Drinking at a bar in oslo

Over 15 FREE Things to Do in Oslo, Norway

Norway

Norway is notoriously expensive, and I can vouch for that! On my trip to Norway I was craving some chocolate, but to my dismay, a small chocolate bar cost the equivalent of £3. However, a few friends and I managed to travel to Oslo on a very tight budget and still had an amazing time, even without the chocolate. In this post, I will share my top tips for saving money when sightseeing in the Norwegian capital.

Oslo is a city rich in history. Translated from old Norse, the meaning of the name can be inferred as “the meadow of the Gods”. It became the capital of Norway way back in 1299AD, but has since been destroyed many times by fire and rebuilt. What stands today is the cultural hub of Norway, a place which contains a combination of historic and modern age attractions.

Free Things to Do in Oslo

1. Wander Around a Sculpture Park

Vigeland Sculpture Park in Oslo

Vigeland Sculpture Park

Go check out these weird yet wonderful sculptures, created by artist Gustav Vigeland between 1920 and his death in 1943. It’s free to wander around and there are over 200 sculptures to discover, depicting various human-like forms. It is also part of Frogner Park, the largest park in Oslo, which boasts beautifully landscaped gardens.

The tallest sculpture, titled the Monolith, is a towering 46-foot tall sculpture carved out of granite and depicts 121 figures scrambling over each other to reach the top. It sure is a strange thing to behold and took the artist over 14 years to complete.

Ekebergparken Sculpture Park

This large national heritage park is close to Oslo city centre and located on a hill which lends itself to beautiful views of the city. The park is home to many modern sculptures by various artists mainly depicting the human form. If you’re lucky you may spot some of the wildlife, such as birds and deer whilst you are there.

Before you go download the map from here and take it with you, this will help you find the sculptures and you won’t have to spend money on purchasing one from the store.

Tjuvholmen Sculpture Park

This modern sculpture park has several pieces created by various artists. The park is found in the neighbourhood of Frogner on a peninsula of the fjord, making it a great place to sit and watch the sunset.

2. Take a Trip Back in Time at Akershus Fortress

Akershus Fortress in Oslo

Akershus Fortress is a medieval castle built in the 13th century to protect Oslo from enemy attacks and house the royal family. Since then it has been used as everything from an army base to government offices.

Akershus is situated in luscious green grounds with a fantastic view of the Oslo fjord. You are able to walk around the fortress and grounds for free but will have to pay a small fee to visit the museum. I would recommend taking a packed lunch with you and having a picnic at this beautiful location.

3. Walk on the Roof of the Oslo Opera House

Oslo Opera House

This contemporary opera house celebrated its 10th anniversary this year but is still very much a modern architectural masterpiece. The inspiration for its intriguing design is the Norwegian landscape, and it does indeed look like a snowy slope or glacier from afar. The opera house features an angled exterior roof that reaches the floor, allowing visitors to walk right up to the top and take in panoramic views of Oslo.

You can also enter the building for free and the interior is just as interesting as the exterior with more contemporary architectural features. Inside there is also a gift shop and cafe where you can relax and take a break from the busy city streets.

4. Play Shuffleboard / Sjoelen in a Local Pub

Shuffleboard in Oslo Pub
Photo by my good friend @kennykencam

I had never played shuffleboard before arriving in Norway, but it seems to be a popular pub game here. Indeed, last year a Norwegian woman, Ellen Hansson, became shuffleboard world champion. This game requires sliding a heavy weighted disk across a table to land in the scoring area opposite and you’re free to knock your opponent’s disk off the board, in a similar manner to curling or bowls.

We visited a cute little pub called Perestrojka, located in Storgata 13, where they had two shuffleboards available. A perfect activity for a rainy evening!

5. Watch the Changing of the Guard at the Royal Palace

The Royal Palace in Oslo

The Royal Palace is an impressive example Neoclassical architecture and still remains the home of the royal family to this day. Currently, this is where King Harald V and Queen Sonja reside (who have a cute love story to boot!).

You can take a walk around the magnificent gardens where there are many sculptures and a small lake, but the highlight of a visit here is the Changing of the Guard ceremony which takes place at 1.30pm each day.

6. Visit One of Oslo’s Many Markets

Oslo Winterland Market

Blå Sunday Flea Market

Located in trendy Grünerløkka, Blå Sunday Flea Market is where you can buy a whole range of handmade items such as jewellery, clothes, soaps, and paintings. You will also find second-hand traders who have some really nice vintage clothes for sale.
Every Sunday, 12:00 – 17:00.

Vestkanttorvet Flea Market

Wear comfy shoes when you visit Vestkanttorvet Flea Market as this place is huge! It is the oldest market in Oslo where you can buy anything from furniture to unique collector’s items.
Every Saturday, 09:00 – 17:00.

Krakabøla Market

Krakabøla is Oslo’s newest market found in the old part of the city. You’ll find a lot of beautiful vintage items, vinyl records, a range of food and hand-made products. As you browse you can listen to the live music that usually takes place here.

The organisers of this market are very environmentally focused, with the products being eco-friendly and visitors and encouraged to bring their own bags and containers for purchases.

It’s a really cool vibe, check it out!
Every Saturday, May to September. 12:00 – 17:00.

Christmas in Winterland (Jul i Vinterland)

Are you visiting Oslo between mid-November and the End of December? Then you have to check out the Christmas markets, guaranteed to put you in a festive mood.

Right in the heart of Oslo, you’ll find Christmas in Winterland, a beautiful market to wander around as the snow falls from the sky.

Each wooden hut will sell something different. There are lots of hand-made items made from locally sourced materials. If you are hungry grab some churros and huddle around the fire pit. There is also a Ferris wheel for the kids – or big kids!
Nov. 17 – Dec. 30, 10:00 – 20:00.

7. Explore the dark mind of Emanuel Vigeland (60NOK)

Ok, so this one isn’t free, but it’s very cheap and worth the small price. Emanuel Vigeland was the younger brother of the renowned Gustav Vigeland, responsible for the sculptures in Vigeland Park. In contrast to his brother’s open-air art installations, Emanuel’s art is located in a very dark haunting room with a vaulted ceiling, made even eerier by the location of the deceased artist’s ashes placed over the entrance door.

The museum first opened in 1959 and once you take time for your eyes to adjust in the low light, highly detailed paintings of the human form appear on the walls. This fresco art piece celebrates the circle of life and has some quite graphic paintings.

It is important to note that the museum is only open on Sundays between 12 and 4.

8. Visit a Museum or Art Gallery

Oslo Museum

Unfortunately, entry to the National Gallery which houses the famous ‘The Scream’ painting by Edvard Munch is no longer free on Thursdays. Entry now costs NOK 120 (£11.20) for an adult or NOK 60 (£5.60) for a student, pensioner or concession. It’s handy to note that it does not matter what country you are a student in, so long as you have ID you can get the discount.

However, there remain some museums and art galleries in Oslo which have free admission, but you may have to time your visit right.

Oslo City Museum

The Museum of Oslo celebrates Oslo’s history through the ages through sculptures, paintings and photographs. It is located in Frogner Park (Vigeland Park) mentioned previously, so you could do the two in the same visit.
Free entry on the first Saturday of each month. Closed on Mondays. Frognerveien 67, 0266 Oslo, Norway.

Intercultural Museum

It is located in an Old Police station in Grønland, a multi-cultural area of Oslo and also where you can probably buy the cheapest beer.

The exhibitions are modern and interactive, documenting the history of immigration in Norway. There is also a very instagrammable room called “you are not alone”, made out of mirrors. This museum puts in perspective the life of others around the world and aims at eliminating prejudice.
Free entry. Closed on Mondays. Tøyenbekken 5, 0188 Oslo, Norway.

Film Museum

Anyone interested in cinematography should visit this museum, which displays important pieces from Norwegian film history including advertisements, costumes and props. There are parts of this museum that are interactive, and if you can also watch a film at their on-site cinema.
Free entry. Open all days. Dronningens gate 16, 0152 Oslo, Norway.

Oslo Kunstforening

This contemporary art gallery is located in the oldest preserved buildings in one of Oslo’s oldest areas, Kvadraturen. This gallery has displayed emerging Norwegian artists and international artists who have not had their work previously shown in Norway for over 180 years.
Free entry. Closed on Mondays. Rådhusgata 19, 0158 Oslo, Norway.

Oslo City Hall

This building is rich in history and displays beautiful art pieces on its walls and interesting sculptures. There are also free tour groups which will bring you up to date with the history of the place.
Free entry. Open all days. Rådhusplassen 1, 0037 Oslo, Norway.

Hausmania Culture House

A very trendy place that facilitates a space for artists and musicians. The backyard is frequented by Oslo Dub Club, and the house itself is home to three galleries, four theatre groups, an MC club, a skateboard hall, a craft workshop, an internet café, a book café, a library, a cinema and much more.
Free entry. Open all days. Hausmanns gate 34, 0182 Oslo, Norway.

These are only a small selection of the many museums are art galleries you can visit for free in Oslo. If you’re an art enthusiast and want to visit more, check out my ultimate guide to free museums and art galleries here.

9. Get Your Daily Dose of Nature

Evergreen Tress in Forest

Admire the Beauty of the Botanical Gardens

Spending time in nature has been proven to improve cognitive functions, memory span and make you happier. So, what more reasons do you need to get out and enjoy the natural world? When visiting Oslo, The Botanical Gardens can provide you with this much-needed sanctuary, for free!

The garden was founded in 1814 and through the care of Natural History Museum of the University of Oslo, this garden now houses over 7,500 unique species of plant.

The Botanical Garden caters to all, including those with a disability. The Scented Garden is specially designed for the visually impaired (brail signs) and also has raised beds for wheelchair users. Great-granny’s Garden is designed for those with dementia as it includes many flowers which are no longer commercially available, and the ‘old-fashioned’ aroma can provide comfort and improve memory.

The Viking Garden where you can learn how Vikings used plants is very interesting and would be great for kids. There are also zoological and geological exhibitions, but these have admission fees.

On the grounds, you will find two beautiful greenhouses, containing exotic plants from around the world. There are also plans to construct four additional greenhouses with five climate zones.

If you are hungry, grab a bite to eat from the cafe located at Tøyen Manor House. This manor house was built in 1679 and is one of Oslo’s oldest wooden buildings.

Free tours are also available at certain times of the year. Check out their website here for more information.
Garden and greenhouse entry is free. Open all week, 07:00 – 21:00. Greenhouses only open 10:00 – 20:00.

Stroll Along the Akerselva River

Escape the city and absorb yourself in nature for a while, which is thankfully free to enjoy. This beautiful river runs through the heart of Oslo and is dotted with many parks and nature trails along the way. One of the most popular walking routes is from Maridalsvannet, where the river forms at the largest lake in Oslo, to Vaterland Park in the city centre. It is about 7km (4.3mi.) long and guides you past waterfalls, forests, historical Norwegian buildings and swimming areas.

Explore the Oslomarka Forest

Situated 20 minutes from Oslo city centre via the metro, this luscious forest is popular amongst locals who flock here in the warmer months for activities such as hiking, running and cycling. When winter arrives, these activities turn into skiing, which is the only way you can explore the park during this snowy season.

Once you arrive you will see many signposted trails which you can take leading to lakes and viewpoints, perfect for both experienced and inexperienced hikers. For instance, the Tryvannstua trail takes you to a tranquil lake and is about 3.5km each way.

There are many metro stops which leave you in the vicinity of this forest. I would recommend you head to Frognersetern, which is the last stop on the metro line 1 and is still in the same zone as Oslo city.

Bird Spot at Østensjøvannet Lake

Only 5km from Oslo central lies Østensjøvannet Lake, a designated national wetland centre. This freshwater lake is a haven for wildlife, with over 200 species of bird and many other small mammals.

The walk around the lake is around 4.5 kilometres on the mainly flat ground which is adapted for both stroller and wheelchair. There are optional trails you can take to explore the surrounding forest.

You can visit this lake all year round. In winter, it is completely frozen over and many locals come here to ice-skate.

10. Admire the stone carvings at Ekeberg

Surprisingly in Oslo city, you can discover ancient carvings created 4,000-5,000 years ago by our prehistoric ancestors. These mysterious carvings mainly depict animals, but there is also a carving of a human.

Nearby you can dine at the Ekeberg Restaurant or climb to the viewpoint which overlooks the city (free binoculars are available). These carvings are located right next to Ekebergparken Sculpture Park, so you can check them both out at the same time.

Take tram 18 or 19 towards Ljabru and get off at the Sjømannsskolen stop. You will find the carvings across the road towards the grassy area.

11. Get Educated at the Norwegian Cancer Society’s Science Centre

Science Museum

Sadly, cancer is one of the leading causes of death in the world. The Norweigan Cancer Society aims to put a stop to this through innovative research into a cure. On your visit, there are many interactive installations to educate you on about how the cells in our body function, why cancer develops and how to prevent and treat it.

Entry is free but you are encouraged to leave a small donation that can help fund this important research.

12. Watch Skiers Fly at Holmenkollen Ski Jump

Holmenkollen Skii Jump

You will have to pay for the zip-line and the museum located underneath this famous ski jump, but you are free to walk around the attraction as you please. If you are lucky, you can witness some skiers doing jumps, but even if it is quiet on your visit, the view from this place is spectacular and the structure itself is an art piece.

13. Attend a Free Event

Keyboardist

Blå is an alternative music venue located on the riverside, a hub for lovers of music and art. Check out their website here for information on free upcoming events.

For other free events around the city, take a look at VisitOslo’s calendar here.

14. Walk Amongst the Treetops

The Stovner Tower opened in 2017 and is the longest tower in Norway. This 260-metre footpath was designed by Link Landskap, who was inspired by the flight patterns of birds. Follow this pathway up to the treetops and admire the view over the Grorund Valley.

You will find The Stovner Tower at Fossumberget just behind Stovner Shopping Centre. It is open 24/7 and when visiting in the night you will find it illuminated by lights.
Entry is free. Wheelchair and stroller friendly.

15. Join a Free Tour of the City

Map of city

Free Tour Oslo provides free walking tours of the city, taking you to places of interest and explaining the history of these sites. The tours are 90-minutes long and begin at 10:00 and 13:00 each day. No booking is required, you simply go to the meeting point outside of Jernbanetorget metro station and look for the guide holding the sign saying “Free Tour Oslo”.
Free, but you are encouraged to tip the tour guide at the end of your tour. The Tiger, Jernbanetorget, 0154 Oslo.


Conclusion

As you can see, a visit to Oslo, one of the most expensive cities in the world, doesn’t have to break your bank. There are many free attractions and places of interest that should suit any travellers taste.

If you are staying in Oslo for a long period of time, or wish to visit many places that have admission fees, then purchasing the Oslo Pass can save you mega bucks. This pass allows you free entry to many attractions, free public transport and discounts on many more things.

You can preorder your Oslo Pass online here, or simply purchase it on your arrival to Oslo at the Oslo Visitor Centre, or one of the many museums and hotels that stock them.

Other Helpful Posts

Free Museums and Art Galleries in Oslo: The Complete Guide

Over to You

  • Are you visiting Oslo or are you planning to go?
  • Have I missed any free attractions out?

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