Maximizing the Oslo Pass
Visit Oslo offers a nifty pass that offers free access to over thirty museums or attractions, free use of public transportation, as well as discounts on restaurants, tours, and some other selected activities. The pass costs about $51 or 445 Norwegian Krone. Considering that the Viking Ship museum costs about $11 and a visit to the Norsk Folkemuseum costs about $18, it is a great deal for anyone who plans on visiting a couple museums and using public transport to get to them. I purchased a 24 Hour Oslo Pass and was determined to make the most of it. Here is how I fared…
Obtaining the Pass:
I pre-ordered my pass online, but still had to pick it up at the Oslo Visitor Center, where the pass is validated. The Oslo Visitor Center is located at the Oslo Central Station. Thus, my first act of the day was paying a visit to the Oslo Visitor Center to pick up my pass. The office has a variety of brochures and helpful staff. During my visit, the office opened at 9am. This means that the earliest that you can begin to use the pass (obtained at this location) is after 9am. If a person wants to avoid the need to physically visit the Oslo Visitor Center, the pass can be purchased via the Oslo Pass app. In any event, visiting the Oslo Central Station wasn’t inconvenient, as many buses leave that area and most museums don’t open until after 9am. Validating it any sooner would not make sense.
Image from Visit Oslo https://www.visitoslo.com/en/activities-and-attractions/oslo-pass/
Taking Public Transport:
Since there are many museums clustered on the Bygdoy Peninsula, this was my first destination. To get there, I took Bus Number 30. Use of buses is included in the Oslo Pass, so this saved $4, which is the cost of a single bus ticket (for one hour use with transfer). The driver did not ask for my Oslo Pass, but this can be used as a ticket if there is a ticket check. The trip to the first museum on the Bygdoy Peninsula took about 20 minutes (though a ferry can also be taken to Bygdoy Penninsula). My first destination was the Norsk Folkemuseum, which is the first museum on the bus route and conveniently has a bus stop right outside the museum.
The Norsk Folkemuseum opens at 10am during the summer months into early fall. By the time I arrived there, the museum was just opening. As I mentioned, the museum costs about $18. I wish the museum opened earlier, since it is an expansive complex of Norwegian buildings. Upon arrival, visitors can present their Oslo Pass at the ticket office, then begin exploring. The first assembly of buildings feature indoor museums with various exhibits on Norwegian culture. A person could spend an entire day at just this museum. However, because I had an ambitious agenda I didn’t linger at any one exhibit. A person can take their time absorbing various elements of Norwegian culture, such as arts, crafts, and costumes. I found the exhibit on Sami culture to be the most engaging and one to spend more time with.
As interesting as the indoor museums were, the real attraction are the 150+ buildings that constitute the open air museum. The museum is believed to be one of the oldest and largest open-air museums in the world. The most impressive structure is the ornate Gol Stav Church, which was built in 1200 and moved to the sight when it faced demolition in the 1800s. Another point of interest was large assembly of various farm buildings, complete with livestock, vegetables, and costumed farmer reenactors. There are homes or building representing various regions of Norway and a stand out was the sod roofed buildings from Fjordane. More modern buildings can also be found in the “New Town” area of the open air museum.
Viking Ship Museum:
The Viking Ship Museum is a quick 400 m walk from the Norsk Folkemuseum. Since this museum opens at 9 am during the summer, a person who already has their Oslo pass might choose to visit this one first. Without the pass, the admission is $11.40. The museum is very popular and there were several buses there when I arrived. It also has tighter security, so visitors must check their bags before they enter. The museum is impressive, but smaller, so it is reasonable that it could be visited in far less time than the enormous Norsk Folkemuseum. The main attraction are several preserved Viking ships and associated artifacts. The main attraction is the Oseburg ship, which was constructed around 820 CE and used as a burial for two important women. The burial also consisted of a sleigh, animals, tools, a cart, and other items. This ship is the centerpiece of the museum, but other ships and artifacts are contained in the wings. The Gokstad ship was built around 890 CE and served as the burial for an unknown man of importance who was buried with an assembly of animals that included two peacocks. The museum also includes the less reconstructed Tune ship. Viewing the ships and the various artifacts in the museum is interesting. The fact that the ships were so well preserved and that they could be rebuilt is also pretty amazing.
It is a little less than a mile walk from the Viking Ship Museum to the Kon-tiki Museum. A person could also continue onward via bus 30 for a five minute bus ride. I chose to walk. As for the Kon-tiki museum, I wouldn’t say that it is a must see museum, but it went along with a general museum theme of learning about Norwegian ships. The museum contains the Kon-Tiki balsa raft that Thor Heyerdahl used to sail from Peru to Polynesia. It also contains the Ra II, which was a papyrus boat that was sailed from Morocco to Barbados. The museum documents his life, the various expeditions he took part in, other participants in the expeditions, sea life, and elements of the cultures Heyerdahl interacted with. The museum is a little unusual in that some of Heyerdahl’s ideas were far fetched if not pseudoscientific. But, his expeditions at least opened the door to what is possible when it comes to long distance cultural exchanges between people who were otherwise believed to be isolated from each other. He also helped to popularize experimental archaeology and this could benefit some indigenous people if they have control/agency regarding the experiments. For instance, while visiting Hawaii a few years ago, I learned at the Polynesian Cultural Center that there are efforts to construct traditional ships and test out historical voyages across the Pacific. This could benefit indigenous people by preserving or rebuilding historical knowledge. Without the Oslo pass, admission would be $14.
Right next door to the Kon-tiki Museum is the Fram Museum. Following the theme of the other two museums I had visited, this museum contains a ship. In this instance, the ship was the polar exploring ship known as the Fram. The Fram was used to explore both the Arctic and the Antarctic in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The massive ship looks sturdy and shiny enough to be made of metal, but is actually made of wood. This in itself is pretty impressive, as it was the only wooden ship to travel as far north and south as it did. Visitors can view the ship from several levels and board the ship for further exploration. The museum itself offers a great deal of fascinating information about polar exploration. I knew nothing about the Fram before entering the museum, but was enthralled by the artifacts and stories of the sometimes doomed and often life and death struggles of exploration. The Fram was the ship that brought Roald Amundsen on his successful expedition to the South Pole. This museum is definitely worth visiting if polar exploration floats your boat.
Cost $14 (Or about $11 if purchased with Kon-tiki ticket.)
There are other attractions on the Bygdoy Peninsula, including the nearby Maritime Museum (near the Fram Museum and Kontiki Museums), Oscarhall, Holocaust Center, and Huk and Paradisbukta beaches. So, a person could reasonably spend the day at Bygdoy. The Holocaust Center and Oscarhall cost about $7 each. Instead of remain on Bydgoy, I relaxed, ate a snack, and watched some birds from a bench before heading back on a ferry. The ferry returns Bydgoy visitors to Pier 3 at City Hall. It is covered by the Oslo pass, but without the pass, a one way journey would cost about $7.
Although I had already visited four museums, I pushed onward to another museum. I walked from Pier 3 to the Historical Museum, which is about a half mile walk. A person could take a bus, but it was easier just to walk. The museum is open from 10 am to 5pm during the summer and costs just over $11. However, admission to the Historical Museum is included in the price of the Viking Ship Museum, so, the Oslo pass really doesn’t save a person money if they are already planning on visiting both museums. By this point in the day, I was a little exhausted by my marathon of museum visits. Still, there were some interesting and enjoyable things at this museum. Highlights of this museum include a Medieval gallery, Viking artefacts, Egyptian mummies, and a collection of gold coins. I don’t think this museum is a “must see” museum in the way that the Viking Ship Museum, Fram museum, or Norsk Folkemuseum are. The museum was a bit forgettable because it contained items one would expect in a history museum. If a person has a strong interest in Medieval doors and chairs, it may be worth a visit.
Oslo Reptile Park:
The grand finale of my museum marathon was going to be Oslo Reptile Park. Oslo Reptile Park is located about .3 miles from the Historical Museum, which made it an easy destination. The Oslo Reptile Park is open until 6pm, which also made it a good final destination as other museums closed at 5pm. Admission to the Oslo Reptile Park is a whopping $17, so this definitely added value to the Oslo pass. Unfortunately, it was not as grand as I hoped. It was tucked away in what looked like an apartment complex and contained about 100 animals. Despite the name “Reptile Park” many of the animals were actually insects or amphibians. The Reptile Park includes two small floors of animals enclosed in glass. Of course, there are a variety of snakes to look at and perhaps the most chilling exhibit is a lonely Black Widow spider. Visitors have the opportunity to watch the feeding of some animals or hold a snake (at least when I visited a staff allowed people to touch a snake. I don’t remember the species). It is a modest attraction and not worth $17. But, with the Oslo Pass, there is little to lose in visiting. It is a nice change from the heavier, more historical information that my brain had been digesting all day, so, it provided a welcome splash of variety to my day. I imagine that keeping all those animals alive and well is costly, so the admissions price is probably necessary. I finished up my visit here before 6 pm closing time.
With the museums closed, I was determined to do at least one final activity for the day. I decided to head to Frogner Park, which contains over 200 sculptures by Gustav Vigeland. Visiting Frogner Park is free. However, it is over a mile and a half away from Reptile Park. Because I had been on my feet all day, I opted to take a tram to Frogner Park. The tram took about 20 minutes and like the bus, would have cost about $4 for a one way trip with transfer. The park itself was very unique and relaxing. The park is full of Vigeland’s bulky, bronze statues of naked bodies. Muscular men and thick women line the long pathway to the Monolith, a tower of 120 naked bodies carved into granite. Gustav Vigeland was sympathetic to Nazis and their occupation of Norway. I didn’t know his political orientation when I visited the park, but the sculptures certainly idealized an ideal type of body (robust) and conveyed traditions of family and solidarity. The park features a pond with birds and an assortment of gardens to enjoy as well. After spending some time at the park, I used the Oslo pass to return to my hostel and called it a day! It was a long day indeed!
$8 (Transport-both ways)
Regular admission to all of the museums would have been $74. Additionally, $19 was spent on transportation. Since most people would buy a 24-hour day pass for transportation, I will count this at $12, which is the cost of a day pass. The cost of the museum admission plus the day pass for transport would be $86. So, the Oslo pass saved me about $35. I tried pretty hard to squeeze as much value as I could out of the pass and was pretty exhausted by the end of the day. I didn’t even eat lunch during my museum marathon! I felt accomplished and satisfied. I didn’t race through each museum, but I definitely pushed myself. I don’t think I could have fit any other museums or sights into my day. There is a limit to how much value one can extract from the Oslo Pass, as museums are mostly open between 9am and 6pm. Therefore, although it is a 24 hour pass, there is a nine hour window to utilize the pass due to open and closing times and logistically I would have found it quite difficult to visit more than six museums. Some museums can be visited in about an hour (such as Reptile Park and the Viking Ship Museum). Others, such as the Norsk Folkemuseum, take over two hours. By the end of the day I regret that I did not purchase a 48 hr pass. This costs 665 NOK or $76. For $25 more than the 24 hr pass, the two day pass is a pretty good deal and it would have been easier to spread out the museums and add a few more sights over the span of an extra day. Other sights that I would have visited include the Labor Museum and the Munch Museum. Both of these were out of the way so they did not fit into my schedule. If a person really wants to visit a lot of museums, the 48 hour pass seems to be the way to go!