Oslo combines all the facilities of a vibrant capital city with the tranquil beauty and laid-back charm of a country town. Picturesquely positioned at the northern end of the Oslofjord, this compact metropolis is encircled by unspoilt countryside, offering plenty of opportunities for walking, hiking, sailing or camping just a stone’s throw from the city centre.
Norway’s rich seafaring tradition is apparent everywhere in Oslo, from the bloodthirsty battles of the Vikings to the daring polar explorations of Roald Amundsen and the pioneering ethnographic voyages of Thor Heyerdahl. Three immaculately preserved Viking vessels can be admired in the Viking Ship Museum, while Heyerdahl’s tiny hand-made raft in which he made his historic Pacific crossing is on display in the Kon-Tiki Museum.
Amundsen beat Scott to the South Pole in a ship specially designed to withstand extreme conditions. Find out how he and his party survived the rigours of the Antarctic at the Fram Museum on the Bygdøy Peninsula. The nearby Norwegian Maritime Museum will complete the picture with a fascinating overview of two centuries of local seamanship.
The cultural scene is alive and well in Oslo with something for every taste, from the buskers in fashionable Aker Brygge to the international stars on the stage of Oslo Opera House, a stunning new building on the waterfront at Bjorvika.
During the summer months in particular there’s a lot going on throughout the city. Take a walk in the Palace Park to watch the colourful ceremonials of the Royal Guard outside the palace, or take a guided tour of the state rooms to admire its lavish interior. The open-air exhibits at the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History will introduce you to six centuries of domestic life in the city and countryside of Norway.
Most of the main attractions are centrally situated, so transport won’t be a problem. Take your time to explore on foot, or buy an Oslo Pass for unlimited travel on the excellent public transport network, as well as free entry to many museums and other useful discounts to help eke out your budget.