As Oslo prepares to celebrate its Nobel Peace Prize winners, I take a look at the Norwegian Capital’s City Break Credentials.
The world’s attention turns to Oslo today as the city unveils the worthy winners of this year’s prestigious Nobel Peace Prize, so-named after the inventor-cum-businessman-cum-peace-lover, Alfred Nobel, whose 1895 will decreed that the bulk of his personal fortune should fund an annual honorary award in each of five key categories: physics, chemistry, medicine and physiology, literature and peace. This year’s peace award recipients, Kailash Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzai, are being recognised for their fight against the suppression of children and young people and particularly for their efforts to ensure access to education for all.
The awards ceremony takes place each year at the distinctive, red-bricked, twin towers of Oslo’s City Hall (Rådhus), built on the waterfront to commemorate the city’s 900th anniversary and an essential pit stop on any Oslo city sightseeing itinerary. If you’re considering a short break in Oslo, here’s a little look at some of the Norwegian capital’s other top attractions to whet your appetite…
Translated as the Nobel Peace Centre, the Nobels Fredssenter is a state-of-the-art museum situated by Oslo’s harbourside, dedicated to celebrating the lives and achievements of previous Nobel Peace Prize recipients, awarded each year in Oslo. A thoroughly hands-on, high-tech centre, digital homages to previous international prize winners and an interactive book detailing the inventions and travels of Alfred Nobel himself make for a fascinating and rewarding visit.
Also on the waterfront, anchored against Oslo’s old Bjørvika harbour area, is the Opera House, a sleek and shiny angular ensemble of marble and glass covered with a stark white sloping roof, so designed to reflect the mountainous peaks of Norway. During the winter, the roof lends itself perfectly to snowboarders whilst in summer, it is given over to sun worshippers and picnickers. Inside meanwhile, visitors can enjoy a wide variety of opera, theatre and ballet performances.
Situated just a short ferry ride from central Oslo is the lovely peninsula of Bygdøy, location for the summer residence of the Norwegian royal family and home to some of the city’s top attractions. These include the Viking Ship, Fram, Kon-Tiki and Norwegian Maritime Museums as well as the hugely popular Norwegian Folk Museum (Norsk Folkemuseum), one of Europe’s largest open-air museum containing over 140 traditional buildings dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries.
Back in the centre of the city, Oslo’s Domkirke dates back to 1697 and acts as the city’s principal cathedral. Whilst the impressive ceiling murals and elaborate stained-glass windows are more recent additions, many original features still remain. There’s also the bell tower, which also served as a lookout post for 19th-century firefighters.
Dominating the heart of Oslo is Kongelige Slott, the official royal residence of King Harald V and Queen Sonja of Norway. Built in a neoclassical style, the palace is surrounded by beautiful parkland and summer visitors to Oslo have the opportunity to visit the interior of this magnificent building. There’s also a changing of the guard ceremony at 1.30pm daily for those not lucky enough to enter the grounds.
On the edge of Slottsparken situated in his final residence, the Ibsen Museet pays homage to the famous Norwegian playwright, Henrik Ibsen. Opened in 2006 on the centenary of his death, the museum presents a faithful restoration of his time spent there and exhibits include Ibsen’s personal belongings, papers and furnishings. A must-see for fans of his work.
A short distance away is the National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design (Nasjonalgalleriet), renowned for its impressive ensemble of European art and in particular its magnificent collection of Norwegian artworks, in particular works from the 19th-century National Romantic Period as well as those by Edvard Munch, with pride of place going to his most recognisable masterpiece, The Scream.
And whilst on the subject of Edvard Munch, situated to the east of the city, Oslo’s Munch Museum (Museet) plays host to the largest and most comprehensive collection of works by Norway’s most famous artist. Bequeathing some 1,100 paintings, 3,000 drawings and 18,000 graphic works to the city of Oslo when he died in 1944, the museum’s collection complement those contained in the city’s National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design and provides a fascinating retrospective insight into his oeuvre.
Last but by no means least, to the west of the city is one of the country’s most-visited attractions, the Vigeland Sculpture Park, dedicated to the work of Norway’s best-known and much-revered sculptor, Gustav Vigeland. Situated within Frognerparken, this vast green park is packed with 212 bronze, wrought iron and granite sculptures. Highlights include his 56-foot-high Monolith and Sinataggen (Angry Boy), perhaps his most recognisable work.