Norway is known for stunning natural beauty with its fjords and forests, waterfalls and Northern Lights. Oslo is all of this and more with its world class museums and architecture on display throughout the city and along its beautiful waterfront. The city is extremely family friendly and easy to navigate using your feet or public transportation. The Norwegian capital will delight in many ways, but we’re sharing 7 things families will love to do in Oslo, Norway.
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7 Things Families Will Love to Do in Oslo, Norway
1. Explore the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History
An easy and enjoyable way to reach this museum is to take a ferry to the Bygdøy peninsula, a service that runs March through October. The ferry leaves every 20-30 minutes from the pier and makes two stops: one at Dronningen (for the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History and Viking Ship Museum) and at Bygdøynes (for the Kon-Tiki, Fram, and Norwegian Maritime Museum). There’s a bus that runs year round if you prefer that option.
No matter how you arrive, you will be blown away by Norway’s largest collection of cultural history. Mostly outdoor, with some indoor exhibits, the property features 160 residences from different time periods and places throughout Norway as well as a complete stave church from Gol dated to 1200. As guests walk through the property they are greeted by people dressed in traditional costumes performing daily tasks such as chopping lumber and tending farm animals. This was a fabulous way to learn about Norway’s history and traditions while enjoying the outdoors. Those with small children will appreciate having the free space to run around.
2. Head to the Holmenkollen Ski Museum and Ski Jump tower
What a great place to bring your kids! A quick metro ride out of town to the Holmenkollen metro stop and you will enjoy Oslo from an entirely different perspective! Holmenkollen hosts World Cup Nordic skiing events every year and has the world’s oldest skiing museum with over 4000 years of skiing history on display. There is even a ski simulator allowing visitors to feel what a ski jump would be like! The latest attraction is the Kollensvevet, a zipline over the ski jump which I imagine is quite a thrill if you can stomach it!
3. Visit Akershus Fortress with kids for a special memory
If your kids have seen the movie “Frozen”, you will want to make a stop here. Even if they haven’t, it’s worth a visit to this medieval fortress on the waterfront. This medieval castle and royal residence was built in 1299 and went through many fortifications to protect the city from sieges over the years. In the 19th century the fortress was used as a prison, but the majority of the complex still retains much of its grandeur and visitors will enjoy learning about the history of the castle and exploring the banquet halls and royal rooms. Note the wallpaper pattern in the banquet hall is the same found in Akershus Royal Banquet Hall at Walt Disney World. I only noticed when I visited WDW on a subsequent trip. It’s fun to connect the dots between the two. Walking the grounds of the fortress is free, there is only an admission fee to enter the buildings.
4. Visit the Fram Polar Ship Museum
The Fram was the first wooden ship ever built for Norway to make polar expeditions and it still holds the records for sailing the farthest north and farthest south. At the museum, visitors can go on board the Fram and learn how the crew was able to survive the two most dangerous places on Earth, the Arctic and Antarctic. Visitors can step back and time to see what life was like with the polar simulator. There’s other ships on the premises, the Gjøa and the Maud. Young explorers will love the interactive exhibits and everyone will be surprised by these tales of survival. Located on the nearby Bygdøy peninsula.
5. Check out the Viking Ship Museum
The Viking Ship Museum is also located in Bygdøy and houses Viking ships found around Norway and in Oslo harbor dating to the 9th century. The ships were recovered from Viking burial ships and visitors can learn of their history and see them from raised viewing platforms. The museum is not very large, but worth a visit when combined with a tour of one of the other nearby museums the Kon Tiki or the Fram.
6. Stop in the Kon Tiki Museum
In 1947 Thor Heyerdahl gained worldwide fame when he sailed across the Pacific Ocean on a balsawood raft named Kon-Tiki. At the Kon-Tiki museum, visitors can learn about Thor’s voyage and his subsequent expeditions on reed boats, the Ra and the Tigris. Families might enjoy watching the movie “Kon-Tiki” before heading to the museum to put everything in context. Not a big museum, but fascinating to think Thor was able to conquer the ocean on a raft.
7. Stroll around downtown Oslo
Oslo is a very walkable city and our kids enjoyed strolling along and taking in the sights. We walked from the magnificent Oslo Opera House (where you can walk on the roof), over to the central train station, and down the main thoroughfare, Karl Johans Gate. Along the way we stumbled across a beach volleyball tournament, street performers, a gelato shop (where we stopped of course), a book store, and finally the Royal Palace.
It was a long walk, but we took our time and the kids enjoyed every moment. If you’re looking for a park, the Vigeland Sculpture Park is worth exploring with its whimsical sculptures and grand open spaces. Grab a picnic, hop on a tram, and explore at your leisure. The kids are sure to enjoy the freedom of running around the park.
Things to know about Oslo
Many of the attractions I mentioned can be visited for free with an Oslo Pass. This includes admission to over 30 museums and attractions, free public transportation, free parking in public car parks, and many other perks. If you don’t wish to buy an Oslo pass, many attractions offer discounted family passes to their attractions.
Oslo is expensive, but we found reasonable lodging for our family of five at Thon Hotel Panorama which included breakfast and was within easy walking distance of the main train station and the central downtown area. Head to Peppe’s for pizza which can be shared as an inexpensive meal.
Getting to/from the airport is easy with Fly to Get. It is a train service that leaves from the central train station to the airport and vice versa. We found taxis to be cost prohibitive for our family of five, so we used this service instead.
Oslo is a beautiful place to explore on your own or with your family. Before our visit I wasn’t quite sure the city was be kid friendly, but as you can see, there is quite a bit to explore.