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Oslo

Oslo, which celebrated its millennium in the year 2000, is Norway’s most populous district, providing a home for more than one-tenth of the country’s inhabitants in a mere 700th of its total area.

Urban and industrial development only occupies one-eighth of the land within the city boundaries, the rest consisting mainly of woods, islands in Oslo Fjord, and lakes.

The city has a strong arts culture, with a great choice of museums and galleries. The Munch Museum is the main draw among these, others include

 The National Gallery
 The Norwegian Museum of Applied Arts
 The Thor Heyerdahl Kon-Tiki Museum
 The Norwegian Folk Museum
 The Viking Ships Museum
 Oslo City Museum
 The Norwegian Home Front Museum, which tells the story of the country’s occupation during World War II.
 The Ibsen Museum was the playwright’s home prior to his death in 1906.

Away from the immediate city centre, the Holmenkollen ski jumping complex with its Museum of Skiing is very popular, as are the 12th-century Cistercian monastery ruins on Hovedøya, a short boat trip from the harbour. About 4km (2.5 miles) to the east of the city centre lies Østensjøvannet, a lakeside bird sanctuary.

Principal architectural interest in Oslo focuses on the Kongelige Slott (Royal Palace), Stortinget (Parliament Building), the Cathedral and Åkershus Castle.

Boat trips on the fjord are readily available, and the main shopping area is along Karl Johansgate, which runs from the Central Station to the Royal Palace. Guided city bus tours operate throughout the year.

Oslo’s entertainment centres include:

 The Norwegian National Theatre
 The New Theatre
 The Norwegian Opera House
 Konserthuset (the Concert House)
 Oslo Spektrum, the main rock and pop concert venue.
 Norway’s prime exhibition centre is at Lillestrøm, one of the stops with the flytrain to Oslo (website: www.messe.no).

The Oslo Fjord

Surrounding Oslo Fjord are the Fylker (counties) of Åkershus, Buskerud, Østfold and Telemark, all within a day trip of the capital. All are dotted with historic and prehistoric sites of varying importance, along with manor houses, stone churches and fortifications.

Among the principal towns in the region, outside the capital, is Fredrikstad, the attractions of which include a picturesque Old Town and 17th-century Kongsten Fort.

Close to Lillestrøm, to the northeast of Oslo, is Sørumsand, which boasts the Tertitten narrow-gauge railway and museum.

The oldest building in the industrialised town of Drammen is the Skoger Old Church, which dates from 1200.

Kongsberg is particularly well endowed with museums, among them the Silver Collection, the Royal Mint Museum, and the Arms Factory Museum.

The Saggrenda Silver Mine is 8km (5 miles) from Kongsberg.

On the western shore of Oslo Fjord lies Sandefjord, with its Whaling Museum (Norway is one of just three countries worldwide still involved in commercial whaling).

Porsgrunn, near to Sandefjord, has long been a centre of the porcelain industry, the Town Museum tells its story, the Porcelain Factory is open to visits by appointment only.

Nearby Skien, birthplace of Ibsen, his childhood home contains a multimedia exhibition about the playwright.

The navigable Telemark Waterway links Skien with the interior via a system of canals.

South of Oslo, an unusual wooden bridge over the E18 motorway, built to the 1502 design of Leonardo da Vinci and officially unveiled during October 2001, is well worth a visit.