If you’re on a search for the most incredible, free attractions loaded, city adventure in the middle of the famous Norwegian fjords, Oslo is perfect. Modern architecture, clean facades, Michelin restaurants, sculpture parks, electric cars, Noble Prize scene, and much much more!
Not the cheapest city to visit in Europe, that’s correct!
But even when your budget is limited, you can still enjoy the local customs, architecture and Oslfjord through various free experiences and activities. There are plenty of free things to do in Oslo!
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Planning a budget-friendly trip to Oslo
Climb the roof of Oslo Opera House
Walking on the gentle, marble-covered slopes of the opera theatre roof is one of a kind Oslo experience, as it reveals the beauty of the Norwegian fjords by using a light immersion of architecture into the close-by water landscape.
The architectural structure of the roof angles down to the level of the sea letting place for a large plaza. From there, people can enjoy multiple perspectives on the surroundings, while the marble and the white granite make the building seem to raise from the waters.
Oslo Opera House, Copyright © Cooltourismical.com
The Opera House offers a beautiful view over the city and Oslofjord. On the other side of the water, there is the harbor promenade along Langkaia street on west side of Bjorvika, the pier, Oslo harbor warehouse and SALT, a combination of sauna and public events.
The large and almost unnoticeably-framed windows of the Opera House reflect the water and the city in shades of blue and turquoise, offering a completely different show on their own.
🔥 More to enjoy about Oslo opera House:
If you plan to expand your visit for a performance, you can do it without problems. The seats of te opera have a digital libretto in Norwegian and English.
In front of the Oslo Opera house, on the water, floats “She Lies” a permanent installation made of stainless steel framing and glass panels. The floating structure reflects the surroundings and changes its shades and position, adopting natural conditions: water level, wind, colors of the sky and sea. So much beauty, free of charge.
- 🕐 Opening hours: 10pm to 15 am
- 🏠 Address: Kirsten Flagstads Plass 1, 0150 Oslo, Norway (Google Maps location)
- 📌 Best moment to visit: for me, it’s the sunrise, when the city just starts its buzz.
Visit the futuristic Nio Store in Oslo
Electric cars are taking over Norway. Oslo, in particular. And have done this for some time. But Nio, a Chinese pioneer in premium electric vehicle market, is certainly making a statement right now, right in the very center of Oslo, on the famous Karl Johans gate, inside Karl Johan Hotel.
If you’re into smart, high-performance, electric vehicles, then Nio’s new five-star showroom is the place you should pay a free visit while in Oslo.
Some of the exhibits are certainly out of this world. Among the electric cars exhibited in the futuristic Nio showroom in Oslo there is Nio EP9, one of the the fastest (217 mph) and most expensive EV ever built, valued at approximately $3.48 million.
Nio Store in Oslo, Copyright © Cooltourismical.com
A visit to Nio’s showroom offers not only access into the world of electric cars, but also an opportunity to immerse oneself in the world of Scandinavian interior design. The space is ultra-modern, yet warmly decorated with wood and stone accents that make it extremely inviting.
The Norwegian Nio Showroom features cars on display, as well as areas for discussion and relaxation, including an open meeting room, a “playground”, a library, a store, and a lovely café. All these grouped around a central area with a cinema-style layout that connects the two floors of the store and is covered by a glass ceiling.
🔥 Stop to relax: ground floor | Nio Café, where you can enjoy coffee, tea and pastry at very accessible prices.
- 🕐 Opening hours: 10 pm to 6 pm.
- 🏠 Address: Karl Johans gate 33, 0162 Oslo, Norway (Google Maps location).
- 📌 Best moment to visit: Mondays, when the museums are closed | Weekday mornings.
Dive into Norwegian chocolate scent @ Freia
Freia is a well-known Norwegian chocolate manufacturer that has been making happy lots of generations of Norwegians. Since 1889.
I first became familiar with the Freia brand on a cold winter night when I saw their large advertisement sign illuminating from a tall building on Karl Johans Gate, the main street in Oslo. Along that same street, at number 31 on the ground floor of the Grand Hotel, stood their small and charming historical store, Freiabutikken, awaiting visitors.
Freia Chocolate Store, Copyright © Cooltourismical.com
In the early 20th century, the Freia boutique had a luxurious and elegant interior decorated in the contemporary Louis Seize style, which was the store’s signature for many years.
This exclusive atmosphere attracted members of the upper class from far and wide, with long lines forming outside the store, especially during Christmas, to experience the beautifully decorated windows and taste Freia’s chocolates. At the time, Freia produced 50% of all chocolate in Norway, and after the end of chocolate rationing in the 1950s, the lines at Freiabutikken grew even longer.
Today, the store has a modern, bright and open interior, and the window displays still attract visitors. A small 3D model of the vintage store serves as a reminder of the past atmosphere and décor.
The store’s design highlight is a series of marquetry images created using intarsia, which are displayed above the shelves. These artworks depict scenes from the factory and the evolution of the chocolate industry.
🔥 Freia fun, worth the money
Visiting their only store in Oslo and enjoying the beautiful window exhibits is free, while buying one of the best chocolates in the world is infinitely cheap. Prices are quite reasonable for one of the best sweets you can ever taste abroad. And in winter you can have here the country’s very best hot chocolate.
Diving deeper into the world of chocolate means visiting Freialand. There are guided tours that do cost around 250NOK. And tickets can be found on ticketmaster.
At Freialand, you can embark on a journey through the history of chocolate and the factory, starting from when the Toltecs grew cocoa trees in the 8th century. It’s all about tasting chocolate and playing. Additionally, during the summer, they offer tours of the picturesque Freiaparken, which was established in the 1920s as a place for workers to take a break in lovely, verdant surroundings.
The interior is famous for the Munch paintings, while the park boasts numerous sculptures created by renowned Norwegian and international artists.
- 🕐 Opening hours: Weekdays | 10 am – 6 pm
- 🏚 Address: Karl Johans gate 31, 0159 Oslo, Norway (Google Maps location)
- 📌 Best moment to visit: Well, on Mondays, when most Oslo museums are closed, the small chocolate shop is open.
Have a stroll on Aker Brygge Promenade
Fancy an exquisite stroll? Grabbing one’s attention with stunning views over Oslo Fjords and bursting with exciting art, shops and fine dining, the Oslo harbor promenade on the banks of Aker River is unmissable. Especially for atmosphere and art.
However, what impressed me the most was the architecture of the location. It features large windows, sleek steel profiles, clean geometric cuts, and an open floor plan with tall ceilings that seamlessly integrates indoor and outdoor spaces. The exterior is a striking combination of black metal, reddish bricks, and creamy stone, creating a harmonious color palette and elegant textures.
Aker Brygge Promenade, Copyright © Cooltourismical.com
Most of the buildings in the area were developed between the 1980’s and early 2000, preserving along the newly-built the amazing industrial heritage. Meaning the 19th-century, imposing brick factories that once hosted production for naval diesel engines. Today, these factories have been repurposed into a variety of spaces including retail and commercial, cultural venues, restaurants, and luxury apartments.
Even if I visited in winter, the area gave off a vibrant atmosphere with ships coming and leaving the pier and lots of people walking or sitting at the industrial-chic restaurants. And surprisingly, a pier promenade with lots of free things to do and admire all round the year: art galleries, an open-air museum, statues reminding of the industrial past scattered all over the place.
Aker Brygge promenade connects towards the end of the harbour with Tjuvholmen, a newer quarter. A small island with focus on art, including the striking Astrup Fearnley Museum. In the gardens of Astrup Museum, there is a collection of rather awkward statues that can be visited for free.
The Oslo harbor promenade is also the scene for various free cultural events such as the Fjord Oslo Art Festival, but also home for beautiful art galleries that can be visited at no cost. The galleries at Tjuvholmen have an exquisite selection of art on show all year long and host various cultural events.
Fjord Oslo is a free art festival that transforms Harbour Promenade in central Oslo into a large-scale outdoor exhibition of light.
🔥 What’s not free, but it’s certainly fun!
- 🏊♂️ Join a floating spa: hot sauna and ice bathing while cultural events or teaching classes.
- 🛶 Rent a kayak: tour of the fjords with an instructor
- 🛳️ Hop on a boat: to get to the surrounding islands, ferries depart all year-round for the scenic Oslo Fjord
- 🍤 Enjoy industrial-chic, waterfront restaurants: upscale Nordic and Italian cuisine, Asian food & American steakhouses. My favorite is definitely the lovely Olivia.
- 🎤 Check a stand-up gig: international comedians @ Latter Club.
Visit Rådhuset, the Oslo City Hall
What gives most profound meaning to traveling is often the built environment. Some architecture masterpieces open our horizons and intensify that deep connection to a place. Same happens here. Especially, if it’s also one of the most accessible free things to do in Oslo.
Oslo City Hall or Rådhuset is a brutalist architecture example by excellence: raised from Norwegian traditions and mythology, built to serve the Norwegian and, probably, meant to astonish the tourists. As it is open to anyone curious enough to climb the stairs.
Oslo City Hall, Copyright © Cooltourismical.com
The scarlet & sleek austerity of the exterior is broken by perimetral galleries with sophisticated and detailed pieces of art, decorations of the first part of the 20th century. Most of them, coming from local artist.
At the interior, Oslo City Hall boasts impressive murals by well-known Norwegian artists that depict the history of Norway and its society. High-ceiling rooms and impressive huge open spaces on the first floor offer a wonderful panorama over the Oslo fjords.
Construction started in 1931, but did not open until 1950’s. Nowadays, it is the scene for the famous Nobel Prize and also serves as an impressive event venue.
- 🕐 Opening hours: 7 days / week | 9 am – 4 pm (exceptions apply during holidays).
- 📌 Address: Rådhusplassen 1, 0037 Oslo, Norway (Google Maps location).
Stare at the bizarre statues at Vigeland Park
Well, you might know this extremely weird, little dude that has been circling the internet for many years now. On a rust-coloured and naked freezing trees wintery background, “The Angry Boy” looks infinitely more upset. But even so, he is still one of the most extraordinary and bizarre of Vigeland’s sculptures.
And meeting Vigeland is one of the unmissable, zero-cost things to do in Oslo in any season, at any hour. In Frogner Park, time stopped to let the human soul unravel itself to eternity.
The angry boy in Vigeland Park, Copyright © Cooltourismical.com
Coming from a family with a background in craftmanship, Gustav Vigeland stood out as one of the most pertinent Norwegian sculptors of the 20st century. Heavily interconnected and spectacular, most part of his artwork never crossed the borders of Norway. In exchange for a house / art studio received from the City of Oslo, he donated all his remaining life work to the municipality.
The imposing Vigeland installation in Frogner Park is today his unique Norse legacy. A huge open-air museum, with over 200 statues, featuring extremely detailed human figures. Age, feelings, connections and reactions are all carefully carved onto their still, frozen-in-time bodies.
🔥 What’s going on with Vigeland’s statues?
They are timeless. The lack of clothes leaves place for clearly observing, in fact, the naked soul. The attire of a certain era would have been nothing but a flaw of the creative process, crippling the idea of eternity of human soul.
DREAMING | REVOLT | ENCOURAGEMENT | SADNESS | DISPEAR | FRIENDSHIP | PASSION & COMPASSION
Emotions, hopes and needs at different life stages are expressed through human body features, position and aesthetic, by careful and extremely detailed representation to the strongest muscle and the smallest wrinkle. Statues can be anyone, anywhere, anytime.
Starting from the main gate and crossing the bridge to the fountain and up to the monolith plateau to finally get to the farthest wheel of life, the visit to the Vigeland Park is a different journey for each and everyone of us. It explores the human emotions in the purest state. You will definitely stop, stare and think: that’s me!
🛑 Go and know Vigeland better: Go and check the museum. It is stunning! A huge house and workshop given to Vigeland during his lifetime so he can live and create, a mansion big enough to host his entire work and trials.
- 🕐 Opening hours: Open 24 hours.
- 🏚 Address: Nobels gate 32, 0268 Oslo, Norway (Google Maps location)
- 📌 Best moment to visit: Summers are probably best because they might sweeten a little the nakedness of the sculptures. autumn and winter amplify the drama and strangeness of many of them.
Enjoying a Free Guided tour of the Norwegian Parliament
Rarely political aspects mingle with traveling interests, but this beautiful piece of 19th century architecture, that has the appearance of a fairytale castle, shouldn’t be missed.
Open to public since 1866, it was meant to reflect since the beginning, through its shape, the principles of democracy. The central portion of the building serves as the location for parliamentary meetings, while the two side wings of the building act as welcoming arms, inviting people to engage in democracy.
Norwegian Parliament, Copyright © Cooltourismical.com
The almost perfect-shaped yellowish bricks with light grey granite details give the Norwegian Parliament building a strongly elegant atmosphere. Each time I passed by it, the combination of colors and textures on the façade made me want to take a picture, even before I knew it was the Norwegian Parliament.
The inside of the building is also grand, with majestic stairs leading to the first floor, artsy chandeliers hanging from vaulted ceilings, tall arched windows framed by brick columns.
And the free tours just give you the opportunity to be part of the exciting daily life of the building. This includes access to the Storting Chamber’s ground floor resembling a Greek theatre, the upper floor throne room, the impressive Lagting Chamber used for seminars, and the Eidsvoll Gallery, an old reading room.
Step into the beautiful downtown Cathedral
Oslo Cathedral is a stunning 17th century architectural gem that can be visited free of charge. Additionally, the building frequently serves as a venue for dreamy organ or choir concerts with free admission. The schedule of these events can be found on the cathedral’s website.
Oslo Cathedral, Copyright © Cooltourismical.com
The interior of the cathedral features a mix of baroque and neo-gothic styles, with the original baroque decorations being the altarpiece, pulpit, and organ façade. These pieces were some of the first examples of acanthus baroque in Norway, a style that was innovative for the time period. The motifs used were borrowed from ancient Greek and Roman art.
They have remained unchanged and untouched through all renovations, and can still be seen today.
On the exterior, the Cathedral was originally built using Dutch yellow brick, but later additions were made using unpainted red brick. In the 19th century, the building got its bronze spire tower, which has become a prominent silhouette on the Oslo cityscape.
Opposite the church tower, on the eastern side of the building, there is a half-square building with a gentle curve at the corners, following the street profile. This building, known as Basarene ved Oslo domkirke, is a neo-Romanesque style bazaar with a semi-private gallery lined with arcades and columns facing the street. It offers a safe passage between the busy streets and a string of restaurants, souvenir shops and cocktail bars.
- 🕐 Opening hours: Saturday-Thursday, 10 am-4 pm; Friday: 4 pm – 11 30 pm.
- 🏚 Address: Karl Johans gate 11, 0154, Oslo, Norway (Google Maps location)
- 📌 Events list: Available here.
Read for free @ the National Library
The National Library of Norway is one Oslo, hidden gem. No doubt, both architectural and cultural. Trust me! Not even the intimidating monumental stone façade will keep you away from that urge of sniffing old printed paper, combined to invaluable access to the ins and outs of history and art of Norway.
The beautiful thing is that the lecture rooms are free and accessible for everyone. Here, you can read an old book on Vikings, learn about legendary trolls, find old lifestyle ways by reading an old paper. Or browse the internet. And if you’ve never used a microfilm machine yet, this is the time to do it. It’s quite fun.
Besides that, the National Library of Norway has a permanent, free entrance exhibition: Enlightened. Glimpses of a Norwegian Cultural History. This exhibition has brough to the daylight from the darkest depths of the archives significant of the: “Roald Amundsens letter from The South Pole, the script from the world-famous TV-series Skam, voting ballots from the referendum on monarchy in 1905, and Edvard Grieg’s handwritten sheet music for his Piano concerto in A minor.“
Another beautiful library you might want to check out, also with a free admission, is the Oslo Public Library (Deichman) in Bjørvika. A library like no other: a combination of environmental awareness, architectural elegance, and its ability to bring people together.
In case you don’t get there, you can always read for free a selection of books and journals online.
If it’s summer, go to the beach
Oslo does have a few cozy, some rather wild even, beaches for summer time fun. So, obviously, one of the free things to do in Oslo is sunbathing and chilling while enjoying a magical view over the Oslo Fjords.
In this sense, at the far end of Bygdøy Peninsula, isolated from the busy city life, there is Huk Beach. A popular bathing spot with white sands, surrounded by vegetation and spectacular at sunset.
For a more remote beach, you can always try to access Paradisbukta, around one kilometre by foot from Huk, walking along charming forest paths to the west.
The weather is often moody in Norway. Even in summer time. So, better make sure to check the weather forecast before heading to Bygdøy!
- 🏖️ Address: Bygdøy Peninsula, Oslo, Norway (Google Maps location)
- 🚍 Getting there: Bus route no. 30.
If it’s winter, visit the Christmas Market
Every winter, just steps away from the National Theatre, a beautiful Christmas Market magically pops up. The park nearby becomes a winter wonderland for the holiday season. It is one of the cutest and most intimate Christmas markets around Europe. And the entrance is free of charge.
Winter Market in Oslo, Copyright © Cooltourismical.com
Wooden stalls housing lots of cute traditional products from Alpaca socks to marshmallow & ice cream waffles, books revealing the most exciting stories and legends about trolls and Vikings and glass ornaments for the Christmas tree. From place to place, people gathered around the fire, eating some goodies, socializing. Getting warm, while 2 reindeer heads tell jokes.
A ferris wheel lifts you up above all the fun stuff and above the beautiful Karl Johans Gate, offering a clear view of the whole central area. At the heart of the fun (and Christmas market) there is Spikersuppa Ice Skating Rink, a small, intimate, place where you can glide while listening to happiest Christmas songs.
- 📌 Address: Regnbueplassen i Oslo, 0162 Oslo, Norway (Google Maps location)
Check one of the free museums in Oslo
Oslo is one Nordic city rich in culture and history. Especially due to its beautiful and strategic location for trade over many centuries, the Viking age and extraordinary artists.
And there are many free museums in Oslo that offer a glimpse into the past and present of Norway. Some of these attractions won’t cost you a single coin all year round, while others have free entry only on certain days of the week.
🤝 Intercultural Museum
Might be one of the most interesting free-entrance museums in the capital, as it speaks about the contributions of immigrants to the city’s development.
The museum is dedicated to the history and the cultural heritage of different cultures living together. If you add it to your Oslo bucket list, you will see an amazing collection of photographs, letters, diaries, and other personal items of Poles, Pakistani, Iranians, and others. More like living artefacts of their daily lives in the old (and newer) Norway.
🕰️ Labour Museum
This is one of the oldest industrial museums in Norway covering subjects such as the history of work and labor, including the rise of industry, the development of working conditions and laws, the role of unions, and the impact of technology on work.
One of the highlights of the museum is the restored workshop from the early 20th century, where visitors can see what it was like to work in a factory during that time. Open to the public free of charge all year round.
🧬 The Norwegian Cancer Society’s Science Centre
It’s an educational center, home to a science-based, interactive and engaging exhibition. The exhibition explores topics such as the biology of cancer, the latest research and treatments, and the impact of cancer on individuals and society.
Visiting the museum is free of charge, but a guide of the exhibition can be purchased for a small fee.
😱 Munch Museum – Free on Wednesdays
If you’re interested more in art and architecture, the Munch Museum has both. An amazing structural design jammed on the inside with 28000 works of art of the famous Norwegian painter Edvard Munch. Including “The Scream”. Add to that a wonderful view over the the fjords.
The museum has free entry, but only on Wednesday evening and is a must-see destination for art lovers.
Munch Museum, Copyright © Cooltourismical.com
That being said, one thing is for sure: you can indulge in all-Norwegian your heart desires from the the Viking history to the finest art and latest science discoveries without dipping into your emergency chocolate stash.
Free things to do in Oslo with a City Pass
How to enjoy lots of things to do in Oslo for less money?
If you’re traveling to Oslo on a budget, for at least 3 days then you can get your Oslo pass, around 80 euro only for those 3 days and enjoy lots of activities.
For around 80 euro / 3 days you have free transport, free entrance to lots of museum, various discounts to a selection of Oslo restaurants and more. The pass is especially profitable in spring as you can enjoy more activities (ferry, some castles that are closed in winter).
You can read more in my Oslo Pass Review: Is Oslo Pass worth the money?.
In conclusion, Oslo is a magical and vibrant city that offers an out-of-this-world range of activities, even when traveling on a smaller budget.
Whether you’re looking for a cultural experience or a chance to explore the nature in and around the city, there are plenty of less costly attractions and activities in Oslo. These will help you make the most of your trip for many days.
So, if you’ve made up your mind, book your tickets, pack a small bag, and head over to the wonderful Oslo for a totally fun-filled and budget-friendly vacation.