Architecture with stories to tell

The iconic Oslo Opera House along Bjørvika. Photo: CH/

The iconic Oslo Opera House along Bjørvika. Photo: CH/

An architecture tour of Oslo opens doors to Norway’s history and cultural heritage

Heidi Håvan Grosch, Sparbu, Norway

Architecture provides a three-dimensional history of a culture, and Norway’s buildings have many rich stories to tell. Imagine my surprise when, on a recent trip to Oslo, I discovered that one of Norway’s best-known architects shared my last name. Imagine my delight when I discovered Henning Nielsen, and the personalized architectural tours he offers. Imagine my joy knowing I can share all this with you…

Christian Heinrich Grosch (1801-1865)

After receiving training in Copenhagen and from his father (painter Heinrich August Grosch), Grosch came to Christiania (Oslo) in 1824 to work with H. D. F. Linstow as a draftsman (tegner) for the new palace. Being the only trained civil architect (sivil arkitekt) in Norway at that time, his work was in great demand and his skills led to his appointment as the city’s first chief architect / city surveyor (stadskonduktør), a position he held until his death.

Over time Grosch’s style evolved and his designs were used to build or inspire many churches throughout Norway. In addition he designed the Oslo Stock Exchange (Oslo Børs, 1828), the University buildings at Karl Johans Gate 47 (1838 – 1854), and Domkirken in Tromsø (1861). The main building of National Museum of Architecture was also designed by Grosch in 1830 as a division office for Norges Bank, and today you can enjoy a delightful lunch at Café Grosch.

A personalized tour with a trained architect and guide

Henning Nielsen, a working architect and member of The Association of Guiding Architects (see sidebar), “strives to give visitors an architect’s view of modern Norwegian architecture as well as to relevant aspects of Norwegian culture and history.” His tours are adapted to the needs of each group of visitors, mostly from outside Norway, and he is fluent in English.

Nielsen can accommodate groups from 1 – 60 people and recommends to contact him (email: or call +47 936 33 304) at least one month in advance to arrange your individualized tour.

If you are looking for a standard package, a one-day tour consists of a city center walk, including a introduction to the town’s history and development, the main historical monuments (including some Grosch projects), as well as a visit to a few projects outside the city center, like the new Holmenkollen ski jumping hill or the development of the former airport Fornebu.

One-day tours (for up to 30 people) cost about NOK 7,600 (USD 1,300) for up to eight hours. They include VAT; transportation, meals and entry fees are extra. A half-day tour (3.5 – 4.5 hours) is half-price, and a substantial discount is given to groups of five or less. Although based in Oslo, Nielsen can also arrange tours in all parts of Norway.

This article originally appeared in the Mar. 30, 2012 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (800) 305-0271.

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The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.