Oslo is situated at the tip of Oslofjorden, an inlet of the Skagerak, free of ice for the duration of the year. Destroyed in a fire in 1624, Oslo was completely rebuilt on the orders of King Christian IV, who gave the city its regular layout. From that moment, Oslo saw the creation of new districts radiating out from the city centre, complete with neat and orderly road systems. It was during the period 1818-44, that the face of the city radically changed, with the construction of public offices, Parliament, universities, the stock exchange, banks and museums. Oslo is an easy city to visit, given that the major sights are either located in the city centre or are easy to reach using public transport or by bicycle.
18th century Oslo is situated around Karl Johans Gate, a pedestrianized street and the city's main thoroughfare. The street runs from east to west, connecting central station with Slottet (the royal palace) and passing Stortinget (the parliament), the university, the student's gardens, the cathedral, central square, the National Theatre and the Town Hall, an important symbol of the tourist port of Pipervika. The port and its quays are the departure point for the ferries to Bygdøy and the boats and yachts, which leave to explore the fjords and islands. The port is also the site of Aker Brygge, where old quays and warehouses have been converted into the residential commercial centre; Festplassen. this centre contains theatres, cinemas, shops and crowded bars.
The most elegant part of the city is to be found west of the royal palace. An area of 18th century nobility and upper class. The rich quadrangle, which runs from Parkveien to Bygdøy Allé and from Kirkeveien to Uranienborgveien is the site of boutiques, embassies, the Frogner Park and the Oslo Bymuseum, which holds exhibitions on the theme of the history of the city.
Holmenkollen, the city's most exclusive district, lies at an altitude of 420m, on the high ground, behind the centre of Oslo. Holmenkollen, is Norway's answer to skiing and is the sight of an impressive ski-jump. The ramp is 60m high and finishes with a circular stadium, capable of accommodating 10,000 spectators. Every year, during the month of March, the city hosts the Ski Festival. Lake Beserud and the Observation tower stand in front of the ski ramp. The base of the tower is home to the Ski Museum.
Hotels and lodging
- Vigelandsparken, a wonderful natural area of lakes and trees is dominated by the sculptures of the famous artist Gustav Vigeland, detailing the life and death of this talented person.
- Akershus Festning, a 13th-century fortress, dominates the port. The fortress has a marvelous interior containing stately rooms, an underground prison, and a chapel, still used for royal ceremonies, a home to the cypts of Hakon VII and Olav V. the building also houses the Resistence Museum, which details the German occupation of the country and Norway's fight to defeat this enemy. The Fortress is surrounded by beautiful gardens, which provide a fine view over the city. The city has many museums including The Nasjonal Galleriet, founded in 1837 and housing documentation about the Norwegian painters of the 18th and 19th century.
- The Munch-museet, houses a collection of 1100 paintings, 4,500 designs, 1,800 prints, sculptures, letters and books left to the city by Munch upon his death.
- The Museum of Adventure at Bygdøy, houses artifacts that detail Norwegian adventure including Viking longboats and the remains of the Oseberg boat (IX century) rich in ornamental and marine sculptures; Fram, the boat much loved by Nansen and Amundsen; and the Kon-Tiki, the fragile raft used by the anthropologist Heyerdahl, during his ocean expeditions.
- Marka, whose main access point is Frognerseteren, is an immense forest that surrounds Oslo. The zone covers a surface area of 1,700 square kilometres and contains spruce, birch and pine trees set amongst hills and valleys, streams and lakes. The forest has strategically placed chalets throughout the area, which allow rest and repose for the weary traveller. Visitors can take a cruise on one of the boats, that departs from both Vippetangen and Aker Brygge, in order to visit the fjords and enter the maze of small islands that make up the archipelago.
- Aker Brygge is one of the liveliest areas in the centre. This zone of the old port was completely restructured a few years ago.
- Karl Johans Gate, the city's main street, is also rich in bars and pubs. This pedestrianized area is also home to boutiques and meeting points for the city's artists and street bands.
- The Grünerløkka District, located outside the city centre is home to many fashionable restaurants, popular with students and the young.
- The Oslo Snow Festival, held every February, takes place in Frogner Park and sees magnificent sculptures in snow and ice.
- Sommer på Akerhus Festning, at the Akerhus Fortress, is an all summer long festival of theatre and music.
- The Oslo Jazz Festival takes place in August, with concerts in the park, squares and cafés.
Oslo has a lot of shopping including Oslo Sentrum (Centre), Aker Brygge and Bogstadveien.
Maps and transportation
Getting to Oslo
Tip: The best way to see Oslo is to buy a week's travelcard available from the train station and in shops. Costing around NOK 200 it gives you completely unlimited travel on bus, Trikk and T-Bane all around the city. A life saver when you get lost as you can always jump on a Trikk to take you into the centre of town.
Purchasing an Oslo Card from the Central station in Jernbanetorget, allows the visitor to travel free of charge on Oslo's public transport system and in addition allows free parking in council car parks, free admission to the city's museums, swimming pools, Tusenfryd amusement park and mini sight-seeing cruise. Central station is also the location of Trafikanten, the information office which provides details on all the city's public transport.
Oslo has 5 tram lines which cross the city and 20 bus routes with arrival and departure from Bussterminalen. Eight metro lines depart from Stortingsgata (Parliament Square), four from Majorstuen station towards the east of the city and four from Tøyen station which head to the east.
Practical information and resources
- Currency: Norwegian Kroner. (1 Krone = 100 Øre)
In October 2006, 1 Euro was worth approximately 8.4 Kroner.
- Electric supply: 220 Volts A.C Norwegian plugs are round two pinned (not grounded)
- Climate: the west coast, exposed to the influences of the Gulf currents, has a rather mild climate during winter. Rainfall is abundant in particular from September to December. Oslo is less cold than other regions but the sky is usually covered and rainfall is frequent
- Opening hours: post offices are open from 8:30am to 4.00pm during week days and from 8.00am to 1.00pm on Saturdays. Shops are open from 9.00am to 5.00pm, except Thursdays, when they are open until 6.00pm. Many supermarkets are open until 8.00pm or 9.00pm and until 6.00pm on Saturdays. Some kiosks and newsagents remain open until 10.00-11.00pm. There are kiosks located near petrol stations, which stay open until 11pm or are open throughout the day.
Most of the touristy restaurants are located at Aker Brygge, a revamped dock area in the city front, facing the sea and fjord. Here are a number of restaurants, such as Lektern, DS Louise and Albertine on the 'sea' side and the 'cooler' (as in cool) back area where places such as BeachClub are located (apparently this is the best beefburger restaurant in town) and where you may see an occasional Norwegian popstar. Being Norway, there is a lot of seafood in these restaurants although Solsiden (a restaurant on the other side of the harbour) is slightly more expensive but fantastic for seafood.
One thing to note about drinking in restaurants in Norway is that legally the staff cannot serve you if they think you are drunk. So don't be surprised if a waiter (or waitress) suddenly refuses you any more alcohol and asks you to leave (usually nicely). In addition each person, by law, can only have one drink on the table each, so they will refuse to put down your second vodka tonic until you have finished the first.
One of the coolest new bars at the top of the Labour party building in Youngstorget in central Oslo is definitely a great way to see Oslo from the sky. It has open air balconies and lots of outside seating which can be a real blessing from the oppressive summer heat. You have to queue at the bottom of the building in front of the elevator and pay NOK 50 (about £5) to enter the lift which takes you to the eleventh floor. There are one main bar and two 'beers only' bars which are reasonably priced with beer at NOK 52 and spirits not so reasonably priced.
A very 'old street' type bar in Frognerveien which has a really good evening atmosphere and cool 70s wallpaper. Doubles as Bakeri Frosken in the day, where you can buy coffee and cakes. Rumours are they are about to start serving sandwiches as well...
Very trendy bar in one of Oslo's more culturally vibrant areas, Grünerløkka. Parkteateret is a smallish retro bar frequented by artists, musicians and other 'hangers on'. Farily expensive, but then so is all of Oslo... Open late (3am usually) most nights. Next door is the slightly more low key Kontraste where you can enjoy drinks past midnight in a more laid back atmosphere.
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