Fluffy snow, sparkling fairy lights, fire crackling in the wooden houses. The magic of silence, outdoor winter activities, Christmas markets, and comfort food. Oslo in winter is a magical city. Find out the best things to do in Oslo in winter.
It’s been three years since I’ve been spending winter in Oslo, Norway. Every time I look outside the window in my apartment or when I travel to Norway in winter, I am more and more amazed. Now, it is time for me to share with you why you should visit Norway in winter and what are the best things to do in Oslo in winter. There are plenty! Be prepared to experience the glittering wonderland of snow 😉
Top reasons to visit Oslo in winter & why to spend winter in Norway
What are the reasons to visit Oslo and Norway in winter?
It’s not that cold – Oslo winter weather
I get it. You’re probably thinking –Norway is so cold in winter, why would I even go there? Everyone visits Norway in the summer! Well, you don’t want to be everyone, do you? Think a little differently and you’ll discover that winter is one of the best times to visit Norway (if not the best?!). And it’s not that cold.
Winter in the Oslo region normally starts in November and lasts up until March. In other parts of Norway, it can come earlier and stay for longer. For example, in Svalbard, in April there is still plenty of snow, but that’s an extreme case.
In winter, Oslo is normally not that cold. All the coastal parts of Norway generally have a milder climate, especially on the west. However, if you decide to go more inland/north/to the mountains, you can expect much colder temperatures.
Oslo weather in December can be a bit of a mix, it’s dark and the temperatures don’t go that low. It usually gets brighter and colder in January and February with a proper amount of snow.
Temperatures in Oslo in winter (November-March):
- Average temperatures: 0,7°C to -4,3°C
- Min. -15°C, Max. 13°C
- Temperatures in Oslo in December: 1°C/-4°C
- Temperatures in Oslo in January: 0°C/-5°C
- Temperatures in Oslo in February: 1°C/-5°C
The temperatures above are the average values. However, it is not uncommon that they can drop much lower to even -10°C or -15°C. It all depends on the year. We all know that the world climate is changing and it’s very hard to predict the exact weather in the season. For example, last year there was very long, strong, cold and full-of-snow winter. Everyone loved it, because of all of the winter outdoor activities, especially skiing. However, this year we currently have very little snow in Oslo in December and the temperatures are around -4°C. If that happens, and you want to make sure you see the snow, you can just get out of the city for a short winter road trip to discover unique places to visit in Norway in winter and you’ll be sure to see the winter wonderland there.
Whatever the weather decides to be this year, be prepared and wear proper Norway winter clothing when you pack for Oslo in winter.
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Norway in winter becomes a fairytale
That’s it. End of the post. Go out and enjoy the winter landscape!
Just kidding. But, to be honest with you, this would be enough to convince me to visit Norway in winter. The whole country is such a pretty place, that just takes my breath away. Think snow-laden trees and glittery hills. Ah.
Tourists are gone
We all know that Norway does get a lot of tourists. It is, however, mostly in the summer months. Winter in Norway is a peaceful time, with mainly Norwegians speeding through the cross-country tracks in the forests. If you, like me, love people, but prefer them in the small doses, travel to Norway in winter. You’ll have the whole country for yourself (and Norwegians, who are not that many ?)
It’s true, that some of the popular attractions in Norway are closed or impossible to get to in winter (because of the snow and ice). But, hello, there are many more beautiful places to visit. Even the very popular tourist locations in Norway like Norway in a Nutshell in winter with Aurland and Flam, are peaceful and quiet. Oslo normally gets much quieter during the Christmas period, but apart from that, the city lives its own life, as usual. Everyone spends time either skiing or warming up indoors, it’s so cozy everywhere. The museums and attractions are usually open even during the Christmas period, but they can have limited opening times. The shops are often closed for a few days.
You can reach the winter activities and outdoors in minutes
That’s why Oslo is cool – you have plenty of opportunities for Oslo sightseeing in the city and then nature is just around the corner – which you can reach very easily with the metro. Sledging, skiing, and other winter activities are available for everyone and you don’t need a car to get there.
You can dare to be different and try unique things to do in Oslo in winter
Because if everyone goes to Norway in summer, you can be the one going there in winter, right?
The best things to do in Oslo in winter
What to do in Oslo in winter? Plenty of things!
Explore Oslo with a tour
A guided tour can be a fun way of exploring a new city and learning all about it.
Go for a ski!
Cross-country skiing is a national sport in Norway. You will find kilometers and kilometers of perfectly prepared cross-country tracks literally anywhere you go in Norway, including Oslo. In Oslo, you can find more than 2600 km prepared tracks for cross-country skiing, 90 km of which are lit for the evening tours. The best places for skiing in Oslo area are in Nordmarka and Østmarka, where you can stop for a break in one of the traditional cabins. Check some of the ski routes here.
The same goes for downhill skiing. In Oslo Winter Park, there are 14 slopes with 6 lifts. There is no better way of indulging into the Norwegian way of living than trying skiing in winter in Norway.
To get to Oslo Winter Park take line 1 to Frognereseteren, get off at the last stop Frognereseteren and walk up to Tryvann.
Sledging is NOT just for kids. Not in Norway, at least. One of the best Oslo winter activities available for everyone is sledging. The 2-kilometer sled run in the city is called Korketrekkeren (“the corkscrew”) and lies close to Holmenkollen (where the ski jump is located). The elevation drop of the track is 255 meters. To go back to the top of the route, you can simply take the metro. It’s a great outdoor adventure for all. SO MUCH fun, you guys! You can ride in Korketrekkeren for free, but to rent the sledges you need to pay between 100-150 NOK per day. If you have one, you can bring your own sled, too.
Check how it looks like on the video:
When you are around, it’s worth to pay a visit to the cozy Frognerseteren café and restaurant, located in the picturesque building from 1891. The wooden architecture gives you a feeling that you are somewhere in the mountains. And there are amazing views of the Oslofjorden. Try their famous apple pie and hot chocolate or opt for traditional Norwegian waffles.
To get to Korketrekkeren, take a metro line 1 to Frognereseteren and get off at the last station Frognereseteren.
Watch World Ski Jumping competition
Oslo in winter often hosts the Ski Jumping World Cup and FIS Nordic World Ski Championships, that take place in the Holmenkollen ski jump. We went there last year to cheer for Polish jumpers and it was so much fun. They normally start in Oslo in February or March. The Holmenkollen ski jump is also worth a visit even if there is no competition held on. There are amazing views from there to the city and it’s cool to see the size of it in real life.
To get to Holmenkollen, take a metro line 1 to Frognereseteren and get off at Holmenkollen station.
Try ice skating
Ice skating is very popular in Oslo with several ice rinks open throughout the season. The main one is Spikersuppa in Oslo city center, next to the National Theatre. There is also a big ice rink with music and rentals at Frogner Stadium, next to the Vigeland Park.
When the waters and lakes freeze over, and you are adventurous enough, you can try ice skating there. Just make sure that it’s safe – the ice should be at least 10 cm thick. In Oslo, the popular lakes for ice skating are Maridalsvannet, Bogstadvannet, Østensjøvannet, Sognsvann, and Nøklevann.
Walk on the sea
Ever wanted to walk on water? In Oslo, in winter you can. When the sea in the fjord freezes it is possible to walk on it or to do cross-country skiing. The popular place is in Sandvika, where you can walk around the Kalvøya island. Just make sure it is safe enough, as otherwise, it’s very dangerous. There are normally signs and local announcements.
Always confirm that it is safe, and, preferably, do it only when you can see others with more experience. I’ve tried it the first time on our weekend trip to Helsinki in winter and it was fun!
Warm-up in the sauna and cool down in the Oslofjord
After a long wintery walk in Oslo, you can soothe your muscles and warm up your body in the wood-burning sauna in Oslo. The tradition originating from Finland is quickly spreading also in Norway. The first time when I tried the social sauna experience and swimming in the frozen sea was during our winter weekend in Helsinki. I was excited to find out that a similar experience is possible also in the Norwegian capital. As a guest of SALT sauna, I had a chance to try it out.
SALT is a nomadic art project located right by the waters of the Oslofjord. It can be easily spotted by the distinctive pyramidal constructions called “hejser”. The project includes art and culture events, concerts, discussions, access to food facilities and several saunas.
There three different saunas to choose from. We’ve visited one of the world’s largest saunas, called Ardna, where you can book a 3 hours session. On Fridays and Saturdays, there is live music by the city’s DJs. There is also a bar where you can buy a selection of drinks. With the ticket to the sauna, you have access to the small barrel sauna located outside and the cold water tubs. The tickets are 195 NOK per person.
SALT will be in Oslo until 2020 when its journey will continue to the north, so hurry up to try it out before it moves away.
Explore the local Christmas markets
They say that the best Christmas markets in Europe are in Germany, but isn’t the Scandinavia a motherland of Christmas? There is always snow here in winter and Santa Claus lives on the North Pole, so close to Svalbard. Visiting Christmas markets is one of the best things to do in Oslo in December. In the weeks before Christmas, there are Christmas markets happening every day. Norwegian Christmas markets are full of lights, traditional Norwegian winter clothes, and woolen sweaters, gloves or socks, yummy comfort food, mulled wine and fireplaces. It’s also a perfect spot to pick up some Norwegian gifts or souvenirs to take back home.
The most famous Christmas markets in Oslo are Christmas Market in Spikersuppa, also known as a winter wonderland in Oslo. You can find it in the city center along the Karl Johans Gate with a Ferris wheel, fireplaces, and many many stalls. Then, there is Youngstorget with big heated traditional tents called lavvus, traditionally used by Sami people in Scandinavia. My favorite one is in Bærums Verk, where you can enjoy little shops located in the old houses from the 17th century, along with the beautifully decorated paths by the river.
Visit top Oslo attractions
All of the things to see in Oslo are open in winter (with the exception of the Christmas period) and some of them look even better with snow and the frost. Some of the highlights include:
- Vigeland Sculpture Park is probably the most famous park in Oslo. It displays the works of Gustav Vigeland and is also home to the Vigeland Museum. The park looks very special in the frosty weather, with all the famous sculptures covered in snow. There is free entrance to the park, the museum is ticketed.
- Oslo museums give you a chance to warm up if the temperatures outside suddenly drop. A Viking Ship Museum is worth a visit with its collections of the world’s best-preserved Viking ships. Moreover, stop by the Fram museum – home to the world’s strongest polar vessel and a very interesting exhibition about Polar history.
- Oslo Opera House – is an example of the fine modern architecture in Oslo. It’s free to enter for everyone and also free (or even encouraged) to walk on the roof.
- Akershus Festning – the Oslo fortress is also a medieval castle, which has been used as a military base and a prison. It offers great views to the Oslofjord and Aker Brygge. The grounds are free to enter, but to get inside the building and the museum you need a ticket.
- Ekeberg Sculpture Park – is another famous sculpture park in Oslo. It’s located on the small hill at Ekeberg and offers panoramic views of the city. Free entrance.
Watch the late sunrise and early sunset
If you are a sunrise lover like me but don’t like waking up super early (also like me), you are in for a treat in Norway in winter! The days in winter are much shorter with the late sunrises normally happening around 9 am in the Oslo area to even 12 am in Tromso (until it gets completely dark). It’s a perfect time for photographers with several hours of the “golden hour” and beautiful colors of the winter sky. The best places for admiring the Oslo fjord in the sunrise and sunsets are Holmenkollen, Ekeberg Park, and Akershus Festning.
Get cozy in the mountain cabin
Nothing sounds cozier than sitting by a fireplace in the traditional wooden Norwegian cabin hidden among the snowy mountains. With their long winters, Norwegians have learned perfectly how to make this time of the year the coziest of all. The houses are full of light, candles, and fireplaces. The fairy lights twinkle at night brightening up the snowy landscape. After an active day out in the snow, you can warm up by the fire with a glass of traditional steamy Glogg and listen to the old stories about the trolls… There are many mountain cabins around and in Oslo, especially in Nordmarka and Østmarka. Many of them are accessible through DNT (Norwegian Trekking Association) membership and offer cheap accommodation in Oslo. You can find more details here.
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Cosying up to the fireplace is all I want to do now as winter is still in full swing here ? ~ Are you still surrounded by wintery conditions or have signs of spring arrived your way yet?? ~ And for all the women out there – happy International Women’s Day! Let’s celebrate the achievements of women at any day of the year, would you agree? ? . . . #worlderingaround #norwaytrip #mittnorge #norway2day #awesomenorway #mynorway #bestofnorway #norwaylove #winterwonders #mountaingirls #girlslovetravel #travelgirldiary #girlaroundworld #shetravels #scandinavianstyle #architecturephoto #architecturelover #sheisnotlost #adventuregirls #femaletravelbloggers #femmetravel #globelletravels #girlsthatwander #travelgirls #beautifulhomes #fireplacetime #girlslovetravel #girlsborntotravel #femaletravel #travelgirlsgo
Go for a hike/walk
Hike in Oslo? Well, it’s more like a mountain walk, but there are plenty of opportunities to get closer to nature even if you don’t cross country ski. Nordmarka and Østmarka have plenty of trails. For a very easy winter walk head to Sognsvann, which is accessible by the subway. You can walk around the lake and stop for a waffle in the cabin. However, beware of the cross-country skiers, and stay out their way. Another cool winter hike is a walk up to Kolsåstoppen hill. I’ve done it both in winter and in the summer, and the views are amazing both times. If you don’t have experience in winter hiking, don’t do it.
Try Norwegian comfort food
Through the centuries of dealing with cold and dark weather in winter in Norway, Norwegians perfected their comfort food. It’s mostly based on meat, potatoes (and waffles!), but it’s tasty and filling. For a quick cheap snack go to Narvesen shop, where you can get a cheap coffee and a hot dog.
Grünerløkka area in Oslo has a big restaurant and pub scene for all the budgets. You can also find there a Mathallen – a big hall with different food stalls and small restaurants.
Very popular are reasonably priced and very tasty burger places like Illegal Burger and Munchies. They are both really good and it’s hard to choose which one is better 😉 The most touristy eating places are located in Aker Brygge. Locals tend to avoid those, but we do go there sometimes for a drink with a view. Prices are not cheap, though.
Winter, especially before Christmas is also time for traditional Norwegian Christmas food. You can find it in several restaurants around the city. The staples include rakfisk, lutefisk (fermented fish) and pinnekjøtt (dried lamb).
Go for an adventurous winter road trip in Norway
When you have a few more days to spend in Oslo and around, you can explore the nearby area. Summer road trips are accessible to everyone. Winter road trips in Norway are only for the brave ones. The winter driving in Norway can be challenging but is doable and the mesmerizing views of the snow-capped pine trees and dramatic mountains are definitely worth it. Just don’t try it without a proper winter driving experience.
Try dog sledding
Another fun activity to do in Norway in winter is dog sledding. Make sure you choose the company who treats their dogs well. We’ve tried dog sledding in Norway near Oslo and loved it. The best part? Dogs loved it too 😉
Where to stay in Oslo?
Oslo accommodation ranges from cheap (uh hmm, I should rather say “cheap“) through modern to very expensive. But generally is on the pricey side. If you want to do it on a budget side, try couchsurfing.com, hostels or DNT cabins.
Here are a few recommendations for hotels in Oslo for different budgets:
$ Saga Poshtel Oslo Central – one of the cheaper hotels, located in Oslo city center with the beds starting from € 39 and very high reviews.
$$ Oslo Guldsmeden – eco-friendly hotel with Balinese decor and organic breakfast (so delicious, yum) is one of the best hotels in Oslo. I stayed there for several days on one of my work visits and totally loved it. It offers a spa and a relaxing atmosphere. The lounge downstairs is a great area to chill out and the whole place is beautifully decorated. You can really feel like at someone’s very nice home, not the hotel. Highly recommended. Check prices and availability.
$$$ Thief Hotel – if you want to treat yourself, that’s the place. I haven’t had a chance to stay there yet, but my boyfriend visited it and the interior looks amazing. The location is perfect, too – in the heart of the most expensive Oslo area, Aker Brygge, just by the waters of the Oslo Fjord and few steps from many pubs and restaurants. There’s also a spa and a gym, and Nespresso machines in the rooms (!). Check prices and availability.
While you are in Oslo why not to venture a bit further out to experience a few other cool things to do in Norway in winter?
Other things to do in Norway in winter
Go on a snowmobile tour
In winter you can go on a snowmobile adventure in Norway. The best ones are in Svalbard, but you can also find them in other parts of Norway, such as Tromsø or Alta. The drive on the sea ice and getting close to the dramatic glaciers is the once in a lifetime experience. If you are lucky you can even spot the polar bears on the way.
Chase the Northern Lights
The winter in Norway is the time of the darkness. And that means the higher chance of spotting the Aurora. Staring into the black night sky illuminated by the Northern Lights in Norway should be on everyone’s bucket list. The best time to visit Norway for Northern Lights is in winter.
Stay in the ice hotel
Every year in winter in Norway and around the whole of Scandinavia, the special hotels are being built. The ice hotels, that you can find in northern Norway in Alta are made entirely from snow and ice. They feature several bedrooms, ice bars, ice chapels, and ice artwork. It takes about five weeks of hard work to have a hotel ready. The prices of the stay are not cheap, but in this case, you pay for the unique experience rather than just for a room. Check the prices, availability and the hotel pictures here.
Would you like to visit Oslo and Norway in winter? Do you know any more reasons why winter might be the best time to go to Norway or what else to do in Oslo in winter? Let me know in the comments!
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