As Oslo ‘residents’ and even when we were still in Trondheim two years ago, we usually had to accompany visiting relatives and friends for a ‘day tour’ of Oslo. A day tour is almost impossible considering the numerous things Oslo has to offer but possibly enough for a taste of Norwegian history, culture, tradition and architecture. The ‘day tour’ begins at the heart of Oslo, in Karl Johans gate (street). This is the main walking street in Oslo and at the end of the street, sits the Royal Palace and Slottsparken. Still within walking distance from Karl Johan, the imposing and minimalist Oslo Opera House can be seen rising from the Oslo fjord. The Opera House is the recipient of several awards on contemporary architecture. Its interiors are works of art as well as you can see from the photos below.
Oslo Opera House
Inside the Opera, Wavy Wooden Wall
Inside the Opera, Perforated Wall
Next is Aker Brygge which is also a short walk from the city center. Restaurants line up along the coast line and at the very end of the walking street lies Tjuvholmen, another impressive piece of contemporary architecture inspired it seems by the ocean as the structure looks much like a gigantic ship docked in the harbor. It houses the Astrup Fearnly museum which has now become an art hub in Oslo. In Aker Brygge, we then take the ferry to the Bygdøy peninsula where three of the most popular museums in Oslo can be found.
Next stop, the Norsk Folkemuseum. This is where one can catch a glimpse of the Norwegian tradition – how they lived in the old days. Notable here are the well preserved wooden houses and Stave churches. It is like walking in a medieval Norwegian village. This open air museum is complete in a sense that it has little Norwegian villages from the medieval ages and also from a much later era.
Medieval Norwegian house
Well preserved Stave Church
There are different activities for the young and young-at-heart in this open air museum. Below you can see Joel and a friend of ours try the wooden stilts. The little Norwegian villages also come complete with farm animals to pet and feed. The most popular part of the Folkemuseum visit for us is the traditional flat bread tasting. It tastes very good and for that alone, we have came back twice to the museum (without visitors). Thinking about it now, makes me want to visit again.
Tastiest traditional flat bread
Norway is a seafaring nation, and as such it has a very rich and inspiring maritime history. One should not miss the Fram Museum which houses the world’s strongest wooden ship, Fram. To give you an idea how strong it was, it has been to expeditions both in the North as well as in the South Pole. Even stronger though are the will of the Norwegian explorers in those times. They are faced with the harshest and most extreme conditions and the technology in those times are still ‘primitive’ yet they managed to conquer the North and the South poles. My aunt which we took to the museum once is very superstitious and after she wandered through the ships’ cabins, she came back with this strange look on her face and told us she can feel the ‘presence’ of the ships dwellers. Well, apparently that’s how strong the spirit of those sailors are.
The Fram Museum
Another testament to the unquenchable curiosity of the Norwegian explorers is also housed in another museum in Bygdøy – the Kon-Tiki museum. The museum exhibits the balsa raft used by Thor Heyerdahl and the five other members of the Kon-Tiki expedition which sailed across the Pacific for 101 days. We, indeed, have the Norwegian sailors, from the superb Viking seafarers (the Vikingship museum is also in Bygdøy), to the Fram explorers and to the Kon-Tiki expedition crew to thank for opening up the Arctic and beyond.
The Kontiki Museum
After the museum rounds, we take a walk from Bygdøy to Frogner stranda for some fresh air and stop by the only restaurant in Frognerstranda for some lunch. A restaurant called Kro, shown in the photo below, has views of the fjord and also of the Colorlines cruise ship docking station. It is nice to have lunch while watching their huge cruise ships docking or leaving the port.
After lunch, we continue walking towards Vigeland’s park. It may seem like a long walk already but actually the walk from Bygdøy to Vigeland’s park is less than five kilometers. See the reference map below.
Vigeland’s park is the world’s biggest sculpture park made by a single man – Gustav Vigeland. It has over two hundred nude sculptures scattered across eighty acres of the larger Frogner park. You might recognize below the most popular of his works, ‘The Angry Boy’. As you can see as well, the park changes its mood depending on the season.
Vigeland’s park in Autumn
The Angry Boy in Winter
Finally, we head to the Munch museum by taking bus number 20 in the main entrance of Vigeland’s park. We stop at Tøyen gate where the museum is located in between the Tøyen park and the Botanical garden. It is in the right side of the map below. The Munch museum houses the works (28,000 of them) of Edvard Munch, Norway’s most important artist. His most popular work, ‘The Scream’ has been described as an icon of modern art and expresses angst, anxiety, pain perhaps.
Map of Munch’s Museum (between Botanical Garden and Tøyenparken) and the Grunnerløkka suburb
What better way to see Edvard’s world than to walk where he used to live, in the suburbs of Grunnerløkka. Today’s Grunnerløkka follows the steps of Edvard Munch, in a different way – street art. And the walls of Grunnerløkka do ‘scream’ at you when you walk by. After being consumed by the street scenery, dinner awaits at Mathallen marked in the map above just across the Akers elva. During dinner, we usually tell our visitors what else they will miss by not staying longer in Oslo and that’s when we see ‘The Scream’ look on their faces.
Street Art at Grunnerløkka