Oslo, Norway's capital, is the country's best-known and largest city, though be sure to keep that in perspective -- the entire country has a population of only five million people, and Oslo is home to 610,000 of those.
Oslo is centered around the thoroughfare of Karl Johans Gate, which leads from the Royal Palace to Oslo Central Station. Visitors can expect to find clothing stores and cafes along this route, and in the summer can watch mounted police officers and a military marching band lead the royal guards to the palace for the changing of the guard ceremony, which takes place daily at 1:30 p.m.
The post-industrial Aker Byrgge waterfront is also a popular area to explore. In nice weather, locals and tourists alike can be found strolling up and down the Stranden, lining up at the ice cream and hot dog stands, sitting on the benches to watch the boats, and dining at the outdoor restaurant tables along the street. The restaurants here, as in all of Norway, are astonishingly expensive.
A point of pride for Olso is that it hands out the Nobel Peace Prize each year on December 10th. The ceremony takes place in City Hall, and the Nobel Peace Center a few blocks away is a great place to learn about the prize and its winners.
While Oslo may not have as much to offer as some other European capitals, the tradeoff is that it's a smaller, more manageable city, and certainly easier to see on foot. And while many travelers could be satisfied by covering the big sights in the course of two to three days here, you could also easily fill the better part of a week exploring Oslo.
Not far from the Aker Byrgge waterfront, many of Oslo's most important buildings (Parliament, the National Theater, the Royal Palace and Gardens, and some of the city's most historic hotels) are all clustered together around Eidsvoll Square, a rectangular park that sits along the famous Karl Johans Gate. Staying here puts travelers in the heart of the action, and gives them easy access to the rest of Oslo by foot or public transportation. While Oslo isn't neatly subdivided into neighborhoods, this area is generally considered the western end of central Oslo. City Hall, the Nobel Peace Center, and Akershus Fortress are all just a few blocks away.
Walking east on Karl Johans Gate, you'll eventually hit Central Station, considered to be at the eastern end of central Oslo. Central Station is the city's main hub for intra- and inter-city travel. This is a popular area for hotels -- it's still central Oslo, after all -- even though it has more of a local feel, and can even feel a bit seedy at night. But staying in here puts you steps from the Oslo Cathedral (with its accompanying flower market across the street), the quaint streets of the Old Town, the Opera House, and the Oslofjord. Plus, every tram and metro line passes through Central Station, so getting anywhere is a cinch.
|Peak:||June 15 through August|
|Off-Peak:||September through May|
|Electricity:||230 V, 50 Hz|
|Tipping:||Not required, though 5 to 10% in restaurants for good service is appreciated|