Oslo is on my list of places to which I must return without my adorable monsters. This charming city got stuck on to the end of our two week trip to Norway and Denmark, which means we found way more things to do with kids in Oslo than we could possibly manage at that point of travel exhaustion. From outdoor sculpture parks to Viking museums to beach walks to seeing The Scream by Edvard Munch, there’s plenty of fun in Oslo for everyone.
Upon disembarking from our overnight ferry from Copenhagen, we had exactly 48 hours in Oslo with three young boys, so no, we did not do EVERYTHING there is to do in Oslo. Let’s start with the must-see sights in Oslo.
Explore Akershus Fortress (Akershus Festning)
Vying for our favorite place in Oslo (the Viking Ship Museum was a close contender) is Akershus Fortress. We stayed within walking distance of this fantastic fort at Thon Hotel Panorama, which allowed us to visit it two days in a row (mostly because of kid meltdowns the first day, but let’s try to forget that).
Akershus Fortress dates back to 1299, which is older than any building my little American kids had ever seen before. It’s a large complex, free to enter, includes multiple museums and active military installations, and is also home to the stunning Akershus Castle (Akershus Slott), which was converted to a Renaissance castle in the 17th century.
There’s a great visitor center just inside the gate, where you can pick up a guide to the Akershus Fortress Trail, which will lead you through the grounds. If you have kids obsessed with knights and dragons and castles, or who have ever seen a Disney princess movie, this should blow their minds. Expect to see cannons on the ramparts, as well as a drawbridge and winch (which date from 1653), tall towers (including the Virgin’s Tower, which I avoided explaining to my boys), the guardhouse, and execution grounds. True history buffs shouldn’t miss Norway’s Resistance Museum, and the cherry on top is a gorgeous view of Oslo Harbor.
Get Fancy at Oslo Royal Palace
If you’re into more recent royal history, you can take a guided tour of Oslo’s Royal Palace during the summer season. This is your chance to see the interior of a modern castle where the King and Queen of Norway live, including guest rooms, royal halls, and ballrooms. Finally, they’re opening up the gaaaaates…(Frozen reference anyone?)
See The Viking Ship Museum
Our other must-see spot in Oslo was the Viking Ship Museum, which didn’t disappoint. This museum houses three well-preserved ancient Viking ships as well as other various Viking artifacts. It is located a short ferry ride or bus ride from the central Radhusplassen.
Learn about Norwegian Culture at Norsk Folkemuseum
Near the Viking Ship Museum, you’ll find several other museums to keep you busy, including the Norsk Folkemuseum (Norway Museum of Cultural History). This is a great place to visit with kids, as it includes a large open-air museum with 160 historic buildings as well as an indoor space featuring folk art, folk costumes, and Sami culture. They have special exhibits and activities for children, so this is the perfect opportunity to expose your kids to some Norwegian culture.
Wander Bygdøy Peninsula
The Bygdøy Peninsula has a collection of museums, including the Viking Ship Museum and Norsk Folkemuseum, but also the Kon-Tiki Museum (a tribute to Thor Heyerdahl’s famous crossing of the Atlantic on the Kon-Tiki, a balsa wood raft); the Fram Museum (focused on polar exploration, and billing itself as “the best museum in Norway”– go see for yourself); and the Norwegian Maritime Museum (which has an adorable lighthouse-shaped playhouse outside of it made of ocean trash).
There are small beaches at the edge of the peninsula, especially around the Kon-Tiki and Fram Museum, perfect for that rare super hot summer day in Oslo. This is a lovely place to spend the day. I highly recommend packing snacks or a picnic if you are coming here with kids, as I found limited places to eat without walking far.
Get Artsy at Vigeland Sculpture Park
This is on many lists of things not to miss in Oslo, although we actually missed it, because all three kids were melting down in an unusual Oslo heat wave and we just didn’t have the energy to make it there (please tell me this happens to other people too!)
But NEXT time I go to Oslo, I’m totally visiting Vigeland Sculpture Park, where hundreds of sculptures by Gustav Vigeland are scattered across Frogner Park, which is free and open to the public. It looks like the perfect place for adults to admire art while children run wild.
Take your Inner Child to the International Museum of Children’s Art
If your kids are actually interested in art and capable of behaving themselves in indoor spaces, you may want to check out the International Museum of Children’s Art. This isn’t focused on Norwegian art or culture, but is rather a collection of international work. It bills itself as “the Louvre of Children’s Art,” so this might be your chance to tell everyone you did in fact visit the Louvre on your European vacation.
Don’t Miss the Nobel Peace Center
Where better to ruminate on the Nobel Peace Prize than in Oslo’s Nobel Peace Center? This center features impressive exhibits about all the Nobel Peace Prize laureates. Young kids probably won’t love this, but older kids/teenagers would get a lot out of it. Plus kids under age 12 get in free, so you won’t lose anything by bringing them along and hoping they absorb some important lessons.
Scream at Munch Museum
If you enjoy a good art museum, or you just like to brag about seeing world-famous paintings, make sure to hit up the Munch Museum. This museum is home to more than half of Edvard Munch’s paintings, including the most famous of them all, The Scream.
You have to eat anyway, so why not take advantage of the fact that Oslo has become a culinary destination for foodies? And if you have children with you, never fear — every restaurant we went to offered a selection of healthy, delicious kids’ meals, even if they weren’t listed on the menu. Just make sure to ask!