Oslo: Norsk Folkemuseum (Norwegian Museum of Cultural History)

I was already kind of museumed out for the day after leaving the Kon-Tiki Museum, even though I enjoyed that and the Fram Museum (especially the Fram Museum), so too bad for me there was more on Museum Peninsula (properly called Bygdøy) to see that we wouldn’t have time for any other day (well, we probably could have squeezed it in, I just couldn’t be bothered to go back to Bygdøy). One of these things was Norsk Folkemuseum, an open air museum. You could definitely walk from the maritime museum area to this part of the peninsula (and they both have their own ports, if you take the boat over from the centre of town), but at this point in the day, the bus felt like the only sensible option. Of course, the bus took us promptly to a bus depot where we had to change buses and head back in the other direction, but it was still better than walking.


The Folkemuseum costs 160 kr (about £16), but like everything else in Oslo, is free with the Oslo Pass. A word of warning: if you think you might like to partake of any of the food for sale inside, either bring cash or buy tickets in the shop when you arrive. One of the reasons I wanted to go here is because they make lefse (pancakes made with a potato dough) in the traditional manner, over an open fire, and I very much wanted to eat some (lefse are super hard to find anywhere else in Oslo, because I suspect they’re the kind of thing people just make at home. I had one when visiting the Norway section of EPCOT as a kid, and it has always stuck with me. (The Norway village in general was the best part of the little international zone. I loved that ride with the trolls, which I suspect they’ve gotten rid of at some point in the last 20+ years.) I’ve made them myself a couple times, and they’re pretty good, but I wanted to try an authentic Norwegian one whilst I was here). Unfortunately for me, we realised when we got inside that they only took cash payments or tickets, and since Norway is pretty much a cashless society everywhere else, we had never bothered to withdraw any and hadn’t seen any signs about the lefse when we came in. If I hadn’t been so tired, I would have gone back to the shop and bought a ticket, but it was really far away, and I was exhausted, so I didn’t get the lefse (which looked delicious). Don’t be like me, is what I’m saying.


(I told you there’d be more photos of me pretending to poop. Bonus of Marcus pretending to poop as well.) Other than the fact that Skansen did accept card payments for food (and had ice cream stands out front), the Folkemuseum felt very much like Skansen, Stockholm’s open air museum (Skansen is the world’s first open air museum, so I suppose everything else is an imitation). It was big, full of traditional Scandi buildings, many of which weren’t actually open to the public (you could look, you just couldn’t go inside), including a Sami village, and had a museum inside in addition to the open air stuff. However, unlike Skansen, it had very few animals (or at least, very few animals that we could find. We could definitely smell animal poop, but we only found some rabbits and chickens. Not really on the same level as moose and bears), and limited food options inside the park (actually none whatsoever unless you had cash or pre-paid tickets, which made for a very cranky Jessica, as you can probably tell from my face in front of the stave church at the start of the post).


Even though I was rapidly losing the will to live at this point in the day, we headed straight for the museum in the main square. This was a big museum. I totally skipped the section on religious art (even though I quite like Scandinavian religious art, because it is dark and creepy and has lots of demons in it) which still left folk costumes, traditional art, and weaponry. Only some of the labels had been translated into English, so it wasn’t too much to read, but even this was more than I was willing to skim over at this point, so I basically just walked around and looked at things. I did like the section on Nordic jumpers, but why are they all so expensive to buy?! I am not paying £300 for a jumper.


Back outside, we walked through a village of craftspeople, where you could actually buy the wares (but I didn’t go inside most of the buildings, because I was tired and assumed the wares would be expensive) and finally those chickens, ducks, and a barn full of rabbits, which were the only animals in sight. Apparently the animals are only outside at certain times, and most of the barns are kept closed off the rest of the time. There are also various activities you can take part in at certain times of day (animal handling, folk dancing, etc), but because we visited so late in the afternoon, most of those had finished (except the lefse making, but you know what happened there).

Because I was clearly being a pill, we decided to skip a lot of stuff and just head straight for the old stave church, built around 1200, which was meant to be the highlight. It was indeed pretty cool, as you can probably see, and just about worth the effort (including a hill climb) of getting there. A woman was just finishing a tour in English as we came in, so we got to hear a few interesting bits about certain details in the church as well, like some runes carved into one of the walls (a holdover from Viking times). She also recommended that we go see the apartment building that had rooms decorated to look like they would have in different periods in history, which we had somehow managed to pass on our first circle of the Folkemuseum, and even though I was totally exhausted, I thought we should probably go see it, since it’s not like I’ll be coming back again (I would go back to Oslo, but not to the Folkemuseum, unless it was just to get lefse).


Unfortunately, it was underwhelming. I probably would have liked it well enough if I’d been in a better mood, but it was a lot of steps and almost all the rooms were behind glass with very few things labelled. I did like the references to Ibsen’s A Doll’s House in the 1880s room, as it was meant to be based on Nora’s home, but it was basically just your standard Victorian parlour (I would have also liked to visit the Ibsen Museum, but it was closed for renovations during our visit).

I was SO READY TO LEAVE after this, but I did make an exception for the small Sami Museum. My absolute favourite Eurovision song this year was Norway’s, which featured a Sami guy doing kulning in the middle of it, which is a sort of traditional herding call that sounds a bit like yodelling and mimics the sounds of the animals being herded, so I was totally interested to learn more about the Sami. Aren’t their traditional costumes fabulous?

After that though, I had really, really had enough, so we beat a hasty retreat, though sadly we still had one more museum ahead of us before we could go get dinner (the food options on Museum Peninsula are not great. Pretty much just gross looking museum cafes. Lots of hotdogs). Much like Skansen, I think I probably would have had a better time if I’d been less tired and had some food inside me (I really must stop going to open air museums at the end of the day), though I would have been annoyed by the lack of warning that I couldn’t buy lefse without a ticket regardless. Also there needed to be more animals, or at least the ones they have shouldn’t have been hidden away – it was a nice day outside! I’ll still score it slightly higher than Skansen though, because more of the buildings were open, and the museums were better. 2.5/5 for the Folkemuseum.


      1. I don’t know where you stay, but last time I was in hotels that had huge buffet breakfasts. Each morning I took a couple of small plastic lunch boxes and filled them up for snacks and lunches. Saved time and money. The hotels didn’t object.

  1. I really loved this museum, but then I hadn’t been going to so many in one day so I had more energy. I also had a local guide (my husband’s aunt’s Norwegian parnter) so perhaps I got a more personalised commentary. I was blown away by the stave church. I found out later that there are only 28 left, scattered over the country, and they are all slightly different.

    1. The stave church was very cool. I’d say I’m not much of an open air museum person, but then there are some I really love, like Blists Hill. I think I get anxious going to living history museums in other countries because I’m worried the people demonstrating things will just start talking to me in a language I don’t understand, and I’ll have to smile and nod like an idiot while they’re trying to ask me questions or something, but honestly most people there seem to speak English anyway, so I’m not sure what I’m so worried about.

      1. I found everyone spoke English in Norwegian cities (at least the ones tourists go to). As long as I said something in English first, they switched right over without so much as blinking an eyelid. On the rare occasion I forgot to get in first (even just saying ‘Hullo’ or ‘Good morning’) and they started up in Swedish or Norwegian, I just had to say something in English and they switched right away. Being a monolinguist, I am envious of this ability.

  2. Jessica, Don’t know if you ever get to Oxford, but the NY Times has this story about what looks like an amazing exhibit:

    1. I’ve been to Oxford a few times – the last time was to see the witchcraft exhibit at the Ashmolean last fall. I’m so not into the Romans, and Pompeii bored me to tears, but maybe if I’m indoors out of the horrible relentless soul-sucking sun that was blazing down on me in Pompeii, I’d enjoy myself more. I’ll think about it!

  3. What a busy day but what a wonderful museum to visit. You’re right about the need for a few animals though, might have brought it to life a little more. Norway is so beautiful though isn’t it?

    1. I liked Oslo a lot, but we didn’t really leave the city (aside from the bus to Gothenburg) so I feel I probably missed out on the natural beauty of Norway. Gives me an excuse to go back and seek out lefse though!

  4. Such a bummer about the food. That would have made me grumpy for the rest of the day, too (although that church does look totally amazing). Since I began carting my kids around on vacation, I always carry snacks (grumpy kids are even worse than a grumpy mother – I think). The only problem is that I have to bring slightly gross granola bars – something yucky that I won’t just eat because I’m in the mood for a snack, so I have to be really desperate to eat them.

    1. I find most granola bars depressing and kind of gross. I had one floating around my purse for ages, but I could never quite bring myself to eat it regardless of how hungry I was. In fact, I think I’ve got a box in my desk at work right now that’s been languishing there for months. I should just stop buying the damn things. It’s weird because I really like granola, but something gets lost in the translation to bar form.

      1. I get the ones with chocolate, which makes them slightly more edible. Granola is my favorite cereal too, but you’re right something gets lost in the translation to a granola bar.

      2. They don’t seem to make the kind with chocolate that I like anymore, at least in the UK. Just crunchy Nature Valley ones with dark chocolate chunks in them, and those suck. They made Kudos ones when I was a kid that were completely coated in chocolate and had chocolate chips in – basically more candy bar than granola bar, but I haven’t seen those in years. I also seem to remember s’mores and Snickers flavour ones that were pretty damn good, though the nutritional value was negligible.

      3. The only ones I’ll eat (reluctantly) are the Kind bars with chocolate. They have actual nuts and dried fruit. Still dry and kind of tasteless, but edible in a pinch.

  5. I can’t imagine you being museumed out! That first building is so charming. and as for the chickens: they were so big, I thought they were sheep! Sorry about the lefse.

    1. I actually get museumed out all the time, because I push myself to do too much on holidays! The only good thing about that is that it allows me to build up enough posts to have a little break when I get home – I actually took about a month off from visiting museums after this trip (other than the one I work at of course), but have been to two this week, so I guess I’m back at it.

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