Before visiting Oslo, I viewed the city as primarily a gateway to the fjords, but upon arriving I was pleasantly surprised by the attractions it has to offer. Be prepared for steep prices, as it’s one of the most expensive cities in the world.
One of its most astounding attractions, however, is free. The Vigeland Sculpture Garden in Vigeland Park is a rather amazing achievement by the local artist Gustav Vigeland. Vigeland, who studied anatomy, was provided free rein and seemingly inexhaustible funds to produce nearly 200 sculptures of the human figure over 80 acres in the park. In exchange, they were donated to the city for all to enjoy. The most famous statue is the “Angry Boy.” Norwegians are proud of the prodigious output of Mr. Vigeland.
Additional sculptures dot the downtown area. The National Gallery contains a worthy art collection highlighted by the iconic depiction of modern angst, Edvard Munch’s The Scream.
While in Oslo be sure to take the ferry across the harbor to check out the wonderful collection of maritime-related museums: the Kon Tiki museum, the Fram, the Viking Museum and the Norweigan Maritime Museum. The Viking Museum contains actual Viking ships that have been remarkably well-preserved. The Oseburg Ship dates from 834 AD, the Gokstad from 950 AD. Also well-preserved at the Fram Museum, the Fram is said to be the strongest wooden ship ever built. It explored both the northern and southern polar regions, and no other wooden ship has traveled further north or south. Visitors to its museum can explore the ship firsthand. Next door, the Kon Tiki Museum is a must-stop for those with a fascination for the voyages of Thor Heyerdahl.
Oslo is surrounded by forests, and locals love to explore the surrounding area for outdoor activities. Hiking, boating and skiing are especially popular. The Holmenkollen ski jump is a favorite spot, particularly during winter months.
The Nobel Peace Prize Museum, adjoining the beautiful Oslo harbor, celebrates the accomplishments of the recipients of the prize. (President Obama, the newest member of the exclusive Nobel Peace Prize club, was in Oslo to accept the award on Dec. 9.) It’s not just a museum, but a meeting place where discussions and reflections geared toward conflict resolution occur.
I exited the museum inspired and energized by the accomplishments of the Nobel Laureates. As if reflecting my mood, a group of locals were engaged in a series of dances outside of city hall – a regular activity during the warm summer months.