Oslo – a good old Munch and much more

By | Category: Travel destinations

1 Aker Brygge - a popular place to meet at any time

I confess, I’m biased – I love Oslo. The Norwegian capital, sitting serenely and gracefully at the top of the Oslo Fjord, has always had a special place in my heart. Over the years, this pleasantly manageable city has altered and developed, but its essentially likeable appearance remains, thanks to its gorgeous location and forward-thinking local politicians. Since the mid-1980s the city has been revitalising its old industrial sites and docks and at present Oslo is in the midst of its most ambitious and interesting building programme to date, Oslo Fjord City, regenerating large parts of its fjordside area. The programme has seen the opening of a new Opera House, the Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art and much more, but this is not to say the Norwegians are forgetting their history – far from it – and few evoke more pride in that history than painter Edvard Munch, whose birth 150 years ago is being celebrated this year.

Double Munch
Plans for a new Munch museum are currently underway, but until that opens along the fjord near the Opera House in 2018, visitors need to head out to the residential area of Tøyen, east of the centre, to enjoy his superb paintings. The anniversary exhibition, actually held in two locations – the Munch Museum and the National Gallery – has the largest number of his works ever displayed and is a must-see for any art enthusiast, as well as those whose knowledge of art extends to “oh, that’s pretty!” such as myself. The exhibitions run until 13th October and feature all his major works, including world-famous ‘The Scream’ – his earlier works can be viewed at the National Gallery, his later at the Munch Museum itself and there’s a combined ticket covering both venues.

2 Royal Palace

Centre Sights
Of course there is far more to see in Oslo than Munch’s paintings, although they provided an excellent start to my time in the Norwegian capital. The centre of Oslo is very easy to get around – exceedingly strollable with most sights only a short distance from each other. A good way to see the sights is to follow the main drag, Karl Johans Gate, which is partly pedestrianised. It starts near the railway station and continues just short of a kilometre to the Royal Palace, taking in the cathedral, the parliament building (Stortinget), the National Theatre and the university along the way.

3 City Hall

From the quietly understated royal palace, it’s only a short walk down to the colossal twin-towered Town Hall, set right by the fjord. To the east it overlooks Akershus festning, a medieval fortress and castle, open as a museum. Akershus lies in the small area known as Christiania, the city’s oldest part, with some picturesque squares and buildings.

Modern waterfront, modern art
Just a short walk west and the old gives way to the new – Aker brygge, a former shipyard, is one of the most popular areas in Oslo for dining, shopping or just enjoying a drink or two in the evening. Even more brand new, Tjuvholmen Peninsula, partly built on reclaimed land at the end of Aker brygge, is home to Oslo’s most recent art addition, the Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art.

1a Astrup Fearnley Museum looking over the sea

If you haven’t had enough art for one day, it’s definitely worth a visit, not just for the art, but for the venue itself. Designed by award-winning Italian architect Renzo Piano, the museum, opened last September, stretches over two interconnected glass and wooden buildings, beautifully located by the Oslo Fjord. Aker brygge is also where ferries going further afield leave from – there are city sight-seeing boats taking in the new Opera from the water, dinner cruises serving fresh seafood aboard quaint wooden schooners and, perhaps the most popular boat of all, the ferry to Bygdøy, Oslo’s “museum island”.

Culture and nature
Bygdøy houses some of Norway’s most treasured historical objects in its museums and you need a good couple of days to see all of them. Choose from the Viking Ship Museum, the Maritime Museum (home to Roald Amundsen’s ship, Fram), the Kon-Tiki Museum and the Museum of Cultural History. Bygdøy is best reached by boat in summer, but can also be reached by bus. If you have time on your hands, the great outdoors is easily reachable and only half an hour outside of the city centre there are mountains, forests and lakes. Take the tram up to Holmenkollen and Frognerseteren, mostly known for winter activities (there’s a ski museum, if you’re not “all museumed out” already), but also very pleasant in summer and autumn. Hiking trails lead up into mountains surrounding Oslo and the views over the city and fjord are spectacular from up here. A cosy, chalet-style restaurant and bar offers fine Norwegian cuisine at Frognerseteren – choose the outside terrace for the best views. For “munch of a different kind”, the smoked salmon open sandwich is to die for.

4 Stortinget

Any time is a good time
The summer might arguably be the best time to visit the Norwegian capital, but increasingly, this is a year-round destination. There’s no better time to visit than 2013, for a great dose of art and culture, with some quality nature thrown in for good measure.

Further information: Oslo Tourist Board

Images © Anna Maria Espsäter except 1- Heidi Thon, 1a Rod Costa and 3 -Matjaz Intihar all in conjunction with Visit Oslo

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