Oslo travel tips: How to do one of the world's most expensive cities cheaply
When it comes to expensive cities, Oslo in Norway puts Auckland, London and Sydney to shame.
While it is possible to find budget accommodation, it's the cost of food and drink that hurts the most. Expect to pay 100NOK ($16.5) for a McDonald's combo meal and up to $135 for a three-course meal in a mid-range restaurant for two. Even a glass of wine in an upmarket hotel will set you back about $20.
So unless you want to walk around clutching your face in horror like the poor bloke in Edvard Munch's The Scream you'll need to make a budget and stick to it.
1. MASTER THE AIRPORT TRANSFER
Entry to the tightwad club begins with one rule – Never. Take. Taxis – a rule that should be hung around the neck of every visitor to Oslo. While a taxi from Oslo Airport Gardermoen to a city hotel will sting you for $150, a standard train ticket from airport to Central Station costs $14 and takes only 25 minutes (better value than the much advertised Flytoget Airport Express Train, which costs twice as much and is only five minutes faster). See nsb.no
2. BUY THE OSLO PASS
The Oslo Pass is the penny pincher's best pal. Available in 24-hour ($55), 48-hour ($80) or 72-hour ($103) cards, the pass gives free entry to more than 30 museums and attractions, free travel on public transport including Metro and local trains, buses, boats and trams, (zones 1 and 2, but not airport line) and free parking in municipal car parks. The pass also offers some discounts on attractions, but for the true Uncle Scrooge, FREE is the word you're looking for. See visitoslo.com
3. EAT ON THE CHEAP
On the extreme cheapskates tour of Oslo you don't eat when you're hungry, you eat when you find something cheap. Deli de Luca (a deli-style 7-Eleven) is one of the cheapest chains in town. Grab a pasta, salad or baguette (about $8) and sit in one of the many parks. You'll also want to check out Mathallen Oslo, an indoor food hall in the hipsterish suburb of Grunerlokka with more than 30 shops specialising in local produce (good value for the quality and fun-factor). For food on the go try one of the food trucks – Go'Grilla for burgers and 4Gringos for Mexican-style street food. Or a couple of slices of Peppes Pizza and a soft drink will cost about $16. See delideluca.no; mathallenoslo.no; gogrilla.no
4. CONSIDER CAMPING
Accommodation costs can be as high as the surrounding hills, but you can find bargains (relatively speaking) on Airbnb. Oslo also has a range of pensions, guesthouses and hostels, but a city camp ground is cheaper again. Bogstad Camping (with caravan, motorhome and tent sites, as well as cabins) is an easy 9-kilometer bus ride from the city centre and is open all year, while Ekerberg Camping is open over the summer. If you are totally skint you can always pitch a tent for free in the forest or on the island of Langoyene (max two nights). See bogstadcamping.no; ekebergcamping.no
5. GET YOUR VIKING ON
If you have a liking for Vikings take the boat from Pier 3 (behind the City Hall, runs May to October) or bus (year round) to Bygdoy, Oslo's recreational and museum area. Here you'll find the Viking Ship Museum, home to the world's two best-preserved Viking ships (Tune and Gokstad) as well as smaller vessels, tools, textiles and household utensils. Oslo's Historical Museum also has a permanent exhibition that covers the viking age, with a focus on the vikings' lives as farmers, traders and warriors (both free with the Oslo Pass). See khm.uio.no
6. ENJOY (NAKED) ART IN THE PARK
Writhing bodies, angry babies, bulging boobs and bottoms – life at its naked, messy, magnificent best. This is the Vigeland Sculpture Park, the work of one man, Gustav Vigeland (1869-1943) who not only created the 212 sculptures, but also designed the park. The focal point is The Monolith, a Tower-of-Babel-like pillar of bodies, carved from a single block of granite, all climbing and clambering over each other as they reach for the sky. Open day and night, year round (park is always free, museum is additional or free with Oslo Pass). See vigeland.museum.no
7. JOIN THE CULTURE CLUB
Start with The National Gallery (free on Thursdays or with Oslo Pass, closed Mondays) home to Norway's largest public art collection including Edvard Munch's The Scream. If you don't have the Oslo Pass the $16 entry fee also includes entry to the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design, Museum of Contemporary Art, and the National Museum – Architecture making it excellent value. Other museums of note (either free or free with Oslo Pass) include the Norway Resistance Museum, Munch Museum, Film Museum, Kon-Tiki Museum and the Museum of Natural History. See nasjonalmuseet.no.
8. FIND SOME PEACE
While Nobel Prizes for physics, chemistry, medicine, economics and literature are awarded by Swedish committees, the Peace Prize is awarded by a Norwegian committee and handed out in Oslo each December. The Nobel Peace Centre (free with Oslo Pass) is a mixture of high-tech, changing and permanent exhibitions that promote interest in issues relating to peace. Even if you don't go inside, check out Unknown Numbers, a 60-metre wall of art paying tribute to freedom of speech adjacent to the centre. See nobelpeacecenter.org
9. HIT THE STREETS
From Central Station head north-east along the Akerselva River, an 8-kilometre hike that leads past DOGA – The Norwegian Centre for Design and Architecture (free), the creative hub of Vulkan and any number of small neighbourhoods selling vintage and second-hand goods. Another great walk is along the harbour, through Akershus Fortress and up and over the iceberg-like Opera House (while tours and performances will cost, you can walk across the marble-clad roof for free). See doga.no; forsvarsbygg.no/festningene; operaen.no
10. GET OUT OF TOWN
Catch Metro 1 to the Holmenkollen Ski Jump, museum and tower (free entry with Oslo Pass, simulator and zip line extra). Rebuilt 19 times since 1892, today's soaring metal masterpiece looks more like a work of art than a sports venue. For hiking trails and bike tracks catch the boat (May-October, free with Oslo Pass) or bus (year round) to Bygdoy. Island hopping in the Oslo Fjord is another summertime option, with ferries chugging between Radhusbrygge, Hovedoya, Lindoya, Nakholmen, Bleikoya, Gressholmen and Langoyene (free with Oslo Pass). See skiforeningen.no
Kerry van der Jagt travelled with the assistance of Lindblad Expeditions.