Visiting Oslo: Free Things to Do

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We have people coming into Oslo this week from America and Australia for our wedding, so I need to make a little list of things to do.

Many people think that Norway is expensive, but there are quite a lot of things you can do in Oslo for free, so here is a list for those of you who are on a budget. The only thing you will need is a transportation card (and maybe nice weather).

My Favorite: Vigeland Park

My favorite free thing to do in Oslo is the Vigeland Sculpture park found in Frogner Park. It is supposedly the largest sculpture park in the world to feature a single sculptor. This is an Instagram dream, so make sure you have your camera.

As you can see from some of my pictures below, there are many bronze statues, and a huge fountain, which lead up to the top where there are more stone statues, and the famous monolith.

I love how dynamic and unique these sculptures really are, and there is a lot about life cycles and different stages of life.

There is a museum you can pay to go inside, but I think this is unnecessary.

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When: Go earlier in the morning or later in the evening to avoid the rush of tour busses coming in from cruises, etc.

How to get there: Take the 20 bus or the 12 or 19 trams to the Vigelandsparken stop.

There are also a couple of little shops and cafes you can go to if you are hungry or want to buy souvenirs. I like to buy ice cream from the shop at the entrance gates.

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Outdoorsy Folks

For those who like to be active and stay outside, there is quite a lot to do in Oslo.

Sognsvann/Ullevålseter

How to get there: take the number 5 subway west to the last stop, Sognsvann, and you will find a beautiful lake and forrest area where all the locals go. (Subways in Oslo are actually only underground in the very center of the city, but the rest of the time you can look out and see the city)

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The lake

If you are shorter on time, you can do a walk/jog around the lake or, if you have more time, you can hike up to Ullevålseter (pictured below). It completely depends on your fitness and how often you stop to take pictures, but it takes about 2 hours to walk up with a very wide, easy path.

When you get to the lake from the subway, walk towards the right, up the right side of the lake. Eventually the path will snake up a bit and you can follow that up (there should be signs for Ullevålseter as well).

When you get to Ullevålseter you can buy some drinks, cinnamon buns, hot dogs, etc. They have bathrooms you can use, and they also have a cute white pony!

When: It is closed on Mondays, so it is not recommended to go then. It is open from 9:00-17:00 the rest of the week.

When are you finished, you will have to walk back down to the lake, but the way back is a lot easier and will go faster.

Alternative: 

For those who are even more fit and wanting to hike, you can continue hiking up from Ullevålseter up to Frognerseter.

However, the hike after Ullvålseter gets a lot more difficult and uphill, and this will add a few hours to your trip. You can take the subway at the top back down into the city, though, so you won’t have to backtrack.

Yet another option is to do this backwards and take the number 1 subway up to the last stop, Frognerseter, and hike down to Ullevålseter and then to Sognsvann from there. There are quite lovely views on the subway on the way up and at the top. This is where people go downhill skiing in the winter.

*A bonus: the number 1 subway line also goes past the Holmenkollen ski jump, so you can always get off at the Holmenkollen stop and have a look at the ski jump on the way up to Frognerseter. Once you are finished at the ski jump, just get back on the subway.

 

Akershus Fortress

If you come to Oslo, you will see our fortress down by the waterfront. The fortress is open, and you can just walk around it and have a look for free. It is quite a nice walk around and you can get a good view of the harbor from up there:

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View of Aker Brygge from the fortress walls

*Walking along the harbor front at Aker Brygge is also nice in the summer, and there are many places to sit and watch the boats. The cafes/restaurants are quite overpriced down there, though.

If you want to go inside the castle and look at the rooms, then you have to pay a fee (I have not actually gone inside since I was a child). In September 2017, the inside was closed for maintenance, but I am not sure if they have opened it again. Honestly, I don’t think it is necessary to go inside anyway!

The Norwegian Resistance Museum is also located here for a fee. If you are into history, especially World War II, then I would go in there. I found it to be pretty interesting.

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Akershus Fortress in the Fall

How to get there: This is located right in the city center by the harbor, so chances are that you are staying somewhere in walking distance. If not, there are loads of busses that stop near here.

When: The outside area and the main gate are open in the summer from 6:00-21:00.

 

Sunshine & Sea

If you are lucky enough to have a beautiful, sunny summer day in Oslo, and you just want to relax, you should do like the locals do, and go to one of the islands!

If you have bought the transportation card, then you can also use it on the local ferries to some of the islands such as Hovedøya (main island), & Gressholmen. Both of them have little cafes you can go to, but I recommend Hovedøya for tourists. It has a beach, lots of green space, and also the ruins of an abbey.

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View of the city from my secret spot on Hovedøya

How to get there:  The boats leave from the center of the pier, down from where the big brown city hall building is. You will see different lanes to get in line depending on what island you are going to. Look for the one that says Hovedøya and wait there. When the boat arrives, they will open the lane for you to board.

You can also get nice views of the fortress and the city from the top of the ferry boat. However, many of the boats stop on more than one island, so make sure you pay attention to the stops.

When you get to the island, you can walk straight ahead and see the cafe and the ruins. If you keep going straight you will get to the beachy area, though I tend to go off track and find a more secluded spot.

Bring drinks and food with you for a lovely lounging day. In Norway, the grocery stores even sell these one-time grills (engangsgrill) that you can bring and heat up hot dogs or burgers. Just make sure that when you are finished, you dispose of them at the proper containers for them.

The water in the fjord may be a bit cold for you to swim in, but if it is a truly hot day, then it is pretty nice!

Alternative:

There is also a popular beach on Bygdøy called Huk. You can take the 30 bus to the end, and walk to the beach from there. The main beach might be crowded, but there are more if you keep going down to the right.

One of them is a nude beach, though, so if you are not comfortable with that, just be aware! :p

 

Other Free Things

Walking around the city, you can see a number of other cool, free things.

The Opera House has become quite a famous Oslo attraction since they built it. You can just walk up on the roof and take cool pictures from there.

The entire area around there is under construction, and it will probably be nice when it is all finished in 2020.

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View of the Opera House from a boat in winter

The palace where the royal family lives (when they are in town), is also in the city center, so you will probably walk by it. Below is a picture of how crazy it gets when it is the Constitutional Day. The main street, Karl Johans Gate, leads right up to it.

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In general, Oslo is a green, safe city and it’s easy to take public transportation or just walk around!

 

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