Like much of Europe, Norway is watching events in Ukraine with concern, and tourism officials admit that uncertainty is already being reflected in bookings.
“Visit Norway has already seen a drop in bookings on our platforms as well as a decrease in searches on our websites,” said Frode Aasheim, Acting Director of Visit Norway. “Undoubtedly, the situation will affect people’s travel habits in the near future. It is difficult to predict how much, of course, depending on the progress of the war.”
However, Aasheim sought to reassure North American travelers who might want to embark on a transatlantic journey but are feeling nervous.
“Despite the horrible situation in Ukraine, we believe it is safe to travel to Europe and Norway,” he said.
Travelers determined to do just that will find a whole menu of reasons to focus on Oslo, Norway’s capital and increasingly a magnet for culture vultures and foodies alike.
The new Munch Museum, which opened last year, is Oslo’s waterfront gem. It houses “The Scream” and thousands of other works by Edvard Munch. Photo credit: Courtesy of VisitOSLO/Didrick Stenersen
I “scream”, you “scream”
The new Munch Museum, my favorite attraction in the city, opened to much fanfare last year on Oslo’s waterfront, drawing attention to Edvard Munch’s famous ‘The Scream’, a painting that captures the angst many of us have felt during the pandemic. The venue is dedicated to Munch and 28,000 of his works, as well as those of other contemporary Norwegian and international artists.
On the horizon is the National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, which is due to open in Oslo Harbor on June 11. More than 5,000 works will be exhibited in nearly 90 rooms spread over two floors. Features of the museum include the Light Hall for temporary exhibitions as well as an open-air rooftop terrace, cafes, a shop and what is billed as the largest art library in the Nordic region.
Art lovers can also explore the newly renovated Natural History Museum in the Botanical Garden, which reopened in March with new modern geological exhibits on four floors.
Meanwhile, the delayed unveiling of Tracey Emin’s huge bronze statue titled ‘The Mother’, a 30ft tall depiction of a kneeling woman, is finally set to take place on the waterfront in June.
Deichman Bjorvika Public Library is also worth exploring, voted best new public library of the year by the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions last summer. The library offers much more than books: highlights include “Brainstorm,” a neon installation by Lars Ramberg, and an unnamed installation by Colombian artist Pedro Gomez-Egana consisting of a glass sphere that descends once a day of the library ceiling in the hand of a random visitor.
Ibsen fans should note that the Ibsen Museum is closed, but a new Ibsen Museum and Theater is in the works and is expected to open later this year.
A taste of Norway
The much-vaunted Nordic cuisine is so well established at this point that many visitors expect great meals to be part of their vacation experience. To that end, Oslo is holding its own and hasn’t let the pandemic derail the addition of a few new restaurants to the city’s options.
Mikael Svensson, for example, the chef of Michelin-starred restaurant Kontrast, opened Avalon in November. The new restaurant is located in Via Village, Oslo’s newest food court, near Aker Brygge and Vikaterrassen.
Also new is Barcode Street Food, located near the new Munch Museum. Other notable new restaurants include Kafeteria August and Freedom Principle, both by chef Esben Holmboe Bang; the little pickle; the Top at the Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel; Bistro Tolvte and Bar Kranen on the upper floors of the Munch Museum; Schlagergarden; Marlow on Aker Brygge; Kastellet in Hegdehaugsveien near the Royal Palace; and Villa Heftye for the Franco-Norwegian merger.
Oslo’s new Opera Beach is a particularly attractive option for families with young children visiting during the summer. Photo credit: Courtesy of VisitOSLO/Didrick Stenersen
Norwegians are well known for their love of the outdoors, and visitors don’t have to leave the city to experience a wide range of nature-based activities, including soft adventure.
For example, downhill skiers can explore 14 runs and one of Norway’s largest terrain parks at Skimore Oslo, located within Oslo city limits. Or zip down the 6,500-foot Korketrekkeren toboggan run, accessible by metro.
To learn more about the importance of winter sports in Oslo, check out the exhibits, including 2,500 pairs of skis, at the Holmenkollen Ski Museum and Tower on Holmenkollen Hill above the city center.
Holmenkollen Hill in Frognerseteren is also home to a massive new art installation, Rose Castle, which commemorates the dark years of Nazi occupation.
Sauna culture is big in Oslo, and there are saunas along the harbor promenade, where you can also swim or just walk around.
In summer, you can spend a day at the beach, with facilities for families, on the new 100-metre-long Opera Beach, adjacent to the city’s famous opera house.
Island hopping in Oslo’s Inner Fjord is popular in the warmer months, and one way to do this is by using a public ferry, which should all be electric by summer 2022, or via Oslofjord’s new electric boats. Active travelers can join a guided kayak or stand-up paddle board tour with Mad Goats on the Akerselva River.
The 231-room Sommerro, an art deco property in the Frogner neighborhood, is taking reservations now for a Sept. 1 opening. Located in a historic 1930s building, the hotel features a rooftop pool and spa.
The 376-room Scandic Holmenkollen Park Hotel, located in the Holmenkollen Hill area overlooking Oslo, is set to reopen in June after a full renovation.
For more ideas on things to do in Oslo, visit the tourist board website at www.visitoslo.com/en.