Norway’s travelers usually expect to be swept away by the country’s magnificent natural attractions, visiting its quaint towns, touring its mountainscapes and fjords, and chasing the Northern Lights.
But Norway is also home to one of the most cosmopolitan cities, filled with museums and cultural centers. I’m talking about Oslo, Norway’s capital and one of Europe’s fastest growing cities, which I discovered to be very modern, efficient and where people go about happily satisfied with their lives. Oslo has been touted as the greatest place on Earth, named fourth happiest place in the world by the UN’s World Happiness Report 2016, regarded as a Beta World City, and hailed as a low-crime nation.
We stopped by Oslo after our exciting adventure in Tromsø that ended with a spectacular show by the Aurora Borealis! Exploring Oslo was quite a shift from our days and nights spent under the stars. In Oslo, we found a bustling hip and cool city with a very rich cultural scene. In the short span of time we were there, we tried our best to visit and see every “must-see” destination it has to offer.
Our Oslo story begins at our hotel, with its very interesting name, The Thief.
The Thief is a luxury waterfront hotel and the first hotel to have access to the Oslo Fjord. Its location, Tjuvholmen, is a trendy part of Oslo. But back in the 18th century, the neighborhood was known as the “Thief’s Islet” as it was a notorious place for robbers!
The hotel has a lovely marina view.
The hotel is well-designed, with the clean lines of Scandinavian aesthetic. At the same time, the interiors are filled with modern art and quirky sensibilities.
Next to the hotel is the Astrup Fearnley Museet, a private museum of contemporary art and is one of the most important art institutions in Oslo.
One of the best things about our hotel is that it is a 15-minute walk to the city center! So on our first day in the city, we made our first stop at the Oslo Opera House.
The city of Oslo is being designed as a waterfront redevelopment project, and the Oslo Opera House is part of this revitalization strategy. It aims to redevelop the city’s historically industrial waterfront into an active public space!
This opera house also known as the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet, has a subtle prize-winning design that resembles a glacier floating in the waters off Oslo. This city institution is seen as one of the most iconic modern buildings of Scandinavia.
The city of Oslo has always been utilized and enjoyed by its people, local and tourists alike. Even the Royal House of Norway‘s Palace Grounds, a tree-filled park, is open to the public all year round. (Quick tip: At around 1:30 p.m., the changing of the guards in front of the palace takes place! Try to catch it.)
When we went last week of October, the autumn weather was perfect for strolling around the park — it was nice and crisp, with leaves falling to the ground!
As I mentioned, Oslo is big on culture. The city also houses one of Norway’s largest and most prominent venues for performance of dramatic arts: the Oslo National Theatre, or Nationaltheatret, which was quite near the Palace. The building has an imposing facade, a mix of Neoclassical and Baroque styles using brick and stone.
Due to our limited time in the city, we didn’t have a chance to watch a show inside. But that’s fine, as we also enjoyed exploring the streets of Oslo. We loved the whole idea of being able to walk around, especially in the nice fall weather!
We did go inside another important museum, the National Gallery, or Nasjonalgalleriet, which contains Norway’s largest public collection of paintings, drawings and sculptures.
It is a wonderful place to take your budding artists. Here’s mine taking her place in the Drawing Room, carefully observing one of Picasso’s masterpieces.
Meanwhile, this one is a nice, quiet place inside the National Gallery where visitors can experiment with soft and hard pencils.
But… never leave the National Gallery without seeing the museum’s most important piece : Edvard Munch’s The Scream. This is one of the world’s most important artworks since this is the most expensive piece of art ever sold at an auction! It fetched a whopping record of US$120 million at Sotheby’s last 2012!
And because of such reputation, The Scream has also been the target of several high-profile art thefts. Just in 1994, this particular art piece in the National Gallery was stolen! Thankfully, it was recovered several months later!
(*To get to know Edvard Munch some more, click on this link. )
Now, when in Oslo, another place you must visit is the Nobel Peace Center. It is a very interactive institution about the Nobel Peace Prize. This is where you can learn more about the Peace Prize laureates and their work through the different scheduled exhibitions and tours. It’s actually very inspiring to see all those, and a great way to introduce children to social causes. The Nobel Peace Center is quite kid-friendly, so go ahead and take your kids with you!
Our visit coincided with the exhibit on Malala Yousafzai who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 for her struggle against oppression of children and youth, and for her fight for all children to have the right to education. The exhibition told her heartwarming story and honored her noble life.
We also took time to see the permanent exhibition, “The Nobel Field,” often named “the heart of the Nobel Peace Center.” Here, screens fill the entire room and on each screen is a laureate, surrounded by small lights. It is a breathtaking show that integrates technology.
Now let’s get into Oslo’s exciting food scene…
One memorable place we went to is touted as one of the best Scandinavian restaurants in the world called: Maaemo. It is a fine dining restaurant that specializes in molecular cuisine. A three-star Michelin restaurant, it “builds around its local produce-driven cuisine with a focus on reflecting the changing seasons and the raw nature of Norway… The restaurant exclusively serves a playful tasting menu of over 20 courses that is a pageant of dishes such as Norwegian langoustines with pine; mackerel with ramson; and Røros butter ice cream with brown butter caramel.”
Just take a look at all the dishes we had in one sitting… a meal with more than 20 courses!
Now, we can’t go to Scandinavia without seeing some Vikings! So off we went to see the Viking Ship Museum, the site of my boy’s dream come true! 🙂
Here, we heard stories about the Vikings, their ships and their conquests — all of which everyone found to be very fascinating! (Yes both kids and adults, alike!)
We also got to view the world’s best-preserved Viking ship, this amazing Gokstad ship, which was used for voyages of exploration, trade and Viking raids.
And then we saw an excavated Tune Ship, the first Viking ship to be excavated (in 1867) and is still the third-best preserved Viking ship in the world.
And lastly, and just close by to the Viking Ship Museum is the Fram Museum. It is a polar museum dedicated to the story of Norwegian polar expeditions.
Its centerpiece is the Fram, the polar ship used by Fridtjof Nansen as the main exhibit. It is the world’s strongest wooden ship. The museum’s site explains that it is the “first ship specially built in Norway for polar research. She was used on three important expeditions: with Fridtjof Nansen on a drift over the Arctic Ocean 1893-96, with Otto Sverdrup to the arctic archipelago west of Greenland – now the Nunavut region of Canada – 1898-1902, and with Roald Amundsen to Antarctica for his South Pole expedition 1910-12. The Fram is now housed and exhibited in the Fram Museum at Bygdøynes, Oslo.”
We were able to go on board and take a look around this very historical ship!
And as always… time is short when on holiday and we didn’t have time to see everything in Oslo!
We did try to have a look at the Akershus Castle, but it was closed already since it was late at night. This castle dates back to 1299 when it was used as a medieval castle and as a royal residence. Then it was developed into a fortress in 1592, after which it was rebuilt into a renaissance castle during the period of 1637-1648.
But as in any new place we visit, we managed to hear mass in a Catholic Church in the city called St. Dominikus.
Even at night, Oslo remains beautiful. This is what the streets and the marina look like outside our hotel.
Oslo is the last leg of our Norwegian adventure… and here I say goodbye to one of my most memorable trips, thus far.
Till the next one!
To see the rest of my Norway adventure, click the links below :