weekend away - Oslo
Written by James Clark
With an impressive Viking heritage, world-class galleries, and Norway’s natural wonders on its doorstep, Oslo offers the best of Scandinavia in one city.
Norway’s capital is a compact city with an architectural mix of classic and modern European design, and an abundance of green space. With just over half a million residents, Oslo is a pedestrian-friendly city, easily explored on foot.
For a taste of old Europe, visit the home of the Norwegian monarchy at the Royal Palace. Oslo’s most spectacular contemporary building is the Opera House (featured on the cover of Oryx, October 2011) by architects Snøhetta. The building, at the head of the Oslofjord, resembles a ship (or a glacier, depending on your point of view).
Oslo is home to some of the world’s largest shipping companies, reflecting the nation’s maritime traditions which date back ten centuries. The Vikings, of course, are famed seafaring people, and the best place to see Viking relics is at the impressive Vikingskipshuset (Viking Ship Museum). The museum contains three Viking ships dating from the 9th century, two of which (the Oseberg and Gokstad) are in remarkable condition.
Take a break outdoors with a stroll around Frognerparken. The park doubles as an open-air museum of Norwegian figurative sculptor Gustav Vigeland, featuring 212 bronze and granite pieces of his work spread out over 80 acres. The centrepiece is the Monolitten, which has 121 figures reaching to its top. His museum, at the south of the park, contains further works, sketches, and even his untouched flat on the third floor.
Reflecting Oslo’s diverse international population, a wide selection of eateries from around the world is available at Torggata, while the city’s international markets are situated at Grøland.
For a night out, head to the borough of Grünerløkka, a popular area with trendy cafés and restaurants, and works from young Norwegian designers. Fru Hagen Café is a long-standing favourite of locals serving snacks, meals, and drinks until late. Shoppers head for coffee and people-watching at Karl Johans Gate, a pedestrian precinct and home to large department stores.
One of Europe’s best-known paintings is at the National Gallery. The Scream, by Norwegian artist Edvard Munch, is a gallery favourite and pop-cultural icon. There are four versions of this painting, created between 1893 and 1910, with another version on display at the Munch Museum.
Where to stay
The Grand Hotel is centrally located on Karl Johans Gate, Oslo’s main thoroughfare, between Parliament and the Royal Palace. The hotel is famous as the venue of the annual Nobel Peace Prize banquet.