At the beach in Koh Nang Yuan, Thailand

By Norbert Figueroa, an experienced architect, travel writer, long-term budget traveler, and photographer with over 13 years of travel experience in over 139 countries and counting. @globotreks


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When Oslo refers to itself as the capital of culture and nature, it is not lying. Both can be found abundantly throughout the city and all around it.

What I found interesting is that for centuries, Oslo has tied together their culture and nature with a third, and very important, element: Art.

These are some of the best art and architecture samples I saw in Oslo that helped me connect various historical and social moments with today’s urban fabric.

They all speak about the city’s history and culture through their brush strokes, materials, design, and expressions.

Akershus Fortress

Oslo, Norway

This fortress is famous for being one of the few fortresses that were never conquered (except during WWII when the Nazis “walked in” without a fight). And to that, we have to thank the ingenious design and strategic location.

The fortress was originally built in 1299 under King Håkon V, but it was later restructured by King Christian IV during the 17th century to look more like a renaissance castle and royal residence.

It still received more design modifications until the late 19th century, giving it a 700 years span of varied designs and military tactics.

Oslo’s identity as a city is highly connected to the fortress, since the present city center was established underneath Akershus’ fortifications in 1624, with the fortress forming an important landmark towering over the more modest buildings of the era.

Akershus Fortress has had an age-old role as a seat for kings and the center of government. Today, it is often used for public events and it also houses the Royal Mausoleum. 

But beyond that, just walking between its walls and sitting on the grass gives you a great vantage point of the city that grew partially thanks to this structure.

Edvard Munch Museet

Oslo, Norway

You cannot write about Oslo without including its most prominent artist, Edvard Munch.

Edvard Munch and Oslo are connected in several ways. Not only is Oslo the city where Munch grew up and started out as an artist, but it is also the place where he spent the last decades of his life. Munch is all around Oslo, and Oslo is all around Munch’s art.

Today, the Edvard Munch Museet houses a large part of Munch’s art, including his best-known masterpieces, like The Scream, and it portrays very well the influence Oslo had on Munch as well as how Munch reinterpreted the city through its art.

READ ALSO:  13 Sights You Must Not Miss When In Oslo, Norway

Of great interest is to see the nature of the Norwegian fjords and the streets of Oslo painted with the abstract brushstrokes Munch is famous for.

Vigeland Sculpture Park

Oslo, Norway

The Vigeland Park is the world’s largest sculpture park made by a single artist and is one of Norway’s most important open spaces and tourist attractions.

This unique sculpture park could be described as Gustav Vigeland’s lifework and masterpiece.

Between 1924 and 1943, he designed the architectural layout of the park and populated it with more than 200 of his bronze, granite, and wrought iron sculptures.

Who is Vigeland you might ask, and how did he get to do this?

In 1921 the City of Oslo decided to demolish the house where Vigeland lived to build a library.

After a long dispute, Vigeland was granted a new building from the city where he could work and live, but in exchange, he promised to donate to the city all his subsequent artistic work.

Over the following twenty years, Vigeland devoted his time to an open exhibition of his works, which later turned into what is known as Vigeland Sculpture Park in Frogner Park.

The main piece of the park is the Monolith (Monolitten), with its 121 figures struggling to reach the top of the sculpture. When you look from the base, the figures are dead and bodies are piled on top of the other.

But as the bodies rise, so do their “life”, and they begin to take action.  To me, even though it has nothing to do with the holocaust, it reminded me a lot about it.

Oh, and here’s an interesting fact. ALL sculptures in the park are naked, except for the one depicting Vigeland himself. And, don’t miss the famous Angry Boy! A rub of his hand “brings good luck.”

It’s also worth noting that he was also the designer of the Nobel Peace Prize medal.

Holmenkollem Ski Museum

Oslo, Norway

This ski jump is outside the city center but it is easily reached via metro. This is one of the few (only two that I know) ski jumps that are designed architecturally pleasing.

The smooth curve plays with not only the landscape but also with the actual ski jump slope, creating a sculptural icon protruding out of the mountain. 

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The actual ski museum is interesting, but the reason why I’m bringing you here is not for the exhibit, but for the view.

From the top, you can see ALL of Oslo. The best view you can get of the fjords, nature, and the city.  Make sure you don’t miss this one! 

And as a bonus, the Holmenkollen Ski Museum (the world’s oldest ski museum), contains over 4,000 years of skiing history and polar exploration artifacts.  Cool, eh?!

Oslo Opera House

Oslo, Norway

And last but not least, there’s the Norwegian National Opera & Ballet. This is Norway’s largest performing arts institution, and a true architectural landmark.

Designed by Norwegian architects Snøhetta, this opera house is the first one in the world that lets visitors walk on the roof!

Ok, and how is this related to nature and the city?  Ok, I’ll let you look at the image for a few seconds to see if you can catch it.

Got it?

The design is a reinterpretation of an enormous glacier sliding into the fjord. The sloping roofs angle down to the water like a jagged chunk of ice and the white granite combined with the white marble create the illusion of glistening ice.

The design connects the land and sea, making the Opera House seem like if it is rising out of the fjord.

Today, the building is an integral part of the city’s urban landscape, not only because it is a great place to look at the city, but it has also become an urban plaza where locals and tourists congregate to spend some leisure time.

Oh, and of course, while you’re there, why not also see a performance at the Opera?!

Essential Info: Logistical Tips and Tricks to Book your Trip

BOOK YOUR FLIGHT
Regarding cheap airfare, I highly recommend using Skyscanner and Expedia. These are two of the sites I use the most due to their exhaustive search on several websites and airlines around the world. They usually bring the cheapest fares.

Additionally, I recommend getting the WayAway Plus membership to save money on cheaper fares and earn cashback (sent straight to your PayPal) on your bookings.

BOOK YOUR ACCOMMODATION
For hotels, guesthouses, apartments, and other types of accommodation, I highly recommend Booking.com. They are my go-to booking site because they usually have the cheapest fares.

READ ALSO:  24 Common Travel Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

If you’re a registered Booking.com user (“Genius”), you can take advantage of their “Genius discount” to save even more money. I almost always book my accommodation with Booking, and I’ve saved thousands of dollars with their Genius discount.

And of course, as one of the largest travel booking sites in the world, Expedia is another excellent accommodation booking site with a free reward program and discounted member prices.

If you’re looking to save money by staying at a hostel, HostelWorld has the largest inventory of hostels with shared dorms and private rooms. On the other hand, Vrbo offers a wide variety of rooms and apartments at affordable prices.

DON’T FORGET YOUR TRAVEL INSURANCE
Travel insurance with comprehensive coverage will protect you against unexpected events like theft, cancellations, injury, and illness.

I use HeyMondo to insure my trips and recommend them. Their affordable plans offer a 24/7 assistance platform for claims, medical coverage for every traveler, adventure sports and covid-19 coverage, and more. And better yet, GloboTreks readers get 5% off their plan! Get a quote.

Alternatively, if you’re a nomad and travel often or long-term, then SafetyWing could help you save a lot of money on long-term travel insurance.

FIND THE BEST TOURS AT THE BEST PRICES
If you’re looking for the best day tours and cheapest ticket entrances to local attractions, I recommend checking Viator, as they have the largest selection of attractions, passes, and activities all around the world.

BOOK YOUR LOCAL TRANSPORTATION AHEAD OF TIME
Bookaway
 offers the easiest and most accessible way to book overland transportation with local operators, be it by bus, train, ferry, plane, mini-van, or even private transfers.

If renting a car, then I highly recommend DiscoverCars to get the largest car selection at the best price.

OTHER TRAVEL AND MONEY-SAVING TIPS?
Lastly, check out my resources page for some of the best products and companies to use for your trip. If you like saving money (like I do!), then this page will help.


I want to thank Visit Norway for giving me the opportunity to experience Oslo and more of Norway.  While part of the trip was sponsored, all the information here and my opinions are true to my experience and interests.
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6 Comments

    1. Thanks Andi! One thing I liked about Oslo is that they are proud about their art and architecture scene, and they are very open to push it beyond the conventional boundaries.

  1. I saw Munch at NYC this year. First time see it in person! Oslo looks great; I’m not too faraway now! 🙂 Have to visit someday.

    1. Oh nice! Did you see him at the MOMA? I do recommend you to visit Oslo and other parts of Norway. I loved it all! 😀

  2. Oops: Gustav Vigeland died in 1943, so he can’t have been still putting his sculptures into the park in 1949.