If you’re on a search for the most incredible city adventure in the middle of the famous Norwegian fjords, Oslo is one beautiful choice. Mixed, modern architecture, clean facades, electric cars, Michelin restaurants, sculpture parks, Noble Prize scene and much much more. Not the cheapest city to visit in Europe, that’s correct. But, if 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.
Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking one of these links, I earn a small commission from that website at no extra cost to you. Learn more: Disclosure policy.
Climb the roof of Oslo Opera House
Walking on the gentle, marble-covered slopes of the opera theater 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 where people can enjoy multiple perspectives on the surroundings, while the marble and the white granite make the building seem to raise from the waters.
The Opera House offers a beautiful view over the city and Oslofjord, while overlooking, on the other side of the water, the harbor promenade along Langkaia street on west side of Bjorvika, the pier, Oslo harbor warehouse and SALT, an amazing place to have fun. The large and almost unnoticeable framed windows of the building 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 Norwegiana nd English.
In front of the Oslo Opera house, on the water, there floats “She Lies” a permanent installation made of stainless steel framing and glass pannels that reflects the water and changes its position according to nature changes: water level and wind. 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 famouse 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. Well you can’t touch it but you can surely get to less than 50 cm close to it.
But, in exchange, you can sit inside the Nio SUV, ES8 model, and check how it would feel to have your own Nio electric car.
The visit to Nio’s showroom can also be a beautiful architectural dive into the Scandinavian interior design. It is one ultramodern, warmly decorated space, with wood and stone accents. The Norwegian Nio Showroom is filled with cars, discussion and relaxation spaces: an open meeting room, a “playground’, a library, a store and a very nice café all disposed around a cinema-style disposed central area that connects the 2 floors, 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, authentic Norwegian chocolate manufacturer that has been making happy lots of generations of Norwegians. Since 1889.. My first contact with Freia name was during a chilly winter night when their huge advertisement sign was shinning bright down to me from a tall building on Oslo’s main street, Karl Johans Gate. On the same street, at number 31, at the ground floor of the Grand Hotel, you can find their tiny and cute historical store Freiabutikken.
In the beginning of the 20th century, the boutique used to have a lavishly elegant interior in a contemporary Louis Seize style that has been the store’s trademark for decades. The atmosphere of exclusivity made the bourgeoisie came from far and wide and waited in cues outside the store just to enjoy Freia products and their fairytale window decorations, especially at Christmas.
At that time, 50% of all the chocolate eaten in Norway came from Freia. In 1950, there was an extra long queue outside the Freiabutikken, when the chocolate rationing was abolished.
Nowadays, the store has a bright, airy and modern interior and the window exhibitions in Freiabutikken still make people stop in. A part of the windows exhibit a small 3d model of the vintage store with people dressed like in old times, flocking in.
At the interior, above the shelves there is a series of marquetry images by intarsia that show the factory and the development in the chocolate industry.
🔥 Freia fun worth some money 🔥
🔥 More to enjoy about Freia:
Guided tours @Freialand
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.
- 🕐 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 I found outstanding was the architecture of the place. It is marked by large windows, sleek steel profiles, clean, geometrical cuts, internal floor levels meeting street levels, ground floors doubled in height. The facades show a palette of colors and textures of an elegance to die for. It is generally determined by black metal, reddish bricks and creamy stone.
Most of the buildings in the area were developed between the 1980’s and early 2000, incorporating along the newly-built the amazing industrial heritage. More precisely, the 19th-century, imposing brick factories that once hosted production for naval diesel engines. And nowadays have been repurposed into retail and business, cultural spots, restaurants and fancy apartments.
Even if I visited in winter, it gave me the impression of being still quite vibrant. The ships coming and leaving the pier, lots of people walking or sitting at the industrial-chic restaurants. And surprising. 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, newest quarter, a small island filled with art. There is the striking Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art. In the exterior of Astrup Museum there is, a collection of rather awkward statues that can be visited for free.
The Oslo harbor promenade is scene for various free cultural events such as the Fjord Oslo Art Festival, but also home for beuaitful 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.
Its scarlet & fine cut austerity of the exterior is broken by sophisticated and detailed pieces of art high-ceiling rooms, huge open spaces, impressive decorations of the first part of the 20th century, coming from local artists, all together with wonderful panorama over the Oslo fjords.
Construction started in 1931 but did not open until 1950’s. Amd today, it is the scene for the famous Nobel Prize as well an amazing 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 bizzare 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-colored 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 bizzare of Vigeland’s sculptures.
And meeting Vigeland is one of the unmissable 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.
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.
🔥 Why are Vigeland’s statues naked? 🔥
To stay 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 esthetic, 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 one 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 Videland 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 area makes room for parliament meetings, while the two side wings of the building stand as two strong arms inviting people into democracy.
The almost perfect-shape yellowish bricks with light grey granite details give it a strongly elegant atmosphere. Even before I found out it was the Norwegian Parliament, each time I passed next to it, the combination of colors and textures on the façade made me want to take a picture.
Moreover, the inside is grand. Majestic stairs lead you to the first floor, artsy chandeliers are hanging down from vaulted ceilings, tall, arched windows, following the shape of the ceilings are framed by brick columns. That being said, the yellowish tint of the brick, combined with the ,sparkling details, paintings and wooden furniture is a feast for the eyes.
And the free tours just give you the opportunity to be part of the exciting daily life of this building. This is the way for you to get access to the Storting Chamber’s ground floor that resembles to a Greek theater and to the upper floor, the throne room, to the impressive Lagting Chamber used for seminars and to the Eidsvoll Gallery (an old reading room).
Step into the beautiful downtown Cathedral
Oslo Cathedral is also a dreamy, but 17-th century architectural masterpiece that can be visited at no cost. Moreover, the building is often used as a venue for organ or choir dreamy concerts with free admission. The list of events is available here.
As a cruciform church where the east-west body forms the main nave, the altarpiece is in the eastern part and an amazing organ in the western. The church passed through several restorations that partially altered the original look.
In what concerns the interior, the decoration style passed from baroque to neo-gothic and back to baroque.
The cathedral’s original baroque interior consists of three magnificent pieces: the altarpiece, the pulpit and the façade of the organ. These are the first examples of the so-called acanthus baroque in Norway, a breakthrough of this particular style for that era. A motif borrowed from the by both the Hellenes and the Romans. The organ façade passed all renovations untouched and unmoved, being kept even today.
Meanwhile, the exterior originally built in Dutch yellow brick, got all its new additions partially in red, unpainted brick.
In the 19th century, Oslo Cathedral got its current, bronze spire tower, which has since been a famous silhouette of the Oslo cityscape.
Opposite to the church tower, the eastern body of the building has been surrounded by a half square building, gently curved at corners, following the street profile: Basarene ved Oslo domkirke. This is in fact a neo-romanesque style bazaar, with a semi-private gallery margined by arcades and columns to the street. It makes the safe passage between the crowded streets and a chain 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 kegendary trolls, find old lifestyle ways by reading an old paper. Or browse the internet. And if you’ve never used a mikrofilm 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.“
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 Theater, 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 Chsristmas markets around Europe. And the entrance is free of charge.
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. From place to place, people gathered around the fire, eating some goodies, socializing. Quite cozy, while 2 reindeer heads tell jokes.
A fairy wheel lifts you up above all the fun stuff and above the beautiful Karl Johans Gate, offering a clear view of the whole city center. At the center of the fun (and 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
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 80 euro / 3 days you have free transport, free entrance to lots of museum, various discounts to a selection of Oslo restaurants and more. Includes free entrance to: Museum.. 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?.