NORWAY  |  Oslo, Norway Travel Guide
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Oslo Orientation

Oslo Orientation

Karl Johan

The main street in Oslo is the pedestrian way called Karl Johan, between the Central Train Station and the Royal Palace. The city center is compact and many of the shops, restaurants and attractions in the city are in this area. There are a few attractions just outside the city center that require transportation, most notably Holmenkollen, the museums at Bygdøy, the Henie-Onstad Museum and the Munch Museum. Just about everything else is within walking distance from Karl Johan.

Many of the city’s landmarks, such as the cathedral, the Parliament (Stortinget) and the university, are along Karl Johan, with the Royal Palace at the end. The street is named after Karl III Johan (called Karl XIV Johan in Sweden), the king of the Sweden-Norway union, whom the Palace was built for. Karl Johan is also where the official parades are held in Oslo; the most important is the annual celebration on Constitution Day, May 17th. In 2004 and the first half of 2005, a lot of improvements were made on Karl Johan in preparation for another big event, the centenary of the union dissolution, which occurred in 1905.

Akershus Castle Area

Although Oslo is an old city, the downtown area as we know it today is quite young; Karl Johan, for example, wasn’t built until the 19th century. One of the oldest parts of town that still exists today is near the Akershus Castle in the southeastern city center. The view from Akershus is spectacular, overlooking the city and the fjord, making it easy to understand why the castle was built here around the year 1300. The area around Akershus is well preserved, with houses from the 17th century. Walking around here, you’ll find such buildings as the first town hall of Christiania, the Garrison Hospital, the War College and the first national bank of Norway.

From Akershus Castle you are only a short walk from the city hall and the harbor. Aker Brygge, the district by the harbor, with its long line of open-air restaurants overlooking the fjord, is perhaps the most popular place in the summer to hang out.

Frogner Park

Another area attracting visitors in the summers is the Frogner Park, in the western section of Oslo. This is where you will find the famous Vigeland Park, containing over 200 bronze sculptures by Gustav Vigeland, Norway’s most famous sculptor, who was also in charge of designing the park itself. The statues are interesting to look at but densely placed, which makes the whole experience a bit overwhelming after a short while. If the Vigeland sculptures intrigue you, there’s also a museum with Vigeland’s work just across from the park on Nobelsgate, which is open Tuesdays-Sundays, all year. The park itself is open to the public 24 hours a day every day throughout the year.


Perhaps the most interesting district in the city is Grünerløkka , which you will find in the northeastern part of town near the river Akerselva. This district was considered one of the “bad” neighborhoods of Oslo until just a few years ago. Grünerløkka, as well as Grønland, another district nearby, has a high immigrant population and they are today popular areas, particularly among the youth, with plenty of cafés, pubs and restaurants.

Last updated December 27, 2010
Posted in   Norway  |  Oslo
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