Oslo is the Capital of Norway and has about 550.000 inhabitants. It is the seat of the parliament and the government and at the end of the main road, the Karl Johans gate, raises the Royal Palace. A couple of decades ago Oslo had the reputation of being a bourgeois executive city where nothing really happens and where the sidewalks were rolled up at midnight. But that has changed immensely. The streets in the Norwegian capital are filled with a lively nightlife scene which also had a stimulating affect on the cultural life of the city. A high amount of galleries joined the well known museums and international musicians are now discovering Oslo’s vibrant cultural scene. Once, Edvard Munch eternalised in his paintings a gloomy city that was dull and daunting. But from this scenery nothing is left over. Oslo, which lies surrounded by woody hills at the end of a slightly rolling fjord, the Oslofjord, already presents his best side to all travellers arriving by ship.
This Northern European city has many different characteristics which are alien to many other European cities. Inside the city there are many untouched wild and romantic nature, an immense range of restaurants, a harbour with cruise liners, ferries, charter boats and some fisher boats. Apart from that Oslo provides many sights, museums, land marked buildings, parks and a great choice of shops. The city centre is quite compact and easily manageable which makes sightseeing very enjoyable.
In winter the area around Oslo belongs to the warmest locations in Norway. In January the temperatures are between -2 and -7 °C. Spring, however is a wet issue. The months of March, April and sometimes May are characterised by a combination of thaw and frost. The average temperatures lie between 4 and 16 °C. Summers are unexpectedly warm thanks to the influence of the Gulf Stream. The temperatures in Oslo can rise up to 22 °C. Autumn is characterised by rainfall and decreasing temperatures. First snow can be expected from mid-October to the beginning of December.
The official language in Oslo is Norwegian including the two similar literary languages Bokmål and Nynorsk. Many Norwegian people also speak fluently English, some even German and French.
The Lutheran Church is Norway’s main church to which about 88% of the country’s population belong. The Roman-Catholic church counts about 36.5000 members. Nevertheless, religion is not as important to the people as it looks like. However, Oslo has many different religious groups and churches. Among them a Swedish church, a German Protestant church, an Anglican Episcopal church, a synagogue and a mosque. There are English speaking services in the American Lutheran church and the Anglican Episcopal Church (St. Egmund’s). Religious minorities include Pentecostalism, Baptism, Methodism, Jews and Moslems.
The currency used in Norway is krone (NOK). Notes come in denominations of 1000, 500, 200, 100 and 50 NOK and coins at 20, 20, 5 and 1 NOK and 50 Øre. Money can be changed at post offices, at the central station of Oslo, at the international airport as well as at most hotels and banks.
Hotels charge a tip on every bill, therefore additional tipping is not expected. Also bills in restaurants already include a service fee but it is nevertheless common to add an extra tip if the service was very much appreciated. Adequate are 5 – 10 %. The same applies to taxi drivers and hair dressers. Staff in bars and cafes usually expects tips, especially when tables are set outside. The usage of public toilets usually costs between 5 and 10 NOK. If nothing is mentioned it is common to leave some tip for the cleaning lady.
The most important indirect tax ("indirekte skatt") is value added tax, VAT, which is a general tax levied on sales within the country and on import. VAT is levied on most goods and some services, and applies to all stages in the chain of production and distribution.
VAT is presently calculated at a rate of 12 to 24 % of net price.
In order to get a refund of the paid tax you can ask for a tax form at the shop if your purchased good extend a limit of 308 NOK. In order to get a refund you have to possess a valid ID. The purchased good are sealed and have to be presented at departure at the tax office at the airport, on the ferry or at the border.
More information are available at: Global Refund Norge, Tel.: +47 67156010
To call Oslo from abroad, dial +47 for Norway and then 22 for Oslo. All telephone numbers in Norway are eight-digit and are valid for local and national calls. The telephone book has a manual in German, English and French. Public phones can be used with telephone cards which are available at kiosks and at post offices. Credit cards (VISA, American Express, Diners, Eurocard and Mastercard) are accepted in about 3000 telephone booths around the country. Some old phone boxes also accept coins (1 and 5 NOK). The cheapest hours to call are from 5 pm to 8 am. Unfortunately, this is not valid for calls abroad. Most of the time there is a high charge for foreign calls.
In Oslo it is quite easy to find an access to the internet. There are numerous internet cafes in the city of which some are listed below:
Arctic Internet AS: Jernbanetorget 1, +47 22 171940
IT-Palasset: Sørkedalsveien 1, +47 22 462112
QBA: Olaf Ryes plass 4, +47 22 352460
Unginfo: Møllergata 3
Cyberzone: Cort Adelers gt 17, +47 930 35 903
Ammerud Gard Aktivitetssenter: Ammerudhellinga 54, +47 22 256188
Arctic Internet: Oslo Central Station, +47 22 171940
Riverside: Grønland 1, +47 22 177550
But also cafes and bars are now providing a wireless access to the internet (www.jiwire.com). Also public libraries usually offer computers with internet access.
Fire Brigade: 110
Medical emergency call: 113
The opening times of institutions and offices are usually from 8 or 9 am to 4 pm. Lunch breaks are common between 11.30 / 12.30 am and 2 pm.
Shops are open on weekdays from 9 am to 5 pm and on Saturdays from 9 am to 1 or 2 pm. Supermarkets and big shopping malls have different opening times, especially in big city the latter ones are open until 8 pm during the week and until 6 on Saturdays.
The opening times of banks are Mondays to Fridays 8.15 am to 3 pm and Thursdays until 5 pm. The main post office in Oslo in the Dronningensgate is open on weekdays from 8 am to 8 pm and on Saturdays from 9 am to 3 pm. Smaller post offices are only open from 8 am to 4 pm during the week and from 8 am to 1 pm on Saturdays.
1. Jan: New Year’s Day
1. May: Labour Day
17. May Independence Day
25. Dec: Christmas Day
26. Dec: Boxing Day
Compared to other European metropolis Oslo is a very safe city. Nevertheless, precautions should be made. Never leave any belongings in the car because foreign cars are broken in more often than any Norwegian car since thieves expect more valuables. If possible park your car in enlightened streets. Passing the streets at night, however, is quite safe. Bars and clubs usually have special bouncer which can be asked for help in emergency. The area around the Central Station and the ones with cheap bars and cafes should be avoided by tourists.
Oslo is a comparatively small city with a pleasant city centre that is compact and easily manageable. Oslo has kept a lot of its old medieval character which is embedded in green parks and gardens. Outside the centre Olso presents many districts with a vivid street life and many shops. The main attraction of the centre is without doubt the Karl Johans gate which leads from the Royal Palace in the West to the Oslo’s Central Station (Oslo Sentralstasjon) in the East of the city. At the eastern end of this pompous street thrones the Oslo Cathedral which dominates the market square Stortorvet. This cathedral is a precious building that has been carefully restored many times and hence houses not only an old baroque altar but also many art pieces from the 19th and 20th century. Also located at Karl Johans gate is the Storting – the building of the Parliament as well as the old university whose auditorium is decorated with paintings of Edvard Munch. Tøyen is the district of the Munch Museum which is surrounded by two parks from which the eastern one includes the Tøyenbadet, a swimming pool with water slide and sauna. The western park is the location of the Botanisk Hage (Botanical Garden), the zoological, mineralogical, geological and paleontological museum. The Grünerløkka quarter is a former worker’s area which is today populated by artists and writers. The most interesting street in that quarter is the Marvei. Many galleries and shops have accumulated over here. The Kampen quarter, however, is characterised by brown, yellow or bluish wooden houses. Not far away from this quiet and picturesque neighbourhood begins Olso’s Pakistani quarter that is packed with cheap but tasty restaurants and groceries selling exotic food. West of the city lies the Vigeland Park or Frogner Park which is the biggest greenery in Oslo and one of the most famous sights in Norway. The Vilelandsbru (Videland Bridge) with its 58 figures of women, men and children leads to the Monolith made from white granite.
Oslo is probably the only city in Europe and maybe in the whole world that has ski slopes, cross-country ski runs and an internationally renowned ski jump. Wherever one walks in Oslo, there is another lovely view – a panorama of the fjord or the mountains or the fresh greenery of the parks.
The Oslo Pass offers quite a few opportunities for tourists fro example free admission to all museums, unlimited local travel and any kind of transport, free entrance to Tøyenbadet and Frognerbadet swimming pools and free parking in the municipal car parks. Furthermore it includes discounts for cinemas, restaurants, car hire and souvenir shops and sightseeing trips. Cards can be purchased for different time limits at the tourist Information centre.
Mon - Fri 9 am -4 pm (Oct - Mar); Mon - Sat 9 am – 5 pm (Apr - May and Sep); Daily 9 am -7 pm (Jun - Aug)