A FROZEN VIEW
To see a spectacular bird’s-eye view of Oslo, it’s best to go to the Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel. It is the tallest building in all of Norway, 117 meters, and it dominates the entire city as if it were a tall icicle, which will leave you with your mouth opened. This Scandinavian country is known mainly for its stunning landscapes as well as being the fifth country on the list of happiness. Well, World Happiness Report published so in the 2020 catalogs. It is a result based on the surveys that evaluate the salaries, social benefits, life expectancy, freedom and levels of corruption in the country.
One of the philosophies of the Norwegian, is that they do not live to work, they work to live. It has one of the most efficient welfare states in the world and a social protection system and maternity leave that cover the entire population. Maternity leave is for up to ten months with eighty percent of paid salary, and this includes a few months for the father as well. Education is totally free. If you are a writer, the government buys you a good run of copies that are donated to public libraries. In case of cessation of work, the state will help you to move on… and these are some of the many aids that make Norwegians call the state, “state potato” because practically it gives them support in each and every one of the stages of their lives, which makes them happy and this happiness is breathed in the country.
But going back to our hotel, belonging to the famous Scandinavian chain, it was opened in 1990 by King Olav V. On the 33rdand 34thfloor, it also has a sauna and a swimming pool. It has a fully glazed bar and restaurant on the 37thfloor, which can be accessed by an outside elevator, also glazed, from which you can admire the city of Oslo and its fjord. From this floor we will be able to see the whole region, the lakes that surround the city, the hills, and even the diving board in the Homenkollen Hill. You cannot miss the bathroom of this curious bar because, of course, it is also glazed… who dares?
To get there, you can walk from the central station, as this hotel, in addition to marvelous views, has a privileged location practically in the center of the city.
Sonja Henies plass 3
A SNACK, NORWEGIAN STYLE
After a day of “sightseeing” it is best to relax with a beer in the Aker Brygge Port and simply watch the boats come and go or the Norwegians enjoy a wonderful sunset over the fjord. This space was, until the 90s, a warehouse for the port and industrial area of the city. Refurbished and integrated into it, it is now a fashionable place with shops, restaurants, bars, where you can have a good craft beer. The old building was restored and transformed, playing with the mixture of modern architectural styles and pre-existing historical styles. At the water’s edge they have created a wooden platform to walk around or just relax.
Chill-out spaces are totally public which were also created equipped with large cushions and mattresses on the stairs-platform, where you can spend the afternoon relaxed. The famous Aquavit, which means “life water”, a Scandinavian drink, which actually originated from Denmark, was adopted by all the Scandinavian countries. With 40% of alcohol, coming from potatoes, grains and various flavored herbs, it is for accompanying beer or for the bravest. Originally, it was a medicine to treat all kinds of diseases, but especially to digest foods rich in fat.
The enthusiasts of this drink drink it in a shot glass and a drink of beer. The Aquavit Linie is typically Norwegian, its name indicates line, since this distillate travels to Australia and returns again to Norway, in oak barrels in the cellars of the ships. On this trip, it passed through the equator twice, which makes it acquire a special aging with the movement of the ship together with the different changes in temperature. To accompany this appetizer, the most characteristic thing would be to take a Smorbrod, which is nothing more than a sandwich without a top covered with anything sweet or salty, from salmon to jam, or even accompanied by Geitost, which is brown caramelized goat’s milk cheese from the fjords area.
If you go at Christmas, the ideal is Grot, one of the typical sweet dishes of Christmas. In the villages that dot the fjords, if the children leave a plate of Grot in the barn, “Nissehjelpen”, the Norwegian Santa’s helper, comes with gifts. As a Norwegian, he is very shy, but if you go in silence, sometimes you can see his hat peeking out from among the clutter in the barn.
THE INTERESTING SMOKY TEMPLE
An old tradition of the capital of the fjords is to meet the fishermen who arrive early with their boats loaded with fresh produce. At the fishermen’s wharf, next to the town hall, you can buy freshly caught and cooked shrimp or prawns, served in cones and ready to be tasted directly from these fishermen. Enjoy all this while you relax on one of the many benches in the large square in the same place. But one of the best places to eat or even to take a product in your suitcase is in a market. Mathallen, is the gourmet market in Oslo par excellence, the most recommended place where you can buy culinary specialties or even taste any type of Norwegian fish, realizing the great quantity and diversity of seafood they have and that is why the basis of Norwegian cuisine is above all fish.
The Mathallen Market is the one with the most innovative design as well as being the most visited by locals and tourists. When the opportunity arose, the building of an old iron foundry was converted and restored, giving rise to one of the most emblematic buildings in the Grunerlokka neighborhood. It was inaugurated in 2012 and has become a tourist and gastronomic reference. Among the delicacies that we can buy are whale meat, salmon, tuna, and even deer heart.
Of course, you have to prepare your wallet, since the shopping basket in Norway is one of the most expensive in the world. This large market has various restaurants where you can directly choose the products at the meat or fish stalls and they cook them for you at the moment, as well as multiple “take away” shops. They can even prepare all the products under vacuum to be able to travel by plane. However, the star dish of this market is fish soup since it fights the cold in harsh winters.
They are always served piping hot, to the point that their smokey aroma gave rise to the proverbial expression “smell that feeds”. This gastronomic temple is located at Vulkangata 5. To get there from the station you can take tram 34 or 54 which has a frequency of 8 minutes.
A SPECIAL SCREAM
One of the many special corners of the city is the Ekebergparken, located a few minutes from the center. It is a park recovered in 2012 thanks to private investments. It has totally free access, as it is actually a public park in which the inhabitants of the city go jogging, walking, spending the afternoons or even having a picnic during the summer months. Along our walk through this park, in the middle of nature, we find sensational sculptures, Dalí, Botero, Knut Steen… among others. A total of 42 interesting sculptures are part of the inventory of this park. It also has a museum and an interpretation center, megalithic rock art, but also Viking remains, and a curious German cemetery from World War II.
As it is a place designed for enjoyment, it also has animal farms and fun spaces for children. Because in Scandinavian society, there is no place, be it a park, a hotel, a train or a public administrative building that does not have a place for the enjoyment of the little ones. Well, they firmly believe they are the future of the country. The fun of this park is getting lost following the forest-lined paths, to come across works of art and from time to time the forest opens up to offer a fantastic panoramic view of the city.
But the most interesting thing about this park is that it was here that one of Edvard Munch’s most universal works was inspired, The Scream. This is the second most famous painting in the history of art, after the Mona Lisa. Even present in new technologies because it has its own emoticon. The author explains it like this:
“I was walking along a path with two friends –the sun was setting –suddenly the sky turned blood red –I paused, feeling exhausted, and leaned on the fence –there was blood and tongues of fire above the blue-black fjord and the city –my friends walked on, and I stood there trembling with anxiety –and I sensed an infinite scream passing through nature.”
They have installed a large gold frame in that place to take a photo imitating Munch’s famous scream, so who wouldn’t leave Oslo without a photo imitating Munch’s scream?
EkebergparkenBus (line 34 and 74)
THE URBAN RECYCLING OF THE XXI CENTURY
Far from the touristy Oslo, we find the Grunerlokka neighborhood, about 20 minutes from the center, in the northeast of the city. It is a neighborhood that has become the main nucleus of street art. During the 19thcentury, it was an area of large factories, a place in where the working class lived. At this time, it was one of the most deteriorated neighborhoods in the city and difficult to access, but for some time now, it has undergone a radical change. Only its brick architecture has remained from its dark park.
In it, we find the original facades from its “dark” time converted into universities, art galleries, offices… etc. It is also a model neighborhood for sustainability. All buildings have solar panels and geothermal power, thus making it a totally self-sufficient neighborhood. We can find in this neighborhood something as surprising as Sic, (whose literal translation would be dog parking) which is a place to leave pets, well cared for and with heating, while shopping or simply stroll through the neighborhood. We even come across urban beehives, designed by the same architecture studio that designed the Oslo Opera Building.
These hives are two large panels to implement beekeeping in the middle of the city. The university also occupies fully restored old grain silos, but preserving its original structure. An old tire factory was also converted into a student residence. In short, a totally new neighborhood using the initial architecture. But what will attract our attention the most will be the revitalization of the banks of the Aker River, which historically separated the rich and the poor part of the city, but which today houses a long park with a beautiful walk in which to pass the hours.
Graffiti, vintage and second-hand shops, street musicians, street food, open-air markets, art galleries, remains of the old hippie commune, are really interesting and different, something you cannot miss. Even the famous artist Munch lived in this neighborhood, and it was here in this neighborhood that he spent his childhood, and where his grave is also.
To get there, you have to take tram 11, 12 and 13 from the Central Station.
A JUMP ON THE SKI TRAMPOLINE
Skiing, whether on the slope, cross-country or the famous jumps, is the most popular and practiced sport in Norway. So much so that they even have summer ski slopes or jumping trampolines that can be used all year round. There is a Norwegian saying that even children are born with skies under their arms, because from an early age they already start practicing this sport. The origin of the word ski comes from the Nordic word skith, which means “stick” or “piece of firewood” alluding to the skies themselves.
It is one of the oldest sports known because it was really born from the fruit of necessity since it was a way of moving quickly through the snowy mountains. Located a few minutes from the city center and accessible by metro (Holmenkollen stop) we can reach the place where the ski complex called Holmen-kollen is located. Within its facilities is a museum, with more than 4,000 years of history of ski. We also find a simulator with space for 12 people with the latest technology to make you feel the feeling that a skier has when he does a ski jump 140 meters high.
Another option for the more adventurous is to jump on a zip line, 361 meters of pure adrenaline descent with the wonderful fjord at your feet. A must-see is the jumping tower, from where there is a viewpoint to observe the entire valley and the fjord. Undoubtedly the best panoramic view of the city, this ski jump is the most visited sports facility in the world, as well as serving as a venue for ski competitions since 1892.
The springboard is a 69-meter-high structure. Despite having more than 120 years of history, it has been renovated up to 18 times and the current track is from 2010.
Simulator - 10 euros
Jump Tower + Museum - 15 euros
Zip Line + Museum - 70 euros
Hollmenkollbaken To get there, tram 1 takes us directly from the central station.
THE DARK SECRET OF THE CITY HALL
One of the main buildings in the city is none other than the Oslo City Hall. This building dates from 1950, and is the place where the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded every December 10th. It is the only Nobel Prize awarded in Norway; the rest are all awarded in Stockholm. Imposing brown brick building in the shape of a “U” was inaugurated in the 50s. It also has two rectangular towers that can be seen from various points of the city, becoming an important point of reference. Located in an old Victorian-era prostitution district, this is reflected in the reliefs to the rear, where a prostitute woman can be seen, along with her pimp on the left and a wealthy man with money in his right hand.
A scene that not everyone tells about this emblematic building. The patron saint of Oslo is Saint Hallvard and inside the town hall, we can also learn about its history. According to legend, Hallvard, was the son of a rich nobleman. One day, a hungry pregnant woman stole food in the market. When the merchants wanted to catch her to execute her, because theft was one of the most punished crimes, Hallvard decided to help her, seeing that it was really a robbery out of necessity. He took her to his boat, but the men followed him and shot three arrows at him for complicity with the crime.
When they approached them and saw who they had killed, they panicked, tied a millstone around his neck, and threw him to the ocean, because that way they would erase all traces of the crime they had committed, since they knew that they too would be executed for murder. But the next day, despite the millstone still tied around his neck, he worked a miracle, he swam to the shore of then fjord to continue his life quietly. In addition to this, there are other miracles that surround Hallvard, for which he was canonized as the patron saint of Oslo in 1073.
Inside the town hall, we can see numerous murals by famous artists and living murals that tell history of Norwegian culture, thus becoming a reflection of the history of the city. We can even see the room where the Nobel Prize is awarded. This building can be visited practically in its entirety despite being the workplace of the city council officials, since today it is still the political and administrative headquarters of the Norwegian capital and in addition, the entrance is totally free.
FROM THE CENTRAL STATION TO THE ROYAL PALACE
We started the tour from the Central Station, but not before taking a picture with the most famous tiger in Oslo, a bronze figure located right in front of the main entrance. An old poem from 1870 tried to compare the contemporary city with a tiger, and that is why this statue was placed in the station that is supposed to be the first contract of the visitors with the city of Oslo. Taking this tiger as a starting point, we will go through the main street Karl Johan to the royal palace.
Along this street we will find the Oslo Cathedral (Domkirke) built at the end of the 17thcentury. All the weddings and funerals of the royal family have historically taken place there. This was where the recent and controversial wedding of Prince Haakon Magnus was held. In the garden of the cathedral, we find a memory of the victims of the 2011 attacks in the city. There is a heart where it is written “the most important thing of all is love”.
The next building that would attract our attention on our way is the parliament (Stortin-Get), an impressive yellow brick building, circular in its central part, dating from 1866. We continue on our way and cross the Spkkersuppa, gardens that are the heart from the city. Where at one end is the parliament and at the other national theater. This is one of the most important places for the performance of the dramatic arts, founded thanks to a private institution.
Its first performance was in September, 1899. At the end of our path is the royal palace, official residence of the kings of the country since 1849. Large public gardens surround it, open and free for the enjoyment of visitors. Now we must regain strength, and we go to the Aker Brygge or port, which is one of the busiest areas in the middle of the afternoon since its promenade is full of terraces.
We will continue our walk on the banks of the fjord starting from Aker Brygge and we will find the back of the massive red brick town hall and next to it, the impressive opera building that emerges from the water. Finally, we will return to the central station which was our starting point, and we will walk through the Arkhus Fortress, an old medieval castle built around 1300, later transformed into a renaissance palace in the first half of the 17thcentury.
Today, its beautiful rooms are used for government events.
RELAX IN AN ICEBERG
When we think of an opera building, an old building with a lot of history within its walls usually comes to mind, but this does not happen in Oslo. The Oslo Opera House, located on the harbor in the heart of the city, is the most contemporary building in Norway. It was designed by a famous local architecture studio, Snøhetta, who also has many other works in the city. It is located on the shores of the fjord, where the old industrial area used to be, an ugly part that today has been totally remodeled giving rise to one of the most visited areas of Oslo. Inaugurated in 2008, it aims to be a threshold between the land and the sea.
Its design is inspired by an iceberg, that is why it looks like a piece of white ice coming out of the sea. Something that the designers have achieved in spades. However, despite its modernity, instead of positioning itself as a completely isolated element, the building is naturally integrated into the fabric of the city. What strikes us the most about this glass and marble construction is that the roofs are passable, becoming authentic viewpoints above sea level. Its Carrara marble roof allows you to walk on it, giving you a wonderful view over the fjord, and in recent years it has become a meeting and recreation center for all the inhabitants and tourists who visit the city.
The immense interior is made up of perfectly differentiated spaces. The interior cladding is oak using carpentry in which the traditional systems of the Norwegian ship building have been applied. The main room, as if it were an iceberg, is located 15 meters under water and is 16 meters wide by 40 meters deep. It is among the most technologically advanced in the world.
In short, it is the best place to sit and to rest, observe life, watch the sunset in the fjord and breathe in the salty aroma of the fjord, feeling that you are truly on a glacier.
Kirsten Flagstads Plass 1
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