top of page

Destination: the capital city of a country you probably know very little of; Oslo

You've landed here because you might know very little or perhaps nothing at all about the capital of Norway. As a writer, it's a bit challenging for me to fathom. I've lived in Europe my entire life, and for the past eight years, I've called Norway my home.

Capital City Oslo

That's why I'd love to offer you a brief introduction to this small yet remarkable capital city; Oslo. Let's start with some historical tidbits:

  • Viking Age: Oslo's origins date back to the Viking Age, known as "Kaupangen," serving as a marketplace and meeting point. Apart from documented sources, our knowledge is enriched by numerous excavations done during recent upgrades on the city, unearthing artifacts from the 10th to 12th centuries.

  • Founded in the 11th Century: King Harald Hardrada laid the foundation of Oslo in the early 11th century. By the year 1300, it had evolved into the capital of Norway.

  • Akershus Fortress: Construction of the Akershus Fortress, a medieval castle, began in 1299 to shield the city from external threats, playing a pivotal role in Oslo's defense throughout the centuries.

  • The Black Death: Like many European cities, Oslo faced the devastating impact of the Black Death in the 14th century, leading to a significant population decline.

  • Union with Denmark: In 1397, Norway joined the Kalmar Union with Denmark and Sweden, lasting until 1814. During this era, Oslo's influence dwindled, and the city endured fires and plagues.

  • Fires and Rebuilding: Oslo experienced destructive fires in 1624 and 1686, prompting a decision to relocate and rebuild at its present location. The new city was named after King Christian IV of Denmark; thus, Christiania was born.

  • Union with Sweden: Post-Napoleonic Wars, Norway entered a union with Sweden in 1814 after the Treaty of Kiel, with Christiania retaining its status as the capital during this period.

  • Independence and the Name Oslo: Norway peacefully dissolved its union with Sweden in 1905, gaining independence. In 1925, the city officially reverted to its original name, Oslo.

  • World War II: Oslo faced German occupation during World War II. The resistance was active, and the Norwegian government sought refuge in London. As in many European cities, little remains of the once-thriving Jewish population, with a significant influx in the late 19th century fleeing increasing antisemitism across Europe.

  • Post-War Reconstruction: After the war, Oslo underwent extensive reconstruction and modernization, reshaping its skyline with new buildings and infrastructure.

Contemporary Oslo is, by Norwegian standards, a sprawling city. Yet, in an international context, it's more akin to a borough. When you're there, it feels cozy and inviting. Here are some facts about modern Oslo:

  • Population: Oslo is Norway's most populous city, with over 700,000 inhabitants, rising to around 1,000,000 when considering the suburbs. It's also the fastest-growing city in Europe.

  • Government: Oslo serves as the political and economic hub of Norway, housing the Norwegian government and monarchy. Government meetings take place in Stortinget, and the monarchs reside in a grand palace in the heart of the city.

  • Cultural Hub: The city is a vibrant cultural center, boasting numerous museums, galleries, and theaters. Tons of amazing restaurants, eateries and bars make Oslo a very enjoyable place to spend a number of days. Notable institutions include the Munch Museum, dedicated to the renowned Norwegian painter Edvard Munch and the newly opened and rather spectacular Nasjonal Museet.

  • Green Spaces: Oslo is renowned for its abundance of greenery. Numerous parks dot the city, with Frogner Parken, featuring the iconic Vigeland Sculpture Park, being one of the most famous. Additionally, wooded hills surround the entire city, providing a popular retreat for locals.

  • Holmenkollen: The Holmenkollen Ski Jump stands as a prominent landmark and hosts international ski competitions. The adjacent Holmenkollen Ski Museum delves into the history of skiing, and offering a lift to the top for a breathtaking view of the city and surroundings.

  • Harbour and Waterfront: Oslo's harbor and waterfront buzz with trendy restaurants, bars, and shops. Over the past decades, Oslo has added several architectural landmarks, including the Opera House, the new library, the Munch Museum, and the iconic 'Barcode'—a collection of striking modern buildings that have permanently altered Oslo's skyline. A large number of public saunas are floating around the harbour, having revived the sauna culture in the capital.

  • Royal Palace: The Royal Palace is a significant landmark and serves as the official residence of the Norwegian monarch in the city. Additionally, the royals own several estates just outside the city, including those on Bygdøy, an island adjacent to Oslo.

  • Education: Oslo houses prestigious educational institutions, including the University of Oslo, Norway's largest and oldest university. The education system in Norway is well-structured, with affordable higher education accessible to all.

  • Economy: The city boasts a robust economy, driven by industries such as maritime trade, finance, and technology. Norway's exports of oil, gas, fish, and electricity contribute to a thriving tech and financial sector.

  • Transportation: Oslo features an excellent and efficient public transportation system, including buses, trams, and a metro network. While the city is known for its extensive cycling infrastructure, Norwegians primarily use public transport due to the city's significant elevation changes.

I sincerely hope you'll visit us someday. It's precisely the reason I've taken to writing about my beloved country, Norway.


bottom of page