A whole host of Oslo’s most famous sights are located at the Bygdøy Peninsula and you’ll want to see them all, so plan on spending at least two days, three in summer. Most of the attractions relate to the ocean and Norway’s more than 1000-year-history as a maritime superpower (really!). It’s also most appropriate to arrive by boat. Ferries leave from City Hall every half hour.
In the Viking capital Oslo, it is only right we begin with the Viking Ship Museum. About 100 years ago, archaeologists unearthed two amazingly well-preserved 9th century ships. These ships were used as graves for Viking nobles, two women in the Oseberg Ship and a man in the Gokstad Ship. Artifacts found alongside the skeletons are displayed as well.
Continuing forward in time, visit the Fram Museum for some insights into Norway’s role as a superpower of Polar exploration (again: really!). Fram (meaning Forward) is the ship that brought Roald Amundsen to Antarctica in 1911 for the race to be first to the South Pole. He won! Famous Arctic explorer and humanitarian Fridtjof Nansen also used Fram on his polar voyages. At the museum, you can walk along the deck of Fram and check out the cabins of the explorers.
Next door is the Kon-Tiki Museum, displaying the precarious vessels used by explorer Thor Heyerdahl to cross the world’s great oceans. In 1947, he sailed from Peru to Polynesia on board the raft Kon-Tiki with a multi-national crew, setting out to prove that not only was it possible for ancient people to cross the ocean in primitive crafts, but also that people could get along fine on a few square metres, regardless of nationality, race and religious beliefs. Later, he crossed the Atlantic – from Morocco to Barbados – on board Ra, an Egyptian papyrus boat. Have a look at both vessels and contemplate whether you would undertake any of those journeys.
The Maritime Museum shows off the country’s seafaring history, including Norway’s oldest boat – a 2200-year-old Bronze Age longboat. The Neo-Gothic Oscarshall Castle is at Bygdøy. So is the great outdoors Cultural History Museum offers heaps to see and do for the whole family. Whole neighbourhoods have been recreated, showing everyday life from the 16th century until the present. A highlight is the 1200-year-old Gol Stave Church.
Bygdøy is much more than museums, of course. You could go for long walks in parks, woodlands or along the beach – or you could pinch apples from the King’s farm (he’s a jovial fellow and probably won’t mind). In summer, you can take a boat out to Lille Herber’n, a little pearl of a restaurant, to enjoy white wine and a bowl of shrimps. You peel your own shrimps, so the whole meal takes a deliciously long time.
What’s that, you say? Oh right, the nude beaches. At beautiful Huk, clothing is optional. Actually only one of the Huk beaches is nudist (aptly named Paradisbukta – or Paradise Bay), the rest is quite safe for families. Beware though – Norwegian toddlers swim and play in the nude everywhere.
Check out our guide to the Bygdøy Peninsula for more info.