Although ranked as the second most expensive world city after Tokyo, the Norwegian capital has a lot of free to do stuff to offer that caters to even the most demanding tastes. It is indeed a global city in the true sense of the word, not only an important economic and political center of Europe, but a populous, extravagant heritage of the fjords-crested Scandinavian Peninsula as well, where the old meets the new, and nature alternates with the most exciting forms of urbanism and architecture.
1. The Vigelandsparken Sculpture Park is a great destination if you want to move away from the hustle and bustle of the city for a while. You could have a picnic in the sun or have a relaxing walk while contemplating the architecture and creations of sculptor Gustav Vigeland (1869-1943) that the park is host to, an eerie interweaving of 212 sculptures made out of granite, bronze and cast iron depicting human figures in rather strange, sometimes disturbing ways, a rarely unique sight to see that makes this park attract over 1 million visitors every year. Its architectural highlight is a 50 foot high granite monolith of tangled bodies, arms and legs rising as one towards the skies.
2. Oslo is also host to a number of free events and festivals throughout the year, for example National Music Day in June, during which outdoor stages are set all throughout the city and music can be heard in all street corners, or Mela Festival that provides world music, exhibitions and film screenings in August. Tourist in Your Own City is another exciting event, organized by the local tourist office and which takes place around April-May every year, where anyone gets a free pass for the day providing them with free public transport and free entrance to museums and attractions for the day. The pass, mind you, is only valid on the day of the event. If you happen to be in Oslo on a Sunday night and want to attend a free but quality music event, don’t miss out on the Frank Znort Quartet that enchant the audiences every Sunday with their jazz, bluegrass and gypsy influences. During the summer they play outdoors from 5.30 pm and then in Club Bla from 9:30 pm with their lively mixture of genres that are guaranteed to entertain one and all. For the rock fans there is the Granittrock Festival in the Lillomarka Arena in Bergensvele, a two-day festival in September.
3. Fan of the outdoors? Then you might take pleasure in Oslo’s hiking trails that are just 20 minutes away from the city centre. The Norwegian Capital is surrounded by the forests of Oslomarka that attract locals, hikers, wanderers and tourists alike, especially in the summer; this area also has places where one can enjoy foods and drinks, and accommodation in one of the 27 cabins (hytter) there that is free for an overnight’s stay. In the winter, the area of Holmenkollen offers not only a breathtaking view over the entire city and of the ancient fjords, but is also an excellent ski recreation place hosting competitions since 1892, with its Holmenkollbakken, its famous ski jumping hill. Oslomarka also offers a free network of cross-country tracks almost over 2600 km in length that lead straight into the heart of the forest and are sure to give you that adrenaline rush of winter sports.
4. Museums! The best thing about Oslo is that, expensive as it is, many of its galleries and museums have free admission on Sundays, among which the National Gallery and the National Museum of Contemporary Art. The National Gallery (Nasjonalgalleriet) is the largest public art collection in Norway exhibiting not only Norwegian but also foreign works, like those of painters El Greco and Amedeo Modigliani. Nevertheless, you cannot simply think Norway or Oslo without thinking of Ed Munch and his famous The Scream, which can also be viewed there, or at the Munch Museum (Munch painted several versions of it), that offers free entrance from 1st of March to 31st of October. Lovers of modern art might also be interested in visiting the Sternersen Museum that hosts quite an extensive collection of Norwegian art and has free admission on Tuesdays.
The Farm Museum is another amazing free place to go and visit, especially if you’re having a trip with your family or you’re just a little childish and love animals and nature. The place has an interesting story behind it: it’s said that it used to be a ship with which, during the late 19th century, expeditions to Arctic and Antarctic were made. And if your logic tell you that the entire ship is held inside the museum, you’re completely right. This kind of opulence makes going to museums worth it in Scandinavian countries!
5. Karl Johans Gate is probably the best place to get a feel of the vitality and vibrant spirit of Oslo, with its myriad restaurants, shops, and crowds; it is the usual place where city parades take place, at the end of it lies the Royal Palace (Det Kongelige Slott), and nearby also lie the National Theater, the pond at Eidsvolls plass that serves as a skating rink during wintertime and the Oslo Cathedral, a baroque church that invites serenity and meditation, with its crafty stained glass windows and marble floors. One great event not to be missed is the changing of the guard in front of the Palace, which takes place every day at 1:30 pm. During the summer police officers on horses and a military band lead the guards through the streets, and if you get the chance to visit the palace on a weekday, you will hear the Royal Band play during the ceremony in honour of the king who is in residence, which makes the moment all the more solemn.
6. If you have children and want to fit something particularly fun for them in your itinerary, the Norwegian Museum of Magic has something quite special – and free – in store. The place is filled with tricks, playing cards, rabbits, props, costumes, and magicians’ stories from all over the country that will draw the little ones into the world of magic, Oslo edition, completed by a free magic show every Sunday at 2 pm.
7. And last but not least, the beaches. Among the most beautiful are Tjuvholmen, Huk, and Langøyene. Tjuvholmen is very easy to find, just south of Akker Brygge, and worth mentioning is that it is very child-friendly. Langøyene is a truly idyllic place which is to be reached by taking a boat from Vippetangen. It is an island in the innermost Oslo Fjord and the only one where tenting is allowed, and the southeast side of the beach is open for nudists. By far the most popular of Olso’s beaches is Huk, so if you want to find a spot it is best you should get there early! It can be reached by bike from central Oslo and is an excellent recreational area, for nudists and more traditional tourists alike thanks to its two beaches.