While I’ve had the pleasure to visit Oslo for a few days as part of a larger trip, I admit I’ve visited it more times as a layover on my way to somewhere else in the world. And, even though I had seen the city before, I always take my time to go to the capital to explore more and get to know more about its history and beautiful culture.
Thanks to Norwegian Air (which is based in Oslo) and its low-price flights from the US and all over the world, it is now easier to have layovers in the Norwegian capital city. With the airport just a smooth one-hour train ride away from the city center, it is easy to hop in, sightsee, and head back to the airport to continue your journey.
To make the most of your 24 hours layover, here are a few sights I believe you shouldn’t miss.
1. Akershus Fortress
I love this fortress, and I almost always visit it when in the city. It is famous for being one of the few fortresses that were never conquered, thanks to its ingenious design and strategic location. Well, there’s one small exception when the Nazis walked in without a fight during WWII – but hey, that wasn’t fought, so the fortification had no play in it.
Throughout its history, Akershus Fortress has had an age-old role as the seat of kings and the center of government. Today, it is often used for public events, and it also houses the Royal Mausoleum. The view of the city from this fortress is just as impressive as the structure itself.
The fort was originally built in 1299 under King Håkon V, but it was later restructured by King Christian IV during the 17th century to look more like a renaissance castle and royal residence. It was then re-modified one last time in the 19th century, giving it an architectural gradient that spans 700 years of royal and military designs and tactics.
2. Edvard Munch Museet and House
Edvard Munch is Oslo’s and one of Norway’s most prominent artist. The Edvard Munch Museet houses a large part of Munch’s most famous and most obscure art, including his best-known masterpiece, the Scream. What’s also interesting to see in the museum is how Oslo influenced Munch’s art and how he reinterpreted the city, the Norwegian fjords, and the streets of Oslo through his unique brush strokes.
If you’re a fan of Munch, you can also head to his house which is located in Asgardstrand, Norway – just two hours away from Oslo by train. This is a longer trip, so make sure you have enough time to go there and come back in time for your flight!
While it is a small house with just three rooms, this well-kept home is where you can best see Munch’s early life as it was his first home. There you can see some of his most famous paintings depicting the local area, including the “Girls on the Bridge” scene.
Among the original features are Munch’s paint kit and toothbrush. Also, the landscapes around the house might be familiar to you as the artist has painted them.3. Oslo’s Opera House
3. Oslo’s Opera House
The first time I visited Norway in collaboration with Visit Norway, they recommended me to take some time to see the Opera House. As an architect myself, I knew this was a must-see item on my city bucket list. The Norwegian National Opera & Ballet is Norway’s largest performing arts institution, and an architectural landmark.
Designed by Norwegian architects Snøhetta, this opera house is the first one in the world that lets visitors walk on the roof and all the way to the water’s edge. The design is an abstract reinterpretation of an enormous glacier sliding into the fjord. The sloping roofs angle down to the water like a jagged chunk of ice and the white granite combined with the white marble create the illusion of glistening ice. The design connects the land and sea, making the Opera House seem like if it is rising out of the fjord.
Today, the building is an integral part of the city’s urban landscape, since it also serves as an urban plaza where local and tourists congregate to spend some leisure time. If you’re into Opera and performance art, I recommend checking their calendar to see if there’s any notable performance you can assist while you’re there.
There is no better place to spend the summer in Oslo than in its Oslofjord, south of the city. One thing to note is that while it is named Oslofjord, it is not a fjord in geological terms. In Norwegian, the word fjord can refer to a wide range of waterways. Still, it is a beautiful and very picturesque are worth visiting to relax for a few hours or to enjoy the (relatively cold-ish – for me) water.
Surprisingly (for me), there is a vibrant beach and boat life in the area. On your way there, you’ll also see some of its idyllic seaside villages where you can hop off for a stroll or eat in some of their delicious restaurants.
5. Viking Ship Museum
Naturally, in a country where so much Viking history happened, you should take some time to visit the Viking Ship Museum. It houses archaeological finds like beds, wood carvings, horse cart, sledges, and more found in Tune, Gokstad (Sandefjord), Oseberg (Tønsberg) and the Borre mound cemetery. But, the main attractions are the Oseberg ship, Gokstad ship, and Tune ship.
Of these, the most famous one is the Oseberg ship, which is a whole ship excavated from the largest known ship burial in the world. A ship burial is a burial in which a ship or boat is used either as a container for the dead and the grave goods or as a part of the grave goods itself.
If Viking history is what interest you the most, then you can head south of the city to the Viking Mounds of Vestfold, which is where the Oseberg ship was found, and where you can still see the “cemetery park” where these ships were buried.
Certainly, these five sights are way more than what can be done in just a day, but you can choose what to do and see depending on your sightseeing preferences.