Oslo On Foot: A Self-Guided Walking Tour Of Oslo

modern building with sloping roof and reflective glass windows next to a harbour

The capital of Norway is a great city to explore on foot, but you don’t have to pay for a walking tour – follow my self-guided walking tour of Oslo instead!

This walking tour covers the main landmarks and sights in central Oslo, and not only is it free, but you can also follow it at your own pace. Because you’ll be walking on your own, rather than with a tour group, you can skip past any places which don’t take your fancy and dwell longer at those you are interested in.

If that sounds good, then keep reading for the walking route, information on the places you’ll see along the way, plus some recommendations for food and other tips for visiting Oslo.

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. These are links to products or experiences I recommend and if you were to buy something after clicking on them, I might earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Any earnings go towards the upkeep of this blog, which I appreciate.

About This Self-Guided Walking Tour Of Oslo

What Is A Self-Guided Tour?

Basically, I’m going to give you a walking route and directions for how you can explore Oslo on foot. And I’ll give you information about the landmarks and sights along the way – but you’ll walk the route on your own, without a guide.

There are other ways to explore Oslo, such as a guided walking tour, the hop-on-hop-off sightseeing bus and also a guided bike tour. But I chose to explore it on foot, without a guide – and I loved the experience, so I’m happy to share my route with you.

Is Oslo A Walkable City?

Oslo is pretty walkable – I managed to see a lot of the central sights by walking the route that I’m sharing with you here.

However, some Oslo attractions are a little way out of the city centre, so you might need transport for those. These include the many museums on the Bygdøy peninsula, Vigeland Park, the cool Grunerløkka area and the Mathallen food hall. However, you can read more about these places (and others) and how to get to them in my post on the best things to do in Oslo.

What Is Covered In This Self-Guided Walking Tour Of Oslo?

This walking route through Oslo will take you to the best things to see in central Oslo, including:

  • Karl Johans gate, including University Place, the National Theatre and the Norwegian Parliament
  • The Royal Palace and Palace Park
  • Sentrum area, including City Hall, City Hall Plaza and the National Museum
  • Oslo’s famous Aker Brygge, including the waterfront promenade
  • Astrup Fearnley Museum and the Tjuvholmen Sculpture Park and Badeplass
  • Akershus Fortress
  • The oldest restaurant in Oslo, Engebret Café
  • Oslo Opera House and the Munch Museum
old stone archway through which we see stone buildings, trees, people and the the sea
Akershus Fortress

Tips For This Oslo Walking Tour

  • Check the weather forecast before you set off! I did this walking route in the summer. As you will be able to tell from my photographs, the weather I had was amazing! But it can be very changeable in Norway, even in summer, so check the forecast ahead of time to avoid walking in the rain. If you do this walk in the colder seasons, check the temperatures, so you know how wrapped up to be
  • Wear comfortable shoes – there’s a fair amount of walking involved, so you will want to be wearing trainers (sneakers) or shoes with cushioned soles to avoid blisters or tired feet
  • Wear easy layers: as I said, the Norwegian weather can be changeable, so you might need an extra layer or even a waterproof one minute and then it could be sunny the next
  • Carry water: even though it’s not a hot country, and even if you do this in colder weather, you’ll still need to stay hydrated
  • If you do this walk in summer, consider bringing a swimming costume! The route will take you to a spot where locals swim in the fjord and sunbathe, so you have the option to join them.

How Long Is This Self-Guided Walking Tour Of Oslo

The walking route I suggest is 7 km (4.4 miles) long and would take approximately 1.5 hours if you walked continuously.  But, of course, you’ll be stopping often. I did this in half a day, but some of the museums I was interested in were closed, so it would have taken longer if I’d been able to go inside those.

I’ve designed the route to end at a good place for sunset, and I’ve included suggestions for where you could eat both lunch at dinner, so it could be a good idea to start before lunch and finish around sunset.

NB. The time of sunset will vary depending on what time of year you’re doing this walk, so best to check that in advance.

Self-Guided Walking Tour Of Oslo – Step By Step  

OK, so here’s my Oslo self-guided walking tour for you to follow at your own pace.

Oslo Cathedral

We’ll start this walking tour at Oslo Cathedral (Oslo Domkirke), which is just a short walk from Oslo Central Train Station (Oslo S).

church with a clock tower and spire surrounded by trees
Oslo Cathedral

Having built in the 17th century, it’s not the oldest cathedral in Oslo (that was Hallvards Cathedral, which is now in ruins). But it is the main church in the diocese of Oslo and the church used by the Norwegian Royal Family and the government for ceremonies.

As European capital city cathedrals go, this is less ostentatious and showy than most. It’s quite modest, really – but I think that’s true of much of Norwegian architecture (although there are some exceptions, which we’ll discover on this walking tour).

If you want to fuel up before your Oslo walking tour, there’s a café slightly downhill from the church, with a nice outdoor terrace: Café Cathedral.

Karl Johans Gate

From the cathedral, head west on Karl Johans gate, which is one of the main streets in Oslo, named for King Charles III John, who was also King of Sweden.

straight road with smart buildings and trees along it, and a palace with pillars at the end
Karl Johans gate, looking towards the Royal Palace

It’s an attractive street: cobbled and partially pedestrianised, lined with some handsome buildings.  From the junction with Øvre Slottsgate, you get a great view westward along Karl Johans Gate towards The Royal Palace.

Halfway along, you’ll find the Parliament of Norway Building which has been home to Stortinget, the Norwegian Parliament, since 1866.  

cream coloured building with circular front and arched doorways
Parliament of Norway Building

As you stroll towards the palace, you could enjoy Eidsvolls plass park and Studenterlunden Park on the left-hand side (nice places to sit, especially in summer) and the handsome buildings on the right-hand side, including University Place.

The Paradox Museum, full of optical illusions, is also just off Karl Johans gate

Royal Palace

At the end of Karl Johans gate, walk up the gently sloped road to the Royal Palace of Oslo, which is the official residence of King Harald V of Norway.

The palace was built in the first half of the 19th century for French-born King Charles III John (the same king for whom Karl Johans Gate is named). However, he died before he was able to live in it, so his son Oscar I and his queen Josephine were the first occupants.

cream and white coloured palace with columns surrounded by bright green grass
Oslo Royal Palace

It is possible to tour some parts of the interior. If that isn’t your thing, you might catch the changing of the guard, or you could simply enjoy the view of the palace from the surrounding gardens, Palace Park, which is a public park of 54 acres.

If you’re into theatre, you might want to visit the Ibsen Museum & Theatre, which is just across the road from Palace Park, on Henrik Ibsen’s gate. Ibsen was a Norwegian playwright and theatre director known for A Doll’s House and Hedda Gabler and his works are the second most performed in the world, after William Shakespeare.

Sentrum

From Palace Park, head towards the National Theatre, and down Olav Vs gate towards Sentrum, the most central area of Oslo.

This harbourside area contains a number of landmarks including Rådhuset, Oslo’s red brick mid-century City Hall, which is home to the city council. This is also where the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony takes place every December.  Between Rådhuset and Oslofjord is Rådhusplassen, a wide open plaza.

red brick modernist building with two towers
Rådhuset isn’t the most attractive building in Oslo…

To the right of Rådhusplassen, as you took towards it, is a complex of buildings including a modern box-like structure. This is the National Museum of Norway, which houses Norway’s largest collection of art, architecture and design. Within that collection is one of the most famous paintings in the world: the first version of Edvard Munch’s The Scream.

box-like grey building with a sign saying Nasjonalmuseet
National Museum of Norway

This expressionist painting, depicting someone screaming in anguish or despair, has entered our cultural lexicon. It was the inspiration for the white mask used in the Scream movies, and is now an emoji, symbolising fear.

The museum was previously located in a number of different buildings and moved to this new building in 2022.

Aker Brygge

After the National Museum, the next stop is Aker Brygge, an old area of Oslo famous for its harbourside promenade. It was once a busy shipyard and is now better known for its waterside apartments and dining.

Stroll along the waterfront road (Stranden), taking in the sight of the many boats in the harbour, and the massive ships sailing past on Oslofjord. Along the way, stop and have a look at the various sculptures along the promenade, as well as the clock tower.

bronze sculpture and old clock tower on the wooden deck of pier
Aker Brygge clock tower

If the weather is good, there are plenty of outdoor terraces on which you could grab a drink or a bite to eat. There’s a branch of the popular chain Olivia here if you like Italian food.

Strandhagen is a lovely green spot to sit and enjoy the sea views.

sailing yachts on the still water of  Oslo harbour
Harbour views from Aker Brygge

Astrup Fearnley Museum

If you follow Aker Brygge’s promenade all the way, eventually it will turn into a pathway through a large angular building with a glass roof. This is Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, which is an art gallery centred around contemporary art.

Even if you don’t fancy a visit inside the gallery, take a moment to admire the bold architecture.

wooden pathway between two sides of a modern building with  a glass roof
Astrup Fearnley Museum

On the fjord side of the museum, there’s a small grassy area called Tjuvholmen Sculpture Park, which has a sheltered beach, which will have swimmers and sunbathers on warm days.

And a bit further along Studholme alle, there is a concrete terrace and another sheltered swimming area called Tjuvholmen Badeplass. When I visited on a sunny June Sunday, this area was packed with sunbathers!

Akershus Fortress

Next, the walking tour takes you back to where you just walked along Aker Brygge in the other direction and back to the main harbour, from where many sightseeing boats depart to explore Oslofjord.

If you want, you could detour from the walking tour here to do a boat tour yourself. Popular tours include a sightseeing cruise by sailing ship, a cruise on a silent electric catamaran and an evening cruise with a shrimp buffet.

silver sculpture of  a diver on the edge of a harbour with tall ships in the water
Sightseeing cruises on Oslofjord

If you’re carrying on with the tour, you’ll see your next stop from the harbour: it’s the elevated fortress overlooking the harbour: Akershus Fortress (Akershus Festning).

This is a 13th-century fortified castle that was built to protect the city and provide a royal residence. Over the years, the castle has also been a military base, a prison and the office of the Prime Minister of Norway.

The fortress has been attacked many times over the centuries but was never successfully besieged until it was surrendered to Nazi Germany in 1940 when the Norwegian government evacuated the capital.

cobbled path and stone archway through which we see a harbour with ships
Harbour views from Akershus Fortress

To get to Akershus Fortress, you need to head up the pedestrian pathway up the hill. The fortress is a complex of buildings on a raised promontory the views of the harbour from the walls are great.  It’s free to explore the grounds and I really enjoyed wandering around the cobbled streets and old archways. There are some nice viewpoints, too.

Engebret Café

If it is approaching dinner time by this point of your self-guided walking tour of Oslo, I have just the place for you.

A short walk from Akershus Fortress is Engebret Café, the oldest restaurant in continuous operation in Oslo. It opened in 1857, has a very traditional ambience, and retains much of its original appearance.

plate of roast meat and vegetables in an old restaurant in Oslo
Engebret Café

The restaurant is known for the famous artists who have frequented the restaurant, including Henrik Ibsen and Edvard Munch.

I can recommend the roast reindeer, which was served with root vegetables – it was so good!

Oslo Opera House

After dinner, head east to the last stop and probably Oslo’s most famous building…

Oslo Opera House has won several architectural awards including the culture award at the World Architecture Festival in 2008 and the European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture in 2009. It is home to the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet, and the National Opera Theatre in Norway.  However, this iconic harbourside building is designed to be walked all over, literally.

angular building and square building on the edge of Oslo harbour
Oslo Opera House (centre) and the Munch Museum (right)

The roof is formed of sloping marble and granite walkways, so you can wander onto the ground-level terrace and then walk up the sides onto several viewing platforms. From here you can look out over the harbour and the city.  

Look out for the floating sculpture in the middle of the harbour: She Lies is a sculpture of steel and glass on a floating concrete platform. It is reminiscent of a ship’s sails, or a modern glass building and moves around with the tide.

You don’t need a ticket to enjoy the roof of the Opera House – it’s open to the public and free.

It’s a must-do in Oslo – especially when the sun goes down (although that might be quite late during the summer season when Oslo enjoys long light days).

If you skipped the National Museum earlier, but would still like to see Munch’s The Scream, there’s another version of it (he made four of them!) at the Munch Museum, which is close to the Opera House.

Map: Self-Guided Walking Tour Of Oslo

Here’s a map of this self-guided walking tour of Oslo, including all the major sights, places to eat and the route itself.

How To Use This Map: Click the tab in the top left-hand corner of the map to view the layers. If you click the icons on the map, you can get more information about each one.  If you click the star next to the map’s title, it will be added to your Google Maps account. To view it on your phone or computer, open Google Maps, click the menu, go to ‘Your Places’ or ‘Saved’, then click Maps and you will see this map in your list.

Oslo FAQs

Other Things To Do In Oslo / What To See In Oslo In 3 Days

This walking tour doesn’t cover everything in Oslo, so if you’re looking for more ideas on how to spend your time there, check out my post on the best things to do in Oslo.

How To Get To Oslo

Oslo’s international airport is Gardermoen Airport, approx 35km northeast of the city. It is connected to the city by a fast train line.

I used Skyscanner to find flight deals for Oslo. I also found the Citymapper app a useful tool in helping me get from the airport to Oslo.

Best Time To Visit Oslo

I think Norway, like the rest of Scandinavia, is not only lovely in summer, but it’s one of the best destinations in Europe to spend summer.  For me, central and southern Europe gets a bit too hot in summer, while northern Europe can give you sunshine and warmth without being oppressively hot.

Norway’s (and Oslo’s) peak season runs from June to August – this is your best chance for good weather in Oslo.

tree-lined path with flower beds in Oslo
Karl Johans gate in June

I visited in early June, and the city looked glorious in the sunshine! The grassy areas were a vibrant green and the flowers along Karl Johans gate were blooming.

Where To Stay In Oslo

I’m happy to recommend both of the hotels that I stayed at in Oslo (I stayed at one at the start and the other at the end of my 7 days in Norway).

The first was a nice 4-star hotel called the Hotel Bristol.  It is located in the centre of the city,  making it easy to walk to the main attractions. It also has very smart, high-spec rooms and a good breakfast buffet. There was a coffee machine and free water in the room, which I appreciated.

smart hotel room
My room in the Hotel Bristol

The second hotel I stayed in was a slightly lower-cost 3-star hotel. The Thon Astoria was also very centrally located. It’s not far from Oslo S train station, which is useful if you’re heading elsewhere in Norway by train (I took a train to both Bergen and Flam, which was my favourite place in Norway). I had a single room which was compact but had everything I needed. The breakfast buffet was also extensive.

Is Oslo Safe To Travel Alone?

I travelled solo to Norway and while I (of course) can’t guarantee that Oslo is entirely safe, it felt very safe to me. There were no occasions where I felt wary of people or that I might be at risk of crime.

It is possible that it felt safe in Oslo in part because it is not generally as crowded as other cities in Europe, and it doesn’t seem to (as far as I could tell), attract the scammers you get in some more popular destinations, like Paris or Rome.

That said, I didn’t explore every neighbourhood, so there could be areas that are not as safe as the central ones I explored.

In general, even in a ‘safe’ destination, I recommend solo travellers always try to stay alert to their surroundings (paying attention to what other people are doing around them; avoiding too much alcohol etc); keep their belongings close and listen to their gut: avoid anything which gives you that internal feeling of ‘this might not be wise’. I have more tips in this post on solo travel.

The Final Word

I hope you enjoy exploring Oslo on foot as much as I did!

If you need more Norway inspo, check out my itinerary for a week in Norway. I’ve also written about things to do in Bergen and things to do in Flam, a beautiful fjord town, reachable by the scenic Flam Railway.

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