Oslo is situated in a fjord extending over an inlet of the Skaggerak strait, surrounded by green hills and mountains. The beauty of Oslo represents Mother Nature at her finest. Popular outdoor activities here include skiing in the winter and cruising through picturesque Oslofjord in the summer. And when visitors are ready for some indoor entertainment, the capital of Norway offers world-class museums and art galleries. Indoors or outdoors, there is an Oslo attraction for everyone.
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While many Norwegian explorers battled polar elements, Thor Heyerdahl took on the Pacific Ocean in 1947, crossing 8,000 km (5,000 miles) on Kon Tiki, a handmade balsawood raft. This voyage proved that people from South America could have reached out to Polynesia via sea travel. The Kon Tiki Museum offers a unique opportunity to learn about Heyerdahl and his other sea adventures, including to Easter Island and the Galapagos. Other crafts he sailed on his adventures are on display at the museum. The museum has one of the world’s largest collections of Easter Island artifacts outside that island.
Akershus Fortress is a great place to learn about the history of Oslo. The medieval castle was built in the late 13th century to defend Oslo from invaders, something it did very well. Located at a strategic position on the headland of Oslofjord, a later Norse king had it modernized and converted into a Renaissance castle and royal residence. Though no longer a royal residence, it is much used today for concerts, ceremonies and holiday celebrations.
Travelers definitely will want comfortable walking shoes when they tour the Norsk Folkemuseum (Norwegian Museum of Cultural History). Located in Bygdøy, the museum has two parts: museum buildings that house the country’s largest cultural heritage collections and a large open air museum made up of more than 150 relocated houses and other buildings, including a 13th century church, found throughout Norway. Artifacts in some collections date back to the 1500s. The museum also offers traditional music and folk dancing performances.
Visitors ready for a day in the outdoors won’t want to miss Oslofjord, which contains a highly scenic collection of islands in southeast Norway. Island hopping by ferry is a popular summer activity, giving travelers an opportunity to sample each island’s uniqueness. Some islands offer great swimming, but all offer the perfect spot to eat a picnic lunch, all within minutes from Oslo. Oslofjord also is a good place to go canoeing, sail ring, kayaking, camping or fishing. Visiting Oslofjord offers a relaxing day and the chance to gaze upon the fjord’s deep blue water that is punctuated with the occasional lighthouse.
Norway is a country that is known for producing world-class skiers, both downhill and cross country. What better place to learn about skiing than the Holmenkollen Ski Museum & Tower. Visitors can learn about 4,000 years of skiing at this unique museum, located inside the Olympic ski jump. They can ride to the top of the ski jump tower for stunning views of Oslo. The ski jump is used for competitions every winter, but non-racers will have to settle for a simulator to experience whizzing down the modern ski jump.
The National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design is the national museum of Norway. As such, it contains an astounding collection of art, ranging from architecture in comics to the influence of Japan on Nordic art and design. It actually is several museums under the aegis of the national museum but all promote various art forms, from traditional to contemporary, in this Scandinavian country. Among its collection are some of Edvard Munchs most famous pictures, including one of the versions of The Scream.
Norway is home to some famous polar explorers, including Roald Amundsen, Fridfjøf Nansen and Otto Sverdrup, so it is fitting for the Arctic nation to celebrate them and their efforts. The Fram Museum concentrates on Norway’s contribution to polar exploration. It is home to the Fram, Norway’s first vessel used in polar exploration, and the Gjøa, the first ship to sail through the Northwest Passage. The museum is located at Oslo’s Bygdøy peninsula near other maritime museums. Visitors can board the Fram where a northern lights show takes place every 20 minutes. The museum is multilingual, with signage in 10 languages.
The design and setting of the Oslo Opera House are nothing short of spectacular, just as are the performances of the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet. Built of white granite and white carrara marble, with lots of high windows, the building seems to rise from the waters of Oslofjord; a white pedestrian plaza leads up to the opera house. With 1,100 rooms, the opera house is the largest cultural building erected in Norway since 1300. Anyone who views this magnificent building will say it was certainly worth the wait!
Vigeland Park is a stunning collection of more than 200 sculptures, all created by one artist, Gustav Vigeland, who created these pieces in wrought iron, bronze and granite. It is the world’s largest collection of sculptures created by one artist, who, in this case, also designed the mid-20th century park. The statues are lifelike portrayals of nude people in various poses, some of them of a sexual nature. Most of the sculptures are divided into five parts: Wheel of Life, Fountain, main gate, Monolith plateau and bridge with children’s playground. Vigeland Park is one of the most popular attractions in Oslo.
Many centuries ago, the Vikings sailed the northern seas, striking fear in the hearts of the region these fierce warriors were about to invade. Today, visitors can view, unafraid, some of these terror-causing vessels as the Viking Ship Museum showcases some of these great 9th century ships. The list includes ships from Gokstad, Oseberg and Tune. The Oseberg ship is the best preserved and was found in a burial mound on a farm near Oseberg. The museum also displays textiles, tools and household items as well as items found in Viking tombs.