Oslo isn’t known to be a cheap vacation destination. In fact, it’s consistently ranked as one of the expensive places in the world to live. While it’s well worth a visit, you should come prepared to spend a few more dollars (well, krone) on everything from snacks to shoes and souvenirs than you would in most other places.
If you’re planning a trip to Oslo but want to be a little budget-conscious, it’s a smart idea to look into cheap or free things to do before you go. That way, you can offset some of the cost of your more expensive activities with more affordable ones. Not only that, but you’ll be surprised to find some of the city’s most well-loved attractions and landmarks are free of charge to experience.
Not sure what the best cheap or free things to do in Oslo would be for you and your family? Here are a handful of my favorite low- and no-cost ways to have fun in Oslo, Norway:
STOP BY THE ROYAL PALACE.
The home of the royal family of Norway is situated at the end of Karl Johans gate, Oslo’s main street, and it’s definitely worth a visit. The Norwegian equivalent of Buckingham Palace, you’ll want to make a point to stop by around 1:30 in the afternoon, when they perform the ceremonial changing of the guard. It’s free to admire the palace and stroll the grounds, and you’ll find plenty of great photo opps take advantage of while you’re here.
Visit during the summer months, and you’ll even be able to tour the inside – again, at no cost. These tours give curious guests a glimpse into the lives of the Norwegian royal family and the nation’s long and rich political history.
PLAY ON THE WATER.
Norway is known for its breathtaking fjords, and Oslo happens to be located on the aptly-named Inner Oslo Fjord. You’ll admire the views of the water, but you’ll have even more fun spending some time splashing around. During the warmer summer months, take advantage of a sunny day to experience some of the nicest beaches in Norway. Bring a picnic lunch and enjoy a few hours along the shore!
If you’ve planned your trip during the colder winter months, head to the Spikersuppa Ice Skating Rink. Open daily from late November to March, you can enjoy the ice rink at no cost if you can bring your own pair of skates. Didn’t pack a pair? You can rent them for a small fee while you’re there.
EXPLORE ONE OF OSLO’S ISLANDS.
Several islands lie in the inner Oslo Fjord, and many of them are worth exploring! History buffs will enjoy exploring the monastery ruins on Hovedøya, while those looking to sunbathe and swim won’t be disappointed with a stop at Gressholmen. Pack a picnic lunch, and your only other expense will be a standard public transit ticket to get you to your destination.
ADMIRE THE ART IN VIGELAND SCULPTURE PARK.
Vigeland Sculpture Park is aptly-named after one of the nation’s best-known sculptors, Gustav Vigeland, who called Norway home in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The park is filled with hundreds of his works, mostly made from granite and bronze, and you can spend a couple of hours wandering the grounds on a gorgeous day, admiring the various works of art you’ll find here. Fair warning – some of the sculptures here do depict the naked body so you may want to avoid this park if your kiddos aren’t prepared for that.
VISIT THE OLD AKER CHURCH.
Living in America, surrounded by so much new stuff, it can be a humbling – and worthwhile – experience to tour a place with so much history. This church, built during the Middle Ages, is the oldest building still standing in Oslo. It costs nothing to tour the church’s interior or stroll through its beautiful gardens and adjacent cemetery. Again, this is a lovely spot for a few great photo opps.
STOP AND SMELL THE FLOWERS AT THE BOTANICAL GARDEN.
Founded in 1814, these gardens have been curated over the years to host a stunning assortment of Norwegian plant species – as well as a few from other corners of the globe. From greenhouses filled with water lilies floating in ponds to the charming willow sculptures scattered across the park, the park provides the perfect spot to slow down, appreciate a taste of Norway’s natural beauty, and make some memories with family. As long as you visit during the warmer months when things are in bloom, this is another prime spot for a few great family photos.
TAKE A FREE WALKING TOUR.
Want to get a feel for the city and learn about its many landmarks? Join a free tour, offered by Free Tour Oslo. Tours kick off at 10:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. every day from the Jernbanetorget metro stop and involves an hour and a half of leisurely strolling through the city streets, passing popular spots like the National Theater, the Opera House, and City Hall. The tour wraps up at the Norwegian Parliament, where you’re free to double back to revisit spots you’d like to see again – or carry on with your day.
While you won’t be charged for admission here – after all, it’s a free tour – tips are highly encouraged.
EXPLORE ONE OF THE CITY’S MANY FREE MUSEUMS.
Oslo is home to many museums that offer a glimpse into the history and culture of Norway, and almost all of them cost nothing at all to visit, making them a great way to stretch your budget while you’re in Oslo.
- Military buffs and history fans alike will love the Armed Forces Museum, which is filled with artifacts that date back to the age of the Viking through more modern times.
- The Viking Ship Museum is a must-see, filled with some of the best-preserved Viking ships around.
- The Natural History Museum offers free admission on Thursdays and is a great spot to learn about everything from climate change to dinosaurs and other extinct animals.
Many of the city’s art museums are usually free, but most are closed at the moment as Oslo works to complete the new National Museum. Scheduled to open in 2020, you’ll eventually find all of Oslo’s most famous works of art here – but for now, you’ll have to pass.
As you can see, there are plenty of ways to get out and have some fun on your trip to Oslo without blowing your budget. Add a few to your itinerary, and you’ll easily make your trip more affordable without diminishing your experience.