We visited Oslo in August 2013. Even though Oslo is Scandinavia’s oldest capital (founded in 1048), the center felt more modern than many European cities, and the city seemed to be a jumble of many architectural styles.
Oslo is very different from Stockholm and Copenhagen, partly due to a more “small town” atmosphere and less of the grand European architecture than the other two capitals. I grew up in a small town in western Washington State, called Poulsbo. It was known as “little Norway” and every year we had a “Viking Fest” (festival) since many of town’s original settlers in the 1800’s were from Norway. After visiting Oslo, I now get it—the setting of the city surrounded by forested rolling hills located on a 60 mile-long fjord (or bay) felt very familiar to me.
Since our visit was part of a Northern European cruise, we only had a day. We saw a lot, and I highly recommend these sights.
Viking Ship Museum. The Viking age lasted from 800 to 1050 AD. They ruled the seas with their fast, well-built ships and explored all the way to North America and as far south as the Mediterranean Sea. To see these original, near-perfectly preserved ships from the 9th century was quite exciting.
These ships were tombs for noblemen, and covered over in burial mounds with their jewelry, weaponry and other items. Except for grave robbers that took the valuables shortly after the burial, the ships were left totally intact and the wood was preserved due to the blue clay and turf used. The ships were excavated between 1867 and 1904.
Akershus Fortress. The fortress dates from the 1290’s. In a grassy square on the property is a plaque recalling several executions that took place here by the Nazis in World War II. A number of Norwegian royal families are buried here. Even if you don’t go inside, the grounds offer a great view of Oslo’s harbor.
Vigeland Sculpture Park. If you enjoy odd nude statues in all kinds of configurations and emotions, this is your park. The statues depict human life from birth to death. There are stone, iron and bronze statues here by Gustav Vigeland. It is a beautiful, large park and definitely worth seeing.
Other tips: Oslo is a very expensive city, a can of Coke will cost you $6. The “hop on, hop off” bus was a good way to get around to the major sites. August was a great time to visit; the weather was beautiful and warm.