There’s more to do in Oslo than freeze your ass off. Norway’s capital actually has a lot of interesting sights to see that are unlike anything you’ll see anywhere else. Enough to cram into one action-packed weekend, here are some of the best things to do in Oslo.
The Norwegian Museum of Cultural History (Norsk Folkemuseum)
This is one of the best cultural museums in the world, in part because it isn’t just a halls full of artifacts and photos. It’s a massive outdoor museum that allows you to be immersed in traditional Norwegian culture. Though it’s part of Europe, Norway is a world unto itself, and the Norsk Folkemuseum is the best place to appreciate that. There are more than 150 buildings that have been relocated from all over the country. From log houses to the famed Gol Stave Church that dates back to 1157, you’ll be able to really experience ancient Norway. The museum’s Old Town section has been meticulously reconstructed and includes stores and apartments you can walk into. This is an activity to do early because during most months of the year, it closes at 3 pm.
Nobel Peace Center
Many people don’t realize this, but the Nobel Peace Prize recipient is picked by the Norwegian Nobel Committee, and the prize is awarded in Oslo every year. Though some might find it boring, the Nobel Peace Center is a great place to go to restore your faith in humanity. It’s a text-heavy museum that highlights some of the accomplishments and contributions of the world’s Peace Prize recipients. This awe-inspiring list includes Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King Jr., the Dalai Lama, and Barack Obama. The prize is awarded at Oslo City Hall, where you can also take guided tours. They’re even free in the summer.
The Holmenkollen Ski Museum
I know what you’re probably thinking, why would anyone want to visit a ski museum? I’m with you there. But Oslo’s Ski Museum is also where you climb atop the Holmenkollen Ski Jump. The giant structure was constructed in 1892 and has been used for several ski jumping championships and the Winter Olympics in 1952. At the top of the ski jump, you will have a stunning view of Oslo. Though you can’t try it out, they do have a ski simulator that allows you to experience what it feels like to ski in the Holmenkollen jump. The actual museum features traditional ski gear, and information about polar expeditions. The exhibits are more interesting than you would expect.
This art museum is one of the best things to do in Oslo if you’re a fan of Norwegian painter Edvard Munch. The museum has in its collection over half of all his works, including paintings and prints. It also features “The Scream,” which you’ve probably seen represented a million times even if you don’t know who he is. The museum chronicles his life and works, and it’s free on Tuesdays so it won’t cost you a thing to check it out.
Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art
If you don’t love expressionist art and you rather see some of the most fucked up modern art in the world, you can’t miss the Astrup Fearnley Museum. The building itself is a work of art inside and out. The roomy exhibition halls are full of Norwegian modern art, which as it turns out, is super disturbing. But I guess when you have winter for 8 months out of the year that will happen. Still, it’s a pretty unique and diverse collection and well worth a visit.
Akershus Fortress was built in the 1290s to protect the city of Oslo. Throughout time it has been used as a royal palace and a prison. Currently, it is open to the public all year round and its lush green grounds are used as a recreation area, particularly in the summer. Though it is free to visit, they also do paid guided tours where you can learn more about the Akershus’s history and use. Aside from the fortress, here you can also visit the Armed Forces Museum free of charge.
Oslo also puts an interesting spin on public parks with the sculptures featured in Frogner Park. The Vigeland installations in Frogner Park are considered the world’s largest sculpture park with over 200 pieces. And to make it even more memorable, they’re all naked people twisted together in weird ways, which culminates in a giant monolith of people. Frogner Park gets its name from Frogner Manor, which is also located in the park and houses the Oslo City Museum.
The ship museums
I’m combining these into one, which is probably not fair, but honestly, how many ship museums can a person see in the same trip. There two big ones in Oslo: the Viking Ship Museum and the Fram Polar Ship Museum. The Viking Ship Museum is part of the University of Oslo’s Historical Museum. As advertised, it has old original Viking ships, including the Oseberg ship which was excavated from the largest ship burial in the world.
The other ship-centric museum is the Fram, which is named after the gargantuan wooden polar ship it houses. Visitors can go inside different parts of the ship including cabins and the engine room. The museum tells the history of the ship’s expeditions into the Arctic and South Pole. So you know, unless you really love ships… maybe pick just one.
Oslo Opera House
The Oslo Opera House is worth seeing just for its architecture. It sits at the top of the Oslo fjord and looks like an iceberg coming out of the water. The interior halls are flanked by glass and wood panels. If your timing is right, you might be able to catch the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet, which calls the Opera House home. The theater showcases productions from all over the world, including concerts, plays, and musicals.
Go island hopping on the fjord
Undoubtedly the best summertime activity in Oslo, you can take local ferries to visit the islands on the Oslo fjord. There are many of them, and though most are just a good place to relax away from the city, there are some notable attractions. For example, on Hovedøya, you’ll find the ruins of the Hovedøya Abbey. Grass and flowers are overgrown on these monastery ruins. At Gressholmen, you’ll find a nature reserve, and at Langøyene you can take a dip in the beach. There’s even a nudist beach if you’re into that. Regular transport passes are valid on city ferries, and if you have the Oslo Pass, you ride for free.
Get the GPS-guided version of this and other Oslo guides on GPSmyCity here.