Oslo: Untouched Capital of Europe
Norway is not exactly the place that many people look forward to going. At least from the people that I have encountered. Yet, when someone that you encounter says that they have been to Norway they suddenly become interested. This prompted me to write this article about Oslo, the capitol of Norway. Oslo is often given a slightly condensed review compared to Bergen and other areas of Norway due to other areas of Norway allowing the visitor to see the Northern Lights. However, having spent several days in Oslo in January of this year, it was a learning experience and a cultural experience that personally any visitor would be weirded out by. Yet, it is one of the coolest places in Europe and should be added, if not already, to the travel list for anyone planning to visit Europe.
Brief History of Oslo
Norway itself is embedded in history as one of the many areas where Vikings lived. In their culture they play on this history big time and despite it being not the proudest moment in their history due to Vikings being very violent and disruptive towards other tribes and peoples. Oslo though was apart of a providence in Viken and was not given its name until 1040. Oslo was a major trading port in Europe prior to the Renaissance. It provided a variety of materials that could not be found elsewhere in Europe. There were multiple attempts throughout the centuries to capture Oslo due to its absurdity of resources and it remained an important part of Europe roughly until the 20th Century. Norway held alliances with Sweden, Finland, and Denmark forming what we now from geography as The Nordic States. Each state protected each other during the Napoleonic era and the modernization of Europe. Oslo remained the most profitable city in Norway and remains so every since. It is important for its port and finance industries.
Without the maritime industry Oslo would not survive. Many maritime companies have headquarters in Oslo and it is one of the largest ports in the world as a result. This is both a blessing for Oslo and a curse due to maritime being its largest industry. Oslo is also essential in that it is one of the cities involved in two major European councils, the first being the Council of Europe which is a working council that deals with issues of civil and human rights amongst the Europeans nations, not just the European Union. The second being the European Commission which deals primarily with tourism in Europe.
Facts about Oslo
Oslo as has been previously mentioned is one of Europe’s most essential cities. Norway though is not a member of the European Union. In many areas it actually beats other more famous European Cities in some unusual categories that are worth noting. Firstly, Oslo is referred to as a “Beta World City.” This seems odd as Oslo is not widely regarded by the general public as being such. However, with the maritime industry they crush other nations that also use this as a source of economics.
Secondly, Oslo is the second most expensive city with living expenses and ranks fourth as the most expensive city in the world. Yes, I said the world. In the expenses category it ranks second behind Tokyo. In all fairness, Norway not being a member of the European Union hurts them in the currency section. As of right now 1 Norwegian Krone is the equivalent to 0.11 US Dollars. Walking around Oslo there is a tendency to have a heart attack when looking for real-estate as many properties are over 1 million kroner, but not knowing any better this is 100,000 US Dollars.
Thirdly, Oslo is home to 600,000 within its city limits which makes it one of the smallest capital cities in the world. However, after including the Metropolitan area it moves to roughly 1.71 million persons. Most of those that live in the metro area live in forests, not exactly a typical metropolitan area. Norwegians have a love and fascination is the only way it seems to be clear to explain the densely populated outer regions of Oslo. In fact, to get from the Oslo Airport to the city of Oslo actually takes roughly 35 minutes. As a result of this, Oslo is Norway’s most ethnically diverse city. It has a large Pakistani population as well as Somalian.
Lastly, probably the least known fact about Oslo is that the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded there. Honestly, it would be appropriate to give the award elsewhere, yet there is a distinct reason for it being presented in Norway. Oslo was the choice due to Alfred Nobel writing for Oslo to be home for the presentation in his will.
Fjords are always a popular attraction in the Scandinavian countries. Norway though is known for having some of the nicer ones. Fjord tours are available at the port in the city center. Winter Cruises are available and ironically not largely expensive. While on these cruises you can see more of the maritime Oslo as cruising will show the fishing communities in Oslo. With this you can also see Drobak which is on the outskirts of Oslo and looks like something out of Cape Cod. It also provides a nice brief walking tour if you are looking for some fishy options.
As far as sights go; not museums but sights, The Royal Palace is as good as it gets. The Palace remains home to the President of Norway and is a good spot for taking pictures. Up close it is reminiscent of Buckingham Palace in London. From a distance it is reminiscent of the White House in Washington D.C. Another great place for pictures is the Norwegian National Opera & Ballet Theater. The Theater allows for a visitor to walk all the way around it and even on top of it. Up top is where you can find the best pictures. It overlooks the bay of Oslo in which other attractions can also be seen. One of which is the Akurshus Castle and Fortress which sits on a hillside to the left of the Opera Theater. The Castle was even used up to World War II and remains protected by the Norwegian Army.
Diving further into Oslo, you can visit City Hall, Vigeland Park and Frogner Park. Each is within reasonable walking distance which makes Oslo a nice city for those that enjoy not using public transportation. Each park is important to its past as the Olympics took place in Oslo in 1952. Vigeland provides a beautiful scenery for the city center. Each one is an important landmark as well to Norwegian History as recently as World War II as several atrocities occurred in each of the parks.
As far as museums, Oslo is filled with them. There are two that I would recommend. The first is the Viking Ship Museum which has several ships from the period that the Vikings ruled. It is a decent museum if you like history and archeology. It’s also a great place for Viking merchandise to bring a gift back for someone. The second museum that I would recommend is the Fram Museum. Instead of focusing on multiple ships, this museum focuses on one gigantic ship. It is hard to miss based on the outside not looking like it could hold a ship but in fact it does.
I think the conclusion to this brief look at Oslo is obvious. Go to see the place. At least, wait until this current pandemic is over with. Oslo is untouched by outsiders it seems and is forgotten for its importance in the European landscape. This should not change the fact that it is an essential travel for anyone interested in Europe for a post pandemic vacation. I too felt that I was going to be bored in Oslo but after one day I was exhausted with all that their was to do their. I guarantee that you will be too. Just take visit if you get the chance. I also recommend bringing Trip Advisor or a Rick Steves travel guide of some kind as they will provide much more information about lodging and so forth. Safe travels.