Oslo on a shoe-string? Free places to see in Norway’s capital

Oslo City Hall

Norway as a destination is not known to be cheap.  However, you can visit Oslo and still feel that you have been around because now is the right time to visit.  I cannot promise cheap, but you get value for your money.

And when I say shoe-string here, it is not exactly Gucci running shoes.

Welcome to Oslo


Norwegian Airlines have direct flights to Oslo now from a number of major cities in the world. From Carribean to the USA and also Bangkok in the Far East.  I am not campaigning for them, but these are budget airlines with no frills so you can probably get a cheaper fare from them.  From Asia, you do get a lot of price campaigns, from Thai Airways, KLM, Lufthansa, British Airways, Emirates, Turkish Airlines and the like. Check some flights from our search engine.  The cheapest is usually off-season.  The high season will be in the summer during the months of June – August.  Then we have the shoulder season around April – May and September – October.

Citybox in Oslo

Citybox Oslo

In Oslo, we do have our share of motel-type accommodations.  One such is the Citybox Oslo Hotel.   You check-in by yourself, the room doesn’t come with a minibar, and there is no room service.  You do get free wi-fi and for today’s budget traveler, that is enough.  They do not serve breakfast, but you can buy it from their partner, RentMel, a short walk away. Another budget accommodation with breakfast is P-Hotel.  Breakfast is just a sandwich and juice delivered outside your door.  You can also check some accommodations in Oslo here.  The rates for both hotels are around NOK 600 – 700 for a double room per night.  If you are lucky,  you may know someone here who can accomodate you so that will be a big amount off your budget.

Hop-on-hop-off Bus


A great way to save time and money is to buy the hop-on-hop off bus ticket which takes you around the tourist routes in Oslo.  You can buy tickets online.  It costs NOK 300 per adult for a 24-hour ticket and that is enough.  There is free wi-fi on board so you can take pictures and share it with your friends through social media.

I am assuming that for you to travel this far, you would probably stay at least three nights /4 days in Oslo.  If you are from outside of Europe, you are here probably a week.  So Day 1 you do the hop-on-hop off bus which will also orient you where places are located.  The rest of your stay, you can buy a 7-day transportation card which costs NOK 240 per person.  Check the rates against your currency.   You can use this card on buses, subways and, depending when you are in Oslo, the ferries around Oslofjord which takes you to the nearby islands.  It can be fun to get lost, you can discover a lot of new places, however it would be safer to follow an itinerary, aside from time conservation, it is also efficient. Download a map of the city highlights and find your transportation.

If those must-sees are not a must for you, there are a lot of free places to visit that is just walking distance from the city center.  If you are on a tight budget, do come here with good walking shoes and drop the hop-on-hop off and the transportation card.  You will get to see a lot just by walking around.  So accommodation and food would take up most of your budget.

Here is a list of some of the free places to visit in Oslo:

1.  Akershus Castle and Fortress

Picture by Nancy Bundt. Visit Norway
Picture by Nancy Bundt. Visit Norway

Would you like to see a medieval castle?  Then this is the place to go.  Just diagonally across the city hall.  Construction of the Akershus Castle and Fortress was  in 1299 during the time of King Håkon V.  There are guided tours in the summer but you can visit the place all year round.  (there is a part where you have to pay, but you can drop that).  You can read a bit of its history before you come visit to save on paying for the guided tour.

2.  City Hall of Oslo

Oslo City Hall

The very imposing structure of the Oslo City Hall was designed by  Magnus Poulson and Arnstein Arneberg. It is located by the water and inside, you have great works of art on the wall as well.  On the gangway leading to the main entrance, you have a lot of characters of Ragnarock on the walls.  Totaling 16, these wooden friezes along the City Hall’s gangway were made by Dagfin Werenskiold (1892-1977).  Inside, you can see frescos done by famous Norwegian artists.

3.  Tjuvholmen and Aker Brygge


A great place to just hang out in when you are in Oslo is Tjuvholmen. In the olden days, this place was used as docks by different companies. Originally just 5 hectares, the area was increased to 33 hectares by landfill. After exchanging hands to the private sector in 2005, the place was reinvented and is now bustling with activities. You do not need to eat here or live at a hotel here. Tjuvholmen is an attraction in itself. Come here and go people watching or look out to the Oslofjord or just walk around. You won’t get bored here.

Look at the architecture of the Astrup Fearnley Museum above.  It is not free to go inside, but you can go around it and see it from the outside.

Aker Brygge was originally the place to be when you want good food by the Oslofjord.  But is has since expanded so Tjuhvolmen and Aker Brygge are connected to each other on foot.

4.  Vigeland Park

Vigeland Park

VigelandPark is one of the most popular places to visit when you are in Oslo. All the sculptures in the park is done by just one artist, Gustav Vigeland which makes it the biggest of its kind in the world. It is a showcase of his talent who worked on the park up to his death in 1949. There are over 200 sculptures and they all capture moments such as this one. Its a great piece that shows the devotion and care of a father to his son.

5.  The National Gallery

Edvard Munch, scream

The National Gallery houses Norway’s biggest public collection of works of art, painting, and sculpture.  They have both permanent exhibitions and other guest exhibitions.  Probably the most famous work of art exhibited here is Edvard Munch’s Scream.  You could also see several sculptures outside the building.

6.  The Castle 

Castle Oslo

The Royal Castle has a well-kept garden surrounding it and most of it is open to the public.  A popular place to walk around and to marvel scandinavian architecture up-close.  If you are in Norway on May 17 each year,  then you get to see thousands of people lining up to get to see the Royal Family.  They are perched on the balcony where they see school children parade in front of them below.

The Royal Castle in Oslo is just one of their many residences, but it is the most important one.  In case you don’t know, the head of the Royal family is King Harald and Queen Sonja.

7.  Karl Johansgate and Stortinget


The distance from the Oslo Central Station to the castle is one kilometer.  It also follows a straight line, which is Oslo’s busiest shopping street, Karl Johansgate.  So it may be only just a kilometer from the central station but you are walking along a lot of temptations along the way.  You may also walk along this street from the castle back to central station.  Around halfway you get to see the Stortinget (Norwegian Parliament).  On the picture above, the Stortinget is the yellow building on the left of the picture.  You will recognize the castle at the end of the street.   Stortinget is a separate structure in itself but since it is not free to go inside, I am listing both Karl Johansgate and Stortinget as one.

8. Oslo Cathedral (Domkirke)

Picture by Nancy Bundt. Visit Norway
Picture by Nancy Bundt. Visit Norway

Walking past the Stortinget on your way to the central station, you will see the Oslo Cathedral (Domkirke) on your left side.  The church’s gardens has an entrance on Karl Johansgate.   The church has played a vital role in the history of Oslo.  This was built in 1697.

9.  Oslo Opera


The Oslo Opera house can be viewed from afar along a promenade made for that.  So you can take a picture from a distance, then you can go the opera.  Its construction is such that one can walk to the roof of the Opera House with ease.   Once you have done that, you can then go inside the building and enjoy viewing its great architecture.

10.  Oslo City Museum

Oslo Museum

If you want to see the history of Oslo through art, then take a trip to the Oslo City Museum. The entrance is free and they have scheduled guided tours.  However, english guided tours are just on request.  It is worth the visit if you like history.

So there.  You have ten free places to visit which are all walking distance from the city center.  You cannot visit them in one day so there is enough for you to do during your stay in Oslo.  Drop me a line if you find out more free places to go to and stuff to do in Oslo.


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