As the capital of Norway, Oslo is home to a good number of the country's top attractions, but you shouldn't make the mistake of spending all your time here. The area around the city is certainly worth exploring as well, and there are plenty of opportunities to learn about the country's Viking past at institutions like the Viking Ship Museum, explore traditional but inviting small towns, and marvel at the jaw-dropping beauty of the country's fjords and mountains. If you'd rather do something active, you can fish on Lake Mjøsa, hike up Grefsenkollen, or go skiing in Lillehammer.
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Conveniently situated in Bærum, a suburb of Oslo, Bærums Verk is a traditional Norwegian village that straddles the Lomma River. The streets are filled with shops and art galleries, and there is also a unique sculpture park with approximately 30 pieces created by renowned Norwegian sculptors. The area also has a long history of making iron and steel products, and The Oven Museum displays a wonderful collection of historic cast-iron ovens made as long ago as the early 1700s. You won't struggle to find a restaurant for lunch, but if you're looking for something special, consider dining at Vaertshuset, the oldest restaurant in the country.
Sprawling across the southwestern coast of Norway, Bergen is the second biggest city in the country. Despite its size, it's managed to retain a welcoming small-town atmosphere, and it features a historic district filled with colorful wooden houses, a bustling fish market, and plenty of modern art galleries, museums, and cafes. The city also happens to be surrounded by some of the most spectacular mountains and fjords you'll ever see, and visitors often take the opportunity to ride the Fløibanen Funicular up Fløyen Mountain and take a cruise through Sognefjord, the deepest and longest fjord in the country.
Located on the west side of the city, the Bygdoy Peninsula can easily be reached by taking a short ferry ride from the downtown harbor. Much of the peninsula is residential, but it's also home to some of the city's best museums, including the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History and the Viking Ship Museum, which features three historic Viking longships that were discovered in southern Norway. A network of trails around the peninsula provides plenty of opportunities for walking and cycling, and there are also a handful of quiet but lovely beaches that are great for swimming in the summer.
Sometime referred to as the "Christmas Town", Drøbak is famous for having the country's largest permanent Christmas display in its main square. It's worth taking the time to stop at Santa's Post Office and the charming Tregaarden's Christmas House, but there are also plenty of non-Christmas attractions to see, including the historic Oscarsborg Fortress and the Drøbak Aquarium, which features a unique lutefisk museum that introduces visitors to the popular Nordic dish. After seeing these major attractions, it's also worth taking some time to simply stroll through the narrow 18th-century streets to admire the small but charming wooden houses.
Ekeberg is a charming neighborhood in southeast Oslo, and although it hosts the Norway Cup soccer tournament every year, it's best known as the location of the Ekebergparken Sculpture Park. The highlight of the park is its fantastic art collection, which features pieces from artists all over the world, but it also boasts picturesque scenery and a wonderful panoramic view of the city. There is no fee for admission, but during the summer, visitors who want to learn about the sculptures can pay to join a public guided tour. Private tours can also be arranged all throughout the year.
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Set at the mouth of the Glomma River where it meets Lake Øyeren, Fetsund Lenser was one of the country's most significant timber floating plants during the 19th century. Today, it's the only preserved timber boom facility in the country, and it's a national heritage monument intended to introduce visitors to this important aspect of Norwegian history. There are plenty of informative exhibits and historic buildings to explore, and visitors can even walk across the water on floating timber paths. The site is also a nature preserve, and it features interpretive nature trails, family-friendly activities, and a wetland visitor's center.
Norway played an incredible role in the early days of polar exploration, and if you're interested in this aspect of the country's history, the Fram Museum is a fascinating and rewarding place to spend an afternoon. The highlight of the museum is the 19th-century vessel Fram, an ice-defying wooden ship that still holds the world records for sailing the farthest south and farthest north, and visitors can step aboard to explore the ship's interior and learn about the early days of polar exploration. Other museum highlights include a polar simulator, a wildlife photography display, and an exhibition centered around the historic vessel Gjøa.
Bygdøynesveien 39, 0286 Oslo, Norway, Phone: +47-23-28-29-50
Gamle Fredrikstad is one of the warmest cities in Norway, and this doesn't just refer to the fact that the Hvaler islands off the shore are the sunniest spot in the entire country. The Fredrikstad locals are known for their welcoming demeanor, their cheerful sense of humor, and their willingness to direct visitors to their favorite cafes and attractions. However, if you're only here for the day, there's a good chance that you'll spend most of your time in the fortified Old Town, which was originally established in 1567 and remains one of the best-preserved Nordic towns of its kind.
Norway has no shortage of spectacular mountains and hiking trails, but if you're looking for an easy day trip from Oslo, you can't go wrong with Grefsenkollen. Located to the north of downtown Oslo, the lookout point at the top boasts wonderful views of the city and the surrounding area, and it can be reached by a fairly easy two-mile trail. Once you get to the summit, you can relax on the grassy slope overlooking the city, enjoy a meal or a drink in the excellent restaurant, or continue hiking into the forest or to the beautiful Lake Trollvann.
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Set at the tip of Lake Randsfjorden, Hadeland Glassverk is an industrial glassworks company that has operating continuously since 1762. The company is still known for designing and producing beautiful pieces of glassware, but it's now also a popular tourist destination with plenty of things to keep visitors of all ages entertained. Live glass blowing demonstrations are held on a regular basis, and the Glass Hut offers workshops where visitors can make their own drinking glass to take home. There is also a museum that visitors are welcome to explore on their own, and guided tours of the factory are available for an additional fee.
11.Henie-Onstad Art Center
Only 15 minutes away from downtown Oslo, the Henie-Onstad Art Center is a wonderful contemporary art museum that was established by Olympic figure skater Sonja Henie in 1968. The museum has been collecting domestic and international pieces of art since it was first opened, and many of them are displayed in the museum's 37,000 square feet of exhibition space. Outside, there's a beautiful sculpture park dotted with art pieces carefully chosen to complement the scenery. The center also hosts dance performances and music concerts all throughout the year, and if you time your visit right, you might be lucky enough to catch a show.
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A historic ski jump hill that was first opened in 1892, making it the oldest jump of its kind in the world, Holmenkollen is one of the country's most iconic landmarks. The ski jump is an incredible sight in and of itself, but the real reason to come here is the museum under the jump, which covers the history of skiing from 4,000 years ago until the present day. If you have time, you can also go up to the lookout platform on top of the jump tower, where you'll be rewarded with an incredible panoramic view of the city.
If you want to get out of Norway for the day and experience a different part of Europe, the city of Karlstad, Sweden is a wonderful choice. Tucked in between the Klarälven River and Lake Vänern, the city is laced with beautiful walking trails and spacious parks, and there are all sorts of opportunities to swim or boat in the summer and skate in the winter. It's also known for its excellent museums and historic attractions, with highlights including the Brigade Museum, the Naturum Värmland nature center, and Alsters Herrgård, a house museum that was formerly the home of poet Gustaf Fröding.
14.Kistefos Museum and Sculpture Park
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Nestled in the breathtaking Norwegian countryside, the Kistefos Museum and Sculpture Park is a seamless blend of culture, history, and nature. The museum site was formerly a paper mill, and this aspect of its history can be seen both in the old mill building that still stands on the property and in the museum exhibits, which tell the story of the people who used to live and work in the area. As for the sculpture park, it's a gorgeous space that straddles both sides of the river, and it boasts more than 45 sculptures by both Norwegian and international artists.
Samsmoveien 41, 3520 Jevnaker, Norway, Phone: +47-61-31-03-83
Approximately an hour away from Oslo, Kongsberg is a historic little town that provides a welcome contrast to the bustling city streets. Its name translates as “the mountain of the King", a reference to the fact that it's the home of both the Royal Norwegian Mint and of the King's Silver Mine, which dates back to the 1800s. Today, the mines are one of the area's most popular tourist attractions, and visitors can take a guided tour right into the depths of the mountain. Other attractions in the city include the Norwegian Mining Museum, the Church of Kongsberg, and the Kongsberg Ski Resort.
Sitting at the southern end of the Gudbrands Valley, Lake Mjøsa is the largest freshwater lake in Norway. The lake itself is particularly well known for its excellent fishing, especially when it comes to the famed Mjøsa trout, but non-fishermen can still enjoy the beauty of the lake by taking a cruise on a traditional paddle steamboat. While you're in the area, you can also make a stop in the lakeside town of Hamar, which features a massive ice-skating hall that was built for the 1994 Olympics, plenty of shops and restaurants, and the picturesque ruins of a medieval cathedral.
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The charming ski resort town of Lillehammer gained worldwide recognition after hosting the 1994 Winter Olympics, so it's not surprising that most of the biggest attractions here revolve around winter sports and the region's Olympic past. Many of the facilities created for the Olympics are still open to visitors, including the ski jumping hill and the cross-country ski stadium, and visitors can learn all sorts of fascinating behind-the-scenes information at the Norwegian Olympic Museum. When you've had enough of the Olympics, you can admire the art at the Lillehammer Art Museum or take your kids to the fairytale themed Hunderfossen Family Park.
18.Norwegian Folk Museum
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Situated on the Bygdoy Peninsula, the Norwegian Folk Museum is a fascinating outdoor museum that shows visitors how Norwegian people have lived from medieval times until the modern era. With a collection of more than 150 traditional homes from almost every region of Norway, it's one of the largest open-air museums in the world, and it also features some excellent indoor exhibits covering topics like traditional folk art and the culture of the indigenous Sami culture. During the summer, visitors can also feed farm animals, watch live handicraft demonstrations, and take horse and carriage rides around the property.
Museumsveien 10, 0287 Oslo, Norway, Phone: +47-22-12-37-00
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Widely believed to be the oldest town in Norway, Tønsberg dates back to the Viking Period, and it's a fascinating destination for anyone with even a mild interest in history. Visit the ruined 14th-century fortress at Mount Slottsfjell, spend some time at the Borre mound cemetery, or take a stroll through the harbor to see the replica 9th-century Oseberg ship. If you'd like to see the city's more modern side as well, you can check out the Andy Warhol paintings at the Haugar Vestfold Art Museum, enjoy the excellent restaurants in the harbor, or attend the Slottsfjell music festival that takes place every July.
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Established as an important Viking trading post in 997 A.D., Trondheim was the capital of Norway until 1217 A.D., and it has remained one of the country's largest and most vibrant cities to this very day. The elaborate 11th-century Nidaros Cathedral is one of the most elegant and historic buildings in the city, but there are plenty of more modern attractions as well, including the Rockheim museum of popular music, the beautiful Bymarka recreation area, and the many wonderful shopping streets. Visitors can also take a ferry out to the tiny island of Munkholmen, where there's a historic fort built in 1658.
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21.TusenFryd Family Park
If you're traveling with children and looking for an easy way to have fun, the TusenFryd Family Park is one of the best places you can go. Located in the tiny village of Vinterbro, it boasts more than 30 attractions for visitors to enjoy, making it the largest amusement park in the country. Many of the attractions are aimed at young children, but there are also a handful of roller coasters for visitors who want something more exhilarating. During the summer, the park also opens a water area with a swimming pool, a lazy river, and a thrilling water coaster.
Perched on the southernmost tip of Tjøme island, Verdens Ende, known in English as "World's End", is a picturesque recreation area made up of tiny islands and rocky shoreline. It's a great place to hike, and it's also a popular swimming destination when the weather permits, particularly because there's a designated family-friendly swim area. Many people also come here to fish off the islets and to admire the majestic views of the sea. However, the site's most iconic feature is Vippefyret, a replica 18th-century lighthouse that was constructed in 1932 using pebbles from the beach.
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Nowhere in Norway has as many signs of the country's Viking heritage as Vestfold county, so the area is practically bursting at the seams with historic attractions like burial mounds, remnants of ancient towns, and other significant archaeological sites. It also happens to be one of the country's most densely populated areas, and many of the towns and villages are connected by a series of trails that make it easy to explore the area while enjoying spectacular views of the sea. While you're in the area, you should also visit the painter Edvard Munch’s former summer home, which has been converted into a museum.
24.Viking Ships Museum
Another of the many excellent museums found on the Bygdoy Peninsula, the Viking Ships Museum is the proud home of three of the best-preserved Viking ships in the world. All three of the ships were discovered in ancient burial mounds, and the museum also displays a large collection of ancient textiles, tools, jewelry, small model ships, elaborate wood carvings, and other treasures that were discovered in the burial mounds along with the ships. As a bonus, your admission ticket can also be used for the nearby Historical Museum if used within 48 hours of purchase.
Huk Aveny 35, 0287 Oslo, Norway, Phone: +47-22-13-52-80
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24 Best Weekend Getaways and Day Trips from Oslo, Norway
- Bærums Verk, Photo: Thor Jorgen Udvang/stock.adobe.com
- Bergen, Photo: luluandisabelle/stock.adobe.com
- Bygdoy Peninsula, Photo: VLADO/stock.adobe.com
- Drobak, Photo: Calandra/stock.adobe.com
- Ekeberg, Photo: edita/stock.adobe.com
- Fetsund Lenser, Photo: Morten Almeland/stock.adobe.com
- Fram Museum, Photo: ablakat/stock.adobe.com
- Gamle Fredrikstad, Photo: dudlajzov/stock.adobe.com
- Grefsenkollen, Photo: Cezanne-Fotografie/stock.adobe.com
- Hadeland Glassverk, Photo: and_rue/stock.adobe.com
- Henie-Onstad Art Center, Photo: JackF/stock.adobe.com
- Holmenkollen, Photo: Einar Bog/stock.adobe.com
- Karlstad, Sweden, Photo: utamaria/stock.adobe.com
- Kistefos Museum and Sculpture Park, Photo: Africa Studio/stock.adobe.com
- Kongsberg, Photo: maslenka/stock.adobe.com
- Lake Mjosa, Photo: rambojojo/stock.adobe.com
- Lillehammer, Photo: its FR!TZ/stock.adobe.com
- Norwegian Folk Museum, Photo: Dmitry Naumov/stock.adobe.com
- Tonsberg, Photo: lstudio/stock.adobe.com
- Trondheim, Photo: dzbost/stock.adobe.com
- TusenFryd Family Park, Photo: CESARVR/stock.adobe.com
- Verdens Ende, Photo: juhumbert/stock.adobe.com
- Vestfold, Photo: Dmitry Naumov/stock.adobe.com
- Viking Ships Museum, Photo: jobipro/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: dudlajzov/stock.adobe.com