10 great reasons that prove you should book a visit to Oslo right now
Sure, I'm a tad biased.
But Oslo, the small, yet impressive capital of my native Norway, will make you fall in love too. Trust me.
It is a city that has everything you could wish for from a weekend destination – and then some. And it doesn't even matter when you visit, either. It is as breathtakingly beautiful in these balmy, bright summer months as it is in winter, when the city is covered in snow and the Northern Lights can be seen criss-cross the sky.
The shops, the food, the buildings. The people, the design and the Scandinavian way of life; Oslo will forever be etched in your mind as one of the greatest little big cities in the world.
Why I love it so much (apart from it being home)? Here are just ten of my many, many reasons:
1. The fact that you can swim everywhere
You might not think that a city break is compatible with a ton of sea swimming and beach hangs, but in Oslo, you can.
In fact; as well as a ton of beaches and lakes right outside the city centre, you can also literally pack your bikini in your handbag as you head out shopping or sightseeing, and if you get too hot, head to either Tjuvholmen beach (at the very tip of Tjuvholmen island, down in the harbour area) or take a dip right in the Oslo fjord at Sørenga Sjøbad, not too far from the Opera House at the recently developed Bjørvika part of the city.
2. The weather
Yes, the winters are proper wintery, with snow and cold temperatures, but in the summertime, Oslo can actually have balmy weather with temperatures stretching up into almost 30 c and glorious, glorious sunshine. Also, if you have yet to experience them, the long, bright summer evenings you get in Scandinavia this time a year are truly magical.
3. The shopping
Oslo might have been a little overlooked as a city break destination in comparison to, say, Barcelona and Berlin, but hear us out; there are plenty of reasons you will love hitting the shops in the Norwegian capital.
First of all; the city centre is relatively compact, meaning you will easily get from one shopping area to the next on foot (or by hopping on the subway or tram system, which cover the entire city). Secondly; the selection and good on offer is bound to thrill even the most jaded shopper.
Want our inside scoop? Bogstadveien and Hegdehaugsvegen are both great for strolling down and exploring all the different little shops, a mix between known chains and independent shops. Looking for Scandi interior finds? House of Oslo is a whole department store dedicated just this.
Smack bang in the city's main street, Karl Johan, you'll find the exclusive shopping mall, Eger, and in the streets around Akersgata and Nedre Slottsgate you will find designer heaven with the Steen and Strøm department store, as well as brands like Mulberry, Louis Vuitton, Filippa K and more. Down by the harbour, the Aker Brygge is home to lots of stores and brands too.
4. The coffee
Forget about Starbucks, in Oslo, you need to go native. Norwegians drink coffee like Irish people drink tea (and then some), and the city is home to some seriously amazing native coffee chains and independent coffee shops. Kaffebrenneriet has outlets across the city and make a mean iced latte, and Stockfleth's are also well worth a visit.
But what you absolutely need to do, is take the tram up to the hipster area of Grünerløkka, where you will find the little coffee shop of Tim Wendelboe, which is a coffee roastery, espresso bar, and a coffee school – all rolled up in one – and that will make you never ever feel the same about sipping a Starbucks or Costa ever again.
5. The parks
If you have shopped till you feel the need to sit down and cool down with an ice cream, you won't be short of spaces to do just that. Oslo is full of parks, and you are never far from one, no matter where you are.
Frognerparken in the west of the city of famous for its many bronze statues, signed the Norwegian artist Gustav Vigeland. Surrounding the Royal Palace, you have the vast Slottsparken (palace gardens) which is popular with both tourists and locals alike, and often choc-a-bloc with sunbathers and families with children playing in the grass on a summer's day.
Further east, Birkelunden in Grünerløkka is a lovely spot to enjoy an ices coffee or a picnic, and there are also plenty of green spaces down by Akershus Festning, the impressive fortress that overlooks the harbour and dates back to the Middle Ages.
6. The bakeries
Oh, the bakeries... Don't even think about leaving Oslo without having visited one (or more) of these amazing spots – and don't worry; there are plenty to choose from. Norwegians are total bread snobs, and will not even think about settling for a loaf of mass-produced supermarket bread.
The selection of rustic breads, spelt loafs and crusty rolls is enough to make you forget all about cutting back on carbs, but that's nothing against the amazing selection of sweet pastries – in particular their famous cinnamon buns or 'skolebolle' which is a sweet bun filled with vanilla custard and dusted with icing and desiccated coconut.
It's hard to pick a favourite among the many bakeries (many of which have branches across the city), but we love Åpent Bakeri (the one at Damplassen is a must-visit), W.B. Samson, United Bakeries, Baker Hansen and BIT.
Tip: Test them all and pick your personal favourite.
7. The museums
The Viking Museum at Bygdøy (get the ferry across from the harbour) is must-visit, and if you are travelling with children in tow, they will no doubt love Norsk Teknisk Museum in Nydalen, which is a brilliant science and explore center.
The Edward Munch Museum is worth a visit too, even if you only want to tick having seen 'The Scream' off your bucket list. For modern art (and the building itself), you really can't beat the Astrup Fearnley Museum at Tjuvholmen.
8. The food-and bar scene
Apart from the coffee and baked goods, Oslo is also home to some seriously delicious food and drinks. From smoothie bars for your healthy breakfast to seafood lunches (right by the sea), sushi (Alex Sushi is a bucket list meal, trust us), pizza (Villa Paradiso in Grünerløkka is so good, we can almost guarantee you'll be waiting for a table) and plenty of places to try some New Nordic Cuisine, you will not leave Oslo hungry.
If you can get a table, Maaemo (which has been awarded an impressive three Michelin stars) will be a meal you won't forget. Kolonihagen or Bølgen & Moi in Frogner is perfect for a lazy mid-shopping lunch, and if you are over on the east side, try Mathallen, a giant, indoor food market where you can eat and buy produce to bring home too.
There is a brand new fish market opened down by the harbour, with an adjoining restaurant, where you will be able to eat the freshest seafood you'll have ever tried, and while down there, Vingen – the bar/restaurant at the Astrup Fearnley Museum is pretty much the perfect place to enjoy a chilled glass of wine and some tasty nibbles while admiring the view.
Smalhans, at the more residential (though still only a stroll away) area of St. Hanshaugen, is popular with locals and visitors alike, eager to enjoy a taste of 'old school' Norwegian food.
For architecture lovers (and lovers in general) Ekerbergresturanten, up in the hill of Ekeberg, overlooks the entire city, and is the perfect spot for a romantic dinner date. The building itself dates back to 1927, and is one of the finest and most intact examples of the functionalist building style of that time.
For a healthy meal on the go, or just a quick snack, we love Godt Brød at Grünerløkka, as well as Joe and The Juice (branches across the city).
9. The architecture
From the stunning Opera House (Operahuset), where you can walk all along the roof and admire the view of the city and the fjord, to the pretty, French-inspired city building in Frogner, Oslo is bound to impress you visually.
10. The Royal Palace
Norway is a monarchy, and the King and Queen (Harald and Sonja) live in the Royal Palace (Slottet) at Drammensveien 1. The palace is visible as you walk down the main street of Karl Johansgate, and you can get as close as you like to the actual building, almost – with many seeing it as a must-do when in Oslo to take a selfie with the palace guards on guard outside.