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Oslo, Norway

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Did You Know … ?

  • For 300 years, Oslo had another name, spelled two ways, Christiania then Kristiania.
  • Norwegians have rejected European Union membership in two referenda (1972 and 1994).
  • The first Nobel Peace Prize, presented in Oslo, was awarded in 1901.
  • Sonja Henie, three times the Olympic figure-skating champion and a film star, was born in Oslo (1912).
  • Edvard Munch painted several versions of all his major works, including “The Scream.”

A city and its fjord

For visitors, Oslo’s most attractive feature is its location at the innermost point of the 62-mile Oslo Fjord in southern Norway. The city of more than half a million people climbs up the mountains at the sides of the fjord.

There are 40 islands in the fjord, and a total of 343 lakes in the city limits. Just more than half (53%) of Oslo’s 175 square miles are forested. Such natural features are an obvious lure for those who love being active in the outdoors, but they appeal equally to visitors who simply appreciate beauty and a healthful environment.

Oslo, Norway’s capital, is at about the same latitude as Anchorage, Alaska.  However, Oslo’s waters are warmed by the Gulf Stream, producing a surprisingly pleasant climate that combines with very long summer days to give tourists lots of time to pursue varied interests in the outdoors. In winter, days are quite short, but temperatures remain relatively mild.

The city has more than 1,550 miles of trails, good for hiking and cross-country skiing, depending on the season. Oslo also has several beaches, some on the islands in the fjord. Fishing, kayaking and sightseeing cruises on the fjord are other options. In snow season, Oslo is a handy jumping-off point for area skiing and snowboarding.

At about a thousand years old, Oslo is young by European standards, but it offers enough history to engage its guests. There is the Old Town to explore, complemented by relevant museums, especially the Norwegian Folk Museum and the Viking Ship Museum. In addition, with reference to World War II, the Resistance Museum is located in the 14th century Akershus Fortress; after the war, the Nazi collaborator Vidkun Quisling was imprisoned in this fortress.

Oslo is enlivened by annual festivals and other events, highlighting everything from the salsa to medieval traditions, from jazz to Norwegian folk dancing. The city hosts an annual motorcycle exhibition, too. Each year’s last special event is presentation of the Nobel Peace Prize at City Hall, commemorated by a series of concerts.

Finally, Oslo is an expensive destination; the Oslo Pass is one way to control costs.

Things to do for Venturers

  • Go to a topless beach. There aren’t any other kinds, except for the ones that are clothing optional.
  • In June, compete in the Norwegian Forest Marathon, which takes runners through the forests that encircle Oslo. Later in the year, there is a more typical marathon, too.
  • Check out a few discos and nightclubs, beginning around midnight because Oslo nightlife begins late. Also, for local atmosphere and more reasonable prices, experience a brun (brown) pub, traditionally a hangout just for men although women have now joined the clientele.
  • Attend the concerts, take lessons and join the nighttime parties that thump to the salsa during the Norwegian Salsa Congress in June. Or, around the same time, tap your toes to different beats at the Norwegian Wood Rock Festival, an outdoor event.
  • Hone snowboarding skills in the Oslo area at the Hafjell ski resort, near Lillehammer; Oslo Winterpark Tryvann, or Trysil. Take a break by seeing the Ski Museum at Holmenkollen outside Oslo.
  • Join enthusiastic locals and cheer for Oslo’s Valerenga ice hockey team at a competition in town.

Things to do for Centrics

  • Go hiking or cross-country skiing on some of the city’s 1,550-plus miles of hiking and skiing trails.
  • If scheduling works out, see an Ibsen play in its original language at the National Theater.
  • Visit any of several museums that celebrate famous Norwegians: the Fram Museum, housing the ship (the Fram) that explorer Roald Amundsen used during his race to the South Pole; the Ibsen Museum, which was the playwright’s home; Kon-Tiki Museum, which accommodates the raft Thor Heyerdahl used to sail across the Pacific, and the Munch Museum, housing a large collection of Munch paintings.
  • For a few chills, book a summertime ghost walk.
  • Watch glassblowers at Hadeland Glassworks, about an hour outside of Oslo. Then, participate in a glassblower’s workshop to try the techniques yourself.
  • Kayak on the Oslo Fjord, or arrange a fishing trip on the inner Oslo Fjord, no license necessary.

Things to do for Authentics

  • Watch the changing of the guard at the royal palace in Oslo. It is a daily event, at 1:30 p.m.
  • Stroll through the Vigeland Sculpture Park, site of nearly 200 statues created by Gustav Vigeland. The gates to the park are open all day, so this is an option when many other attractions are closed.
  • Buy a Norwegian sweater, either the good-quality choices made by machine or a handmade choice. Also, shop in the Aker Brygge area, a rehabilitated former shipyard.
  • Forget traditional museums if they aren’t to your taste, and see the Norwegian Folk Museum with 155 traditional houses and a Stave Church from 1200. Or visit the Viking Ship Museum, highlighting Viking burial ships built in the ninth century. Buy replicas of Viking jewelry in the museum shop.
  • Take a sightseeing cruise on the Oslo Fjord. Or, choose an evening cruise on a sailing ship.
  • Walk through the Old Town; also, tour the great halls and the grounds at the 14th century Akershus Fortress.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult VisitOSLO at www.visitoslo.com and choose your language if necessary.