Scandinavian countries like Norway, Sweden, and Denmark have long been known as the most expensive destinations in Europe. But with these 25 free things to do in Scandinavia, your vacation there won’t put too big of a dent in your wallet.
1. Walk on the roof of the Opera House
Operahuset, Oslo’s opera house, has a sloping roof that is made for walking. Go there for a magnificent sunset view of the city and fjord. Free rooftop concerts are available throughout the summer months.
2. Free guided tour of the Norwegian Parliament House
Free one hour guided tours are available every Saturday at 11:30 am year-round and on weekdays in July. Learn about the history of the building and the Norwegian politics and a chance to see the Plenary Chamber. Tours are available on a first-come, first-served basis. You can’t make a reservation and you’ll have to wait in line at the rear entrance at Akersgata.
3. Visit Vigeland Sculpture Park
Vigeland Sculpture Park, located in Frogner Park has more than 200 bronze, granite and cast iron sculptures by Gustav Vigeland. It’s open 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. You can take the blue tram number 12 to the main entrance of the park.
According to Visit Oslo, a ride on tram number 12 is a great way to see Oslo. It runs between Majorstuen in Oslo west and Kjelsas in Oslo north, passing by Vigeland Park, Vika neighborhoods, City Hall Square, Karl Johans gate, and more.
4. Explore Æreslunden Cemetery
See the final resting place of Edvard Munch and other famous Norwegians at the cemetery. The cemetery dates back to 1808.
5. Admire the artwork at Oslo City Hall
Learn about Norwegian history, culture, and working life through the artwork that covers the roof and walls of Oslo City Hall. The bells in the city hall play classical and also pop music every hour from 7 am to midnight. You can check out the list of songs at oslo.kommune.no.
6. Visit Oslo Cathedral
Oslo Cathedral’s stain glass windows, painting ceiling, and altarpiece are worth checking out. The cathedral is open to the public daily from 10 am to 4 pm except for Fridays. Friday opening hours are from 4 pm to 6 am. The church is used for weddings and funerals by the Norwegian government and the royal family.
7. Check out Barcode Project architecture
Barcode architecture is modern and fascinating. There are 12 buildings of different heights and widths, all built by different architectural firms. You’ll find restaurants, shops, galleries, and cafes on the street level of the buildings.
8. See the changing of the guard and visit the Royal Palace Gardens
See the changing of the guard at the Royal Palace at 1:30 pm daily. After the ceremony, head over to the Royal Palace Gardens with beautiful ponds and well-kept lawns. Check out the sculptures in the garden and walk over to the Queen’s Park, open from May 18 to October 1 every year.
9. Visit Stockholm Public Library
Check out the 360-degree tower of books at the Stockholm Public Library, listed as one of the most beautiful libraries in the world.
10. Take a self-guided walking tour in Gamla Stan
Download the GPSMYCITY app and let the app be your personal guide. Enjoy the living museum of Stockholm showcasing medieval alleyways and amazing buildings filled with stories. Gamla Stan or Old Town was founded in the 13th century, and it is one of the most well-preserved medieval towns in Europe.
11. Watch the changing of the guard at the Royal Palace
The changing of the guard at the Royal Palace starts at 12:15 pm on weekdays and 1:15 pm on Sundays at the Royal Palace outer courtyard.
12. Discover Djurgarden
Enjoy the parks with 800 different types of flowers and hundreds of types of birds, and walk along Strandvagen in Djurgarden island. Djurgarden is home to the Vasa Museum, Abba Museum, Skansen Museum, and many more.
13. Visit Skogskyrkogården cemetery
Skogskyrkogården cemetery or Woodland Cemetery is the resting place of Swedish famous movie star, Greta Garbo. The tombstones are fully integrated into its environment amongst the tall pine trees. The cemetery was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1994.
14. Check out an Ikea store
Visiting Ikea at Kungens Kurva in Skärholmen, south of Stockholm, is a must if you’re an Ikea fan. It is the largest Ikea in the world, opened in 1965. Take the free Ikea bus located opposite Nordic Light Hotel. The free buses are only available on weekdays.
15. Take in the views at Skinnarviksberget
Take a walk up to Skinnarviksberget for one of the best views of Stockholm during sunset. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes and your camera.
16. Window shopping at NK
NK or Nordiska Kompaniet is Stockholm’s most prestigious departmental store. It has been the city’s landmark for over 100 years. Check out the stores and uniquely Swedish and Nordic kitchenware in the basement.
17. Get cultured at Kulturhuset
Some of the cultural events and programs at Kulturhuset in Sergels Torg are free. Go to the information desk on the ground floor for an updated schedule.
Also read Trippy’s article, How to Spend 24 Hours in Stockholm.
18. Explore Round Tower
The impressive Round Tower or Rundetaarn in Copenhagen is a 17th-century tower and observatory and oldest functioning observatory in Europe. Take a spiral walk (including a few narrow steps) to the top and get a view of the city.
19. Photograph with the Little Mermaid
The Little Mermaid, a bronze statue by Edvard Eriksen, is the most photographed statue in Denmark.
20. Check out the beautiful old houses in Nyhavn
Once a commercial port where sailors hung out, Nyhavn today is the place for al fresco dining. Check out Nyhavn 20 and 67, two houses that Hans Christian Andersen lived in and where he wrote his famous fairy tales.
21. Visit The Tower at Christianborg Palace
The 348 feet (106 meters) tower at Christianborg Palace is the highest tower in Copenhagen. You have to go through security before accessing the elevator that will take you to the top of the tower. The entrance to the tower is at the King’s Gate of Christianborg Palace. The tower offers views of the city’s rooftops.
22. Enjoy Rosenborg Garden
Also known as the King’s Garden, Rosenborg Garden is the oldest royal garden in Denmark. Check out Hans Christian Andersen’s statue and the Hercules Pavilion. The garden is filled with colors in warmer days when the flowers bloom, and the locals gather to enjoy the sun.
23. Visit Black Diamond Library
Black Diamond, built in 1999, is an extension of the Royal Danish Library. You can see the contrast of the old (Royal Danish Library) and the Black Diamond.
24. Discover Freetown Christiana
Freetown Christiana is an alternative and car-free community located in the middle of Copenhagen, where most tourists go to check out the cafes, galleries, shops, and vegan restaurants.
25. Visit Kastellet military barracks and Copenhagen Citadel
The Kastellet was established in 1626 and is still being used as military barracks and offices today. It’s open to the public. And it is one of the most well-preserved citadels in Europe.