I love Oslo. I’ve been traveling there since 1990, when I met up with a friend and her family for New Years Eve, and while studying at the University of Oslo for two summers in 2002 and 2003 I got to know the city well. Since then I’ve returned a few times to see friends, but never before with kids.
When my son chose to visit the LEGO factory in Billund, Denmark, for his annual trip with me, I added a stop in Oslo for two days – just long enough to give him a taste of one of my favorite cities, and from a practical perspective a good place to get over jet lag before starting our Inside Tour with LEGO. VisitOSLO graciously provided us with two Oslo Passes, which covered all of our transportation and museum entrances. I really liked using the passes – they gave us freedom to use the public transportation (metro, street cars and busses) without worrying about individual tickets, and they encouraged us to visit more museums than we otherwise would have. If you’re planning on really exploring the city for a few days and visiting several museums, I highly recommend purchasing the passes. And the Oslo Pass is even available through an app, which is pretty cool.
In our roughly 47 hours in the city, we did A LOT! Here are my seven-year-old’s favorite seven activities:
1) Grilling at Sognsvann
We met up with a friend on a Sunday evening and headed up to Sognsvann, a lake/nature area very close to the city. It’s located at the end of one of the T-bane (metro) lines, so it’s easily accessible from anywhere. Nothing is more Norwegian than heading to a park in the evening and grilling hot dogs and steaks with friends, taking full advantage of the long summer days. And even if you don’t have friends in Oslo it’s easy to do, since any convenience store sells one-time-use grills. Just buy a grill, get some matches, and buy some meat. My son ran around for hours with my friend’s kids, we ate near the lake, and we finished with ice cream from the small stand near the entrance.
2) Fram Museum
My son loved the Fram Museum – dedicated to Norway’s history of arctic and antarctic exploration. The building is built around the world’s strongest wooden ship, the Fram. We were able to explore the ship and, even better, play with the interactive exhibits throughout the museum. My son tested his strength by pulling a “pack” – which gave him a feel for just how difficult polar exploration is. He tested his accuracy by shooting. And he tested his reflexes to see if he is fast enough to survive a polar bear attack (he isn’t). There’s also a refrigerated section where you can get a feel for truly how cold it was on the ship.
3) Holmenkollen Ski Jump
I’ve been up to Holmenkollen at least a dozen times over the years – both in winter and in summer. There’s an amazing view of the city from the top of the ski jump, and it’s just really fun to explore a ski jump – not something that I do every day in the States! Instead of heading straight in and taking the elevator to the top of the jump, we explored the landing area and viewing stands and found the cross-country and biathlon areas as well. My son loved it all, and pocketed several shell casings from the shooting range. And it’s only about 15 minutes from the center of the city, right on a T-bane line, so very easy to get to.
4) Viking Ship Museum
Yep, this was a pretty easy one to guess. What seven-year-old boy isn’t going to love a museum that houses three original Viking ships, all at least 1100 years old? It’s a very simple museum, and we probably didn’t spend more than twenty minutes inside, but my son loved it – and it definitely spurred his imagination. For more on the Viking Ship Museum, PointsandTravel has a great article here.
5) The Kon-Tiki Museum
For those who don’t know, Thor Heyerdahl sailed from Peru to French Polynesia in 1947 on a raft that he built out of native materials – to prove that pre-Columbian people could have made it to Polynesia. This museum houses his original raft as well as large replicas of Moai from Easter Island. The Moai were the hit with my son – since we visited Easter Island just last year – but he also thought the raft was pretty cool.
6) Norway vs. Sweden at Ullevaal Stadium
It was perfect timing that there happened to be a Friendly taking place between Norway and Sweden, traditional rivals, while we were in town. This was my son’s first international football experience and we had fun at the game, despite the sun shining in our eyes for the first half – apparently the more knowledgeable fans know what side to sit on! The game finished with a zero-zero tie, so not super-exciting, but it was still a fun event. If you’re heading to Oslo, check out the VisitOSLO calendar of events just in case something like this, or a major concert, is taking place while you’re there.
7) Frogner Park and the Vigeland Statues
Frogner park is probably my single favorite place in the world. Every trip to Oslo I drop my bags at my hotel and then head straight to the park. I’ve walked around the park in the snow. I’ve taken off my shoes and walked in the fountains when asked to do so by brides-to-be before their weddings. I’ve grilled with friends. I’ve studied there. I love walking among Gustav Vigeland’s statues and tracing the cycle of life. My son didn’t fall in love with the park (I’ll give him time), but he still liked seeing the statues, jumping off the steps, running around the grassy areas, watching the street performers and smelling the lilacs (thanks to a late spring).
We also explored the city a lot, enjoyed ice cream on multiple occasions, walked around Aker Brygge, visited the National Gallery to see Munch’s The Scream, and visited the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History to see the Stave Church and get lefse. The only problem was that they don’t make lefse on weekdays – which was really disappointing since that’s my favorite lefse anywhere! Overall it was a great two days, and my son is already saying that he wants to go back. Highly recommended for a few days with kids!
Kid Friendly: Very
Level of Difficulty: Easy
Airline/Routing: United LA-Newark-Oslo. Then we continued on to Billund, Denmark with an easy direct flight on SAS.
Hotel: Park Inn by Radisson. The location is great – an easy walk from the train station and very close to the Stortinget T-bane stop – but it’s a fairly generic hotel. I used Carlson points for a free room for two nights.
Total Trip Length: Two Days
Days of School Missed: Zero (summer break)
Ways To Bring the Cost Down: Oslo is expensive, however we didn’t spend more than $120 for the entire two days. My friend treated us to dinner our first night – the grilling at Sognsvann. On our second day we bought a pizza at Peppes that was big enough for both lunch and dinner. The hotel was free using points, and it included breakfast. The Norway-Sweden football tickets were only $40 or so because of a child discount. And VisitOSLO provided us with Oslo Passes. If we had paid for the Oslo Passes it would have added $91 – not a lot given the pass benefits, and we would have paid more buying all tickets piecemeal.