One of the best things about Oslo is the sheer range of museums on offer. The Oslo Pass is a great way of seeing the city on the budget. It lasts for 24 hours (£28), 48 hours (£41) or 72 hours (£51) and that includes getting the holder free public transport, discounts in restaurants and free entry into around 30 museums. These museums cover a lot of different areas, meaning that there is something for everyone and, if you are ready to spend hours on end wandering between, and around, museums after museum after museum, there is a lot to learn about in Oslo.
During my weekend in the city over the last May Bank Holiday weekend, I picked out just four of the museums to visit in the space of a day and a half. Although I am sure that there was plenty I missed, I think I picked the right four.
#1. The Viking Ship Museum
The Viking Ship Museum was pretty high on my list of priorities. In fact, it probably would have been my first stop if it wasn’t for the fact that I had to make the most of the sun by island hopping on the Oslo Fjord. The time of the Vikings is an area of history I find pretty intriguing even though I know relatively little about them and have never really made much of an effort to find out more. Perhaps I will make that effort now though because the Viking Ship Museum was one of the coolest places I have ever been to.
It’s a relatively small museum, which I liked – it was short and sweet- and it contained two (and a half) Viking ships which had been used as burial ships for some important figures. There was also a room filled with the items buried with the deceased, for them to take with them into the afterlife. These included food, tools, equipment and chariots. Unfortunately, many of these items had been looted over the years and, sadly, everything that is left is decaying from the inside whilst scientists rush to try and find a way to get it to stick around for as long as possible. With that in mind, it’s not like it’s going to disappear tomorrow, but don’t leave it too many years before you go.
#2. Norwegian Folk Museum
Many of the museums in Oslo can be found in the area of Bygdøy, which is best reached by ferry from Oslo harbour. Between the Viking Ship Museum and the Fram Museum (keep on reading), my flatmate and I paid a visit to the open air Norwegian Folk Museum. Here you can wander around some old folk villages relocated to the site over the years. This includes a church from the 1200s, which was a particular highlight. You can spot some farm animals and wander in and out of a variety of little huts. There’s also buildings from later periods, which include a block of several flats, where each one has a different theme from a different time.
Everywhere now and again, you’ll come address a member of staff in folk dress who can give you some more information about the places and the traditions of the time.
You could probably spend an entire day there but since I had one day to hit three museums, I only spent a couple of hours or so there. This included a stop at the cafe by the ticket hall, where I discovered some fabulous looking marzipan cake. I’m generally not much of a marzipan person and I certainly couldn’t afford to splash out too much in Norway but this looked too good. Investing in a slice was the right decision- it was actually amazing. I know I should be focussing more on the museum itself but that cake…
#3. Polar Exploration (Fram) Museum
Keeping with the theme of cool, the Polar Exploration, aka Fram, museum is right up there with Viking Ships. This was one that my flatmate/holiday buddy suggested and I’m glad I went with it. Unsurprisingly, when you think about how far north Norway is, the country has a long history of polar exploration.
The museum itself holds two ships which were used for polar discover expeditions: the Fram and the Gjoa. Alongside these comes information about their journeys and the experiences of the crews. There also information about various explorers, videos to watch, and a faux-Northern Lights light show. Then there’s some interactive activities, for example testing your reflexes and responses, a video game testing your aim when hunting for food in the wild and seeing whether you’re strong enough to pull a 300kg sledge. I failed all of the above.
There were two highlights for me: firstly cartoons with Arctic-themed jokes and being able to climb aboard the deck of the Fram and walk down into its hull. Like I said, the Fram Museum was cool, is every sense of the word. It certainly made me want to explore.
#4. Nobel Peace Center Exhibition
Due to its harbour adjacent location, I passed the Nobel Peace Center often during my stay in Oslo, but I very nearly missed it. On the Monday of our departure, my flatmate and I had planned to go to see Munch’s Scream at the National Gallery but it turned out that many museums were closed on Mondays and the gallery was one of them. We flicked through our Oslo Pass guide to get some ideas of where else we could go for free and the Nobel Peace Center was on the list. We hadn’t been anywhere else like it and I thought the exhibition sounded interesting so off we went.
I think perhaps the National Gallery was closed for a reason, it would have been a real shame to miss the exhibition. The displays on the ground floor focussed on the most recent winners of the Nobel Peace Prize- Kailash Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzai. The first floor had information about past winners and about the founder of the prize, Alfred Nobel, himself. Many of the displays involved audio and video elements and, unfortunately, due to our tight timeframe (we had a plane to catch) we couldn’t make the most of these. There was still a lot of information though and I think the Nobel Peace Center is an important place to visit, whether you have multiple hours at your disposal or just the one.