Situated at the northern tip of the fjord which also bears its name, the city (and county) of Oslo is surrounded by green hills and a vast forested area. Thought to be the oldest of the Scandinavian cities, Oslo is a vibrant European capital offering a widerange of entertainment and cultural attractions, most of which are located within easy walking distance or a short hop on public transport (including a picturesque tram system) of the centre and each other.
The ancient centre of Oslo – bounded by the medieval Akershus Fortress and the Cathedral, Øvre Vollgate and Skippergaten, and known as the “Quadrangle”– is the historical heart of the city. Akershus Fortress in particular, which includes two museums (Defenceand Resistance), captures the attention with its guides wearing period costumes and its stunning views of the fjord and the old city.
Bygdøy, a residential suburb occupying its own peninsulain the Oslofjord, is another historical magnet for visitors. Its outstanding assortment of museums includes the Viking Ship Museum, boasting a wealth of beautifully preserved vessels; the Folk Museum, a collection of 17th-to-19th century buildings and artefacts, and the Kon-Tiki, Fram and Maritime Museums.
Oslo City Museum, which also organizes a series of historical walking tours, is situated in Frogner Park; well worth a visitin itself, the park is a popular destination for residents andvisitors alike. In summer it comes alive with sunbathers, picnickers, joggers and lively games of soccer and volleyball. Frogner Park also encompasses the world-famous Vigeland Park containing more than 200 monumental stone, bronze and wrought iron sculptures by the idiosyncratic artist Gustav Vigeland.
The spectacular Holmenkollen ski jump also consistently tops official lists of the most popular tourist attractions.
No visit to Oslo would be complete without a look at Edvard Munch’s paintings at the Munch Museum and the National Gallery, and in particular “The Scream”, arguably the best known painting in the world after the Mona Lisa.
The Nobel Peace Centre, with its numerous exhibitions, cafe and gift shop, is a suitable expression of Norway’s pride in being custodian of the Nobel Peace Prize.
Culturally, Oslo offers residents and visitors a rich and diverse selection of concerts, theatre and opera, museums and galleries. After the opening in 2008, Oslo’s new Opera House in the old harbour instantly became a city landmark and a magnet for visitors.
Quite apart from opera, Oslo is a very musical city. Annual music festivals such as Norwegian Wood, the Oslo Jazz Festival and the Øya Festival in the Middelalderpark, the atmospheric ancient ruins at the medieval epicentre of the capital, attract large, good-natured crowds.
Aker Brygge, previously an enormous shipyard now converted into a lively waterfront centre for housing, shopping and restaurants, is the perfect place to relaxand enjoy the sunshine. At the centre of town, in and around Karl Johans gate, Oslo’s main shopping and business thoroughfare, is a concentration of discotheques, nightclubs, bars, jazz clubs and cafes, and several concert halls.