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Oslo guide
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Last updated : Nov 2009
 
Oslo Travel Guide
Oslo Travel Guide and Oslo Travel Information - TravelPuppy.com
Oslo has a spectacular setting located at the head of a 110km (70-mile) long fjord. It is the oldest of the Scandinavian capitals, founded around 1050 by Norwegian king Harald Hådråda, who established it on the site of an earlier Viking settlement. Following the construction of the imposing castle and fortress of Akershus Slott, by Håkon V Magnusson, in the late 13th century, Oslo’s importance grew and it developed into a major trading centre, dealing with Germany and central Europe.

After numerous lesser conflagrations, the predominantly wooden city burnt to the ground in 1624. King Christian IV rebuilt it on its present site, to the northeast of the castle, and it was renamed Christiania in his honour – a name it kept for 300 years. By the mid-1800s, the capital had grown into a major financial, military and administrative centre. The subsequent development of shipping, industry and forestry has helped give it the dominant role that it still enjoys in the nation’s economy.

United with Denmark, from 1380 to 1814, and from then on with Sweden, Norway finally gained independence during 1905, and Oslo staged a major arts festival in June 2005 to mark this centenary.

The best approach to Oslo is by sea, sailing up the fjord, to where the city sprawls out from its centre around the quays to the flanks of the surrounding hills. Although not noted for grand architecture, Oslo’s history lives on in medieval buildings like Akershus Slott, which stands across a park from the austere angular bulk of the 1930s-style Rådhus (City Hall). A highlight is the Slott (Royal Palace), which elegantly dominates the view west along Karl Johans Gate past the Storting (Parliament).

Despite its status within Scandinavia, Oslo gradually faded in international influence until the discovery of North Sea oil during the 1960s. This contributed to its current resurgence, a factor reflected in its bustling docks and the lively retail and leisure sector around Aker Brygge, a transformed former warehouse area along the quay.

The population of just over half a million is quite small for a major city, but with its late-night shopping, crowded cafés, pubs, restaurants and theatres playing to full houses, Oslo has developed a very cosmopolitan feel. However, in this respect, Bergen, its predecessor as the nation’s capital, still has the edge, due to its closer involvement with the international oil industry.

The climate is surprisingly mild. In the summer, temperatures often hover around 20ºC (68ºF) but during the winter, they can fall to well below freezing point. Winter is dark and quite gloomy, although there is always snow on the numerous ski trails close to Oslo. On long summer days, when the sun drops only briefly below the horizon and it never gets truly dark, the inhabitants spend much of their time outdoors. Summer is perfect for exploring the parks and hiking paths, or relaxing on the beaches.

Oslo cannot help its dark sub-arctic winters but in recent years it has largely shaken off its former dull and parochial image without losing its air of informality and with liberal drinking laws have helped create a lively nightlife and oil money provides support for arts and culture, making it a thriving and vibrant city.