As its Nordic neighbours, Norway can be an expensive country. But Oslo has lots of free attractions and if you are travelling on a budget you don’t have to compromise on your experiences.
Oslo is unique. It is surrounded by beautiful nature and it offers plenty of cultural activities. It is rather small, so you can walk to most places in the city centre or use the public transport. I really enjoy that! This is my 10 favourite free attractions in Oslo.
Take tram no. 18 or 19 from the city centre to Ekebergparken and walk up the hill towards Ekeberg restaurant. From here, you can enjoy a wonderful view towards the fjord and city. Behind the restaurant, the Ekeberg park starts, a hilly, wooden area great for a walk, passing by lots of modern art. At the end, go for a coffee and Danish at the Karlsborg Spiseforretning.
Jump on a ferry in Aker Brygge to the peninsula of Bygdøy or to one of the islands. The ferries are included in the public transport system. On Bygdøy, go for a walk through the forest and along the beaches, marvel at the beautiful houses and visit the museums Fram, Kon-tiki, Viking Ship or the open air museum. If you decide for the islands, bring a picnic and - if you are brave - your swim wear to join the locals in the water.
Go for a walk along Oslo’s harbour promenade. You may start at the Oslo Opera House, have a look inside and walk onto the roof, marvel at the “Barcode” buildings and the raising new Munch Museum. Walk along the water or through Akershus Fortress before you reach the harbour Aker Brygge. Continue along the waterfront to the end. Here you find the modern area Tjuvholmen. If you get hungry along the way, stop at Vippa, a modern food court by the water.
One of Oslo’s top attractions is the Vigeland Sculpture Park – and it’s completely free! I would recommend a visit in the late afternoon when the big crowds of tourist groups have left. Enjoy a walk along the impressive sculptures, and end your stroll, like the locals, with a picnic in the adjacent Frognerparken. Take the tram no. 12 to get to the park; it is a lovely ride through the beautiful area Frogner.
If you love plants, Oslo’s Botanical garden is worth a visit. You’ll find the garden in the area Tøyen, which is easy to reach on foot or you can take the metro. The garden is open daily and divided into different sections. In spring and summer, the garden is covered in flowers and the smell is amazing. In autumn, the garden is an explosion of colours. In the park's greenhouses you will find exotic plants from different parts of the world. You’ll also find an outdoor café in the middle of the park.
The city hall of Oslo was constructed between 1931 and 1950. It is open to the public every day (exceptions are special events); discover the big hall, where the Nobel Peace Prize is handed out each year in December. Admire the art and enjoy the view to the harbour.
You can walk right up to the Royal Palace and stroll through the palace gardens. At 13:30 hrs every day, the changing of the guards take place. It might not be as impressive as in London or Copenhagen but it’s still worth seeing. Though not free, it is also possible to follow a guided tour through the castle during summer.
One of my favourite things to do in Oslo is to go for a walk along Akerselva river. You can take tram no. 11 to its final stop Kjelsås. From there, walk towards the Technical Museum; just behind, you get to the river and Maridalsvannet lake. You will first pass through forested areas before reaching the rather new area Nydalen. Continue downhill, past historical buildings, fishing and swimming spots and several waterfalls all the way back to the city centre. The walk is about 8 km long. Along the way, I recommend buying a waffle at the charming café Hønse-Lovisa.
Oslo offers free, guided tours. They run daily in English. The tours are based on a pay-as-you-feel concept, which allows you to pay only as much as you believe the tour is worth. This is a great way to discover the city with a local guide.
Stortinget, the Norwegian parliament, can be visited on a free, guided tour on Saturdays. It is not possible to pre-book. Just show up. Information on times and dates can be found on the website.