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Oslo – Norway Travel Guide, Tourism, Vacation
Eclectic architecture showing off the legendary Scandinavian flair for design, a buzzing party scene and a wealth of top-class museums and galleries have made Oslo Norway's cultural capital as well as its political one. With its late-night shopping, crowded cafés and restaurants, and theatres playing to full houses, Oslo has a self-assured and vibrant feel perfect for a city break. But don't be fooled by the cosmopolitan atmosphere; Oslo's suburbs are forested, semi-rural gems where hiking, swimming and even skiing are on offer.
One of the best ways to approach Oslo is by sea, with the journey taking you along scenic fjords where fishing boats jostle with cruise liners and luxury yachts. Located at the end of the 110km-long (70 miles) Oslofjord, Norway's municipal hub is one of the few cities where you can sail, ski and skate to your heart's content just a short distance from the city centre. As you float past luscious green islands and towering rocky outcrops, the city unfolds before your eyes – sprawling out from its compact centre around the quays to the forested flanks of the surrounding hills.
Made all the more beautiful by its diversity, Oslo boasts a jumble of modern and ancient buildings that give the city an eclectic feel, with the steel-and-glass Munch Museum giving way to the old-fashioned charms of the City Museum and the craggy medieval walls of the Akershus Fortress, which glowers out over the fjord.
To the north, the heavily wooded Nordmarka district has myriad fishing, blueberry-picking and walking opportunities, and there's a good chance you'll see some of the local wildlife such as lynx, roe deer, beavers and moose while strolling along one of the area's many trails. In the southern borough of Frogner, the Vigelandsparken (Vigeland Sculpture Park) is an unmissable blend of wide open space and the stunning (if surreal) creations of Gustav Vigeland, a modernist sculptor who holds a special place in Norwegian art history.
Equally wonderful is the National Museum, which is home to Norway's most famous painting, The Scream, and the futuristic new Opera House in Bjørvika. Along with the visual arts, cultural life in Oslo is awash with literary gems — not altogether surprising given that the Norwegian capital is the birthplace of celebrated playwright, Henrik Ibsen. A trip to the spectacular rococo building that houses Norway's National Theatre to see Hedda Gabler in the original language and setting is a treat that's not to be missed.
Evenings in Oslo are characterised by the bustling crowds as the locals apply themselves to enjoyment with as much dedication as they do to business. The capital's thriving restaurant scene has seen it rewarded with four Michelin stars, although (somewhat surprisingly) you don't have to spend a fortune to eat well. The Grünerløkka district is close to the Munch Museum and is teeming with bustling little pavement cafés where you can buy a slap-up supper for reasonable prices. A thriving, truly vibrant city, the cosmopolitan heart of Norway really does have something for everyone.
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