7 Things to see & do when visiting Norway’s capital with your kids
Getting to Norway has been on my bucket list for some time. Unfortunately, my family didn’t get to see the whole country, but we did have a few days to spend in one of its coolest cities. A visit to Oslo is a great way to get a taste of Norway. The city has a quaint, quirky, and modern vibe. It’s an easy place to walk.
If you’ve got just two days, here are some spots that you should visit with your family.
Photo courtesy: Visit Oslo
1/Vigeland Sculpture Park & Museum
A visit to the Vigeland Sculpture Park will definitely be etched into your memory - for better or worse. The park contains some 200 works of art by Gustav Vigeland. And they all have one thing in common: the statues are all nudes, which both baffled and intrigued my kids. Although sculpted nearly a century ago, the men, women, and children look the same was we do today.
The most prominent piece is The Monolith which stands 55 feet tall. You’ll be able to find it easily as it’s the tallest point in the park. From a distance, it just looks like a column, but as you approach, you’ll see the detail of 121 human figures clinging to one another. This impressive work of art is carved out of one stone block and took years to complete.
Vigeland Park is one of Oslo’s most popular tourist attractions, drawing about a million visitors a year. There’s no admission fee to enter the park, and it’s open year-round, 24 hours a day.
The Vigeland Museum is located nearby and boasts a huge collection of sculptures, drawings, and woodcuts. Museum hours vary by season. Cost: Youth (under 7) Free; Youth (7-16) about $7; Adult about $14, depending on the exchange rate.
You can take a 15-minute bus or tram from the city center to get here. You’ll get off at the Frogner Park stop.
KidTripster Tip: We like checking out the local playgrounds wherever we travel. One of Oslo’s largest playgrounds is located just inside the Frogner Park gates. The large play structure is a great place for big and little kids to get some energy out. Because the park is located in a neighborhood, you may meet some locals. My daughter made friends with a girl named Henrietta, who enjoyed practicing her English while she played with my kids.
2/Oslo Opera House
When you think about an iconic opera house, the Sydney Opera House likely comes to mind. But the Oslo Opera House should not be overlooked and is unique in its own right. You can walk right on its roof!
My kids were skeptical as we walked over to the Opera House. It’s just a building after all. But once we arrived, they got it. We climbed the steps to the roof and took in the views of the city and the Oslo Fjord below. We took a ton of photos, because at every turn, there seemed to be an even better photo op. Then we ran back down… on the roof!
Getting to the Opera House is easy. It’s just across the street from Oslo’s Central Station. There’s no cost to wander around outside, inside or on top of the building.
KidTripster Tip: After leaving the Opera House, take a walk along the waterfront. You’ll get some more pretty views, and you’ll find food carts and a bar with outdoor seating.
There’s a compelling outdoor art installation here. You can’t miss it. It’s an A-frame structure called We Are Still the Same by artist Kaarina Kaikkonen. The artist strung 1,200 shirts from people in Norway and Finland. If you’re lucky to visit the installation on a breezy day, you’ll see - and hear - hundreds of shirts flapping in the wind.
KidTrispter Tip: Feel like a sauna? There’s a floating one in this area.
Photo courtesy: Visit Oslo
3/Nobel Peace Center
The Nobel Peace Center tells the story of the Nobel Peace Prize and the people and organizations that have received the award. One of the permanent exhibits is The Nobel Field, which is a collection of all of the Nobel Peace laureates dating back more than a century. Their names and photos are displayed on small screens along with information about each person. You’ll see familiar faces like President Barak Obama, Martin Luther King, Jr., the Dalai Lama, Malala Yousafzai, and many more inspirational people.
There’s also a children’s program. Kids can pick up an activity leaflet and follow along a trail, learning about refugees. It challenges kids to think about their own lives and homes.
This museum is small. You’ll probably only spend one to two hours here. Cost: Youth (under 16) Free; Adult about $14, depending on the exchange rate.
KidTripster Tip: Depending on your plans, you may consider purchasing an Oslo Pass. The passes can be purchased in increments of 24, 48 and 72 hours. The pass gives free entry to 30 different museums and attractions including the Nobel Peace Center. It also provides free public transportation and free entry to outdoor swimming pools, in addition to other discounts.
Photo courtesy: Nobel Peace Center
4/The Viking Ship Museum
When visiting Norway, seeing some Viking history is a must. One of Oslo’s more interesting museums is The Viking Ship Museum. It gives you an up-close view of Viking life. There are three large ships on display. All of the vessels were used at sea before being dragged onto land and used in elaborate burial rituals. Wealthy people were buried with their ships and earthly possessions. Inside the burial mounds, scientists found items like tapestries and weapons. The ships and the artifacts were carefully excavated and preserved.
The museum has an immersive visual experience that explains the lifecycle of a viking ship. The interactive film uses the ceilings and walls as a screen.
This museum, too, is small. You’ll probably spend an hour wandering around. Cost; Youth (under 18) Free; Adult about $12, depending on the exchange rate. An admission ticket also provides you entrance to the Historical Museum in Oslo; the ticket is valid for 48 hours.
KidTripster Tip: The Viking Ship Museum is one of several museums located on the peninsula of Bygdøy. You can take a bus from the city center. However, a ferry is a fun option. The ferry runs every 20 to 30 minutes, and the ride takes about 15 minutes. There are two stops. The Viking Ship Museum and Norsk Folkemuseum are the first stop. From the ferry stop, you’ll walk about 10 minutes to the museum. There are street signs that point the way.
You can purchase a round-trip ticket at the ticket office located on the dock at City Hall Pier 3. Cost: Youth about $4, Adult about $9, depending on the exchange rate. Travel is free if you have an Oslo Pass. Other museums on the Bygdøy peninsula include the Kon-Tiki Museum, the Norsk Maritimt Museum, and the Holocaust Center.
Photo courtesy: The Viking Ship Museum
When you think museum, you probably picture artifacts behind glass. Yes, there’s some of that at the Norsk Folkemuseum, but most of the museum is actually outdoors. This is a fascinating open-air exhibit that relies on 150+ structures to tell Norway’s history. Get a glimpse at life in Norway from about 1500 until today. You’ll see old farmsteads, an old town, even an apartment building complete with an outhouse out back. The 3-story apartment building was built in 1865. In 1998, it was torn down and reconstructed at the museum. Inside the apartment building, several furnished homes of real and fictionalized people illustrate different times, living conditions, and lifestyles in Oslo in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Also located outside the museum is The Gol Stave Church. It dates back to around 1200. It has ornate wood carvings. At one point, there were a thousand stave churches in Norway. Today, only 28 remain.
There is an indoor museum here, too. It houses exhibits about Norwegian folk art, folk dress, church art, and church history, focusing on the Protestant Reformation. There also are artifacts from the Sami people, the indigenous people of Norway’s Lapland.
We loved this unique museum. It was a fascinating way to learn Norway’s history. The kids were engaged - none of us knowing what we might find around the bend. During summer months, hosts in traditional costumes are onsite as well as farm animals. The outdoor portion of the museum stays open a little later than the indoor exhibits. You’ll definitely spend a few hours, maybe even a half day here. Cost: Youth (under 6) Free; Youth (6-15) about $5; Adult about $18; Family about $38, depending on the exchange rate. Admission is free with an Oslo Pass. This museum is located near The Viking Ship Museum. A walk between the two museums will take you about 10 minutes.
KidTripster Tip: When you arrive back at the dock, you’ll be in an area called Aker Brygge. There are lots of restaurants and shops along the waterfront. This is a good place to grab a bite and take in the beautiful view of the marina. There’s also a playground, ideal for younger children. If you want a treat, you’ll find plenty of ice cream stands along the dock.
6/Norway’s Royal Palace
The royal residence of Norway’s king and queen is perched atop a hill right on Oslo’s main thoroughfare, Karl Johans Gate. The Royal Palace is owned by the state, and it’s where the daily work of the monarch takes place. Completed in 1849, it’s surrounded by a large park with pretty statues and fountains.
Although the palace is only open for tours in the summer, you can have a look around the grounds day or night. Surprisingly, you can walk right up to the entrance. A gracious guard wearing a funny hat even took a photo with us. Visit the palace at 1:30 p.m. to see the daily changing of the guards.
You’ll know if the king is in the country by which flag is flying over the palace. There are four different flags that fly over the palace and rules determine when each is used. If the king is in Norway, the Royal Standard of Norway flag will fly.
Summer tours are given in English several times a day. The tour lasts about an hour. Cost: Youth (under 3) Free; Youth (3-12) about $12; Adult about $16, depending on the exchange rate.
7/Walk the city streets
Oslo is an easy and safe place to explore on foot. We walked along the waterfront, traipsed around downtown, and even made it over to the colorful, wooden homes in Damstredet.
We enjoyed the many statues around the city. One of them is the famous Fearless Girl statue - the same one that’s in New York City’s Financial District (but without the huge crowds). If you want to see Oslo’s girl, she’s located outside of the Grand Hotel.
During our walk around the city, we visited the famous Freia Chocolate Shop, a Norwegian institution since 1899. We snacked on pastries and had drinks along the fjord. We also enjoyed visiting the 2-story Norway House in downtown, packed floor to ceiling with Norwegian knickknacks.
KidTripster Tip: Take the Airport Express Train to and from the airport. It will drop you off at Oslo’s Central Station. There are several hotels in this area. We stayed at the Scandic Byporten located inside the train station. The rooms were tiny but accommodated our family of four. The breakfast buffet was free and full of great choices.
Airport Express Train cost: One-way about $22, Round-trip about $45, depending on the exchange rate. Kids (under 16) are free when traveling with an adult. The trip takes about 20 minutes. Taking a taxi to and from the airport will cost you more and take twice as long. You can purchase a ticket online, and it’s good for 90 days. Or you can buy it inside the train station. It’s very easy! Trains run about every 20 minutes.
KyAnn Lewis is a Portland, Oregon-based journalist, mom, and travel junkie. She’s the CVO (Chief Vacation Officer) for her family, always on the lookout for a good deal and a new destination to explore. She believes one of the most important things that you can give your kid is a passport.