Discover Norway's Bygdøy, Where Museums and Beaches Abound

Sunset at Bygdøy
Sunset at Bygdøy | © Siri Spjelkavik / Flickr

Its name literally means ‘built island’ or ‘village island’, and although Bygdøy is technically a peninsula, it has all the makings of a quick island getaway right in the heart of Oslo, just a 15-minute ferry ride from the City Hall pier. From exciting museums and enticing beaches to old manors and places to roam free and enjoy the view, Bygdøy has something for everyone. It’s time for you two to get better acquainted.

Things to Learn

Museums, museums, museums; it feels as if the coolest museums in Oslo are all based in Bygdøy. Let’s start with the largest one (one of the largest and oldest in the world, to be exact), the Norwegian Folk Museum. This open-air wonder features traditional houses from all over Norway, handicraft items and folk costumes, weapons, exhibits that showcase the Sami culture and, perhaps most impressively, a stave church that dates back to 1200. There’s also a Holocaust Center, which features modern, thought-provoking exhibitions on the World War II genocide of the Jews and religious minorities.

Gol stave church is one of the exhibits of the open-air Folk Museum

Bygdøy is also home to some of Norway’s most impressive nautical-themed museums: the Fram Museum, for instance, where you can come onboard the strongest wooden ship ever built (and, if you’re a Jo Nesbø fan, reminisce about how it appears in The Snowman). Or the Norwegian Maritime Museum, where you can find Norway’s oldest boat (at 2,200 years old) and the Kon-Tiki Museum, where you can gawk at Thor Heyerdahl’s famous raft that brought the Norwegian explorer across the Pacific Ocean. But perhaps the most important is the Viking Ship Museum, where you will find the best-preserved Viking ships in the whole world and findings from Viking tombs. Don’t forget to look up above you: the adventure film The Vikings Alive plays throughout the day on the ceiling and walls.

One of the exhibits in the Fram Museum
Display at the Viking Ship Museum
Exhibit at the Kon-Tiki Museum

Things to Experience

Bygdøy is also the place where most Osloites go when it’s time to frolic at the beach. Paradisbukta, with its long, sandy shore and ideal setup for surfing, is a local favourite, as is Huk, with its beach volleyball court. But even when the weather is too cold to get in the water, you can still go there for a serene run, a walk or a bicycle ride. But the exciting activities don’t stop there: you can also visit the beautiful Bygdøy Royal Manor and play with the animals, or visit the Royal summer palace and its surrounding park.

Dog playing on Paradisbukta beach

Things to Eat and Drink

Bygdøy may not have as many restaurant and cafe options as some other Oslo neighborhoods, but if you love seaside dining, you’ll thoroughly enjoy them. Villa Grande is a majestic place, perfect for receptions or formal events, but you can also have lunch or dinner here after visiting the Holocaust Center. Lanternen restaurant offers great views of the Oslo fjord, and a delicious stone-oven pizza. Lille Herbern is a cozy seafood place located on a tiny island with the same name just off the shore of Bygdøy; there’s a ferry that will help you cross. Add to those all the museum cafes where you can relax after seeing an exhibition, and you have the makings of a great time in this diverse peninsula.

Villa Grande

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