Today, I’m joining the 100 cities to homeswap before you die-initiative and I’ll let you in on how to spend a perfect day in Oslo. (For more information on the project, click on the link at the end of the article.)

It’s not easy. That’s not because there’s a shortage of things to enjoy, quite the contrary. Oslo is packed with things to do – outdoors and in; quite a few are even free. But what to choose: that’s the question.

Winter is still here and there are plenty of temptations to lure the kids away from the screens and out in the snow. In fact, it’s snowing right now, which means just about everyone and their dog will be out in the forest enjoying what might be one of the last skiing Sundays of the season.

But for our perfect day, we’ll focus on spring; it’s just around the corner. We won’t go to the forest today, there simply isn’t time. Instead we’ll take to the fjord. The hop-on hop-off old wooden sail ship that plies Oslo harbour is perfect – it stops at City Hall, the Opera House and Bygdøy Museum Peninsula.

Getting on at City Hall, we’ll soon sail past the 700-year-old Akershus Fortress. I love seeing Oslo from the water – and imagine how it must have felt to be a Viking returning home after months – or even years – at sea. Oslo celebrated its 1000-year anniversary in 2000 – and while the skyline has certainly changed since 1000 AD, nature remains much the same: hills and forests surround the city on three sides; the fjord is on the fourth.

We’ll get off the ship at Oslo Opera House and take a stroll up the sloping marble roof for fabulous fjord views. If you have young children along, be aware: running down the slope is very tempting and there are no guard rails before you hit the chilling waters of the fjord.

By now we’re in the mood for morning coffee, and since the weather is lovely, we’ll have it outdoors, right at the water’s edge. In winter – or in the rain – Brasserie Sanguine offers coffees (or lunches or dinners) indoors, with smashing views through the enormous glass wall.

Getting back on the boat, we’ll continue to Bygdøy. This peninsula is home to great hikes, fabulous beaches and Oslo’s best museums. Again, considering we only have one day, we have to choose between several wonderful maritime museums, including intrepid explorer Thor Heyerdahl’s ocean-crossing raft Kon-Tiki, the Viking Ship house, and more.

My 11-year-old is along, and she loves ambling about the deck of the polar ship Fram, used by the first man to ever reach the South Pole, Roald Amundsen. The best thing about this little museum is that we can board the Fram and have a look in the cabins, the lounges, the engine room and the cargo hold. I can imagine how it must have been out at the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica back in 1911.

About time for lunch? We’ll get back on our sailing ship one final time and head back to City Hall and Aker Brygge, a renovated ship yard full of quirky shops and great cafes, bars and restaurants. We’ll have lunch wherever takes our fancy, whether we’re in the mood for fabulous seafood, pasta, Japanese food, or just about anything else. There’s even an American diner.

A perfect day in Oslo will probably include Frogner Park

Everyone loves Frogner Park, so after lunch, we’ll hop on the tram and go west to join (or watch) locals rollerblading, walking their dogs, enjoying the sunshine and the scent of roses. Kids love to climb on the many sculptures in the park, all created by Gustav Vigeland. Or they’ll imitate them: Sinnataggen, the Angry Little Boy, is perfect for this.

A short tram ride – or a brisk 20-minute walk – takes us back to the city centre where we’ll walk down main street Karl Johan to one of Oslo’s most iconic restaurants, Grand Cafe. This used to be the hangout of the Christiania Bohemians, a gang of artists in the late 1880s. Noted playwright Henrik Ibsen was one of them. Twice a day he used to walk to Grand Cafe to enjoy a tankard of beer and read the newspapers.

Before we sit down, we’ll have a look at the large mural in the back of the restaurant depicting the Bohemians. You’ll see the great author in the left corner. He’s the man with the white beard and the top hat.

Since it’s a lovely day, we’ll enjoy our own beer outside in the afternoon sunshine (tea or hot chocolate for the little ones), where we’ll people-watch. The pavement outside Grand Cafe isn’t known as the catwalk for nothing.

We’ve had a full day, so perhaps we’ll just sit here, being lazy until it’s dinnertime. If we feel energetic, we might take a little stroll through Spikersuppa, the area between Parliament and the National Theatre. Or we could pop by one or two of the many snazzy shops at Paleet. There are all sorts of fancy clothing shops (perhaps you need a pair of Ilse Jacobsen wellies (rubber boots) for rainy days) or we’ll browse Tanum, one of Oslo’s largest book shops.

Here are a few more posts on Oslo:

… and here are a few from National Geographic’s Intelligent Traveler Blog:

This post is part of the 100 cities to home swap before you die-initiative from – hop on over for a look at perfect days in cities around the world.