Top Things to Do For FREE in Oslo, Norway
“Have you been to Oslo?”, “Yes, OMG IT’S SO EXPENSIVE!”
I feel like that pretty much sums up how this conversation usually starts… And while, yes, Oslo, Norway is in fact, a very expensive city to visit, it doesn’t necessarily have to be — Well, when it comes to your activities at least…
In this blog post, I’ve compiled a small list of fun things to see and do around this beautiful Scandinavian capital, in the hopes of helping you get more bang-for-your-buck when visiting this worthwhile destination.
1. Hunt for Street Art
Now, I never would have anticipated Oslo to be a city to recommend for street art… BUT, because when I was visiting the city, I happened to be with my brother – who is a street art hunter extraordinaire — we were paying particularly close attention to these kinds of details. And honestly, we were very pleasantly surprised with what we found. Almost in any area, we went to in the city, we uncovered beautiful and interesting pieces of art. Pay close attention around the harbour and in the Grünerløkka District. Here are a few of my favourites we discovered:
2. Scale the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet House
Home of the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet, and the national opera theatre in Norway, the Oslo Opera House is located in the centre of the city and is the largest cultural building in Norway. While the building boasts many immaculate and beautiful rooms on its interior, what is super cool about this place is the exterior. The roof of the building angles to ground level, making it possible for pedestrians to walk along the edges of the roof to take in spectacular panoramic views of the city. So, hike on up, take in the view, and then maybe pop into the lobby to check out some of the beautiful interiors.
3. Wander through the Grünerløkka District
Traditionally a working-class district, since the late 20th Century, the gentrification process has established a culture of hipster café shops, restaurants, and bars. It is also a popular shopping district with plenty of boutiques, market vendors, and original design shops, as well as vintage and second-hand shops. As mentioned previously, this is also an area to find some cool graffiti pieces.
You can find the Grünerløkka District in the East End of Oslo (behind the old industrial buildings).
4. Ogle at the Olympic Ski Jump
The Olympic ski jump (AKA “Holmenkollbakken”) can be found at Holmenkollen in Oslo. The grounds have hosted the Holmenkollen Ski festival since 1892 and were also home to the 1952 Winter Olympics. Holmenkollen has also been the site of many other notable Ski Championships. If you’re looking to enter the ski museum, located underneath the ski jump, it will cost you, but the jump itself and the area around it is free to see and wander. This being said, the view from atop the jump tower is (supposedly) pretty fantastic. The day my brother and I went, it was so foggy you couldn’t see more than 5 feet in front of you… But, apparently, you can see some pretty epic views of the city!
5. Have a laugh in the Vigeland Sculpture Park
The Vigeland Park is the world’s largest sculpture park made by a single artist — Gustav Vigeland. Open year-round, it is here you will find some of the most unique presentations of the human form. Some of the most famous sculptures are the angry boy and man attacked by babies. Sculptures depict the four stages of life: childhood, adulthood, parenthood, and the elderly. Some sculptures even depict skeletal bodies to symbolize death and others display how man becomes nature after he dies. A rather impressive monolith resides in the centre of the park, comprised of 121 sculptured figures carved from one single granite block, reaching nearly 18 metres in height.
To say the least, this park is one of the most interesting ones I’ve ever seen. If you’re visiting at a time when the weather is nice, it would make an amazing spot for a picnic. But, if you’re visiting during the winter, like we did, be sure to wear plenty of layers as the long walk can become quite frigid.
The Vigeland Museum will cost you extra if you wish to learn more about the artist’s work in-depth. It is located south of the Park and was the studio and home of sculptor Gustav Vigeland. The museum is home to the artist’s early works, his portraits, and monuments. Here, you’ll also find the plaster models for the sculptures in the Park.
6. Visit Akershus Castle and Fortress
A medieval castle and royal residence turned fortress, this destination in Oslo dates back to 1299. Located along the water, the structure gives you beautiful views of Oslo City Hall and the harbour, where you can watch the ferries pass below. Wander through the medieval arches and picture what it might have been like to reside there as a royal… or hey, even picture what the place might have been like when it was operating as a military base or prison (‘cause that was a thing)…
7. Window shop your way through Norway’s most famous shopping street
A popular area in the city, Bogstadveien is located in the Frogner District of Oslo and is full of designer labels and specialist shops. It is here that you can also discover name-brand outlets. In addition to exclusive shops, you’ll find plenty of hotels, restaurants, and entertainment.
8. Watch the royal changing of the guard
Though not the biggest of royal palaces, the Royal Palace in Oslo is the official residence of the current Norwegian monarch. Interestingly, you’ll notice that the palace is not gated in, nor is it surrounded by any sort of railings or barriers, making it incredibly approachable. You can witness the impressive changing of the guard here daily at 1:30 pm. Even if you miss the changing of the guard, the views from atop the palace hill down Karl Johan street are still worth the stroll.
Pro Tip: If there is one thing you do spend your money on, when it comes to activities, it should probably be the “Oslo Pass”.
Costing 395 NOK (Approx. $62 CAD) for 24 hours, or 595 for 48 hours (Approx. $93 CAD), for an adult pass, in my opinion, it is completely worth it (the average price of a museum entrance in Oslo is around 100-120 NOK — Approx. $16-19 CAD). The Oslo Pass gives you entry to 30 museums and attractions, provides free travel on all public transport, as well as free entry to outdoor swimming pools. It also will offer you discounts on things like concert tickets, rentals, restaurants, shops and more.
My brother and I purchased the pass and LOVED the freedom of not having to wait in lines or worry about staying in a museum long enough to make it “worth it” to pay the single entrance fee. AKA, as we had limited time (we were only in Oslo for the weekend), we were able to use the Pass to do things like enter the National Museum only to see The Scream (1893) painting by Edvard Munch and then leave… This being said, my favourite museums were The Viking Ship Museum and the Fram Museum and I completely recommend at least checking out these ones. All museums mentioned throughout this blog post (Vigeland Museum, Holmenkollen Ski Museum & Tower, etc.) are included in the Pass.
If you are interested in purchasing the Oslo Pass, you can purchase them in many places around the city including the Oslo Visitor Centre, hotels, hostels, and some museums. You can also purchase it online in advance here.
And there you have it. For a pricey city, here are a few of the best things I experienced in Oslo for FREE. Have you been to Oslo before? What did you enjoy most about this Scandinavian capital?