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Moving to Oslo

Oslo, the capital of Norway, is situated at the head of the 110-mile (177km) long Oslo Fjord. Regardless of which direction it is entered from, whether by air, sea or road, expats will likely be struck by the profusion of nature surrounding the city. Nestled between water, islands and forested hills, Oslo's physical layout is closely linked with its natural features, and the city's surrounding scenery is simply breathtaking.

Expats moving to Oslo will discover that, even in the city centre, the nearest park is never more than a few blocks away from their accommodation. There is so much to do see and do here. A mere 10-minute boat ride from Oslo's main hub, lovely beaches await on the Oslo Fjord islands. In winter, the city has hundreds of miles of cross-country trails within its boundaries, in addition to eight ski centres.

Oslo is the biggest city in Norway and has been the Norwegian capital for 700 years. King Harald III of Norway founded the city around 1048. After it was destroyed by a fire in 1624, the Danish-Norwegian king Christian IV rebuilt the city as Christiania (briefly also spelt Kristiania). In 1925, the original name Oslo was restored by law, a decision that caused much debate at the time. Even now, there is much disagreement as to the meaning of the name 'Oslo'.

The city is the cultural, scientific, economic and administrative centre of Norway and contributes almost a quarter of the country's gross domestic product. The government and parliament are located here, and at the end of Oslo's main street, Karl Johan’s Gate, is the Royal Palace, home to Norway’s royal family. The city is also a hub for Norwegian trade, banking and industry, as well as being an important centre for maritime industries and trade in Europe.

Oslo is consistently ranked as one of the most expensive cities in the world, but the city's relatively high cost of living is balanced by high salaries, and the high quality of life enjoyed by its residents. Its public transport is excellent and there's very little reason to own a car in Oslo.

For several years Oslo's population of around 650,000 has been growing at an annual rate of around two percent. A large portion of this growth stems from immigration, which in turn, is changing it into an increasingly cosmopolitan city. The immigrant and expat share of the population in the city now stands at more than 25 percent.

The largest groups of immigrants are Pakistanis, Chileans, Somalis and Swedes, while large numbers of British and American expats work here, primarily in the oil, gas and shipping industries.

Expats who make the move to this stunning city often stay far longer than originally anticipated, and with its stunning vistas, myriad things to do and highly efficient welfare system, it's no wonder why.

Working in Oslo

Expats relocating to Oslo to take up a job can count themselves fortunate as the city boasts some of the highest earners in the whole of Norway. Employers also tend to provide good incentives to retain staff, and most people working in Oslo feel satisfied and secure in their job. The city's strong economy has helped create an environment of confidence and trust in companies.

However, new arrivals planning on working in Oslo should take steps to learn about the Norwegian work culture and what will be expected of them if they want to make the most of the job opportunity. 


Job market in Oslo

The key industries in Oslo include shipping, oil and gas, energy and environmental affairs, information and communication technology (ICT) and life sciences.

Shipping is a prominent feature of Oslo's history, and there is a large pool of expertise in the area. Wilh. Wilhelmsen Holding ASA, IMS and Fred. Olsen & Co. are among the largest shipping companies in Oslo.

In the area of energy, there is a large focus on hydropower and renewable energies, along with the oil and gas industry and offshore petroleum development. The largest companies in this area include Norsk Hydro, REC, Statkraft and Aker Solutions – all Norwegian companies.

Oslo is at the forefront of biomedical research and discoveries. GE Healthcare and Applied Biosystems are two of the big players in this field. Growth in this industry is encouraged, and the diagnostics and imaging industry is highly developed.

In ICT, Oslo has a technologically advanced mobile market and internet infrastructure. Telenor, Telia Company, Opera Software, Microsoft and Accenture are among the most important players in this sector.

Oslo generally places a strong focus on research and development, regardless of industry. The city has a small but highly educated workforce. Research positions are always available and are often filled by foreigners pursuing advanced degrees.


Finding a job in Oslo

When looking for a job in Oslo, a candidate’s experience and education are highly regarded, as are personal connections. Online job portals, such as FINN.no and Manpower Norge, are a good start when looking for a job from abroad, but face-to-face interviews and meetings are valued.

Oslo is a small place and networking is important in terms of finding a job or doing business. Those who move in the same circles are likely to hire each other. This could be in part because Norwegians can be suspicious of outsiders. So, having experience in Norwegian business or having Norwegian contacts helps in finding a job.

A major element of culture shock for expats is the language barrier, and many foreign employees may need to take courses in Norwegian. While expats will find it easier to get a job if they have a basic knowledge of Norwegian, some companies use English as their primary language of business. In these cases, proficiency in English is sufficient.

For expats new to Oslo or those who have lost a job, it is important to register at NAV (Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration), the national employment agency. NAV can help find jobs or recommend courses to help with the search process, which will improve a job seeker's chances of securing employment.

Expats are likely to find a job with a company located in one of the key business areas in and around Oslo. The main commercial and business centres are located downtown, as well as in Skøyen, Lysaker and Fornebu, a business park with newer, larger buildings for big multinational companies. Skøyen and Lysaker are within city limits, in the west; and while Fornebu is a bit further out, it can also be reached by bus or train, and there are even direct buses to Oslo specifically for business commuters.


Work culture in Oslo

Workplaces in Oslo are relatively informal spaces where business dress need not be overly smart and hierarchies are flat. Expats in Oslo often praise the city's generally healthy work-life balance and the workplace's communication and management style. For others, some aspects of business may take a while to get used to. For example, the decision-making process can be drawn out if all employees involved share their input. Also, micro-managing is not so common, and staff have the freedom to decide on how to do their job – as long as it gets done. For some, this freedom is rewarding, while others may prefer a more structured approach.

Cost of Living in Oslo

The cost of living in Norway is undeniably high and Oslo, in particular, is recognised as one of the region's most expensive cities for expats. Almost everything in the Norwegian capital costs more than it would in any other Scandinavian city, second only to Copenhagen. Mercer’s Cost of Living Survey for 2020 ranked Oslo as the 76th most expensive city in the world (out of 209 cities surveyed).

One consolation for expats is that high salaries offset some of these costs. Salaries in Oslo tend to be higher than what is offered in other Norwegian cities. Expats should carefully calculate their budget when planning a move to Oslo.


Cost of food in Oslo

Expats moving to Oslo will likely experience what is known as 'sticker shock' when it comes to grocery shopping in Norway.

Because of the cold climate, most fruit and vegetables are imported. This makes fresh produce much more expensive owing to import taxes. Norway does have fish, meat and dairy produce of its own, though, which makes these products slightly less expensive.

Because of the exorbitant prices, many Norwegians drive over the border to Sweden when they need to stock up on food supplies.


Cost of accommodation in Oslo

Housing is the biggest expense a foreigner will have in Oslo. Prices are high, but get cheaper the further one lives from the city centre. Costs vary greatly depending on the neighbourhood. An apartment in more stylish areas such as Frogner and Majorstuen will be much more expensive than one in more affordable neighbourhoods such as Grønland and Grünerløkka. Electricity bills in the winter months can push the cost of housing up significantly.


Cost of transportation in Oslo

Public transport in Oslo is expensive, but extremely efficient. Because of the high gasoline (petrol) prices, most expats in the city choose to use public transport over driving. Taxi rates aren’t regulated in Oslo, and therefore tariffs per kilometre vary depending on the taxi company.


Cost of entertainment in Oslo

Predictably, going out in Oslo is not a cheap affair. Cinema and theatre tickets are incredibly costly. Eating out frequently can put a significant dent in one's budget, but those who are open to doing some research and venturing out to cheaper neighbourhoods will be able to find more budget-friendly options. Though the prices of cocktails, coffee and fast-food meals often make foreigners cringe, the high quality of products may persuade them that, ultimately, it’s worth the money.


Cost of living in Oslo chart 

Prices may vary depending on product and service provider. The list below shows average prices in January 2021.

Accommodation (monthly rent)

One-bedroom apartment in the city centre

NOK 13,000

One-bedroom apartment outside of the city centre

NOK 10,000

Three-bedroom apartment in the city centre

NOK 20,000

Three-bedroom apartment outside of the city centre

NOK 16,000

Shopping

Eggs (dozen)

NOK 39

Milk (1 litre)

NOK 18

Rice (1kg)

NOK 26

Loaf of white bread

NOK 30

Chicken breasts (1kg)

NOK 127

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)

NOK 135

Eating out

Big Mac Meal

NOK 110

Coca-Cola (330ml)

NOK 30

Cappuccino 

NOK 43

Local beer (500ml)

NOK 90

Three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant 

NOK 900

Utilities

Mobile-to-mobile call rate (per minute)

NOK 0.90

Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month) 

NOK 455

Basic utilities (per month for small apartment)

NOK 1,300

Transport

Taxi rate (per kilometre)

NOK 14

Bus/train fare in the city centre 

NOK 37

Petrol (per litre)

NOK 16

Accommodation in Oslo

Oslo offers a good variety of housing in a range of neighbourhoods with something to suit every taste and lifestyle. Indeed, each of Oslo's neighbourhoods has its own specific character and reputation. When meeting a Norwegian, expats should expect to be asked where they live, even before they are asked what they do. Employers will also often ask this question during interviews.

Oslo is essentially divided into its east and west areas. The western areas are generally more expensive, while the eastern areas are often less expensive and have a younger or immigrant population, as well as plenty of character.


Types of accommodation in Oslo

Properties in Oslo are of a high standard since the country has strict building laws. Insulation is very good out of necessity, given the cold season lasts a long time.

Houses and apartment buildings in Oslo differ considerably in both style and layout. On one end of the spectrum are older buildings built in classic styles with high ceilings, long thin hallways, one or two bedrooms and one bathroom. There is normally little storage space except for a basement or attic unit, and rarely any security. On the other end are modern glass apartment buildings with all the amenities expected of contemporary urban accommodation.

Houses offer a similar range, from century-old dark, wooden houses with thatch roofs to square, light, concrete buildings featuring large glass windows and security gates.

Although the price of housing in Oslo is generally quite high, it differs by neighbourhood. Accommodation in the city centre is expensive and generally small. If expats want a spacious place with a garden they should look at options in the suburbs. Nordstrand is one option to the east, as is Snarøya (also one of Oslo’s wealthiest areas) to the west.


Finding accommodation in Oslo

Good places to start looking for accommodation in Oslo include the real-estate sections of newspapers and online listings. Expats should look for the sections marked "Eiendommer" and "Eiendomsmarkedet". These services list all the different offerings for sale or rent by neighbourhood.

Demand for accommodation in Olso is high so an expat may suddenly find themselves in a bidding war. Most places are rented or sold within days of going on the market. Before beginning their search, expats should decide on a budget, get the loan and funding settled with their bank or company and, if their dream home is found, make a bid as soon as they can.


Renting accommodation in Oslo

The rental market in Oslo is vibrant and is in constant flux. Before making a decision, an expat should make sure they have proof of income and references from previous landlords (if applicable) in order to start the process smoothly. 

Landlords like to meet renters in person and it is difficult to rent from abroad unless an expat goes through a service.

Making an application

Once expats have found a property that meets their requirements, they will be expected to complete a detailed application form and provide evidence of their income and legal status in the country. In some cases, they may be asked for a reference from a previous landlord or a certificate indicating they have no outstanding rent due. Agreements between landlords and renters are usually private and not fixed, and each party is protected by certain regulations. 

Leases and deposits

Normally, the landlord is responsible for setting up a joint bank account exclusively for the deposit. It will remain untouched until the lease ends. If damage is caused or rent is owed, it will be taken from the joint account. The deposit is usually between two and three months' rent. 

The length of notice before the contract can be terminated must be decided on and included in the contract. Normally, an expat will be expected to give three months' notice when moving out. Once the lease is up, the landlord decides whether or not to renew it.

Once the lease is signed, the tenant will be responsible to pay on a monthly basis into the landlord’s bank account. This will be done via electronic bank transfer, never by cheque and rarely by cash.

Utilities

Most rentals will already have gas, electricity and water connected and working, but expats may need to transfer the accounts to their name while responsible for the rental.

Whether utilities are included in the rent or not is determined by the rental agreement, but most rentals come with kitchen appliances.

Expats are free to change utility providers. There are online services to help determine the best electricity provider, such as the Competition Authority's website. Another is an electricity calculator. 

The tenant will usually have to pay a quarterly bill for electricity, which may come as a shock after a cold winter. Payment can be set up automatically with an expat's bank, or else they will get an invoice in the mail. 

Tap water in Oslo comes from melting snow in the surrounding hills and gets into Oslo via a network of streams running into Oslo’s water reservoirs. The quality is good by global standards and it is perfectly safe to drink. Like electricity, the water will most likely be already set up upon moving in and an expat will just need to transfer the account into their name.

The city of Oslo has an integrated waste management system which aims to drastically reduce pollution. Only a small fraction of household waste goes to landfill, and the rest is reused, recycled or used to generate energy at two plants managed by the Agency for Waste Management (Renovasjonsetaten).

An expat will need to separate their waste into different coloured bags and place these bags into the demarcated bins provided by the city. The second bin is labelled papir (paper) and is for cardboard and paper. The bins will be emptied by the Agency for Waste Management. Any waste that doesn’t fit into these categories or which is too big for the bags or bins should be delivered to a recycling station.


Other useful housing information

There is a boligkontoret (housing office) in every bydel (district) in Oslo. The boligkontoret gives advice on housing, so it's a good idea to get in touch when looking for a place to live.

The county of Oslo also charges a fee each quarter for municipal services like garbage disposal, chimney sweeping and water.

Due to Norway's weather, properties can suffer hidden damage. If the property differs significantly from the prospectus given by the seller, the purchaser will normally be able to claim a reduction of the property's selling price or compensation within five years of taking possession of the property.

Areas and suburbs in Oslo

The best places to live in Oslo

In Norway, where one lives is especially significant to other Norwegians. Although they won’t judge a person by their income or profession, the area of Oslo where one lives is used as a kind of gauge to determine social status.

The Akerselva River splits Oslo into the western and eastern districts. Officially, the city is divided into 15 boroughs or municipalities, which are largely self governed. Each is responsible for its own clinics, kindergartens and other public services.

The west is where established Norwegian families, the wealthy and most expats live, especially diplomats. Neighbourhoods in the west include Marienlyst, Majorstuen, Frogner, Bygdøy, Torshov, Ullevål-Hageby, Sankt Hanshaugen, Vinderen and Kjelsås. In the east are trendy, colourful and diverse neighbourhoods such as Grønland, Grunerløkka, Tøyen, Tveita, Grorud, Stovner, Hellerud, Nordstrand, Sagene and Ekeberg.

An expat's lifestyle and status will influence their choice of accommodation in Oslo. For young and single expats, Majorstuen, Grønland or Grunerløkka might be good choices as they are all relatively central. For families, Frogner in the centre or the suburbs are suitable for accommodation with more space. Those moving to Oslo for work should find out where their colleagues live. The school an expat plans to send their children to will also determine their choices. 


Suburbs in West Oslo

MajorstuenMajorstuen, behind the Royal Palace in the city centre, is an established neighbourhood with many brand-name stores and exclusive nightlife spots.

Frogner and Briskeby, further west of Majorstuen, are among the most affluent areas in the city and feature luxury apartment blocks, art galleries, interior design stores and several good restaurants. Nearby, Sankt Hanshaugen has a younger crowd as the College of Oslo is based there, with numerous small cafes and pubs.

Bygdøy is a peninsula to the southwest of the city centre with leafy, spacious properties. It is considered the most affluent area in Oslo. The area features good museums as well as beaches and parks for nature enthusiasts.

To the far north of the city and into the hills lies Holmenkollen, Oslo’s famous ski jump and one of the city’s most exclusive neighbourhoods with views of the fjord.


Suburbs in East Oslo

GrünerløkkaGrunerløkka, a former working-class suburb, lies to the east of the river, near the historical industrial district. It is a trendy area with numerous cafes, coffee shops and bars as well as small boutiques, independent design and jewellery stores, and vintage shops.

Torshov, just north of Grunerløkka, is close enough to the restaurants and bars in that area while remaining a quiet, leafy suburb with large parks. Soria Moria and Trikkestallen are also here, both considered cultural centres of Oslo.

Grønland, Tøyen and Kampen are historical areas full of traditional wooden houses, old pubs and medieval buildings next to cheap markets, textile stores and hole-in-the-wall eateries.


Areas and suburbs on the outskirts of Oslo

Moving further afield, one finds areas such as Bærum, Lysaker, Snarøya, Høvik, Sandvika and Bekkestua, all of which are popular with expats. Expats might also consider living on one of the many islands in the Oslo fjord that is inhabitable all year. Another alternative is Nesodden, a large peninsula in the Oslo fjord that can be reached by a fast and convenient ferry.

Healthcare in Oslo

The healthcare system in Olso consists of both public and private services and facilities. Every citizen and resident of Norway is entitled to healthcare and Oslo offers some of the best medical facilities in the country. 

Expats who contribute to the National Insurance Scheme have access to Oslo’s public healthcare system. Most communities have a public medical clinic (helsesenter), where residents of the area can make an appointment to see a doctor. Public medical services are not entirely free but highly subsidised by the government. A patient will be expected to pay a nominal fee after each visit, but once they have reached a specific limit, they are entitled to an exemption card (frikort) and they will not have to pay any more within that calendar year. If a person chooses to go to a private practice, fees are higher and they will not be able to use an exemption card. Some people prefer to go private in order to avoid waiting times, or to see specific specialists.

The number of private medical clinics in Oslo is growing. Emergency walk-in services are available as well as scheduled appointments for general practitioners and specialists. Several of these clinics have specialised departments.


Hospitals in Oslo

Aviva Helse

Website: www.avivahelse.no
Address: Haakon den Godes vei 14

Oslo Akutten

Website: www.osloakutten.no
Address: Rosenkrantz gate 9

Volvat Medisinske Senter  

Website: www.volvat.no
Address: Borgenveien 2A

Education and Schools in Oslo

Schooling in Norway is mandatory for all children aged six to 16. Education is guaranteed by the Norwegian state and is free to all children at public schools in Oslo. However, many expats choose to send their children to private or international schools, of which there are a few to choose from. Surprisingly, though, there is not the same great variety that expats might find in other European cities.


Daycare in Oslo

Most children begin their education in Oslo when they are a year old and are placed in a barnehage, or daycare. A child’s barnehage is tied to their residential neighbourhood in Oslo, but there are hundreds in the city, often situated in the suburbs. The government gives residents Kontantstøtte (a family allowance) until children turn three to help pay for barnehage.

There are different kinds of daycares in Oslo to choose from:

  • Familiebarnehage is daycare for children from newborns to three years old that is run in a private home between the hours of 7am and 5pm.

  • Korttidsbarnehage is a daycare open for six to 21 hours a week for children aged one to six.

  • Halvdagsbarnehage is a daycare for 21 to 31 hours a week for children aged one to six.

  • Heldagsbarnehage is a full daycare open five days a week for children aged one to six.

  • Åpenbarnehage is an open daycare for mothers who stay home with their children. The mothers have a chance to meet with other adults while the daycare provider cares for the children.

  • Barnepark is an outdoor daycare open between three and four hours a day.

There are both kommunal (public) and private barnehage. To apply for a child to attend either barnepark or barnehage, expats should contact their nearest bydel kontor. Expats should keep in mind that Norwegian children are expected to spend a majority of time outside playing and getting exercise. 


Public schools in Oslo

Oslo's public schooling system is well regarded and easily accessible to expats. Placement in a school is generally related to one's residential neighbourhood.

The Norwegian school system can be divided into three parts: elementary school (Barneskole, ages six to 13), lower secondary school (Ungdomsskole, ages 13 to 16), and upper secondary school (Videregående skole, age 16 to 19). Elementary and lower secondary schools are mandatory for all children aged 6 to 16. The marks students achieve in Ungdomskkole will determine whether they are accepted into their high school of choice.

Upper secondary school (similar to high school) is three years of optional schooling. Students graduating from their Videregående studies are called Russ in Norwegian. Russetid (the graduation period) is anticipated for years and celebrated with wild parties and festivities.


Private and international schools in Oslo

Perhaps surprisingly for a city with such a large expat population, there isn't a wide variety of schools that teach international curricula in Norway. That said, there are now a number of international schools in Oslo.

Until 2005, private schools were illegal in Norway unless they offered a 'religious or pedagogic' alternative to the public school system, which meant that the only private schools were religious (mainly Christian), Waldorf, Montessori or Danielsen schools. Secular international senior schools opened only after the law changed in late 2005, although some of the more established schools have offered international curricula in lower grades for decades.

International schools generally offer the International Baccalaureate (IB), although there are also schools offering some European curricula, such as French and German, and those which offer the British IGSCE at a middle school level.

As the choices are limited when it comes to international schools in Oslo, space may be scarce and there may be long waiting lists at the most popular schools. Expat parents should, therefore, apply as soon as possible to ensure a place for their child at the school of their choice.


Special needs education in Norway

Inclusive education is of fundamental importance in Norwegian primary and secondary education. It means that all children and young people are entitled to the same level and standard of education, regardless of ability. 

Norway spends significant resources on providing special educational support and special needs education. The aim of the Norwegian government is to improve adapted tuition in schools, the goal of which is to improve learning outcomes for all pupils so that fewer of them require special needs education. Of course, if there is a need to deviate from the normal curriculum, a decision on special needs education is required.

Pupils may access special needs provision within ordinary study programmes, within an adapted or alternative study programme in school, or in workplace training.


Tutoring in Oslo

As in most Scandinavian countries, education is highly valued in Norway, and parents make regular use of private tuition to bolster their children's learning. Expats also often employ tutors, whether for Norwegian language lessons, extra help with certain subjects, or simply to build some confidence in an unfamiliar environment.

Regardless of age, tutoring can be massively beneficial. Some of the top tutoring companies in Norway include Superprof and Varsity Tutors. 

Private schools in Oslo

Students in Norway generally attend public schools for secondary education. Until 2005, Norwegian law held private secondary schools to be illegal unless they offered a 'religious or pedagogic alternative', so the only private schools in existence were religious (Christian), Steiner/Waldorf, Montessori schools and Danielsen. The first 'standard' private upper secondary schools opened in the autumn of 2005. 

There are a number of private schools in Oslo, teaching different curricula. Private schools are popular with expats, as the language of instruction is often a mix of English and Norwegian, and taught at a more affordable price than international schools. 

Below are some of the more popular private schools in Oslo.


Private schools in Oslo

Karlsrud Skole

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: Norwegian
Ages: 6 to 16
Website: karlsrud.osloskolen.no

Kristelig Gymnasium

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: Norwegian
Ages: 8 to 19
Website: www.kg.vgs.no

Tokerud Skole

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: Norwegian
Ages: 12 to 15
Website: tokerud.osloskolen.no

International Schools in Oslo

Citizens and residents of Norway have access to free public schooling, but expats may prefer the option of private or international schooling for their children. International schools in Oslo generally offer the International Baccalaureate (IB), although there are also French and German schools, and schools that offer the British IGSCE at middle school level, providing expats with more choice for their kids.


International schools in Oslo

Deutsche Schule Oslo

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: German and IB
Ages: 5 to 18
Website: www.deutscheschule.no

Lycée Français René Cassin d’Oslo

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: French, Norwegian and IB
Ages: 3 to 16
Website: www.rcassin.no

Northern Lights International School

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: IB
Ages: 6 to 12 (more grades to be added as the school grows)
Website: www.nlis.no

Oslo International School

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: IB
Ages: 3 to 18
Website: www.oslointernationalschool.no

Lifestyle in Oslo

Entertainment in Oslo is usually split between outdoor pursuits and nightlife. Picnics in the park or hikes among the hills are popular activities after work and on weekends. Oslo’s many restaurants, cafes, nightclubs, cinemas and theatres are always full. Owing to the high cost of alcohol, many choose to have parties at home, or at least to begin the festivities at home with pre-parties, and then go out to bars or dance clubs.

Oslo has several movie theatres that feature mostly Hollywood films, though there is a rich and active Norwegian and Scandinavian film industry that is represented. 


Shopping in Oslo

Oslo is a shopper’s paradise, as it’s filled with boutiques and shopping centres. That said, it is one of the most expensive cities in the world, so expats might be shocked when they realise how much and how quickly they can spend in Oslo.

Most shops in Oslo are open weekdays 10am to 5pm, and Saturdays 9am to 3pm. Many shopping centres have extended opening hours from 10am to 9pm from Monday to Friday and 10am to 6pm on Saturdays. Most shops are closed on Sundays.

Some of the most popular shopping areas of Oslo include:

Downtown

Downtown Oslo is full of shops with most of the best-known brands, and also contains the malls of Oslo City and Byporten, which are brimming with stores and cafes for every taste and just about every budget too. Aker Brygge, the wharf next to City Hall, has expensive designer shops, as well as regular shops, cafes, restaurants, theatres, cinemas and bars. Paleet, on Karl Johans Gate, has more upscale shops, with exclusive boutiques.

Majorstuen

Comprising the streets Bogstadveien and Hegdehaugsveien, Majorstuen is one of the largest and most exclusive shopping districts in Oslo. Here shoppers will find a good mix of exclusive brands, mid-price clothing and value clothes. Hegdehaugsveien is especially well known for its high-end boutiques, featuring designer brands. There is a monthly farmer’s market at Vibes gate, as well as market days twice a year when the whole of Bogstadveien is closed off to traffic and fills up with people looking for a bargain.

Frogner – Bygdøy allé

This street offers a good selection of exclusive, modern interior design shops. In this area, one can also find small independent shops with everything from exclusive underwear to kitchen utensils. Down the road toward Skøyen are several popular furniture and interior design shops as well.

Grünerløkka

This area is full of designer boutiques, small cafes and parks. It is the place to find young Norwegian designers. Small, independent shops with clothes, pottery and handicrafts are presented, as well as second-hand book and record shops. Some chain stores can also be found here.

Grønland

This area has become known for its wide variety of affordable shops run by immigrants. They offer Oslo’s best selection of fruits and vegetables. If shoppers are looking for cheap fabrics, jewellery, spice, fruit and vegetable markets, this is where it can be found. Most of the stores are situated on Grønlandsleiret and Tøyengata streets, or on Smalgangen.


Nightlife in Oslo

As a city with one of the world's highest costs of living, both locals and expats mostly drink before going out (called Forespill). After dinner, there is usually a pre-drinks gathering at someone’s house and once everyone is well warmed up, the party moves to a club. Revellers often go to Frogner on the west side or Grünerløkka on the east side. Karl Johan and Youngstorget are also nightlife hubs.


Coffee culture in Oslo

Norwegians love coffee, and drink it at home, at the office and on the go. Kaffebrenneriet, a shop akin to the Norwegian Starbucks minus the big, comfortable chairs, has a great selection, including homemade pastries and sandwiches. Expats will also find a fair share of French patisseries – Pascal and Åpent Bakeri are among the most famous.

Sport and fitness in Oslo

Fitness and sport is a Norwegian national pastime. One is likely to see people of all ages, from children on skis to teenagers running to octogenarians on bikes, exercising all around the city. Oslo offers any sport one can think of at gyms, in parks and in Nordmarka, Oslo’s district park.


Competitive sports in Oslo

Favourite Norwegian sports include skiing, running, biking, hiking, soccer, American football and handball. Norway has world-class skiing, football and handball teams. Each sport has a championship or race that every Norwegian either participates in, cheers for or watches on television. Norwegians are very concerned with equality, except when it comes to sports. They are extremely proud of their sports heroes and sports victories. Even historical pride comes into play when it comes to sports.

There are a number of famous international sporting events that take place in Oslo annually. The Birkebeiner is a national institution, with a series of skiing, running and biking races commemorating a political party and an event of national importance involving a former king from the 13th century. Originally a cross-country ski race, the Birkebeinerrennet attracts 16,000 participants each year. The course is 54km (33.5 miles) long. The Birkebeinerrittet is the world’s largest cross-country bicycle race with 17,500 participants. Finally, the Birkebeinerlopet is the largest running race in Norway, with 7,000 participants, covering 13 miles (21km), passing through mountains and forest. Some say that every Norwegian business leader will or should at some point compete in the Birkebeiner.


Skiing in Oslo

In the winter, it is still common to see Norwegians practising sports outside, such as running, hiking, skiing, ice hockey and ice-skating. Kilometres of trails are groomed every week for avid skiers, who leave for the woods right after work, in pitch dark, to hit the floodlit trails. Nordmarka is popular for skiing, and the metro system takes skiers straight to two ski areas in Nordmarka. At any time of the day or night, trails can be crowded with Norwegians skiing in the latest gear.


Jogging in Oslo

For runners, there are other options. Trails crisscross parks and forests. The Oslo marathon attracts thousands of participants and onlookers each September. For less serious runners who enjoy socialising, the Oslo Hash House Harriers run once a week.


Gyms in Oslo

For those who aren’t as keen on being outdoors in the winter, Oslo offers a wide array of gyms for every taste. The biggest chains are SATS and Elixia, and smaller gyms cater to more specific needs. Often companies will have discounts for their employees at these gyms.

Clubs and societies in Oslo

For expats new to the city, meeting people in Oslo can seem like a daunting task. Luckily, there are many clubs and societies for expats to meet other expats and locals, which will help smooth the transition into Norwegian society. The workplace is also an important place to meet others and make connections, and learn about Norwegian culture and customs. 


Networking in Oslo

Networking is extremely important in a small community such as Oslo, especially in business. Often, business relationships, hiring, investment and sales are influenced by one’s professional and personal network. 

There are many opportunities for networking in Oslo, especially within the international community. Embassies, national organisations and Chambers of Commerce can be good places to look for clubs or organisations to get involved in. Most of these groups have monthly meetings for members and one is welcome to join as a visitor.

Below are some of the clubs and societies that expats in Oslo can join.

AWCOSLO

The American Women's Club of Oslo (AWC Oslo) is involved in social and philanthropic activities. The club also provides an opportunity for American women to connect, network and socialise while living in Oslo.

ICON

The International Club Oslo Norway (ICON) is open to anyone looking for advice and support about living in Oslo and its surroundings. The club also offers a variety of organised activities and they raise funds for local and international charities.

NIN

Norway International Network (NIN) is an association that focuses on building a social and professional network amongst its members. Monthly meetings include guest speakers that share insight about assimilation in Norway. 

PWN Norway

Professional Women’s Network (PWN) Norway is a leading Norwegian membership organisation providing a resource for professional women. The club is dedicated to helping women enhance their careers and businesses while offering networking opportunities.

Weekend breaks in Oslo

Norwegians treasure their weekends and rarely work on Saturday and Sunday unless they work in retail or in emergency health services. Many Norwegians have holiday homes in the mountains, on the coast, or both. Plenty also have boats.

Weekends are a great time to enjoy those luxuries with family or friends, or even alone. One may be invited to a colleague’s hytte (cabin). This is an honour and a privilege that should not be passed up on.

There are so many choices of what to do and where to go on weekend breaks. It is recommended that one leaves before 3pm on a Friday in order to avoid traffic as there are only a few major roads leaving the city. Trains and buses are another possibility and go most places.


Weekend breaks from Oslo

Nordmarka

Spend the weekend hiking through this wild, forested park and stop to camp along the way, in tents or at any of the numerous cabins dotted throughout the park. Trails are marked.

Sweden

The border is only an hour and a half's drive from Oslo and a large percentage of Norwegians drive over the border to Svinesund on a Harry Tur, which is another term for a cheap shopping trip. With Swedish prices around 20 percent below Norwegian prices, it makes sense, even after paying for gas to make the trip. Past the border is the western city of Gothenburg with many attractions, such as Liseberg Amusement Park. Sweden’s western coastline and archipelago is also known for its natural beauty and great sailing.

Denmark

Copenhagen and Frederikkshavn are just a ferry ride away. Ferries leave the Oslo harbours daily, and weekend- or 24-hour trips are popular. Some ferry companies have special offers during low season, and on holidays they offer themed crossings. Lodgings range from simple to luxury. The only complaint is that a lot of Scandinavian passengers use the ferry to stock up on and imbibe as much tax-free alcohol as possible. One can also reach Denmark by bus or train from the Oslo Jernbanetorget.

Germany

Kiel is a popular destination on the Color Line ferry. It departs from the dock at Vika, west of Oslo centre.

Drøbak

A quaint fishing town with typical Norwegian homes, nice boutiques and a Santa Museum. Situated on the coast, one can reach Drøbak by bus or ferry, but only in the warmer months.

Tønsberg and Verdens Ende

An hour west of Oslo on the coast lies Tønsberg, a city popular for its great weather, laid-back lifestyle and Nøtterøy golf course. Verdens Ende, 'The end of the world', lies at the southern tip of the island of Tjøme, 16 miles (26km) south of Tønsberg. This outcropping is well known for its beautiful scenery, small islands, fishing, swimming and dramatic views.

Risør in Sørlandet

Risør is a picturesque, whitewashed city within the limits of Sørlandet, the southern region of Norway, which stretches down to the southern tip of the country. This traditional fishing village is now a regional capital of arts and crafts. It is inhabited by fishermen and artists and has several galleries, theatres and small inns. It features a wooden boat festival which is staged in the first week of August every year.

Bergen and Flåm

A highly popular 48-hour trip is the one titled 'Norway in a Nutshell', which begins in Oslo and crosses to Bergen by train, with a side trip on an old locomotive to Flåm, a dramatic area characterised by waterfalls and picturesque landscapes.

Continental Europe

With Ryanair and Norwegian Airlines flying to most European cities at affordable rates, it is feasible to escape for a weekend to any European capital.

Kids and Family in Oslo

Oslo is a children’s paradise and, therefore, also a parent’s paradise. No matter where one goes in Oslo, one is bound to see children: with their barnehage (school) class on the trikken (tram), with their parents at Frogner Park’s playground, on skis or a sled in Nordmarka in winter, or accompanying their parents in strollers, carriers or in bicycle trailers.

With a year of maternity leave, mothers are often out walking with their children or meeting with other mothers in cafes. Sidewalks can be crowded with baby carriages pushed by both men and women. These groups are jokingly referred to as Mamma Mafian (Baby Brigade) when they crowd cafes all day long.

Children are very much a part of Oslo’s tapestry and are well cared for and included. As such, Oslo is a great place to raise a family. The government gives several benefits to families with children, and the more the better. Norwegian society is set up to care for children, from school to family life. Oslo is also an exceptionally safe place for children.

There are always events on in the city for children, from festivals and theatre to museum exhibits. There is also a wide variety of offers for mothers and their children, such as 'Mommy and Me' yoga, swimming and dance lessons at gyms, as well as daycare at larger gyms. Some workplaces offer daycare and even incorporate playrooms with adjoining offices for working parents.

See and Do in Oslo

Located at the heart of a Norwegian fjord, Oslo combines the advantages of a European capital with the benefits of a small city.

Expats will find plenty to see and do in Oslo. It's one of the safest cities in the world, and whether they choose to do a bit of sightseeing, absorb some of the surrounding natural beauty, or indulge in the café culture, they can count on a pleasant experience.

Sightseeing in Oslo is entertaining and convenient. Expats will likely still have energy at the end of the day to enjoy dinner at a nice restaurant or party with friends. Most attractions are closed on Mondays and hours can vary depending on the season, so it is best to check before making plans.


Recommended attractions in Oslo

Holmenkollen

One of the main attractions in Oslo, Holmenkollen is the city’s famous ski jump complex. It can be reached by taking the metro and walking up the hill. The view is amazing from the top, which is also where skiers take the plunge. It is also a symbolic monument to Norway’s unconditional love for winter sports and houses the world’s oldest ski museum.

Ibsen Museum

Henrik Ibsen was one of Norway’s most famous writers. The beauty and the eloquence of his plays have inspired some people to learn Norwegian just to be able to grasp their essence. This museum devoted to his life is intimate and fun, and visitors can also take a guided tour of the apartment where he used to live.

Munch Museum

Home to the famous painting The Scream, this museum is a firm favourite. Regular exhibitions are held that explain facets and periods of Edvard Munch’s work. Opening hours vary according to the time of year, and the museum is closed on Mondays.

Norwegian Museum of Cultural History

Visitors travel back in time as they walk the streets of this open-air museum. It is built like a village, with houses and stores of different time frames in Norway. It is even possible to go inside some of the houses to see how people used to live. The museum makes for a great family outing, with attractions such as a store that sells old-fashioned candy, where everything looks like it’s taken out of the early 1900s.

The Oslo Opera House

The Oslo Opera House was inaugurated in 2007 and has won many international culture awards since. The building resembles an iceberg, and its seaside location, as well as the combination of its white marble exterior and wooden interior, can evoke strong emotions. Expats can take tours once a day at noon or book a group tour.

The Royal Palace

Located in Slottsparken (Palace Park), this is where the King and Queen live and wave at the people of Norway from their balcony on National Day (17 May). It is one of the rare places that offers tours on Mondays, although tickets must be purchased in advance.

What's On in Oslo

Oslo certainly has a jam-packed events calendar, with everything from performing arts to sports and history.

In the summer, festivals are recommended. In the winter, expats should check out the national and international sports competitions. One thing's for sure, expats will never have a reason to be bored in this exciting city.


Annual events in Oslo

New Year's Fireworks (January)

The New Year is celebrated by often inebriated and happy Norwegians with free reign to set off fireworks. It is an amazing sight for those who are used to more regulated fireworks displays.

Sami National Day (February)

The Norwegian Museum of Cultural History marks Sami National Day with a series of activities and entertainment for all the family. Attendees even get to sample Sami specialities, such as reindeer meat.

World Cup Ski Competition (March)

The annual World Cup ski competitions are held in March at the Holmenkollen ski jump, Norway's most popular tourist destination.

Easter celebrations (April)

Påske (Easter) is usually accompanied by a lot of snow, and a four-day weekend, which often turns into a full week. This is a great opportunity for expats to head into the mountains for skiing, or down south for some sunshine.

Norwegian Constitutional Day (May)

Spring brings warmer weather and Norway’s Constitutional Day celebration on 17 May. Called Syttende Mai, it is celebrated by everyone, most dressed in traditional outfits and waving the Norwegian flag. It is an uplifting and colourful day when friends and family gather until the wee hours.

Midsummer Night (June)

June is the lightest month of the year and it culminates on Sankt Hans (Midsummer Night), which is celebrated on the Saturday between 20 and 26 June. Midsummer's Eve is celebrated with large bonfires and processions in the evening.

Øya Festivalen (August)

August is the climax of the festival season. Øya Festivalen, Oslo’s biggest rock (and indie) music festival with world-renowned artists, takes place in Oslo’s Medieval Park.

Oslo International Jazz Festival (August)

In mid-August, the Oslo Jazz Festival takes place around the city and attracts thousands of jazz lovers.

Ibsen Festival (September)

The Ibsen Festival celebrates Henrik Ibsen's work on several of the city's theatre stages. In late September each year, Oslo hosts Kulturnatt (Culture Night), when museums are free and all sorts of cultural events take place, including a torchlight walk along Akerselva, the city’s main river.

Oslo World Music Festival (November)

In the beginning of November, the Oslo World Music Festival invites star musicians from around the globe to perform. Concerts take place in venues across Oslo.

Nobel Peace Prize ceremony (December)

In December, don’t miss the world-famous Nobel Peace Prize event, which begins with the ceremony, followed by a parade to the Grand Hotel where the winner greets the public.

Getting Around in Oslo

Getting around in Oslo is usually smooth and easy for expats – that is, unless a snowstorm causes delays. The city's train system is highly efficient and covers most of the country, as do various bus, tram and ferry lines.


Public transport in Oslo

Oslo has excellent public transport and the options are varied. There are reliable bus, metro and tram services that run regularly and take commuters anywhere they need to go in the greater metropolitan area.

Public transport in Oslo is costly, but there are good and reasonable options for long-term usage that cover several forms of transport.

Public transit passes

Expats can purchase a monthly, daily, or 10-trip pass for the trikken (tram), T-bane (subway) and bus, which is cheaper and easier than paying per ride, especially if using public transport on a regular basis. Passes are also interchangeable between types of transport, including local trains. Tickets can be bought at kiosks, on buses and at train stations.

Commuters should ensure they have a ticket when getting onto public transport. Most tram drivers cannot sell tickets and it is common to have checks by plain-clothed ticket-control agents. If someone is caught without one, they will receive a hefty fine.

Buses, trams and trains

Buses and trams depart every five, 10 or 15 minutes depending on the time of day and route. Outside of normal hours, they leave every 20 or 30 minutes within the city limits. 

Longer-distance trains and buses have their own schedules. Transport schedules are easy to find online and all train information can be found at the Norwegian State Railways (NSB) website. 

Ferries

Ferries are sometimes the fastest or only form of transport along the coast or to nearby islands, the Nesodden Peninsula and to cities such as Drøbbak. Daily ferries to Denmark, Sweden and Germany depart from the two main ports in the Oslo harbour and are popular ways to get away for a weekend break.

Taxis

Drosje (taxis) are a common form of transport in Oslo, especially for people who’ve had something to drink. Taxis can be found at stands around the city, but finding one at closing time or flagging one down on the road can be difficult. Taxi rides can be paid for in cash or by card, but passengers should let the driver know in advance. Fares are steep and go up after hours, while leaving a tip is up to the passenger's discretion.

Ride-hailing apps such as Uber are also available and offer an affordable and convenient way of getting around in Oslo.


Driving in Oslo

Expats can drive in Norway with their home country licence, but may eventually be required to exchange it for a Norwegian licence. When driving in Oslo, expats should always give way to trams and pedestrians. Traffic is likely to be calm, as most Norwegians are law-abiding and conscious of Norway's strict traffic laws.

Nevertheless, Oslo is an old city with narrow roads and its network of one-way streets may be confusing for newcomers. The high price of petrol and the decent public transport mean that having a car in Oslo is not strictly necessary.