Oslo on a budget – 12 free things to do
Oslo is the capital city of Norway, one of the most expensive countries in Europe. It’s also the largest city in Norway with a population of over 1 million people. The city is modern, luxurious, and trendy. This metropolis is packed with cultural experiences as well as great views. But sightseeing in Oslo doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg, let’s go through some places you can see for free.
SPOTS YOU CAN SEE FOR FREE IN DIFFERENT DISTRICTS OF OSLO
We stayed 3 nights in Oslo, each in a different location: Nydalen, Fornebu, and Centre. Thanks to that we get to know the city a bit more and found the balance. On one side packed with tourists Gronland, on the other side quiet and off-the-beaten-path Nydalen. Hot and popular Mathallen compared to remote Fornebu. But every worth seeing, and it’s a pity we couldn’t stay longer to visit every corner of Oslo.
READ THE BARCODE
Barcode is a set of 12 unique buildings with different heights and widths. The high-rise buildings with a space in between them resemble the barcode. It’s a place of work for more than 10 000 people, but also a residency for around 200 people. It’s located close to Oslo Station, making it the first thing to see when arriving at the centre. The great view is from the bridge Nylandsveien.
CLIMB THE ROOFS OF THE OSLO OPERA HOUSE
The iconic angular design arising from the water of Oslo Fjord is the new public space since 2008. It’s designed by Snohetta – a famous group of architects, who creates incredible and unique works of art. You can climb the roof, peak inside through the glass and have a picnic on top of the Opera House. How cool is that? Obviously, it’s all for free and the satisfaction level is beyond good. Inside, there is a huge oak wood wall, behind which are three performings halls and the main stage. But in case you wish to see it all for yourself, you can book a guided tour, which unfortunately does not go under budget category, as it cost 120 KR.
TAKE AN INSTAGRAM PHOTO AT DEICHMANN LIBRARY
Right in front of the Opera House, another futuristic building lays– the Deichman library, which is freely accessible to everyone walking from the street. Of course, without registration, you will not be able to borrow any book, but you’re more than welcome to read it inside. If you don’t intend to, at least you can see the library’s beautiful interiors. I felt terrible to take photos there, so I just wander between the shelves stuffed with books.
WALK DOWN KARL JOHAN STREET
It’s Oslo’s main shopping street, which ends with a Royal Palace. Window shopping is free, but if you crave to buy something, then why not? There’re plenty of souvenir shops, where you can end up buying yourself a Viking helmet or reindeer. It’s also where the famous Norwegian brand fjallraven or chocolate shop Freja are.
SAY HI TO THE MONARCH
At the end of Karl Johan street, you’ll see the Royal Palace, which is the residence of the king of Norway. People are always surprised by how close they can get to the palace. And if you come at 1:30 pm. you may catch the changing of the guards, which is quite an attraction.
FEEL LIKE A LOCAL ON AKER BRYGGE
It’s said it’s the most expensive district in the city center. Aker Brygge is famous for its promenade full of restaurants, cafes, and food tracks. Not exactly a place when you’re traveling on a budget, but you can also sit empty-handed at the pier and look at the ferries departing to Oslo Fjord. Go even further and once you pass the bridge find yourself on Tjuvholmen, a thief islet. There are galleries, Astrup Fearnley Museum, a sculpture park, and a small beach. It’s also very fancy to just be there. So definitely, don’t miss it.
SEE THE WOODEN HOUSES: DAMSTREDET AND TELTHUSBAKKEN
To continue sightseeing the neighborhoods of Oslo, visit Damstredet and Telthusbakken. You can see there the 18th-century colorful wooden homes. It really doesn’t even feel like being in Oslo, even though it’s still close to the center. And if you ever wondered where people get those Instagram photos, it’s exactly here.
SEE THE BIZARRE SCULPTURES IN VIGELAND PARK
Frogner Park is the biggest park in central Oslo and is a popular spot for a picnic in summer. But what attracts tourists are the Vigeland Sculptures. Over 200 sculptures of kids, men, and women were made by Gustav Vigeland. You need to see all of them because each and every sculpture is different, some pretty bizarre.
SWIM IN THE SEA
Almost everywhere in Oslo, you see people relishing swimming, nature, and meeting up with friends. It’s kind of natural to spend free time by the water while in Oslo. And don’t be afraid, during the summer season (July, August) the water temperature is perfect for a swim. It’s also pretty funny seeing people carrying bags full of food and swimming equipment in the city center. But no wonder, the #ruter ferry can take you to one of the islands within Oslofjord to get the full water experience. I recommend Langøyene island, which reminded me of a holiday resort. It’s not entirely free to get to the island, but when you think it’s the same ticket for the metro, buses, trains, and trams, the ferry is just a bonus. If you want to move around Oslo, you would have to buy it anyway. So get yourself a day ticket for 1 zone and enjoy as much as possible, with all its perks. To learn more about the #ruter go here.
WALK ALONG THE AKERSELVA RIVER
It’s around an 8-kilometer-long walk from Maridalsvannet to the Oslofjord. The river holds waterfalls and swimming areas. Akerselva’s most spectacular waterfall is located by the Beier Bridge. Other famous attractions linked to the river are Bjølsen Rolling Mill, Lilleborg Factories, Aamot Bridge, Hønse-Lovisa’s House and Nedre Foss.
HAVE A CHEAP MEAL IN GRONLAND
You’ll find lots of Indian and Middle Eastern restaurants with food selection surprisingly cheap – for Norway of course, keep that in mind.
HIKE IN NYDALEN
To feel the quieter side of Oslo, walk also along the Akerselva river, straight to the Maridalsvannet lake. You’ll hike through the forest, and see the teenagers jumping and having fun by the river, you’ll also pass the Norwegian Museum of Science and Technology, which is full of attractions for kids (unfortunately the entrance is not free). Many people will run or cycle past you as this is a popular trail. On your way there and back try to search for colorful wooden houses, which are common to the Norwegian landscape, but not that popular in the city centre of Oslo. The hike is pretty distant – it’s around 4 kilometers from the center of Nydalen to reach the lake, but it’s just the beginning because you can go even further.
FIND SEASHELLS IN FORNEBU
Fornebu is known as the former airport site. It served as the city’s main airport before World War II until October 1998. Once Gardermoen became the main airport for Oslo, the peninsula slowly transformed into a center of excellence for IT and telecoms. Currently, Telenor Arena, a multipurpose venue hosting concerts and exhibitions year-round, is situated here. Also, around the peninsula, you can find the so-called ‘Fornebu Rundt’, a 6km-long trail popular with walkers, runners, and dog walkers, or the 10km route, with some interesting points on its way: jogging route. We’ve walk along the coastline, found some seashells, and enjoyed the quiet Saturday morning there.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
May to September is said to be the best option, because of the more pleasant temperature and longer daylight, but also with more tourists. Autumn in Norway tends to be rainy, while winter in Oslo is pretty mild, but remember of limited time for daylight or I should rather say almost no daylight at all.
STAYING A NIGHT
Accommodation is a price we cannot avoid. You can save some money visiting free spots, but it’s almost impossible to do that with accommodation. Although Norway is known for allowing free places for caravans and free sleepovers everywhere around the country, it’s hard to find a spot to put up a tent in Oslo. Couch surfing, a friend, or your points collected for your stays might be an option here. But in case you really need to pay for your hostel/hotel/apartment. Check it out here.