Key AttractionsOslo, capital of Norway, is a compact city-center of sparkling fjords, stately palaces and fascinating small museums. Journey down cobbled streets to view masterworks by the Expressionist painter Edvard Munch, or ferry across the fjords for an exciting glimpse into the country's Viking past.
Poised at the end of the 60-mile long Oslo Fjord and surrounded by mountains on both sides, Oslo enjoys one of the most magnificent locations in all of Europe. While the city limits encompass a whopping 175 square miles, only one-tenth of that is urban and is easily managed on foot. The rest of Oslo is a vast outdoor playground of mountains, lakes and moors.
Arriving in the harbor, you step immediately into the heart of Oslo. Only a stroll away is the Aker Brygge, the new quayside shopping and cultural center. Casting a long shadow is the large, red-brick Radhus, the city hall. Another harborside attraction is the Akershus Slott. Built in 1299, this castle was later converted into a fortress and Renaissance palace.
Make your way inland to the Slottet, or Royal Palace, the king's residence since 1867. Built in a sturdy, neoclassical style, the palace is as sober and direct as the Norwegians themselves. Statues of former kings abound; particularly beloved by the Norwegians is that of Haakon VII, who saw his people through the German occupation during World War II.
Small museums are Oslo's forte. Art lovers will want to linger in the Edvard Munch Museum, south of the Botanic Garden. The artist's sketches, sculptures, letters and paintings are all here (including The Scream), giving the viewer a powerful dose of Expressionism at its height. To explore Norway's seafaring accomplishments, hop a ferry to cross the fjord to Bygod°y. The Viking Ship Museum exhibits 9th-century ships rescued from the Oslo Fjord, where they were ritually sunk while carrying the remains of Viking kings and queens to the next world. The Kon Tiki Museum houses the balsa raft sailed by Thor Heyerdahl from Peru to Polynesia in 1947.
Great BuysOslo is the best place to buy anything Norwegian. Look for beautiful, hand-knit ski sweaters, handmade felt boots and slippers, and bunader (national costumes). Glassware is another good buy; names to look for include Hadeland and Severin (glass) and Figgjo and Porsgrunn (porcelain). Christmas ornaments reflect Norway's folk heritage and can be easily packed for shipping. Silver and enamel jewelry make good presents, particularly those etched with Viking designs.
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