Sailing into Oslo is a majestic experience — ships pull right into the center of the Norwegian capital, and the breathtaking sights don’t stop at the port. Oslo is famous for its generous share of world-class cultural institutions, a buzzing café and restaurant scene, and outdoor spaces that capture the country’s natural beauty. Only have a few hours in port? Make sure to check out these top spots.
1. Check out the Viking Ship Museum.
Myths and mystery surround the Vikings, and the dramatic cave-like halls of this gallery — and its trio of hulking oak vessels — would stoke the imagination of any legend lover. Viewing platforms allow visitors to get a birds-eye view into the boats, which were used in burial rituals. And although the jewelry and most other artifacts were looted in another era, you can still ogle the ornate carvings, master craftsmanship, and the sturdy construction, representative of the Vikings’ might and fortitude.
2. See Munch's other masterpieces.
You may already know “The Scream,” the iconic painting from Norwegian artist Edvard Munch, but this enlightening museum displays the dark genius’ drawings, prints, and watercolors. In fact, the collection at the Munch Museum comprises more than half of his artistic output. Set to move to a new site in 2018, the exhibits aren’t for the lighthearted: The dim depression and unrelenting angst of the painter — who was plagued by family tragedy, health problems, and alcoholism — is starkly palpable.
3. Take in the view from the Oslo Opera House.
It’s hard to miss this structure on the waterfront — at once remarkably striking, but also harmoniously integrated into its surrounding landscape. All angles, glass, granite, and marble, the building mimics a mountain, which also happens to be part of the backdrop. Even if you don’t get to catch a show, or a guided tour of the costume workshops and stage sets, you can walk around on the rooftop and soak in the waterfront views.
4. Appreciate the monuments in Vigeland Park.
The Norwegian sculptor Gustav Vigeland might not have a huge reputation outside his home country, but the namesake park is one of the most famous and frequented attractions in Oslo. You can view his robust, curvaceous bronzes along the grand allées of the 80-acre grounds, which also create some stunning vistas. The highlight? The Monolith — more than a hundred writhing figures carved into a column perched at the top of a circular staircase.
5. Get inspired at the Nobel Peace Center.
While most of the Nobel Prizes are awarded in Sweden, the Nobel Peace Prize is announced in Oslo, and this interactive center has eye-opening exhibits that inspire. Who prevented nuclear energy from being used for military purposes? Or banned and cleared land mines still buried even after the end of conflict? The narratives of laureates such as Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama put into the spotlight some of the world’s most incredible achievements benefiting humanity. It’s simply humbling.
6. Wind your way through Ekebergparken Sculpture Park.
This fjord-side green space puts nature in the forefront, with a thoughtful array of sculptures from the likes of Rodin, Maillol, and Renoir. Unlike some parks where artworks upstage the greenery, the sculptures on the grounds here are more discreetly sized and scattered along paths and fields intertwined with pines, maple trees, and black alders, where roe deer also graze — a scene set for quiet contemplation.
7. Wander the ramparts at Akershus Fortress.
This medieval castle and fortress sits above the Oslofjord and has guarded the city from sieges since the late 13th century. Walk around the ramparts, head inside the castle; the interiors were refurbished in the Renaissance style. Tour the staterooms, banquet halls, and a chapel that houses the crypts of former kings. There are also several museums on site, such as the Armed Forces Museum, for a double dose of culture.