A Long-Awaited Return to Oslo: A Look at What’s New in 2021

I’m thrilled to have a trip to Oslo on my calendar for this month. It’s the first time I’m back since the summer of 2019, and it’s a rare visit back in a season other than summer. Might I get some snow or even catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights? Both have made an appearance in Oslo already this fall. My highest priority will be spending time with my parents and family, but I do hope to explore some of what’s new in Oslo since my last visit also. There is plenty!

MUNCH

Photo by Einar Aslaksen / Munchmuseet

Top of my wishlist is a visit to MUNCH, the new Munch museum in the Bjørvika harbor area of Oslo dedicated to the Norwegian artist Edvard Munch. It opened less than a month ago, and social media and news have been abuzz with the excitement of the long awaited opening. It’s been a work-in-progress since 2008. I’m intrigued by the architecture and location and eager to see it in person. Luckily, my father was quick to become a MUNCH member and has already secured tickets for a visit while I’m there. 😱

Diechman Bjørvika

Photo credit: Deichman Bjørvika

Bjørvika is not only home to the new MUNCH museum but also the new main public library Diechman Bjørvika (opened in March 2020) with its similarly striking architecture and an award-winning interior. In addition to extensive book collections, a movie theater, media workshops, gaming zones, lounges, work areas, a cafe, and a restaurant, it is home to the manuscripts of the Future Library, which will remain unpublished until 2114. Diechman Bjørvika was just named the best library in the world. Another must-see for me.

The Rose Castle

Photo by Sandbox / Roseslottet

Also on my list of Oslo must-sees for this visit is Roseslottet, or the Rose Castle, at Frognerseteren which opened in 2020. It is a large-scale art installation that commemorates 80 years since the German attack on Norway in 1940 and the 75th anniversary of Norway’s liberation in 1945. It “aims to tell the story of the German occupation of Norway and the basic principles of democracy, rule of law, and humanism that were then put out of force.” It is on display until December 31, 2022. Since it is higher up in elevation, this might be my chance to experience some snow while home.

National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design

Photo by Borre Hostland / Nasjonalmuseet

Another recent addition to the museum scene in Oslo is the new National Museum (Nasjonalmuseet) by Rådhusplassen/Akerbrygge opening June 11, 2022. It will be the largest art museum in the Nordic countries. I may not be able to view the exhibits quite yet, but the museum’s unique architectural characteristics will be admired, in particular The Light Hall which definitely stands out in the cityscape.

Oslo is a constantly evolving city and I’m impressed with how much has changed in the last several years. The pandemic doesn’t seem to have slowed it down, and I’m eagerly awaiting my return home to see what’s new.

Are you a first time visitor to Oslo? See my original page Oslo Activities and Attractions and my follow-up post The New and Less Traveled Oslo for suggestions of what to see when visiting Oslo and then add and substitute as you see fit. I’d love to hear what’s on your wishlist to see in Oslo.

The New & Less Traveled Oslo

new and less traveled sightseeing in OsloAre you headed to Oslo this summer, and maybe you’re looking for something besides the normal tourist sights? Here are some newer sights and hidden gems to consider.

Harbor Promenade – Havnepromenade

Oslo has a very new harbor promenade to explore. It runs 9 kilometers (about 5.5 miles) along the waterfront and hits many of the main sights of Oslo including Tjuvholmen and Aker Brygge, the inner harbor with City Hall and Akershus Fortress, and the Opera House.

I look forward to exploring this route by bike with the family. I may finally have a chance to get a close-up look at the Opera House with its dramatic architectural features. I also hope to include a swim at Sørenga Seawater Pool and a meal at Vippa (a huge warehouse recently named one of the “10 hottest new restaurants in Oslo” according to eater.com).

Hovedøya

A few years ago, a cousin of mine recommended a visit to Hovedøya, an island a short ferry ride from the city center known for its beaches, forests, and cultural heritage sights. There you can explore the ruins of a Cistercian monastery from 1147. In 1532, the monastery was pillaged and burned down, and the ruins weren’t excavated until 1840’s. You can also see two canon batteries from 1808 and two gunpowder depots from when the island belonged to the Norwegian army. It would be a nice excursion on a day with beautiful weather. Bring swim gear and a picnic (or eat at one of the cafes) and spend the day exploring. It also has plenty of geocaching opportunities (see map above with all the geocaches!) which is always a fun addition to an outing.

Viking Ship Museum’s Vikings Alive Film

I have been to the Viking Ship Museum on several occasions, but somehow we have not yet managed to take the kids. It used to be that the main attractions were three Viking ships, one of which is completely whole, along with a display of Viking Age artifacts. Now, there is a new attraction: the film Vikings Alive. It’s a film that takes the audience on a unique visual journey into the history of a Viking ship. A Viking ship is built and sails along the Norwegian fjords and on the ocean, ending its days as a grave ship for a king. The film is projected onto the vaulted ceiling of the museum. On our next visit to Oslo, this will be a must-see attraction.

Museum of Oslo

Museum of Oslo is another museum I’d like to take the kids to. It’s located right in Frognerparken which makes it a convenient bike ride from my parents’ home. It presents the city’s history through models, paintings, and photographs. The museum’s exhibitions are mainly in Norwegian, but a free audioguide of “1,000 years in 20 minutes” is available in English, French, German, Somali, Punjabi, Polish, and Arabic as well as Norwegian.

What piqued my interest in bringing the kids was that the museum offers a special family activity called City Detectives (recommended for kids age 5 to 12). It’s an augmented reality app that allows visitors to get a glimpse of Oslo’s past. The goal is to find 10 historical stations in the exhibition “OsLove – City History for Beginners”. With the app, participants visit the 2-bedroom apartment of a big family, experience the power of Aker River, and see how the main street of Karl Johan has changed over time. The app is only available on site. You can borrow ipods or download the app to your own Apple device. You do not need to know Norwegian to use the app.

Special Exhibit at Munch Museum

Every summer the Munch Museum puts on a special exhibit. This summer visitors will have a chance to experience Edvard Munch as seen through the eyes of Norwegian author Karl Ove Knausgård. The exhibit, Towards the Forest – Knausgård on Munch, will feature many paintings, graphic prints, and sculptures that have never been exhibited previously. As described on the museum’s website, “the exhibition takes the form of a journey from light and harmony through darkness and chaos – returning finally to a controllable reality.” I’ve read and enjoyed Knausgård and like Munch so I’m curious to see this exhibition, something probably done more enjoyably without my children. Exhibit is on display from May 6, 2017, to October 8, 2017.

Emanuel Vigeland Mausoleum

I learned about Emanuel Vigeland Mausoleum from the book Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders. We are certainly familiar with the work of his brother Gustav Vigeland whose bronze and granite sculptures are on display in Frognerparken, but I did not know about Emanuel.

The mausoleum is part of Emanuel Vigeland Museum. The museum’s main attraction is a dark, barrel-vaulted room, completely covered with fresco paintings. According to Atlas Obscura, “entering the mausoleum is a solemn, even haunting, experience. Even the quietest footstep echoes across the barrel-vaulted ceiling for up to 14 seconds. A flashlight is needed to reveal the room’s dark, painted walls.” I think this “hidden wonder” is best explored without kids due to the paintings that show “life from conception till death, in dramatic and often explicitly erotic scenes.” (Note: The museum is only open to the public on Sundays. Summer hours are May 15 through September 15, 12pm to 5pm.)

Damstredet & Telthusbakken Area

Damstredet and Telthusbakken are two roads known for their well-preserved and inhabited wooden houses built in the late 1700s and the 1800s. They are located near each other in the St. Hanshaugen/Gamle Aker area in central Oslo. There are other sights in the area as well, so a visit to the area can make a worthwhile self-guided walking tour. Very nearby is the medieval church Gamle Aker kirke (Old Aker Church), oldest building in Oslo, as well as Vår Frelsers Gravlund, the cemetery where writer Henrik Ibsen and painter Edvard Munch are buried. This excursion is easily combined with visit to nearby Mathallen, an interesting food court with specialty shops and cafés. And while at Mathallen, you can see if you can spot the Vulkan Bee Garden, which is two huge beehives on the rooftop between Mathallen and Dansens Hus next door.

Stay tuned for a report on how our exploration of these new-to-us places and hidden gems of Oslo goes!