Many travelers come to Oslo only to leave it. Oslo’s the gateway to the rest of Norway, where you can chase the Northern Lights and visit fjords and national parks. However, leaving Oslo too soon would be a mistake. After all, there are plenty of things that Norway is famous for!
So, what is Oslo famous for? Oslo is famous for its Viking and nautical history, museums, and impeccable seafood. It’s an eco-conscious harbor city with 693,494 inhabitants, and is known by locals as “The Tiger City”. Oslo is also known for its eclectic architecture and for being the home of the Nobel Peace Prize.
Oslo is cradled by the gorgeous Oslo Fjord, with more than half of the city made up of woods and nature reserves. Oslo has the highest Human Development Index in the world, and is well worth a spot on your bucket list.
Here are all the things that Oslo is famous for:
1. Oslo Fjord: The capital’s famous fjord
It would be almost impossible to make a list about what Oslo is famous for without including its dazzling fjord. You can find history and attractions on the islands dotted along the Oslo Fjord, as well as multiple activities!
Swim, kayak, canoe, dive, fish and sail in its cerulean waters or just soak up the scenery from its many beaches. You can also follow one of the many hiking trails along its shoreline or stick to the promenades.
2. Sørenga: Nordic wellness in the Nordic wilderness
Oslo is famous for its focus on inhabitant welfare, and the new neighborhood of Sørenga is one of the places purpose-built for just that.
Sørenga is a place to relax, play some water-sports and splash around with the safety of lifeguards. Don’t feel brave enough to jump into the open fjord? We’re betting you’ll at least dip your toes into one of Sørenga’s outdoor pools. The water is straight from the Oslo Fjord, and is the perfect place to catch rays or show off your diving skills.
With the Oslo skyline behind you and the fjord right in front of you, it’s easy to see why locals and tourists flock to this spot in the summer months.
3. Oslo Fjord Sauna: Relax the Norwegian way
Okay, so the sauna is actually a Finnish invention. But Norwegians love them too! Made entirely from Oslo Fjord driftwood found at the shores, the Sørenga saunas are a reflection of Oslo’s kind attitudes to self-care and eco-awareness. Are you passionate about sustainability or just fancy a treat? Head over to Sørenga Badstuflåte (Oslo Fjord Sauna) for a taste of local life.
In Oslo, locals are encouraged to give their morning shower a miss and head for natural waters. If you’re visiting with a bunch of friends, we recommend you book a private experience – you can even bring your own beer!
For 150 NOK ($16.40) you can spend two hours steaming in style. Follow this up with a dip in the fjord, it’s good for you!
4. Bygdøy Peninsula: Museums & monarchy
Bygdøy has a rightful place in the list of what Oslo is famous for by default. You can find the most expensive properties in the entire country here (and in Norway, that’s saying something). Even the Norwegian royal family owns estate in Bygdøy.
The good news is, you don’t have to take out a loan to visit it. Bygdøy Peninsula is on the western side of the city, and is the location of Oslo’s best museums. Stop by Kon-Tiki Museet, Norsk Folkemuseum, Vikingskiphuset, Norsk Maritime Museum, and Fram Museum if you’re curious about Oslo’s history. Bygdøy also has vast woodlands with great hiking trails.
You can get there by bus, car or even ferry from April to October, making it an ideal spot for sightseeing any time of the year.
5. Viking History: Vikings meet virtual reality
Oslo is perhaps most famous for its Viking history.
Luckily, you’re spoilt for choice if you want to learn more about it in this incredible city. If you want to see the world’s best-preserved Viking ships, Oseberg, Gokstad and Tune, head to Vikingskiphuset located on Bygdøy Peninsula.
If boats aren’t your thing, then there’s plenty more to learn about Norway’s infamous Nordic plunderers. Visit The Viking Planet, Norway’s first digital Viking museum to experience the life of a Viking first-hand. Through VR, you can immerse yourself in everything from the role of Viking women to Norse mythology and religion. And yes, you can even dress up in Viking garb at the virtual selfie-station.
6. Fram Museum: Roald Amundsen’s expeditions
Oslo is famous for being the home of the world-record holding polar ship, Fram. She sailed both furthest north and south with Roald Amundsen at the helm, and now calls one of Oslo’s classiest neighborhoods home.
The museum is located on Bygdøy’s Peninsula, and the A-frame architecture hints at the ship it protects. Roald Amundsen is one of Norway’s most famous figures. Learn about how he survived Antarctica and put Norway on the map with his daring nerve.
If you’re a fan of nautical history, this is one museum you’ve got to visit!
7. Gustav Vigeland Park: Grin and ‘bare’ it
Oslo is also home to the world’s largest sculpture park, Vigeland park, and has a collection of statues by sculptor Gustav Vigeland in a picturesque setting.
Oslo is famous for many things, but this park draws a mixed crowd because of its theme. Why Scandinavians are so cool with wearing their birthday suits is a bit of a mystery to the rest of the world, but Oslo takes it one step further. Don’t worry, it’s not in the way you think!
The sculptures in Vigeland’s Park are all of naked people with different expressions in diverse poses. Supposedly a place to come and philosophize, it’s as good a place as any to take a fun selfie (but check before you send it to grandma!).
8. Barcode: Oslo’s famous high-rise skyline
Yeah, it’s easy to see why they called it Barcode. Oslo is famous for its architecture, and this modern quarter is located in the Bjørvika district. Originally a dockland, the 12 skyscrapers are all of different heights and widths, making it a stunning addition to the city’s views.
Barcode is a mixture of residential and business blocks, but at ground level you can find brasseries and boutiques that live up to its snazzy exterior.
We recommend you start your day of exploring Oslo with breakfast or brunch at Åpent Bageri for some traditional Norwegian food: open-top sandwiches and great coffee.
9. Oslo’s famous dishes: Salmon & Nigiri
Speaking of food, Oslo is famous for its excellent seafood dishes, in particular salmon and cod. It will surprise many to find out that one of the most popular varieties of sushi, salmon nigiri, was actually invented by Norwegians.
In 1981, Thor Listau went to Japan to increase Norway’s fish market revenue. 20 years later, after convincing the Japanese government that Norwegian salmon was safe and delicious to eat raw, the salmon nigiri was popularized. Today, the Norwegian salmon market is worth $5.3 billion.
10. The Nobel Peace Center: Oslo’s peaceful claim to fame
The Nobel Peace Center is one of Oslo’s most famous buildings. Many consider the Peace Prize to be the most famous of the Nobel prizes, and it is awarded in Oslo on 10 December every year – providing they find a suitable candidate.
Alfred Nobel stated in his will that Norway should have the honor of giving out the Peace Prize, and what better place than Europe’s greenest city? Guided tours are available in English. If you’re in Oslo on a Friday, look out for the white peace dove, which is released at noon from the Nobel Peace Center along with “the good news of the week” .
What could be better than being famous for delivering weekly good news?
11. Holmenkollen: Ski Museum & Tower
Oslo is famous for being home to the museum of Norway’s favorite sport: skiing. The museum, Holmenkollen, has 4000 years’ worth of skiing history up for grabs if you’re interested, ranging from pre-historic to the present day.
It also has a pretty impressive tower if you’re looking for the best views of the city.
It costs 150 NOK ($16.50) to get in and afterwards you will understand why Norway has won more Winter Olympic medals (including gold) than any other nation!
12. Oslomarka & Korketrekkeren: Cross-country skiing & tobogganing
The saying goes in Oslo that there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.
If you’d rather be doing the skiing than learning about it, you can cross-country ski in the forest location of Oslomarka which, thankfully, is lit up the whole way so you won’t get lost in the dark depths of winter.
For some more laid-back fun, bring out your inner kid and go tobogganing! They’re available for rental, just 130 NOK ($14.30) for the entire day. The track of Korketrekkeren is a whopping 1.2 miles long, so you won’t run out of fun in a hurry!
Oslo: What else to know before you go
- Oslo Pass: If you know you’ll be spending more than a day in Oslo, it’s well worth getting your hands on an Oslo Pass. With this in your pocket, you’ll be able to enter many museums for free as well as use public transport without additional charges. You also get discounts on sightseeing and some restaurants. They’re available in 24, 48, or 72-hour stints and you can either request a physical copy or download the app to your iOs or Android device.
- Experience Oslo by bike: Bike rentals are available in hotels and all over the city. There are also parts which are totally free from cars and thus pollution, so it’s quicker to get around and good for your lungs too!
- Free activities: Oslo is notoriously expensive, but there are plenty of places to go with no admission fees. You don’t have to enter the Oslo Opera House to experience it, you can climb it instead.
Välkommen to Oslo, and we’re glad to have given you the answers to what Oslo is famous for! Now, read all about what Norway is known and famous for!