Spring has well and truly sprung, so there’s no better time to visit Oslo than right now! With galleries and museums centrally located, walking is perfect, but if you prefer cycling with locals, Viking Biking can deck you out with all you need.
Old Town has been restored and offers the perfect historical sights to begin your self-guided tour. Akerhus Castle and Fortress is the imposing medieval stone structure on the headland. Viewed from the lovely Helena, one of the 5 Things We Love at Oslo Harbour, the grounds are free to wander. For information on defenses, sieges, and the many roles the castle has played, arrange a guided tour from the visitor centre.
Behind Akerhus Castle and Fortress, the Museum of Architecture‘s permanent exhibition “Building Ideas” collates drawings, models, and texts dating from the 1830s.
This is an exhibition of ideas on domestic buildings, materials, city planning, and furnishings. In many cases, designs haven’t passed the ideas stage although some are easily recognised while walking the city streets. Don’t miss the Oslo Opera House film for some architectural porn.
Next door, the Museum of Contemporary Art is housed in an impressive Art Noveau building designed by Ingvar Olav Hjorth. Containing over 5,000 pieces by Norwegian and International artists, the permanent installation by Ilya Kabakov (The Garbage Man: The Man Who Never Threw Anything Away) is definitely worth a look.
On your way to Oslo Cathedral turn left at Rådhusgata and head to Christiania Torv (Christiania Square). You’ll know it when you see the bronze glove sculpture and fountain.
Legend has it that King Christian IV dropped his glove here while riding through the city to assess fire damage. He declared this would be the new city centre. Oslo became Christiania for a time during his rule.
Gamle Raadhus Restaurant overlooks “The Glove” serving delicious open sandwiches or smørbrødfjøl at lunchtime. Take a break, enjoy the local flavours, and try to get a tour of the restaurant.
Originally the first town hall of Christiania, Gamle Raadhus has been a fire station, the high court, a private residence, and a prison. For a time it was the Freemason’s meeting room and some say a house of ill repute.
The prison cells are now the restaurant’s wine cellar. While down there, it’s not hard to imagine ghosts from the past.
Tours of Oslo Cathedral need to be booked in advance but Mass can be attended weekdays. No matter your religion, you’ll appreciate the impressive building itself. The Royal family still use Oslo Cathedral for events, so you never know who you’ll bump into.
Another reason to be in Oslo in spring is the flower market. Across from Oslo Cathedral, the square is covered in flowering plants. Not easy to take home, but the many souvenir shops around it offer fun Scandinavian paraphernalia that might take your fancy.
Karl Johans Gate is the city centre’s main artery. Shops, restaurants, and bars line the street, but take a moment to appreciate the Royal Palace on the hill.
As you wander the street, keep an eye out for Freia Chocolate Shop. They’ve been in this location since 1899 and although the shop and their packaging have had a makeover, the original recipes are still used to create their swoon-worthy chocolates. They’re hard to resist so go on, you’ve earned it.
On your left, you’ll recognise the Parliament building from designs seen earlier at the Museum of Architecture. At the next block, turn right and the National Gallery will be on your left. Housing Norway’s largest collection, the National Gallery takes some time but make a note, they are closed Mondays.
There is an Edvard Munch Museum and one might expect to see “The Scream” there, but it’s actually hanging with other Munchs at the National Gallery. 4 versions of The Scream were painted and as funds were tight, this one is oil on cardboard with another version painted on the back.
All affiliated National Museums & Galleries are free on Thursdays (Architecture & Contemporary Art Museums plus the National Gallery) and with that come the crowds. If space to view these extensive collections is your preference use your Oslo Pass Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday.
A leisurely stroll through Slottsgården will lead you to HM King Harald V and HM Queen Sonja’s Royal Residence.
To get up close and personal, guided tours of the palace in Norwegian leave the west entrance (the back) every 20 minutes. For a tour in English 12:00, 14:00, 14:20 and 16:00 are the available times or simply enjoy the views from the palace grounds.
For a taste of designer accommodation, stay at First Hotel Grims Grenke. The rooms and suites with luxury beds, furnishings, and comforts are seasonally themed.
It’s worth popping up to Q Lounge on the hotel’s rooftop for sundowners and views of Oslo’s Old Town regardless of where you lay your head.
Next time in Oslo it’s all about food as Mathallen reveals its delectable delights. Stay tuned for another place we love….
**paraphernalia.co pays for all accommodation, dining, and drinks resulting in unbiased and honest recommendations you can rely on.