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OSLO

Best things to do in Oslo in summer 2022 

Whether it's new attractions, the best nature spots, or budget-friendly travel hacks, these are some of the best things that tourists and locals can do in the Norwegian capital of Oslo this summer.

Vigeland statue park.
These are our picks for the best things to do in Oslo this summer. Pictured is Vigeland park. Photo by Nick Night on Unsplash

Oslo has something for everyone, and, arguably, summer is the best time to experience the city. 

We’ve put together a list of the best activities, attractions and things to do this year, regardless of whether you are a local, just visiting, outdoorsy or prefer the walls of a museum. 

The list includes plenty of budget-friendly hacks, meaning they won’t break the bank either. 

New national museum opens  

In June, the doors to Norway’s new national museum will open to the public for the first time. Norway’s new national museum will be the combination of four other museums, including the old National Gallery. 

The museum, which hosts some of Norway’s most iconic artworks, including Edvard Munch’s “The Scream”, will become the largest museum in the Nordics when it opens. 

The museum is located in Aker Brygge, west Oslo, just a small trot from the palace and town hall. The museum will open on June 11th. You can read more about the museum here

Island hopping 

Staying in Aker Brygge for our next pick, a popular activity among the locals in the summer is to go island hopping in the island fjord. 

Once on the islands, there are plenty of opportunities for walking, swimming and picnics. This won’t break the bank either, as you can use the public transport Ruter app to the islands. While on the ferry, you’ll have a pretty good view too. So for around 70 kroner (two 1 hour singles), you can have an afternoon spent in the sun amongst the residents of Oslo rather than being crammed onto a tour boat. 

READ MORE: How tourists in Oslo can save money and live like a local

Go on a hammock trip 

Given Norway’s abundance of nature, its only fair camping would pop up. But there’s no need for all the faff of messing about with tents. 

Oslo’s residents agree, and hammocks are more common in the capital. There are plenty of great spots for a hammock trip in the capital. 

Most of them you can take public transport too, and even more, you can combine with other activities such as swimming, hiking and biking. 

READ MORE: Five great places to go on a hammock trip in Oslo this summer

Palace reopens

The Royal Palace will open its door to the public from June 25th. The castle will be open until mid-August. The castle is open for guided tours only. The tours will travel through iconic rooms such as the Council Chamber, where King meets the government, and the Great Dining Room. 

This summer marks the first time the palace will have been open to the public for two years, after closing due to the pandemic.

Tours this year will focus on the White Lounge, which has been freshly restored. Tickets start from 175 kroner. You can click here for more information

Take a dip

From central locations, a stone’s throw from the city centre to secluded lakes, or in the river that runs through the city’s centre, there are plenty of locations to take a dip in Oslo. 

Summers in Norway can be pretty warm, and with the long days going for a swim makes perfect sense. 

The overwhelming majority of spots are open to the public, and there are even a few small sandy beaches, such as Katten badenstrand. 

READ MORE: The six best places to swim outdoors in Oslo this summer 

Picnic and engagnsgrill in the park

There are plenty of fantastic parks in Oslo, and a lot of them are major attractions too. 

Vigeland Park is one of the Norwegian capital’s most famous attractions. Home to over 200 sculptures by Gustav Vigeland, designer of the Nobel Peace Prize medal and the famous Angry Boy statue, Vigelandsparken is an essential destination.

However, it isn’t the only park where you can take a stroll while admiring some sculptures. 

Ekeberg Sculpture Park, close to downtown Oslo, is another park with international-renowned works, such as Venus Milo aux Tiroirs by Salvadore Dali. 

Add to that the fact that you can have a disposable grill, engangsgrill, or picnic in the park, too, and that’s an added bonus. 

READ MORE: What are the rules and culture of park life in Norway?

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TOURISM

Are Norway’s top attractions at risk of over-tourism?

Norway's tourism industry is showing signs of recovery following the pandemic. However, as international visitors return to tourist hotspots, the country is again debating the pros and cons of mass tourism.

Are Norway's top attractions at risk of over-tourism?

Nationwide lockdowns hit Norway’s vibrant tourism industry hard in 2020 and 2021. However, it seems that the effects of Covid-19 on Norwegian tourism are likely to be short-lived. 

According to recent data published by Telenor, the national mobility level (that is, the movement pattern in society) is already at 90 percent of what it was before the pandemic broke out. 

This pattern is also visible when it comes to foreign visitor figures at Norway’s most famous tourist locations – Pulpit Rock/Preikestolen (+68 percent this year compared to 2021), Geiranger (+448 percent), Træna (+389 percent), Trolltunga (+68 percent), and Nordkapp (+301 percent), among others. 

Pulpit Rock and challenges faced by locals

Pulpit Rock is one of the most well-known natural attractions in Norway. Situated 604 meters above the majestic Lysefjord, it offers visitors an awe-inspiring mountain trek. In 2019, the site registered its highest number of visitors ever recorded.

However, the attraction’s popularity has downsides – tourist safety concerns, capacity challenges, trail attrition, and littering. 

In July of this year, the national broadcaster (NRK) once again reported that roads in the area were heavily congested, leading to security issues and multiple roadside assistance interventions. 

Measures to tackle the issues – including limiting the number of tour buses allowed at the site’s parking lot – have been introduced even before the pandemic started to spread the number of visiting hikers across the day, but it seems that some challenges persist.

Ronny Brunvollhead of Visit Svalbard and a veteran tourism industry expert, told The Local that financing is critical in finding the correct answers to peak-season challenges.

“The challenge is how to spread tourism over time, cover the costs of externalities, and finance the adaptation and construction of roads and toilets. In part, this is addressed by Norway’s new national strategy.

“But also locally, there are good examples. When it comes to Lysefjord and Preikestolen, they tried not to limit the number of visitors but to make the footprint more sustainable. So, it’s possible, but adequate solutions need financing. Some on a local level, others on a national level,” Brunvoll pointed out.

Geiranger and Longyearbyen – cruise ship conundrum 

Norway’s fjords are a popular cruise destination. Pre-Covid, cruise ships contributed to unprecedented levels of tourism in the country, with record development in cruise-related tourism – seven consecutive years of growth up until 2019 – and a record number of cruise passengers. 

For the cruise season of 2019, around 2,000 cruise ships carried 850,000 cruise passengers along with a record 3.6 million of day tourists to Norwegian ports, according to Innovation Norway figures.

Popular cruise destinations such as Geiranger and Longyearbyen have been struggling to keep up with highly concentrated cruise tourism. 

Telenor’s data for 2022 shows that Geiranger has experienced the most significant increase in the proportion of visitors from abroad on a national level – an increase of 448 percent compared to last year.

“The issue is that, at some locations in Norway, during some periods of the year, there are mass tourism tendencies. Still, I don’t think Norway has a mass tourism problem. For example, a cruise ship bringing 4,000-5,000 visitors to Longyearbyen is challenging. Popular destinations like Lofoten also have 5-6 weeks of high season with a similar tendency. But that is just for a part of the year. When it comes to the rest of the year, the problem becomes too few tourists,” Brunvoll said.

“Cruise ship tourism has to be better regulated. It could be a resource for Norway’s tourism, but it has to be controlled and appropriate to local facilities. When it comes to Svalbard, we said that facilities don’t support such ships, and that will be solved. Authorities proposed a maximum number of 750 people (crew and passengers) so that it can match the destination. Such an approach should be implemented all over Norway so that we can have solutions that are a better fit for communities,” he added.

New tourism strategy

In 2020, the Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Fisheries commissioned Innovation Norway to develop a general strategy for the development of Norwegian tourism. 

Roughly a year later, the National Tourism Strategy 2030 – aimed at creating year-round employment and promoting sustainable development – was published. 

Haaken Christensen, Senior Adviser for Sustainable and Nature Tourism at Innovation Norway, told The Local that all of Norway’s tourism efforts are based on sustainability principles.

“The new strategy is based on principles of sustainable tourism. We’re spending our money wisely while trying to lead tourism in the right direction and avoiding over-tourism so that vulnerable local destinations are better prepared. 

“We have a sustainability certification system a few years in the running, and more and more destinations are going for it. That leads to a strategic shift toward sustainability. Of course, now we have interesting discussions on how to prepare our nature for increased traffic on trails, parking lots, gravel roads in the mountains… That will feed into the political discussion that is going on at the moment. 

“We’re trying to be ahead of developments and trends so that we are prepared when things and trends change and new destinations become popular. We’re trying to have tools in place to steer tourism in a sustainable manner,” Christensen pointed out. 

Is there enough political will to tackle key issues?

However, while Norway has been a trailblazer in promoting sustainable tourism over the years, the country has faced a lack of political will when tackling some of the industry-specific issues.

The new strategy also points to this problem: 

“There has been no political will to accommodate the industry’s desire to improve management capability at destinations. Cooperation between public and private stakeholders must be reinforced during a time of such rapid growth. As a result, tourism in Norway has experienced clear growing pains over the last few years… This is particularly true of the handling of volume growth at iconic natural attractions, in harbours welcoming lots of cruise arrivals or charming districts visited by lots of people.” – National Tourism Strategy 2030, p10.

Brunvoll also points to the importance of mobilising political will behind the strategy.

“The new strategy for tourism, developed in cooperation with tourism organisations, regional and local communities, and tourism businesses, sets forward a good direction, sustainability-wise. However, political will and effort need to be put into it. Without that, nothing will happen. The new government officially declared that it would look into the strategy and start working on seeing tourism as a proper business. This has been stated as a priority, and in writing, so that is positive,” he noted.

However, as Norwegian tourism is still recovering from the industry-wide shockwaves generated by the pandemic, finding a middle way between prioritising business recovery and upholding sustainability principles could be demanding.

Ingunn Sørnes, Special Adviser for Tourism at Innovation Norway, sees a certain level of risk in this area.

“The tourism industry has been through the COVID pandemic and is – of course – eager to get on their feet again. This could lead, maybe, to some disregard for principles that businesses previously valued. To some extent, it is hard to be based on values when it comes down to income,” Sørnes stated.

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