The Historical Guide to Oslo
Oslo remains one of my favorite cities. Its laid back, minimalist Scandinavian culture, beautiful location and interesting history make it a great place to visit.
I've said it before, but one of the best ways to learn about an area is to learn about its history. Discovering why the layout of the city is the way it is or how a certain cultural mentality or way of life came to be gives you deeper insight and a more meaningful connection to not just the city, but the people who inhabit it as well. That's why visiting historical museums or doing some research about a place before I visit is something that I look forward to.
I went to Norway with only the most basic understanding of the country, the people there and the history of the area. After traveling around the country, reading my fair share of information and visiting some of the most incredible places I've ever seen, I left feeling a deep connection to the area and with a great love of the people and their history. I hope to go back and revisit those places, as well as hopefully see a few new ones.
In a country like Norway, much of the history is tied to the unique, gorgeous landscape. The massive fjords and mountain peaks have provided shelter and resources for people for over a thousand years, and you'd be selling yourself short of some fantastic views and fresh air if you don't make the effort to visit these areas that are so intrinsically tied to the history of the country. Get outside of the main cities if possible and do some hiking to see what all the talk is about!
Here are my recommendations of what to see in Norway's capital, Oslo, in order to get a glimpse into some of the historical places, figures and events that have shaped the city.
Norwegian Museum of Cultural History (Norsk Folkemuseum)
No visit to Oslo is complete without a stop at this amazing feat of a museum. The open-air style of the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History keeps you from feeling like you're cooped up inside, and the amazing collection of original and re-created historical buildings makes you feel as though you're really walking through a historical Norwegian village.
Other buildings have exhibits that you can enjoy, and make sure to stop by the vintage candy shop to try some traditional sweets.
But the biggest attraction, by far, is the Stave church from 1200. Covered with a unique combination of Christian and Old Norse symbols, the church is a brilliant, pristine example of a major transitional time between the pagan and Christian beliefs and practices.
Plan on spending a good part of the day here, and don't rush through since there's so much to see and explore!
Viking Ship Museum
Of course, a trip through Norwegian history wouldn't be complete without learning more about the people who helped to settle the land - Vikings.
The outline of a Viking ship is recognizable throughout the world, but there's truly nothing like seeing one of them in person. The museum is home to three different ships, most famously the Oseberg ship that is a burial ship excavated in the early 20th Century. There are also several other Viking artifacts, many of which were found in the Oseberg ship during the excavation.
The Viking Ship Museum is a great way to get a peek into the culture that has had such a great influence not just in Scandinavia, but throughout a large part of the world and definitely worth a visit!
Vigeland Sculpture Park
The famous Vigeland sculpture exhibit is located in Frogner park and features the works of artist Gustav Vigeland. Open year round, the park contains around 200 sculptures completed and organized as we see them now between 1939-1949. The Wheel of Life and Monolith Plateau are some of the most recognizable parts of the park and is a great example of some of Norway's artistic history.
The nearby Vigeland Museum is a great place to find more information about the sculptor responsible for the park. Vigeland was also the designer of the Nobel Peace Prize medal and is heralded as one of the most creative and productive Norwegian artists ever.
The Akershus Fortress is one of the best historical places to visit in Oslo and is a great way to step back in time and experience more of the history of Oslo and Norway.
Completed in the 1300s, the castle was built to help protect Oslo and provide a home for the royal family at the time. Over the years it has also served as a prison, military base and a house for government offices. You're free to explore yourself or take a guided tour, and it's amazing to see a place that has lived through so much of Norway's history.
For a taste of Norway's history with the arts, make a stop at the National Gallery. Here you can view works by artists like Edvard Munch (a Norwegian native), El Greco, Picasso and Renoir. But the gallery has a rich history of its own, being established back in 1842. The museum is being moved to a new building in 2020, but visitors will still be able learn about and appreciate the works.
Art reveals much about the period it was created, and seeing the works by the Norwegian artists (as well as many others) offers insight into the practices and beliefs that contribute to making up Norwegian culture as its seen today.
Norway has such an interesting history, and exploring the country's capital gives a taste of just how rich and beautiful the area is. The culture is full of interesting figures that have helped to shape the country, and visiting these historical places helps one form a connection with the people and history.
Of course, Oslo is just one place, and there are absolutely incredible places all over Norway that made me fall in love with the country even more. Check out a few more of my posts about Oslo below!
In the meantime, let me know about some of your favorite historical places to visit around the world! Have you ever been to Oslo or Norway? What did you think? I really hope to visit again soon -- it holds a very special place in my heart.