Today – Things to do in Oslo with kids and making savings with Oslo Pass. Our 3 days in Oslo.
‘Can I hold your hand, Mum?’ whispers my 10 year old nervously as our descent into Stockholm starts to get a bit hairy.
‘Of course, darling.’ I reply, trying to convey a level of confidence with my tone that I don’t really have.
This trip is full of firsts for the two of us. Our first trip to Scandinavia, our first trip abroad without the safety net of a second parent on hand and our first without the constant entertainment provided by younger siblings, so it’s not just the unpredictable rolling of the 737’s approach that has my stomach closer to my throat than I’d like.
After a quick and hassle free change in Stockholm it’s only a short hop to Oslo and before you know it we’re on the Flytoget airport express train heading into the city centre. The warm autumn sun is shining so we stop for a drink at one of the many open air cafe bars surrounding the station. We take a few minutes to congratulate ourselves on getting this far with no issues and decide not to tempt fate by trying to figure out the trams so opt to get a taxi to our apartment.
[We flew from Manchester Airport with Norwegian. We changed in Stockholm on the way out but flew direct on the way back. Flights available from £53 one way. Flytoget airport express runs very frequently, taking around 20 minutes to Oslo Central Station. Tickets are around £18 but children travel free with a paying adult.]
Parkveien 4 – The Apartments Company
I had pretty low expectations of the apartment. I booked it entirely on the basis that it was significantly cheaper than the mid-range hotels close to the city centre while still including wi-fi and kitchen facilities. We wouldn’t be there that much so how bad could it be, right? As a result, I was quite prepared for it to be tiny or not in the best state or for the area to be a bit…erm…shady but how wrong I was!
You check in at the Apartments Company offices over the road. This took all of thirty seconds with a lovely lady who spoke perfect English (thankfully this turned out to often be the case during our stay). Our studio apartment was on the 4th floor of a completely modernised period building. It was made up of an entrance hallway with lots of storage, a spacious shower room and then the main room which comfortably fitted two twin beds, a sitting area with sofa, coffee table and TV, a dining area with table and chairs and a well equipped kitchen including dishwasher, oven, hob and coffee machine. With two large windows overlooking the street, it was bright, clean, comfortable, a good size and quiet. Jackpot!
Waiting for the other shoe to drop, we set out to look around the area and find something for dinner. Far from being dodgy, our road ran straight to the corner of the Slottsparken, the public park surrounding the Royal Palace, and Hegdehaugsveien, a busy street full of upmarket shops and a great variety of restaurants. We had a tram stop directly outside our building (3 stops/10 minutes to central station), a little supermarket on the corner and were less than 100 yards from the Litteraturhuset and Lorry, just about the most Norwegian restaurant you’ll see complete with moose head and a stuffed bear.
I normally do a lot of research when choosing accommodation. This is one time when booking blind and hoping for the best has really paid off. We’d definitely stay here again.
[A 3 night stay for two at Parkveien 4 costs from around £215. Smaller one person studios and larger one bedroom apartments are also available. More details can be found on the Apartments Company website.]
Things to do in Oslo with kids
There is no shortage of things to do in Oslo with kids. However, we all know it’s not the cheapest place to visit. We’d been given an Oslo Pass for the weekend by the lovely folk at Visit Oslo. Oslo Pass allows you to access over 30 of the city’s top attractions. You also get free travel on public transport and the ferries to the museum at Bygdoy. There’s also a selection of free or discounted sightseeing tours. In addition, it gives you 20% off at a number of restaurants.
[A three day Oslo Pass costs about £69 for an adult, £35 for a child. You can find full details at the Visit Oslo website.]
I swear by the Lonely Planet series. On this trip their Pocket Oslo guide was really useful. Small enough to fit in my handbag but packed full of everything we needed including a fold out map, lists of the top attractions by area and some suggested itineraries for different lenghts of stay.
A great thing about travelling with E is that he’s old enough to take part in deciding what we do. I can’t say I’m always 100% keen on the things he prioritises. Finding Pokemon tends to feature strongly. Sampling local sweets is another favourite. Having said that he’s not always enthusiastic about my choices either. I know that sounds like a recipe for disaster. Actually, it’s a lovely opportunity to work as a team and see things from each others perspective. So here’s what we decided to do with our 3 days in Oslo:
Slottsparken and the Palace
Oslo’s Royal Palace is right in the heart of the city so it’s easy to visit. Its surrounded by a lovely park which we really enjoyed walking around. E particularly liked the children’s sculpture park where artists have brought a selection of children’s drawings to life. You can tour the palace itself although we just enjoyed it from the outside with an icecream.
[Access to the park is free. Adult tickets to tour the palace are around £13. Tours are run in English several times a day.]
Oslo City Centre
Oslo is a really compact city and easy to navigate on foot or via the very frequent trams. It’s clean and feels really safe. We loved having a wander, taking in the different styles of buildings and stopping frequently for coffee (or coke) and cake (or icecream).
[Tram travel is free with an Oslo Pass]
Oslo’s medieval fortress and castle was constructed from 1299 at the end of the headland and played a role in protecting Oslo for many years. The site now also houses the Norwegian Resistance Museum, the Armed Forces Museum and a visitor centre.
The Norwegian Resistance Museum was particularly interesting. I’ve studied the war a fair bit over the years but it’s always been from a rather ‘british-centric’ perspective so learning about life in Norway under occupation and particularly the role played by the resistance in hampering the Nazi nuclear programme was really enlightening.
The view across the fjord and to the countryside beyond was pretty great too!
[Entry to the Fort is free. Tickets for the Norwegian Resistance Museum are about £5.50 for adults, £2.25 for children or free with Oslo Pass.]
The National Gallery is home to arguably Norway’s most famous painting, The Scream by Edvard Munch, but do make time to look around the rest of the collection too. With everything from ancient Greek sculpture to the modern day you’re sure to find something that interests all the family.
I loved chatting to E as we went round. Seeing all the paintings from his perspective, how he focussed on things that would never have occurred to me, was a lovely insight,
[Adult entry is about £11 with children going free. Entry is free with an Oslo Pass]
One of our favourite spots in Oslo, you don’t have to attend a performance to enjoy this amazing building. It seems to change shape as you walk round it, never the same building twice. You can also step inside the foyer for a coffee stop. The real treat though is following the sloping, white tiles all the way to the roof. The view all around is fabulous.
E loved exploring all the corners and angles so much we actually went three times in the end!
[Opera tickets can be found here, book well in advance. Access to the building and the roof is free.]
Viking Ship Museum
You can’t come to Oslo without visiting the Viking Ship Museum. A quick ferry ride takes you over to the museum peninsula of Bygdoy. There you’ll find a handful of great museums but Vikings were top of our ‘things to do in Oslo with kids’ list.
The museum is arranged around three incredibly well preserved ships. Each had been used in ceremonial burial so also contained a huge number of artifacts that tell us a lot about their lives. The exhibits along with a film projected on the ceiling in one room really bring Vikings to life. One not to be missed.
[Tickets for the Viking Ship Museum are about £9 with children going free. Free entry with Oslo Pass]
Norwegian Cultural Museum
Just round the corner from the Viking Ship Museum you’ll find the Norwegian Cultural Museum. This open air museum showcases a huge collection of houses and buildings brought together from across Norway. They represent all different eras of Norwegian history from the thirteenth century onwards and give a fascinating insight into what life was like.
[Adult tickets are around £12, children £4 or free with Oslo Pass]
Vigeland Sculpture Park
The Vigeland Sculpture Park is home to over 200 sculptures in bronze, granite and iron representing the life’s work of Gustav Vigeland. It’s quite an impressive sight and we really enjoyed being able to get up close and look at them from all angles.
[Entry to the park is free]
Oslo attractions we missed
There are so many things to do in Oslo with kids that we were never going to be able to fit them all in. Next time we’ll definitely check out the Oslo Reptile Park, the Fram and Kon Tiki museums, the Holocaust Centre and the Holmenkollen ski tower. Check out Visit Oslo for more suggestions for your 3 days in Oslo.
All in all, I think it’s fair to say that you won’t ever have a problem finding things to do in Oslo with kids. It’s was a perfect city to the two of us to be brave together. Safe, clean and easy to navigate, 3 days in Oslo was the perfect weekend break.
With the combination of free entry and discounts (particularly on food which is expensive in the city), Oslo Pass made a big difference to the cost of the weekend. It’s worth bearing in mind that kids can get in free to a lot of places so the saving will depend on where you’re likely to visit. For adults though, I think you will almost certainly see a saving over the course of an averagely busy weekend.
[A three-day Adult Oslo Pass costs about £69. You can buy in advance on the Visit Oslo site but don’t activate them until you’re there.]
I hope that’s given you lots of ideas of things to do in Oslo with kids. I’d recommend 3 days in Oslo to anyone!
If you’re looking for travel inspiration don’t forget to check out Things to do in York with kids and Free things to do in Oslo.