There’s always something new in Oslo
A capital in flux
I’ve long said that it’s worth at least a couple of days exploring Oslo before heading off to the fjords. This is especially true for Norwegian Americans wanting to discover more about the modern twist on their heritage. But even those who visited recently may be shocked at the rate of change. Let’s take a closer look!
From ugly embarrassment to dynamic capital
Around one-quarter of Norway’s population lives within a half-hour commute of Oslo, so it’s fair to say that the city represents the real Norway of 2018. But if you haven’t been to Oslo in a few years, you’ll be shocked at its transformation. Virtually the entire waterfront has been rebuilt, or is in the process of redevelopment. Unlike many other cities, this change is almost totally for the better. The waterfront used to offer little more than an ugly highway and shipyards, blocking off the city from the water. No longer.
First came Aker Brygge, a waterside promenade and development of shops, restaurants, and swanky apartments, which was more recently extended by Tjuvholmen, featuring the luxury hotel The Thief and the “not-to-everyone’s-taste” modern art of the Astrup Fearnley Museum.
For years the award-winning architecture of the Opera House stood alone, a diamond in the rough on the other side of the city center. Finally, this lovely structure is now becoming the centerpiece of a brand new commercial and cultural district known as Bjørvika.
The building of Bjørvika
The slimline towers of Barcode host the likes of consulting firm Deloitte and the accountancy software developers Visma, with pricey sandwich and coffee shops at their base. The Munch Museum, relocating from Tøyen to rightly take pride of place downtown, and the new National Library are both well underway. The city’s tram network has already been extended to whisk people through the new area.
It’s easy to miss it, but behind all this development has sprung up a brand-new residential estate, Sørenga. It’s not every day that a nation’s capital has the opportunity to build a downtown neighborhood from scratch, so Oslo has made the most of the chance.
Live, work, and play by the water
In addition to apartment blocks with varying twists on modern architecture, the neighborhood makes the most of its waterside location. A small artificial sandy beach has been constructed, along with a popular seawater pool.
When the sun shines, Sørenga is the new place to be seen. There’s plenty of boardwalk space for you to lay down a towel and soak up some rays while a supermarket and bars will satisfy your hunger and thirst. Anyone with a keen interest in urban planning will also appreciate a quick walk around the area.
Street food with a purpose
The waterfront between Bjørvika and Aker Brygge has also seen its fair share of change in the last few years. Vippa is a converted port warehouse now home to a social street food project. Immigrants are given the opportunity to share the food from their homelands with the aim of helping both integration and providing food-based entrepreneurship opportunities among the city’s recent arrivals. It’s fast become one of the city’s most popular places to grab a filling lunch. I strongly recommend the pulled pork tacos!
On your walk from Bjørvika toward Vippa, you will find yourself walking under a huge wooden rack. In northern Norway, such racks are used to dry fish for export in a tradition dating back centuries. But here in Oslo, the rack is instead filled with art and cultural events for a project known as SALT. The line-up changes constantly, so your best bet is to consult the website at www.salted.no to see what’s new. But be quick! It won’t be around forever—this is a nomadic project.
The art city
Finally—and this is something I’m most looking forward to—the brand new National Museum is set to open between the City Hall and Aker Brygge in 2020. This impressive structure will replace the National Gallery, the National Museum of Architecture, the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design, and the Museum of Contemporary Art with one super museum.
The project to conserve and transport more than 130,000 paintings, sculptures, drawings, works of applied art, design objects, architectural models, and installations to their new home is a mammoth one and has already seen the latter two museums close in preparation for the move.
Away from the water
It’s not just the waterfront that’s new. Oslo is known for Vigeland Park, but sculpture parks have sprung up all over the city. The modern art of Ekeberg Park is worth a look and even if you don’t enjoy the artwork, you’ll appreciate the views across the city. Sculptures have also given a new dimension to a stroll through the gardens of the Royal Palace.
By the time you visit Oslo, I’m sure things will have changed even more!
David Nikel is a freelance writer based in Norway. He runs the popular www.lifeinnorway.net website and podcast and is the author of the Moon Norway guidebook, available now in all good bookstores.
This article originally appeared in the July 13, 2018, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.