If you’re visiting Oslo, make sure you take a trip out to the museum district on the Bygdøy Peninsula. Just a short bus or ferry ride from downtown Oslo, you’ll find the Viking Ship Museum, the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History, the Kon-Tiki Museum, the Fram Museum, and the Norwegian Maritime Museum.
All of the museums are amazing, but we sold our kids on this trip to Norway on the promise of exploring their Viking ancestry, so the Viking Ship Museum was a must-see, and it did not disappoint!
What to See at the Viking Ship Museum
The main features here are three major original Viking ships: the Oseberg Ship, which dates from around the year 820; the Gokstad Ship from around the year 900; and the Tune Ship, which also dates from around 900 AD.
The Viking Ship Museum isn’t large, but in addition to the ships, they have various other Viking artifacts, including a large cart found with the Oseberg Ship and burial artifacts. A larger Viking Age Museum is being planned nearby in Bygdøy.
The really compelling feature of this museum for my kids was the video display. Every fifteen minutes or so, a short film was artfully projected right onto three walls of one of the rooms of the museum. Between the music and the design of the film, it was a captivating explanation of Viking history and my family all watched it at least twice.
You can take the public bus (Bus No. 30) from Nationaltheatret to Vikingskipshuset, which is probably the cheapest way to get there. There is also a tourist hop-on, hop-off bus that stops here. I really wish we had taken it, because the one-mile uphill walk from the ferry dock to the museum felt like five miles in an Oslo heatwave with my crew.
What we did was take the Bygdøy ferry (which only runs from March to October). This is a convenient tourist ferry that leaves from Rådhuskaia, the central ferry dock downtown near the Nobel Peace Center and Akershus Fortress, and stops at Dronningen (for the Viking Ship Museum and the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History) and Bygdøynes (for the Kon-Tiki Museum, the Norwegian Maritime Museum, and the Fram Museum).
You pay one price for a round trip ticket, so it’s easy to get on and off at both stops. Bonus, you’ll get a beautiful boat ride across the harbor and a great chance to see Oslo from the water. Be aware that this ferry takes different tickets than the regular public ferry.
Once you get off at Dronningen, it’s a straight walk up Huk Aveny to the museum. It’s about a mile. It’s honestly a pretty nice walk; it just happens to be all uphill, and it was very hot the day we went, so we had to bribe children with sips of soda pop every few steps and I started to have flashbacks of our traumatic trip to Troldhaugen. But once we spied the Viking ships, it was all worth it.
After the Viking Ship Museum
I highly recommend getting off the ferry again at Bygdøynes, even if you don’t plan on going into another museum. On a hot day, this is a popular little beach area and we had a great time exploring and cooling our feet off in the water.
If you have time, here’s your chance to see the Kon-Tiki Museum, which pays tribute to Thor Heyerdahl and his famous voyage across the Pacific Ocean on a raft in 1947. Nearby is the Fram Museum If you’re interested in the history of polar exploration, Greenland, or the polar ship Fram, don’t miss this one. The Norwegian Maritime Museum is right here, too, and even if you don’t go inside, there are plenty of interesting sights outside for kids to explore.