Oslo is such a tired city.
My first thoughts upon arriving in the Norwegian capital were merely an echo of what I had already been told by many other Norwegians, Europeans and travellers alike.
It’s easy – and almost forgivable – to see why. For a country characterised by its majestic fjords, magical skies and imposing mountains, Oslo seems, at least on face value, to have little connection with the rest of Norway.
A multicultural melting pot which last year trumped Tokyo for the title of the most expensive city in the world to live, Oslo has – literally – risen from the ashes after burning down in 1624 and later surviving Nazi occupation to become a cosmopolitan jewel that shines with opportunities.
While there is a pervading sense of fatigue or lifelessness to many of the buildings which seem bland and generically European, there is also an undeniable sense (owing to the ever-present buzz of construction) that Oslo has no signs of giving up. It takes a little time, but making the effort to look beyond the super-slick sight of a wealthy city that could become another Zurich is definitely recommended.
Oslo, I soon discovered, is an acquired taste. The best way to begin is by taking in its past. The undisputed highlight for any visitor is Frogner Park, home not only to Norway’s largest collection of roses but also the city’s most-visited attraction, Vigeland Sculpture Park, which contains 200 sculptures by Gustav Vigeland. Not only a drawcard for tourists, the park is also a popular choice for locals looking to relax while still remaining in close proximity to the city.
In many ways as much a work of art as Vigeland’s sculptures, Oslo Opera House sits on the harbour, striking as a glacier that has drifted from a no man’s
land and decided to set up home in the city. The marble and glass building, which only opened in 2008, attracts everyone from visitors through to locals wanting to soak up the sun or youth who see the slopes as perfect for skateboarding.
Other worthwhile sights include the Nobel Peace Centre and the Holocaust Museum, but to really feel like you are in another country, it’s worth visiting the neighbourhood of Grønland, which is as ethnically diverse as parts of London or Berlin.
My first impression of this city was far from accurate. For now, Oslo is too much of a pastiche to be boring. Its striking, if sometimes discordant character is morphing into something that could easily become Europe’s new hot-spot.