Adventures in Oslo – museums, island hopping and art with the Oslo Pass

She Lies sculpture by Monica Bonvicini Oslo

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Norway’s capital Oslo was the third stop on our fjords and cities Scandinavian itinerary. Blessed with sunny skies and the handy Oslo Pass, our adventures in Oslo were full of culture, enjoying the outdoors and the city’s relaxed atmosphere.

Here are our suggestions on great things to do in Oslo using the Oslo card. But first, a quick overview of the city’s history and geography.

Oslo, Norway

Oslo, Norway

Oslo is a small and modern looking city by European standards. Having been destroyed by fire in the 17th century, the city was rebuilt and underwent several name changes until Oslo was settled on in 1925.

Most of the landmark buildings such as the Royal Palace and Parliament building date from the 19th century.

An important port and maritime hub, in Oslo you’re never far from the fjord and that has defined the city’s history and culture. The city is on Norway’s southern coast tucked away on the shores of the inner Oslo fjord that flows into the North Sea.

Oslo Museums

Viking Ship Museum Oslo

Oslo has over 50 museums and many of them are conveniently located on the Bygdøy Peninsula. Ranging from cultural experiences to maritime exploration and adventures, there is something for everyone.

Getting to Bygdøy is easy. Take the number 30 bus from Jernbanetorget outside the main station – about 30 minutes.  From May to October you can take the museum ferry from Pier 3 outside City Hall – 10-15 minutes. Once you are there you can either walk or take the local buses between the museums.

Take advantage of the free or discounted entry to over 300 museums included in the Oslo Pass. Even if you get museum fatigue after an hour or so like me, you wont feel guilty skipping over the sections you don’t find as interesting.

Viking Ship Museum

Oslo Viking museum

One of my favourite museums in the world, Oslo’s Viking Ship Museum must be on your list of things to do in Oslo. The museum is home to three Viking burial ships from around 800-900AD. Discovered in the 19th and 20th centuries, the ships are displayed with the artefacts found alongside them.

Entering the museum you are struck by the size and beauty of the ships. They silently dominate the custom designed space. My favourite, The Oseberg ship, is ornate and carved with pictures of animals indicating that this was a vessel for nobility.

Apart from feeling tiny as you walk below the beautifully preserved ships, there are several viewing points where you can see the ships from above. There is also a short multi media presentation brings the world of the Vikings to life.

Having visited the site at Sutton Hoo, home to Britain’s famous ship burial sites, and learning about the rituals of Viking burials, seeing the ships intact was such a thrill.

The Viking Ship Museum is open every day from 09:00am to 18:00pm May to September and 10:00am to 16:00pm October to 23rd December.

Ticket prices and more information

Kon-tiki Museum

If you’re impressed by epic journeys you should head to the Kon-Tiki Museum. Here you can explore the adventures of Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl and see the original Kon-Tiki balsa wood raft he used to cross 7,000 kilometres of the Pacific Ocean in 1947 .


An enthnologist, Heyerdahl was attempting to prove that people from South America settled in Polynesia when he sailed on the Kon-Tiki. He went on to complete several other incredible journeys and research into life on the  Galapagos and Easter Islands.

The museum is dedicated to Heyerdahl’s fascinating body of work. Apart from the original raft there are interactive displays in English as well as Norwegian. The museum shows Heyerdahl’s Oscar winning documentary – Kon-Tiki– about his journey at 12 pm.

We visited the Kon-Tiki museum after the Viking Ship Museum and the contrast between the vessels was so striking. The raft used in the Kon-Tiki voyage looks so flimsy compared with the majestic Viking ships.

The Kon-Tiki Museum has varied hours depending on the season.

Ticket prices, opening times and more information

Norsk Folkemuseum – Norwegian Folk Museum

Norwegian Folk Museum Oslo

Norwegian culture is defined by its landscape and there is a strong emphasis on farming and fishing traditions. Journey through time at the Norwegian Folk Museum and learn how Norwegians lived over the centuries. There are over 160 buildings to explore throughout the complex and if you visit on a weekend you can experience traditional dancing and bread making.

This huge open air museum is home to the beautifully ornate Gol Stave church pictured above. The church dates from 1200 though only a third of the original building remains due to changes wrought by the passage of time and historical events such as the reformation when Catholic elements were removed.

I enjoyed the section on Sámi culture. The Sámi come from the Arctic area of Sápmi, that includes parts of far northern Norway, Sweden, Finland and northern Russia. The only recognised indigenous people of northern Europe the Sami have a proud and unique culture despite centuries of persecution.

The Norsk Folksmuseum is open May 15 – September 14: Every day 10:00 – 18:00; September 15 – May 14: Weekdays 11:00 – 15:00, Sat and Sun 11:00 – 16:00 with some closures over the Christmas period

Ticket prices and more information

Norwegian Maritime Museum

Figureheads from Norway's Maritime Museum

The Norwegian Maritime Museum has interesting displays dedicated to Norway’s seafaring history. From wooden figureheads washed up on beaches to the wartime activities on Norway’s shores, the museum explores the importance the sea has played in Norway’s history, commerce and culture.

Unfortunately the hall housing the traditional boats was closed during our visit. It’s due to reopen in 2019.

Our kids particularly enjoyed the remote control boats that you can drive around a huge pool on the basement level. Tokens for the boats are available at the ticket desk.

The Norwegian Maritime Museum has varied hours depending on the season.

Ticket prices, opening times and more information

Wander Oslo city centre

Most cities warrant some random wandering and Oslo is no exception. It’s a small city centre and perhaps not as traditionally pretty as other European cities but there is some interesting architecture and cool urban spaces.

Oslo Opera House

Oslo Opera House

Completed in 2008, Oslo’s Opera House is one of the best places in the city to relax and watch the passing foot traffic on a sunny day. Take a break at the cafe and gaze out at the beautiful glass sculpture in the fjord. “She Lies” by Italian artist Monica Bonvincini turns on its own axis, moving with the winds and tide.

The building itself seems to emerge from the fjord thanks to its stunning ‘iceberg’ design. I loved all the angles and viewpoints from the slanted roof. The oak and glass interior is no less impressive. Read about the design of Oslo’s Opera House.

The Opera House is open Monday–Friday: 10.00am to 19:00pm, Saturday: 11.00am to 18.00pm, Sunday: 12.00pm to 18.00pm

Performance tickets and more information


Next door to Oslo’s main train station, Oslo Sentralstasjon or Oslo S, the Østbanehallen is an upmarket food hall with various eateries and an organic supermarket.

The former station building is impressive in itself having been recently renovated. Its central location means it’s a handy place to stop off for a snack or meal. The Oslo Visitor Centre is also found here.

Akershus fortress

Akershus fortress Oslo

Oslo’s fortress, Akershus, has been standing guard over the city since the 14th century. The medieval castle is strategically placed overlooking the Oslo Fjord so you enjoy some lovely views of the harbour from the grounds.

Unless you want to enter the castle, it is free to enter the grounds and they would make a great picnic spot.

The castle itself is open to the public but it also used for events and concerts throughout the year so do check opening times carefully. The grounds are open until 21:00pm each day

Ticket prices, opening times and more information

Aker Brygge wharf

Oslo’s bustling harbour is the place to relax over a beer and indulge in a spot of people watching. There are several shopping malls with very tempting Scandinavian design stores if you fancy some shopping.

Island hop on the Oslo Fjord

Cruise Oslo Fjord with Oslo Pass - Oslo city card

We visited in Spring and enjoyed glorious weather perfect for exploring the islands of the Oslo Fjord by ferry. There are only a handful of islands in the fjord and its a perfect activity if you want to relax and explore the local landscape beyond the city.

On the island of Gressholmen we took a stroll across the island climbing small hills for views of the fjord and the Heggholmen lighthouse.

You can explore the ruins of a Cistercian monastery on Hovedøya and go swimming from little beaches and inlets across the island too.

Ferries depart from Aker Brygge wharf  year round but there are additional services in the summer months.

Oslo ferry information

Visit Frogner Park and Vigeland Sculpture Park

Vigeland sculpture park in Frognerpark Oslo

Oslo is famous for its green spaces. The largest  and most renowned of these is Frogner Park, home to the Vigeland Museum and Sculpture park.

With over 200 sculptures by Gustav Vigeland, the park is the artist’s lifework and showcases his talent with bronze, granite and wrought iron. He was also responsible for the layout and design of the gardens. Sadly the artist died in 1943 before his full vision was realised.

We spent a couple of hours wandering through the park and admiring the statues. The most famous pieces are the granite centrepiece ‘The Monolith’ and ‘Angry Boy’ (kid having a tantrum) statue. But I loved the various emotions and stages of human life depicted in the collection.

Family travel tip: There is a fantastic playground for toddlers to tweens to the left of the main entrance on Kirkeveien

How to use the Oslo Pass / Oslo card

Ferry to Bygdoy with Oslo card - Oslo Pass

Oslo is notoriously one of the most expensive cities in the world to visit. The prices are comparable with tourist prices in London and in some cases slightly higher.

Now while, we are not budget travellers, we are always looking for value and convenience when we travel. We thought the Oslo card met all those criteria.

The Oslo Pass offers great value and is one of the more generous city cards we have used. You can buy a pass for 24, 48 or 72hours and they cover:

✪ Free admission to 30 museums

✪ Public transport on trams, buses and ferries in zones 1 and 2 – excludes to and from the airport

✪ Discounts and free admission to attractions including city walking tours and the popular fjord mini cruise

There are discounts for children and seniors

Check prices and full inclusions of the Oslo Pass

Oslo Pass app

We used the Oslo Pass app and found it convenient and easy to use. You simply download the app to your smart phone, pay for your preferred pass and then activate the pass on the day you wish to start using it.

A daily QR code is downloaded to your app for you to use at museums, attractions and on public transport.

I am a bit of a tech nerd and I really liked not having to worry that I had lost my city card when we were out and about.  The app is available for iPhone and Android and all instructions are in English.

Visit Oslo also produce a handy Oslo City app to help you plan your visit.

Oslo is such a fun city to visit. We loved its mix of cultural and outdoors activities, efficient public transport system and relaxed vibe. I feel like we missed out on lots too and would love to return to discover more.

Oslo fjord Norway

We were kindly given complimentary Oslo City Pass cards by Visit Oslo. For more information please read our disclosure page. All opinions are our own.

Oslo City Guide - things to do in Oslo | Viking Ship Museum | Oslo fjord | Oslo Museums | Vigeland Park

As seen in

Suitcases and Sandcastles

39 thoughts on “Adventures in Oslo – museums, island hopping and art with the Oslo Pass

  1. Susan R says:

    I visited Oslo a long time ago at Easter when some of the museums were closed so we need to go back and make the most of the Oslo card! I did enjoy the Viking Ship museum and the sculpture park, and we also liked the art gallery.

  2. California Globetrotter says:

    We never use City Guide passes. Ever. I don’t even know why. We really should start considering it. The problem is, we don’t go into many museums. But it would be good for other things, I’m sure! Pinned this so we use the card in Oslo one day! #FarawayFiles

  3. David McClane says:

    I pretty much did all the same things when I was in Oslo. It is such a great, and underrated city. I think the Oslo pass is brilliant – it is a little pricey but I managed to make the most of it and visit as many museums as possible – as it seems you did too! #farawayfiles

  4. Allison says:

    There are so many interesting museums in Oslo. My husband would love the Viking Museum, I’d like to see the Old Stave Church and the other islands and the kids would love the parks. #FarawayFiles

  5. Amanda says:

    I really enjoyed Oslo as well, especially the outdoor folk museum and the Viking museum. (The only thing I didn’t enjoy was how pricey everything was!) #FarawayFiles

  6. Christine Keane says:

    I would love to visit Oslo and Norway in general. My brother went not too long ago and I was super jealous! This is the perfect guide and just to see the fjords would be worth it to me!

  7. Sharon says:

    Stunning beauty in this city! And over 50 museums — I had no idea. My husband’s grandparents came from Norway, so we really should plan a visit!

  8. MomOfTwoLittleGirls says:

    Oh my word! It looks amazing!
    I would love to visit the boat museum. I find that era so fascinating. And those houses look stunning – a completely different type of architecture. Great all round post.

  9. Nano @ Travel With Nano B. says:

    Katy, what a handy guide! And so nice to see you had some nice weather along the way, your photos are beautiful with that blue sky peeking out! Ultimately, I’d love to do the same route, touring fjords and Scandinavian cities, perhaps staying for a few days in each. I’ve only been in Finland when I was 10, so even that doesn’t count. xx

  10. Ruth | Tanama Tales says:

    My husband is obsessed with all things vikings at the moment (plus, we went to Iceland and that didn’t help with the obsession). As a consequence, he would love to visit some of these museums and learn more about the history of Norway. Tons to do in the city. Really like your first photos and the opera house. #farawayfiles

  11. Julz says:

    Oslo is such a pretty town! I hope I’ll go back one day! when I see things like this I really miss Europe – good that i’ll be there next week 😀

  12. Nell (Pigeon Pair and Me) says:

    Thank you for this – I’m heading back to Oslo in August, so I’ll be bookmarking the page! Last time I went for a long walk in the Nordmarka, which was lovely. I definitely want to go to the Viking Museum this time. #FarawayFiles

  13. Clare Thomson says:

    You were very busy in Oslo, Katy! I particularly like the sound of the Viking Museum, taking a tour around the fjords and the Vigeland Park. Sounds like the Oslo pass is a really great way to make the most of the city. #FarawayFiles

  14. afamilydayout says:

    I’d love to visit the Viking Ship museum. In fact I’d like to visit the city full stop, more for its wildlife and scenery.My friend lives on the outskirts – she has seen both lynx and wolf in the woods near her flat recently! #farawayfiles

  15. Wherejogoes says:

    The Oslo card sounds like great value for money meaning you can see a lot of places without feeling you have to spend a lot of time in each one to get your ‘money’s worth’, you can pop in and out. I was surprised to learn that Oslo is on a par or slightly more costly than London as I’d always heard tales of how extortionate it is – good to know! For me I’d choose the Opera House for the itinerary, I know my husband would love the Viking Museum as we went to the one at Roskilde and it would be the island for the kids. Sounds like a plan! #FarawayFiles

  16. Elizabeth (Wander Mum) says:

    We really enjoyed our time in Oslo but reading your post makes me feel like we missed so much. Guess we’ll have to go back. The Viking museum will definitely be top of my list and a boat trip around the fjords! The Scandinavian city passes seem to be really good value if you want to visit lots of attractions. Any help with the Oslo expense is welcome!

  17. Kat says:

    The Viking Ship Museum is THE place that I really want to visit when in Oslo – I can imagine how massive the ships are! And of course, taking a boat trip around the fjords is a must-do as well 🙂 I like that many European cities including those in Scandinavia have city passes which cover transport, museums and galleries – you’re right, though we are not budget travellers, we still look out for items that are value-for-money. #FarawayFiles

  18. Danielle says:

    That sculpture garden looks awesome!! Oslo was always low on my bucket list because of the cost, but it sure does look beautiful!

  19. Connie says:

    I’m off to Oslo in August so this guide is perfect – definitely think the Oslo Pass is worth getting for the museum access and the transport! It will be our first visit to Norway so I’m super excited about exploring this city!

    • Katy says:

      Have a great time in Oslo – it really is a fun city. If the weather is nice I definitely recommend getting out on the fjord

  20. Hilary says:

    Honestly, I had no idea Oslo was so cool! All the different architecture fascinates me, and I would love to see the ships! #farawayfiles

  21. Juliette | Snorkels To Snow says:

    These look like awesome museums! Can’t wait for my Norway trip in October. Still trying to work out if I have time to visit Oslo. If yes, then I definitely want to see the Norsk Folksmuseum! It looks amazing. I always think Maritime Museums are fascinating too and offer a unique perspective on a country’s history. I like learning about the maritime history of places. The Oslo pass would be great if you are there for a few days to make the most of all the attractions. Norway sure is beautiful, isn’t it! #farawayfiles

  22. daisythebus says:

    I was very impressed by Oslo on my one and only visit (not so impressed by the cost of a pizza and beer…). Like you, I absolutely loved the scale of human effort and emotions on show at the Vigeland Park, and the Viking museum was superb. Thanks for bringing back nice memories! #FarawayFiles

  23. Four Acorns / Quatre graines de chêne says:

    We once sailed into Oslo on the ferry from Copenhagen, back when we lived in Denmark, and this remains one of my favourite travel memories. We were on our way to a ski resort further north, and so didn’t explore Oslo. Now I wish we had – my oldest son would love the Viking Ship Museum! I LOVE this quote by Heyerdahl!

    • Katy says:

      One day Annette! We were tossing up whether to do that ferry trip but decided on the train instead. Still great memories though

  24. youngandundecided says:

    Oslo looks like such an interesting place! I’d definitely love to just wander around all day. In saying that, the Norweigen Folk Museum looks really cool aswell! #farawayfiles

    • Katy says:

      The folk museum is unique.If you go on a weekend there are people in traditional dress doing crafts etc too Very interesting

    • Katy says:

      The outdoor one was great for a little running about and they are all quite small and not overwhelming. Really great for kids especially combined with the ferry trip

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