Main Arteries & Streets -- Oslo is at the mouth of the Oslofjord, which is 97km (60 miles) in length. Opening onto the harbor is Rådhusplassen (City Hall Square), dominated by the modern City Hall, a major attraction. Guided bus tours leave from this point, and the launches that cruise the fjords depart from the pier facing the municipal building. You can catch Bygdøy-bound ferries from the quay at Rådhusplassen. On a promontory to the east is Akershus Castle.
Karl Johans Gate, Oslo's main street (especially for shopping and strolling), is north of City Hall Square. This boulevard begins at Oslo Sentralstasjon (Central Station) and stretches all the way to the 19th-century Royal Palace at the western end.
A short walk from the palace is the famed Studenter Lunden (Students' Grove), where seemingly everybody gathers on summer days to socialize. The University of Oslo is nearby. Dominating this center is the National Theater, guarded by statues of Ibsen and Bjørnson, the two greatest names in Norwegian theater. South of the theater, near the harbor, is Stortingsgaten, another shop-filled street.
The main city square is Stortorvet, although it's no longer the center of city life, which has shifted to Karl Johans Gate.
At a subway stop near the National Theater, you can catch an electric train to Tryvannstårnet, the loftiest lookout in Scandinavia, and to the Holmenkollen Ski Jump.
Finding an Address -- Street numbers begin on the southern end of streets running north-south and on the eastern end of streets running east-west. Odd numbers are on one side of the street, and even numbers on the other. Where large buildings hold several establishments, different addresses are designated with A, B, and C.
Street Maps -- Maps of Oslo are distributed free at the tourist office. For extensive exploring, especially of some back streets, you may need a more detailed map. Opt for a pocket-size map with a street index that can be opened and folded like a wallet. Such maps are sold at most newsstands in the central city. If you can't find a map, go to the city's most central bookstore, Tanum Karl Johan, Karl Johans Gate 43 (tel. 22-41-11-00).
Neighborhoods in Brief
Oslo is made for walking -- in fact, you can walk from the Central Station all the way to the Royal Palace (Slottet) in a straight line. Except for excursions to the museum-loaded Bygdøy peninsula and the Holmenkollen Ski Jump, most attractions can be covered on foot.
Oslo is not neatly divided into separate neighborhoods or districts. It consists mainly of central Oslo, with the Central Station to the east of the city center and the Royal Palace to the west. Karl Johans Gate, the principal street, connects these two points. Central Oslo is the heart of the city -- the most crowded and traffic-congested, but also the most convenient place to stay. Those on the most rushed of schedules -- the average visitor spends only 2 days in Oslo -- will book accommodations in the center. It's not a real neighborhood, but it's the core of the city, as Piccadilly Circus is to London. Most Oslo hotels and restaurants are here, as are almost 50 museums and galleries -- enough to fill many a rainy day. The best of the lot include Akershus Castle, the Historical Museum, and the National Gallery.
The streets Drammensveien and Frognerveien lead northwest to Frogner Park (Frognerparken), whose main entrance is on Kirkeveien. This historical area is the site of the Vigeland Sculpture Park, which displays some of Gustav Vigeland's masterpieces.
The Old Town (or Gamlebyen) lies south of the Parliament Building (the Stortinget) and Karl Johans Gate. This section contains some of the city's old-fashioned restaurants, along with the Norwegian Resistance Museum and the Old Town Hall. A stay here is the same as staying in central Oslo . The only difference is that the streets of the Old Town have more old-fashioned Norwegian flavor than the more modern parts of central Oslo.
Aker Brygge is Oslo's newest neighborhood, an excellent place for dining and diversions, but not for hotels as it is sadly lacking in those. For sights along the waterfront, it's the best place for long walks to take in the port life. It emerged near the mouth of the Oslofjord in the old wharf area formerly used for shipbuilding yards. Fueled by oil wealth, steel-and-glass buildings now rise from what had been a relatively dilapidated section. Some of the best shops, theaters, restaurants, and cultural attractions are here, along with apartments for such well-heeled owners as Diana Ross.
The main attractions in Eastern Oslo are the Botanisk Hage (Botanic Garden), the Zoological Museum, and the Munch Museum in Tøyen -- little more is worth seeing here. Unless you're interested in seeing those sights mentioned, you might skip eastern Oslo. However, thousands of visitors head here just to see the Munch Museum.
The West End is a chic residential area graced with some of the city's finest hotels and restaurants. It's a more tranquil setting than the center and only 15 minutes away by public transportation. Many visitors who stay here don't mind the short commute and prefer this area to the more traffic-clogged center. However, for walking and sightseeing, central Oslo and its port are more alluring. There is little to see in the West End unless you like walking up and down pleasant residential streets.
Farther west -- 6km (3 3/4 miles) by car, but better reached by car ferry -- is the Bygdøy peninsula. Here you'll find such attractions as the Norwegian Folk Museum, the Viking ships, the polar ship Fram, and the Kon-Tiki Museum. Break up your sightseeing venture with a meal here, but plan to stay elsewhere.
The suburb of Frogner begins .8km (1/2 mile) west of Oslo's center and stretches for a mile or so. Unless you specifically have business here, you can probably skip this section of the city.
Lying behind the S-station, the main rail station for Oslo, is the Grønland district, where many Oslovians go for ethnic dining. There is little of sightseeing interest in this ghettolike area. Many refugees from Pakistan and India, among other countries, fill the area; however, the town's best Indian and Pakistani restaurants lie within more upscale neighborhoods. Come here for affordable dining, not for long, leisurely walks. On a hurried visit, you could afford to skip Grønland entirely without suffering any cultural loss.
At last, once-staid Oslo has grown big and diverse enough to have its own trendy, counterculture district. Lying in east Oslo is trendy Grünerløkka, which most of its inhabitants refer to affectionately as "Løkka." This once-run-down sector of Oslo traditionally was known as the worker's district. Today many professional Oslovians are moving in to restore apartments, and the district is the site of several fashionable cafes and restaurants. If you're young with a roving eye at night, you might want to check out some of the establishments in this area.
Many Oslo neighborhoods lie along the Oslofjord, which stretches more than 97km (60 miles) north from the Skagerrak to Oslo. Basins dotted with islands fill the fjord. (There are 40 islands in the immediate Oslo archipelago.) Chances are, you won't be staying or dining along the fjord, but might consider a boat trip along the water, as it's a grand attraction on a summer day.
Nearly all visitors want to see Holmenkollen, a wooded range of hills northwest of the city rising to about 226m (741 ft.). You can reach it in 35 minutes by electric train from the city center. Skiers might want to stay here in winter, lodging at the Holmenkollen Park Hotel Rica. Otherwise, visit for the view and perhaps make it a luncheon stopover, then head back to the historic core.
Marka, Oslo's forest, is a sprawling recreation area with hiking, bicycle riding, skiing, fishing, wild-berry picking, jogging trails, and more. It contains 343 lakes, 500km (310 miles) of ski trails, 623km (386 miles) of trails and roads, 11 sports chalets, and 24 ski jumps and alpine slopes. If you like to go for long walks on summer days, Marka's the spot for you. It's also one of the best places in Greater Oslo for a picnic.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.