In the capital of Norway, you will feel the raw and unique Scandinavian aura. There, as nowhere else, modern architecture is harmoniously intertwined with monuments and breathtaking nature. The metropolis is located by the picturesque Oslofjorden Bay surrounded by mountains and forests. The close presence of art and nature gives Oslo a unique character, and provides visitors with unforgettable memories and numerous attractions.
It is best to start discovering Oslo with a walk along the promenade of Karl Johans Gate, which is over one kilometre long. When walking along the main shopping and tourist street of Oslo, you will see, among others, Stortinget, i.e. the building of the unicameral parliament of the Kingdom of Norway. The Neo-Romanesque facility is open to tourists, but only at certain times and with a guide. Moreover, between the royal palace and the parliament, you will find the National Theatre. The play “Life – the Only Way”, which presents the biography of Wisława Szymborska, a poet connected with Kraków and a Nobel Prize winner in the field of literature, was staged there.
One of a kind town hall
A few dozen meters from the theatre, there is a characteristic and controversial Town Hall. According to some, the building resembles three pieces of goat cheese (geitost) joined together. The seat of the city council arouses various emotions among the inhabitants of the central part of Østlandet. Nevertheless, it is an excellent example of functionalism, a trend in architecture and urban planning, the guiding principle of which was to consider functions as the most important factor in the design of objects. In the vicinity of the town hall there is the Nobel Peace Center, which deserves special attention as every year on December 10, the ceremony of awarding the Nobel Peace Prize is held within its walls.
Cathedral and palace of the royal family
In close proximity to the main street of Oslo, there is also a baroque cathedral (Oslo Domkirke). It is extremely important for Norwegians, since coronations and weddings of members of the royal family take place inside it. The Royal Palace, the official seat of King Harald V and his wife Sonja Haraldsen, is crowned by Karl Johans Gate. If you like walking, be sure to visit the magnificent park surrounding the residence, which is open to visitors.
Art in a winter landscape
Oslo is characterized by numerous parks that are distinguished by the presence of art, a great example of which is the Vigeland Park, a part of the Frognerparken complex. The art piece, designed by Gustav Vigeland, a sculptor and student of Rodin himself, consists of 212 sculptures. The figures present sadness, anger, embarrassment, reverie or joy. The most famous work Monolith, often called the human tower of Babel, consists of 121 figures – children, young people and the elderly. Their facial expressions and bodies are full of extreme emotions that express the will to survive and the need for contact with another person.
Modern and luxurious
While in Oslo, you must see the rich and modern Aker Brygge district. It is full of luxurious apartment buildings – real architectural pearls, trendy restaurants and bars. The wharf is also a popular meeting place for Norwegians, who often go shopping and rest there – the seaside climate, fresh air and the close presence of water are conducive to relaxation. It is also worth visiting Aker Brygge for the Tjuvholmen Island (literally: the Island of Thieves), where the Astrup Fearnley Museum is located.
This extremely modern building with a collection of contemporary art was designed by Renzo Piano, an Italian architect and winner of the prestigious Pritzker Prize. This magnificent, stately facility with an area of 7 thousand m² is distinguished by a rounded, sail-shaped glass roof that connects two buildings situated on both sides of a canal. The steel ropes at the poles resemble the masts of a ship. The exhibition presents, among others, works by Andy Warhol, Cindy Sherman, Damien Hirst and Bruce Nauman.
If contemporary art is not close to your hearts, climb the hill on which the Akershus Fortress stands. The construction of the citadel began at the end of the 13th century. Due to its location by the sea, the castle had protected the capital of Norway from enemy attacks for centuries. It was never conquered. It is best to visit the fortress in the morning – it is more peaceful at that time than in the afternoon, and thus you can enjoy not only the beautiful views, but also silence. Admission to the medieval complex is free.
Opera with a view
Only about a 15 minute-walk from Akershus separates you from the Norwegian National Opera. The building is located in the port of Bjorvika in the eastern part of the city. Particularly noteworthy is the sloping roof of the building covered with white marble tiles. You can climb it and see the wonderful panorama of Oslo while standing at the meeting point of land, water and art. You do not have to pay for this attraction either. The opera house also looks great in the evening. Its facade illuminates the promenade leading to the seashore.
Afternoon with theScream
The capital of Norway has one of the most famous paintings in the world, the Scream (Skrik), by the Norwegian painter associated with Oslo – Edvard Munch. This outstanding work of expressionism, specifically its version from 1910 in tempera, can be seen in the Munch Museum located at Tøyengata (approx. 15 minutes on foot from Grünerløkka). On the other hand, a work from 1893, painted in a combined technique – with oil paints, pastels and tempera – is located in the National Gallery in Oslo.
Fans of discovering the past should visit the Historical Museum. If you enjoy folk culture, visit the Folk Museum. Whereas, those interested in discoveries and polar expeditions should go to Frammuseet. It is also worth mentioning the Norwegian Maritime Museum.
The lively Grünerløkka, with numerous designer stores, bookstores, a flea market and vintage salons, is the perfect place to buy an original travel souvenir. This artistic neighbourhood is full of culinary places and unusual shops, but also graffiti and murals.
What to see
A cruise among the Oslofjord Islands
A great idea to spend time in Oslo. One of the most beautiful is the island of Hovedøya, which can be reached from the port of Vippetangen (a detailed timetable can be found at (www.ruter.no/en/)). In addition to the nature reserve, you can find there traces of the past - the 12th-century ruins of a Cistercian monastery built. Moreover, on the small island of Bleikøya, you will find charming country houses that are very characteristic of Scandinavia. Similar picturesque views can also be enjoyed on the other islands of Gressholmen, Lindøya, Nakholmen and Langøyene.
Situated in the south-west of Oslo, in the district of Nordstrand. It offers a wonderful view of the Oslofjord. Its panorama became famous thanks to Munch's masterpiece – you can see it in the background of the painting Scream.
The Viking Ship Museum
On the Bygdøy peninsula houses three well-preserved Viking boats from the 9th and 10th centuries. Scandinavian warriors are an integral part of Norwegian culture, that is why when planning a visit to Oslo, include this museum exhibition in your schedule.
What and where to eat
A real delicacy of Norway
One of the most famous Norwegian products is brunost cheese (literally: brown cheese). It is distinguished by an unusual, sweet-salty taste. On store shelves, you can find three types of this original delicacy - ekte geitost is made only from goat's cheese, geitost - from cow's milk with the addition of goat's milk, and fløtemysost - only from cow's milk. The higher the goat milk content, the more distinct the cheese's flavour. It is eaten both sweet and salty. Norwegians prefer its caramel type called gudbrandsdalsost.
Norwegians are coffee lovers
Norway holds the second place in the ranking of countries with the highest coffee consumption. Interestingly, they are not overtaken by the citizens of Italy or Spain, but… Finns. The perfect sweet snacks for a cup of this black drink are yeast cinnamon rolls (kanelsnurrer) or waffles, which are eaten both sweet, e.g. with marmalade or sour cream and brunost, as well as savoury. On March 25, Norway celebrates the International Waffle Day.
Grünerløkka - a gourmet's paradise
In the Grünerløkka district, you can try flavours both from Norway as well as from all over the world. At Mathallen Food Hall you can taste, among others, fish, including excellent fish soup with cod, halibut, turbot, elk, clams and Norwegian haddock (Vulkanfisk), as well as regional cheeses, cold cuts and preserves (Ost & Sånt Tradisjonsmat). In this trendy neighbourhood, you can also eat hot dogs, which are served in a potato pancake. Whereas, sausages are cooked in an intensive stock prepared in accordance with a traditional and secret recipe.
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