Oslo, the capital of Norway, is an incredible city! We only had a couple of days to explore it, so we opted to buy the Oslo City Pass to make the most of it. The pass, which costs between 44 - 82 Euro, and grants the owner entry into a number of museums and unlimited access to public transportation. Like almost everything in Scandinavian countries, it wasn't cheap, but there were a few places we wanted to be sure we hit up, all of which were included with the pass, so the convenience made it easy.
First up was the Akershus Castle. This castle was built on a cliff overlooking the Fjord. Today, it mostly guards Oslo from the hoards of tourists that visit on cruise ships (two were in dock that day). The oldest parts of the castle date to 1299. It was modified into a fortress by the 1500s to protect Oslo before being further renovated into a Renaissance castle. Today, it comprises a number of buildings, halls, and chapels. We opted for the audio tour, which gave us lots of information (almost too much) about each room that we passed through. If you do decide to visit, the interior of the castle is not stroller friendly. Since it was slow, they allowed us to store our stroller by the main ticket counter, but I don't think that is standard practice for them.
From there, we walked down to the harbor that Askershus Fortress overlooks. The Nobel Peace Prize Museum is nearby so that was our next stop. But, before we did, I spotted the coolest statue ever guys - it was a silver scuba diver! I'm not sure of it's significance, but it was pretty awesome!
Ok, back to the Peace Prize museum. It's pretty small, but very well done. There is a temporary exhibition space on the first floor. When we visited, there was an exhibit entitled, "Targets." It highlighted with moving photographs how the "enemy" is perceived and how that perception changes over time, and between countries. It was thought-provoking to read through the stories behind the images, see quotes from soldiers, and see the images. Upstairs was another unique, and photogenic, exhibition that showcased all the past winners of the Nobel Peace Prize. A field of tablets in a darkened space were light by fiber optics. Each tablet had the picture and story of a past winner. In the Nobel Peace Center, the exhibits are constantly changing, highlighting various aspects of the selection criteria. It's definitely worth a short stop if you're in Oslo.
The next stop on our Oslo City Pass itinerary was the Norwegian Folk Museum. I wish we had had more time to spend here as there are lot of really unique and interesting outdoor displays. Highest on our list of places to see though was the Stave Church, the iconic church design of Norway. Originally constructed in the 1200s, the church has been restored a number of times over the years. The carvings on the entire thing are so incredibly intricate. Stepping inside, I was surprised at how dark the space was. After visiting churches and cathedrals elsewhere in Europe which are all bright, it was strange to see something so dark.
Also at the Folk Museum are different villages that show was it was like to live in Norway at various points in her past. From the houses built on stilts, to more modern city living, various aspects of Norwegian history and culture are showcased. One could easily spend all day looking at the various exhibits, but it was cold and rainy, so we saw what we wanted to see and then were off to our next stop: the Viking Ship Museum.
Located on the same island about a kilometer away from the Folk Museum is the Viking Ship Museum. On display there is one of the best, nearly complete, preserved Viking ships in existence, along with two other, partial, ships. Walking in to the museum, it's the first thing you see; it's impossible to miss. While this ship in particular was used as a burial ship, it is a highly accurate representation of the ships the vikings used to cross the Atlantic. It's open-decked and, while appearing large, is actually quite small for navigating the open waters of the sea. It's low, wide, profile made it undoubtedly very stable in the water. Nonetheless, it was not a very glamorous way to cross the ocean. Also on display are two much less intact ships and some other artifacts found with the burial ship, things that the passengers (in this case, two women thought to be of a very high status) would need in the afterlife. The whole museum only take about an hour to see and was stroller friendly.
Our last museum for the day (yes, we did 5 in one day - we were NUTS!), was the Fram Museum, which tells the story of the Norwegian Polar Expedition. Also in the museum is an exhibit on the Gjøa, and the antarctic expeditions. There is a lot of information in this museum and you could easily spend all day reading it, but the real star of the show is, of course, the mighty Fram. I think they built the building around the ship. It's so large that it was impossible to get a picture of it! You can walk the halls, see the bunks, and climb through berths in the ship. I won't lie, by this point in the day, I was a little museum-ed out and tired. I would say we got our money's worth from the Oslo City Pass though!
Headed to Oslo and trying to decide if you should get the pass or not? It is expensive and if you only want to see a couple of things in Oslo, it's definitely cheaper to pay for admission a la carte. But the fact that it also includes public transportation means you don't have to hunt down a convenience store (i.e. a 7-11) to buy a ticket every time you want to take a tram. If you know what you want to see in Oslo and that includes lots of places for a short amount of time, the pass is definitely a good deal. In hind sight, I would have picked only a couple of places to see and just purchased tickets for each of them separately. However, I can't deny the convenience of the Oslo City Pass.
Disclaimer: The Oslo City Pass was not provided to me. I purchased it and all opinions are my own.