I have a definite soft spot for Scandinavia, and having visited Sweden and Denmark a couple of times, I decided to take a trip to Norway. When I mentioned to friends that I was heading to Oslo, the immediate response was “Isn’t that going to be really expensive?” So it became a bit of a mission for me to try and stay in the city without spending a fortune. Here’s how I did it.
It can actually be incredibly cheap to fly to Oslo, especially if you visit in winter. A number of airlines fly from the UK, and there are some great deals (as little as £20 return!).
Most airlines arrive into Gardermoenairport, which is the closest to the city. If you fly Ryanair, you will land at Rygge or Torp, which are further out. So it’s worth bearing in mind when booking, as your flights may be cheaper with Ryanair, but you’re likely to spend more on your transfers (and spend longer travelling).
I flew into Rygge and took the Ekspressen bus to the city centre, which took about an hour (300kr/£25 return). From here it was a 10 minute bus to our accommodation in Frogner.
Oslo has an amazing transport system, with regular and nice buses, trains and tubes all over the city (even at 1am when we arrived!). You can buy tickets on board, but avoid this as it’s cheaper to buy tickets in advance from a 7 Eleven or newsagent. It’s 34kr (about £2.80) for a single journey or 90kr (£7.40) for a 24 hour ticket.
We decided to stay in an apartment so that we could reduce our costs by cooking breakfast and the occasional lunch/dinner. This was definitely a good decision as alcohol and food are probably the most expensive things in Oslo.
We popped to the local supermarket and stocked up on eggs for breakfast, snacks and some pasta. We had also bought a bottle of gin at duty free (£11 for a litre – a bargain as Norway isn’t in the EU!).
Where to eat
Obviously you don’t want to visit Oslo and spend all your time in your room, and there are some relatively inexpensive places to eat out.
There’s Rice Bowl, a Thai restaurant in the city centre, a good option as the portions are so huge that they can easily feed two people. This makes it very affordable (140KR/£6 per person for a Thai curry with rice). There’s also a vegan café – Funky Fresh Foods. The food here is delicious (and I’m not even vegan), and considering the quality is pretty reasonably priced.
Generally, the restaurants in the eastern side of the city centre are slightly cheaper than those on the west, but the prices are fairly consistent across Oslo.
When it comes to drinking there is no getting around it: booze is expensive in Oslo. However, although beer and wine are pricier than in other parts of Europe, the price of cocktails aren’t much higher. Most cocktails are priced around 110KR (£10), which isn’t far off most London bars. So it seemed like a good excuse to drink cocktails!
Things to do
Aside from food and drink, Oslo actually isn’t that expensive. There are lots of free things to do and even the paid for attractions aren’t too pricy.
Whatever time of year you go, Oslo is an incredibly beautiful city, which makes it perfect for walking. In the summer you can hike along one of the many Oslomarka trails, which take you out into nature, and in the winter there are plenty of great areas to stroll in the city.
The Aker Brygge Wharf is a perfect place to spend an afternoon, with views across to the Akershus Fortress and some lovely shops and restaurants, as well as a mall (in case you get too cold!).
Oslo has a number of parks, including the Vigeland sculpture park within Frogner Park, which features 212 sculptures by the Famous Norwegian Gustav Vigeland(free). Another arty spot is the MunchMuseum, which houses a collection of paintings, prints and drawings by Edvard Munch, including his famous work ‘The Scream’. Entrance to the museum is 100kr (£8.30).
A must see in Oslo is the Holmenkollen ski jump. Despite it being up a mountain, it’s still part of ‘zone 1’ and you can reach it on your 24 hour tube ticket. The tube ride takes you through some beautiful neighborhoods with colourful wooden houses and lovely parks.
When you reach the station, it’s a short walk to the ski jump. It costs 130KR/£10.70 to visit which includes entrance to the Holmenkollen ski museum. You can take a lift to the top of the jump, which is pretty amazing and terrifying at the same time. At the very top of the jump is an observation deck with 360 degree views of the city, which alone are worth the entrance fee.
On the waterfront in the city centre is the Oslo Opera House. This unusual building was completed in 2007 and is made of white granite and marble, which makes it look a little like an iceberg (especially in winter when the Fjord is frozen!). You can walk on and around the Opera House for great views of the city, fjord and the islands. And it’s free!
Oslo has a number of Museums, primarily based on the Bygdøypeninsular. This can be reached by ferry in the summer from the Aker Brygge Wharf, or by bus (number 30).
The Viking Ship museum is definitely worth a visit, and contains 3 Viking ships from around 800AD, two of which have been amazingly well preserved/restored. It’s only 80kr (£6.50) to get in, and the fee includes entrance to The Historical Museum too.
There was definitely something magical about Oslo in the winter, and the city had a real buzz to it. Locals don’t let the cold stop them getting outside, and there is a Norwegian saying “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes”, which definitely feels appropriate in Oslo. (Tip: If you do go to Oslo in winter – bring lots of layers!)
Having experienced the city once, I’d definitely like to go back in the summer and visit some of the islands and swim in the fjord. And now I know I can do it without spending loads of money, I definitely will!