Oslo | is the capital city of Norway

Oslo is the capital city of Norway. It was founded in AD 1048 by the Viking king Harald Hardråde. Historically, the city is also known as Christiania or Kristiania.



Where is Oslo located?

Norway is a kingdom in the north-western corner of Europe. Its capital city, Oslo, is located in the south-eastern part of the country, at the northern end of the Oslofjord. Oslo had its humble beginnings at the mouth of the river Alna. Today, this early section of Oslo is called Gamlebyen – the old town.

When was Oslo founded?

According to the saga writer Snorri Sturluson, Oslo was founded by the last Viking king, Harald Hardråde. It is believed to have taken place in the year AD 1048.

What does the name Oslo mean?

The name Oslo is believed to mean the flatland of the gods – or – the flatland under the hill.

Who is Oslo’s patron saint?

The patron saint of Oslo is St Hallvard. Hallvard was killed in AD 1043, during a failed attempt at saving a pregnant slave woman accused of theft.

When did Oslo become Norway’s capital city?

Oslo acted as Norway’s capital city during periods of the Middle Ages. But it was not until Norway was reborn as a national state, in 1814, that Oslo became home of the country’s national institutions. Norway was in a union with either Denmark and/or Sweden between AD 1397 and 1905. In 1905, Norway declared full independence, elected its own king, and made Oslo its capital in every sense.

Once called Christiania and Kristiania

When the old Oslo burned in 1624, the city was moved closer to the nearby Akershus Castle. At the time, Norway was under Danish rule, and the new city was named Christiania after the Danish king. From 1877, the spelling was changed to Kristiania. It was not until 1925, 20 years after Norway’s full independence as a national state in 1905, that the city was given the name of the original settlement, Oslo.

How many people live in Oslo?

Today, Oslo has around 700,000 inhabitants, and more than 1 million when including the surrounding districts. At the time of Norway’s first complete census, in 1769, Oslo had a population of 7,496. The city was number three in size, after Bergen with 13,735 and Kongsberg with 8,086.

Surrounded by forests and hills

Oslo is located by the Oslofjord and is surrounded by forest-clad hilltops. In Oslo you can experience city life and go for a hike in the forest on the very same day.

The king and the royal household

Oslo is home to the Norwegian monarch and the royal household. The king has no less than three residences within the city borders: a palace, a farm, and a lodge. The current king of Norway is his Majesty King Harald 5. His queen consort is Her Majesty Queen Sonja. They were both born in 1937, and got married in 1968.

The Royal Palace

The Royal Palace in Oslo is not the largest of palaces, but it is beautifully located upon a small hill in the city centre. It was completed in 1849, and is open to the public during the summer months. The palace is the monarch’s main home, it is Norway’s official residence, and it houses the royal court’s offices. In 2017, the palace’s old stables opened as a museum and concert venue. It is named The Queen Sonja Art Stable and is well worth a visit.

The royal palace in Oslo. | Photo: Oslo Museum cc by-sa.
The royal palace in Oslo. | Photo: Oslo Museum cc by-sa.

The Bygdøy Royal Farm

The king and queen’s summer residence is The Bygdøy Royal Farm. It is located by the fjord, on the beautiful Bygdøy peninsula, a 10-minute drive away from the palace.

The Royal Lodge Kongsseteren

The Royal Lodge Kongsseteren, at Holmenkollen, is a picturesque log house used by the royal family over the Christmas period. It is placed on one of the hills surrounding the city, and it was here that the late King Olav 5 of Norway passed away in 1991.

The Akershus Castle

The Akershus Castle – or fortress – is located in the very centre of Oslo, overlooking the fjord. The medieval castle was completed in the 1300s, and has survived a number of sieges. It was remodelled and modernised in the 1600s. In the past, the castle has been used as a royal residence, and it includes a chapel, reception rooms, the royal mausoleum, and much more.

Akershus Castle in Oslo. | © redaktion93 - stock.adobe.com.
Akershus Castle in Oslo. | © redaktion93 – stock.adobe.com.

The Royal Mausoleum

The Royal Mausoleum at Akershus Castle was consecrated on 16 December 1949. Queen Maud of Norway, who died in 1938, was the first of the new modern-day royals to be entombed there. Today, the royal mausoleum at Akershus is the burial place for King Haakon 7, Queen Maud, King Olav 5, and Crown Princess Märtha. Within the walls of the mausoleum area, are also the remains of Middle Age monarchs, moved from the original locations within the ruins of churches located in the old Oslo.

The royal mausoleum at Akershus Castle in Oslo | Photo: Per E. Hadland | Wikimedia - CC BY-SA 3.0.
The royal mausoleum at Akershus Castle in Oslo | Photo: Per E. Hadland | Wikimedia – CC BY-SA 3.0.

The parliament building – Stortinget

Norway established its modern-day parliament assembly after the rebirth of the Norwegian national state in 1814. However, the country did not get a designated parliament building until 1866. The Norwegian parliament is called Stortinget, both the assembly and the building. The name could be translated as the great assembly. The Norwegian parliament has 169 members. The parliament building is simple and accessible, and is located alongside Oslo’s main street, Karl Johans gate.

The parliament building in Oslo, Stortinget. | © A. Jedynak - stock.adobe.com.
The parliament building in Oslo, Stortinget. | © A. Jedynak – stock.adobe.com.

The river Akerselva gave Oslo the energy to grow

With the new-born Norwegian national state in 1814, establishing Oslo as the kingdom’s capital city, came also growth. The population increased from 13,000 in 1814 to 250,000 in the year 1900. A large portion of this growth was made possible by the rapid industrialisation that emerged alongside Oslo’s largest river, Akerselva. Akerselva is often used as the metaphor for the border between the east and the west side of Oslo, where the east represents the working-class areas. In recent decades, the buildings and areas along the river have gone through extensive development and refurbishment, and is a vibrant and popular part of the city.

Casey Kasem’s eternal resting place

Those of you familiar with the Scooby-Doo character Shaggy, and the radio program America’s Top 40, know the voice of the great voice-artist and radio personality Casey Kasem. In 2014, as fate would have it, Casey Kasem was laid to rest in Norwegian soil, at the peaceful and beautiful Vestre Gravlund cemetery in Oslo. On 19 October 1985, it was Casey Kasem who announced the pop group A-ha, and their song Take on me, as the first Norwegian number 1 act in US chart history. To Casey Kasem we would like to say: you and your voice were a gift, even in a faraway land like Norway, and we are proud to have you amongst us.

The Scream – Edvard Munch’s famous painting

Edvard Munch (1863-1944) was a Norwegian painter, and his maybe most famous work worldwide is the painting The Scream. Munch made several versions, the first one in 1893. The work can be found both at The National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design – and – The Munch Museum, both located in Oslo. On the surface, Munch’s paintings, lithographs, and drawings may seem simple and childlike. But we strongly recommend that you take the opportunity to see more of his work when visiting Oslo. You may be surprised at the profound effect his body of work may have on you. You can read more about The Munch Museum here.

The Scream from 1910. | cc pdm.
Edvard Munch’s painting The Scream – from 1910. | cc pdm.

When is it best to visit Oslo?

Unless you are a winter person: the best time to visit Oslo is between mid-May and mid-August. If you visit Oslo on Norway’s national day, 17 May, you can see the king and the royal family wave from the palace balcony, for hours on end, as the school-children’s-parade pass by with cheers and song.

Reduced traffic in the city centre

Oslo is set on becoming a beacon in the fight against global warming and pollution. The city centre is going through a gradual process of reducing regular traffic. If you are travelling to Oslo by car, we recommend that you use one of the many parking garages.

The winter Olympics in 1952

In 1952, Oslo hosted the 6th Winter Olympic Games. Norway, with its ancient skiing history, was the perfect location for the event. The games were officially opened by Princess Ragnhild of Norway, granddaughter of the then king, Haakon 7. Norway topped the medal count with 16 medals: 7 gold, 3 silver, and 6 bronze. The runner-up was the United States with 11.

A city of culture and art

Oslo has a rich variation of theatres, galleries, museums, music venues and much more. Ibsen, Munch and Grieg are Norwegian artists that have stood the test of time. On a rainy day, if the children become restless, try The Norwegian Museum of Science and Technology. Or maybe The Viking Ship Museum?

For more on Oslo and the things you can see and do there, go to visitoslo.com or visitnorway.com.

What is the Oslo time zone?

Both Oslo and the rest of Norway is on Central European Time (CET) – which is GMT/UTC +1 hour. Like the rest of Europe, Norway currently also practises Daylight Saving Time, between March and October. This changing of the clocks twice a year is expected to be abandoned from 2021 onwards.

Can I use Euros in Oslo?

Sadly, you cannot use Euros as a regular means of payment in Oslo or Norway. The Norwegian Krone is Norway’s currency. Note that the Norwegian Krone is a different currency from the Swedish Krone and the Danish Krone. Today, most Norwegians primarily use bank cards or payment apps in their everyday life. The safest card to bring with you when travelling to Norway is a Visa debit card. Credit cards are widely accepted, but not everywhere.

Norwegian coins. | © onlooka - stock.adobe.com.
Norwegian coins. | © onlooka – stock.adobe.com.

Do people speak English in Oslo?

Most Norwegians speak English. However, some people may be a bit shy. If you see that people are hesitant, speak slowly and keep it simple.

How long does it take to fly to Oslo?

By air, Oslo is fairly accessible from most European destinations, and has many long-haul options. It takes roughly 1 hour to fly to the neighbouring capital cities of Stockholm and Copenhagen. Oslo – London takes around 2 hours.

Follow this link to find a listing of all the direct domestic and international flights that you can make from Oslo Airport Gardermoen.

The Airport Express Train to the Oslo city centre takes around 20 minutes.

Stay at a hotel within walking distance of the Central Station

Oslo is the perfect city to visit. The city centre is fairly small, and it is easy to move about on foot. The Central Station and its surrounding area is a transportation hub, and is the perfect starting point for most journeys.

Does Oslo have trams and underground trains?

Oslo has both city trams and underground trains (subway, tube, underground), and they add greatly to the city’s atmosphere. A trip on the tram is a smooth journey, and a great way to see the city. The underground trains are indeed under ground in the city centre, but they soon move above ground as they move into the suburbs. We strongly recommend the underground trains to either Holmenkollen or Sognsvann. Take the train to the end station and go for walks in the forest, or walk back into town.

Oslo is a great hub for travelling in Norway

Oslo is a great hub, if you are travelling to other destinations within Norway. From Oslo airport, you can fly to almost every nook and cranny of Norway’s long-stretched landscape. If you prefer to see the Norwegian scenery whilst travelling, then the train- or bus routes are perfect alternatives. The trains run as far north as the city of Bodø, in the region of Nordland. If you travel to the very north of Norway, flying or going by sea with the Hurtigruten are your best options.

Oslo is a multicultural city

Once, Norway and Oslo were European outposts – but no more. On the streets of Oslo, you will meet people hailing from most parts of the world.

For more on Oslo and the things you can see and do there, go to visitoslo.com or visitnorway.com.

The Oslo City Hall

The Oslo City Hall is located in the very heart of the capital. It was built between 1931 and 1950. The building, with its two towers, is facing the Oslofjord, and can be said to be a symbolic gateway into this welcoming metropolis. In addition to being the home of Oslo’s elected leadership and administration, it also houses beautifully decorated halls and ceremony rooms. The eastern tower has a glockenspiel that can be heard across all of central Oslo. On 10 December each year, the Oslo City Hall is host to the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, with the royal family in attendance.

Oslo City Hall. | © A. Jedynak - stock.adobe.com.
Oslo City Hall. | © A. Jedynak – stock.adobe.com.

Are there any mountains in Oslo?

Oslo is surrounded by forest-clad hills, but there are no proper mountains. To experience the Norwegian mountains, you must travel a few hours north or west.

Does Oslo have snow in the winter?

Oslo does have snow in the winter. However, winter temperatures fluctuate, and the snow comes and goes. The residents of Oslo bring their skis with them onto the underground trains, and travel to the forests at the city’s outer borders, where the access to snow is more reliable.

Skiing in a Norwegian forest. | © JR Photography - stock.adobe.com.
Skiing in a Norwegian forest. | © JR Photography – stock.adobe.com.

Walk the pilgrim trail from Oslo to Trondheim

Oslo is one of many starting points of the pilgrim paths that lead to St Olav’s cathedral – Nidarosdomen – in the mid-Norway city of Trondheim. From Oslo, you can walk through half of Norway’s long-stretched and beautiful landscape; through forests, valleys and mountainous scenery.

Having lunch at Frognerseteren

If you take the Holmenkollen underground train to its end station, you can also have lunch at the picturesque Frognerseteren restaurant. From Frognerseteren you can either take a walk in the forest – for example across to Sognsvann – or you can walk down to watch the Holmenkollen ski jump – and the ski museum.

For more on Oslo and the things you can see and do there, go to visitoslo.com or visitnorway.com.

LA Dahlmann | towns and cities