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The Botanical Garden in Oslo, Norway Photo: Marie Peyre/visitnorway.com
Photo: Marie Peyre/visitnorway.com
Photo: Marie Peyre/visitnorway.com
Photo: Matjaz Intihar/visitoslo
Photo: Gunnar Strøm, visitoslo
Photo: Nancy Bundt/visitoslo
Photo: Marie Peyre/visitnorway
Photo: Nancy Bundt/Innovation Norway
Photo: Marie Peyre/visitnorway.com

Free Things to Do in Oslo

A stay in Oslo doesn't have to cost a fortune. In fact there is a lot you can do for free in the Norwegian capital.

Walks

Going for a walk is a great way to discover the city, whether you stay within the centre or decide to explore local neighbourhoods. And of course a good vantage point is always a bonus – luckily Oslo boasts a few of those. The grounds of the Akershus Fortress, for example, make for a pleasant wander, blending history with open views over the harbour. Other recommended spots include Ekeberg (the most scenic route is to follow the tram tracks from Gamlebyen up the hill), Frognerseteren (served by the metro, and a good starting point for a foray in the Oslomarka Forest, where dozens of hiking paths await) or if you prefer a more urban environment, the top of the Radisson Plaza near Oslo central station.

A walk down the Akerselva River, with its many waterfalls, iron bridges, little parks and old mills, is another pleasant option. Do make sure you go up Telthusbakken hill and stop at the Old Aker Church, a picturesque church that inspired Edvard Munch among other artists. From there you can rejoin the centre via vibrant Grünerløkka, or cut through the green Our Saviour's Cemetery, where you will find the tombs of illustrious Norwegians such as Munch, Ibsen and Bjørnson, on your way back towards the Royal Palace.

Parks

The Palace Park is popular with both locals and tourists - you can see the changing of the guard here every day at 1:30 pm. Or check out the Botanical Garden in Tøyen (next to the Munch Museum in the eastern part of town), which was founded in 1814, and is home to some 7,500 species of plants. Particularly pretty in spring when in full bloom, and in autumn for the colourful foliage. Vigelandsparken Sculpture Park in Frogner is another good option – the park, with its 212 sculptures, is one of Oslo's top attractions, and certainly warrants a visit.  

Museums

Several of Oslo's museums and galleries have free admission on Sunday. Among them are the National Gallery and the National Museum of Contemporary Art, two of Norway's most important art galleries; the Museum of Architecture, designed by Sverre Fehn himself; and the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design, which displays both Norwegian and international applied art, fashion and design from the 7th century to the present. The Stenersen Museum, which presents an extensive collection of modern Norwegian art, also has free admission on Tuesday.

In addition, the Viking Ship Museum offers a two-for-one deal with the Historical Museum, whose fascinating collection includes artefacts from around the world, as well as Norwegian church objects and coins: If you have paid for admission to one, admission to the other will be free for the next 48 hours.

Other attractions

Other free attractions include Oslo City Hall, whose huge murals, a collaboration between several prominent early 20th century Norwegian artists, is a must-see for any visitor to Oslo; the Opera House, which opened in Bjørvika in April 2008 (it cost a whopping 4.3 billion Norwegian crowns to build) and has since become one of the capital's most visited buildings; and the Parliament - of particular interest is the main hall, where debating sessions take place (guided tours in English every Saturday from October to June, except during Christmas and Easter holidays, other times available for groups).

Swim, ski, skate

If all this sounds a bit too highbrow, what about going for a swim or a spin on the ice, depending on the season? There are many beaches within easy access of central Oslo. Head to Bygdøy for a dip at Huk, the last stop on the 30A line bus, or Paradisbukta (the aptly named Paradise Bay). Or make for one of the many islands in the Oslofjord. Alternatively you can chill out by one of several lakes in Oslomarka Forest (of which Sognsvann is probably the most popular).

Visiting in winter? Then you can look forward to ice-skating and skiing. Oslomarka, the huge forest high up on the hills above the city, offers a vast network of cross-country tracks that are free for all to use, while back in the centre, you will find the Narvisen ice rink, right by Karl Johans gate, open from December to February, and another rink at Frogner Stadium, open from late January to mid-March – both have free entry.

Markets

Markets are another good bet if you want to mingle with locals. The second-hand and antique market on Vestkanttorvet takes place on this square in Majorstuen every Saturday between March and December, while in the eastern part of town the Birkelund fleamarket in Grünerløkka attracts its fair share of visitors every Sunday.

Christmas markets are also popular and well worth a visit if you happen to be in Oslo in December - the main two are the one on Rådhusplassen (the big square in front of City Hall), and the one at the Folk Museum on Bygdøy. And if you are interested in food make sure you check out the Matstreif Festival (also on Rådhusplassen) in late September.

Festivals and events

Last, but not least, there are many free festivals and events taking place throughout the year in Oslo. Some of the highlights include the Holmenkollen FIS World Cup Nordic (February-March), when thousands of winter sport enthusiasts gather in Oslomarka for one of the largest events of the year; National Music Day in June, when outdoor stages spring up all over the city and music can be heard on every street corner; the Mela Festival in August, a multicultural festival featuring world music, film screenings and various exhibitions; and Oslo Culture Night in September, which gives free access to all museums in the capital, and to a range of related events.

Another tip is the event Tourist in your own city held by the Oslo tourist office in April or May every year. At this event anyone in Oslo can get a free Oslo Pass for the day, granting free entrance to museums, attractions and public transport. Please note that the free Oslo Pass is printed exclusively for this event – it is only valid on the day of the event and does not include all the advantages of the regular Oslo Pass. More information is available at visitoslo.com.  

Remember also 17 May, Norway’s national day, celebrated throughout the city with parades, enthusiastic flag waving, fireworks and generally speaking a great atmosphere – a unique time to visit Oslo.

More information on travelling in Norway on a budget.

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Last updated:  2014-05-15
The Old Aker Church in Oslo, Norway - Photo: Marie Peyre/visitnorway.com
The Old Aker Church in Oslo, Norway
Vigeland Sculpture Park, Oslo in Norway - Photo: CH/Innovation Norway
Vigeland Sculpture Park, Oslo in Norway
One of the huge murals in the City Hall in Oslo, Norway - Photo: Marie Peyre/visitnorway.com
One of the huge murals in the City Hall in Oslo, Norway
The front of the Parliament building in Oslo, Norway - Photo: Marie Peyre/visitnorway.com
The front of the Parliament building in Oslo, Norway
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The Botanical Garden in Oslo, Norway - Photo: Marie Peyre/visitnorway.com

Free Things to Do in Oslo

A stay in Oslo doesn't have to cost a fortune. In fact there is a lot you can do for free in the Norwegian capital.

Free Things to Do in Oslo

Source: Visitnorway

Top 10 attractions in Oslo

Top attractions in Oslo include Vigelandsparken Sculpture Park, the Opera House, Holmenkollen Ski Jump and the Viking Ship Museum.

What to do in Oslo

Oslo's unique location means almost unlimited opportunities for fun. Hike in the forest, swim in the fjord and go to a concert - all on the same day.

Thor Heyerdahl, a modern-day explorer

Thor Heyerdahl sailed a log raft 5000 miles over open ocean to prove a point. See the extensive exhibition on his life, work and many adventures.

The Ekebergparken Sculpture Park

Ekebergparken in Oslo can offer 63 acres of installations by international artists, as well as museums, restaurants and a panoramic view of the city.

About Oslo

Key facts about Oslo

The capital of Norway is also its largest city. Oslo has over 600,000 inhabitants and covers 454 square kilometers, 242 of which are forests.

Tourist information in Oslo

Oslo Tourist Information can help with accommodation, the Oslo Pass, currency exchange and tickets for public transport, sightseeing and fjord tours.

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