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If you’re looking for some awesome FREE things to do in Oslo, then I would recommend planning a trip to see the Oslo Royal Palace Changing of the Guard Ceremony.
Similar to Buckingham Palace in London, you’ll find that there is a Norwegian Royal Guard stationed outside the palace.
They are here 24 hours a day, every day of the year to protect The King of Norway, the Norwegian Royal Family and their residences.
Each day, you can see a striking display of Norwegian pageantry which involves a new guard taking over from the old guard for free.
Here’s a complete guide on how to see The Changing of the Guard Ceremony at Oslo Royal Palace with exact times and what to expect on your visit!
The history of Oslo Royal Palace & The Norwegian Royal Family
Years ago, in medieval and renaissance Norway, the Royal Family were always based in Akershus Fortress which sits in Oslofjord. Then, in the 1800s, they moved to Paléet which was a townhouse in Christiania (Sweden ruled Oslo).
In the first half of the 19th-century, this grand residence was constructed as a palace for King Charles III John of Norway. He reigned as king of both Norway and Sweden.
He commissioned the current Oslo Royal Palace in 1821 but due to the excessive costs, it wasn’t finished until 1849. This meant that Charles III John died before it was finished!
Once Norway saw its independence in 1905, King Haakon VII was the first fully Norwegian monarch to reside at the residence. It has been the official residence of the Norwegian Monarch ever since.
Today, Oslo Royal Palace is still the official residence of the King Harald V of Norway and Queen Sonja. While the Crown Prince resides at Skaugum, Asker in the west of Oslo.
Akershus Fortress is still a royal residence today that is protected by His Majesty The King’s Guard along with the Oslo Royal Palace.
Who are the Oslo Royal Palace Guards?
Hans Majestet Kongens Garde or ‘His Majesty The King’s Guard (HMKG); The Royal Guards’ is a battalion of the Norwegian Army.
They were established in 1856 when King Oscar I wanted to underline his authority as the King of Norway and Sweden. The company moved from Stockholm to Christiania (Oslo) in 1888.
In 1905, King Haakon VII increased the size of the battalion guard and stationed them outside the Oslo Royal Palace.
During The Second World War they gained the nickname of ‘The Black Devil’s’ from the Germany Army. This was due to their menace in battle and dark uniforms!
Today, His Majesty The King’s Guard has two main roles. One is a bodyguard to the Monarch of Norway and the other is to protect the Norwegian Royal Residences.
These include the Oslo Royal Palace, Bygdøy Kongsgård, Skaugum and Akershus Fortress.
Did you know? The Oslo Royal Guard has a King Penguin called Brigadier Sir Nils Olav III who is their colonel-in-chief and mascot! He lives in Edinburgh Zoo. This is because Norwegian Explorer, Roald Amundsen, gifted Edinburgh Zoo its first penguin in 1913! Amundsen was the first person to reach the South Pole in 1911.
What is the Oslo Changing of the Guard?
The King’s Guard is stationed outside the palace 24 hours a day and 365 days of the year. There must be guards outside the palace at all times, even when the royal family are not residence!
Just like The Queen’s Guard in London, they cannot move from their posts. In fact, they should not talk or react to passers-by either. They must be completely focussed on their duties.
The Oslo Changing of the Guard is when the sentries or gardisters who are on duty are relieved by a new batch of sentries.
The elaborate ceremony is choreographed and involves lots of shouting and stomping.
The soldiers march through the park and then switch hands with the old watchmen outside the watchmen’s house. The whole process takes around 40 minutes in total.
Although the Oslo Changing of the Guard doesn’t have as much pomp and ceremony like the ones at Buckingham Palace or Windsor Castle. It is still worth adding to your Oslo itinerary!
What time is the Oslo Royal Palace Changing of the Guard ceremony?
The Changing of the Guard at Oslo Royal Palace takes place at 1.30 pm each day. It is completely free of charge to watch the show.
However, as it is becoming quite a popular event in Oslo, I would make sure you arrive a little bit before this time to secure a spot. Especially in the summer season.
In the winter season, the affair will be quite minimal. I went in January and it was quite short. A good job too as it was freezing!
However, during the summer months, the ceremony is much grander. It involves a Norwegian Military Band and mounted police officers that lead the Royal Guard through the streets of Oslo.
It starts at the old Akershus Fortress around 1.10pm. The procession will then move on to Kirkegaten, Karl Johans Gate and finally the Royal Palace. Then you can watch The Changing of the Guard.
You could either follow the procession or wait at the palace for it to start!
Is the Oslo Changing of the Guard every day?
YES! No matter what the weather, even in the worst blizzards, the ceremony takes places every single day.
However, the best day to visit the Changing of the Guard would be on May 17 which is Constitution Day or National Day in Norway.
On this day, the ceremony becomes a huge event where there is a procession.
The Royal Family will appear on the palace balcony and greet the crowds in the palace square!
Top tips & what to expect on your visit
- The Changing of the Guard is completely free to watch
- It is quickly becoming one of the most popular events to attend in Oslo. So, I would get there early to secure a good spot
- Unlike London, you can get really close to the palace even when the royal family are in residence. As a Brit this completely shocked me. But, it is perfect for photos so have your camera at the ready!
- The ceremony can take anything from 15 minutes – 40 minutes depending on the season. In winter, it is much shorter. You can easily work it into the tightest of Oslo itineraries
Can you go inside Oslo Royal Palace?
Yes, in the summer months (June – August) you can take a guided tour of the Royal Palace in Oslo.
As one of the most important and historic buildings in all of Norway, it’s definitely worth seeing. You can expect the rooms and architecture to be extravagant!
However, tours are extremely popular and often tickets are sold out on the day. So, it’s important to book your tickets in advance. You can book these online from around March, hence why they sell out fast!
Most tours are in Norwegian but there are a few tours in English that are provided daily. Tours last around one hour and take place every 15-20 minutes during the day.
If you can’t get a ticket, you may like to explore Oscarshall Summer Palace which is in Bygdøy. It’s open to the public Wednesday – Sunday.
A guided tour of the Oslo Royal Palace costs 135 NOK.
Exploring Oslo Palace Park / Slottsparken
Once you’ve finished watching the Changing of the Guard Ceremony, it’s well worth spending some time exploring the Palace Park.
Its a beautiful green area that surrounds the Palace Square and is the largest park in the city centre of Oslo!
You’ll find plenty of walking routes, lakes and greenery to relax on. In summer, it’s the perfect picnic spot.
The Oslo Palace Park is open 24 hours of the day, all year.
The Queen Sonja Art Stables
A new addition to the Palace Park in recent years has been the transformation of the Royal Stables.
This exciting project showcases various artefacts and pieces from the Royal Art Collection!
The exhibitions change regularly and you can also attend various lectures and events throughout the year.
Entry is 120 NOK. See here for opening times.
Where is the Royal Palace in Oslo & How to Get There?
The Royal Palace is located at the top of Karl Johan Street in Central Oslo.
This was named in honour of King Charles III John who commissioned the Oslo Royal Palace.
This is the main street in the city centre and so it’s really easy to locate on foot, especially if your hotel is near there.
You can head on up to Karl Johan Gate and you’ll find the Palace Park nearby.
If you’re planning on exploring more of the city, it may be worth buying a Ruter Ticket. This Oslo transport card will allow you to board buses, trams, ferries, and trains in the city. You can look this up here.
Make sure to visit Akershus Fortress next!
If you were interested in visiting another one of the royal residences, I would recommend the famous Akershus Fortress.
Towering over the banks of Oslofjord, this medieval castle was built in 1299 by King Hakon V.
As well as being an active residence of the Crown Prince or Princess of Norway, it is one of the most popular museums in the city.
Guided tours are available in the summer but the outer fortress is accessible all year round.
Here you can witness another Changing of the Guard ceremony every day at 1.30 pm!
Where to stay in Oslo
Oslo accommodation is incredibly expensive but you can find some amazing hotels at reasonable prices.
We stayed at the delightful Thon Hotel Cecil in Oslo. The rooms were really comfy and it was only around £100 a night which is a steal for the centre of the city.
Not only did our room rate come with a huge breakfast but they also provided a free ‘Smorgasboard’ dinner in the evenings. It was a lifesaver with the restaurant prices!