I am so excited to share my visit to the Norwegian Folk Museum (Norsk Folkemuseum) with you. It was my favorite attraction in Oslo, and a definite highlight of my trip to Norway. The Norwegian Folk Museum is Norway’s largest museum of cultural history, and the world’s oldest open air museum. Although I had originally visited to see the Stave Church of Gol, I was blown away by the immense collection and amazing cultural relics of the property.
The day I arrived at the museum, it was pouring rain. The kind of rain that an umbrella and rain jacket can’t even touch. The majority of the museum is outdoors, amidst dirt trails under the canopy of the Norwegian forest. To say it simply, mud.
This didn’t detract from the experience necessarily, in fact I had the place to myself. Besides a couple of other people I saw along the way, it seemed I was the only one who braved the rainy weather to visit an outdoor museum.
The downside was that taking pictures was incredibly difficult. After every shot I had to wipe off my poor rain-soaked phone inside my jacket, preparing it for the next one. This may be evident in the pictures you see here, but know that much love and dedication is behind them.
There are 155 traditional Norwegian houses that dot the land of the museum, from 15th century farmhouses to a life-sized replica of an early 20th century town. Additionally, you can explore over 160,000 artifacts in the indoor collections. Needless to say, if your knowledge of Norwegian culture and history is not where it should be, a day at the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History will set you straight.
The star attraction of the Norwegian Folk Museum is the stave church from Gol. It was built in the 12th century and used by the local community in Gol until the 1870’s when they built a larger church. In 1881, King Oscar II agreed to finance the move and re-erection of the building to Oslo. Due to harsh winters that made transport by sled all but impossible, the church didn’t reach its current home until 1884.
Did you know that you can see a replica of the Gol stave church in Minot, North Dakota? The Scandinavian Heritage park features replicas from Norway, Finland, Denmark, Sweden, Iceland and Sweden.
In the summer months the Norwegian Folk Museum comes to life with characters in traditional dress, artisans, horse and carriage rides, guided tours and more. Although I missed out on all of this, I enjoyed getting to explore the grounds on my own. It made it much more magical without 2000 other tourists gawking at the beautiful sites. (I hope to get back in summer with my family sometime though, I am sure it is a lot of fun.)
The Old Town exhibit, although a reproduction, is a fascinating look into Christiania, better known as Oslo but re-named from 1877 to 1925. These buildings are much different than the ones seen in the rest of the open-air exhibit. After a large fire burnt down the entire city in 1624, residents were ordered to re-build using stone and brick. For those that couldn’t afford brick, they were allowed to follow the Danish example of half-timbered homes.
You can also see typical homes of wealthy Norwegians throughout the last few hundred years, and even a sneak peak into Oslo of the 50’s.
There are tons of indoor exhibits to explore, and I definitely didn’t see all of them. Of the ones I did, I would recommend the Sami exhibition. This permanent collection of the museum shows visitor’s a typical day in the life of the Sami people, spanning hundreds of years to present day.
The Sami people are an indigenous group that inhabit the Arctic area of northern Norway, Finland, Sweden, and Russia. They are best known as reindeer herders, but the exhibit sheds new light on these fascinating people. There are a wide variety of traditional costumes on display, which was my favorite part. I love the bright colors that the Sami people use not only in their clothing, but furniture and homes.
I highly (HIGHLY) recommend a visit to the Norwegian Folk Museum. If you only have time to see one place in Oslo, this should be it. While you are there, also check out the Viking Museum which is only a few minutes walk down the street.
Check out this video for a better look at what the museum offers, and further convince you to get your butt over to Norway as soon as possible.
Admission is 110 NOK for Adults (£11, $18) and 30 NOK for children 6-15 (£3, $5) or free with the Oslo Pass.