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17 November 2013

Discovering Oslo, Norway, one cultural attraction at a time

Norway's capital city of Oslo. Photo: Nancy Bundt / Innovation Norway. Unauthorized use is prohibited.
Norway's capital city of Oslo. Photo: Nancy Bundt / Innovation Norway. Unauthorized use is prohibited.

Having recently celebrated its 1,000th birthday at the turn of the 21st century, the capital city of Oslo, Norway, is a vibrant urban center steeped in Nordic heritage but yet surrounded by scenic splendor of Norway's world-renowned fjords. Once here, you'll travel back in time to encounter 1,000-year-old Viking ships at the Viking Ship Museum, as well as soar to the highest heights at the top of the Holmenkollen Ski Jump for some of the most jaw-dropping views of Oslo and the Oslofjord. In between, a bustling city center awaits replete with an opera house, fascinating galleries and museums, plus two remarkable sculpture parks that cannot be missed. And don't forget to stroll along the revitalized waterfront promenade for wonderful views of the city and fjord. The real bonus is that most of these places are within walking distance of the city centre. Be sure to check out VisitNorway.com for planning the perfect visit to Oslo.

Sculpture abounds in Vigelandsparken and Ekebergparken


One of the sights that should be on all Oslo itineraries is Vigelandsparken or Vigeland Sculpture Park. Photo: Johan Berge - Visitnorway.com/Vigeland-museet/BONO. Unauthorized use is prohibited.
One of the sights that should be on all Oslo itineraries is Vigelandsparken or Vigeland Sculpture Park. Photo: Johan Berge - Visitnorway.com/Vigeland-museet/BONO. Unauthorized use is prohibited.

From the Vigelandsparken or Vigeland Sculpture Park to the newly opened Ekebergparken or Ekeberg Sculpture park, Oslo offers a rich experience with striking compositions in both of these parks. Designed to showcase the extraordinary life's work of the Norwegian artist Gustav Vigeland near the early 20th century, Vigelandsparken or Frogner Park is a must-see stop on capital city itineraries. Located in northwest Oslo, about a 45-minute walk from the city center, the park is hard to miss with its cylindrical "Monolith" rising 14 meters or 35 feet; a giant and magnificent piece of granite that depicts 121 human figures deep in despair but yet filled with delight and hope. The meaning? Man's longing and yearning for the spiritual divine. Don't miss the fountain and the numerous pieces in granite and bronze throughout the park.

'The 'Monolith,' is a magnificent piece of granite that depicts 121 human figures deep in despair but yet filled with delight and hope. Photo: Nancy Bundt - Visitnorway.com/Vigeland-museet\BONO. Unauthorized use is prohibited.
The "Monolith," is a magnificent piece of granite that depicts 121 human figures deep in despair but yet filled with delight and hope. Photo: Nancy Bundt - Visitnorway.com/Vigeland-museet\BONO. Unauthorized use is prohibited.

Matt Johnson's 'Levitating Woman.' This floating naked woman draped in a cloth was cast in bronze but you would never know it from the softness of the sheet that seems to drip from her body.
Matt Johnson's "Levitating Woman." This floating naked woman draped in a cloth was cast in bronze but you would never know it from the softness of the sheet that seems to drip from her body.

On the opposite side of the city and close to Oslo Opera House is the Ekeberg Sculpture Park that recently opened at the end of September. A remarkable new sculpture park set amid idyllic settings, Ekeberg's treasures include classic as well as modern pieces of sculpture art in a variety of materials: Renoir, Dali, Aristide Maillol, Dyre Vaa—among others but seek out Matt Johnson's "Levitating Woman" and Hudson's "Marilyn." Incredible.

Oslo Opera House


The striking Oslo Opera House welcomes visitors to walk along the rooftop. Photo: Nancy Bundt - Visitnorway.com. Unauthorized use is prohibited.
The striking Oslo Opera House welcomes visitors to walk along the rooftop. Photo: Nancy Bundt - Visitnorway.com. Unauthorized use is prohibited.

What has surely become one of Oslo's iconic landmarks since its opening in 2008 and setting off a much larger revitalization of the entire waterfront, the white marble and glass Oslo Opera House is a striking example of modern Norwegian architecture. Stroll along the rooftop, a common activity for all visitors, for spectacular views of the city and surrounding fjord. Then, step inside where the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet perform to tourists and residents alike.

The Viking Ship Museum


The Viking Ship Museum in Oslo, Norway, houses three 1,000-year-old ships recovered along the Oslofjord. Photo: Johan Berge - Visitnorway.com. Unauthorized use is prohibited.
The Viking Ship Museum in Oslo, Norway, houses three 1,000-year-old ships recovered along the Oslofjord. Photo: Johan Berge - Visitnorway.com. Unauthorized use is prohibited.

Southwest of the city centre along the shores of the Oslofjord and easily accessible by ferry from the city centre, lies the Viking Ship Museum. Inside, you'll examine three 1,000-year-old Viking ships released from their earthly tombs and carefully preserved and put on display. Previously buried in royal burial mounds along the Oslofjord, the ships are presented with other artifacts found at the sites. History buffs will revel in this Viking voyage for sure!

Nobel Peace Prize

Did you know that the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded in Oslo each year as it has been since 1901, on December 10 at the City Hall or Rådhus. Next door is the Nobel Peace Center that recounts the history of the prize awards as well as intriguing exhibits on settling conflicts and war resolution.

Holmenkollen Ski Jump


Holmenkollen Ski Jump the world's largest steel ski jump. Photo: Susan Fraser - Visitnorway.com. Unauthorized use is prohibited.
Holmenkollen Ski Jump the world's largest steel ski jump. Photo: Susan Fraser - Visitnorway.com. Unauthorized use is prohibited.

Located at the north-westernmost corner and overlooking all of Oslo is the Holmenkollen Ski Jump. Since 1892, Holmenkollen has played center stage to ski festivals, countless world championships and the winter Olympic Games. The ski jump we see today has been rebuilt 19 times but in 2008, its predecessor was razed and then rebuilt into the world's largest steel ski jump. Be sure to take the lift to the top for amazing views of Oslo and the Oslofjord, and don't miss the film inside the world's oldest ski museum that simulates a jump off this magnificent structure.

Akershus Castle and Fortress


The 13th-century Akershus in Oslo. Photo: Nancy Bundt - Visitnorway.com. Unauthorized use is prohibited.
The 13th-century Akershus in Oslo. Photo: Nancy Bundt - Visitnorway.com. Unauthorized use is prohibited.

Born of medieval times and steeped in Norwegian history dating back to 1299, the Akershus Fortress was constructed to protect Christiania, Oslo's former name until 1925, from invaders from nearby Sweden and Denmark. Retrace 700 years of history through the battles, architectural improvements and the onslaught of the Nazis and WW II. Today, it's the government's main venue for state functions as well as home to the Royal Mausoleum.

The Munch Museum and National Gallery


Edvard Munch's 'Scream.' Photo: WikiMedia.org.
Edvard Munch's "Scream." Photo: WikiMedia.org.

If you seek out art in your travels, one of my personal favorites when traveling, then don't miss the National Gallery and the Munch Museum. The latter showcases the work of this avant-garde artist whose style led to the development of "modernism" at the turn of the 20th century. Among his most famous works on display is his provocative "Scream" series but don't miss "Anxiety," "Madonna," "The Kiss" and so many more. Inside the National Gallery, you'll find Norway's largest collection of paintings, sculptures and drawings. More of Munch's work is on display as well as the visual romance J.C. Dahl's fjord and forest scenes. Plus countless others.

Aerial view of Vigelandsparken or Vigeland Sculpture Park shows the work of Gustave Vigeland. Photo: Hagelund/Birdseyepix.com - Visitnorway.com/Vigeland-museet/BONO. Unauthorized use is prohibited.
Aerial view of Vigelandsparken or Vigeland Sculpture Park shows the work of Gustave Vigeland. Photo: Hagelund/Birdseyepix.com - Visitnorway.com/Vigeland-museet/BONO. Unauthorized use is prohibited.

While this is but a small list of all the cultural enrichment that awaits in Oslo, it does highlight a lot of the capital city's top attractions and must-sees! Check out VisitNorway.com as well as the printed Insight Guides' "Norway" to help you with your planning and whether you're here for a weekend or a week, you'll have no problem filling up your days with unforgettable experiences.

More Norway Chronicles:

20 comments:

  1. Jeff! I loved Oslo and especially loved the Viking Ship Museum!! Thanks for the memories of this trip!

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    1. Hi there Cindy and thank YOU for stopping by and sharing your thoughts! I am so happy you enjoyed this article!!

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  2. Norway looks full of cultural and engineering wonders--LOVE the opera house and the Viking ship! both have such elegant lines

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    1. Hi there Lesley and thank you so much for stopping by. I too am in love with the Opera House and the Viking Ship Museum - so many wonders await in Oslo!! Let's go!

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  3. Love the Viking ships and the dramatic history behind it all. And I've yet to visit the newly opened Ekebergparken. Plan to before Christmas. Really nice article here, Jeff :)

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    1. Hi there Sophie!! I too am fascinated by the ships and the tales of Vikings overall. I was lucky to visit the Viking Museum in Haugesund back in July and it was a fascinating journey, especially the reconstructed Viking settlement. Thank you for stopping by and for your kind words.

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  4. Oslo was one of my favourite ports-of-call on our Baltic cruise and we didn't have anywhere near enough time there. We rushed to visit Vigeland Park and the Nobel Peace Center and then walked quickly around the central part of town and back through Akershus to return to the ship. I would have loved to have visited the Viking Museum and the Munch Museum as well. I knew before I was back on board the ship that Oslo was a city that I would have to return to.

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    1. HI there Lisa!! That's too bad that you didn't get to see very much but like you said, all the more reason for a return trip! Thank you so much for stopping by to share you experiences.

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  5. Oslo certainly is beautiful Jeff!

    I'd really love to experience the Scandinavian life and learn more about it.

    I totally see myself getting lost in Vigelandsparken and also go on a cruise ;)

    Will do one day...soon ;)

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    1. Hi there Karla! You can count on that my friend! One day, you will experience the grandeur of Norway ... just wait and see! Thank you so much for stopping by and for your kind words too!

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  6. Okay, Jeff, you're really make me take a closer look at Norway...one of these days.

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    1. Hi there Marcia and thanks so much for stopping by! Norway should definitely be on your bucket list!! Just think of all the foodie opportunities!!

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  7. My au pair is from Oslo and she loves it...great tour!

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    1. Hi there Charu!! Thx so much and I can see why she loves it so!!

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  8. I'm so impressed by the sights in Oslo! I feel like I could spend a lot of time wandering the Vigeland Sculpture Park examining all the amazing sculpture. Thanks for all the tips!

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    1. Hi Christina and thank you so much for stopping by! Oslo is indeed incredible! I would love to spend the day in the Ekeberg Sculpture Park which just opened at the end of September. The Levitating Woman blows me away.

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  9. A fun and fascinating place to wander, i truly enjoyed your post!

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    1. Hi there and thx so much for your comment.

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  10. Excellent article. Love your photos on Pinterest too :-) Hope you want to take a look at my website www.bestnorwegian.com where I also have a presentation about Oslo.

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    1. HI there Vebjorn and thank you for your kind words! I will be sure to check out your Oslo article as well!!

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Thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!