Notorious for being one of the most expensive cities in the world, Oslo has a rich mix of history, stunning architecture, great food, and a host of ridiculously fun activities. Despite its appeal, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard someone dismiss a holiday to Oslo because they deemed it “too expensive”. And it can be, I can’t lie. When bread costs £5 and having a boozy holiday would put you far too deep into your overdraft, it’s difficult not to fall for the spiel. But don’t let its reputation stop you from visiting what I think is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe – just find out how to do Oslo on a budget!
We visited for five days at the beginning of January and had the most wonderful time. We did a little of everything: explored the city, embraced the culture and experienced skiing down eye-wateringly high mountains. But, most importantly: we did everything whilst keeping an eye on costs. It wasn’t always easy, but if I can do it then so can you! Read on to find out my tips on visiting Oslo on a budget, as well as my 5 day budget travel guide for the best things to do in Oslo in winter.
- 1 How to find cheap flights to Oslo
- 2 Where to stay in Oslo on a budget
- 3 Travelling around Oslo on a budget
- 4 Free things to do in Oslo
- 5 Money Diaries: 5 day budget travel guide to Oslo
How to find cheap flights to Oslo
Sign up to sale alerts for all of your favourite (and not so favourite) budget airlines. I recommend Ryanair, Easyjet and Norwegian Air for the best deals. And for international travellers, try WowAir. Sign up to their email newsletters so you’re the first to know about flight sales / deals. You can also ‘watch’ flights on Google and Skyscanner – it sends you notifications and email alerts when there’s a significant change in price. (This is how I managed to find my friend return flights to Oslo for just £13 – bargain! And, when you live in London, you can’t help but calculate that’s less than two rum & cokes. Frankly, I’d rather the flight to Norway.)
It’s also worth keeping an eye on budget flights to other cities. Follow this Norway travel guide and go city-hopping – it’s a great chance to see more of a ridiculously gorgeous country, and you can make the most out of a (potentially) long flight.
Where to stay in Oslo on a budget
In a city where hostels don’t really exist, finding cheap accommodation is a nightmare. Whilst you can camp (for free) anywhere, so long as it’s more than 150m from the nearest house, that’s not personally how I’d choose to spend a winter holiday. I value not getting frostbite far too much. Instead, we opted for an AirBnB between the four of us. It’s significantly cheaper than getting a hotel and having a kitchen meant we were able to cook our own meals.
We stayed a little further out of the city, too. Whilst that could be a deal-breaker for some, it’s not a big deal for me. We don’t tend to go back home much – we leave after breakfast and stay out until late in the evening. So the accommodation savings more than make up for the time and money spent travelling into the city. Saying that, I’d argue Oslo is a pretty walkable city. That’s actually my favourite way to explore a new place but, when winter temperatures are as low as -10, it’s not the option I’d take.
Travelling around Oslo on a budget
Oslo is not a big city. If you enjoy walking, then this is the perfect time to save some ££ on bus tickets and get some steps in. You can also rent a bike and have quite an authentic city experience – it’s a popular way for locals to travel around. Personally, I can ride a bike (weird, I know) and I hate walking, so public transport was my lifesaver.
As a Londoner, I was surprised at how affordable bus and train tickets were. However, I know how quickly the costs can add up when you take them frequently. We tried to either buy a day pass (and use it as much as possible within the 24 hours), or do some walking between sights so we take fewer buses.
Is it worth buying the Oslo Pass?
You can buy an Oslo pass for 24, 48 and 72 hours. It provides unlimited travel on all forms of transport in zones 1 and 2 – this includes use of the ferries to get to the fjords. You also get free entry to over 30 museums, ranging from the expensive ones (like the Norwegian Folk Museum and the Viking Ship Museum) to the lesser-known Reptile Museum. The pass also provides free guided walking tours and discounts to some restaurants.
However, it’s not a cheap pass to get – prices start from 395 NOK (approx €40) and go all the way up to 745 NOK (approx €79), depending on which version you get. You can, however, get a 20% discount for picking it up in person. Still, I personally feel it’s only worth it if you’re planning on frequenting the museums – they’re the real big-ticket costs in Oslo. The Folk museum, for example, is already 150 NOK entry. If you can go to just 3 museums in a day, you’ve easily made back the cost of the ticket.
Free things to do in Oslo
Luckily, the sheer number of free things to do in Oslo make it a great budget destination. Explore the sights of the city and escape the bustle and enjoy Norway’s natural beauty. Either way, you can definitely do it without breaking the budget!
- The Oslo Opera House: Located right next to the harbour, this gorgeous architectural icon is a must-see. Not only is the building itself worth seeing, but you’re allowed to climb on the roof and get free panoramic views of the city.
- Vigeland Park: Located within Frogner Park, this park boasts over 200 bronze, granite and cast iron sculptures.
- Akershus Fortress: A medieval castle built in the 1300s. The area has now become a popular venue for major events, such as concerts and and ceremonies, but the castle itself has maintained its historical significance and stunning architecture.
- Oslofjords: This one’s pretty self-explanatory. They’re stunning.
- Botanical Garden: In Tøyen, you’ll find a huge garden boasting approximately 1800 different plants. They also have a Scent Garden – an experience or all, but designed specifically for those who are blind, mentally-handicapped and wheelchair bound.
- There are also certain events held throughout the year where you can get free or discounted entry – you can find the list on the official VisitOslo website here.
Money Diaries: 5 day budget travel guide to Oslo
I am ridiculously obsessed with Refinery29‘s money diaries. I’m also nosy, and love knowing how people spend their money and what on. I thought I’d combine the two and make my own money diaries inspired travel guide. Find out exactly what we did, how we did it, how much we spent (down to the penny!) You can also hear my thoughts on how I found it, as well as a couple of money-saving tips for doing Oslo on a budget.
P.S. All prices are accurate as of Jan 2018.
Costs before we arrived:
Flights: £64.24. It would’ve been cheaper but we decided to check in a suitcase between the four of us, and each had our own hand luggage. I could usually comfortably do five days with a carry-on, but ski gear isn’t very compact..
Accommodation: £84.55. We booked an entire apartment on AirBnB, which was actually really nice for how cheap it was. Hostels were working out to roughly £40 a night, so this was a much better option for the four of us and allowed us some more privacy. We stayed out in Grunerløkka – not far from the city, but you need public transport to get anywhere. That was fine with us, as we were planning on using buses and trains anyway, and the cost savings of staying further out definitely covered any extra transport costs.
Day 1: Airport to AirBnB
11:55 – I board the plane from Heathrow airport. Once I get to my row, someone’s already taken my seat and asks if I’d swap with them. Clearly, I have little choice in this matter. I go to where they’re supposed to sit and realise they’d been given an extra legroom row. I’m silently gleeful.
14:55 – Our flight lands and we (not so) patiently wait to disembark. I’m eager to escape the flying aluminium can and I want to feel the Norway’s nippy winter cold. Luckily, Oslo’s airport is not only small, but it runs with the speed and efficiency one could only expect of a Nordic country.. Security and baggage collection is a dream!
16:40 – We’ve made it out of the airport and are trying to make our way to the AirBnB we’ve booked in …. Our usual meticulous organisation has failed us, and we realise none of us know how to make this journey. Naturally, we turn to Google. The cheapest journey we can find is taking the Flybussen, which is 199 NOK. This almost makes me want to turn around and fly back home – the true cost of travelling around Oslo is finally starting to settle in.
17:08 – We discover we can save 30 NOK by buying our tickets online rather than in person. Still, paying £16 for a one-way bus ride is bittersweet. The only positive here is that it drops us directly outside our AirBnB. 169 NOK / £16
17:52 – I’m promptly awoken as we reach our stop. The bus was warm, cosy and – most importantly – empty. That was one of the most comfortable airport journeys I’ve ever taken! It’s a shame the sun sets so early in Norway in winters; I imagine the view from the windows would’ve been gorgeous. We now enter a wild goose chase, with all our luggage, trying to understand where the AirBnB owner has left our keys.
18:30 – We have keys and an apartment, woohoo! We went for one of the cheapest ones we could find, but made sure it was close to transport links and budget supermarkets. We’re surprised at how nice it is though: the sleeping area is quite basic, but the bathroom is clean (albeit somewhat small), and the kitchen looks newly refurbished. We look around, and work out what food the accommodation provides. We find sugar, tea, coffee and cereal that’s been left behind by past inhabitants – score!
19:00 – Off to find groceries. KIWI and REMA 1000 are two budget supermarkets that you’ll frequently find in Nordic countries. We decided to hit both and compare prices – when you’re trying to do Oslo on a budget, every kroner counts! REMA seemed to be a little cheaper, and head there to buy our basics: pasta, sauce, sandwich bread, baguettes, cheese, vegetables (frozen are cheaper than fresh, just FYI), milk, and snacks: biscuits and crisps etc. We’re planning to make sandwiches for lunch, and will take snacks with us so we spend less on food whilst we’re out. Despite buying the cheapest of everything and calculating price per weight, we nearly have a heart attack at checkout (397 NOK). My share is a quarter of that. 99 NOK / £9
20:00 – Head home, cook, eat, chill, sleep.
Today’s total = £25
Day 2: Explore the city, embrace the culture
07:30 – We’re up early to get ready, have breakfast and pack sandwiches (and water) for the day. We’ve seen the cost of groceries here, and I already know that restaurants / cafes will be eye-wateringly expensive.
09:20 – We buy a day pass from the train station. It allows you to take unlimited buses, trains, metros, trams and ferries within a 24 hour window. There are different ticket prices, depending on what zones you’ll be travelling within. Luckily, everywhere we’re going is in zone 1, so we’re able to buy the cheapest ticket. (I reckon that’ll be the same for most people – the only frequented place that isn’t in zone 1 is Oslo’s airport). 90 NOK / £8.25
09:50 – Arrive at Vigeland sculpture park. It’s ridiculously beautiful covered in snow, with tranquil blue skies. Despite being a touristy place, it’s very empty. That might be because of the time of day, or even the time of year we went, but I’m not sure. We take our time wandering around and enjoy the peace. It’s a stark contrast to being a tourist in London and I’m loving it. We’ve arrived soon after sunrise (yes, sunrise .. at 10am in the morning), and we’ve stumbled upon golden hour. I love shooting into the sun and have a lot of fun on my mini photoshoot. The best part? Entry is completely free – great for those of us who are trying to do Oslo on a budget! 0 NOK / £0
11:00 – Make it to the other side of the park. We’re tired and very, very cold. After spotting Kafe Vigeland, we decide to relax a little and treat ourselves to a drink. I pick one of the cheapest things on the menu (a hot chocolate) and we sit and enjoy the view. We’re hungry, but too cheap to buy food, so snack on some biscuits we’ve brought. We debate visiting the museum, before realising tickets cost a whopping £10 – that’s a no from us. 35 NOK / £3.22
11:40 – Off to our next stop: The Fram Museum. We take a bus and, with our daily travel pass, it’s free. The Fram is the strongest wooden ship ever built. It actually holds the record for sailing the farthest north and farthest south of the world! The museum is really interactive, boasting experiences and movies. You can learn about the trek to the Arctic, or climb aboard the ship and see how the crew lived during expeditions. My favourite part, personally, was the ‘polar simulator’. You can experience the cold and dangers of polar expeditions – very interesting, and very cool! We used our student discount to get a decent entry price. 50 NOK / £4.50
Side note: When we do a group holiday, we tend to be ridiculously democratic and vote for what we want to do and where we want to go. We were deciding between the Fram, Norwegian Folk, Munch, Holmenkollen Ski and Viking Ship museums. I would’ve loved to do them all, but each has a steep entry price – roughly £10 per museum (although they’re free with the Oslo pass or you can get a good student discount) and we didn’t have enough time.
18:00 – Enjoy the beauty outside the museum. It’s right by a lake, which offers staggering views and is a reminder of how ridiculously beautiful Norway is. We took photos before entering the museum, but are now in awe at the sunset we’re witnessing. After our photoshoot is over, we use our travel pass to get back home.
20:00 – After chilling, we decide to head out and see the Mathallen food market. It has over 30 indoor shops, cafes and eateries by small-scale Norwegian businesses, and is a great place to stop by if you’re looking to try some new foods. We loved exploring all the different foods (and sampling them!) We’d initially planned to eat dinner here, but realised that spending £18 on a margherita pizza is completely out of budget. Instead, we go home and cook.
Today’s total = £15.97
Day 3: Hitting the slopes at Oslo Vinterpark
08:45 – An early morning to get to Oslo Winterpark. There are two (super easy) ways to get there from the city centre. The first option is to take a train to Frognerseteren and walk. It’s about 20 minutes uphill, but is supposed to be beautiful. The second option (and what we went for), is to get off a stop early at Voksenkollen. You can then take the free shuttle bus, which drops you right outside of the park. We aim to get there for when the bus opens at 10am. There’s four of us, and two haven’t skied before, so we know it’ll take us a while to get all of the equipment and onto the slopes. The advantage to leaving early is that we can get this journey for free; it’s been less than 24 hours since our day pass was activated – woohoo! 0 NOK / £0
10:00 – The journey is easy, and the train ride offered gorgeous views. Thanks to the late winter sunrises, we got some gorgeous shots of the golden hour sun peeking through trees. When we get into the ski rental shop, it’s quite empty. But we quickly got overwhelmed with how busy it becomes. It’s a Sunday and skiing’s a pretty popular winter hobby for most Norwegians, so it does tend to be busy outside of working hours.
We’re clearly ski rental amateurs – we keep losing sight of our skis. They’re set up for your height, weight and shoe size, so are custom to the renter. Next thing we know, they’ve accidentally been taken and we need to go back into the queue to get new ones. Well done us.
Because of this, and due to other issues with our locker keys, it takes us a while to set up and get ready. Finally, we get to the till and pay. I’ve been skiing before, so I know what to expect to pay, but I’m still pleasantly surprised with Oslo’s costs. As far as Europe skiing goes, Oslo is probably one of the cheapest and easiest places to go. We paid for two days of ski rental (skis and boots), lift passes and a large locker to store our stuff. A large locker is more expensive, but can easily be shared by four. 1370 NOK / £126
11:30 – Finally get onto the slopes. The two skiing newbies in the group decide to go for a 30 minute ski lesson to get more comfortable. Meanwhile, we work on getting our ski legs back. We all agree to meet after for a hot chocolate (yum!)
13:00 – The ski lesson was apparently useful, but very rushed. They clearly didn’t learn as much as we’d hoped – they’d walked down the mountain to meet us, rather than skiing. So, likely a waste of £10. Anyway, we’re all already hungry, but I’m too lazy to go back to my locker for food, and I can’t bring myself to pay obscene prices for ski resort food. Hot chocolate, on the other hand, is high calorie, (fairly) cheap, and delicious. 35 NOK / £3.20
We spend the rest of the afternoon teaching our friends to ski. It’s a lot harder than I realised. Apparently, “just stand up and let gravity do the work” isn’t very encouraging. They fall a lot, get stuck in trees a few times, and nearly crash into the people coming up on the ski lift. Nice.
17:00 – A full day of skiing later and we’re exhausted. We store our equipment in the locker for tomorrow and leave as the park is closing. We start travelling back home. In the next 24 hours, we know we’re only planning to do another return journey home, as we’re skiing again tomorrow. To save money, we’ll buy single tickets each way. 35 NOK / £3.20
19:00 – Food shopping again for more vegetables, bread, and some diet coke as I’ve a craving. I eye up indulging in Dairy Milk, but it’s a solid no from me once I calculate the price. We got home too late and the budget grocery stores are closed, so have little choice for cheap food. 23 NOK / £2.10
19:30 – Cook, eat, chill and sleep.
Today’s total = £134.50
Day 4: Skiing and sledging
09:00 – Buy another single ticket and make the same journey to Voksenkollen. The usually punctual shuttle bus is late, and we use the extra time to take cute photos. I nearly freeze, but it’s worth it for the gram. 35 NOK / £3.20
10:00 – Oslo Winterpark is much emptier on Mondays. We have the slopes completely to ourselves, and it’s ridiculously tranquil. There’s no queue for the ski lifts, and the views are magnificent. I debate taking my camera, but it doesn’t seem like a good idea. It’s so cold out that the snow has frozen and falling is painful.
13:00 – Back to our usual cafe! There are loads dotted around the park, but this is the one at the bottom of the kiddie slope. Embarrassingly, it’s the only one we’re all skilled enough to get to. We’re hungry and decide to split some waffles and pancakes, along with our hot chocolate. We’re doing quite well to the budget – we could have lunch, but don’t fancy anything they sell. 51 NOK / £4.60.
19:00 – After a couple of runs on green slopes, I feel like I’m finally getting into the hang of skiing. If you’re looking for things to do in Oslo in winter, then I definitely recommend visiting – we had so much fun. However, if you’re an excellent skier and you’re ready for some red / black slopes, you’ll be disappointed. It’s definitely suited more to beginners and amateurs.
The sun’s setting and it looks beautiful, so we stop to take some photos. After, we’re pretty much ready for our next activity – sledding in Korketrekkeren! We purchase our day pass ticket. 90 NOK / £8.25
19:20 – Korketrekkeren is Oslo’s most popular toboggan run. It goes from Frognerseteren (close to the station), all the way down to Midstuen. It’s 2000 metres long, and takes 8-10 minutes to get all the way down. Then, you take the metro back up, and go again. Sled rental was incredibly cheap, too. We rented two ‘family size’ sleds, which can each fit two people for 260 NOK. Rental is for the whole day but, on Mondays, the store closes at 9pm so we had to return it before then. 65 NOK / £6
Sledding is absolutely terrifying, but a ridiculous amount of fun! It’s dark, so you can’t see very far in front of you (though the snow is great at reflecting moonlight), and you constantly have people zipping past. Between the young children speeding down the ski slopes, and the families who seemingly hate braking, I’ve concluded that Norwegians have no fear. You have somewhat control of a sled, but it sure does take some getting used to. Lean back to go faster, put your feet down to brake, and use one leg to help you turn.. practice makes perfect!
We do two runs down but, as the journey back up takes 16 minutes on the metro, we couldn’t fit in more. If I were to ever go to Oslo again, I would definitely mark out an entire afternoon for this – it was great! Probably one of the best budget activities we did all trip!
21:00 – We begrudgingly turn the sleds back to the uber friendly shop owner and head home. We’re exhilarated from a day of activities, but also exhausted. We all fall asleep on the train home and jolt awake 40 minutes later, thankful that Oslo’s a safe enough city to do this in..
Today’s total = £22.05
Day 5: Final things, and head home
09:00 – Today’s the final day, and we need to check out of our AirBnB. We tidy up, finish the food, and head out. We still have yesterday’s train pass, so can use this for a free journey into the city. Luckily, we only brought hand luggage, and shared one large suitcase between us, so it’s not too tiresome.
11:00 – We leave our bags in the cloakroom of the Oslo Opera House. It’s not free – you’re supposed to pay – but we’re cheap and figure Oslo is very safe. We wander around and enjoy the architecture – it’s seriously beautiful. I love the blue tint of the glass, and how it reflects the snow around it. I want to try climbing onto the roof (you’re allowed, don’t worry!), but it’s so icy that I don’t think it’s a great idea. Nonetheless, we enjoy the view from the ground – it really is stunning.
13:00 – Buy single Flybusekspressen tickets back to the airport. This was pretty easy to do from the self-service machines at the station. I’m sure there’s a cheaper way to do this trip, but we couldn’t find anyone to ask and we were in a rush. Sometimes you’ve gotta break the budget, eh? 95 NOK / £8.75
Today’s total = £8.75
And that makes our grand total spend in Oslo equal just £206.27! And, with flights and accommodation included, the entire holiday cost us £355.06… Not bad for 5 days in the world’s most expensive city! My top tips for seeing Oslo on a budget are to: eat in, walk as much as you can, and make use of available discounts (student, 24 travel passes, Oslo pass etc). I reckon we could have saved even more if we’d brought snacks in our luggage .. maybe next time!
I hope you found this post useful for any future visits to Oslo. Don’t forget to pin it for later, and write a comment letting me know what you thought of my money diaries style travel guide!