Forty Eight Hours in Oslo

Most budget travelers skip Norway be-cause it’s an expensive country to visit. The taxes are high, a lot of things are imported, and the currency is very strong. During my time here, I’ve found very few ways around this fact and have learned “cheap” can be an extremely relative term. However, flight connections can allow for a brief stopover in this incredibly beautiful city. And while Oslo isn’t cheap, you can spend two days here doing a lot without blowing your budget:

Day 1
Vigeland Park and Frogner

Since most museums don’t open until 10am, spend the morning walking around the city. A good walking path is to head to Vigeland park, look at the statues, and walk through the Frogner neighborhood, which houses some very nice buildings. Head down to Bygdøy island, where you’ll find many of Oslo’s main museums.

Viking Museum

Located on Bygdøy island, this museum is home to Viking longships found at burial sites around Norway. In addition to two 1100-year-old Viking ships (apparently the best-preserved in the world), there are three other ships and a lot of infor-mation about life during the Viking age. There’s also a Viking burial chamber with skeletons.

Folk Museum

Next to the Viking museum is a large open-air recreation of traditional Norwegian buildings from various periods through-out Norwegian history. The most famous building is the intricately carved church.

Fram Museum

This museum features the Fram, the world’s first ice-breaking ship and the last one made out of wood. The Fram made many trips to the North and South poles, and the exhibit is very detailed and offers a lot of history as well as photographs.

Kon-Tiki Museum – Right next to the Fram, this museum has famous historian and explorer Thor Heyer-dahl’s balsa rafts, which he sailed over the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Tor showed that it was possible for ancient cultures, using their own technology, to have traveled across the large oceans. His trips offered important insight to historical migra-tion theories.

The Holocaust Center – The Holocaust center is the former residence of the Norwegian Nazi collaborator and nationalist leader, Vidkun Quisling. The center focuses on the Holocaust, the fate of Norwegian Jews, and the persecu-tion of religious minorities around the world.

City Hall

As you take the boat back across the harbor, you’ll come to city hall. The hall is open to the public and free to enter. It’s open late, so making this your last stop will ensure you have enough time to visit all the museums. The main banquet hall is where the Nobel Peace Prize is given, and there’s an excellent mural symbolizing Norway’s struggle for freedom on the far wall.

Day 2
Akershus Castle

Akershus castle is a medieval fortress from 1290, though it’s changed greatly over the years, especially when Danish King Christian IV turned it into a renaissance palace. The grounds of the castle are open from 6am to 9pm and provide excellent views of the city and fjord. The castle itself is open from 10am to 4pm. The interior isn’t Versailles, but the free audio tour provides a detailed history of the castle and Norway.

Resistance Museum – Located within the castle grounds, the museum chronicles Norway’s resistance to the Nazis during World War II and subsequent prosecution of Nazi collaborators.

Armed Forces Museum
– Also within the castle walls, the museum shows Norwegian military history from Viking times until the 1950s. It’s not that amazing, but since you’re there and it comes included in your Oslo pass, it’s worth spend-ing a few minutes at.

Harbor Cruise

The Oslo fjord is spectacular, reminding me of the Puget Sound in Seattle but with more islands. There are a few ways to see the fjord: the hop-on-and-off boat that shuttles people from the various attractions and museums or a proper two-hour cruise through the fjord. I recommend the two-hour cruise since it goes deeper into the harbor and you see a lot more.

The Royal Palace and Park

The center of this park is the royal palace, where you can watch the changing of the guards in the morning. Its central loca-tion means you will probably criss-cross it a few times. It’s very big with a lot of open space and trails. During nice weather, the park is filled with locals enjoying what little sun they get throughout the year. I found it a great place to people-watch. During the summer months, parts of the palace are open to the public.

National Gallery – Near the palace, the National Gallery contains the famous painting The Scream, which was made even more famous when it was stolen a few years ago. The museum is small (just one big floor), but there are a lot of Scandinavians artists on display. You’ll also find some Impressionist and Dutch works. This museum is open until 5pm, so it’s best to do this last.

Since there are a lot of attractions involved, it’s best to get the Visit Oslo tourist card while you’re here. The card costs 340 NOK ($70 USD) but contains free transportation, access to the museums, and discounts off the harbor cruise. It’s the most economical way to see everything. To save money on food, the most sensible thing to do is simply cook your own meals or eat the pre-made meals from 7-11. (Seriously, they aren’t too bad.) Any good restaurant you go to will set you back at least $50 USD. After all, this is a country where McDonald’s costs $15 USD for a meal. Food isn’t cheap.

While Oslo has more sights and activities, two days here is manageable enough to get a feel for the city, learn the history, and spend a lot of money. If you can afford it, I recommend at least one more day, but for those on a tight budget, two days is fine to get an overview of Oslo.

Editor’s Note: Visit Oslo provided me with free accommodation and a tourist card to get into at-tractions for free while I was there.

  1. Sofia - As We Travel

    Great advise on things to do, will keep these things in mind when we go there later this summer.

    • Olav Littav Enkonge

      Why is that great advise?
      If you knew the city, you’d know that he had only gone to places that locals don’t go to. He visited the things that the tourist manuals told him to.
      He missed the whole city – which is in fact utterly amazing. And hillarious.
      But hey, this blog is about making money on insignifacnt articles, so I can see why.

      • NomadicMatt

        Ohhh there it is! I love comments like this. They are so much fun to reply too!

        1. I did not miss the whole city. This is article is about seeing the sites in 2 days. What local activities would you include? Eating and hanging out in Grunerløkka right? That’s a pretty amazing place. My cousins live there. But I didn’t include food or hang out places in the whole article. It was all about the best sites. In fact, I skipped many the “manual” says because I didn’t think they were worth spending your limited time over.

        2. I love the latent implication that seeing touristy things are not part of the real city experience. Touristy places are as much a part of Oslo as they are anywhere else. A picnic in front of the Eiffel tower may be touristy but I see lots of French people hanging out there too.

        3. If this blog was about making money, don’t you think there would be a lot more advertising than just my ebooks and travel insurance?

  2. Wow, unfortunately I didn’t have that many time to explore the city, but for sure the Vigland Park and the Viking and Floks Museum are worth the stay there!

  3. For me the best place is the Nobel peace prize centre, it’s free and changes to the theme of the new award winner every year, so it’s always fresh upto date and most importantly free! The Obama one was really good, check it out

    Also in winter you can do free ice skting across from the hard rock cafe.

  4. Great summary – your experience pretty much mirrored mine, except I spread things out over 3 days. And you’re so right about the food – I practically lived off hot dogs from the 7-11 while I was in Norway!

    • NomadicMatt

      The calzones aren’t bad either! I always find it surprising that in Scandinavia, 7-11 is more like a supermarket than a quick stop place. It’s a nice change.

    • NomadicMatt

      In the big cities, it’s supposed to be wild. Here in the tiny fjord town I am in, it was pretty subdued.

    • NomadicMatt

      Food in Norway can be expensive. Pizza’s are about 80-100 NOK. I’ve found that you can find cheap kebab and burger/hot dog vendors for around 45-55 NOK. 7-11 has cheap ready made meals. Watch out on the soda. Coke is like 25-30 NOK (6 USD!!!!). McDonalds/Burger King can be cheap if you get the specials. Watch out as they charge you more to eat there. Beer seems to cost around 10 USD. Meals seem to be around 100 NOK and go up from there (20 USD). Food shopping is your cheapest option. Watch out for chicken though. It’s apparently still a luxury here. Chicken fillets will set you back 50 NOK. Go with ground chicken or beef.

      I’m working on a 1 USD = 5 NOK exchange rate.

  5. Oslo restaurants can be expensive, but there are cheaper options as well. In the city centre – lots of Asian (Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese; Japanese) restaurants offer lunches for about USD 10. Some Indian restaurants even have lunch buffets for about USD 10 – 12, so you can eat enough to stay full the rest of the day :)

  6. These are great tips for 48 hours in Oslo! We loved the Vigeland Park & the Folk Museum. We would add the bar on the top floor of the Radisson Blu hotel for great views over the city, especially at night.

  7. Great guide on Oslo, Matt. The food costs are definitely a killer, but as Sophie mentioned it can be managed. The Grønland and Grünerløkka areas are good for cheap eats, especially Mexican and Thai.

    Katie is down with it when it comes to 7-11. The bacon polsen is where it’s at for only 35ish NOK. I always eat SO many of these when I’m in Norway.

  8. Petr

    I’d also add one more “tourist attraction” and that is the Holmenkollen, especially if you like sports and skiing. It’s like Norway’s national stadium for skiing. You can climb up the ski jumping ramp, which provides probably the best view of Oslo, the fjord, and its surroundings. There is a ski museum inside the ramp (one thing I remember is the photo of the Norwegian King skiing). You can easily get to Holmenkollen by metro (line 1).
    If you have less time and need to choose among the museums, I would vote for Fram and Kon Tiki, which I like the most. But depends on your taste of course.
    And I agree with Matt that the Oslo Card is a good deal. Really helps your budget in one of the world’s most expensive cities.

    • Sofia - As We Travel

      Thanks for the food tips @oslophototour. I forgot about eating at IKEA, and I’m Swedish, I should know!

  9. Lesley

    When I stayed in Oslo, I found a hotel (clarion?) near the harbour which was all inclusive and had a free fruit basket and coffee / tea facilities …. never spent a penny on food outside the hotel

  10. Ara

    Thanks for this post Matt! Very new here in Tromsø, but needs to do some errands in Oslo this month. Your itinerary will surely be of help to us. I am eager to see the Vigeland Park and Frogner and the changing of Castle guards and to see how Ikea is different from the one we have in Asia. Keep blogging!

  11. Vidar

    Actually, all Clarion Collection hotel in Choice Hotels includes breakfast and dinner/supper AND fruits/snacks ! It’s a bargin if you travel on a budget in Norway :)

  12. Koko Lee

    This is a fantastic website! I’m studying abroad in Europe on a very tight budget and too many places I want to visit. I’m planning on going to Oslo for a weekend in October. Is there any way I could see more of the beautiful fjords while I’m there or see the Northern lights?

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