10 Insider Tips on Best First Luxury Trip to Oslo, Norway
All products are independently selected by our editors. If you buy something, we may earn an affiliate commission.
If you’re planning to visit Oslo, Norway for the first time, you’ve got questions. When is the best time to visit? Where’s the best place to stay? What are the must-do activities and the best secret places for a wonderful meal? We’ve done the work, and we’ve got answers. Here’s our report on insider tips on best first luxury vacation trip to Oslo, Norway, including when to go, where to stay, top restaurants and essential activities (plus the real story on which ones to skip).
our insider itinerary series
Insider Itinerary is an occasional series here at Dandelion Chandelier that shines a light on the best places to see, stay, and dine in some of the hottest travel destinations worldwide. Our far-flung correspondents are sharing their inside tips on how to best experience their chosen cities, especially if you’re visiting for the first time. Consider it your local luxury GPS. You’re welcome!
We began this series with Cape Town. Since then, we’ve shared insider itineraries for Ljubljana, Reykjavik, Copenhagen, Porto, Nantucket and East Hampton, among others. Next up? Our New York-based Lifestyle Editor shares the inside scoop on Oslo, Norway, a place she visits regularly and about which she’s got the real deal dos and don’ts.
insider itinerary for the best first luxury vacation trip to Oslo, Norway
When the majority of travelers think of Oslo, a few things probably come to mind: Vikings, fjords and skiing. While there is a little bit of each in Norway’s leading city, there is so much more to behold.
After years of living in the shadows of neighboring Nordic cities, Stockholm and Copenhagen, Norway’s capital, Oslo, is ready for its time in the sun. In just over the past year the city has opened several shiny new museums, a sprawling library and a number of upscale hotels and restaurants. All just time for the return of international tourists.
During the spring, summer and early fall months, Oslo is filled with warmth, light and energy thanks to its long sun filled days. And during the winter you’ll find charming Christmas markets and plenty of good cheer.
You’ll also find an alluring gastronomic destination thanks to daring chefs like those at Michelin-starred Maaemo. And architectural icons that ask you to not only look, but to touch, climb and explore at destinations like the Opera House and Vigeland Sculpture Park. And while Stockholm and Copenhagen have long been hailed as Scandinavian design destinations, Oslo offers a quirky mix of cutting edge, modernist and historical design – from its fashion to art to home decor. Eating, shopping and exploring here are sure to leave you wondering: why didn’t you visit Norway sooner?
Thinking about a trip to what is known as the Tiger City? Here is what you need to know for the ultimate getaway to Oslo.
1. Why Oslo? What made you want to go there? Why should we go?
We visit Oslo every summer because we have a house on the southern coast of Norway. Oslo is also where my husband is from and that is where his family lives. Although even before he and I were seriously dating, I had gone to visit Oslo with my father on vacation because my family background is Norwegian as well, and we went to explore the homeland of our family.
2. How long did you stay? How long is the ideal first visit?
On my very first visit to Oslo I stayed for 3 days. During our 7+ weeks in Norway this past summer, we were there for a few periods on and off for 3-5 days each and I really do think that is the perfect amount of time for this city.
The summer months are generally very quiet in Oslo. Native Norwegians take their summer vacations very seriously and leave the city for the coast or mountains. It’s a great season to visit since the temperature is mild with low humidity and the sun is up for almost 20 hours. Fall is also a great time, but there’s a greater chance of rain.
3. What hotel(s) do you recommend? Or did you rent an apartment/house/villa?
Though we rarely stay in a hotel, there are some great hotels that have opened up recently including the Sommero Hotel in Frogner that’s within easy reach of the city’s main attractions. Having just opened this September, the art deco inspired spot is home to Oslo’s first year-round rooftop pool and sauna.
Amerikalinjen Is another great option and it opened in 2019 just before the pandemic. Not only one of the most convenient places to stay, as it’s located across the street from Oslo Central Station in Jernbanetorget Square, it’s a stone’s throw away from the Oslo Opera House, the Royal Palace, the Munch Museum and the various saunas that dot the waterfront.
If you’re looking for something a little more classic, then there’s the Grand Hotel. It has long been the choice of visiting heads of state, rock musicians and Nobel Peace Prize winners alike. Notable past guests include the famous painter Edvard Munch and playwright, Henrik Ibsen, who used to visit the Grand Café twice a day, to read newspapers and enjoy a beer. Here you will find a blend of historic and modern design as well as views of Karl Johans Gate.
4. What are the 5 most important “must see” sights – natural wonders, museums and so on?
Top 5 Must-See Areas in Oslo: Vigeland Sculpture Park
One of my favorite places is Vigeland Sculpture Park where everyone from locals to tourists come for sunbathing, picnicking or just to wander the beautiful grounds. There are 212 bronze and granite sculptures from the park’s namesake, Gustav Vigeland. Vigeland himself was responsible for the design and architectural outline of the park which includes 6 main areas. Some of my favorites (and probably also the most famous) to see are The Angry Boy (Sinnataggen in Norwegian), The Monolith (Monolitten) and The Wheel of Life (Livshjulet).
Top 5 Must-See Areas in Oslo: the neighborhood of Bygdøy
I also suggest heading to the neighborhood of Bygdøy (via ferry is most picturesque, though if you travel by bus or car you will get a chance to see the King’s Summer home as well as a quick peek at an original Stave church). Here you will find a number of museums including the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History, Kon-Tiki Museum, Fram Museum, Norwegian Maritime Museum and the Holocaust Center. The Viking Ship Museum – home to the world’s best preserved Viking ships. It is also located there, however, it’s currently closed for renovation until at least 2025.
Top 5 Must-See Areas in Oslo: Oslo Opera House
For a great view over the city, head to the Oslo Opera House. Located right at the harbor in the Barcode neighborhood, with an angled, white exterior that appears to rise from the water. The styling of this building invites visitors to climb its roof and enjoy panoramic views of Oslo and the fjord, all year round. Designed by the Norwegian architecture firm Snøhetta (who also has designed the September 11 Memorial Pavilion), the building features large scale windows that provide glimpses of the workshops and rehearsals taking place inside.
Top 5 Must-See Areas in Oslo: the Munch Museum
You can’t be in Norway and not see The Scream, so head to the brand new Munch Museum located right across from the Opera. It’s one of the world’s largest museums dedicated to a single artist. In addition to exploring many of his most famous works, juxtapose his oeuvre with those of other modernists and contemporary artists. It’s also extremely interactive for children and families, with plenty of nooks to explore and hands-on activities for little ones.
Top 5 Must-See Areas in Oslo: the National Museum
In addition to a new Munch Museum, Oslo also recently opened a new National Museum. It is the largest museum in the Nordics – featuring the collections of the former National Gallery, the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Norwegian Museum of Decorative Arts and Design. It’s also home to different versions of Munch’s Scream and Madonna (he painted multiple of both) in the off chance that you don’t make it to the Munch Museum.
5. Is there good shopping? If so, where?
There is amazing shopping in Oslo. Every time we visit, I need to set aside at least one full day for shopping.
One of my favorite places is Steen & Strøm, Norway’s biggest and oldest department store. This mega store is home to many well known Norwegian, Scandinavian and international brands. However, my favorites are always the Scandinavian ones located on the third floor. Brands to shop here include Maud, Envii, Holzweiler, Arnie Says: and Designers Remix. While I tend to shop for women’s fashion, the store also carries clothing for men and children. It also carries toys, food, wine and places to eat and drink.
Outside of Steen & Strøm on the surrounding blocks you will find lots of traditional luxury shopping spots including Burberry, LV, Hermes and Mulberry.
My other shopping stop is Bogstadveien in the Majorstuen neighborhood. This is a long street through the heart of the neighborhood and is really where the locals head to shop. Here you will find classics like Gunnar Øye. Itfeatures lots of chic suits and sportswear for the men as well as Lille Vinkel Sko, which carries local cult shoe favorites like Nude of Scandinavia. Other great shopping spots that line the block are Acne Studios, Ganni, ByTimo, Samsøe & Samsøe and Kähler to name a few others. Before you hit the end of the road (yes, there is a literal end to this road), be sure to turn off one block to stop by the Norwegian Design mecca of Pur Norsk.
Each time I visit I leave either with something I have never found before or lusting after new items until my next visit. The service here is amazing and will accommodate requests to help you bring your purchases home – no matter how big.
6. Which restaurants do you love best? Where should we go?
Oslo is home to three Michelin starred restaurants: Maaemo, Kontrast and Statholdergaarden. Maaemo is Norway’s only Michelin star dining option. There’s usually at least a two month waitlist, with seating opening on the first of each month. The emphasis is on local Nordic cuisine and only organic, biodynamic or wild produce in a dramatic, high-ceiling dining room. It’s unmissable, if you can get in.
Can’t get into any of the Michelin options? Try Mon Oncle, which is a French restaurant from Esben Holmboe Bang and the Maaemo team or Avalon, a modern European Brasserie near the National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design. Both make for a delectable night out.
And if you find yourself starving during your sightseeing along the Barcode waterfront area? You can’t go wrong with some pizza from Villa Paradiso to refuel. They even made my daughter’s children’s pizzas shaped like bunnies with ears and all much to their delight.
7. Of everything you’ve done on your visits, what’s the one most memorable thing?
One of my favorites is always Vigeland Sculpture Park. Nearly every time we visit, we head there. The kids love it too – it’s wide open and they can run around easily. Sure, it may induce some giggles from them – they are naked sculptures after all – but we love to visit the classic statues they have come to know year after year for our annual pictures. Plus if you visit during the summer all of the roses are in bloom and it is just absolutely breathtaking.
8. What would you take a pass on if you had it to do over again? What has ended up being overrated or over-hyped?
This is a hard one to write because I love skiing. If you don’t love skiing then I would suggest skipping Holmenkollen – the home to Oslo’s ski jump and the Ski Museum. One of the main draws here is the view and zip lining during the summer. If you don’t like either skiing or zip ling, then I think you could safely skip because there are plenty of other places you can take in sweeping views of this lovely city. Plus the ski jump itself is visible from most places throughout the city. You can always say you saw it – even from a distance.
9. What’s on your list to see or do next time that you haven’t done yet?
I would love to do a guided tour of the Royal Palace which has now reopened for visitors since Covid. I’d also love to do a guided tour of the Opera House since two of my daughter’s are dancers and they incorporate some of the costumes into the tour. We tried twice to join one this past summer but both times it was sold out. So if this is something you want to do, book ahead!
10. Is this a good vacation for families with kids? Teenagers? Romantic partner? Solo traveler? Any or all of the above?
I would say all the above. Families can have a great time here just as easily as singles and couples can. It’s such a lively city, especially in the summertime when the days are long and the sun hardly sets. Kids, parents and couples alike are all up late playing, dining al fresco and having fun.
Describe Oslo in three words.
Energetic, light and modern.
insider itinerary for the best first luxury vacation trip to Oslo, Norway
Those are our expert’s insider tips on best first luxury vacation trip to Oslo, Norway, including when to go, where to stay, top restaurants and activities. Sign us up! We can’t wait to go.