There’s a name for the way Oslo makes you feel. The Norwegians call it ‘kos’ but it’s less a word than a state of mind, an instant happiness that comes with feeling safe, warm and good together. It can refer to the simple things in life, whether that’s cradling a hot cup of coffee on a cold winter’s morning, or the joy of spending time with your loved ones.
While we can’t guarantee you’ll get the feeling of ‘kos’ when you set foot in Oslo, there are some places you can head that will set you well on the way. It’s a city brimming with culture and tradition, but with all the modern appeal you’d expect of such a metropolis.
If you’ve booked yourself an Oslo cruise from Southampton, or you’re jumping straight into Scandinavia, here are just some ideas to help you make the most of your time in the cool Norwegian capital.
Things to do on your Oslo cruise
Winter ice bathing
What is a holiday without doing something a little out of the ordinary? When you dock in Oslo, hike to the top of the Opera House and look towards the Langkaia pier for the fjordside saunas. An urban sauna culture taking the city by storm, and this is your chance to embrace it. Ancient and ritualistic, winter ice bathing is nothing new to Norway but KOK Oslo’s wood-fired sauna boats are; each eco-friendly hut cruises the inner fjord to combine sightseeing with cold-water swimming.
Head further around the waterfront where you’ll find SALT, a cluster of nomadic wooden pyramids that wouldn’t look out of place at Glastonbury. Each steam bath varies in size, from the Árdna, one of the biggest in the world, to the Barrel, a smaller sauna built inside a 100-year-old aquavit barrel.
Reconnect with nature
Friluftsliv was first coined by Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen in 1859, but the concept it describes – of time spent outdoors, reconnecting with nature – is one that has been intrinsic to the culture here for hundreds of years. Best of all, it’s free.
Oslo is hailed as one of the greenest capitals in Europe. There’s no shortage of urban parks on the outskirts of the city centre, all of which are within walking distance of the port, open all hours and free to visit. Among them is Losæter, a green oasis you’ll find wedged between construction sites and heavy traffic in Bjørvika.
Even with parks excluded, Oslo’s proximity to nature is unique. Ferries wait to shuttle you to the smattering of islands off the mainland, where talk inevitably turns to how good life would be lived in your cabin on the water, your morning commute made by boat. On dry land, trams trundle the 20 minutes or so to wildernesses such as Nordmarka. This forest looks just like any other, but a thousand of the trees growing here for the last decade are destined for great things, albeit not for almost a century yet.
Norway’s National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design
You’ll need to embark on an Oslo cruise later in the year to make the most of the latest addition to the city’s cultural scene. Norway’s new National Museum is set to open its doors on 11 June 2022, giving the city’s visitors another highlight to add to their ever-growing list.
Complete with 5000 works of art, the National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design spans two floors and almost 90 rooms. One area that will be well worth a look is a room dedicated to Edvard Munch, where you get the opportunity to see The Scream first hand.
The museum is located close to the harbour, so will be just a short walk away from where you’ll dock on your Oslo cruise.
There’s an eeriness to the sculptures in Ekebergparken, where views overlook either the peaceful fjord islands or the space-age Barcode District. On the other side of town, Vigeland is the largest sculpture park in the world by a single artist; Gustav Vigeland created more than 200 works in bronze, granite and cast iron, charting the circle of life from birth to death in various, often bizarre, manners. The installation remains one of Norway’s top tourist attractions.
Where to eat and drink in Oslo
If trying out local dishes is a must on your Oslo cruise, the good news is this city is practically brimming with options. From the traditional to the downright off-the-wall, there’s no shortage of places to try Norwegian fayre first hand and tick another location off your list of culinary adventures.
Mathallen Food Hall
The Mathallen Food Hall is compact but bijou and its independent traders are a tasty bunch. Whether it’s a bowl of oysters in creamy broth at Vulkanfisk, Asian street food but not as you know it at Hitchhiker, duck confit on crusty bread at Galopin, or all of the above, shared with friends at one of the long communal tables, the amount of choice alone makes it too tasty an option to miss. Finish up with drinks at Smelteverket in the basement, home to Oslo’s longest bar and one of the best craft beer selections in the city.
When nothing will do but a burger after an afternoon spent working up an appetite shopping Grunerløkka’s vintage treasures, head for Illegal Burger. With names like ‘Sweet Baby Cheesus’ and ‘Lookin’ for truffle?’, the tongue-in-cheek menu is enough to lure you in and the perfectly-cooked beef patties topped with everything from truffle oil mushrooms to chipotle hummus will make it worth your while. Everything on the menu can be made suitable for vegans and vegetarians, too.
Tim Wendelboe on Grünersgate 1
Oslo is Scandinavia’s coffee capital and if you only drink one cup of joe during your time here, make it an espresso at Tim Wendelboe on Grünersgate 1. Wendelboe was Oslo’s original coffee pioneer, an award-winner and innovator whose namesake coffee shop has turned his and our favourite hot drink into an all-out experience for coffee connoisseurs.
For something a little more intoxicating, delve into the alchemistic rabbit hole that is Himkok. Tucked behind the number 27 on a grey door on the Storgata, the bar reminiscent of a Prohibition-era hideaway doesn’t just pour spirits, it makes them. Every night of the week until 3am, white-jacketed mixologists combine Nordic flavours like seaweed, cloudberry, pine needle and Brunost cheese with Himkok aquavit, gin and vodka distilled on site. Such uncommon concoctions have earned Himkok a place on The World’s 50 Best Bars list numerous times, while an unshakeable dedication to local produce and on-site processes saw it awarded the first-ever Ketel One Sustainable Bar Award in 2018.
For a cold brew with a view, jump on one of the many electric scooters used by locals to get around and tear along the harbour to Vippa. This multicultural food and drink court gazes upon the kind of scenery that leaves you unable to resist photographing your beer with a fjord backdrop. If a picture really speaks a thousand words, this one says that Oslo has the natural beauty and intoxicating personality to make its price tags feel totally and utterly bearable.
Feeling inspired? Click here to see a selection of Oslo cruises.