Although Oslo, Norway might not be the first place couples in love consider visiting on a honeymoon or romantic vacation, a trip to the oldest and sunniest Scandinavian capital shouldn't be overlooked.
For couples who love the outdoors, breathtaking scenery, eating the freshest fish and participating in sports of all kinds, Oslo is a magnificent gateway to the rest of Norway. And if you love city life, culture, history, museums, restaurants, and people watching, plan to spend at least a few days at the beginning of your Norway journey in Oslo.
Your visit can begin with a flight from the nearest Norwegian Air gateway to Oslo. And you'll be impressed by the efficient Flytoget express train that can transport you directly from the airport to Oslo's Central Station.
Now discover the unique charms Oslo holds for couples on the following slides. With an Oslo Pass, you can get discounted admission to many of them plus the hop-on-hop-off bus, boat sightseeing, free entry to swimming pools, free guided walks, and unlimited free travel by bus, tram, underground, boat and local train within the city.
Until you get your bearings, following the Stranden is a good way to acclimate yourself to the city. The social hub of Oslo, the Stranden is a prime place for dining and people-watching with a water view.
In summer, couples eat at open-air restaurants or queue up for waffles or ice cream at freestanding vendors along the waterfront promenade. There's plenty of seating along wooden steps to observe the active harbor, where you can see everything from swimmers to kayakers, to sail and motor boats, to cruise ships that hold thousands of passengers.
The Stranden leads to the City Hall and ferry terminal across from it. There you can take a sightseeing tour by boat, sail to Museum Island, or opt for a dinner cruise.
Wondering where the shopping is in Oslo? It's clustered on a street parallel to and behind the Stranden; the best-known store is H&M. Find even more retail in the area around Karl Johans Gate and in the Oslo City Shopping Center.
Vigeland Park Museum
The magnum opus of sculptor Gustav Vigeland (1869-1943) is the world's largest sculpture park. This outdoor museum contains more than 200 works that took Vigeland some 40 years to create.
Influenced by August Rodin, Vigeland conceived the sculpture park to express the theme of "circle of life" from birth to death and rebirth. All statues are unnamed and nude, from the small granite babies to the young men and women, singly and in couples, to the stooped elderly.
The centerpiece of Vigeland Park Museum is the 56-foot tall Monolith, a totem that incorporates 121 figures carved from a solid piece of granite. To reach it, visitors walk along well-manicured, tree-shaded grounds.
In summer, rose bushes in a riot of colors enhance a romantic stroll to appreciate the art and consider your own place in the circle of life.
Holmenkollen Ski Jump and Other High Points
Opened in 2010 and the world's only steel slope, the Holmenkollen Ski Jump quickly became the #1 tourist attraction in Oslo, even when there's not a snowflake to be found.
Thanks to the Holmenkollen zipline, visitors can follow the same route as ski jumpers and whiz down the nearly 1,200 feet from the top of the slope to the bottom of the hill. Those who don't have their eyes squeezed shut can take in a bird's eye view of Oslo, "blue and green and city in between."
Could you take an even more courageous leap and get married at the very top of the Holmenkollen Ski Jump? With enough kroners, it is possible.
Also on site: a Ski Museum that references 4,000 years of the sport, the polar expeditions of Roald Amundsen and other explorers, different kinds of cold-weather equipment, and dioramas including one with a life-size polar bear.
Warm up or cool down at the café at the base of the jump. And if you'd like to stay longer, the adjacent Hotel Holmenkollen Park, a former sanitarium originally built in the timber "dragon style" of architecture in 1894, will help you feel fine in no time. It also has several dining rooms appropriate for wedding celebrations.
Oslo's Museum Island
Several of Oslo's most popular museums are located on a hilly island reachable by both ferry and car via a bridge from the mainland.
The attractions include:
- Fram Museum - displays the wooden ship that sailed to both the North and South Poles
- Norwegian Folk Museum - featuring a stave church from 1200
- The Kon-Tiki Museum - exhibits from Thor Heyerdahl's journeys
- The Viking Ship Museum - holds ships dating from the 9th century
- The Norwegian Maritime Museum - focuses on Norway's ship-building strengths
- Holocaust Center - occupied during World War II by Norwegian Nazi-leader Vidkun Quisling, the center today documents the genocide and also focuses on religious minorities
There's also a beach, bike paths, art exhibits, restaurants, and splendid views of the center of Oslo.
Explore Norway's History at Akershus Castle and Fortress
Dating back to the early 14th century, Akershus Fortress held off every siege launched at it and protected this part of the Viking homeland for centuries. In time it also served as a naval fortress and prison.
Open to the public now and offering guided tours, Akershus Fortress is home to the Akershus Castle church, the Royal Mausoleum, castle banquet halls, and the Armed Forces Museum and Norway's Resistance Museum.
The collection of the Resistance Museum is dedicated to the movement that rebelled against the country's five-year Nazi occupation. In the fall of 1945, traitor Vidkun Quisling was executed by firing squad on adjacent grounds.
Marvel at Munch in Two Oslo Museums
Edvard Munch (1863—1944), Norway's best-known artist, is represented in two Oslo museums.
The eponymous Edvard Munch Museum contains more than half of the lugubrious painter's canvases and most of his prints. It has one painted version of The Scream and one pastel iteration. And if you feel like lunch at Munch, the museum café offers coffee and light fare.
The modern expressionist is also represented in Oslo's National Gallery, which holds two versions of The Scream and several other works by the artist as well as Norway's largest public collection of paintings, drawings and sculptures.
Visit Oslo's Peaceful City Hall
City Hall is an easily recognized, twin-towered brick building across from the Stranden. It's in here that the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded (the other Nobel prizes are bestowed in Stockholm).
Don't miss the priceless, life-size woodcuts on the building's exterior inspired by ancient sagas. If you have time, go inside City Hall: the wall murals would be worth the price of admission, if admission were charged (it's not). Covering portions of all four walls, they colorfully and expressively relate the history of Norway and its people.
Sing the Praises of Oslo's Opera House
You don't have to be opera lovers to be moved by the appearance of the Norwegian National Opera & Ballet building. Designed by the Snohetta firm with distinctive glass walls, a roof that's a platform visitors can walk upon, and dramatic angles that appear to descend into the sea, the Opera House opened in 2008.
Fifty-minute guided tours lead visitors backstage and reveal more about the architecture and the artworks that make this structure both literally and figuratively outstanding.
Treat Yourselves to a Meal at Tjuvholmen Sjomagasin
Seafood has long been a staple at the Norwegian table, and the chefs at Tjuvholmen Sjomagasin restaurant raise the preparation and cooking of it to art.
Set along the water's edge on Tjuvholmen Island, the high-ceilinged, glass-walled restaurant is also transparent inside, with an open kitchen. There chefs artfully and painstakingly combine fresh ingredients with fish and shellfish selected at their peak of flavor. The menu is small, so before you go, make sure everything appeals.
In summer our meal began with a foamy amuse bouche with slivers of octopus. It was followed with a lightly cured salmon and king crab appetizer enhanced with scallions and horseradish.
The entree was a perfectly cooked piece of halibut on a bed of risotto with asparagus. Dessert was the only disappointment: Juicy summer strawberries and rhubarb were buried under a blob of bland vanilla ice cream decorated with broken meringue crackers. We'd have been happier with an unpretentious dish of strawberries and cream.
Steal Away to The Thief Spa
Oslo's coolest and most contemporary hotel, The Thief recently added a day spa to its property on Tjuvholmen Island, a short walk from the Stranden.
Whether you want to swim indoors in the dead of winter, steam in fall, beautify before a wedding or after a day at the beach, have a facial, massage or couples treatment, you can do it here. And the facility boasts Oslo's first hammam.
Yet if you simply want to see and savor Oslo, breathe in the fresh air, have your spirit elevated by the beauty of the scenery, and bring a healthy glow to your skin, simply go outside and take a brisk walk. There's much to discover and appreciate here.