Of the three Scandinavian capitals, Oslo is definitely the youngest child.
While Stockholm and Copenhagen were busy inventing dynamite and opening the world’s best restaurant, Oslo was crashing and burning (literally) with a fair amount of sailing and hiking thrown in the mix. The result is a cultural diversity all its own. Oslo’s museums are interesting, but not pretentious; its landmarks are grounded in reality, not extravagant. The river running through the middle of the city separates wealthy, established houses and cultural landmarks from the young, international neighborhoods to the east. And within just a few kilometers of it all are mountains for skiing, fjords for sailing, and islands for exploring. All this variety doesn’t come cheap, though. Since Oslo isn’t Scandinavia’s go-to destination for young travelers and backpackers, the hostel scene is sparse and high prices can make it difficult to experience all there is to offer. At the same time, crowds are smaller overall, making it easy to make the most of every museum, sculpture, and restaurant.
Oslo’s city center sits right on the Oslofjord, into which jut the piers in front of City Hall. Just to the east is the Opera House, which is easily the most recognizable building in the city. The main street, Karl Johans gate, runs straight through the middle of downtown, from the Royal Palace on its eastern end to Oslo S and the Tiger statue to the west. Along Karl Johans gate are landmarks like the National Theater, and the seat of Norway’s Parliament. A short bus ride to the west brings you to Bygdøy, a large peninsula with beaches, walking and biking trails, and several of Oslo’s most famous museums. The Akerselva River runs north from the city center, effectively dividing the rest of Oslo in two. To the west are parks and wealthier residential neighborhoods. To the east are younger, more diverse areas that house most of Oslo’s nightlife, including Grønland, and a little farther north Grünerløkka, a veritable hipster’s paradise. Far to the northwest is Holmenkollen, home to the only steel ski jump in the world.
Oslo Airport, Gardermoen (Oslo Lufthaven) is Norway’s main international airport. The airport is about 50km north of the city itself, and the easiest way get to the city center is the Flytoget Airport Express (20min. to and from Oslo S), which leaves from Oslo Sentralstasjon, better known as Oslo S, the main train station, every 10-20min. (NOK 180, NOK 90 student). Tickets kiosks are located at the airport and Oslo S. The Flybussen also travels between downtown Oslo and Oslo Lufthaven, but the journey is closer to 40min. from Oslo Bus Terminal, which is behind Oslo S (adult NOK 160, NOK 90 student). Trains to other Norwegian cities from Oslo S are operated by NSB (www.nsb.no). SJ also operates express trains between Oslo and Stockholm. The station is open daily 3:45am-1:30am.
Public transportation in Oslo is operated by Ruter, and utilizes buses, trains, ferries, and the metro. The system is divided into zones, but Zone 1 covers the city center as well as the whole metro service, so it should be enough to get you pretty much anywhere. Tickets can be purchased at stores including Narvesen, 7-Eleven, and at kiosks at some stations (single ticket NOK 33 in advance, NOK 55 onboard). If you plan on using public transportation frequently, consider a 24hr pass (NOK 90) or a 7-day pass (NOK 240). Your ticket is not active until you validate it. When you buy a new ticket, make sure you scan it the first time you use it or it doesn’t count. Ticket officials will board random trains or buses and check tickets. The fine for being caught without a valid ticket is NOK 1150 (NOK 950 if paid on the spot).
Tourist Offices: The Oslo Visitor Center is located in Østbanehallen, next to Oslo S (81 53 05 55; open May-June daily 9am-6pm, July-Aug M-Sa 8am-7pm, Su 9am-6pm, Sept daily 9am-6pm, Oct-Dec M-Sa 9am-6pm, Su 10am-4pm)
Banks/ATMs/Currency Exchange: Credit and debit cards can be used almost everywhere in Oslo, but, if you need cash, currency exchange and ATMs (called “Minibanks”) can be found in Oslo S and on Karl Johans gate (Forex Bank: Oslo S; 22 17 22 65; open M-F 7am-9pm, Sa 9am-6pm, Su 10am-5pm).
Post Offices: Tollbugata 17; open M-F 7am-5pm
Internet: Wi-Fi is widely available in Oslo, both in cafés and restaurants, and in public settings like the Opera House and museums. Some networks may require a code sent via SMS.
BGLTQ+ Resources: FRI is the national BGLTQ+ organization in Norway (Tollbugata 24; 23 10 39 39; open M-F 10am-3pm).
Emergency Number: 112
Police: Grønlandsleiret 44, 0190; 22 66 90 50
US Embassy: Morgedalsvegen 36; 21 30 85 40; check no.usembassy.gov for details
Rape Crisis Center: DIXI is a free and confidential resource for victims of sexual assault (Arbins gate 1; 22 44 40 50; Weekdays 9am-3pm).
Hospitals: Oslo Emergency Ward is open daily 24hr (Storgata 40; 113 (emergencies only), 116117 (non-emergencies)).
Pharmacies: There are pharmacies all over the city center. Pharmacies are called apotek in Norway
- Jernbanetorvets Apotek (Jernbanetorget 4B; 23 35 81 00; open daily 24hr).
- Apotek 1 (Storgata 40, 22 98 87 20; open daily 24hr).