Oslo Norway: Art, Museums and Architecture

A full moon casts its reflection across the Pipervika Bay, as a three-masted sailing ship gently bobs on the harbour's incoming tide. Though it is near midnight, couples stroll along the water's edge and admire the ethereal, deep blue of a midsummer's evening in the beautiful city of Oslo, Norway.

Oslo, Norway, situated in the southeastern region of the country is one of the oldest Nordic capitols and the economic center of Norway, as well as the nucleus for political, cultural, shipping and industry. The city is stunningly picturesque with its myriad of islands, forested hills and flowing fjords that lead to the North Sea. Moreover, Oslo's cutting-edge architecture melds traditional and modern design in a seamless conurbation that is considered the best in Europe.

The Fram Museum in Oslo

Viking Ship from the Fram Museum

One of Oslo's impressive architectural areas is located in the Tjuvholmen neighborhood, just a few blocks south of City Hall in the Sentrum (or city center) bordering Pipervika Bay. The area once used for warehouses and a shipyard has undergone a large urban renewal project introducing contemporary apartments, excellent restaurants, boutiques, museums and a sandy beach for recreation. It is a great place to begin your exploration of Oslo, especially the Astrup Fernley Museet (museum); originally built in 1993 and moved in 2012 to the two new buildings by Renzo Piano.

Astrup Fernley Museet (Museum)

This fascinating modern art museum spans both sides of a small canal from the bay and features at least seven temporary international visiting art exhibitions each year. The Astrup Fernley Museet's collections often push the boundaries of modern art and, at times, are disturbing but definitely thought provoking and infinitely fascinating. One of the museum's most interesting and talked about permanent collection pieces is from American Artist Jeff Koons, a life-size gilt porcelain sculpture of Michael Jackson and his chimp Bubbles. In addition, located just outside of the museum is a cool beach area where visitors and residents like to soak up the summer sun and take a dip in the bay. This is a perfect place to bring the kids and hangout during warm weather. For additional information on the.

Tjuvholmen Harbor Neighborhood

The Tjuvholmen area is a great place to walk around and people-watch, enjoy excellent cuisine at one of the numerous Norwegian restaurants, window browse, grab an ice cream or take photographs of the lovely harbour. Stroll to the east side of the harbour and head up the up the hill to view the medieval Akershus Fortress and Castle, built in 1299. It was used to protect the city against invaders and was a prison as well.

The harbour is also the location for the Oslofjord sightseeing cruises. Numerous cruises are available and range from two-hour fjord tours (and longer) to hop-on, hop-off island tours that feature a number of exciting sites and museums. The boats and ships vary depending on the cruise and time of year.

For a fun cruise during warm weather, take the three-masted sailing ship that sails to Bjorvika Bay to view the magnificent structural design of the striking solar energy designed National Opera House or hop off the ship for a tour of the building.

If you wish to explore further and see Norway's unique and eye-catching Bar Code designed buildings (the buildings literally look like a bar code scan), take a walk through the Sorenga area. These apartments are part of a modern social living complex that includes shops, restaurants, cafes, park and bathing complex; it is truly a futuristic architectural design.

The ship continues through the scenic Oslofjord with superb views of the surrounding city and charming island homes before it docks at Bygdoy. Passengers are able to disembark and visit the Polar Ship Fram Museum, the Norwegian Maritime Museum and the Kon-Tiki Museum that houses original vessels of famous scientist and adventurist, Thor Heyerdahl. The three museums are located adjacent to each other and are a fun and must-visit while in Oslo.

A Trio of Maritime Museums: Polar Ship Fram Museum, the Norwegian Maritime Museum and the Kon-Tiki Museum

The Fram Museum features the famous wooden Fram Ship that was specially designed and built for the expeditions that traveled to the Arctic and Antarctic. The museum is filled with amazing artifact collections from polar expeditions and explanatory kiosks that tell the story of the three great Fram Expeditions and the explorers Fridtjof Nansen, Otto Sverdrup and Roald Amundsen.

On the deck of the Fram, there is a wonderful northern lights show about every 20-minutes, as well as a cinema that shows a polar introduction movie throughout the day and a huge polar bookshop for enthusiasts as well.

Perhaps you have seen the recent movie Kon-Tiki, about the legendary explorer Thor Heyerdahl and his epic 4,300-mile crossing of the Pacific on a balsawood raft in 1947. He wanted to prove that it was possible for South Americans to settle in Polynesia in pre-Columbian times.

The Kon-Tiki Museum presents the most comprehensive exhibition in the world with original boats and exhibits from Thor Heyerdahl's world famous expeditions. The museum also features permanent exhibitions about the Ra, Tigris, Kon-Tiki, Fatu-Hiva and Easter Island. In addition, the museum proffers a cinema and excellent gift shop.

Maritime enthusiasts or, anyone wishing to know more about Norway's shipping industry and maritime culture, will want to visit the Maritime Museum located adjacent to the Fram Museum. The museum exhibitions range from Norway's oldest boat to archaeological discoveries and a great film that takes you on an remarkable journey of Norway's extraordinary coastlines.

Art Museums

Oslo is home to a large variety of fantastic art, history and culture museums and all are within either walking distance of the city center, or a short ride on the bus or tram. If you go, make sure you visit the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Munch Museum and the National Museum. The National Museum is currently working with the Munch Museum on a marvelous exhibition of his life and works. The Museum of Contemporary Art is housed in the former Bank of Norway and exhibits enticing installations, such as the free-form video art, Expression - the Total Cycle of Psychoanalysis.

The World Famous Vigeland Sculptures

A must-see is the one of world's largest sculpture parks (80-acres), the Vigeland Sculpture Park. The artist Gustav Vigeland created this unique sculpture park between the years 1939 and 1949; the park features more than 200 sculptures in bronze, granite and wrought iron with the theme Human Condition.

Vigeland also spearheaded the design and architectural layout of the park. The most interesting aspect of the sculptures is that they are all completely nude. Vigeland did not want to clothe his sculptures of men, women and children, as it would have tied the figures to a specific time. It was quite the eyebrow-raising art at the time and the park was not fully appreciated until later years.

Today, this Norwegian sculpture Park is the most famous in the world and the spectacular sculptures capture the spirit and life of families, couples and individuals in poignant moments of the life cycle. Most impressive is Vigeland's non-static movement captured in his sculptures, as they seem almost lifelike in their dynamic expressions.

The sculptures reside on both sides of a tree-lined and bridge-covered walkway that progress in a linear direction towards the Monolith Plateau. The grounds are beautiful and the park is a serene environment; perfect for strolling, meditating and viewing Vigeland's astonishing sculptures. Towards the terminus of the park, Vigeland created the wheel of life that is an expose of birth, life and death depicted by the expressive sculptures in a circular design that then lead to the towering Monolith. It took three stone carvers 14 years to complete the work.

Holmenkollen Ski Jump and ZipLine

Holmenkollen Ski Jump and ZipLine

Loved the Series The Vikings - Visit the Viking Ship Museum

The hit TV series, Vikings has engrossed viewers from across the globe and if you're interested in Vikings, Oslo has the ultimate venue for you, the Viking Ship Museum.

As you enter the building, a looming Viking ship with its elaborate curved spiral that extends from the bow dominates the hall. It was buried for more than 1,100-years before it was uncovered in a burial mound along the Oslo Fjord in 1904. The Viking ship museum also houses two other Viking ships from the same period with artifacts and human skeletons that were buried with the ships. The tale of these ships and their occupants (some royal) are mesmerizing. These are displayed with comprehensive legends that describe the artifacts in detail and how they were used, who the skeletons were, as well as the use of the burial ships.

If you visit, make sure to check out the gift shop for some cool Viking memorabilia. These items are well-made items that you won't find elsewhere.

Holmenkollen Ski Jump and ZipLine

If you're an adrenaline junkie who likes ziplining, you're in luck. Every Saturday and Sunday in September and October (weather permitting), the public have the opportunity to purchase a ticket and zipline the Holmenkollen ski jump. The jump is some dizzying 60-meters above the ground and the structure is made from 100-tons of steel. The zipline opened in the summer of 2013 to an excited crowd who couldn't wait to leap from the jump tower, down 361 meters of zipline, with an elevation drop of 107.5 meters on this amazing ski jump. Children as young as 8-years-old are allowed fly down the jump with stellar views of Oslo surrounding them. For additional information and to check dates, visit Holmenkollen.com

Oslo, Norway has a great deal to offer visitors with attractions, sites, museums, cultural venues, history, cuisine and locals that are friendly and welcoming. For great deals on museums, public transport and numerous discounts, check out the Oslo Pass. For additional information on Oslo, visit Visit Oslo

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Patrice Raplee
is an experienced travel photojournalist and editor of Travel Excursion and Seattle Spotlight for Positively Entertainment magazine. In addition, she writes a monthly travel column for the award-wining site OffbeatTravel.com and is a regular contributor on travel radio shows. She is a member of North American Travel Journalists Association (NATJA), International Food, Wine & Travel Writers Association (IFWTWA) and the Recording Academy. Her articles and photographs have appeared in numerous international publications, as well as NW newspapers such as the Seattle Times, the Stranger and Seattle Weekly. Patrice travels the globe to cover destinations that feature fascinating culture, art, culinary, history and soft adventure.

Unless otherwise indicated, all photos by the author

Published: October 4th, 2013

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