There are a multitude of museums to choose from in Oslo. They pretty much all have everything explained in both Norwegian and English. In some cases, they have other languages too, mostly German if this is the case. Here are my three favourites from my visit to Oslo. They are all distinctly Norwegian too!
The Norwegian Folk Museum covers a pretty large area. There are loads of reconstructed buildings covering a huge range of Norwegian history. There’s both indoor and outdoor exhibits which is great because it allows for the often very changeable weather.
My favourite indoor exhibit was a toss up between the history and living habits of the people who lived in the Finnmark area of Scandinavia and the pharmacy exhibit. Granted, I am a pharmacist so this may have been part of the reason. Hahaha The only downside is that in this section, most of the information plates were in Norwegian in this case.
There are buildings that resemble all walks of traditional Norwegian life. You can see (and walk into) reconstructions of farm houses, barns and even an apartment block that had different styles of apartment from a middle class family around 1900s to a family in the 1960s and even a 1970s studio apartment. My favourites were the turf roofed farm houses. I thought they not only looked great, but that it was such an intelligent way of insulating houses when there was no formal insulation. I don’t know was intentional when these were originally built, but they’re a great way of preserving the environment, something the Norwegian people are still passionate about!
One of the centrepieces of the Norwegian Folk Museum is their Stave Church. This beautiful building is modelled on the Borgund Stave Church near the Aurlandsfjord. Sadly I didn’t get to visit the real thing because there were notices up saying the road between it and Aurland was closed due to snow. I’m sure there was another route, but sadly I hadn’t enough time to do the detour.
If you’re after a quintessentially Norwegian experience and a literal walk through the social history of this amazing country, this is definitey the museum for you! Plus, if you get a sunny day (they do happen in Norway too!), it would be even more heavenly here!
The Viking Ship Museum is a smaller museum so it’s a great one to fit in if you only have an hour or so. When I visited, there was an artist’s impression of a new, much larger museum. There are four sections to the current, cross shaped, museum. All the contents of the museum were genuine artefacts from three different archaeological finds, Gokstad, Oseberg and Tune. One arm of the museum had smaller items from the finds such as textiles, sleds, pottery, tools and smaller boats.
Two other arms contain the Gokstad and Tune Ships. Both of these are wonderful artefacts. One has been restored as much as possible and the other has been intentionally left as it was, when it was found. The undisputed star of the show is the opulently decorated Oseberg Ship.
This ship was found in a large burial mound at the Oseberg Farm near Tonsberg in the Vestfold area of Norway. The burial mound dates from 834 AD, but it is thought that the ship itself was built from oak trees before 800 AD! There were two women of high importance found in the grave on the ship, one in her 80s and the other in her 50s. Upon excavation in 1904-1905, all prescious metals were found to be absent, but many of the every day artefacts (that are also housed in the museum) were still present and they gave a great insight into everyday Viking life. It’s amazing that the detailing on the ship has survived so well, take a look for yourself!
The Norwegian Resistance Museum forms part of the Akershus Fortress complex. If you have any interest in the history of World War II, especially in this part of the world, this is a must! The museum is really well laid out. It operates on a one way style system over two levels so that when you’re strolling around you will pass all the exhibits. There’s also loads of information displayed in English as well as Norwegian.
Obviously, it focuses on the Milorg organisation that became the formal organisation of organised resistance to the Nazi occupation. It also highlights the various forms of civil disobedience taken by ordinary Norwegians. They included the refusal by school teachers to indoctrinate their pupils with the Nazi propaganda and ideals.
There was also sections on the overthrowing of the King and government by fascists. It was also fascinating to learn that lots of the tactics to undermine the Nazis. Many of them were orchestrated by King Haakon VII and the cabinet of the freely elected Norwegian government in exile in Britain, in conjunction with Churchill and his SOE unit. Most notably, they were instrumental in the operations that led to the sinking of the gigantic Nazi warships, the Bismarck and Turpitz, which spent time sheltering in fjords.
There actually aren’t many to discuss. The Resistance Museum is walkable from the city centre and is housed in the Akershus Fortress. The others are a short walk from where the museum boat docks on Bygdoy. The boat leaves from the dock outside the City Hall. Access to these museums and more (as well as the Museum Boat) are all included in the Oslo Pass.