Family Vacations to Oslo, Norway

Oslo, Norway
Explore an array of Viking ships at Oslo's Viking Ship Museum (Digital Vision)

Oslo, Norway Family Travel Tips

  • Explore a castle and a fort.
  • View a real Viking ship.
  • See the Kon-Tiki, the raft Thor Heyerdahl sailed.
  • Discover how 17th- and 18th-century Norwegians lived at the Folk Museum.
  • Sun and Swim at Bygdøy's beaches.

Norway's largest city may lack the picturesque qualities of Bergen and the panache of Stockholm, but Oslo's lure comes from such attractions as world-class museums, a centuries-old castle and fort, city parks, and beaches and forests.

King Harald Hardråda, a Viking, founded Oslo in 1048 along a fjord. Båtservice Sightseeing offers a two-hour boat tour that cruises past the islands in Oslofjord, or a 50-minute tour that roams the harbor, past Akershus Festning (Fortress) and Akershus Slott (Castle). The fortress museum details the structures' history and the guided castle tour leads you through state rooms, banquet halls, and into the bleak dungeon. For more historic attractions and beaches, head to the Bygdøy Penninsula. In summer, take the ferry, or for more of a challenge bicycle along the harbor to Bygdøy.

Explorers have always been a part of Norwegian history. As soon as you enter the Vikingskipshuset (Viking Ship Museum), you face the Oseberg. Built between 815 and 820 A.D., the 72-foot Viking ship appears almost sculptural with its narrow, oak hull and curved lines. Thirty oarsmen powered the vessel, a grave ship for a high ranking woman in 834 A.D. A Viking longship built around 890 A.D., the Gokstad served as a grave ship for a Viking chieftain.

Three other Bygdøy museums also appeal to ship admirers. The Frammuseet (Fram Museum) displays the Fram captained by Fridtjof Nansen in the Arctic and later by Roald Amundsen. While school kids may need background on those explorers, most know about Thor Heyerdahl's bold raft expedition from Peru to Polynesia. At the Kon-Tiki Museum see Heyerdahl's balsa log raft and learn more about his journey. Along with detailing Norway's seafaring culture, the Norsk Sjøfartsmuseum (Norwegian Maritime Museum) presents the Gjoa, a vessel Amundsen used, as well as a collection of small craft.

Find out about the houses Norwegians built to survive on land at Bygdøy's Norsk Folkemuseum (Folk Museum). Amid groves of birch and pine trees, the museum displays 155 buildings, many from the 17th and 18th centuries. Guides in period attire describe the homes and their adaptations to the chilly Norwegian climate. The stavkirke (stave Church), a striking wooden building constructed with tall staves, or pillars, dates to the 1200s and has Runic inscriptions and the Lord's prayer in Latin. Check the schedule for folk dances as well as baking and weaving demonstrations. Enjoy bicycling and beaches on Bygdøy too, just don't think sugar-soft sands. Locals sun and swim along the rocky shores of Huk and Paradisbukta.

For art, visit the Munch Museet (Edvard Munch Museum)—his famous "Scream" is undergoing restoration—the Nasjonalgalleriet (National Gallery), which has a Munch collection as well as Norwegian impressionists and Vigeland Sculpture Park where 227-plus out-sized works by the famous artists capture the imagination.

Tip: The Oslo Pass offers free or discounted admission to attractions, free transportation on buses and ferries, plus free parking in certain lots.'s resident family expert Candyce Stapen has written the book on family travel, having authored some 1,400 travel articles and 27 books, 26 of them on family travel. She is the winner of the 2004 "Caribbean Travel Writer of the Year for North America" award and a three-time winner of the Society of American Travel Writers' Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism award. Her articles have appeared in publications including Nick Jr , FamilyFun , Parents , Better Homes & Gardens , Conde Nast Traveler , National Geographic Traveler , and the Family Travel Network , among others. Her book, the National Geographic Guide to Caribbean Family Vacations is available from

Published: 26 Nov 2007 | Last Updated: 23 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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