Moving from Paris to Oslo has shifted my perspective on the winter season. I do not hate cold winters as much as I used to… Yep, I said it! I guess that’s what Norway does to you after a few years living in the country. Do I enjoy the cold now? I will probably not go that far but spending quite long winters in Oslo was much better than what I expected because of the unique things you can do indoors and outdoors during that period.
Are you still on the fence about booking a trip to Oslo this winter? As a local, I guarantee you that Oslo in winter is a top tier destination, mainly because the city offers various indoors as well as outdoors activities in a unique Scandinavian style. As of now, you might be asking yourself tons of questions about temperatures, if one can even catch sunlight so far north, but no worries: I got you covered!
A last minute winter trip to Oslo? Book your Oslo pass here to get the best deals for your activities and check my favorite Oslo winter tours below!
Things you should know before traveling to Oslo in winter & why it is worth it!
Is Oslo worth visiting?
The Oslofjord is not as majestic as the fjords you can find around the city of Bergen or Hemsedal which attract loads of tourists each year. Nevertheless, as a local, I can say that skipping Oslo is a big mistake. A trip to the capital city is definitely worth it as long as you manage your expectations & do your research. The city is not the right choice when it comes to the Northern lights or world-class hikes with amazing landscapes that Norway is well known for.
This being said, Oslo has many other gems! Its fjords has more than 10 beautiful islands accessible for the price of a bus ticket, a beautiful peninsula called “Bygdoy” with an incredible cultural heritage, the best and most atypical museums and plenty of great outdoors activities. The new capital of Scandi-cool is on its way to become one of Europe’s top-tier cities for its vibrant food culture and stylish restaurants that mix modern and traditional Norwegian cuisine.
The sauna culture is another thing I was surprised about: more than a luxury treat, t’s a lifestyle. Oslo is also a super walkable city which offers plenty of exciting day-trips to enjoy! It is a perfect mix between a vibrant and relaxing city that you will not regret visiting.
During your, stay, make sure not to miss any of Oslo most emblematic attractions:
- Vigeland Sculpture Park
- Oslo Opera House
- Holmenkollen Ski Jump
- The harbor at Aker Brygge
- Akershus Fortress
- Edvard Munch Museum
- Ekeberg sculpture park
- The Royal palace
- The FRAM museum
Is Oslo really that expensive?
Yes it is! Norway in general is super expensive and Oslo is no exception but the following tips will help you make your trip a little more budget friendly:
- Use Skyscanner to get cheapest flights to Norway.
- Get the Oslo pass to get free public transportation, free entries to several attractions and discounts at some shops and restaurants.
- Try to avoid Friday and Saturday nights for more affordable hotel prices and use booking to get the best deals
- Do not withdraw cash when you land as Norway is nearly a cashless sociecity, so you might never be able to use it.
- When using your credit/debit card: always pick the country currency to avoid more fees.
- Enjoy free things to do in Oslo, check my post on the top 9 best free winter activities to do in Oslo.
Visiting Oslo in winter & getting around
- Flight ticket prices: if you book your ticket in advance, you can find very affordable prices between October and January. For a last minute trip, skyscanner offers the cheapest flights to Oslo, particularly in December. If you are planning to travel to other Norwegian cities like Tromso and Bergen, bear in mind that it might be cheaper to take a first flight to Oslo and then an internal flight or other means of transportation to reach your final destination. Oslo Gardermoen airport is a big airline hub with flights all over the world through both major airlines and budget ones.
- Getting around Oslo: from Oslo Gardermoen Airport, you have two options: the Flytoget Express Train that takes around 18 minutes and costs 204 NOK (€20.20) one-way and the Vy train which takes 26 minutes and costs 110 NOK (€11.20) one-way. So you can save money by avoiding the Flytoget with a very semilar journey timewise. Indications to access the flytoget train are much more visible than those for the standard Vy city train, so make sure to pay close attention and ask away if you are unsure. The flytoget ticket machine us usually branded with orange while the Vy train one is blue.
- Winter Daylight hours: from November to December, the sun usually rises between 9.20am and 9.45am and sets at around 3.30pm.
- Tourists in Winter: Oslo is relatively popular for being a great summer destination so winter season is not filled with crowds at all.
- Is Winter a good period to visit Oslo?: There is no bad time to visit Oslo, it really depends on your own travel preferences but you can definitely enjoy the city all year around! December is my favorite winter month as there are plenty of things to do!
- How long should I stay? If you travel to Oslo in winter, I would recommend a week to fully enjoy various experiences in the city, but even a 2 to 3 days stay is fine especially if you are just stopping by Oslo to reach another destination.
Oslo weather in winter
- When does the winter season start? The winter season tends to be long in Oslo. Even though it varies from year to year, it usually lasts from November to March.
- Is Oslo really cold in winter? Norway is well known for its freezing temperatures, sometimes – 30°C in the northern part of the country but contrary to popular beliefs, Oslo is not that cold! The average winter temperature is 0°C.
Chasing the northern lights in Oslo?
Please do not pick Oslo if your goal is to see the Northern lights! You might be lucky and see them randomly but it’s extremely rare! My husband and I were lucky enough to see spectacular northern lights during our last trip to Tromsø for which I will soon dedicate an entire blog post to help you plan the best northern lights trip!
19 exciting winter activities to enjoy Oslo in winter
Oslo is a city where you can experience all four seasons but after three winters spent in the capital, I must say that this period of the year has its own specific charm. It offers a great balance between super-cozy indoor activities and fun outdoor experiences to enjoy! The below list will help you pick the best activities and curate a perfect schedule for your Oslo winter trip.
The best of Oslo winter activities to enjoy indoor
1. Hit Oslo’s best indoor street food spots
Who doesn’t love a warm place with good food when it’s cold outside?
In recent years, the Oslo food scene has really expanded with a lot of modern and traditional Norwegian restaurants as well as international options of great quality, click here to check Oslo best street food spots. There are three main indoor street food spots, all centrally located and easy to access. But be aware that street food in Oslo does not always equal nice prices even if you can definitely find affordable delicacies to enjoy! Most of those food halls have partnerships with local farmers and producers so the food quality is usually amazing and justify some of the high prices. Whether you want to go for a light lunch, a good dinner or drinks, the below list will help you find the best place.
Vippa is a food court located right by the Oslo fjord that offers flavors from all over the globe with an overall sustainable approach. Located near the fjord waterfront, the old warehouse building gives an authtentic and industrial vibe to the place and you can choose between 9 to 11 specialities from Norwegian seafood to Syrian cuisine.
Interesting fact: Vippa is a social enterprise that helps immigrants and new entrepreneurs to integrate into their community and the wider Norwegian society through street-food.
To get there: from the city center “Jernbanetorget”, it is a 20/25 min walk but you can also take the bus 60 towards ‘’Vippetangen’’ and stop at the terminus.
Oslo Street Food
Oslo Street food (OSF) is Oslo’s largest indoor street food place with more than 16 food trucks and food stalls to choose from. The place offers international options and various vegetarian, gluten-free, and vegan alternatives. You can sit inside or outside under outdoor heaters which is very convenient during winter. There are a lot of good food options, some better than others but it’s the perfect place to hang out and have a good time.
Fun fact: After 11pm, every Friday and Saturday, OSF turns into Klubb Torggata. The food court becomes a vibrant dance floor with Oslo’s best DJs so you can have your dinner and party at the same place without going out in the cold!
How get there: OSF is located in the super-central Torggata area, you will get there within a few minutes by foot from Oslo central station.
Bar Code Street Food
This food spot recently opened in Bar code, a trendy and new district in Oslo. You will have access to 13 food stalls with a very diverse culinary offer and one of the largest bars in town.
Fun fact: Out of the 3 indoor food courts, Bar code street food offers the most diverse vegan options: from a Senegal and Caribbean inspired cuisine to 100% vegan and gluten free American style burgers, there is something for every one!
How to get there: The food court is 5 min from the main train station by foot, near Oslobukta district.
2. Experience life in a Norwegian forest cabin
Renting a ‘hytte’, a Norwegian traditional cabin, is probably the best immersive experience to have. You can check this detailed guide about the best hytter to choose in Norway depending on your travel taste! Especially during winter, they are perfect to enjoy a cozy time and relax. In Oslo I would recommend staying at Oslo tretopphytter tree house for an authentic cozy cabin experience. Another great option would be to stay a Voksenasen Hotel, for a perfect hytter-like experience within a hotel, surrounded by nature and a direct access to cross-country skiing trails.
3. Try Norweagian comfort food in Mathallen – Oslo cozy indoor food market
Mathallen, located in the vibrant Grünnerlokka neighborhood, is Oslo’s biggest indoor food market and an amazing place to spend your afternoon in a warm and cozy atmosphere.
You can buy various fresh products to take home or have a seat and try some of Norway’s classic comfort food like heart shaped waffles and “Brunost” (Norwegian brown cheese), dried fish and so on! You can also enjoy loads of different international delicacies as well as local beverages in the city’s largest bar downstairs. It is an overall great cultural experience. With an average of 40 restaurants, shops, and bars, there is no doubt you will find something good to taste on the spot or grab for later.
How to get there: from the city center, you can take the Tram 11, 12, 13 and Buses 111, 112 then stop at Schous Plass. You can also take the bus 34 or 54 and stop at Mollerveien.
4. Pay a Visit to Holmenkollen ski museum & tower
Oslo has tons of exciting museums and It’s tempting to dedicate a lot of time visiting them when it’s cold outside but I would not recommend doing that just because you can do a lot of different things in Oslo in winter! If there is one museum perfect for a winter visit, it’s the Holmenkollen Ski Museum & Tower.
It houses one of Europe’s tallest ski jumps that is absolutely worth seeing as well as a great museum that shares insights into 4000 years of Norwegian ski history. The highlight of the museum is the observation deck that sits on top of the ski jump tower and offers panoramic views of Oslo and the fjord! Entrance to the museum costs NOK 140 and is free with the Oslo Pass.
How to get there: take the metro line 1 to Frognerseteren and get off at Holmenkollen station. You will then have to walk for 10 minutes.
Nota bene: The Ski Museum and the café will be closed from November until the end of 2023 due to renovations.
5. Treat yourself with a dinner at Oslo Michelin-starred restaurants
Are you a foodie looking for a fancy dining experience? Well, Oslo is the place to be! The city counts 6 Michelin stars restaurants you can choose from for an unforgettable culinary moment.
Among those amazing restaurants, Kontrast and Maaemo were highly recommended by my Norwegian colleagues so I cannot wait to try them out! These restaurants are always booked so make sure to make a reservation well in advance.
6. Enjoy the best “eplekake” in town in Frogensteren
Frognerseteren is an area known for its amazing city views and the delicious apple cake you can get at Kafé Seterstua, an iconic place in Oslo with a very unique Scandinavian decor. There are a lot of hiking and cross country sky trails in this area as well.
How to get there: Take metro line 1 to Frognerseteren and stop at the last station. From there, follow the signs to a 5 min walk in the woods down to Seterstua.
7. Enjoy a traditional Norwegian Christmas dinner
In Norway, there are 3 main traditional and popular christmas dishes that you will not find anywhere else:
- “Ribbe” (pork rib)
- “Pinnekjøtt” (lamb or mutton rib)
- “Lutefisk” (highly fermented fish).
I don’t eat pork, I did not have the opportunity to find a halal version of the “pinnekjøtt” and the lutefisk is not very appealing to me. Schrøder, Engebret Café as well as Gamle Raadhus are some of the best restaurants serving Norwegian traditional dishes in Oslo so do not hesitate to give it a try!
8. Get a taste of Scandinavian Sauna culture
Oslo has loads of wood-burning saunas dotted along the fjord harbor promenade. If you are courageous enough, you can end your sauna session by diving into the freezing fjord just like the locals do all year around (yes, even during the winter months).
For a super fun and unforgettable experience, SALT is THE place to be. It is a futuristic and artistic architectural project that can accommodate over a hundred people to party and enjoy a traditional sauna at the same time, right in the city center. KOK also provides different great options in the city like Sauna cruises on the fjord.
9. Stay warm in Hvervenbukta beach coffee shop
Hvervenbukta is one of Oslo’s numerous beaches and my favorite one!
Here is my hot tip: go there right before sunset, enjoy the beautiful beach landscape and then head towards Anne på landet, the beach café that serves some of the most delicious pastries I have had in Oslo.
Everything is home made with fresh local products and they have delicious hot beverages. This place really feels like a home or a cozy Norwegian hytte.
To get there: you can take the bus from Oslo city center, line 83 to Tårnåsen and stop at Fiskevollen. Afterwards, you will have to walk around 10 min before reaching a parking lot and then the beach.
10. Get a taste of Norwegian coffee culture
Did you know that Norway occupies the second place of all countries for its coffee consumption?
The Norwegian Robert Thoreson won the first-ever World Barista Championship in 2000 and many Norwegian baristas have followed. Among them, Tim Wendelboe, World Barista Champion (2004) and World Cup Tasters Champion (2005) largely credited for putting Norway’s kokekaffe on the map.
His extremely popular Espresso Bar is located in Grünerløkka and I would definitely recommend stopping by! Oslo is known as one of the best coffee places in the world and you will have tons of different independant coffee shops to try out and see for yourself.
11. Have dinner at my favorite Oslo restaurant: VAAGHALS
Yes,I know, another food spot recommendation, but trust me: this might just turn into one of your best Oslo experiences! I could not write this post without mentioning VAAGHALS which is hands down my favorite restaurant in Oslo.
It is the best place to taste traditional Norwegian dishes and share platters of an amazing 8 course menu based on fresh & locally-sourced seasonal products.
How to get there: Vaaghals is located in the trendy Barcode area, a short 4 min walk form the central station.
Outdoor activities: fun and unique experiences to try in Oslo
12. Channel your inner child at Korketrekkeren Toboggan Run
During Oslo winter season, people from all ages head to Korketrekkeren toboggan run to enjoy an 8 minutes non-stop ride of 2 kilometers long with an elevation drop of 255 meters. You can rent a sledge for 100 to 150 NOK (10€ to 15€) per day and riding the toboggan is free for everyone! Check the details for rental spots here.
How to get there: take the Metro line to Frognerseteren which is where the ride starts. It will end at Midtstuen metro station and if you feel like you did not have enough, you can take a 16-minute metro ride back up to Frognerseteren to have more fun!
Nota bene: TheToboggan run is only accessible when there is enough snow so there are no fixed opening days, make sure to check the Oslo tourism page for more information.
13. Have fun exploring Oslo Christmas markets
If you travel to Oslo in December, you will have the opportunity to enjoy several christmas markets like Vulkan Julemarked, Youngstorget Lavvos Julemarked, the Norskfolkmuseum Chirstmas market and many others right outside the city.
The biggest and most popular one is Oslo Christmas Market Jul i Vinterland in Spikersuppa, where you can have a fun time on a ferris wheel and get food & drinks to keep you warm in a fun and joyful atmosphere.
14. Ski like a local!
Oslo is an amazing place to enjoy winter sports and cross-country skiing is the locals favorite! You can ski in numerous cross-country prepared tracks and start at Oslomarka (the Oslo forest). Click here to see more details about specific ski routes. Downhill skiing is of course an option as well for which Oslo Winter Park at Tryvann ski resort is a good place to start.
If you are a beginner, specifically for cross country skiing, please take the time to attend training sessions to limit any risk of accident. You can rent your ski equipment from Tryvann ski rental and don’t forget to ask for your 15% discount if you have the Oslo pass.
15. Head to Sognsvann lake for an easy walk
Hiking in Norway is a must but I would rather recommend an easy and not too long walk if it is snowing or extra cold during your winter stay, so you still have some time and energy for other activities during the day. The Sognsvann lake area is the perfect place for that!
You can walk around the lake without going too deep into the forest for 1 hour or 2 and enjoy Norwegian waffles & coffee along the way!
How to get there: take the metro (T-bane) line 5 to Sognsvann and get off at the last stop. (20min)
16. Go to Aker Brygge for a stroll along the harbor
Aker Brygge is my favorite part of the city and the neighborhood I probably spend the most time in! Centrally located, it is the perfect place to have a walk by the Oslo fjord and enjoy beautiful Christmas decorations all around if you go there in December.Coffee shops, restaurants, food trucks and nice shopping spots along the harbor will make you discover another side of the city.
17. Take a ferry to an Oslo fjord Island
I know that hopping on a ferry to visit an island when it’s freezing is not really appealing but let me tell you: I did it and it was amazing!
Oslo has more than 10 small islands but most of them are closed during the winter season. I went to Lindøya which you can still access outside of summer. It was during a light snowy day and the landscape was magical. There was practically no one, the atmosphere was super relaxing and and I came across the cutest hytter during my walk.
This day trip really felt like a fairytale. Click here for a glimpse at my Lindøya photo journal.
How to get to the Oslo fjord islands: from Aker Brygge which is centrally located, you can see which ferry is available and take the one going to the accessible islands during your stay.
18. Catch Oslo sunset by the fjord or from the hills of Akershus Fortress
One of my favorite things about Oslo in winter is the incredible colors in the sky when the sun goes down. When the sky is clear enough, you can see hues of bright orange, light purple & red, it is pure and beautiful.
I highly recommend watching the sunset from Oslo Akershus Fortress & castle close to Aker Brygge. The medieval castle is built on a gigantic rock above the fjord which offers a spectacular view on both the city and the fjord waterfront. Click here to learn more about Norway’s best castles and fortresses
19. Go Ice Skating for free at Skippersuppa ice-rink
Yes indeed, you can find amazing free activities to enjoy in Oslo and if you visit the city between November and March, skating for free at the Skippersuppa ice-rink is one of them! You can even enjoy all the delicious food served at the Christmas market right next to it during the Christmas season! Click here to check my top free Oslo winter activities
Hot tips for outdoor Oslo winter activities: Aways were layers of clothes and pick Merino wool underwear to put under your clothes. Merino wool is pretty thin and light to wear & still protects efficiently against the cold.
Where to stay in Oslo?
There is no cheap accommodation per say in Oslo as everything is more on the expensive side, but Citybox hotel as well as Smarthotel Oslo are good mid-range options centrally located and pretty comfortable. If your budget allows for it and if you like staying in unique boutique hotels, I would warmly recommend the Amerikalinjen which is ideally located in the central station area.
You can read about my detailed review of the Amerikanlinjen here, my husband and I had a fantastic staycation weekend there and will definitely go back! On the luxury side, the Thief hotel is also a good option for a nice stay in the Aker Brygge neighborhood.
I hope this article will be a good start to l help you plan your holiday according to your own preferences and make the most of Oslo this winter! Let me know which activity you are excited about of there any I should add to my list!
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