Oslo history

Oslo history

Oslo has it all

According to the Norse sagas, Oslo was founded by King Harald Hardrade around 1049, although scientists have found evidence of earlier habitation, including Christian burials near the ruins of St. Clement’s church that date back to 1000. The name Oslo is generally interpreted by linguists to translate as either “meadow at the foot of a hill” or “meadow consecrated to the gods.” Either name suggests its original topography and location. Around 1299, King Haakon V took up residence in the city and Oslo became the capital and center of commerce for Norway.

In modern times, that heritage still lives on. Oslo is one of the great maritime centers of the world and also Norway’s capital and most populous city. Oslo is consistently rated number one in quality of life among the world’s cities and has much to offer the curious traveler.


The first thought that often comes to mind when mentioning Norway is “Vikings.” Indeed, many of the greatest ancient Norse traders and explorers hailed from Norway. You can see the sleek hulls of two of their ships, the Oseberg and Gokstad, at the Vikingskipshuset located on the famous Bygdøy Peninsula.

While in Oslo, visit the Kon-Tiki Museum dedicated to the expeditions of famed Norwegian ethnographer Thor Heyerdahl. The museum displays the totora reed boat Ra II, built by the Aymara people of Bolivia and used by Heyerdahl to sail the Atlantic in 1970.

Another popular museum in Oslo is the Norwegian Folk Museum, which contains numerous buildings from the 17th and 18th centuries that were moved and rebuilt on the site, including their flower-bedecked sod roofs.

If you want to see the original painting The Scream by Edvard Munch, it's located in Oslo at the National Gallery. Paintings by Cézanne and Manet are also available for viewing. The National Gallery is also home to a pastel version of The Scream, while the Munch Museum, also in Oslo, displays the other painted version of the masterpiece.

Oslo Opera House

Visitors to Oslo should not miss out on the opportunity to walk on top of the Oslo Opera House. One of the grand architectural triumphs of the world, it was designed by Tarald Lundevall and construction was completed in 2007. Since then, it has won the World Architecture Festival Cultural Award in 2008 and the Mies van der Rohe award in 2009. Home to the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet, it is situated in the Bjørka neighborhood of central Oslo, located at the head of the Oslo fjord.

The complex slants upward from the fjord and seems to rise up out of the sea. Visitors can stroll from the edge of the fjord up the ramp-like structure to the apex of the building. From here, you can take in the panorama of Oslo, with an even more invigorating view when seen at night.

An outdoor paradise

For all of its cosmopolitan offerings, Norway is steeped in a tradition of outdoor activities, especially on the sea. Oslo is no exception. The Oslo fjord is the place to go for sightseeing by boat, swimming, fishing and island hopping. Bus tours along the shore are available as well. The hills and forests that surround the city are the perfect place to find hiking and biking. In the winter, cross-country and alpine skiing and ice skating take over. In the summer, golfing is available on top-rated courses.

There are also numerous music festivals, both indoors and outdoors, available year-round. If you just want to sit and relax, stunning lakes are scattered throughout the Oslomarka Forest, the most popular of these being the Sognsvann. Oslo is also home to beautiful urban parks. Perhaps the park which draws the most visitors is the Palace Park, where you can watch the changing of the guard every day at 1:30pm.

Don’t forget the food

Oslo is a cosmopolitan city and its international flavor extends to dining choices as well. While there are plenty of places to find traditional Norwegian and Scandinavian fare, Oslo also boasts a full palate of international dining establishments whose traditions hail from places as varied as India to Mexico or Brazil to America. You can find French, Italian, Spanish and German influences, not to mention the latest in haute cuisine. You can even find a hamburger and fries if you're so inclined.

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