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Is Oslo Worth Visiting? Here’s Our Experience

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During our trip to Scandinavia, we spent two full days in Oslo before flying home. I’ve heard from a lot of people that Oslo really isn’t worth visiting, but with so many things to do, I was curious to see for myself. So…is Oslo worth visiting? Here’s what went down on our trip.

(Want to catch up on the journey? We spent 24 hours in NYC, followed by five days in Copenhagen and then traveling to Bergen.)

Oslo Day One

We took the train from Bergen to Oslo, which was really a fantastic experience. Because this was the tail end of our journey, I had purposefully picked a place to stay very close to the train station. Theoretically, it wasn’t that long of a walk, but we had the worst time actually trying to find the address.

The apartment we had rented was in a new building in a new development, and everything about it felt confusing. Then, once we actually found the building there was the strangest key drop off situation ever, that involved Gerrit backtracking to a bodega to ask a cashier for the key? It was weird…so….not off to a great start.

We had some time in the afternoon so we decided to visit the new MUNCH Museum (using the Oslo pass we purchased). This museum had just opened in 2021, and honestly we were so impressed with it! It is a beautiful space with beautiful views of the city, and amazing art spaces. While it doesn’t just feature the works of Munch, he is of course the main focus. But there was so much other art to love!

Plus, they also made an effort to cater to kids. There were kid-focused activities in every exhibit area, from peep-holes on kid-level with cute scenes to drawing activities and more. After a long day of travel and a tough Air BnB check-in experience, this museum visit really turned things around for our day.

Then we went to dinner though. Since it had been a long day we wanted something easy and familiar, so we stopped for burgers at a place near the museum. Not the greatest move. Everyone talks about Norway being so expensive to visit, and while it may have been a bit on the pricey side, the only place in Norway where I really felt the prices were ridiculous was in Oslo. The burgers were not only expensive, they were also extremely mediocre.

But we pressed on, and after a quick walk around the Oslo Opera House, we went to bed in our tiny Air BnB (because Oslo is definitely a city).

 

Oslo Day Two

For our first stop today we visited Akershus Castle and Fortress. We really enjoyed this visit! The building was interesting and beautiful, was honestly probably my favorite thing we did today. (Spoiler alert: This was probably not the best day of our trip.) My only complaint: All of the bathrooms seemed to be closed?

After Akershus we headed to see the Royal Palace. There were some guards outside and some excitement going on. It wasn’t time for the changing of the guard though, so we stuck around to see what was up.

Turns out, the King was having audiences with a handful of ambassadors, so they were coming and going at various intervals. We watched for awhile, and we then headed to a bakery and grabbed some sandwiches for lunch.

After lunch we took the train north of Oslo to Holmenkollen to visit the ski jump and museum.

First, the good. This is a really cool place! Not only can you go to the top of the ski jump and see as much of Oslo as possible (depending on the weather), but there is also a whole museum about the history of skiing.

AND they had the most adorable indoor children’s play area that I have ever seen in my life. There were tiny Nordic houses with toadstools! Fairytale clouds hanging from the ceiling and snow covered stairs! Tiny trolls and a slide in the shape of the ski jump! I truly wish I had been a child and I would have explored all of it. Even as an adult, I did what I could.

Now the bad. This is not Oslo’s fault AT ALL, but we learned while we were at Holmenkollen that our flight the next day had been cancelled, and so far nothing had been rescheduled. While I’ll go ahead and tell you that things did eventually work out, the stress I felt about the possibility of NOT being able to leave to go home in two days clouded my enjoyment of Holmenkollen a bit. (And remember, this was a time with COVID tests were still necessary to re-enter to the US, so the timing of all that was an added layer of stress.)

Eventually we made our way back into central Oslo and strolled a bit around Frogner Park before deciding we had maybe done too much and really just needed some dinner. We went to Oslo Street Food, which is a food hall, so we could all get what we wanted without having to decide on a restaurant. I had an arepa that was pretty great, although still pricey of course.

Oslo Day Three

Day three started out a bit better. Our flight issues were resolved! Our COVID tests were negative, which meant we could go home!

We stopped by a café for pastries and then we took the bus out to Bygdøy for what I was most excited about in Oslo: the museums!

I am normally not a big museum person. Gerrit and I joke about how quickly we can move through a museum and check it off the list. Really, we would much rather be out in the streets of a city walking around and experiencing the culture.

BUT the museums on the Bygdøy Peninsula had two factors in their favor. First, the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History is an outdoor museum fully integrated with nature. Second, the other museums (the “boat museums” as I like to call them) were small museums about very specific historic events I knew nothing about.

First we went to the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History (also known as the Norwegian Folk Museum) which I LOVED. After spending time more in the city center of Oslo the day before, being out in nature in this museum was much needed. We saw all kinds of historic building and houses, a Stave church, farm animals, and just generally enjoyed the fresh air.

Then, after grabbing lunch at the museum café, we headed to two of the “boat museums”: The Fram Museum and the Kon-Tiki Museum.

First we went to the Fram Museum, which houses the giant Fram ship. We loved learning all about polar exploration, what made the construction of the Fram so unique, climbing aboard the boat, and testing out our ability to withstand cold temperatures and sledge things through snow.

Then we went to the Kon-Tiki Museum, which is about the Kon-Tiki expedition in 1947, when Thor Heyerdahl took a balsawood raft across the Pacific Ocean. The raft is in the museum, and looking at it, I truly could not believe a group of men went across the entire Pacific Ocean on it.

This is a small museum, but I really loved the set-up of it. You walk around the room where the raft sits in the center and read about the expedition, and on the bottom half of the wall they tell the story just for kids in a way that was perfect for my daughter!

After we had wrapped up the museums (the most famous museum, The Viking Ship Museum, was closed for a years-long renovation while we were there), we took the ferry back to the center of Oslo.

It was our last night in Oslo, but because we were flying out early in the morning, we had double booked our stay that night and actually booked a hotel near the airport to make our morning easier (thank you credit card travel credit!). So we headed back to the apartment that we didn’t really like, grabbed some take-out, and packed up our stuff.

After a bit of confusion at the train station, we finally got a ticket for the Oslo Airport Express, which took us right to the airport, where just had to walk a few steps to the Radisson Blu Airport Hotel. We had booked a family room since there were three of us and it was HUGE. I think probably bigger than the apartment we had in Oslo! So, a great way to the end the trip and get some rest before our flight out.

So…

Was Oslo Really Worth Visiting?

Honestly, yes! I definitely felt like Oslo was worth visiting!

I say that with a few caveats though.

First of all, after our amazing experience in Bergen, Oslo didn’t really feel like the Norwegian experience we had wanted. Really, Oslo is just like so many other European cities, but even there I honestly felt like it lacked some of the character other cities have.

So my thoughts? Don’t go to Oslo for the city. Go to Oslo for the museums! And I say that as a person who doesn’t usually love museums!

The museums in Oslo were our favorite we visited in Norway, and I am so glad we spend a few days in Oslo to see them.

If you are traveling to Norway, you don’t need to plan for more than just a couple days in Oslo though. While there are lots of great things to do here, you’ll enjoy your time in Norway more if you get out of Oslo.

Am I glad we went? Yes!

Am I dying to go back to Oslo? Nope.

Sometimes that how a trip is, and it’s exactly how it is supposed to be. Because honestly, if I was dying to re-visit every place I ever went, I’d never have time.