7 free things to do in Oslo, Norway
Planning a visit to Scandinavia without breaking the bank is a real challenge. This is especially true in Norway and its capital, Oslo, where the high local cost of living and the 25% sales tax push up the cost of most goods and services.
While it’s hard to avoid accommodation and food bills, you don’t have to shell out expensive entrance fees to enjoy the city. Some of Oslo’s best attractions are completely free and only require a public transport ticket to get there.
In an ordinary year, the Vigeland Sculptures at Frogner Park attract over a million visitors. The 212 sculptures of bronze, iron and granite examine the human form, ranging from the beautiful to the bizarre. While it’s a must-see in Norway, it’s far from the city’s only sculpture park.
Perched on a hill far from downtown Oslo, Ekeberg Sculpture Park attracts locals and dog walkers more than international tourists. Internationally renowned works including Venus Milo with drawers by the Spanish surrealist Salvador Dalí are among the 31 sculptures spread over a vast wooded area. Visitors should also be aware that many of the sculptures have somewhat mature themes.
In the city center, the Royal Palace attracts thousands of tourists every day but many fewer walk around the palace and in the gardens to discover Princess Ingrid Alexandra Sculpture Park. If these sculptures inspired by fairy tales seem childish, it is because the park is intended for children and designed by them.
Since the Middle Ages, Akershus Fortress has been a landmark of Oslo. The medieval castle was originally built to protect the city and serve as a royal residence, but it was also used as a military base and a prison.
Today, the castle grounds are a popular recreation area and offer great views of the town’s waterfront and Oslofjord. A small, free visitor center lets you learn about some of the fascinating and gruesome stories of the castle’s past.
Modern architecture walk
If you visited Oslo over 10 years ago, you will be shocked at the transformation of the waterfront. Formerly a motorway and an industrial zone, the district of Bjørvika is today a commercial and cultural center adapted to pedestrians, worthy of a capital.
The Opera’s angular lines are almost universally popular, but more recent additions have divided opinion. The new Deichman Library has been criticized for its lack of books while the architecture of the new Munch Museum is not to everyone’s liking. Along with the emerging residential area of Sørenga and the Barcode business district, this compact part of Oslo has something to appeal to avid architects.
Explore the forests
As in most Norwegian cities, Oslo’s number one attraction is the nature available on the city’s doorstep. From the peaceful islands of the Oslo Fjord to the forest that envelops the city, Oslo is surrounded by a natural playground.
The easiest way for foreign visitors to experience the forests of Oslo is by taking the metro (T-Bane) in Frognerseteren, where several hiking trails begin. The atmosphere of the Frognerseteren Lodge is the perfect place to have a cup of coffee while admiring the bird’s-eye view of Oslo.
Another option is the metro to Sognsvann, where you will find a three kilometer trail around a lake.
Relax on a beach
Outside of the realm of niche activities like Arctic surfing and Northern Lights photography, Scandinavia isn’t exactly known for its beaches. Still, there are several beaches in Oslo worth checking out if the weather is nice.
The small beaches of Tjuvholmen, Sørenga, and in front of the new Munch Museum are all located downtown, but Oslo’s best choices require a short bus or ferry ride. Huk Beach in Bygdøy is very popular with locals in summer, while Hovedøya and Langøyene Islands also offer great sandy beaches.
Oslo City Hall
One of Oslo’s most distinctive buildings is the twin-tower brick town hall. But few tourists realize that the doors are open to the public and the interior doubles as an art gallery.
Inside the Town Hall you will find an impressive collection of works of art, including several murals that depict the history of Norway, from fishing and forestry to occupation during WWII. World War.
Admission is free all year round and free guided tours are usually offered during the summer months.
Free days in museums
Entrance to most of the museums in Oslo costs around $ 15, but there can be savings if you visit on certain days. At the time of writing, the Natural History Museum and National Museum of Architecture open their doors for free most Thursdays, outside school holidays.
Led by the University of Oslo, the Natural History Museum showcases the diversity of nature, both in Scandinavia and far beyond. The exhibition of rare fossils Stones & Bones is a highlight, while Klimahuset presents important educational material on climate and climate change in a sensory exhibition. The museum is located in Oslo botanical gardens, a living museum in itself and free to explore.