1. The Norwegian Folk Museum
You’ll find the Folk Museum on the Bygdøy Peninsula, which is where many of the city’s museums and galleries are located. This one is home to a fascinating array of meticulously restored traditional Norwegian houses, and staff in authentic costumes will guide you around this open-air museum. Don’t miss the 19th century sweet shop or the classic Stave Church, which dates back to the 13th century.
2. The Viking Ship Museum
Just next door to the Folk Museum is the immersive Viking Ship Museum. It houses some of the best-preserved Viking ships in the world: the Osberg, the Tune and the Gokstad, each of which remained buried for a millennium before they were discovered in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Discover more about these ships and life for the Vikings who sailed in them. On display are three skeletons of bodies excavated from the ships.
3. The National Gallery
The National Gallery is located in the centre of Oslo, and is famous for showcasing some of the most revered art in the country since its inception in 1837. You’ll find work by Edvard Munch here (more on him later), as well as artists from the Social Realist and Romantic movements.
Try to time your visit on a Thursday, when admission is free. Both the National Gallery and the Museum of Contemporary Art will become part of the National Museum, set to open in 2020.
4. The Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art
This gallery moves at the pace of modern art, featuring up to seven temporary exhibitions every year. Perhaps one of the most remarkable aspects of the Astrup Fearnley Museum is its building, which was designed by celebrated architect Renzo Piano. His vision was to mirror the ships which used to dock where the museum now stands.
You’ll find it sandwiched between the Oslo Fjord and Aker Brygge, offering peaceful views over the water.
5. The Akershus Fortress and Castle
Close to the centre of Oslo is the Akershus Fortress and Castle, which has stood on the site since the medieval era. As well as offering stunning vistas of Oslo Fjord, this fortress contains exhibits which detail over 700 years of Norwegian history. It’s thought that the first parts of the fortress were built back in 14th century by King Haakon the Fifth, to defend the city against attack. The museums and castle are free to visit, too.
6. The Vigeland Museum
The statues of Gustav Vigeland are one of Norway’s most famous cultural exports. The museum showcases many of the artist’s most famous sculptures, and offers plenty of information about his life and career. The museum’s Neo-Classical buildings are equally worth a look. Vigeland was notable for his productivity as a sculptor: you can see more of his work at the Sculpture Park set within the pretty and peaceful Frogner Park.
7. Holmenkollen Ski Museum and Tower
Snowsports, and especially cross-country skiing, are an integral part of Norwegian culture. Holmenkollen looms over Oslo from its mountaintop position, and is the oldest ski museum in the world, having first opened its doors in 1923. Inside, you can learn about over 4000 years of ski-related history.
Exhibitions comprise weather and climate change, polar expeditions and present-day explorers. The ski museum is situated beneath the enormous ski jump tower (which features a staggering 1000 tons of steel in its construction).
8. The Munch Museum
The Modernist painter Edvard Munch is perhaps Norway’s most well-known artist, and this fascinating museum is a great introduction to his life and work. More than half of Munch’s paintings are permanently housed here, as well as personal effects such as letters.
The museum regularly hosts temporary exhibitions which set Munch’s work in context with other internationally renowned artists. You can find smaller Munch installations in the museum quarter by Rådhusgata as well as in Grünerløkka.