Sightseeing in Oslo
Holmenkollen, the famous ski jump arena northwest of the city, is not only the most visited attraction in Oslo but in the entire country. And for good reason. Holmenkollen has had its ski arena since the end of the 19th century but it’s changed quite a bit over the past hundred years. One of the biggest renovations was made in preparation for the Winter Olympics in 1952.
There are typically three things to do at Holmenkollen: visiting the Ski Museum, climbing up to the tower, and going on a ride in the simulator. There is also a café and a souvenir shop, but your time and money can be better spent elsewhere. The tower is accessed through the museum and your entrance fee covers both attractions. Holmenkollen is 357 m (1,000 feet) above sea level and the jump tower, an additional 60 m (180 feet). You get there by walking up the stairs (which in the winter can be slippery with ice) and, once there, you will have the same fantastic view that the jumpers have. The view over Oslo and the Oslofjord is nothing short of spectacular.
The museum is supposedly the oldest ski museum in the world and it depicts the history of skiing since its infancy, about 4,000 years ago.
The area around Holmenkollen is also well known for its cross-country tracks, which are some of the most visited in the Marka region and it has hosted a couple of world championships over the years.
The Akershus Castle in the southeastern part of the city center was built in the early 14th century by King Håkon V. Oslo had just become the capital of Norway as construction commenced at the strategically elevated position overlooking the harbor. Despite its location, the castle was initially intended more as a royal residence than for defense purposes. In the early 17th century, the castle was completely rebuilt in Renaissance style by King Christian IV after a fire that burned down the whole city. Houses were then rebuilt in stone near the walls surrounding the Akershus Castle. Today the area can be divided into two parts for visitors, Akershus Slott and Akershus Festning. Akershus Slott, which is the Castle itself, is only open to the public in the summer, with the exception of guided tours on Thursdays in the low season. Akershus Festning is the entire area around the castle, which is open every day all year between 6 am and 9 pm.
Oslo City Hall
The exterior of the Oslo City Hall, at Fridtjof Nansens Plass, does not look inviting, but the interior, and the view of the harbor from one of the rooms, makes it well worth a visit. The city hall is the seat of the city council and was inaugurated in 1950. It’s most famous as the building where the Nobel Peace Prize is handed out on December 10 every year. This is the only Nobel Prize presented outside Nobel’s native country of Sweden. When the Nobel Foundation was founded, Norway and Sweden still formed a union.
Marka, with its mountains, lakes and forests, makes Oslo unique among capitals in Europe, not only because of the proximity to downtown but because of how it’s set up, with signs clearly indicating the way around. For hikers, there is a floodlight system on the trails, which are also used for other activities such as biking, horseback riding and cross-country skiing.
The Oslofjord and Its Islands
There are about a dozen smaller islands just south of downtown Oslo where you’ll find some of the best beaches in the city. The water in the fjord is clean and well suited for bathing despite the ferry traffic. Boats to the islands depart from the Vippetangen Quay at the tip of the peninsula where Akershus Castle is located. Hovedøya is the main island and the one nearest to the city.
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