Oslo, Norway is a charming seaside capital city located on the northern end of the picturesque Oslofjord which connects to the North Sea. While the 1000 year old Norwegian metropolis is known for its progressive system of taxation to achieve income equality and steadfast commitment to a better environment and global peace, it is rich in cultural history. When visiting we found these to be the best five things to see in Oslo.
#1 Holmenkollen Ski Jump
Even if you don’t ski, this impressive piece of purposeful athletic architecture is a sight to behold. This offers a prime view of the entire Oslo harbor and surrounding hillsides. Built on the site of over 100 years of ski jumping competition, the current structure designed by JDS Architects was completed for the 2011 World Ski Jumping Championships. Everything, from the actual ski jumping to judging, spectator stands to a souvenir shop and ski museum is contained in one dynamic steel and glass structure which embodies the shape of a ski jump called Holmenkollen. The height difference between the upper platform and the outrun equates to a 36 story building!
#2 Vigeland Park
Before I visited the worlds largest sculpture garden created by a single artist, I had no idea what I was about to experience. Probably not unlike the Oslo City Council who in 1919 decided to build a new studio for Gustav Vigeland in exchange for his bequeath of all his works upon his death. But don’t let the idea a “nude” sculptures dissuade you or from taking the children. Vigeland Park is a delightful representation of life from inception to death including everything which happens in between such as one’s first kiss to the adoration of a mother’s eye. We had to remove our modern day judgmental attitudes toward naked adults and children together, to understand how without clothing the sculptured human form remains timeless. Clothing would create a date stamp.
#3 Fram Museum
This was another item I selected only because my mom went there and the point of my trip was to recreate her trip from 1961. I learned quite quickly to put aside my preconceived notion of a ‘boat museum”. Make a beeline for the introductory 10 minute film, it puts the importance of this historic 1892 vessel into perspective. Only then can you understand the significance when you step onto the ship and make your way down and through the rooms inhabited by the men aboard the first vessel to achieve expeditions to both the north and south poles. Prior to the Titanic, and for much better reasons, the Fram was the most famous ship in history.
#4 Open Air Museum | Norwegian Folk Museum
Historic buildings from all across Norway have been dismantled, reassembled and restored in one location to showcase how people lived throughout different regions from the 1500s to present. An Open Air Museum offers an interesting opportunity to truly travel throughout history. Docents dressed in period costumes explain rural life and architecture across the ages. The grand yet rustic Gol Stave Church originally from Gol, Hallingdal, Norway dates from 1212. We found all the historic versions of our modern idea of a green or garden roof completely mesmerizing.
#5 Oslo City Hall
This is not your typical city hall. While still an active municipal building, one can openly walk in and throughout many of the wonderful rooms decorated by noted Norwegian artists prior to and right after the second World War. You’ll enjoy a colorful journey through out themes which depict Norwegian culture. Exquisite murals unlike typical staid civic art, decorate almost every room. Many of the key artists studied under Henri Matisse in Paris, Axel Revold, Per Krohg (The so-called Fresco Brothers) and Henrik Sørensen which may account for the continuity of vibrant painterly designs from room to room. The central room is where the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded, in accordance to Alfred Nobel’s wishes.
We took one of the tours from Viator which included most of the items on this list. In other words, one doesn’t need a lot of time in the town of Oslo to get the best of what the coastal city has to offer and to experience the true flavor of the Norwegian culture. Stay tuned for our next post when we explore some of the amazing architecture and culture of Oslo.