The red-brown brick City Hall building is without doubt one of the most striking landmarks of the Norwegian... capital. If you approach Oslo from the sea, you can see its two square towers from a long way out.
Since the inauguration of Oslo City Hall in 1950 on the 900th anniversary of the city, a lot has been said and written about the building. Not all of it positive, and even many locals are undecided whether their landmark building is beautiful or ugly. Once you go inside though, the decision is easy. For the thick plain walls are not only home to the city authorities, they also house a number of notable art works. The interior is decorated with works by the leading Norwegian artists of the 20th century; particularly impressive is the monumental painting by Henrik Sørensen in the entrance hall. Every year on 10 December in the City Hall there is an official ceremony during which the Norwegian king awards the Nobel Peace Prize.more
It has long been known that the Vikings were among the best shipbuilders in the world. But it was only... when burial mounds containing Viking lords buried in their ships were found in the 19th century at three locations in Oslo fjord (Oseberg, Gokstad and Borre) that we discovered more details about the construction of these sturdy and elegant ships.
Today visitors can marvel at the three more than 1,100-year-old boats in the Viking Ship House on the Oslo museum peninsula of Bygdøy, where they are exhibited in a hall with a cross-shaped floor plan. The 79 ft (24 m) long Gokstad ship and the 72 ft (22 m) long Oseberg ship are so well preserved that they look as if they could have been built just a few years ago. The lime in which they were buried preserved the timber so well. The museum also presents the wealth of grave furnishings of the Viking lords who were buried in these ships: from richly decorated sledges and pieces of furniture to golden jewellery and a wide variety of everyday objects.more
High above the fjord on the outskirts of Oslo city center, where ocean liners and cruise ships drop anchor... is the fortress of Akershus. In the 17th century the imposing fortress, which King Håkon V. Magnusson built from 1299 onwards to protect the capital, was converted into a spacious renaissance palace.
Especially after a stroll through the busy pedestrian precinct or Aker Brygge business and entertainment district the mighty, grass-covered embankments offer a panoramic view of the fjord and city as well as a welcome opportunity to relax and perhaps have a picnic. In summer open-air concerts and other events are staged in the parklands between the walls. Inside the building is a chapel with mausoleum used by the royal family for official business, the study of poet Henrik Wergeland, the Norwegian Military Museum (Forsvarsmuseet) as well as Norway's Resistance Museum (Hjemmefront Museet), where you can find out all about Norway's resistance to the Nazi occupation of the country in World War II.more
The old shipyard buildings along the wharf were converted into an attractive shopping, entertainment... and residential district in the 1980s, which played a big part in Oslo's modernisation.
The steel and glass architecture, which integrates some of the old shipyard buildings and still retains a lot of its original attraction, contains shops and offices as well as the most sought-after apartments in the city with a view of the fjord and the city from balconies and roof terraces. Life here is exciting every day of the year: you stroll to or from a meal in one of the many restaurants serving Norwegian and international cuisine, visit one of the modern cinemas or theatres, drink an espresso in one of the numerous cafés, many of which are on the water's edge, or simply watch the ships and ferries arriving at and leaving Oslo's harbour.more
Frogner Park is one of the most beautiful and spacious parks in Oslo. It is best known for its Sculpture... Park with 200 monumental figures by Gustav Vigeland (1869-1943). With more than a million visitors a year, this permanent open-air exhibition is one of the most visited tourist attractions in the Norwegian capital.
Today we would probably call Gustav Vigeland a workaholic. For almost as if intoxicated he worked for years to create these predominantly monumental figures. The highlight of his sculpture park is the "Monolith", a 56 ft (17m) high stone column of intertwined human bodies. Further giant stone figures are grouped in circles around the Monolith, most of them larger-than-life naked people of every age group. A fountain splashes below the Monolith, its basin supported by a circle of strong men. The figures remind us strongly of German art under the National Socialists. The people of Oslo, however, have a very natural relationship to Gustav Vigeland and use the Frogner Park to go jogging, cycling or for walks.more
The Storting is approximately halfway along Karl Johan gate on the left, going from the Central Station... towards the Palace. There is a little park behind it. Built between 1861-1866 in New Gothic style, the Parliament Building with its round centre section and driveways protected by lions looks relatively small and decorative.
And a whole parliament is supposed to fit into it? What a modest country Norway is. All summer the building appears deserted, when the members of parliament have better things to do than worry about politics. But the rest of the year too you will very rarely get a glimpse of black government limousines driving up and dropping off rushed members of parliament. Nor do the Norwegians have a restriction zone. Nobody is chased off the lawn in front of the Parliament, at the feet of the statue of the poet Henrik Wergeland. If you want to have a look inside the Storting, you will have come on a Saturday outside of the summer break. You will even be allowed into the Chamber with Oscar Wergeland's large painting showing the debates on the Constitution in the year 1814.more
Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906) is generally considered to be Norway's greatest dramatist. He was born in Skien,... lived many years abroad and died in Oslo, which was still called Christiania at the time.
The Ibsen Museum consists of two sections: the museum itself and the house in which the playwright spent the last eleven years of his life up until his death. The new exhibition in the museum is entitled "Henrik Ibsen - On The Contrary" and deals with the life and work of the dramatist. On his 100th anniversary of his death, the house in which Henrik Ibsen lived with his wife Susannah was completely restored. Visitors to this bourgeois residence with its original furniture have the impression that its inhabitants could return any minute. Ibsen wrote his last two plays here: "When We Dead Awake" and "John Gabriel Borkman". The museum can be visited any time during opening hours, Ibsen's house only on the hourly conducted tours.more
Karl Johans gate, which runs from the Central Station to the Palace, is named after the Swedish-Norwegian... king Karl Johan, who also built the Palace. On both sides of Oslo's magnificent main thoroughfare you find the city's most distinguished shops and large department stores, including Paléet and Glasmagasinet, two of the best-known shopping addresses in town.
Karl Johans gate is a pedestrian precinct from the Central Station up as far as the Parliament Building. Street musicians, entertainers and fire-eaters give it a friendly, happy atmosphere. There is a statue of King Christian IV in Stortorget, the big marketplace. The Cathedral where Crown Prince Haakon and Mette-Marit got married in 2001 rises up on the south-east side of the square. If you continue down Karl Johann gate towards the Palace, you will pass the Parliament Building (Storting) on your left, at the beginning of the park. Set further back in the park is The National Theatre, a Classical-style building. In front of the main entrance the bronze statues of Henrik Ibsen and Bjørnsterne Bjørnson welcome visitors.more
The Royal Palace in Oslo is situated in the middle of a park accessible to the public. This long, plain... three-winged building was built by the Swedish-Norwegian king Karl Johan in Imperial style between 1825 and 1849.
This Palace is still the official residence of the Norwegian Royal Family. If you always wanted to know how the folksy and very popular Royal Family lives, you only have to join one of the guided tours in the summer. All year round, at 1.30 pm in the palace courtyard, you can watch the changing of the guards in their splendid uniforms, or you can just stroll through the park. On the 17 May, the National Holiday, the Palace Gardens and nearby Karl Johans gate are a sea of celebrations. To the strains of brass bands, thousands of children and young people march proudly past the balcony of the Palace waving their Norwegian flags. From the balcony itself, the Royals wave for hours on end to the crowds below.more
One of Oslo's landmarks that can be seen from afar is the ski jump on Holmenkollen, a forest-covered... mountain above the city. The first competition was held on the world's oldest ski jump in 1892. Olympic Winter Games were held on Holmenkollen 60 years later.
Various ski jumps are held as well as cross-country competitions and other Nordic disciplines at the Oslo Ski Festival, which is held in March each year. Many visitors, including members of the Norwegian royal family, turn out to support their heroes enthusiastically at this very popular sport festival. Outside the festival period the inhabitants of Oslo who love winter sports have a choice of several alpine slopes and more than 1,000 km of cross-country courses in Nordmarka, the national park around the mountain. When the snow has melted Holmenkollen is a favourite destination, as it offers a wonderful view of the city and its surroundings. If you feel up to it, you can see how it feels to ski jump - without the risk of broken bones - on the simulator, or simply visit the Ski Museum located in the jump.more
Many years ago this was Oslo's alternative district for artists and students, but Grunerløkka has long... been one of the most desirable residential addresses for doctors, lawyers and other high earners. Grønland, to the north of Grunerløkka, has retained more of its originality.
Grunerløkka, the "Greenwich Village" of the Norwegian capital is especially known for its many different pubs, clubs and restaurants. The best way to get to know the scene is to take a walk on Thorvald Meyers gate; however you should decide where you want to spend the evening relatively early - later on most of them are so full that people queue on the street to get in. This is also why in the long summer nights groups of young people hold their parties in the small parks of this district. Grønland, on the other hand, is home to many foreigners - here you will smell the aroma of kebabs, curries, etc. Arab, Indian and Pakistani food shops and snack bars give the area an exotic flair. Grønland is the place to go if you want to eat good, cheap food.more
Thor Heyerdahl was one of the last great adventurers. Born in Larvik in Norway in 1914, he travelled... restlessly around the globe until his death in 2002 and initiated numerous archaeological projects. The Kon-Tiki Museum houses important items of equipment from his expeditions, including the Kon-Tiki raft of balsa logs and the Ra II papyrus boat.
While still a child Heyerdahl knew that he wanted to become an explorer. For this reason he spent a year on the Polynesian island of Fatu Hiva after he finished his zoology studies. A number of spectacular expeditions followed. In 1947 he sailed on the balsa raft Kon-Tiki from Peru to the Polynesian Tuamotu Islands. After that he led excavations on Easter Island. In 1969, with his first Ra expedition, Heyerdahl devoted himself again to his great passion, the sea. The papyrus boat, named after the Egyptian sun god Ra, was supposed to take him from Morocco over the Atlantic, but he just failed to reach his destination. The second attempt however, with the Ra II, was successful. In 1977 Heyerdahl set off on another journey, this time in a reed boat named Tigris. His aim this time was to explore the trade routes of the Sumerians to the Middle East, north-east Africa and Pakistan.more
The extensive outdoor museum on Bygdøy peninsula is the country's largest cultural history museum. On... an area of approx. 15 hectares you can explore more than 150 buildings from all over the country and study different collections in the exhibition section, including a comprehensive documentation about the culture of the Sami in the far north of the country.
The historical buildings cover a broad spectrum, from the 800-year-old stave church from Gol in Hallingdal to a carefully restored petrol station from 1928. The main exhibits are typical, restored farm buildings, commercial buildings and town houses. The exhibition also includes a more than 100-year-old chemist shop, a cosy little corner shop and a historical sales outlet of the state wine and spirits monopoly. Especially in summer there are many demonstrations of old crafts with folklore and musical interludes, where the participants wear historical costumes, in and around the buildings. Local dance and music events round off the programme.more
Edvard Munch (born 1863) was a pioneer of Expressionism who had an influence on European art well beyond... the borders of his home country. On his death in 1944 he left the City of Oslo around 1,100 paintings, 4,500 sketches and 18,000 prints. Since 1963 the Munch Museum has presented the work of Norway's most famous painter in changing exhibitions in a very worthy setting.
After a spectacular art theft in August 2004 the museum was renovated and fitted with cutting-edge security equipment in 2005. Although several of the thieves have been caught, there is still no trace of the stolen artwork - including what is arguably Munch's most famous painting "The Scream". Fortunately, there is a second version of "The Scream", which can be viewed along with other Munch paintings in the National Gallery (Nasjonalgalleriet) in Universitetsgata 13. Pretty museum cafe.more
City: Høvikodden in/near Oslo Category: Sightseeing
About a quarter of an hour south-west of the city centre in Høvikodden is the Henie-Onstad Arts Centre.... It houses a remarkable collection of modern 20th century paintings, donated by Sonja Henie and her husband Niels Onstad.
With three Olympic gold medals Sonja Henie (1912-1969) was the most successful Norwegian figure skater of all time. After she ended her active career she worked as an art collector together with her husband, the shipowner Niels Onstad. In 1961 they started a foundation and donated 100 paintings to it. In the following years the Henie-Onstad Arts Centre was erected on the outskirts of the city. It is a notable building and looks like a sculpture of concrete, glass and aluminium. It is set in a beautiful park. By the time it opened in the year 1968, the foundation's collection had grown to 200 paintings. Through numerous other donations, the Arts Centre now has the largest collection of modern art in Norway. There are paintings by important Scandinavian artists, as well as works by Picasso, Matisse or Miró.more
The thick-bellied "Fram" polar exploration vessel has found its last harbour in a tent-shaped museum... immediately beside the Kon-Tiki Museum in Bygdøy. Built in 1892, it was the most robust ship of its age and pressed further north and further south than any other vessel.
The "Fram" is inseparably linked with the great Norwegian polar explorers Fridtjof Nansen (1861-1930), Otto Sverdrup (1854-1930) and Roald Amundsen (1872-1928). Nansen sailed on it through the Arctic Ocean and then tried to reach the North Pole on skis. Sverdrup was a member of two big expeditions on the Fram and mapped large areas of Greenland. Roald Amundsen also put his faith in the Fram for his legendary race to the South Pole. The ship, a three-masted vessel with a steam engine, was extremely seaworthy in Arctic and Antarctic waters. It survived undamaged ice that would have crushed other ships. Visitors to the Fram museum can not only view the ship, but also go on board it. They can also have an extensive look at a lot of items of equipment and photographs of the expeditions.more
The Norwegian Maritime Museum couldn't be in a more beautiful location. So it would really be a shame... not to walk the few metres from the Museum down to the bank of Oslo Fjord and watch the boats as they manoeuvre in the difficult fairway of the fjord.
From time immemorial, the Norwegians have had a close relationship with the sea. So it is not surprising that the country has one of the largest merchant and fishing fleets in the world. And in many places the traffic would come quickly to a standstill were it not for the numerous ferries. A good way to begin a visit to the museum is the panorama film showing the magnificent countryside along Norway's endless, jagged coastline. The exhibition in the main building, which includes around 40 paintings on maritime themes, gives a good insight into the country's close association with the sea. One of the most interesting exhibits is Norway's oldest boot, a 2,200 year old dugout. In the Boat Hall there are 20 different ships to make the heart of any sea dog beat faster.more
A look at the town map shows you a grid pattern of streets between the Åkershus Fortress and Karl Johans... gate. This is one of the oldest parts of Oslo and is called Kvadraturen.
Kvadraturen was constructed after the devastating fire in 1624. The then King Christian IV determined to rebuild the city in the shadow of Åkershus Fortress and protect it from future fires by laying out the streets in a gird pattern and building them wide by the standards of the time. He also had all the new houses built of stone. Fond of himself as he was, he also took the opportunity to rename the town "Christiania". Some houses from the time of Christian IV still exist today. On the main marketplace, the gloved hand is a reminder of the king who began the reconstruction with the words "This is where the city shall stand". Two of the oldest and most beautiful buildings are today the Café Engebret (Bankplassen 1) and the fine "Det Gamle Raadhus" restaurant (Nedre Slottsgate 1).more
Most tourists walk past Oslo Cathedral because it stands a little back from the city’s best-known shopping... mile, Karl Johans gate. Stortorget, formerly the biggest market of the city, stretches in front of the portal. The house of God was consecrated in 1697. After an extensive redevelopment in recent years, the cathedral was reopened in spring 2010. The oldest parts of the church are the pulpit, the altarpiece and the Akanthus carvings at the façade. The entrance doors are adorned with beautiful bronze reliefs. Hugo Mohr created the modern ceiling paintings in the first part of the 20th century. A silver sculpture by Arrigo Minerbi is located in the chapel of the redeemer. The glass paintings were composed by Emanuel Vigeland. In August 1968, King Harald and Queen Silvia got married in the cathedral. Similarly, the marriage of crown prince Haakon and princess Mette-Marit in 2001 was a major media event.more
Each year in October, the Nobel committee announces the award winners. Then, on December 10, the anniversary... of Alfred Nobel’s death, the Norwegian king traditionally hands over the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo. The other award winners are honored in the Swedish capital of Stockholm. Nobels Fredssenter is located in the prominent location of a former train station between the city hall and Aker Brygge. Designed as a modern, multimedia information center, it informs about Alfred Nobel and the Nobel Peace Prize, as well as about global conflicts and the overcoming of the same. There is a digital gallery of all Nobel Peace Prize winners so far, a magic book, whose white pages fill with the most important events in the life of Alfred Nobel when they are turned, as well as temporary special exhibitions.more
The impressive and for the most part monumental sculptures by Gustav Vigeland (1869-1943) can be admired... in Frogner Park. The Vigeland Museum on the edge of the park however also contains a lot of other works by the artist. It also explains how Vigeland created the powerful sculptures of granite and bronze.
During his lifetime Vigeland had good contacts to those in power in the city and almost every wish of his was granted. In the 1920s a studio and residence was built specially for him on the edge of Frogner Park. It became a museum after his death. Not only are his sculptures in Frogner Park gigantic, the estate he left which included around 1,600 sculptures and 12,000 drawings is also huge. Visitors to the museum can have a look at how Vigeland worked. There are models and plaster casts of some of the figures erected in the park, and his work on the large monolith, planned down to the very last detail, is also illustrated and explained.more
Bogstad Gård is a manor dating back to the end of the 18th century. Rich in tradition, it is set in... Norway's first romantic English landscaped gardens. The estate occupies a central role in Norwegian history as the owners always had great political influence. Peder Anker, Norway's first Prime Minister after 1814, also lived here.
The main building is furnished completely in the style of the late 18th century. The local authorities also operate a little farm which is open to visitors and attracts in particular families with small children. At Christmas time Bogstad is one of the most idyllic places in the Norwegian capital. Everywhere is festively decorated like in Grandma's time, the smell of Christmas cakes and biscuits hangs in the air, and there is even a traditional Christmas market in the old warehouse. Although it is only a few minutes from the city centre, Bogstad is surrounded by green. In summer you can go for walks or on bicycle trips through the woods and fields of Sørkedalen and in winter you can strap on your cross-country skis.more
The National Gallery houses the greatest art collection of Norway. In its rooms, it shows a representative... cross-section of Norwegian painting from the 19th century to the present day as well as the works of Scandinavian and international painters. Of course, an entire hall of the national gallery is dedicated to the most famous Norwegian painter, Edvard Munch, whose works are exhibited in an extra museum in Oslo. Further, famous Scandinavian painters like Dahl, Fearnley, Krogh, Munthe and Tidemand can be admired in the gallery. Among the most notable foreign artists are Rembrandt, Rubens, Renoir, Matisse and Gauguin. Besides the permanent exhibitions, several temporary exhibitions are shown each year.more
The Oslo City Museum is located in the Frogner Hovedgård in Frognerpark. The permanent exhibition is... dedicated to the city’s more than 1000 years of history and its rise from a medieval village to Norway’s capital with more than 500,000 citizens. The 15-minute film “Oslo i 1000 År” shows the varied history of the city in a very illustrative way. The big model of the medieval town is equally illustrative. Six different kitchens, which cover the period from 1200 to 1950, provide an insight into the life of Oslo's citizens. The vast Frognerpark also harbors one of the city’s most visited sights, the Vigeland Sculpture Park.more
The new Oslo Opera House in the Bjørvika neighborhood officially opened on April 12, 2008. The 400-million-euro... object of prestige was designed by the renowned Norwegian architecture firm Snøhetta. The monumental building, which is one of the most beautiful opera houses in the world, is meant to form a connection between the city center and the fjord in the future. Located ideally at the water and due to the use of white marble, the unique opera house reminds of a huge, angular iceberg. The huge panes give shelter to one of the most beautiful and modern opera halls. With the completion of the construction, the building projects in Bjørvika have by far not come to an end; an entirely new neighborhood, which is to become equally attractive as Aker Brygge, will rise around the representative opera.more