Along the river, which traditionally divided the affluent western neighbourhoods and the poorer working class suburbs to the east, you will find a vast array of old industry buildings next to thriving wildlife, cosy restaurants and cafes, colourful street art, beautiful waterfalls, luxurious parks and more.
Nydalen. Photo: Marie Peyre
Bridges and waterfalls
Other notable waterfalls include Bjølsen Waterfall, the highest with a drop of 16 metres, Nedre Foss in Vulkan and the man-made Nydalsfossen in Nydalen.
Øvre Vøyen Foss. Photo: Marie Peyre
The Åmot Bridge is another favourite. The suspension bridge, built in the early 1850s in Modum, Buskerud, was one of the first of its kind in Norway, and one of the most expensive – it cost almost four times the agreed budget. In the 1950s, the bridge was dismantled and moved piece by piece from its original location to Oslo.
Also worth mentioning are the imposing, gothic-inspired Sannerbrua and Ankerbrua Bridge, with its famous bronze sculptures by artist Dyra Vaa – hence its nickname, the Fairytale Bridge.
Today there is still plenty to see along the river for those interested in art. The ateliers at Frysja for example, home to more than 50 artists, open their doors on several occasions throughout the year – you can visit during Oslo Open, Turist i Egen By and in November, when they hold their own Christmas Market.
There are also many sculptures along the river, from the much-loved Factory Girls on Beier Bridge by sculptor Ellen Jacobsen to Petter Hepsø's Elephant in Sagene or Ola Enstad's Divers in Grønland… not to mention the Dick Swan (yes, you read this correctly) floating in the water outside Blå in Grünerløkka.
The Old Factory, Akerselva by Frits Thaulow
Street art in Vulkan. Photo: Marie Peyre
Feeling adventurous? Join Mad Goats Kajakkskole for a fun couple of hours paddling on the Akerselva. While the company caters primarily for groups, they also offer tours for individuals every Friday in summer (5pm and 7pm, 690 kroner per person). Kayak down from Mathallen to Grønland, then through a 500 metre-long tunnel under Oslo Central Station (it's dark in there, be warned), and come out in Bjørvika, where you will paddle past the new Munch Museum and round the Opera. These tours are great fun, and offer a completely new perspective on the city.
Kayaking on the Akerselva with Mad Goats Kajakkskole. Photo: Marie Peyre
On a hot day, the temptation to jump into the water will be overwhelming. The good news is – you can! Brekkedammen near Frysja (just below Maridalsvannet Lake) is one of the most popular places to go for a swim, spend the afternoon lounging on the grass or even have a BBQ. Smaller but just as packed in summer, the man-made pools at Nydalen are another good bet – a great spot for a refreshing dip in the summer heat before enjoying a drink at one of the many adjoining watering holes.
Nydalsbakken Ski Jump. Photo: Anders Beer Wilse/Oslo Museum