Oswego is located on Lake Ontario in north-central New York and is known as "The Port City of Central New York". It was incorporated as a village on March 14, 1828; and the Oswego Canal, a branch of the Erie Canal, reached the area in 1829. The city of Oswego was incorporated in 1848.

In the 1850s, the height of a popular water-cure movement occurring in the U.S.A stimulated growth for Oswego, and it became the home of the Oswego Water Cure establishment; which Stonewall Jackson reportedly visited in August 1850. Oswego is home to the port of Oswego and once was a major railroad hub for the New York Central, Lackawanna/Erie Lackawanna, and NY Ontario and Western railways. Three stations remain: two passenger (D&LW and NYC) and one freight (NYC) as does a rather large trestle over the Oswego River. The tunnel on a local hiking trail in the city was the north end of the NYO&W. During World War II, Fort Ontario, located in Oswego became the home to almost 1,000 Jewish refugees. Fort Ontario was the only attempt by the United States to shelter Jewish refugees during the war. The Safe Haven Museum located in Fort Ontario commemorates the stories of the refugees.

Oswego is located on the southeastern shore of Lake Ontario at the mouth of the Oswego River, about 35 miles north of Syracuse, New York and 68 miles east of Rochester, New York.New York State Route 481 (from Interstate 81) runs north/south to Oswego from Syracuse and Fulton. New York State Route 104 runs east/west from Rochester to Oswego. The nearest city is Fulton, located south of Oswego and north of Syracuse.

Oswego has a rich history stretching back to the 15th century. Visitors can learn about the city's history by visiting museums such as the H. Lee White Marine Museum, The Richardson-Bates House, and Fort Ontario. Throughout the city and public parks, many historical monuments can be found honoring historical figures, and other forts that stood in what is now the historical district. The city includes a number of sites on the National Register of Historic Places including the Market House, Oswego Armory, Oswego City Hall, Oswego City Library, Oswego County Courthouse, Oswego Yacht Club, Tanner Block, and U.S. Customhouse.

Dining has become widely recognized in Oswego with many classic restaurants, cafes, and more modern family restaurants as the city continues its expansion eastward.

Boating, fishing, and hiking are also activities that are enjoyed by all residents and visitors. Oswego also has three ice-skating rinks, a large public pool located on the Fort Ontario grounds, a bowling alley, and the historic Oswego Theater.

Every year the city hosts Harborfest, a four-day festival of music, culture, and food centered around the Oswego Harbor; culminating in a fireworks display on the Saturday evening of the festival. The event is sponsored by local businesses, and the entertainment is mostly admission-free. The festival continues to draw approximately 150,000 to 300,000 attendees every year.

A big part of Oswego culture is the State University of New York at Oswego. In 2007, SUNY Oswego Lakers men's hockey team won the NCAA Division III Ice Hockey Championship. Garren Reisweber's goal 12:55 into overtime gave Oswego State a 4-3 win over Middlebury on March 18, 2007. The Lakers captured the school's first ever national championship in a team sport. The 2006-07 season marked the first season Oswego played in the newly built, state-of-the-art Campus Center, located on Lake Ontario.