When travelling to Oslo during the winter season, you might wonder if there are many activities and must-see attractions in the city and if there are enough things to do in Oslo in winter. When we first came up with the idea to visit Oslo in December I had the same doubt. Needless to say that Norway is a great winter destination, but would a city trip to Oslo be the same as travelling to the rest of the country in winter? And would there be enough daylight to enjoy all of the highlights of Oslo?
The main reason for our road trip up to Norway was to visit friends. However, we did want to make the most of our time since it was for both of us our first time visiting Norway. All in all, we spent an amazing week there and we managed to see and do most of what Oslo and the surrounding area has to offer in winter.
This is a list of the main tourist attractions in Oslo and of the nearby areas that we enjoyed during our trip. Some of these are typical winter activities, making visiting Oslo in winter a great idea while others can be enjoyed all year round.
Best things to do in Oslo in winter
The main attractions of Oslo city centre
Oslo Opera House
Located on the waterfront in the city centre with marvellous views of the Oslofjord, the Oslo Opera House is one of the best places in town to watch the sunset all year round, but even more so during summer. The Opera House with its tilted roof was built for walking on, which is of course one of the things you should do when visiting, even in winter. You will have some of the best views of the Oslofjord, where you can see the small islands with their colourful timber houses to the one side and the city centre to the other.
More information about visiting the Oslo Opera House and about the various performances can be found on their website.
Located at the top of Karl Johan Gate, the Royal Palace, with its pale yellow stuccoed bricks is surrounded by one of Oslo’s largest parks. It was built mid 19th century and is currently the official residence of the Norwegian monarchs, King Harald V and Queen Sonja. What makes this palace so special is that it has no fences and you can walk right up to the building. When we visited, the snow made the palace and the park look like a real winter wonderland. However, it was too icy and slippery to walk around too much. And as with most palaces, you can watch the changing of the guards every day at 1.30 PM.
Karl Johan Gate
Karl Johan Gate is the main shopping street in central Oslo and is dotted with points of interests. The pedestrian street connects the Royal Palace with the Central Station. On the way there are buildings like the National Theatre and some university buildings as well as shops, bars and restaurants.
When visiting Oslo in December, you will find the main Oslo Christmas market (Jul I Vinterland or Christmas in Winterland) right next to Karl Johan Gate. The market is really beautiful and worth a visit. Apart from the typical wooden stalls selling food, drinks and handicrafts, one can also enjoy a large Ferris wheel and ice skating rink.
Akershus Castle and Fortress (Akershus Festning)
Built in the 13th century, the Akersjus Festning is one of the most recognisable landmarks of Oslo. The fortress has also been used as a military base and a prison and is now a lovely place to take a stroll and enjoy panoramic views of the Oslofjord and the city. The best place to view the fortress is from Aker Brygge.
It’s close to the city centre and entrance is free of charge to walk around in the premises. In summer it is possible to take a guided tour.
Aker Brygge is a trendy and vibrant area along the inner harbour by the waterfront. This former shipyard is a popular meeting place during summer time. It is much less crowded during winter, but along the boardwalk there is a wide selection of good restaurants, bars and shops which can still be enjoyed. At the end of the boardwalk there is a small beach which is accessible to the public, called Tjuvholmen City Beach. Just before the beach you can find the Astrup Fearnley museum of Modern Art.
I personally did enjoy our visit of Aker Brygge in winter. It was quiet with few people around, but the views of the Oslofjord, Akershus Festning, along with the Christmas lights and decorations were really stunning.
Nobel Peace Center
The Nobel Peace Center is located right at the beginning of Aker Brygge, by the ferry terminal. The museum of the Nobel Peace Prize tells the story of Alfred Nobel as well as the Peace Prize laureates. The museum holds various permanent and temporary exhibitions and can be visited individually or by means of a guided tour. More information about actual opening hours can be found here.
Take a stroll through Vigeland Park
One of the things I really did not want to miss out on while in Oslo was visiting the famous Vigeland Park. It is the world’s largest sculpture park made by a single artist, which in this case is Gustav Vigeland. In fact, the sculptures are a permanent exhibition within the Frogner Park, which is the largest park in Oslo and is one of the more popular places to visit in Oslo.
Seeing the park and the sculptures during winter time felt a bit surreal. The dramatic sculptures created a surreal view in the white snowy landscape of the park, especially since there was still a thin layer of frost on the bronze statues. However, the park is worth visiting any time of year.
Tip: Frogner and Vigeland Park are located just outside the city centre. You can walk the 4 km from the Central Station to the park, which is what we did. Or you can take the metro or the bus.
Visit the Holmenkollen ski museum and ski jump tower
Holmenkollen is located on the north eastern side of Oslo and is only a short 20-30 minute ride away from the city centre. The Holmenkollen ski jump tower has been hosting ski jump competitions since 1892 and was also used during the Winter Olympic Games of 1952. With a height of 121 metres, the ski jump tower is really impressive to see. It’s possible to go all the way to the top, but we didn’t do this during our visit. The panoramic views from the top of the tower must probably be impressive.
Opened in 1923, Holmenkollen is the oldest museum in the world specialised in skiing. More information about entrance fees and opening times can be found here.
Even just for the stunning panoramic views over Oslo and the Oslofjord, it is worth the trip up to Holmenkollen. It can be reached either by car or with the metro from Oslo city centre. When taking the metro, you should get off at the Holmenkollen station and walk a short way uphill to get to the Holmenkollen tower.
Have a coffee at the Kafé Seterstua in Frognerseteren
One of the best panoramic views over Oslo and the Oslofjord is without doubt from the Kafé Seterstua in Frognerseteren. On a warm sunny day, a large panoramic terrace welcomes visitors to enjoy the views with some refreshing drinks. For the cold, snowy winter days, a large and cosy open fire place welcomes you inside. The caffee is famous for its delicious apple cake.
To get to Kafé Seterstua from central station take the Holmenkollen metro line (line 1) all the way to the end station.
Have fun snowboarding or skiing at the Oslo Winterpark
Is it not just amazing to have a beautiful ski resort right at your doorstep? Located very close to Oslo city centre right by a residential area, Oslo Winterpark offers everything you need for some fun on the slopes for either snowboarders or skiers. The resort is not the biggest in the world, but it does offer 18 slopes and 11 lifts. The slopes, the longest being 1.5km are suitable for everyone and vary from absolute beginners to advanced skiing. When we visited the weather conditions were just perfect; clear skies and just cold enough to provide nice powder snow. What I also loved about Oslo Winterpark are the opening times. Since in winter it gets dark early, I initially thought the resort would also close early. But I was surprised to see that you can actually ride the slopes until 10 PM. The slopes are well lit at night and the advantage is that you can see some of the most amazing sunsets over the Oslofjord while skiing or snowboarding.
Oslo Winterpark can be reached either by car or public transport (30 minute ride from Oslo city centre). From the metro station, a shuttle bus takes you to the entrance of the park. More detailed and practical info can be found on their website here.
Oslo Fjord ferry
At first thought, going island hopping in the Oslo Fjord didn’t really seem like an activity to do in Oslo in winter, but I must say that I really loved the ferry ride. One of the things I really wanted to do when in Oslo was to visit at least part of the Oslo Fjord and to see some of the small islands as well as get a glance of Oslo from the water. The ferry stops at, among others, the following islands: Hovedøja, Lindøya, Bleikøya and Gressholmen. Each of these islands looks really charming in their own special way.
We visited the Oslo Fjord on a very cold day and decided to just stay on the ferry for the entire return trip. It was in total a 1 hour ride, while stopping briefly at the various islands to let passengers on and off. When it gets too cold outside you can warm up in the heated indoor section.
Tip: The best way to visit the islands is to take the ferry from the terminal by Aker Brygge. You can buy a ticket there or you can use the same public transport day ticket.
Watch the early sunset in Oslo
When visiting Oslo in winter, the days are pretty short. The sun comes up around nine and goes down around four PM. The advantage of wintertime is that the sunsets are really spectacular. The hues of orange, red and pink are so amazing to see. When visiting Holmenkollen and surrounding areas, you will see the sun go down over the Oslo Fjord in a fantastic show of bright orange, red and yellow. So even though the sun goes down early in the most spectacular colours, the light of the golden hour is perfect for photographers, without having to wait until midnight in summer.
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