Oslo Travel Guide
Oslo, capital of Norway, is arguably the most expensive city in the world, where a 12-ounce bottle of a middling Midwest brew runs 20 American dollars and a cheeseburger as much as a whopping 30 bucks! But then, Oslo is among the richest cities in Europe, its fortunes tied to the North Sea oil, its history to Viking gods, its legacy to the Nobel Peace Prize, the most coveted prize on Earth. To add to that, as capital cities go, Oslo is also one of the loveliest, set upon a fjord and surrounded by stunning scenery that takes in mountains, lakes and forests, with skiing, hiking, kayaking and any number of other outdoor pursuits literally on its doorstep. And yet, it is just as much a cosmopolitan city, with chic, world-class shopping venues, no dearth of upscale restaurants, an entrenched café culture that continues to proliferate, a slew of hip bars and edgy clubs that rock into the frigid winter nights, and architectural treasures that are a refreshing mix of historic and futuristic, with royal palaces and 21st-century Scandinavian-design eye-poppers among them. It is a city, too, prized for its museums and green spaces, where Edvard Munch's eerie The Scream and Gustav Vigeland's endless array of granite sculptures both tantalize and linger. Ultimately, Oslo – derived from the words "Os" and "Lo," meaning "Viking god" and "field" respectively – aspires to live up to its lofty moniker, "Field of Gods," albeit with sticker shock.
Oslo is situated at the head of the Oslofjord, near the southeastern tip of the country, some 263 miles (425 km) west of Stockholm, or 189 miles (304 km) east of Bergen, or 158 miles (254 km) and 301 miles (485 km) north of Gothenburg (Sweden) and Copenhagen respectively. It is well connected to most Scandinavian cities and European capitals as well as destinations within Norway.
The best way to get to Oslo is to fly into the Oslo-Gardermoen Airport, the city's main airport, which is well-connected to other Scandinavian cities and most of the major northern European cities via international carriers.
Oslo's principal attractions are its new Opera House, a New Millennium architectural masterpiece that rises from the fjord like a giant sheet of ice, its angular white marble slabs resembling ski slopes; and Holmenkollen, one of the oldest and most famous ski jumps in the world, which affords fabulous, birds-eye views of the city of Oslo and the Oslofjord from its 1,180-foot-high (417 m) jump tower. Other top draws include the 14th-century Akershus Fortress, the 19th-century Royal Palace, the neo-Romanesque Parliament Building, Oslo's City Hall where the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded, and the Vigeland Sculpture Park where you can feast your eyes on more than 200 granite and bronze sculptures by Gustav Vigeland, Norway's most famous sculptor. Among Oslo's museums, the pick of the bunch are the National Museum of Art where you can see Edvard Munch's Skrik (also known as The Scream), the world's most recognizable painting; the Munch Museum, dedicated entirely to the works of Munch, Norway's most famous painter; and the Oseberg Viking Ship Museum which has on display three of the world's oldest and best-preserved Viking ships, dating from more than 1,100 years ago.
Oslo has tramlines, city buses, metro trains and even an Airport Express Train, Flytoget, plus an extensive rental bikes program in the City Centre, making it relatively easy to get around the city.
Oslo's city center – particularly its main drag, Karl Johan, together with Rosenkrantz, Tinghuset and Stortorvet – has the greatest concentration of bars and nightclubs in the city, most popular among them The Villa, Stravinsky, and the trendy Living Room which draws a mainly younger, hip crowd. The up-and-coming Grünerlokka district has its gems too, with the monstrously popular Südoest at the top of the list. For upscale venues, check out the west side of town – the Majorstuen, Vika and Frogner areas – where the high-profile Cosmo is the place to be seen.
Oslo's most famous sons are playwright Henrik Ibsen, author of Peer Gynt and A Doll's House, and painter Edvard Munch, who enjoys world renown for his Skrik (The Scream). Its most famous daughter is figure skater and three-time Olympic gold medalist Sonja Henie, who went on to Hollywood stardom in such films as One in a Million (1936) and Second Fiddle (1939).
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