Oslo Introduction Walking Tour (Self Guided), Oslo

Oslo is the capital of Norway. The name "Oslo" means the field below the hill or the field of the Gods. The city's ancient roots can be traced as far back as the year 1000. Back then, the area was known as Viken. By 1300, it had a population of about 3,000 residents. Around that time, King Haakon V ordered the construction of the Akershus Fortress which today is a major city landmark.

Throughout most of its history, the city was under the control of Norway's grander neighbors – Denmark or Sweden, and has had its fair share of grief and turmoil. Many fires swept through it, causing mass destruction, which led to a great deal of rebuilding.

In 1624, a great fire destroyed most of the city, following which the Danish King Christian IV ordered new construction in the area below the Akershus Fortress, so the fortress could function as its defense. The king subsequently named the new town Christiania, after himself.

As the result of the Napoleonic Wars, in 1814 Denmark ceded the territory of Norway to Sweden. The city did not get its current name until 1925 after Norway had separated from Sweden and become an independent state.

Lovers of architecture will find an eclectic tapestry of styles in today's Oslo, spanning from medieval times to modern day and all the eras in between. The Old Town is one of the favorite spots for those keen on centuries-old churches like the Gamblebyen Church, or ancient ruins like those found in Middelalderparken. You will see the still standing medieval Akershus Fortress and Akershut Castles coexist harmoniously with the newer Royal Palace and National Theatre, and many other interesting sights.

To explore these and other beautiful locations in Oslo, take this self-guided walking tour.
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Oslo Introduction Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Oslo Introduction Walking Tour
Guide Location: Norway » Oslo (See other walking tours in Oslo)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 10
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.1 Km or 2.5 Miles
Author: karen
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Oslo Cathedral
  • Stortorvet
  • Stortinget
  • Karl Johans Gate
  • Royal Palace
  • National Theater (Nationaltheatret)
  • Oslo City Hall
  • Nobel Peace Center
  • Aker Brygge Wharf
  • Akershus Castle and Fortress
1
Oslo Cathedral

1) Oslo Cathedral

Oslo Cathedral, previously known as Our Saviour’s Church, is the current cathedral for the city, and the third in the history of Oslo. The first was built in the 12th century when the city was located slightly to the east of where it now stands. Following a great fire in 1624, the city was rebuilt around Akershus Slott. The second cathedral lasted only fifty years before another fire destroyed it. The current building, located off the Stortorvet main square, was consecrated in 1697. Rebuilt in 1850 by Chateauneuf and von Hanno, this elegant, if unassuming, neo-Gothic church was most recently restored between 2006 and 2010, and reopened with a grand Mass.

The cathedral is used by the Norwegian royal family and government for public events. It was the venue for Norway’s last royal wedding in 2001, when Haakon, Crown Prince of Norway, married Mette Tjessem Hoiby. The interior is notable for fine stained glass windows designed by Emanuel Vigeland, a silver sculpture by Arrigo Minerbi, and elaborate ceiling decoration by Norwegian painter Hugo Mohr. Home to the Bishop of Oslo, the church holds Mass each Sunday and is free to visit throughout the week. Guided group tours can also be arranged on weekdays.

Why You Should Visit:
Simple and elegant, and open for everyone. The pulpit and King's seating area are beautifully carved, and the ceiling and Last Supper bronze are very worth seeing.
Not merely a religious building but a center of culture for the whole city; in fact, you can often attend many different concerts and events during the year.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 10am-4pm; Sat: 4pm-6am
Services (Mass) are celebrated Sun: 11am; Wed: 12pm; Fri: 4:30pm
2
Stortorvet

2) Stortorvet

Stortovet, or ‘Grand Plaza’, is a central square, west of Oslo Cathedral. Inaugurated in 1736, it has consistently played a central part in the city’s daily life. The square hosted a large market until 1889, and still hosts seasonal markets to this day. Some seventy years later, Stortovet became a major center once again, with the introduction of the Oslo tramway. The square became a central terminus for a number of tram services in the 1960s, and is still well served by trams and buses.

Stortovet also hosted a public demonstration against the union between Sweden and Norway in 1829, when the city was still known as Christiania. Ceded to Sweden by Denmark in the early 19th century and given increasing autonomy, Norway faced a battle to become a fully independent nation, free of influence from their larger neighbors. The tentative union survived until 1905, when Norway became fully independent.

The grand square features a number of well preserved 18th and 19th century buildings, including Glasmagasinet and Stortorvets Gjaestgiveri. The latter, a dual entrance yellow townhouse dating from the construction of the square, is listed as a Norwegian Cultural Heritage Site, meaning it is protected by the government from demolition or development.
3
Stortinget

3) Stortinget

The Stortinget is Norway’s Parliament building. It is located in the very centre of Oslo, on Karl Johanns Gate. Designed by the Swedish architect, Emil Victor Langlet, it has housed Norway’s Parliament, or Storting, since March 1866. The parliament had led a nomadic existence for fifty years between its creation and the opening of the Stortinget. Beginning in a private home, the fledgling government met at schools and university halls before land was purchased in 1857.

Following an open design competition, a red brick, classically Scandinavian design by Schirmer and von Hanno was announced as the winner, only for parliament to overturn the decision, claiming it looked too similar to a church. Langlet’s more classical design, with a circular central chamber and arcade style archways, was selected and built between 1860 and 1866. The building, considered too large initially for its purpose, was not significantly altered until after World War 2.

During Nazi occupation of Norway, the country’s Parliament fled abroad, and the Stortinget was used as an army barracks. Following liberation, the edifice was fully renovated, and a modern four-story building added at the back. The interior is characterized by opulent red and gold designs, influenced by French and Italian architecture.
4
Karl Johans Gate

4) Karl Johans Gate (must see)

Any visitor to Oslo is likely to spend time at Karl Johans Gate. The main thoroughfare in Oslo runs from Palace Park, or Slottsparken, to Oslo Central Station on Strandgata.

Visitors who walk along Karl Johans Gate will find numerous shops and restaurants. They will also find musicians entertaining passersby on the sidewalks while area artists sell their wares. However, the primary reason to stroll along this street is to see the sights that can't be found in any other city.

The Royal Palace, or Slottet, rests within Palace Park at the east end of Karl Johans Gate. This was built as the palace of King Charles III John, for whom Karl Johans Gate was named. The king lived in this palace while it was under construction, which began in 1825. Construction was completed in 1849.

The Royal Palace continues to function as a residence for the King of Norway, Harald V. The palace is open for public, guided tours throughout each day in Norwegian and English. Tickets must be purchased in advance. Palace Park is free and open to the public throughout the year.

Storting is another remarkable spot along Karl Johans Gate. Storting is the parliament building of Norway that has been in continuous use since 1866. It was designed by Emil Victor Langlet using a blend of different architectural styles with French and Italian influences. Guided tours of Storting are regularly available.

Other places to see along Karl Johans Gate include the National Theater, the Hotel Continental and the University of Oslo.

Why You Should Visit
- To view the past and present of Norwegian government
- To enjoy a wide variety of street performers
- To shop and dine with ease

Tips
Those who wish to tour the Royal Palace or parliament building should plan their walk along Karl Johans Gate well in advance to make sure they have time to see and do everything. Others can simply enjoy the shops, restaurants and public art of the street.
5
Royal Palace

5) Royal Palace (must see)

The Royal Palace, or Slottet, in Oslo was built in the first half of the 19th century as the Norwegian residence of the French-born King Charles III of Norway, who reigned as king of Norway and Sweden. The palace is the official residence of the current Norwegian monarch while the Crown Prince resides at Skaugum in Asker west of Oslo.

Construction began on the palace in 1825; it took almost twenty-five years to complete. The building process, overseen by local architect Hans Linstow, was fraught with political difficulties. The government refused further funding for the expensive project at one point, due to the king’s efforts to tie Sweden and Norway closer together. Despite proceeding with a simpler, three story neo-Classical design, the palace was still unfinished when Charles III died in 1844. His son and heir, Oscar I, became the first resident five years later.

Since public tours began in 2002, the general public has been able to view and appreciate the renovation and splendor that the palace now boasts. The daily changing of the guards has become a popular tourist attraction in recent years. Additionally, in 2017, the former palace stables were renovated and converted into a multipurpose art venue. The building is used as an art gallery, museum and concert hall and is also open to the public.

Guided tours run all afternoon through the summer months, though they are mostly in Norwegian. English language tours take place at 12pm, 2pm, 2:20pm and 4pm each day. Tickets for the guided tours are available online from 1 March each year.

Why You Should Visit:
Not a palace in the tradition of older European monarchies but still elegant and beautifully decorated with many of the objects you'd expect to see in a royal residence.

Tip:
Changing of the royal guards is at 1:30 pm daily. You can always politely approach one of the guard soldiers and take a nice photo or have a chat with them :)
The garden are peaceful and freely accessible – you can have a picnic over there and quietly sit down in the midst of nature.

Opening Hours (during Summer):
Mon-Thu: 11am-5pm; Fri: 12-5pm; Sat-Sun: 10am-5pm
Note that the 2018 season lasted from 23 June until 18 August.
Sight description based on wikipedia
6
National Theater (Nationaltheatret)

6) National Theater (Nationaltheatret)

The National Theatre is one of Norway's largest venue for performing arts. This a Baroque-style building, designed by architect Henrik Bull, was completed in 1899. The first performances were held in September of that year. Those performances were selected works by Ludvig Holberg, "An Enemy of the People" by Henrik Ibsen and "Sigurd Jorsalfar" by Bjornstjerne Bjornson.

Ibsen and Bjornson are recognized by the theatre through statues that flank the front entrance. Likewise, their names are engraved along the front of the building alongside Ludvig Holberg.

The theatre is open for guided tours on a pre-scheduled basis. Visitors will see the foyer, which includes original furnishings from the theatre's opening in 1899. They will then see the theatre's workshops, stages and other behind-the-scenes areas. Docents share historical information and details about art found within the building. Tours last for about 45 minutes.

The National Theatre is located within Studenterlunden, which is a park that runs adjacent to Karl Johans Gate.

Operation hours: Monday - Friday: 9.30 am - 6 pm; Saturday 11 am - 5 pm.
7
Oslo City Hall

7) Oslo City Hall (must see)

Oslo’s City Hall is located in the downtown district of Pipervika. An example of the functionalist style of the mid 20th century, it was inaugurated in 1950. It is one of Oslo’s most famous buildings and was voted the city’s ‘structure of the century’ in 2005. A red brick building marked by two industrial style oblong towers, the City Hall is famous the world over as the venue for the Nobel Peace Prize awards ceremony. Barack Obama was among the first to be honored in the banqueting hall here after the ceremony was moved from the University of Oslo’s main building.

Now a mainstay of civic life in the city, Oslo’s City Hall was nearly never completed. Construction began in 1931, but was halted by World War 2, and only finished five years after the war ended. There have been municipal buildings dotted around Norway’s capital since the Middle Ages, and as far back as 1915, plans were put in place for the new, larger building in Pipervika. The building combines modern forms and styling from medieval era, including statues mounted on the walls and an ornate astronomical clock on the north face. The eastern tower contains a 49 bell carillon which chimes across the city center at the top of each hour.

Why You Should Visit:
Very scenic place, and you can visit many of the decorated halls, as well as enjoy a wonderful view of the harbor from the main balcony.

Tip:
Make sure you spend some time reading the captions under the wood carvings as you walk up to the City Hall (they are also written in English).
Free English guided tours (lasting approx. 1 hour) are available, with guides who bring the building to life, explaining the murals & artworks and their symbolism as well as the functioning of the city government in an entertaining way. Not to be missed!

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9am-4pm
8
Nobel Peace Center

8) Nobel Peace Center

The Nobel Peace Center, one of Oslo’s most recognizable buildings, is found near Oslo City Hall, overlooking the city’s harbor. The center is housed in an elegant, cream colored European style building, which once housed Oslo West railway station. The station closed in 1989, and the building was restored by British architect David Adjaye. It reopened as the Nobel Peace Center in 2006, in a ceremony led by Harald V, the King of Norway, and Wangari Mathaii, a Nobel laureate.

In just over five years, half a million visitors have come to the center to learn about the history of the Nobel Peace Prize. The center has information on all laureates that have won the prize, as well as the history of the prize, and of Alfred Nobel himself. A renowned physicist, Nobel left a portion of his will to the nation of Norway, in order to establish the Nobel Peace Prize award and ceremony which currently takes place at the nearby City Hall.

The center also hosts debates, lectures, screenings and interactive exhibitions on the subject of peace and conflict resolution. There are also permanent exhibitions on other prizes funded by Nobel’s will, recognizing achievements in the fields of science and literature.
9
Aker Brygge Wharf

9) Aker Brygge Wharf (must see)

Aker Brygge is a neighborhood in central Oslo. It is a popular location for tourists who wish to spend time walking, shopping, dining and enjoying a beautiful view of the Oslo Fjord.

The pier is a good place for people-watching, food trucks and general relaxation. The Aker Brygge Marina is also an excellent spot for watching boats or climbing aboard and experiencing the water firsthand. Electric boats are available to rent at the marina without the need for a boating license. Visitors can also go kayaking or spend time in the sauna.

Arguably, the most popular activity is simply strolling along the promenade. The waterfront walk offers a large amount of outdoor seating. In fact, some estimates place the number of outdoor seats at the wharf to near 2,500. Architecture can also be easily admired from the wharf. A combination of old-world and modern styles mesh to create a unique atmosphere that draws locals and visitors alike.

It is not uncommon to find pop-up shops, fashion shows, concerts and art exhibits on the wharf. In fact, a visitor to Oslo could easily spend an entire day at Aker Brygge and never have a lack of entertainment.
10
Akershus Castle and Fortress

10) Akershus Castle and Fortress (must see)

Akershus Fortress and Castle is a 13th century castle that was built to provide protection for the city while also serve as a residence for the royal family. The fortress and castle was completed in 1290 by King Haakon V.

Akershus currently serves as the office of Norway's prime minister. However, for many years it was a prison. A number of notable inmates spent time at Akershus. Notorious criminal and writer Gjest Baardsen began served 18 years in the prison after being given a life sentence. Legendary bank robber Ole Hoiland committed suicide at Akershus upon his second internment at the prison. Lars Haetta was sentenced to death for rebellion but his sentence was commuted to life and later suspended when he began translating the Christian Bible into Sami.

Visitors are welcome at Akershus Castle for guided tours. Those tours begin at the visitor center and include the fortress, castle, the Norwegian Armed Forces Museum and Norway's Resistance Museum.

Tourists can also see the Royal Mausoleum. King Haakon V, is interred at Akershus along with King Sigurd I, Queen Eufemia, King Haakon VII, Queen Maud, King Olav V and Crown Princess Martha.

Akershus Fortress and Castle is located near the center of the city. It is a close walk from the sites along Karl Johans Gate at about 800 meters from the parliament building and 1.5 kilometers from the Royal Palace. Many walking paths allow tourists of the city to easily explore the castle grounds.

There is typically no cost to take the guided tour of the castle. However, the facility does sometimes close to the public when it is needed for official use.

Why You Should Visit
- To see a well-preserved castle and fortress
- To learn more about Norwegian history

Tips
Akershus Church is a small church located at the top of the fortress. This should not be confused with Old Aker Church, Oslo's oldest existing building, which is in a different location.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 7am-9pm; Sat-Sun: 8am-9pm

Walking Tours in Oslo, Norway

Create Your Own Walk in Oslo

Create Your Own Walk in Oslo

Creating your own self-guided walk in Oslo is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Historical Churches Walking Tour

Historical Churches Walking Tour

Learn more about the religious life of Oslo by taking this self-guided walking tour of the city’s most important sacred sights. An interesting variety of design, including Protestant and Catholic churches, can be found on this walk.

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.0 Km or 1.2 Miles
Grunerlokka Walking Tour

Grunerlokka Walking Tour

Formerly a working-class area, Grunerlokka is now one of Oslo’s hippest neighborhoods, largely owing its status to the late 20th century gentrification process. The district is named after Friedrich Gruner (1628-1674) who served as the chief administrator of Oslo (then Christiania). Today, it represents a fusion of Norwegian and foreign cultures. Other than the local street art, stylish bars,...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.6 Km or 1.6 Miles
Museum District (Bygdoy) Walking Tour

Museum District (Bygdoy) Walking Tour

Also called Oslo's Museum District, Bygdoy is where some of the most visited museums in the city are located, displaying precious items from Norway’s past. Being one of the world’s most northerly nations, Norway has a long history of venturing into the Arctic; Norwegians were also the first to reach the South Pole. On this self-guided walk you will have a chance to learn about the...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.1 Km or 1.9 Miles
Old Oslo Walking Tour

Old Oslo Walking Tour

The Old Town of Oslo is the oldest urban area within the current capital. This part of the capital of Norway was simply called Oslo until 1925 while the city as a whole was called Kristiania. Oslo's old town was established with the urban structure around the year 1000 and was the capital of Norway's dominion in 1314. The main Old Town area has several ruins of stone and brick lying...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.4 Km or 0.9 Miles

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