Visiting Oslo – a guide to the Norwegian capital
The Norwegian capital Oslo, which was called Christiania or Kristiania a few centuries ago, lies in the south-east of Norway. The name Christiania was given to Oslo after King Christian IV rebuilt the city after the fierce and devastating fire in 1624. Only around 1925 this was changed back to Oslo. The cultural heart of Oslo has a lot to offer when it comes to visiting museums. The city has at least fifty of them. On the peninsula Bygdøy there are a number of very interesting areas close together. In addition, the city itself is full of historical sites, nice shops, trendy terraces and other nice restaurants. Oslo is a city where you won’t get bored.
How to get there?
Oslo has three different airports. While Sandefjord and Rygge are common used by low-budget airlines, it is Gardermoen that is the main international gateway to Norway.
Flybussen is a bus shuttle service that brings you from the airport to the city center.
From Oslo you can connect to all corners of Norway and Scandinavia, including Svalbard.
Best time to visit
The city may be located in the north, but the warm air of the Atlantic has a tempering influence on the climate. The summers are mild, with average temperatures around 20 degrees Celsius. The hottest months of the year are July and August. Rainfall falls most in the month of April. This makes that most tourists visit Oslo during the summer months. Often because they prolong their stay by visiting the Norwegian fjords which are located in Western Norway.
Things to see
In the first half of the eighteenth century, this palace of Oslo was built on the Bellevue after a design by architect Hans Ditlev Franciscus Linstow. More than twenty years it has lasted until it was finished. With the arrival of King Harald V, several adjustments have been made and innovations have taken place. During the summer months, when the king and his family largely stay elsewhere, parts of the palace are opened to the public.
The parliament of Oslo works in this beautiful building. Translated from Norwegian to English, Stortinget means ‘literally’ the big negotiation. The building on the Karl Johans gate 22 originated in the year 1860 after which it was officially put into use in 1866. The Swedish architect Emil Victor Langlet is responsible for the beautiful design, both inside and outside. In any case, it did not do him any harm. It was the beginning of his successful career. During certain parts per year you can visit the Stortinget with a guide.
Regularly Oslo Cathedral is the stage for public performances of the royal family. The beautiful stained-glass windows provide the most beautiful light and atmosphere. For the interior and finish, great masters in their profession have been approached to make this cathedral the most beautiful in the country. For example, the silver artwork ‘The Last Supper’ was made by the Italian sculptor Arrigo Minerbi who was also approached for the Duomo of Milan. Special details to note are that the original stones with which this cathedral is built, mainly come from the Netherlands. The red stones are from a later restoration because the stones from the Netherlands were no longer available. And that most construction work has been done by women!
Mini Bottle Gallery
This is one of the strangest museums in the world. The Mini Bottle Gallery is the largest collections of tiny bottles as it contains over 53 000 bottles. They are filled with various items such as fruit, berries or beer but some even have worms and mice in them.
The Oslo peninsula Bygdøy is best described as a museum and recreation island. Here you will find a number of particularly interesting museums, nice walking areas, beautiful beaches and good restaurants. From the town hall at pier 3 there is a regular boat that takes you to the island within 15 minutes. Once you have arrived, you can visit various museums such as the Holocaust Center (Holocoustsenteret), the Norwegian Maritime Museum (Norsk Maritim Museum), the Viking Ship Museum (Vikingskipshuset) or the Norwegian Folk Museum (Norsk Folkemuseum).
Karl Johans Gate
This main street of Oslo enjoys the most prestige. Not only because it brings you to the royal palace, but also to the old historic buildings such as Tostrupgården, the university and the Storting which lie on this famous street. In addition, there are nice shops and cozy catering business to find. Downtown Oslo starts here.
The best introduction to Norwegian life and the city of Oslo is with a visit to the Norwegian museum of cultural history. The partly open-air museum is located on the peninsula Bygdøy where many other interesting museums can be found. Founded in 1894, the museum has a collection of more than 150 old houses from different places in Norway. The most important building is the Gol Stavkirke. This church comes from the beginning of the thirteenth century. In the indoor area there is more attention for traditional costume, Sami culture, toys and folk art.
Nature has a strong power. And with so many nature in Norway, the Norwegians are well aware of this. Just of the shore of the Oslo Opera House there is a sculpture in the harbour that evokes the power of ice and water. The artwork is made by Monica Bonvicini and consists of stainless steel and glass.
The Grave of Edvard Munch
Norway’s most famous artist probably is Edvard Munch, the man who painted ‘The Scream’. Though the artwork itself can no longer be seen as it stolen, you can still visit the grave of the man who made it. He is buried in a corner of the Oslo cemetery.
Norwegian Museum of Magic
If you are a big fan of everything that has to do with magic, you are in luck. It may not be the Ministry of Magic, featured in the Harry Potter films, but this Norwegian Museum of Magic gives a glimpse in the real world of magic. This apartment-sized museum has a small collection of magic tricks and memorabilia to be seen.
Where to eat?
Being located close to the ocean, it is not a surprise that seafood dishes are highly popular in Norway.
Here you eat dishes every day with local, daily fresh products. You choose from a 5- or 7-dishes tasting menu and then they bring in each course. Think of dishes like steak tartar with horseradish cream, pine nuts, chili and mustard. Or Norwegian king crab with vine tomatoes, coriander and bread. Or the delicious chicken with candied paw and hollandaise sauce. With beet and carrot and the most amazing coarse mashed potatoes ever. With fennel, spring onion and beet leaf. The wine list is worth viewing, there is also a wine from their own farm.
Oslo is the coffee capital of Europe. Filter coffee is a hero here and it is almost an insult if you order an espresso with slow-brewed filter coffee next to it. You can call Tim Wendelboe the coffee king of Oslo. He not only has his own espresso bar, but also buys his beans himself, roasts them and delivers them all over the world. Coffee bars in New York and even Noma in Copenhagen are eager buyers.
In the Mathallen you will only find producers of authentic and regional products. There are also 2 restaurants, a culinary college at top level and there are spaces for presentations and meetings.
Or apotheket (translated as pharmacy) the other way around is one of the best bars in Oslo where you can eat traditional Norwegian food.
Spending the night
Good neighborhoods to stay are Grünerløkka (if you want to enjoy fine cafes and budget restaurants), Bislett, St. Hanshaugen, Majorstuen and Frogner. These neighborhoods are all around the city center and give you the feeling that you really live in the city.
Hostels and budget-friendly hotels
Anker Hostel is a good option if you are looking for a dormitory bed or a cheap double room. The Anker Hotel is attached to the hostel. You can find them on the outskirts of Grünerløkka. The PShotell is fairly new and has small but super modern rooms with everything you need. It is located in Grünerløkka. Anker Apartment is another alternative, from the same people as the Anker Hostel. Slightly further from the center, but with friendly prices.
I recommend the Saga Hotel to people who have a little more to spend. This is a nice boutique hotel in the western part of the city, Frogner.
The Thief is the newest luxury hotel in the city and has a fantastic location and super nice rooms. The Grand is in the heart of the city and has a beautiful, classic interior.