For those considering an escape, once restrictions have been lifted, Oslo offers visitors an intriguing glimpse into a rich and colourful history and the vibrant Nordic culture. Founded in 1000AD and established as a strategic trading place less than half a century later, Oslo emerged as the Norwegian capital during the rule of Haakon V, King of Norway in the 14th century. Today, Oslo is the hub of Norwegian trade, a leading city for the Council of Europe and the heart of the European Commission’s intercultural cities project.
Widely acknowledged for the high quality of life enjoyed by its fortunate residents, Oslo is also recognised as a city of modern architecture and its skyline continues on a rapid path of transformation.
Prior to the pandemic I was fortunate to visit Oslo’s Opera House, which is a fine example of contemporary architecture. The property’s striking design features pristine Italian white marble with the rich tones of oak, and the aluminium roof and extensive use of glass has resulted in a very impressive construction. Should you wish to attend an opera in this magnificent building, past performances have included Don Giovanni, The Barber of Seville, Carmen and The Flying Dutchman.
For skiing enthusiasts, the Holmenkollen Ski Museum will be of interest. A wide variety of exhibits reflects 4,000 years of history related to skiing. I wandered around the popular Freedom on Snow exhibition, which focuses on snowboarding and skiing and I watched the informative film on the development of modern skiing, which features interviews with the world’s best athletes. Afterwards, energetic souls are welcome to practice their techniques on the snowboards and gyro boards.
Holmenkollen National Ski Arena is one of Norway’s most popular attractions and for brave hearts with a daring sense of adventure there is a zip wire waiting! For those of us who prefer to remain on terra firma, take the elevator up to the top and admire the spectacular sweeping views over the city.
Another popular attraction is the Royal Palace. Built in 1849, this neo-classical style property, which features a stuccoed brick facade, has 173 ornate rooms. The palace was built as a residence for King Charles III and is now the official residence of the current monarchs; King Harald V and Queen Sonja. During the summer months, visitors are welcome to view a selection of the state rooms including the Great Hall and Banqueting Hall. The changing of the guard ceremony takes place at 1.30pm every day and it draws the crowds in earnest.
For a taste of Norwegian culture, head for the Norsk Folke Museum, located five kilometres from the city centre. Displays include a wide range of exhibits focusing on Norwegian folk dress, folk art, textiles, crafts, weapons, musical instruments and old toys. View the many examples of daily life dating back to the 16th century and the collection of artefacts, photographs, records and documents.
Learn about Norway’s Viking past at the nearby Viking Ship Museum, and view the Gokstad ship, which was built at the height of the Viking period in around 850. Discovered buried on farm land in 1879, the Gokstad became a burial ship with a chamber built at the stern. The interior walls were decorated with birch bark and as remnants of silk and gold thread remained it is thought that the walls were decorated with rich tapestries. A raised bed provided the final resting place for a male corpse and studies concluded that he died in battle.
Another exhibit of high interest is the Oseberg, which became a burial ship for two wealthy women who died in the year 834. Their burial chamber was built behind the mast with the two bodies lying on a raised bed. Burial gifts consisting of clothes, shoes, combs, ornate sledges and carved animal heads were placed nearby. The Oseberg was discovered by a farmer in 1903 and although the excavation took less than three months, the restoration lasted 21 years.
For art lovers, the Munch Museum, located on Tøyengata, offers an insight into the life of Edvard Munch, a master of Modernism who remained committed to his passion for more than sixty years. Part of the Symbolist movement in the late nineteenth century, he was a pioneer expressionist who bequeathed his work to the City of Oslo. The collection includes over a thousand paintings, 7,500 drawings and watercolours, 18,000 prints and six sculptures.
Another popular site is Vigeland Park, a unique sculpture park, which displays over two hundred of Gustav Vigeland’s sculptures in wrought iron, granite and bronze. The Vigeland Museum, within the park, was built in the 1920s and is a fine example of Norwegian Neo-Classicism and displays Vigeland’s lifework of sculptures, drawings, woodcuts and woodcarvings.
Where to stay
The ideal place to stay, and centrally located on Holbergsgate, the Radisson Blu Scandinavia Hotel hits the spot. The property is within walking distance to excellent public transport links and the city’s major attractions including the Oslo fjord.
Accommodations are soundproof and options include the junior suite, measuring 42m2. Features include contemporary furnishings, a king size bed swathed in fresh, white linens and plump pillows and a sofa bed. A comfy, fluffy bathrobe and slippers should help to ensure a relaxed morning and the in-room Nespresso machine will provide a piping hot caffeine supply.
Facilities include a fitness centre with an indoor pool and for a spot of lunch or dinner the hotel’s 26 North Restaurant and Social Club features a wide selection of creative dishes focusing on local Nordic ingredients. Be sure to visit the hotel’s Summit Bar and as you admire the surrounding views order a tipple and raise your glass to Oslo, a truly captivating city.