When you think of Norway, budget travel isn’t what first pops to mind, is it? While I won’t deny Oslo can be expensive, if you search a little, you’ll find heaps of free activities on offer.
Norway’s premier attraction is nature – free for all to enjoy. In previous posts I’ve mentioned many ways you can enjoy Oslo’s natural splendours free of charge, (including camping on unfenced land without even asking the owner’s permission, thanks to allemannsretten, the right-of-access laws). Then there’s the wilderness surrounding the city, the Oslo Fjord islands, the beaches and nature walks at Bygdøy, the lovely Ekeberg Hills, excellent walks along Akerselva River and much more.
But did you know, Oslo offers numerous free cultural attractions as well? Here are 10 favourites:
1. Frogner Park
Top spot among free Oslo attractions goes to Frogner Park. Ambling around this sculpture park, enjoying Gustav Vigeland’s 212 life-size nudes is a very cool experience any time of year.
Winter Bonus: During the winter months, the adjacent Vigeland Museum – the sculptor’s home and studio – is free as well.
Photo credit: Nebbdyret/flickr’s Creative Commons
I also adore Oslo Opera House and my kids do, too. The performances may not be free, but hanging out with the locals on the cool, white marble roof is. If you have small children along, be aware there’s no guard rail where the opera house meets the frosty waters of the Oslo fjord. Running down that sloping roof is just so tempting.
Photo credit: Oddsock/flickr’s Creative commons
The The National Gallery is another favourite. This is the place to see Edvard Munch’s iconic paintings Skrik (The Scream) and Madonna, as well as heaps of other works by local and international painters, including Manet and Cezanne.
Winter Bonus: For more works from the hands of the famed painter, head to the Munch Museum. Entrance is free between 1 October and 31 March.
Photo credit: allison harger/flickr’s Creative Commons
If you’re interested in the legacy of wealthy industrialist and humanitarian Alfred Nobel, a visit to Oslo City Hall - venue of the annual Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony – is a must. The hall is beautifully decorated with large 20th century paintings. You might even recognize some of them if you’ve watched the televised event.
Photo credit: Lars T/flickr’s Creative Commons
Practically across the street, is Akershus Fortress. While you have to pay to enter the Castle, strolling around the grounds of this medieval fortress is completely free. Walking along the ridge is quite romantic, especially when snow is falling.
Photo credit:Mararie/flickr’s Creative Commons
Another great freebie is the Historical Museum. Housed in a large, handsome Art Nouveau building, this museum is home to a huge collection of prehistoric and Medieval artefacts, including some excellent Viking Era antiques.
Photo credit: kong niffe/flickr’s Creative Commons
The nearly 200-year-old Botanical Gardens, surrounding the Natural History Museums, is free for all to enjoy, and an excellent spot for some peace and quiet among 7 500 species of plants and trees.
8. Changing of the Guards at the Royal Palace
Photo credit: James Clear/flickr’s Creativ Commons
Hang out in the park surrounding the Royal Palace where you can watch the changing of the King’s Guards at 1330 (1:30 pm) every day, come rain or shine; takes a good half hour.
Photo credit: nafmo/flickr’s Creative Commons
Another interesting museum housed in a magnificent building is The National Museum of Contemporary Art, yet another year-round freebie.
Winter Bonus: The wonderful Stenersenmuseet (Museum of Modern Art) is free during the winter months.
Photo credit: Kris Taeleman/flickr’s Creative Commons
If you’re not interested in military history, the Armed Forces Museum may sound a bit dull, but it’s well worth a visit. Highlights are exhibits of the Viking Era and the German occupation during Word War II.
This article could easily be named 15 Great Cultural Oslo Attractions. Or 20. But we have to stop somewhere. Instead I’ll just mention a few other cultural freebies:
- Oslo City Museum
- IKT, the Inter-Cultural Museum
- the Museum of Magic
- the Museum of Architecture
- the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design, and
- the somewhat surprisingly interesting Norwegian Customs Museum.
Now, if only you could find cheap lodgings and food in Oslo, you say? Stay tuned!