I’ve written a whole post on the reasons why I loved Oslo so much and why I think everyone should go there. I’m well aware though, that Oslo – like most other Scandinavian cities – has a reputation for being expensive. That’s because it is. There’s no getting around it, it’s almost guaranteed that you will spend more in a weekend in Oslo than you would on the average European city break…but it doesn’t have to be ridiculous.
I’m sorry, I don’t have our exact trip cost to quote here, so this is going to be a pretty vague statement, but we ended up spending the grand total of ‘a lot less than I expected’. This post is about how we made sure that a trip to Norway’s capital didn’t cost the earth – and still had an absolutely brilliant time.
Do your research: It goes without saying that you need to make sure you research your options for accommodation – and don’t be afraid to stray away from a hotel if needs be. There are some good, affordable hotel options, but for cheaper than the price of a mediocre hotel you can rent a great apartment or house (or choose a private room in a hostel). We looked at several hotels with rather lacklustre reviews and eyewatering prices, but I could not have been more pleased with where we ended up.
Live like a local: We rented a beautiful loft apartment in Torshov, a residential area, via Airbnb. At around £140 for two people for two nights, it was beautiful, entirely our own space, and we got the added bonus of local hosts who could give us lots of advice. We were sent instructions on how to get the bus before we arrived and Siss (our host/ultimate babe) met us at the bus stop. She left a map of the city that she’d marked up with places we might like to visit, and then indicated where to avoid eating if we didn’t want to spend a million Norwegian Krone. The photos below show the interior and the sunset above is the view from the window on our first night.
Get moving: Walking was one of our main forms of transportation in Oslo. If you are going into the surrounding countryside you will need transportation, but if you are sticking around the city centre I would recommend using your legs where possible. It’s a beautiful city to wander in!
Public transport: All of Oslo and the surrounds are on the same public transport operator (Ruter) and when you are going between different areas of the city you may want to take buses/trams/subways/ferries. A day pass (90 NOK, around £9) will cover all of that transport. £9 might sound fairly expensive, but since a single ticket is 55 NOK, it’s well worth doing; we bought one when we first arrived since we needed to get the bus to the apartment anyway and ended up using it around 6 times in the 24 hour validity period.
Things to do
Explore: Sounds obvious, but by just walking (yep, that again) around Oslo, you will see lots and get a real feel for the place. Explore areas like Grunnerlokka, Aker Brygge or Bygdøy on foot without having to spend a thing, wander by the Royal Palace and Akershus Fortress, or potter around one of the city markets.
Free things to do: For a city that has a reputation for being so pricey, there sure are a lot of free things to do. The botanical gardens and parks are lovely and free to enter, climbing the roof of the Opera house costs nothing and is a must, and some museums and galleries – especially on a Sunday – are free. Take advantage of them and you’ll find that you can fill multiple days without having to spend a thing.
Choose wisely: You could easily spend a lot of time at the free stuff, but there might be paid attractions you don’t want to miss. Do a bit of research and choose the ones that really interest you, and you probably won’t find you spend a lot; the only attraction we actually paid for was the Viking Ship museum (100 NOK) – which I would totally recommend. (I should also say here that we were there in summer, and the weather was beautiful so we wanted to be outside; I imagine this isn’t always the case, in which case perhaps see the next point!)
The Oslo pass: If staying longer than we did, or if your stay doesn’t include a Sunday, or if you’ll be visiting lots of paid-for museums and galleries, a good option could be the Oslo pass. I’m always pretty suspicious of the savings you make with this kind of thing, but at around £75 for three days, £60 for two or £40 for one and covering over 30 museums/galleries as well as all your transport and several discounts, it could be worth looking into depending on your plans.
Food and drink
This is the part that I’m not so equipped to advise on, as it was my birthday while we were in Oslo and we did eat a couple of expensive meals (although we weren’t crazily spendy, because I’m a bit of a cheapskate).
Avoid tourist traps and expensive areas: Just like in most cities, if you eat at a restaurant directly on one of the main tourist streets you will probably find that you spend a lot for nothing special. We were also advised that while we should visit Aker Brygge for a wander and maybe a drink, we should avoid eating there if we didn’t want to spend ALL the money.
Make your own: A great thing about renting an apartment in an expensive city is that you do have the option to eat in if you like, or make a little picnic to take out with you for the day. Supermarkets are expensive in line with the rest of the city but by eating out less you will save some pennies.
Treat yourself: On holiday, it’s easy to find yourself picking up multiple coffees and cakes and who knows what else in a day. In Oslo, this is going to add up far quicker than you might be used to, but I would never advocate not buying coffee or cake – so if you’re looking to save it might be best to treat yourself to something really good and really enjoy it rather than make it something you do 20 times over three days.
Cheap eats: There are, believe it or not, a fair few cheap food options throughout the city – you just have to find them. Five minutes of searching online will give you a number to choose from but one I can wholeheartedly recommend is Gaza Kitchen, where we got delicious falafel wraps for around a fiver. It’s in the centre but not on one of the main streets so you will likely need to google map your way there, and you can sit inside or takeaway and sit on a bench outside Gucci like we did (lol). We also wanted to try Rice Bowl, an affordable thai restaurant which we didn’t have time for but which came highly recommended.
Drinking out: Ha, is all I have to say. We did have a couple of drinks, but they weren’t cheap, so I don’t have any advice here apart from to say that if you want to save money, probably don’t drink too much in bars. If you fancy more than a couple, either face up to the fact that you might be spending a LOT, or take the party home – pick up something from a supermarket and toast the holiday back at your base.
That’s all I’ve got! Accommodation, transport in the city and attraction costs came to less than £200 between two of us for a weekend. We spent a lot on food – perhaps even that again, although as I said you wouldn’t have to spend as much as we did. Also not included here are flights, since we visited Oslo as part of a multi-destination trip. However, I’m the kinda gal who likes to browse flight prices on the regular (no, really) and return flights to Oslo from London for £100 or under aren’t difficult to come by.
So if you’re thinking about Oslo, but have been put off by expense – don’t be! Obviously everyone’s trip costs will vary depending on where you stay and what you do/eat, but I was really pleasantly surprised at what we spent in the end. Have you ever considered visiting Oslo – and if so, would price be a factor in your decision?
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