It’s no secret that Norway is an expensive country to visit, however that’s no reason to write off a trip there entirely. Instead, we opted to spend a short time in the capital, Oslo so we could experience the best of what the city had to offer on a budget.
Based on our experience we’ve put together a guide to help you spend just 24 hours in the magical city that is the Norwegian capital.
Spend the morning of your one day in Oslo at National Opera & Ballet before heading to the city hall & Oslo cathedral. After lunch walk to the Historisk Museum before watching the changing of the guard at the royal palace. Finish your day with a trip to the National Gallery & Botanical Gardens.
We found ourselves saving additional money while following this itinerary by purchasing the Oslo pass. Depending on your itinerary and the number of days you’re spending in the city this may help you experience more of what Oslo has to offer without the added cost.
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Wake up in one of the hotels across Oslo city centre and get ready to explore!
Pro Tip: Finding a hotel in Oslo with breakfast is going to save you around €15 per person when compared to buying breakfast in a café in the city – I speak from experience as our budget stay at CityBox was room only.
The Norwegian National Opera & Ballet
Our first stop is the Norwegian National Opera & Ballet. This is the building you’re likely to see on the front page of every Oslo guidebook.
A striking architectural design, you don’t have to be interested in Opera or Ballet to enjoy this place.
The Norwegian National Opera & Ballet building is located on the harbour opposite Oslo Central Station. It’s a major attraction so if you happen to be unable to see it from your current location you should find it on signposts around the city.
The building was completed in 2007 and opened to the public in early 2008 and has gone on to win multiple awards including the World Architecture Festival Cultural Award in 2008 and the Mies van der Rohe award in 2009.
During our 24 hours in Oslo, we won’t be venturing inside the building but instead will be walking on top of it.
Yes, that’s right. This building is completely walkable.
Climb along the stairs on either side of the building to the top where you’ll be rewarded with some of the most incredible views out over Oslo.
The steady incline makes climbing to the roof of the building accessible for the majority. Just be careful on a cold morning in case the floor has iced over.
If you have an interest in Opera and Ballet then consider spending an evening enjoying a performance here, or some extra time discovering the interior of the building.
Pro Tip: Consider going on a guided walking tour of the city to learn more about each location you visit along with background information about Oslo and Norway as a whole.
Guided tours of the interior of the building are available daily. The tours last 50 minutes and are available in English, German and Norwegian.
You can book the tour in advance online (recommended) or upon arrival. However, each tour only has a maximum capacity of 25 persons and can, therefore, sell out quickly, especially during the peak season. The price of a 50-minute group tour is 120KR for adults and 70KR for children.
However, the cost of walking the exterior of the building is completely free!
Oslo City Hall
Just a twenty-minute (1.7km) walk from the Oslo Opera House through the city centre or a 30 minute (2.5km) walk around the harbour you’ll come to Oslo City Hall. Oslo City Hall was recommended to us as a place to visit during our 1 day in Oslo by the VisitNorway website.
Constructed between 1931 and 1950 the functional exterior architecture of the building is certainly not to my taste. However, the interior is something to marvel at.
The main hall of the City Hall was decorated by two of Norway’s most highly acclaimed artists; Henrik Sørensen and Alf Rolfsen.
Meanwhile, on the second floor, you’ll find rooms decorated with delicate tapestries and paintings depicting scenes from Norwegian history.
Oslo City Hall is also the home of the Nobel Peace Prize which is hosted every year on December 10, the anniversary of the death of Alfred Nobel (1833-1896).
The City Hall is free to enter and guided tours are available in Norwegian, English, French, Spanish, Chinese and German daily.
Tours need to be booked in advance online and cost 2,500 NOK per person (a discount of 500 NOK per person is available if you choose to tour the City Hall between the hours of 4pm and 7pm)
Just a 10-minute walk from Oslo Town Hall is Oslo Cathedral, formally known as Our Saviours Church.
The building was first constructed between 1694 and 1697 in the Baroque style and changed to the Neo-Gothic style in the 1850s before being restored to its original state in the 1960s.
During this restoration in the 1960s, many decorations from the 18th century were uncovered including an exceptional ceiling painting.
Oslo Cathedral is used by the Royal Family of Norway for weddings, funerals and other special events.
Once inside be sure to take note of the highly detailed stained-glass windows, seven of which were designed and created by Emanuel Vigeland. A further 17 stained glass windows were gifted to the church in 1952 by Borgar Hauglid.
Located behind Oslo Cathedral you’ll find Basarhallene (the bazaar halls). Constructed between 1841 and 1581 the halls were originally designed by Christian H. Grosch in Neo-Romanesque style and used as a butchers shop.
This complex was also renovated along with the cathedral in the 1960s and is now home to a number of small independent arts, crafts and antique shops along with a handful of cafés and restaurants.
Eating out in Oslo isn’t cheap however with just one day in the city it’s an expense that can be incurred to maximise the amount of time spent exploring.
If eating in the bazaar halls at Oslo Cathedral doesn’t take your fancy then check out this Lonely Planet guide which has a wonderful number of suggestions to suit all tastes.
Personally, during our 1 day in Oslo opted to eat at Taco República, an affordable tex-mex bar in the heart of the city centre.
After lunch, it’s on to the Historical Museum or Historisk Museum. One of Oslo’s most beautiful buildings the museum features both permanent and changing exhibitions spread over four floors.
Pro Tip: Entry to the museum is free on the last Saturday of the month.
On the ground floor, you’ll find large collections from the middle ages. These include the likes of gold and silver treasures as well as an interdisciplinary exhibition.
The remaining floors feature highlights including; Egyptian mummies, antique art as well as multiple items from the Arctic expedition and African, American and East Asian cultures.
Pro Tip: While your ticket to the Historical Museum also includes entry to the Viking Museum this isn’t something you’ll be able to see in 1 day in Oslo and would only be suitable if you’re staying for another day – or longer.
Entry into the museum is 120 NOK for adults and 90 NOK for concessions. Children under the age of 18 are free to enter the museum with a paying adult.
The Royal Palace: Changing Of The Guards
Directly opposite the Historical Museum, you’ll see the Royal Palace. Climb the hill through the public green space surrounding the palace, Slottsparken to get to the top.
The Royal Palace, Oslo is no Buckingham Palace let me tell you. In fact, that’s one of the reasons we loved it. It’s simple, there are no railings meaning you can get a clear photo of the building.
If you’re only planning on spending 1 day in Oslo then we suggest visiting the Royal Palace at 1.30pm for the changing of the guards.
Pro Tip: Oslo is relatively flat so climbing to the top of the hill here provides you with some of the best views out over the city.
If you’ve some extra time then consider going on a guided tour of the palace itself which is reasonably priced at 135 NOK for adults and 105 NOK for concessions and children – well, reasonably priced for Norway at least and lasts 20 minutes.
Oslo National Gallery
A ten-minute walk down back along Kristian IVs gate brings you to Oslo’s National Gallery. This is the most popular museum in Oslo.
Pro Tip: The National Gallery has been closed temporarily since 13 January 2019 to secure a safe moving process to the new National Museum, to open in 2021.
Home to the famous painting ‘The Scream’ by Eduard Munch among other pieces this museum is free to enter and open daily.
Browse through more than 300 pieces of artwork including a range of paintings and sculptures with a particular focus on 19th-century pieces.
Oslo Botanical Gardens & Arboretum
If it’s a nice day then be sure to finish your 1 day in Oslo with a trip to the Oslo Botanical Gardens & Arboretum.
Situated 2.3km from the Oslo National Gallery, just outside of the city centre you can get to the gardens by walking or taking one of the local buses.
Open year-round and completely free to enter the Oslo Botanical Gardens & Arboretum has more than 1,800 plants and is a great way to escape the hustle and bustle of the city centre.
Be sure to stop by the scented garden which has been specially arranged and designed as an experience for the blind and wheel-chair bound.
Alternatively, if you have a little more to spend consider visiting one of the 30 restaurants in Oslo with a Michelin star.
Spend the evening taking part in one of the cities events.
Being the capital of Norway there’s always something going on, especially during the polar days when the city remains light for 20 hours out of 24.