Oslo, also called the Tiger City, is known for its rich culture and outdoor life. Oslo has become a capital of contemporary architecture and in recent years has seen the addition of modern landmarks by world-class architects. If you are planning on visiting a lot of museums, definitely get the Oslo Card (available from tourist offices, hotels and newsagents) which allows you to use public transportation, including some ferries and boat routes, and also gives free entry to most museums. The card costs ~$40 (320NK) for the 24 hour pass.
Try not to book a flight out of Oslo earlier than 7am as the train to the airport starts at 4:40am and a cab at this time will cost you ~$120USD to the airport. Taxi prices vary based on the time of day and whether it was flagged down or ordered. Look into taking the overnight ferry (18 hours) from Copenhagen to Oslo – fares for a 2 bed room cost $120- $275USD.
Seafood, particularly salmon, herring, lobster and shrimp, is very common, as is venison. Breakfasts are huge and include fish, meat, cheese and bread are served with boiled or fried eggs. The national drink is Aquavit, a liquor like schnapps. The consumption of alcohol is strictly regulated in Norway and spirits and wine are only sold through state owned shops called Vinmonopolet. Beer, however, is sold in supermarkets. Because of this, between 25-40% of all alcohol consumed is either smuggled or illegally made at home. Most people will pre-drink at their place before going out (which is around midnight) to avoid the high cost of alcohol. If you are planning on going out, try to get into a place before midnight as they lines will get long and the bouncer has the right to change the age of entry throughout the night depending on how busy it gets, usually to 23 or 26.
When to Visit
The best time to visit are the summer months of June, July and August as it is the warmest. Although if you go in July, be aware that this is the vacation month for everyone in Norway so many stores and restaurants close down for the month. During the winter, the scenery is supposed to be spectacular but you will get shorter days. If you want to avoid high season prices (from May to October) and still get decent weather, April would be a good month to visit as it is at the end of their spring.
Currency & Payment
In Norway, the Norwegian Krone is used as their currency. 1 USD is about 8.1 Danish Krone. Generally, Norway is very expensive so be prepared to spend a lot. Food, drinks and cabs can be up to double the amount in Canada or the US. Tip isn’t expected here but people will usually leave their loose change. Credit cards are accepted almost everywhere.
Where to Stay
- Grims Grenka – located in Central Oslo; includes breakfast and has a rooftop terrace
- Hotel Continental – centrally located and close to the airport tram
- The Thief Hotel – located in the Aker Brygg which has many great restaurants and bars
- The Grand Hotel – centrally located and close to the airport tram
Where to Eat or Grab a Drink
- If you feel like splurging, dine at one of the Michelin star restaurants. These are closed on Sundays and Mondays and reservations a few months ahead of time are essential.
- Theatrecafeen in Hotel Continental – this is a bit pricey but has really good food and is the place where celebrities like to be seen
- Hos Thea – casual atmosphere but one of the best places to eat in Oslo, reservations are essential as it is a small restaurant with a homey feel. Service is great and food is amazing.
- Oro – for dinner, centrally located near the National Theater
- Cru – for dinner
- Palace Grill – for dinner and drinks; this is an intimate, wood-paneled restaurant, that has a live music bar & outdoor club area for DJ sets
- Markveien Mat & Vinhus – for Norwegian cooking
- Engebret – Oslo’s oldest café
- All restaurants in the Aker Brygge area are pretty good. This is also a great place to go have drinks. It is a classier, upscale area. Outdoor tables in the summer are great and it would be best to make a reservation at any of these restaurants for dinner. A few recommendations are:
- Onda – in the Aker Brygge area for dinner or drinks right on the water
- Lofoten Fiskerestaurant – in the Aker Brygge area for dinner
- BAR – in the Aker Brygge area for drinks and is also good for dinner
- Olivia – in the Aker Brygge area for drinks on the patio
- Bar Boca – for drinks
- Lavo – for drinks in the National Theater plaza on a nice day (because it’s outdoor)
- Go out in Youngstorget if you are looking for more of a party scene. Some good bars are:
- Fisk Og Vilt
- Crow Bar – there is a food stand in the back of the second floor that serves late night snacks which are delicious
What to Do
- Walk around the town to see all the new architecture
- Explore Aker Brygge, a lively waterfront development of bars and restaurants
- Visit the Nobel Peace Center – the Nobel Peace Prize is the only prize that is awarded in Oslo, the rest are awarded in Stockholm
- Visit The Munch Museum (open daily June-August; Tue-Sun September-May)
- Visit the Frammuseet (The Polar Ship Museum)
- Visit the Holmenkollen Ski Museum and Ski Jump Tower (about a 15 minutes subway ride from the city center) – you get a great view of the city here and the gift shop as a good selection of souvenirs and sweaters and you are able to get your tax back on all purchases over ~$40US
- Visit the Norsk Folkemuseum (Norwegian Museum of Cultural History)
- If you aren’t doing this in Bergen, take a boat cruise on the Fjord – boats leave from the docks opposite of City Hall
- Visit the Oslo Opera House and see a show if you can
Bergen used to be the capital of Norway and is definitely a touristy town but it is worth seeing if you have an extra two days. It is a World Heritage city and is the gateway to the fjords in Norway. If you decide to go to Bergen, definitely look into taking the train to or from Oslo as it is one of the most scenic train rides in the world. It takes a total of 7 hours and costs about $110 for a one-way trip, and if you have a student card, you get 25% off. The train station is located right in the city center so it is a short walk from any of the hotels that are centrally located. If you fly in or out of Bergen, take the Flybuss to or from the airport which costs ~$13US (100NK).
Where to Stay
- Clarion Collection Hotel No 13
- Clarion Collection Hotel Havnekontoret – centrally located in Bryggen and includes breakfast, snacks and dinner!
- Det Hanseatiske Hotel – housed in one of Bryggen’s original timber buildings and is a short walk from the city’s attractions
- Radisson Blu Royal Hotel – centrally located in Bryggen
Where to Eat
- Pingvinen – specializes in Norwegian home cooking with an always changing menu; the kitchen usually closes around 9pm, but snacks are served after – this is also a popular late night bar
- Potetkjelleren – “Potato Cellar” attracts more locals than tourists; the menu changes monthly and there is a great wine list
- If you like seafood, have lunch or grab a snack at the Torget fish market – here you can get fresh local seafood and can even try whale meat
What to Do
- Walk around the city and explore the streets and alleyways. You will see many small wooden houses.
- Visit Bryggen, Bergen’s oldest quarter runs along the eastern shore of Vågen Harbour. This is also a UNESCO World Heritage site.
- Hike to the top of Mt. Fløyen for the best view of the city. It only takes about 45 minutes and it isn’t difficult. You can also take the funicular up and down (departs every 15 minutes) but hiking will save you ~$15US (85NK). At the top, well-marked hiking tracks lead into the forest if you want to explore some more. You can get a free trail map at the tourist office ahead of time.
- Visit the Torget Fish Market
- Take a cruise along the fjords. There are many different tours but most take the full day (8am to 8pm). There are two short tours offered by Rodne Fjord Cruises that take about 4 hours (1) Fjord Cruise to Mostraumen and (2) Fjord Cruise with White Lady. These short cruises cost ~$65US (500NK) per person. I would suggest taking the cruise to Mostraumen out of the two short ones offered as it covers more ground because the boat is faster and it takes you to a waterfall. If you take either of the short cruises and plan to visit museums and other sites around Bergen, it might be worth looking into getting the Bergen Card (~$20 for students and $25 for adults) as it will save you 20% on these cruises. The long cruises vary in price depending on which one you do. If you have time, it would be worth doing one of these, especially one that goes through Flam. You can get all the information and book these cruises at the tourist center. Below is a list of the different cruise companies:
- Fjord Tours
- Rodne Fjord Cruise
- Tide Reiser
- If you can afford it, take a helicopter tour that takes you above the fjords. It costs ~$450US (3600NK) for 20 minutes, and ~$130US (1000NK) per each additional 10 minutes.
- Bergenfest is held the second weekend in June and is one of the biggest music festivals in Norway. This festival attracts some big stars but is like going to see them at a small venue and is definitely worth checking out if you are in town at this time.
- Bergen International Festival is held at the end of May until mid-June. This is the big cultural festival of the year, with dance, music, theatre and visual arts shows throughout the city.
- Night Jazz Festival is held at the end of May for one week.
- There are also some amazing hikes in the Bergen region but take a full day to do. There are daily coach tours that can take you there. The top 3 are listed below:
- Troll’s Tongue (Trolltunga) – 20km hike, 8-10 hours
- Kjerag – 10km hike, 5-6 hours
- Pulpit Rock (Preikestolen) – 8km hike, 2-3 hours
These tours all leave from Stavenger, which is a 35 minute flight south of Bergen ($60-190US for a one-way ticket). There are also buses that can take you from Bergen to Stavenger. Which takes about 5 hours and costs about $50US (420NK) each way.