How to explore Oslo on a budget

Norway is known to be an expensive country for tourists and travelers – but it is possible to have fun here on a low budget as well. As an inhabitant of Oslo the last 15 years, I will give you a few insider tips!

This travel guide to Oslo contains some of my favorite places, and also some of my favorite activities. In addition, you will find tips on cheap eats and events , and a few of the main tourist attractions.


How to get around

Oslo is not a big city, so if you like to walk,  you can walk almost anywhere. It may be handy with a day pass for the public transport though, you can find info on prices and how the get around in Oslo here.

If you are planning to use public transport and visit museums, you may save money if you buy the Oslo pass. You can buy it for 24, 48 or 72 hours, starting at 40 Euro. Read more about prices and discounts of the Oslo pass.

City bikes is an alternative to public transport. For locals it is a very cheap transportation option, you pay 120 NOK (14 Euro) per year. You can pick bikes from more than 100 bike stations around town. Travelers can hire a city bike card for 24 hours at the Visitor Centers in Oslo. The price is 100 NOK (11 Euro) for 24 hours. It is more expensive than the public transport card, but biking is a great way to see the city. Read the terms of using the city bikes here.

Oslo city bikes


City walk

My favorite way of exploring a new city is to walk. The following walking route is a good start if you are new to Oslo, it will give you a fairly good glimpse of the city. You should NOT follow this route to the letter – walk off the route and allow yourself to get lost now and then, you may discover some hidden gems that I haven´t shared with you!

Start from Grønland, by the river close to the Metro station, and walk along the green oasis Akerselva (Aker River). Along the way you will pass the Food Hall of Oslo, which is more a collection of expensive food stores and restaurants than the Food Halls most Europeans are used to – but it is situated in a beautiful building by the river, and is well worth a visit.

After about 30 minute walk from your starting point, following the river, you reach my absolute favorite spot of Oslo: the waterfall Møllefossen.If you need a break, sit down on one of the benches by the top of the waterfall, or pass by Månefisken Café for a drink. It is situated just under the bridge that cross the river on the top of the waterfall.

Branch to the right from the river, and walk over to Grünerløkka.This is a residential area of town, but also one of the most hip areas for restaurants and buzzing nightlife. What I love most about this area is the green parks. Birkelunden is a busy green park, crowded with people as soon as the temperature is above 15 degrees and the sun is shining. Sofienbergparken is a large green area just a few minute walk from Birkelunden, and this is my favorite hangout in town with friends during summer.

Oslo - Mathallen Møllefossen og Sofienbergparken-blog

When the weather is nice Norwegians gather in the parks for picnics, barbecues and drinks. Note that drinking alcohol in public is not allowed in Norway. Everyone does though – as long as you do not make any trouble or make a lot of noise, you will most probable not have any trouble.

From Grünerløkka, continue your walk to the Botanical Garden at Tøyen. The garden belongs to the Natural History Museum, and was founded in 1814. It covers  150 000 square meters, and you can discover more than 7500 species of plants. It is a lovely place to walk around or to spend some time to relax.

From the Botanical Garden, walk down the street Tøyengata, and you return Grønland, close to your starting point. In this area you will find some cheap eats (falafel, kebab and fast food Indian) – and there are some great vegetable shops with cheap veggies, olives and bread for a picnic. There is also a square called Teaterplassen, where you find several restaurants. Evita serves my favorite vanilla soy latte in Oslo, and Oslo Mekaniske Verksted is a great bar where you are allowed to bring your own food if you buy drinks.

From Grønland, walk over the pedestrian bridge to the Opera House, where you get dazzled by the white tiles.  From there is a nice view over the Oslofjord, and it is free to walk inside the foyer of the Opera House and on the roof of the building.

Oslo - Oslo Mekansike-sunset-royal castle-blog

Continue along the fjord to the right of the Opera House, and you will reach the Akershus Fortress. It is an amazing place to walk around on historical ground, and from the top you have an open view of the harbor. This is a good spot to view the sunset in Oslo! At summer, sunset is quite late though.

Walk over to Aker Brygge, a very popular touristy area by the harbor. Do not eat or drink here unless you want to spend a lot of money, this is the most expensive are of town. It is not my kind of area at all, but I know travelers often enjoy to have a walk by the pier where all the fancy (and touristy) restaurants are situated.

You can pass the City Hall on your way up to the Royal Castle. After your royal visit you can follow the main walking street in Oslo, Carl Johansgate, towards the city center train station, and you will pass the parliament building on your right side.

 

Vigeland Sculpture Park

This is one of the most popular tourist attraction in Oslo. It is also a favorite of locals in Oslo. It is a large green park in the western part of town, and within the park you will find 212 bronze and granite sculptures, among them the 14 meter high Monolith – which consist of 121 naked human figures.

When the weather is warm enough to spend time outdoors, this is a popular park for locals to hang out, to play games and to have picnic and a party at night. It is also a popular park for taking a walk or for jogging.

Vigeland sculpture park from the Monolith

 

Bygdøy

The peninsula Bygdøy on the west side of the city is mainly a residential area, but it is also a popular recreational area for the locals, and you find several of Oslo´s popular museums here. There are several beaches at Bygdøy, a beach volleyball court, and there are great trails for walking and biking.

You get there by boat from Pier 3 behind the city hall during summer season, and by bus 30.

 

Beaches and swimming

There are a lot of beaches around Oslo, and I love to swim, as many Norwegians do at summer. The water temperature may scare travelers from the southern parts of the world though…

My favorite place to bask in the sun and have a swim is called Frysja, and is the very start of the river Akerselva, which origins from Maridalsvannet. Go there by bus 54 from Jernbanetorget to Stillatorvet, and walk over to the river. You will find large green fields on both sides of the river, and it is a nice place to swim – although cold!

Vesletjern

Vesletjern

Frysja

Frysja

Another great place to swim is the lake Vesletjern. Go there by metro to Kalbakken, and walk for 15 minutes to reach the lake (map from the metro to the lake here). This is a quiet place with many families and children visiting.

There are many beaches by the sea also, but they are often more crowded than these two places when the weather is nice. Check out this post for more information about beaches in Oslo.

When you go to the beaches in Oslo, make sure you bring the food and drinks you need for the day – most places to not even have a kiosk to buy drinks and snacks.

 

Island hopping in the Oslo fjord

There are several islands in the Oslo fjord,  which is nice to visit for a walk or to bask in the sun to get a nice tan – like most locals do. You can also go island hopping with the ferries which is a part of the public transport system, and all ferries have frequent departures during summer. If you already have a public transport ticket the boats are included, if not it is 30 NOK (3.50 Euro) for a one way ticket, valid for one hour after you stamp it in the ticket machine. Read more about the ferries and the islands here.

 

Budget Eats

As a traveler who constantly save money for my next adventures, but who still love to go out with friends for a good meal, I know where to get the good and cheap food. Well, that is cheap in terms of Norwegian cheap….. The list contains only vegetarian friendly or vegetarian restaurants.

Curry and Ketchup

The Kasbah

The Kasbah

Loving Hut

Loving Hut

Ricebowl

Ricebowl

My recent favorite place to eat is The Kasbah, a neighbourhood corner café serving humus and other delicious food. I love their food, and the ambience is just my style. Falafel in pita is 10 Euro (79 NOK), The vegan meze plate is 16 (139 NOK) Euro.

Curry and Ketchup serves delicious Indian food for a decent price. My favorite dish is the palak paneer and the garlic nan. Main courses from 14 Euro. Address: Kirkeveien 51.

The all vegan Loving Hut is an international chain, and they have a branch in Oslo. They serve vegan and raw food for a reasonable price. The fresh spring rolls are so delicious. Their menu with prices is online. Address: Bjerregaardsgate 6.

The cheapest food in Oslo is Blitz café, which is run by the people in the community center Blitz (left radical activist center). The café is open Monday to Friday 12-17, sell some sandwiches and drinks and warm vegetarian or vegan dinner for 5 Euro around 15 every day. Address: Pilestredet 30.

Mogador is an all time favorite of mine. I love the ambience and their mint tea. They serve main dishes, and meze from 5 Euro (read more about Modagdor). The meze dishes are small though, for a dinner you would need 2 to 3. Address: Toftesgate 41.

Looking for tasty and hot Thai food? Ricebowl is the answer. Affordable food with mains from 16 Euro (145 NOK), and all dishes on the menu can be made with tofu instead of meat/fish. Address: Youngs gate 4.

If you have cooking facilities, buying food from the supermarket and cooking at home will be your cheapest option. If the weather is nice, do as the locals: go for a picnic in a park!

 

Drinking and nightlife

If you ever mentioned to anyone that you are going to Oslo, I guess the first thing you heard is that the alcohol prices are crazy – and they are. If you like to party or have a few drinks when you travel, this is for you. I am so definitely not a good guide to nightlife if you are looking for clubs and all-night-parties. I love to go out for a few drinks though, and will try to give you a few tips on how the locals do it to avoid getting bankrupt from a party.

SchouskjellerenA Norwegian traveler hardly return to Norway without buying the legal quota of alcohol from a tax-free store. If you arrive through Oslo Airport Gardermoen, you will walk through the tax-free to reach the luggage area. See the legal alcohol quotas here.

In Norway you can only buy wine and spirits at Vinmonopolet. They have several branches in Oslo, and is closed Sunday. You can buy beer in supermarkets, but not after 20:00 on weekdays and after 18:00 on Saturdays. Sunday you will only be able to buy alcohol in restaurants and bars.

Oslo has some great micro breweries, so if you love your beer, make sure to visit Schouskjelleren, Nydalen Bryggeri og Spiseri, Oslo Mikrobryggeri or Crow Bryggeri. You can also read more about the local drinking culture, and you can check the beer barometer to find the cheapest beer in town.

 

Markets

Sundays there are a second-hand and antique market in Birkelunden from 12:00 to 18:00, and it is possible to do some good bargains here. Do not miss the second-hand and handicraft market at Blå every Sunday from 12:00 to 17:00! This is more a designer market, and they sell everything from second-hand clothes and shoes, paintings, natural skin care, hand-woven baskets, jewelery and hand-knit designs.

Market at Blå

 

Nature and hiking

In Norway, nature is never far away. Not even from the main capital Oslo.

Marka is something special to many locals in Oslo. Marka is the name of the forest and hilly areas surrounding the city, and Norwegians love their nature. Weekends and summer time many people go to Marka for recreational purposes; to take a walk, to find a nice spot to relax for the day, for a bike ride, to run, to hike for hours or for camping.

Marka is wonderful, and it is only a few metro stops away from anywhere in Oslo. Marka and the forest is huge though, and it stretches way beyond the borders of Oslo. Walking in nature in Norway is safe, and the trails are well-marked. There are signposts telling you direction and the distance to the different destinations. If you want to hike off the marked paths, make sure you buy a map in one of the book shops in Oslo.

The lake Sognsvann is my favorite for a short break in nature. Take Metro 6 to Sognsvann, and walk for a few minutes towards the lake. There is a walking path around the lake, a walk of about 3.3 kilometers. This area is also popular for picnic, barbecue parties and swimming.

Ullevålseter

Signs

From Sognsvann you can hike to Ullevålseter,which is a hub for the hiking trails and forest roads in Marka. There is a café selling food and drinks, which is open Tuesday to Sunday 9 – 5 pm. From here you can also continue to Frognerseter, where you can catch the Metro 1 back to town.

 

Free events you should not miss

Free concert at Mono every Saturday at 18:00 (there are some exception, check their program).

Free entrance and dancing at Pigalle every Friday and Saturday (21 – 03) – 60´s and 70´s music all night long. Go shake your boom-boom!

“We fuck up your Mondays” – free music and dancing at Blå every Sunday by Frank Snortz Quartet. Acoustic music from 16:00, electronica from 20:30.

There is always something going on in Oslo, and you can find a great list of free events sorted by date.

Check out this sites to find more events in Oslo:
Oslo events by Eventful

Pigalle

 

Accommodation

Budget accommodation in Oslo is a challenge if you want to stay in hostels or hotels. To find the best deals, use your favorite hostel search engine. If you want to stay with locals, try Couchsurfing or AirBnb. Camping is also an option. There are several camp sites in and around Oslo, and if you have a tent you can camp for free, as long as your camp is at least 150 meters away from private property.

I used to Couchsurf, but I came to a point where I started to appreciate some privacy and time alone when I travel. Most often you will end up on a couch or on a mattress on the floor – which is perfectly fine, after all it is free. However, I came to a point where I was willing to pay for more comfort. I know it can be difficult to find a place through Couchsurfing in Oslo though, the hosts have huge amounts of requests!

I switched to AirBnb. I can still live like a local, but I´m paying. It is easier to book, and it feels better to invade someones house when I pay for it. I can also choose which facilities I´m willing to pay for, and you can choose to rent a room in a shared apartment, or you can rent an apartment for yourself. A quick search for rooms in Oslo through Airbnb list 1000+ rentals. The prices start from 10 Euro for tents in the garden, and more than 100 rentals are listed for less than 40 Euro per night. Get 20 Euro discount on your first booking at Airbnb.

My advice for Couchsurfing and Airbnb:
Make yourself a nice and informative profile including photos, and make sure to go through the verification procedures. That will make it easier for your potential host to know that you are you. Make sure you share all relevant information on your profile. When you send a request to stay with someone, tell them honestly who you are and what kind of traveler you are. Are you out all day exploring, then come back and go early to bed? Do you sleep all day and party at night? Be honest, and pick a host that is a good match.

 

Mobile apps for Oslo

RuterReise
Travel planer for public transport in Oslo.
More information and download.

RuterBillett
Buy tickets for public transport. You have to add your credit card information to use this app.
More information and download.

Oslo city app
Official travel app from Visit Oslo.
More information and download.

Oslo guide by locals
Spotted by Locals city guide, including offline maps.
Download for Android or iPhone

Oslo city bike
Shows you where to find available city bikes. You need a city bike card to use the bikes, see “How to get around” for information about city bikes. Download for Android.

 

Twitter hashtags

To see tweets or Instagram photos from Oslo, these hashtags are commonly used:
#oslo #oslosommer #OsLove #visitoslo #oslobilder #opplevoslo #stakkarsoss #diggeroslo #oslogram #whereinoslo

 

More tips to Oslo

If you want more insider tips on what to do in Oslo you will find a free Oslo guide written by locals: Spotted By Locals Oslo. You can browse all the spots for free online, and it is pretty cheap to buy the app : less than 4 Euros! I am one of the writers of  Spotted by Locals Oslo, and I love this guide for other cities when I´m traveling.

If you want to explore Oslo before you arrive, Oslo360 is a photo website which shares daily photos from Oslo.

National Geographic also has a great article on “Oslo for free”, with a great overview of art and museums.

 

Pinterest: Oslo on a budget

Follow my Oslo on a budget Pinterest board, and request to join if you want to pin Oslo with me.

 

More from Norway: Mountains and fjords in Norway

 

This is not a sponsored post. This is a guide to MY Oslo, including relevant links to give you further information to enjoy the city the most. The post do contain affiliate links to my Airbnb account.

This article was first published by me at Taste of Slow in 2013, and is re-published in a revised and extended version.

 

I hope you enjoyed my tips to Oslo on a budget. Please leave a comment if you find it useful – and also if you have some tips of your own to share!

 

About the Author Elin

I´m an Oslo based web publisher with passion for communication, travel and a green lifestyle. When I travel, I prefer to go slow, sustainable, and “live like a local”. Why slow? It is about challenging the cult of speed, and to enjoy the small things in life and to live in the present.

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