Norway has earned a bit of a reputation as an expensive travel destination, and while it can be pretty affordable to fly to Norway from Ireland, cities like the country’s capital Oslo can often raise the bar when it comes to your travel spend. Despite the famous fjords and wonderful natural beauty that awaits visitors to Norway, this reputation for being an expensive travel destination can put many people off ever setting foot on Norwegian soil. I wanted to investigate for myself and see if it was at all possible to visit Oslo on a budget. The truth is, I really did not know a lot about the city and when I told friends I would be travelling there, the not-so-helpful travel tips I was given included, “I hope you have a healthy bank balance” and “Eating in McDonald’s might be your best option, Janet!”.
I am happy to say I have returned with my bank balance still in a somewhat healthy state and I stayed as far away from McDonald’s as possible, instead choosing to dig into some traditional Norwegian cuisine and keeping warm with freshly made waffles and hot chocolate. Having just spent three magical days in Oslo, I would like to share with you my tips for making each and every Krona stretch, and not letting high prices hinder your impression of this truly beautiful city.
6 Top Tips For Exploring Oslo On A Budget
1. Be flexible with your flights
If you’re looking save a bit of money on flights, try to be flexible with the dates you are flying and the airport you fly into. Oslo Rygge is the airport which most budget airlines fly into and you can get return flights from Dublin for just €38. The airport is located 55 minutes South of the city and there are regular buses that will drop you off right in the centre of Oslo for just €16 each way.
2. Purchase the Oslo Pass
One of the best value city passes I have come across, the Oslo Pass was a real God send. You can either buy a 24, 48 or 72 hour pass and it will let you travel for free on all public transport within Oslo, as well as allow you free entrance into all of Oslo’s brilliant museums and attractions, as well as a 20% discount on many of Oslo’s best known pubs and restaurants. Having the pass also made our stay so much easier as we never had to worry about buying metro tickets and struggling with the language barrier.
My favourite museum that we visited was the Nobel Peace Center. It was one of the most fascinating places I have ever visited and the photography exhibition was a real eye-opener. It wasn’t until I actually entered the museum that I learned that the Nobel Peace Prize originated in Oslo and is handed out in the city every year. Other museums will worth a visit include the Fram Polar Museum and the Viking Ship Museum, all located very close to each other.
3. Research the best nightlife spots
While it’s all well and good to say “Oh, we just won’t drink for the weekend”, the reality is a time may arise after a day or two or nonstop sightseeing where you crave for nothing but a cold pint or a nice glass of wine. I know this, because it’s exactly what happened to me!! With the average pint of beer in an Oslo bar costing upwards of €10, just looking at the menu can be enough to make you want to cry. After a little bit of research and an hour strolling the streets of Oslo in the snow, I eventually found an area of the city known for been a lot cheaper than the main tourist hot spots.
Grünerløkka is the closest you will come to a ‘cheap, student area’ in Oslo and it is filled with trendy new bars that won’t break the bank. Two of the cheapest bars in Oslo, Rye’s and Grünerhagen, can be found within close proximity of each other and serve beers for under €7 with pumping music that would persuade even the shyest visitor up dancing.
Another option is to combine an attraction with having a drink, something you can do at the Magic Ice bar. For around €22, you get entrance to the ice bar, a warm jacket and gloves to wear for the duration of your visit and one free drink of your choice. While still expensive, it was a really amazing experience and I felt my money was much better spent here than at a regular bar. The walls were adorned with ice and snow sculptures, taking the shape of some of Edvard Munch’s most famous paintings, including his most famous painting, The Scream.
4. Pick your restaurants carefully
Eating on a budget in Norway can seem like an impossible task at first, but once you shop around a bit and do your research you will soon discover there are a few places here and there that cater to those not wishing to break the bank. While not exactly traditional Norwegian food, places like Peppes Pizza, Freddy Fuego’s Burrito Bar and Munchies Torggata will all fill you up for less than €15.
5. Choose cheaper activities
While well aware that there were ski resorts less than 30 minutes from Oslo by train, I also knew they would cost me an arm and a leg. To gain access to the slopes, rent a snowboard and buy a lift pass (within clothing rental) will set you back around €100. As this was definitely not in our budget, we instead decided to go further up the mountain to Korketrekkeren and rent some toboggans. At only €13 for a full day rental, sledding was the best value and most fun activity we did over the long weekend in Oslo.
On your way back from the mountain, be sure to get off the train at the Holmenkollen metro stop to pay a visit to the world’s oldest Ski museum and the olympic ski jump located there. As luck would have it, the World Cross Country Skiing championships and the annual Oslo Ski Festival was taking place there during our visit, creating a real party atmosphere.
6. Explore the city on foot
One of the best ways to explore Oslo is by foot…and the bonus is that it’s totally free. The city is not as big as other European cities, but is still equally charming. Walking down to the port, you will pass by the waterfront which is filled with beautiful old buildings, small boutique shops with small candles and torches lighting outside to welcome you inside to the warmth of the store. Be sure to check out the Royal Palace, the Norwegian National Opera House and Akershus Castle during your walking tour, all of which also look incredible when lit up at night time. Some attractions within the city are also free to enter, including Vigeland Sculpture Park, one of the most visited sites in all of Norway.
So these are my top tips for exploring Oslo on a budget. It’s a city with so much charm that is worth taking time to explore. With cheap flights from Dublin, and lots of ways to save on your spending, maybe it’s time you gave Oslo a go and finally set foot on Norwegian soil. Check out the latest Oslo hotel deals here.
While exploring Oslo, I also got the chance to try my hand at the sport of Bandy. You can check out how I got on in the video below, and reads about my Bandy experience here.
About the Author: Janet Newenham is a travel writer at Journalist on the Run. Janet is currently on the travel adventure of a lifetime as she travels from her home city of Cork to Cape Town in South Africa, without boarding a plane. You can follow Janet’s adventures on journalistontherun.com or by following her on Twitter and Instagram.