Norway is one of the most beautiful countries in Scandinavia, but it’s also one of the most expensive to visit. Spending a weekend in the vibrant, cosmopolitan city of Oslo can be thrilling, but it can bust your travel budget. Here are some savvy ways to trim down your expenses while getting the most out of your time in Oslo.
What to Do
This destination has beautiful green spaces right in the city. Start by taking a walk along the green trails that run alongside the Aker River (Akerselva) — called “Oslo’s green lung.” You’ll pass waterfalls, old mills, cafés, and riverside lawns in this peaceful, bohemian area of the city. Another outdoor highlight is the free-to-visit Vigeland Sculpture Park, featuring two hundred sculptures representing the lifework of Gustav Vigeland, alongside tree-lined walkways, small lakes, and fountains.
If you’re visiting during the off-season between October and April, many museums offer free admission — but there are a few institutions that don’t charge entry all year long. The National Gallery, home to Norway’s largest public art collection, and City Hall Gallery, where the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded every December), are just two examples. The Norwegian Centre for Design and Architecture, Oslo Cathedral, and Oslo City Museum are all free, too.
There are always plenty of free or low-cost events in the city (which the Oslo tourism office does a great job of tracking), but we especially love celebrating the autumn equinox in September, when a five-mile stretch of the Akerselva is lit by 3,500 torches. Other free festivities during this time include light sculpture displays, music, dance, and art installations.
Where to Eat
There are few ways around it: Dining out in Oslo is expensive. Even at fast-food places, a meal could average 105 Norwegian kroner (about $19 per person). For better value, visit local markets and delis, where you’ll get a chance to see what the locals are bringing home. We like Farmers’ Market Oslo, which is held on alternating Saturdays at Valkyrie plassand at Birkelunden, and Delicatessen Tapas Bar is arguably the most popular deli in town. Or, grab a burger from the Go’Grilla Gourmet Street Food truck for 95 NOK ($12). This might seem pricey by U.S. standards, but it’s a good deal in Norway.
Find that you’re craving a sit-down experience? Bistro Brocante is a smart choice for good food with relatively reasonable prices. The French bistro’s lunch menu will run 89-159 NOK ($10-$20) and dinner 99-289 NOK ($12-$35). Light meals from 79-169 NOK are served all day.
Oslo is bike-friendly, especially when the weather is nice. Companies like Viking Biking offer daily bike rentals for less than 125 NOK ($15) and have a variety of tours you can join. There’s also the Oslo pass — covering public transportation, museums, walking tours, and other discounts — from 320 NOK for 24 hours to 590 NOK for 72 hours.
Where to Stay
Avoid high hotel rates by choosing an independently run bed-and-breakfast. Try Ellingsens Pensjonat in a lively neighborhood that’s a 10-minute walk from main street Karl Johan, the Royal Palace, and the National Theatre. Single and double rooms with private baths start from 700 NOK ($86) and 990 NOK ($122) per night respectively. Home rentals are also popular — you can easily find apartments for 995 NOK ($123) for two per night in the city.