Oslo is a fascinating metropolitan city that retains its small fishing town feel. It is a truly magnificent place where a lively ambiance merges with gorgeous landscapes and where outdoor activities are waiting for you to be practiced.
There are many things to do in Oslo, but if you feel like getting away from the tourist draws, here's a list of off-the-beaten-track activities for your next visit. From exploring the city's hipster neighbourhoods and popular urban saunas to kayaking in the fjords and sampling local food, we have it listed in our off-beaten Oslo Top 8!
1. Stroll along the Akerselva River
If you want to experience wildlife and nature in the heart of the city, take a walk along the Akerselva River. Also known as "Oslo's green lung," this isn't just a waterway. It's a unique place where culture, urban life, scenic landscapes, and good food all come together. Most people start from Maridalsvannet Lake, 8 kilometres from downtown Oslo. It's about a two-hour walk where you will pass waterfalls, hidden gardens, small forests, picturesque bridges, quaint wooden houses, and even a few old (but beautiful) industrial buildings to admire. Last but not least, along the way, you will find plenty of charming cafés where you can rest and refuel with food and drinks.
2. Enjoy a Bit of Culture (on a rainy day)
If you wake up on a rainy day, get your umbrella and get to these unique places to experience a bit of culture. Let's start with the Intercultural Museum. It is housed in an old prison on Grønland, in the centre of the city's multicultural heart. It tells the experience of immigrants and refugees of Norway's past. It is an alternative museum that educates and gives food for thought.
Next is the Deichman library. An impressive (both inside and outside) modern building, a 2-minute walk from the Opera House. Stretching over six floors, you will find 450,000 books. In addition, you can watch movies in the movie theatre, make podcasts during media workshops, learn to play the piano, and even sew a dress. Besides, the library features various lounges and a restaurant. For the kids, there is a complete children's section with lots of activities.
Finally, you cannot miss the newly opened Munch Museum. Oslo, the hometown of the Norwegian painter Edward Munch, brought an extensive collection of his paintings. The iconic painting "Scream" and many others are exhibited in this 13-story art building at the waterfront.
3. Sørenga: Oslo's City Beach and Escape for Outdoor Adventures
Sørenga is a relatively new 'city beach' and a popular place for locals in summer. It is perfect for taking a quick swim, diving off the diving board, and chilling in the sun with friends. The place attracts everyone from young families to senior citizens. But, if you are up for something a little more active, Sørenga also has a perfect launch spot for kayaks. From here, you can explore the many tiny islands of the Oslo fjord, such as Hovedøya, which features great beaches for swimming.
4. Oslo’s Hipster Neighbourhood Grünerløkka
Trendy neighbourhoods, you find them in every city, and Oslo has more than a fair share. However, the one that stands out is Grünerløkka, located on the east side of the town. This former working-class neighbourhood has been reclaimed by students, artists, and designers. Expect a vibrant, trendy area with many small local boutiques, vintage clothing stores, coffee shops, microbreweries, burger bars, and quaint cafés. It's also home to Birkelunden - a central park with plenty of events and open-air markets - and the popular food hall, Mathallen. You can read more about this food heaven below.
5. Join the Urban Sauna Culture
Saunas are definitively part of Norway's culture, and Oslo comes with a whole load of different saunas to try out. The urban saunas are surprisingly cool in Norway's capital, so let's look at a few of them. First, there's SALT, an extraordinary concept complete with one of the largest saunas in the world, art, music, and great food.
KOK is a new floating sauna docked across from the Opera House. Take your time to relax, and then, only for the courageous ones, you can take an icy dip in the fjord!
Or try out Oslo Sauna Raft, which literally floats out in the fjord.
6. Vigeland in Frogner Park - Unique in its kind
Frogner Park is a park of superlatives. It is Oslo’s largest park (and a popular recreational area for a sunny Sunday afternoon) which features Norway’s biggest playground and the largest sculpture park (created by one artist alone). In this case, Gustav Vigeland. In Vigeland’s Park, you can admire 200 unusual bronze, granite, and cast iron sculptures, including the Monolith: an impressive totem pole covered with 36 sets of granite statues of naked people in all stages of life. Absolutely, a unique piece of art!
7. Explore Oslo's Food Scene
Norway is packed with fantastic food, and nowhere is this more evident than in the capital. Oslo is the place to be when it comes to trying out the variety of cuisines that this country offers. Probably the best place to go is Vippa, right on the banks of the Oslo fjord. It is a trendy food court (a huge factory-like hall) with vibrant murals and street art. It is filled with vendors selling tasty treats from Mexican and Syrian to Chinese and Eritrean cuisine. It's the perfect spot for a lunch or an evening drink among the locals. Another favourite in Oslo's food scene is Mathallen, an indoor food market with fish, local produce, cheese & charcuterie from Italy & France, and cafés & restaurants. Enjoy the tastings!
8. Holmenkollen - Winter and Summer Outdoor Adventures at the doorstep of Oslo
Holmenkollen, the hill you see on the northwestern side of Oslo, can be reached with a 20-30 minutes subway ride from the city centre. It is a popular recreational area, and that's for a good reason. In addition to beautiful scenery and views, there are great hiking, biking, and cross-country skiing options. Besides, you can find the Ski Museum and the world-famous Ski Jump here.
The Holmenkollen Ski Museum takes you through 4000 years of skiing history. It exhibits no less than 2500 pairs of skis, some of which belonged to famous Norwegian skiers and even members of The Royal Family. From the lobby of the museum, you can take an elevator up to the plateau of the Ski Jump Tower, which boasts stunning views of the city.
Holmenkollen is home to the Oslo Winter Park and Korketrekkeren toboggan run, which provides lots of outdoor fun in the snow. Oslo Winter Park turns into Oslo Summer Park in summer, with downhill biking, climbing opportunities, and an impressive zip line down the Holmenkollen Ski Jump, all the way (61 meters) to the bottom of the hill! As a bonus, you also get some pretty amazing views of the city while you glide along. Who dares?
So, next time you visit Oslo and want to get away from the crowds, try out one of these activities. Mixing culture, outdoor fun, relaxation, and good food, there is, for sure, one for you and your family. Check out our trips to Norway and Oslo for more inspiration.