Oh Scandinavia. We brought you our Copenhagen guide and now it’s time for another Scandi favourite. Northern Europe’s Nordic capital is a true winter wonderland with a beautiful regal charm – but it has the price tag to match, so read on for our tips on how to enjoy Oslo in a weekend, on a budget!
Oslo sits on Norway’s southern coast, so it’s not the place to head if you’re looking to see the northern lights – but it does sit on the mouth of the Oslofjord, so it’s the perfect blend of city and scenery. You can fly Ryanair to Oslo Torp from Manchester for less than £100, but note that you’ll need to spend about £50 on your return train ticket to and from the city from Torp! Check your local airport for flights to Oslo’s city airport which is much closer to the action.
Where to stay?
Like any city, Oslo is made up of individual ‘boroughs’ and neighbourhoods. Sentrum (central) Oslo is one for those seeking hustle bustle on their doorstep, Grünerløkka is for the night owls and then there’s Frogner. It’s within walking distance of Sentrum yet it’s got a suburban vibe with leafy avenues and chic shops! Check out Jana’s place on Airbnb – it’s a clean and cosy quaint studio that’s reasonably priced and perfectly located for exploring.
What to see?
One thing you’ll be grateful for if you’re seeing Oslo on a budget is the architectural delight you can enjoy simply wandering the city’s streets. Akershus Fortress, Royal Palace and Vigeland Sculpture Park are all free to explore and are that little bit more magical in winter.
Your culture fix
And then there’s the Opera House… the home of the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet. The best part? You can walk on its roof! The building has been designed to echo the idea that Norway’s nature and mountains are free to explore, so the walkway extends all the way onto the roof and around the building. It gives panoramic views of the harbour and the city’s own piece of floating art…
Once you’ve explored the outside, head indoors and take a tour – it’s about £10 and you get shown around all the key backstage spots, the costume room and the main theatre itself. Our tour guide was an ex-ballerina, making it all-the-more exclusive and unique! Head back to the ticket desk after your tour and see if you can bag last-minute tickets to a show – we ended up with bar stool seats for the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra and it was incredible – the seats aren’t as uncomfortable as they sound, and they’re a fraction of the cost!
Now onto a treat for the eyes… if you’re partial to a bit of art history, the National Museum on Universitetsgata has “the largest public collection of paintings, drawings and sculptures”. Including the money shot – Edvard Munch’s The Scream. The gallery houses many other classics from Picasso, Monet as well as Norwegian favs. Entrance fee is 100NOK (about £10).
From one museum to another, sitting on the Bygdøy peninsula off the west of the city is The Viking Ship Museum – because if you didn’t go to Oslo and see a real life Viking ship, did you even go?
The museum is actually quite small but the ships on display have been so well preserved it’s hard to get your head around how old they are!
These ships were in fact hauled onto land after their treacherous voyages and used as burial ‘tombs’ to house the dead – along with artefacts and treasures – much like the Egyptians did. The immersive film experience, The Vikings Alive, tells all…
Entrance fee is 100NOK (again, about £10).
We actually took the boat tour from Oslo marina which drops off at Bygdøy after a leisurely sail around Oslofjord. You’ll see an array of Norwegian holiday homes, famous for their bold colours, and hear all about the history of the fjords.
Then? Walking in the snow was too tempting to resist so, rather than wait for the bus, we trailed the scenic route through farmland and woodland from Bygdøy back to Frogner – all in all it was about an hour and we even saw wild deer!
Anyone for skiing?
Most people would be disappointed if they turned up at Holmenkollen and couldn’t climb the viewing tower… but when you stumble on a national ski jumping championship and biathlon contest on the same day, how can you complain?! It was foggy anyway…
Like something straight out of a film set (lets talk about Eddie the Eagle another time…) Holmenkollen is home to the world’s oldest ski museum. Also onsite, you can abseil, putt 18 holes and even zip-line if you so wish! In all honesty, it was worth it even just for the train ride up to this mountainside retreat. Just a few train stops up the line from Holmenkollen is Frognerseteren where you can grab a sledge and slide your way through what can only be described as Narnia. On a clear day, you’ll be able to see the whole of Oslo too.
Where, and what, to eat?
Notoriously expensive, it can be tricky to find food haunts that satisfy your tummy rumbles as well as your budget… unfortunately after a long day of exploring and trudging through snow, shop snacks just won’t cut it. Trust us, we know…!
And time for coffee! You’ll see the popular ‘Espresso House’ all over the place – they blend a great cuppa, perfect for warming up before a long day in the city! Failing that, hop into any bakery and grab a reasonably-priced, homemade pastry and you’ll be set for a few hours.
Unless you want to spend upwards of £15 on lunch every day, you might want to avoid a sit-down meal and find a more grab-and-go option. ‘Big Bite’ can be found in the Arkaden shopping centre on Karl Johans gate (the main shopping street) and serves up quick and cheap wraps and subs.
Nearby the Opera House there’s also a great cafe/bar/art installation/sauna (that’s not a typo). It’s called Salt and serves up hot drinks, chalet style. Head back after dark and the sauna comes to life, complete with deep house beats…
Night one, you’ve had a long day of travelling and you’re looking for a nice place to eat and have a drink to settle yourself into your weekend in Oslo. Those on a budget might find this dream a little hard to come by! We settled for a fast-food burger place called Munchies near our apartment. The good news? The burgers are freshly made and pretty delicious. The not-so-good news? One burger will set you back £9-10 and fries are extra… Welcome to Norway!
Shake off the pain of paying extortionately for fast food and you’ll soon embrace the Norwegian way… Head to Mathallen indoor food market in Grünerløkka and you’ll be met with bustling food stalls – free smells galore! Wander around and get a feel for the vibe – the hard part is deciding what to eat… you’ll find cheese delis, Hungarian bistros, champagne bodegas, locally-sourced seafood and pretty much anything else you can think of. Pre-cursor… a small glass of red will set you back EIGHT of your finest English pounds.
We’ve covered Frogner, Grünerløkka and Sentrum, but if you fancy dinner near the water, we’ve got a restaurant recommendation in Aker Brygge – Oslo’s answer to harbourside dining! ASIA serves up authentic, Southeast Asian street food-style dishes with a side of relaxed dining. Order a few sharing dishes and some cocktails and spoil yourselves! Spoiler alert: the prawn crackers come with an AVOCADO and jalapeño dip which is ridiculously great, and the flamed edamame portion is exceptionally generous. You’re welcome!
Even if you head to Oslo with all good intentions of not overspending, you really should prepare a contingency, just in case! The likelihood is you’ll fancy some decent grub, you’ll want to order dessert, you’ll need copious hot chocolates to keep your mitts warm and there’ll be another museum you just can’t not visit! Or, y’know, a floating sauna…
Have you tried and succeeded to visit Oslo on a budget? Share your tips with us on Twitter @Travelavo_