Are you planning or considering spending the holidays in Oslo? It’s a great time to visit the Norwegian capital, and experience snow, the cold dark evenings that make you crave for a cup of hot chocolate, and enjoy the seasonal attractions.
First a few practical things you might want to be aware of:
- In Norway, Christmas celebration happens on Christmas Eve (yes, we’re that impatient).
- If you are one of those people that leave Christmas shopping literally to the last minute, do keep in mind that most shops are closed on the 24th, and remain closed on the 25th and 26th (your wallet will be grateful)
- Only a few restaurants are open on Christmas Eve, and you are most likely going to find an open restaurant in a hotel
- Public transport operates with limited service, however taxis operate throughout the holidays. For public transport, see Ruter’s Christmas service guide.
- Many restaurants remain closed between Christmas and the beginning of January
- Vinmonopolet, the only alcoholic beverage retailer in Norway, is open on the 22nd December and closed 23-26 December.
Here is our list of top 5 activities for Christmas time in Oslo
Winter Wonderland in Oslo
The Winter Wonderland Christmas Market in Spikersuppa, by Karl Johans gate.
Put your balance to the test in the ice skating rink, enjoy a gorgeous view over the city from the top of the Ferris wheel, taste your way through the numerous stalls with all types of Christmas treats, warm up with a cup of hot mulled wine (which, ironically enough, is not part of the Norwegian Christmas tradition) and snap a few selfies in the season’s most Instagram friendly spot, the light tunnel, which you’ll find on the Stortingsgata side of the market. Free entry. Open until 30 December. Hours vary by day, check the day’s hours here.
Christmas market at Bærums Verk
Some 45-minute bus ride or a half an hour car ride from central Oslo takes you to Bærums Verk, a small village nestled in a valley by the river Lomma. It used to be the home of a factory producing metal castings, and is now a popular residential area with some 40+ shops, art galleries, a sculpture park, restaurants and cafes in the historical surroundings. There is a Christmas market until 23rd December and various Christmas activities suited for grown ups and especially families, such as a choir, horse riding and so on. Take the bus number 150 from Oslo, or the E18 towards Sandvika. Bærums Verk website (available only in Norwegian).
Christmas Cruise by the Oslo Fjord to Drøbak
Another great way to get into Christmas spirit is a fjord cruise to Drøbak, a small, cosy costal town where you can visit Santa’s house. Many of the town’s old wooden houses date back as far as the 18th century, when the town established as a local hub for shipping and fishing. While Drøbak is a great destination for a summertime day trip, a cruise along the Oslo fjord is guaranteed to get you in festive spirit in no time. The cruise and a couple of hours in Drøbak takes approximately 5 hours. Cruises depart from Langaika (across the Opera house) until 30.12. Advance booking is recommended. Read more.
Traditional Norwegian Christmas platter (juletallerken)
In case you’re wondering what Norwegians eat for Christmas, there really is no national consensus. Lamb or mutton is popular In the West and North of Norway (dish called pinnekjøtt), while in the East you’ll likely see ribs. But what’s even more popular before Christmas is a traditional Christmas platter “juletallerken”, which is essentially a little bit of everything, typically sausages, ribs, braised red cabbage, potatoes, meat cakes and gravy. You’ll find juletallerken in many traditional restaurants, but Bristol Grill and Engebret Cafe are among the local’s favourites. Wondering what to drink with your Christmas platter? Try aquavit (akevitt), a Scandinavian distilled spirit for a classic pairing with your meal.
Christmas Concerts in Oslo
What would Christmas be without appropriate music? It’s busy days for music fans as there are several concerts around the city each day. Oslo Philharmonic Christmas concerts are among the most popular (find available tickets here), but there are options for each taste. Check out upcoming concerts here.