Oslo is often referred to as one of the most expensive cities in the world. Visits to many of the cities wonderful museums can add up quickly, but a visit to Oslo doesn’t have to break the bank. Here are our 10 must see sights in Oslo, in no particular order, and how to see them on a budget:
Built around 1299 as a residence for the royal family, Akershus Fortress is Norway’s most important medieval monument. Not only that, Norwegians believe the fortress is full of ghosts. “When a Swedish soldier got a little too drunk, he thought he could attack Akershus Fortress on his horse,” Christiann, our Oslo guide, told us. “That horse is buried in the entrance tower to the fortress and if you listen closely, you can hear him galloping!”
Pointing Christiann tells us, ““That was Queen Margaret’s chamber and the ghost chambermaid Mantelgeisten has said to been seen by many of the guards. She emerges in full length robes from the darkness without a face!” I won’t give away all of Akerhus Fortress’ secrets; you’ll just have to visit yourself to hear them all!
Opening Hours: May – September 10am – 4pm, October – April 12pm – 5pm; Admission: free with Oslo Pass or 70 NOK.
Appearing to rise out of the waters of Oslofjord like a glacier, the white Italian carrara marble and granite of Oslo Opera House sparkle. It is the world’s first – and only – opera house on which you can walk up onto the roof! Views from the roof stretch as far as the eye can see over Oslofjord and the surrounding islands.
Guided tours to learn more about the architecture and even get a glimpse backstage are every Wednesday at 1pm, Saturday at 12:pm and Sundays at 1pm. Admission: 20% discount with Oslo Pass or 100 NOK per adult and 60 NOK per child (4 – 16 years old).
The Oslo Opera House of course has operas on its’ schedule, as well as ballets, concerts, and various recitals. Find the program and buy tickets here.
3. Viking Ship Museum
The Vikings were undoubtedly master ship builders and some of the most famous Viking ships are on display at the Viking Ship Museum. I know I started this list by saying that these 10 must see sights in Oslo are in no particular order, but the Viking Ship Museum was at the top of my list when planning our trip to Oslo. And I certainly was not disappointed.
The beautiful Oseberg ship dates back to around the earily 800s and was a grave for a Viking Queen, who was buried with all of her belongs to aid passage into the next life. The Gokstad was a war ship and dates from around 890. Both of these ships were discovered over 100 years ago in an embalmed state in clay burial mounds around the Oslofjord and are very well preserved.
Opening Hours: May – September 9am – 6pm, October – April 10am – 4pm; Admission: free with Oslo Pass or 60 NOK.
4. Fram Museum
We couldn’t pass up a visit to see the world’s strongest polar vessel given our own interest in all things polar! The Fram is famous for three Polar expeditions: with Fridtjof Nansen on a drift over the Arctic Ocean from 1893-96, with Otto Sverdrup to the arctic archipelago west of Greenland (now the Nunavut region of Canada) from 1898-1902, and with Roald Amundsen to Antarctica for his South Pole expedition from 1910-12.
The Fram Museum took us on a journey of these polar expeditions through a series of photos, films, and boarding the ship to explore. We glimpsed life aboard the vessel with a look at the bunks, engine room, and facilities below deck.
5. Vigeland Park
We missed a visit to Vigeland Park on our first trip to Oslo, so when we found ourselves back for a short visit, we made visiting the park a priority. Designed by Gustav Vigeland, Vigeland Park features 212 bronze and granite sculptures set amongst three sections: the central bridge, the fountain, and the Monolith Plateau. With tiny snowflakes falling and snowy scapes, Vigeland Park was a fantastic way to spend a few hours strolling around the sculptures and acting like kids while making snow angels and surprise sneak snowball attacks.
Vigeland Park is open 24 hours and entrance is free.
6. ICEBAR Oslo
More than 40% of Norway’s territory lies north of the Arctic Circle, though you don’t have to leave Oslo to get a taste of the Arctic. ICEBAR Oslo is kept at -5° Celsius (23° Fahrenheit) all the time and to stay warm, we received a fur lined cape and gloves. Everything inside is made out of 50 tons of crystal clear ice harvested from the frozen Torne River in Jukkasjarvi, Northern Sweden. Everything, including the glasses in which your drink of choice is served up!
Entrance to ICEBAR Oslo is on the hour, every hour and a reservation is recommended as a strict 60 person capacity is observed. Visits are for 45 minutes and include cape, gloves, and one drink of your choice and costs NOK 160 ($29 US) per person.
The Eternal Peace Flame has burned brightly on Oslo’s Aker Brygge since 2002. Donated to the city of Oslo by World Harmony Run founder Sri Chinmoy, it serves as as a beacon of light and inspiration. A statue of Sri Chinmoy looking on to the flame was added in 2008.
8. Henrik Ibsen’s Quotations
The famous playright Henrik Ibsen would take a daily stroll from his home near the Royal Palace down Karl Johan’s Gate to the Grand Cafe, where he would have his lunch every day. When Oslo isn’t covered in snow, Ibsen’s famous quotations can be seen along the route in the sidewalk in stainless steel.
Henrik Ibsen’s home is now a museum dedicated to his life and works. If his quotations intrigue you, visit the Henrik Ibsen Museum. Opening Hours: May – September 10am – 5pm and September – May 11am – 4pm; Admission: free with Oslo Pass or 50 NOK.
Taking a stroll through Christiania, we found Oslo’s very first town hall and a giant pointing finger. This is where the Danish-Norwegian king Christian IV decided to rebuild the city after the dramatic fire in 1624. He pointed to this spot and said: “The new town will lie here!” The newly rebuilt town was named Christiania after the king himself. Several well-preserved buildings from the 17th century can be seen in Christiania and is home to the city’s oldest restaurant, Café Engebret.
Built in 1697, Oslo Catherdral’s pulpit, altar piece, and organ front with acanthus carvings are all originals. Large ceiling murals were painted by Hugo Lous Mohr between 1936 and 1950. The stained glass windows are by Emanuel Vigeland. Guided tours of Oslo Cathedral can be booked on weekdays or just stop in and admire the beautiful church as we did.
Tip: Oslo Pass
The Oslo Pass allows the holder free entrance to all of Oslo’s most popular museums and attractions, including most of the attractions on our must see sights in Oslo list. In addition, it gives you free access to buses, trams, and the ferries to Bygdøy. Visit Norway provided us with the 72 hour Oslo Pass and we highly recommend it!
The 72 hour Oslo Pass also includes a mini cruise on Oslofjord. We took advantage of our mini cruise after visiting the Viking Ship Museum and the Fram Museum on the Bygdøy peninsula; the cruise took us back across Oslofjord to City Hall. Hot drinks and snacks are sold on board; the fiskesuppe (fish chowder) is delicious and a budget friendly lunch at just 50 NOK.
The mini cruise ticket is valid for 24 hours and you can hop-on/hop-off at Bygdøy, City Hall and the Opera House.
495 NOK for 72 Hour Pass (approximately $85 USD per person).