Oslo, Norway

Is Oslo A Boring Place To Travel?

I visited Norway hoping more was waiting there for me than high prices, low temperatures and an overabundance of smoked seafood. Because my Norwegian love interest calls Oslo home, I pinned particular hopes on the country’s capital.

This was in spite of the many warnings I’d received. “Oslo’s not only cold and grey,” a friend in quirky Montréal informed me, the week before I jetted across the north Atlantic. “But people are unfriendly and there isn’t a lot to do, except for dine in extremely expensive restaurants.”

Plan any trip to Norway
 

To be sure, the Tuesday morning I arrived was probably the coldest, greyest June 12 I’ve ever experienced. The burly Viking waiting for me at Oslo’s Sentral Station partially quelled my disappointment, but I didn’t get to enjoy his presence for long: I had to meet a tour guide in less than an hour.

 

“On a sunny day,” The older gentleman, who moonlighted as an architect, explained, “this building would stun you with how bright and white it is, almost as if it were an iceberg coming out of the harbor.

“But today,” he smirked, and ran his hand across the exterior of the Oslo Opera House, “the grey sky simply emphasizes what a poor choice it was to use granite — these blocks are positively yellow!”

Although the three-hour tour barely scratched the surface of Norway’s capital — a blessing, in a way, given my jetlag — it proved an apt cross-section of the city that most people I know love to hate.

 

“While we were on top of the Opera House,” I recounted to my hunky host, as he filled my glass with the Spanish red he’d just opened, “the tour guide explained to me how controversial the ‘Barcode’ skyscrapers are, and how they pervert the original vision of Oslo — ‘the sea, the green and the city in-between’.”

He laughed and re-corked the bottle. “That’s a really old-school view — I like the Barcode a lot. I feel like it modernizes my city.”

“Hmm,” I sighed. “He also talked shit about Aker Brygge — I’m assuming you love that place, too?”

“Yup,” he said,”in fact, that’s where we’re going to go with my co-workers next week, before you leave.” He raised his glass and toasted me. “To differing opinions?”

We clinked our glasses clinked together, and as I began devouring the medium rare salmon he had prepared for my “Welcome” dinner, I pondered how subtly yet dramatically different his perspective on his city had been than the one my tour guide, a seeming expert on all things Oslo, offered.

 

The sometimes-architect had sung the praises of structures like Akershus Fortress, which dates back to the late 13th century, and the city’s iconic Royal Palace, while Anders downplayed the importance of Norwegian tradition in moving his city into the future.

Although I found myself more genuinely in agreement with the elderly tour guide, my desire to bed the man sitting across from me made me consider his views more than I otherwise would’ve, even though he spent our first evening dodging my increasingly obvious advances.

The next morning, I boarded an early train west across Norway to the definitely-not-boring city of Bergen, whose breathtaking fjords and midnight sun not only took my mind off a love I realized would almost certainly go unrequited — they made me consider, just a day into my journey, that perhaps Oslo was a bit boring.

 

When I returned to Oslo Saturday morning, thoroughly enamored not only with Bergen, but the entire feel of Norway’s west coast, it was with the idea that I would as purposely remain numb to Oslo as I did to the host I still desperately wanted to bang. The cold drizzle falling as my train pulled into the station made that easy, initially.

But just as I saw sparks of hope whenever my hopeless crush would accidentally brush up against me or comment on how handsome I looked as he photographed me walking down Karl Johans Gate, Oslo’s main street, the Oslo scenery that provided the backdrop for the final chapter of our one-way courtship began to slowly allure me, particularly when the sun eventually emerged from underneath its cloud blanket.

 

Unfortunately, my final impression of Oslo would be less in line with the erotic sculptures of Vigeland Park, where we spent that afternoon, or even the understated, quiet panorama of infamous Holmenkollbakken ski ramp I enjoyed as Whatshisname and I attempted to picnic on the slight hill that rose up behind his apartment building Sunday. Mentally, I was as distant from the peace Aung San Suu Kyi had spoken about when we watched her accept her Nobel Peace Prize as I could be.

No, as my Sweden-bound train departed Sentral Station early Tuesday morning, just one week after I arrived in the city all but two people I’ve met love to hate, I couldn’t bring myself to remember any of the Oslo experiences that had stimulated or even delighted me, even as I sifted through the images of my brief stay in the city to pick out the best ones — and they were plenty good.

 

Instead, I fixated on the events of the previous night when, as promised, Anders took me as his plus one to his company gathering in the too-trendy Aker Brygge area the not-trendy-at-all tour guide had warned me about and, when I finally pressed him as to why he had so coyly shrugged off my pursuit of him, told me flat out that the thought of being with me romantically sickened him.

I found my own way back to his apartment as the Scandinavian summer sun half-set.

Oslo is not a boring city, not by a long shot. But I nonetheless set foot onto Swedish soil as unsure in my feelings about Norway’s capital as I had when I arrived, decidedly — though not unsurprisingly — unsure I would visit again.

About The Author

is the author of 682 posts on Leave Your Daily Hell. Robert founded Leave Your Daily Hell in 2010 so that other travelers would have an entertaining, reliable source of information, advice and inspiration at their fingertips. Want to travel more often? Subscribe to email updates today!

 
 

  informs, inspires, entertains and empowers travelers like you. My name is Robert and I'm happy you're here!

 
 
 

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  • Norwegian Troll Lover

    Man, I got lucky with a Muslim man, a Swede, and I had to turn down the Norwegian guy because I was exhausted, and all of the romance did not happen on the same day. I had fun at the London Pub too. I an very fond of Oslo, probably because they like to fuck Americans. LOL

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  • suzanna28

    Oslo is boring… I was there on holiday.. There is nothing to do there . Everything is over priced. There are hardly any nice affordable places to eat out.

    At least 3.2 pounds for an espresso ? please. Even starbucks is more expensive than what it would cost in America and the UK. I pay 2.50 pounds for a starbucks coffee in London. In Norway it was about 5 pounds.

    about 5 okay museums . lame shopping .. what else..

    the fashion is terrible. IN most shops they sell these ugly winter boots. It was the height of summer by the way. All the colours people wear are so dull and boring.
    Also who in their right mind would pay 250 pounds for a norwegian wool sweater..
    I could get the same sweater in Russia/ Tallin/Riga for about 30 pounds.

    I saw nothing there that excited to me and I walked all over the city

    Boring as hell…

    The cafes weren’t all that good either.. coffee was okay and cakes overpriced and okay.

    There were about 5 okay museums and one okay park with some sculptures.

    London and the rest of the UK offers way more value for money and excitement and variety. Even Sweden and Denmark are more exciting.

    I travel alooot. Of all the european countries I went to and I have been to most of them , I have to say Norway(Oslo) was the most disappointing.

    Sorry but I don’t recommend Oslo to anyone. save your time and money and go elsewhere in europe.

    Even the bus we had to take from Oslo to the airport almost cost as much as the flight we got from London to Oslo. … crazy.

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  • Vidar

    Oslo is a beautiful city. I’ve been living here all my life, and when some friends of mine from UK wanted to visit me I suddenly had to get to know the city myself. There are a lot of hidden opportunities for fun in Oslo, you just have to look closely. Most of them are free too. Now my friends do not have a lot of money, so to spend as little as possible I found Sentrum Pensjonat. Its a small pension house located right next to Karl Johansgate. Just thought I should share something back with you and other readers. 🙂 The link to the pension house is http://sentrumpensjonat.no/.

    I can however see the view of suzanna28 as well. Most things are really expensive to outsiders.

  • Thanks for that recommendation, Vidar! I hope my other readers will find it useful.

  • Jane Smith

    Agree – boring, grey, unfriendly people, stupid airport with unfriendly staff. Loved Norway though. Tromsø is great.

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  • hmm

    Boring and racist. read it from foreigners who lived there

    http://www.topix.com/forum/world/norway/TOAKN3IAAKT8OKG27

  • Per Andersen

    Well, Tromsø isn’t Norway 😉

  • LOL

  • Eek!

  • Guest

    Of course Tromsø is in Norway! Don’t let Per Andersen confuse you. He is an ultra extreme/fanatic sami activist, who has the the most crazy fantasy about creating his own sami land from Russia in the east, including larger parts of Finland, Sweden and Norway. A wet dream he shares with very, very few norwegians. This is his homepage where his map is shown

    https://www.facebook.com/GiveSamiPeopleBackTheirHomeland?hc_location=stream

    Mr Andersen is not taken seriously by people in general her in Norway – more looked upon as a nitpicker.

  • Just to identify myself – I wrote the above comments on Tromsø and Per Andersen.

  • Per Andersen

    Tromsø is called Romsa and is a part of Sapmi btw…

  • Interesting!

  • Apollonas

    So what i got out of this is that oslo is not that boring because you wanted to sleep with the elder guide?

  • Whaaaaaat?!

  • JennyDahlBakken

    People who say Oslo are boring have only visited the “touristy” areas. They are bland. I am born in Oslo and have lived here basically all my life, and I love the city more every year. I never go to Aker Brygge (you seem pretty unlucky with your Norwegian guy there, he seems like a snotty West-end guy) or Holmenkollen for that matter. Mostly stick to the East end – Grünerløkka, Grønland, the area around Youngstorget. It has a lot of nice places to go out, nice things to see, creative stores etc. And don’t get me started on the parks! Oslo is one of the greenest cities in the world. And the islands, during summer they are just a ferry ride away, waiting with the sound of waves and the beaches… I am always annoyed when people who’ve only seen Karl Johan and the Royal Palace says Oslo is shit. That’s because you haven’t been a tourist intending to really get to KNOW the city. Everyone knows that means going off the tourist path, in all destinations. I often act as “guide” when I have foreign friends visiting, often they’ve been here for a couple of days already and they say I change their perspective on the city, makes them see it like a local. I love my city, and I’ve travelled to (over-hyped) destinations such as London, Milan etc. several times. Berlin and Copenhagen are the only cities this far I like as much as Oslo. They seem more down-to-earth there, which is one of the things I like about Oslo.

    I dare you to pick a better guide/host, and then come back! I promise you will see the city differently.

  • JennyDahlBakken

    He’s lying, Tromsø is a part of Norway.

  • JennyDahlBakken

    The one thing I DON’T like about Norway/Norwegians, is how much we complain. We are like spoiled brats not realizing how lucky we are and not valuing what we have. I have visited the slums in Mumbai and seen people proud of what they had because they had a house with metal plates, not cardboard for a roof. It made me deeply embarassed to be from such a spoiled, conceited nation in terms of the people.

  • Thanks for all your insight, Jenny! I really appreciate reading it. I must return to Norway and to Oslo!

  • ChristophCK

    Norway is outside Europe as well .. closer to Iceland

  • ChristophCK

    Avoid !!! Norway, Oslo, etc … expensive, boring country & sad people … a lot of hidden racism too …

    … Jesus Christ .. go to Spain, Italy, etc … at least you will see smiling faces & friendly people .. and taste a lot of good food !

  • Thanks for your candor!

  • Milan Dunjic

    Here is one way of not being bored in Oslo… 🙂 http://www.limos4oslo.com/services/oslo-sightseeing-tours/

  • Darmann

    Sad you didn’t like the city, but I’m glad we’re not as “international” and *destroyed* as Sweden and the three main cities there.

    I’m born and raised in this city and I think it’s great (in many ways I don’t care to explain) – but yes possibly a better place to LIVE than to VISIT, that I will admit. Personally I find Oslo more alive and active than many Scandinavian cities. And with around 5000 music events a year maybe I have reason to. That beats Stockholm and Copenhagen most years…

  • Darmann

    Stupid airport? Curios to know why is that.
    I think it’s boring to be there, myself, too, but when it comes to effectiveness and working as it should, I don’t see much to complain about. And MANY airports around Europe are much, much uglier.

  • whoe

    Spoken like a typisk norsk. How dare you say bad things about my land. Norway is great Oslo is great and we norsk are the greatest everyone should be just lucky to breathe Norwegian air

  • Jerry Howe

    My mother was born in a very Norwegian small town in Wisconsin. I met the extended family once. almost everyone in her hamlet was related in one way . I traveled once from Sundsvall to Trondheim, then to Bergen and Oslo on land by hitch hiking, staying in spare rooms belonging to widows in small towns. I stayed once in a coed hostel and contracted gonorrhea from my bunk mate, as we were the only two staying there that night . I like Norwegians ( I embrace and celebrate that part of my ethnic emotional and psychological makeup), but as a rule, I would say that they can be pretty dull.
    I’ve been to the majority countries by land between Western Europe and the eastern tip of Java and have lived in the most ethnically diverse city in the United States for the past 35 years.
    I love the South of France along the Cote D’Azur, but so not feel the need to explore much of Scandinavia again, although I love the darkness of all Bergman films as I guess that it is part of my sensibility.

  • Dan Hornburgh

    There are no tourist traps in Oslo. No need for them as you can see the WHOLE CITY in less than an hour. Oslo is intensely dull and only beautiful to those who have lived here (Same as ALL OTHER PLACES ON EARTH. Everyone loves their home). I have lived here for a year now, and so far the most exciting thing thatˋs happened is me being hit by a biker on the sidewalk, super slow-like. No one got even slightly hurt, but it was pretty awkward.

    It is a small town trying to be a metropolis and then failing completely. Also, the reason people seem down to earth here is that you have little to compare it to (Most likely) because seriously, people are so far from being down to earth in here. In Norway in general actually. We all pretend everything is fine, yet inside weˋre envious petty little shits. Everyone still obsessed with status and what others think about them etc. Norwegians couldn´t be down to earth if they tried. Have no idea what the phrase even means.

    Also, as has been proven lately, norwegians are racist AF. I feel little other than shame about being a norwegian. It´s the hillbilly capitol of northern europe. A sad self worshipping people who keep telling themselves they´re the greatest in the world because we score high on quality of life. A quality of life we enjoy solely becausewe are the bathing in oil. Sadly oil is less valuable, nothing to fall back on.. It will be devastating for norwegians once they realize they have nothing to fall back on. the blow to the norwegian ego when we realize that we´re a nation totally beholden to resource gathering and sale in the same way shitty countries around the world do… We have zero skills. Before we found oil we were a nation of poor ignorant hobos, we´ll go back to that.

    Stay out of norway, but if you HAVE to come here, go to the west coast and the northern areas like Lofoten. Nature is beautiful, people are exactly as shitty as everywhere else in Norway.

  • JennyDahlBakken

    Wow, aren’t you just a fountain of joy? 😛

    Sorry that you have this experience, but your attitude seems to be part of the problem.

    And no way you can see Oslo in an hour. I am a certified guide now and give tours. The shortest I’ve done is an hour and then we barely managed the opera, fortress and the city hall. No chance to get to the museums or Aker brygge or anything. The regular tour for cruise tourists is three or four hours, and includes the viking ship museum, the Vigeland park and usually a quick trip up to Holmenkollen.

    It seems to me you live in the western part and an urban part of the city. Because people on the westside are more stuck-up and care about their status than on the Eastern side.

    I agree a lot of Norwegians are racists, but I don’t see this as much in Oslo as the rest of the country. And in some ways the Swedes are way worse – their SD party were nazis in the 90s, goddamnit. And I’ve yet to find one country in the world without racist bigots.

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