Oslo: Some Museum Top Picks, Mostly Kid Friendly, Too!

I am glad we decided to make today our day to check out some museums in Oslo since there was a light drizzle most of the day.

I always find deciding what museums to visit a painstaking exercise. There a lot in Oslo and many other destinations have the same situation, many museums, too little time to see them all. I sometimes try to research museums before I travel to see what is exhibited there. When I am traveling with Sam by myself I usually have to opt for the ones that have the most things to climb on and the least pieces of art to stare at or information plaques to read. I know that sounds terrible, but dragging an active five year old through one art gallery after another can be torture, especially if you like to read the information plaques that are next to them. Some museums have really good children’s areas though so be sure to research that as well.

We opted to go out to the area of Bygdoy which has a concentration of wonderful museums. During the spring and summer you can take a ferry from the Oslo waterfront over to Bygdoy, but after September they stop running until spring. We took the other way to get there, the #30 bus that picks up at Oslo City Hall.

On our way to get the bus, we walked through Kvadraturen, an area of Oslo from the 17th and 18th centuries. It is known for the giant pointy finger in the square Christiania torv where King Christian IV decided to rebuild the town after a fire destroyed it in 1624. That is supposedly the spot he literally pointed to and said the town should be built. You cannot get a good photo directly in front of the finger since it is a very busy thoroughfare for cars but I got Sam to stand as tall as he could and snapped one. While trying to get a photo I lucked out and got a photo of the smallest car I have ever seen, a “Buddy” car. I saw two in the same day. Apparently it is an electric car made for city driving.

Pointy finger thingy
Pointy finger thingy with teenie tiny “Buddy” car

Our first stop was the Viking Ship Museum.

Viking Ship Museum
Viking Ship Museum

Several Viking ships from the 800-1000 AD time period are in the museum. You are awe struck when you walk in to see the Oseberg. Discovered in 1903, over 90% of the ship is made of original wood. It has a lot of beautiful ornamental wood work and it could be sailed or rowed. Look at the HUGE oar.

Oseberg, Viking ship
Oseberg, Viking ship
Huge oar, Oseberg, Viking ship

They have stairs you can walk up and take photos of the ships from above.

Viking Ship Museum

They are working on 3D mapping another ship, the Tune and it was interesting to see that process. He moves a camera along underneath the ship and mapping is on the computer.

3D mapping the Tune
3D mapping the Tune

In addition to the ships are loads of beautiful artifacts from the burial sites of the ships including sleds and wagons. There were a few pieces of textiles, but they are so delicate they could not be photographed.

Artifacts, Viking Ship Museum
Artifacts, Viking Ship Museum
Artifacts, Viking Ship Museum
Photo of Oseberg burial site excavation

About a 3 minute walk from the Viking Ship Museum is the Norwegian Folk Museum. We did not visit that museum, but moved on to another area of Bygdoy where several other maritime themed museums are based. It’s a pleasant 15 minute walk through a beautiful residential neighborhood to reach them.

Residential area Bygdoy
Residential area Bygdoy

We saw many of the steeply pitched roofs pictured in the above photo. I
am thinking that design is effective at not having heavy snow build up on them?

The Norwegian Maritime Museum, the Kon Tiki Museum and the Fram Museum are all right next to each other. The Maritime Museum has exhibits on maritime history, ship building shipping and coast culture. The Kon Tiki is a raft that journeyed across the Pacific Ocean from South American to the Polynesian Islands in 1947 piloted by Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl. A documentary movie made about the expedition won the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature in 1951.

We decided on the Fram Museum so we could board and captain our own polar explorer ship. The museum has two polar exploration ships, the Fram and the Gjoa. The Fram has been on several important polar expeditions, to both the North and South Poles. In 1911 Roald Amundsen‘s team on the Fram was the first to reach the South Pole. They did so five weeks before a British team reached it.

Behind Fram Museum
View behind Fram Museum
View behind Fram Museum
Fram Museum

Another awe inspiring ship greeted you as entered the Fram Museum.

The Fram

The museum showed a 15 minute film on polar exploration and had a lot of great artifacts and digital media about polar exploration. There were also some interactive exhibits that were great for kids.

The Gjoa
Sam “pulling” a sledge through the snow, he needs a few extra pounds

The best interactive exhibit however, was the Fram itself. It wasn’t just an artifact to walk around and admire from the outside, they actually allowed you on board and you could visit all the decks to see what was below. You really felt like you had stepped into a piece of history.

On board the Fram
On board the Fram
On board the Fram
On board the Fram, crew room
On board the Fram
On board the Fram

This was a great museum!!

There are a lot of art museums and galleries in Oslo. I decided to go the Munch Museum. It’s small (so I could get through it fairly quickly with Sam) and holds some of the modern pieces by Norwegian artist Edvard Munch, artist of the famous The Scream. The museum is not well served by buses so we walked there from central Oslo and took the subway back to the city after our visit.

I really loved the pieces in the museum, but be prepared for high security. In 2004, several Munch pieces were stolen at gunpoint, including The Scream. The pieces were recovered two years later. You have to put your bags in a locker downstairs, put your outerwear and cameras through an x-ray machine and walk through a metal detector.

Munch Museum
Munch Museum
Munch Museum, The Scream behind Sam
Munch Museum
Munch Museum
Munch Museum
Munch Museum
Munch Museum

At the end of the exhibits there was a special interactive art opportunity for children. Pads of paper with paint by numbers were on the wall and children were invited to use large crayons to “paint”. They could sign their names as well. A film crew was there documenting it. There was information on the wall saying it was to “liberate yourself from the line” and that two works were selected, one by Munch and one by Asger Jorn whose work was also on display at the museum.

Munch Museum
Munch Museum
Munch Museum
Munch Museum

Sam had a great time. He saw the children working on it when we came in and kept insisting on going over there so we broke away from looking at the art for him to paint. I wanted to then go back and see more works that we had missed. A museum guard came up and inspected Sam’s hands which had a few tiny smears of crayon on them and told us we had to leave to wash his hands before we could go back to see more art. I think they have gone a bit overboard with security, but we still had a great time.

What are your tips on how to decide on a museum itinerary while traveling? especially with children?

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