Situated on Norway’s southern coast at the head of Oslofjord, Oslo is a modern city with very ancient roots. Members of my own family left this port in the late 19th century, and for as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to explore one of the (many) places I come from. From shockingly preserved viking ships, to boundary-pushing Nordic cuisine, Oslo’s culture is uniquely dynamic, and according to Forbes, is located in the world’s second happiest country. With all that in mind, here is my perfect day.
I’d start off the day with a bit of historical immersion. Part of the Museum of Cultural History at the University of Oslo, the Viking Ship Museum features archaeological finds from areas just outside the city. The institution is most famous for a 9th century intact Viking ship excavated from the world’s largest known ship burial. Most astounding is that the vessel is made entirely from wood. Other attractions include several other ships, wood carvings, and grave goods. The museum is open daily and offers audio guides in both English and Spanish.
My next stop would be Frogner Park, a public recreational area originally apart of a manor estate that now houses the Oslo City Museum. In addition to taking in the city’s largest green space, visitors can immerse themselves in the art of sculptor Gustav Vigeland. A massive installation at the park’s center showcases a variety of his work. In fact, it’s the largest sculpture park made by a single artist in the world. The area of the installation covers 80 acres, and features 212 individual bronze and granite sculptures. More of Vigeland’s work can be seen at the nearby museum that bares his name.
A revitalized waterfront area with a multitude of shops and restaurants, Aker Brygge is an ideal spot for lunch. For over one hundred years, this area of Oslo was a shipyard, and still retain’s much of its distinctive architecture. During the warmer months, the pedestrian district’s restaurants set out more than 2,500 chairs for outdoor dining. Cuisine ranges from American-style burgers served out of an airstream trailer at Burger Joint Aker Brygge, to Asia Aker Brygge that specializes in Southeast Asian street food. There really is something for everyone.
Tour the Akershus Fortress
After lunch at Aker Brygge, I would explore the Akershus Fortress, a medieval castle built in the late 1200s on the shore of Oslofjord. While originally built to defend the city from invading armies, the fortress was converted into a Renaissance-style castle and royal residence during the reign of King Christian IV (1588-1648). It’s also served as a military base, a prison, and temporary seat to the country’s prime minister. General admission to the fortress is free, but additional exhibits have an entrance fee. Guided walking tours are also available for a more in depth look into the fortress’ history.
Situated in the city’s Bjørvika neighborhood, the Oslo Opera House is my top location to watch the sunset at the end of a long day of exploration. Opened in 2008, the modern design of the structure evokes the shape of an iceberg. Visitors are also more than encouraged to walk on the sloping marble rooftop. There, it’s possible to take in panoramic views of both Oslo, and the brightly painted summer houses that dot the Oslofjord archipelago. The opera house also puts on a variety of outdoor entertainment, including plays and concerts.
After watching the sunset at the Oslo Opera House, a dinner at centrally located restaurant, Sentralen, is definitely in the cards. The restaurant prides itself on an informal atmosphere; no white tablecloths and free rein to top off your own beverages. The menu, which relies heavily on local ingredients, changes with the season. A plethora of light bites and platters encourages sharing with your tablemates. My picks? An order of fresh oysters, followed by steamed mussels with salsa verde. Sentralen also highly recommends making a reservation in advance.
Located in the basement of the former Schous brewery, Schouskjelleren Mikrobryggeri is the perfect place to wrap up a full day of exploring Oslo. The microbrewery features a wide selection of different beers, including creatively named microbrews on tap, that rotate regularly. The vaulted brick cellar with a large fireplace offers patrons a cozy atmosphere to unwind. For the night owls out there, Schouskjelleren stays open until 3:30am on Friday and Saturday nights.