our post on the top viking sites and ruins to visit around the world.
Whether you fancy something low key or want to enjoy the best of Europe’s music scene, you’ll find it in Oslo in summer.
Øya Festival is THE music festival to enjoy during summer. It always ensures top headline acts such as The Cure, Arcade Fire, and Kendrick Lamar (to name a few), combined with a buzzing atmosphere. This one’s not to be missed if you’re heading to Norway’s capital at the beginning of August.
If you’re up for a more of a laid-back vibe, then head to Piknik i Parken, a big, yet somehow more intimate ‘Picnic in the Park’ festival which takes place at Sofienberg Park in June. This one is a great way to kick-off your summer, as each year the line-up features prominent international and Norwegian artists.
The Oslo Jazz Festival also takes place in August each year. This week-long festival includes about 80 individual events held across 16 different venues, including many events for children and teens.
Last but not least, the Pride celebrations in Oslo are a big deal. There’s a ten-day, rainbow-hued, inclusive, love-filled festival each June, packed with parades, activities, art exhibitions, concerts and more.
Yes, you guessed it. Seafood is a huge hit with Norwegians, and there’s nothing they enjoy more than sharing a fresh catch, whether it be prawns, lobster or crab.
Skur 33 right on the pier is a great place to sample some fresh seafood, and a lovely spot to dine on the terrace right on the waterfront.
It’s also fun to soak up the atmosphere at the fish market at the City Hall pier. The locals are more than happy to tempt you with delicacies such as torsketunge – yep, that’s cod tongue.
It all suddenly becomes much more palatable with a wee dram of the potent aquavit, or ‘water of life’. Read more about Scandinavia’s spice-infused, signature spirit in our post on weird and wonderful Nordic foods.
If you want to combine fresh air with cuisine, Mathallen food hall in the trendy Vulkan district is the spot to savour a range of international and local dishes and watch the world go by from one of the many cafés and bars in the area.
Tip: Not sure how much gratuity to leave when dining out? Find out in our post on how to tip in Norway.
Where to stay
Finding a great place to stay is always easy in Oslo. There are plenty of options to suit all budgets, and many come with that distinctive Scandinavian design and flair.
Scandic Vulcan ****
The Thief combines luxury with exceptional service. If you want designer products in the bathroom and an exclusive feel, this is where to book.
Scandic Vulcan ****
Scandic Vulkan in Oslo offers a central location, close proximity to the sea and award-winning breakfasts. It also has great family rooms.
Comfort Hotel Xpress Central Station ***
Comfort Hotel Xpress Central Station makes for an ideal budget option. Here you’ll get a comfortable room with modern furnishings, and a superb location to boot!
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