Oslo is a city of such contrasts that it offers the modern traveller an inimitable experience rarely realised in a capital city. A mix of modern European architecture shares street space with hedonistic, yet traditional Norwegian design, in such colourful dichotomy that the interior of this multi-cultural metropolis is as much a contrast within itself as the entire city is against the stunning backdrop of the Oslofjord landscape.
The lifestyle in Oslo has certainly kept up with the City’s modern evolution. Chic cafes waft the scent of expensive coffee into the clean avenues, trendy restaurants offer gourmet fare alongside stylish interior design, and fashionable art houses rub shoulders with independent book stores and desirable warehouse apartments. A true reflection on the European influences in this vibrant city.
1. The Viking Influence
Oslo dates back to almost 1000AD when an early Viking settlement founded on Norway’s western shores was expanded by King Harald III. The city suffered a devastating fire in 1624, and with the re-growth came a change of name to Christiana; Oslo didn’t regain its original name until 1925. This new period in Oslo’s history saw the birth of its maritime industry, which eventually led to the growth of the largest cargo and passenger port in Norway. Nowadays, the port is still an important commercial hub, housing a significant number of the world’s leading nautical and shipping companies.
2. Green Chic
Today, Oslo still relies heavily on its maritime connections. Three ferry companies service its port, bringing an estimated 5 million passengers to the city streets every year, but despite this industrialisation, Oslo’s original connection with its Viking warrior ancestors is not forgotten; the Viking Ship Museum, with its preserved 9th century longboats, is a permanent testament to those days of the wayfaring warriors.
Ranked at the top of the United Nations Human Development Index, Oslo can boast to being one of the greenest and safest cities in the world; but clean living here carries a hefty price tag, as Oslo is also ranked as the 11th most expensive place to live. The affluent west side has long been regarded as the domain of the privileged, and it is in these streets that tourists will encounter the famously high prices. But the gulf between the west and the east sides of the city is no longer as apparent as it once was. The east has become young and trendy, with a rise in popularity that belies its industrial, working-class roots.
Glamorous restaurants and nightclubs are packed into the city’s historical centre, enticing travellers to experience the vibrancy of the city at night, and with over fifty museums and art galleries, it’s hard not to discover the cultural side of the city during the day. But step a short distance outside this conurbation and you’ll encounter Oslofjord, an area of some 40 tiny islands ready to be explored and where the locals spend their summers, enjoying time to relax on the sandy beaches or explore the ancient ruins.
What makes Oslo so unique is the diversity. Its people are as serious and dedicated to the energetic and vivacious draw of big city life, as they are keen to abandon it all for a few hours of uncomplicated outdoor escapism, and it is this extraordinary combination which means, that for travellers at least, the city truly offers something for everyone.