When I travel now, I try to go without expectations. Obviously I consult my guru (read Lonely Planet) for some direction, but when you travel with an open mind, this is when wonderful and unexpected things happen. I was fortunate to travel to Oslo recently with work. It seems to be a common misconception (including myself until recently!) to think that to travel for work, presents you with an opportunity to see the world… and get paid! Those who have been there and done it, do not need me to tell them that the reality is somewhat different. That said, I was fortunate to pack in some exploration of this wonderful city. So here are my top things to see!
Astrup Fearnley Museum
Even if you aren’t particularly into modern art, the building that houses the museum is worth a visit in itself. Designed by the famous Renzo Piano (of The Shard/Centre Pompidou fame), the outside of the building remains untreated and exposed, leaving the wood to age in the elements.
The museum is home to many famed works of contemporary art, featuring Sam Taylor-Johnson, Jeff Koons, and until mid November, Damien Hirst. The exhibition centres around perhaps Hirst’s most famous work ‘For the Love of God‘ a platinum cast of a human skull, set with 8,601 diamonds (wow!) The museum displays this piece of iconic work (worth a cool £50 million) in a black walled room, with the skull at the centre lit by 20 spotlights to maximise it’s impact. No matter what this piece of art means to you, whether you explore it’s deeper meanings, or you simply appreciate it for it’s visual effect, it remains a must see.
This peninsula is the most up and coming neighbourhood in recent years. It is home to the Astrup Fearnley Museum, prestigious corporate HQ’s, beautiful restaurants, intimate restaurants, exclusive shops, an uber cool gym (the trainer WAS Thor… I. Kid. You. Not) and The Thief hotel. While wondering around, you will find pieces of artwork scattered randomly, so it is well worth exploring this little piece of heaven, aside from the main attractions. If you prefer a little more focus, it is also possible to go on walking tours around the distinct. Marianne Fabritius is a fabulous guide, who will explain the history and architecture of Tjuvholmen and make sure you see all the best bits.
However, there is something truly spectacular and not man made that also commands your attention. The views. At Tjuvholem’s farthest point, you are greeted by unbroken views across the Fjord. Sit on the diving board (yes, people swim in the Fjord, even in when there is ice!) and watch the sunset. There is nothing quite like it, and there is a stillness which is totally at odds with the fact that you are in the heart of a capital city.
The Thief Hotel
I have been lucky enough to travel to many lovely hotels across the globe, so it takes a special hotel to blow my mind. The Thief hotel is one such place. Filled with art on loan from the Astrup Fearnley museum (I was SO excited to find an original Andy Warhol painting in the dining room!), the hotel creates it’s unique character and style . Yes, there is a stunning spa, and an amazing cocktail bar on the roof, but it is the little touches that make this place. Little things such as bringing you herbal tea and biscuits at bedtime, which you can enjoy overlooking the Fjord. Also, be prepared to encounter super efficient and friendly staff. A given you may expect, but the staff seem to possess something that cannot be faked, no matter how many customer service courses you send them on, or how many feedback surveys you do. They are genuinely interested in you, making sure you are happy, and sharing their knowledge regarding their beautiful hotel and city.
Visit to see beautiful works of art without being crowded, stay for the best night’s sleep ever, and drink in the bar for unique cocktails served in golden pineapples.
(The Spa is also amazing!)
The Norwegians are renowned for their love of the outdoors, so bring greenery into the city was a must. In this beautiful renowned sculpture park, the best nature can provide meets with the brightest artistic talent. With over 200 sculptures by Gustav Viga, the park presents a great opportunity to be outdoors, but view work that the artist has poured their heart and soul into. My favourite silent question to ask myself is always “What were they thinking?”. This is especially the case with the slightly underwhelming sculpture ‘Angry Boy’ (I prefer to call him the ‘Angry Baby’), who has captured the world’s attention avidly. So avidly in fact, that he has been stolen… twice. He even makes appearances all over Oslo in different forms (you can see a graffiti version of him in my photo of the Opera House), so strong is his appeal, you could argue that he has become something of a national icon. Whatever your sentiments about art, the park itself is provides the opportunity to take a walk, contemplate human creativity, and be away from relative hustle of the city.
Look out of Oslo and high into the hills, there is a very strange looking object that dominates the skyline. This is actually a ski jump… How cool is that?! Apparently, it is a well known venue on the winter sports circuit, although I can cannot imagine standing at the top and knowing I had to ski down it… It’s pretty freaking high!
Visit the ski museum here, and also the hotel next door, which has a fabulous restaurant serving traditional Norwegian food, coupled with spectacular views over Oslo.
Norwegian National Opera House
A visit to the opera house is a must, but not only for what is inside. That is fairly spectacular too, but this building has something a little more unusual to offer… You can walk on the roof! Not in a Millennium Dome kind of way, but in a less taxing ‘stroll up a gentle slope’ way. Seriously, even I managed to make it to the top without getting out of breath… And I don’t ‘do’, cardio. Once again from the top of the roof you are given a perfect view over Fjord, but from a slightly different angle. Here, you can admire the sheer size of the docked cruise ships, the centre of Oslo and the East of the city. Sunset is a particularly spectacular time to come and watch the shadows of ‘golden hour’ fall on the city.
There were so many places that I just did not get time to see (I am going back!) so the above are just a brief insight into the few that I managed to fit in, others that you may wish to visit are:
The Viking Ship Museum (especially sad I didn’t make it here!)
The Royal Palace
A cruise around the Fjord
Marianne Fabritius (for tours of Tjuvholmen) can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org