Last updated: 11:50 AM ET, Sat November 16 2019
View of Oslo between city and typical nordic cottage (Damien VERRIER / iStock / Getty Images Plus)


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The Storting, the Norwegian parliament in Oslo (Leonid Andronov / iStock / Getty Images Plus)
The Storting, the Norwegian parliament in Oslo (Leonid Andronov / iStock / Getty Images Plus)

Oslo, Norway, the capital of the country and its biggest city, is as much about woods and lakes as it is about urban living. Certainly, Oslo has its urban aspects and is, in fact, a cosmopolitan city that is a major cultural center, with more than 50 museums. One of its main museums is the the Munch Museum, and there’s also the National Gallery; the Norwegian Museum of Applied Arts; the Thor Heyerdahl Kon-Tiki Museum and the Norwegian Folk Museum, both on Bygdøy Island. You can visit the Viking Ships Museum; Oslo City Museum; and the Norwegian Home Front Museum, which tells the story of the country’s occupation during World War II. The Ibsen Museum was the playwright’s home prior to his death in 1906. New attractions in Oslo include the Nobel Peace Centre and the Holocaust Center.

But, as is true throughout Norway, the great outdoors is part of the fabric of the city, much which is woods, islands in Oslo Fjord, and lakes. Even one of its museums is about outdoor recreation, the Museum of Skiing at Holmenkollen ski jumping complex. Oslo is an old city, and the oldest part is the area called Gamlebyen (east to the city center). Here you can find ruins of medieval churches and monasteries, including the gardens and an 18th-century building from a bishop’s farm dating back to the 1300s.

Norway, like other Scandinavian countries, is very egalitarian, but it has a regal past, The Kongelige Slott (Royal Palace) is testament to this. Down by the harbor, the Akershus fortress, guarded by canons and thick walls, includes the small but beautiful Akershus castle within the fortress. Locals say the castle is haunted by victims of heinous deeds of long-dead kings. Another great monument is the wedding-cake style architecture of the Stortinget (Parliament Building),

It offers a varied shopping experience. There’s the city center around Karl Johansgate, with global brands such as H&M and Benetton. For a mix of exclusive brands and affordable items, visit the Majorstuen district, particularly the streets of Bogstadveien and Hegdehaugsveien. And if you love Scandinavian design, don’t miss Grünerløkka where you’ll find young Norwegian designers in small, independent shops with clothes, pottery and handicrafts. The Frogner - Bygdøy allé neighborhood also has a good selection of exclusive, modern interior design shops and small independent designers selling everything from underwear to kitchen utensils.

Oslo's nightlife centers on the Aker Brygge waterside area, the city center, and the Majorstua district. There are bars, cafés and nightclubs; city center clubs and pubs are open until 3 a.m (note: sometimes the evening doesn’t really start until 11 p.m.). The atmosphere depends on the time of day; a cafe or bar might be more of a restaurant during the day, and then become a club with DJ, music and drinks at night. The restaurant scene runs the gamut from the rustic to some of the world’s best. You can choose from good, old-fashioned rustic food, delicious dishes of fish, game, moose and reindeer or stimulating culinary dishes from every corner of the world.

The public transportation system in Oslo gives you several options for traveling within the city. The underground, buses, trams and ferries share a ticket system, which makes it easy to get around. Oslo is easy to get to -- there are more than 200 international flights a day into the country.