Oslo is the capital city of Norway. The conurbation extends into the surrounding county of Akershus and has a population of 521,886 (Jan. 2004). The urban municipality (bykommune) of Oslo and county (fylke) is the same entity. Of Oslo's total area, 115 km² is built-up and 7 km² is agricultural. The open areas within the built-up zone amounts to 22 km².
Oslo occupies an arc of land at the northern end of the Oslofjord. The fjord, which is nearly bisected by the Nesodden peninsula opposite Oslo, lies to the south; in all other directions Oslo is surrounded by green hills and mountains. There are 40 islands within the city limits, the largest being Malmøya (0.56 km²), and scores more around the Oslofjord. Oslo has 343 lakes, the largest being Maridalsvannet (3.91 km²). This is also a main source of drinking water for large parts of the western part of Oslo, mainly Vestre Aker and Nordre Aker. The highest point is Kirkeberget, at 629 m. Although the city's population is small compared to most European capitals, it occupies an unusually large land area. Its boundaries encompass many parks and open areas, giving it an airy and often very green appearance.
According to the Norse sagas, Oslo was founded around 1048 by king Harald Hardråde. Recent archaeological research has uncovered Christian burials from before 1000, evidence of a preceding urban settlement. This called for the celebration of Oslo's millennium in 2000. The origin of the name is still somewhat unclear. While "-lo" almost certainly means "lee" or "harbour", "os" may have several connotations, including one of the norse pantheons, a river mouth or a hillside. It has been regarded as the capital city since the reign of Håkon V (1299-1319), who was the first king to reside permanently in the city. He also started the construction of the Akershus castle. A century later Norway was the weaker part in a personal union with Denmark, and Oslo's role was reduced to that of provincial administrative centre, with the kings residing in Copenhagen. The fact that the University of Oslo was founded as late as 1811 had an adverse effect on the development of the nation.
When I was young, the capital of Norway was not called Oslo. It was called Christiania. But somewhere along the line, the Norwegians decided to do away with that pretty name and call it Oslo instead. -- Roald Dahl, Boy.
Oslo was destroyed by fire in 1624, and was rebuilt at a new site across the bay, near Akershus castle, by king Christian IV of Norway and given the name Christiania (later Kristiania). The original name of Oslo was restored in 1925. But long before this, Christiania had started to regain its stature as a centre of commerce and culture in Norway. In 1814 Christiania once more became a real capital when the union with Denmark was dissolved. Many landmarks were built in the 19th century, including the Royal Palace (1825-1848), the Parliament (1861-1866), the University, The National Theatre and the Stock Exchange. Among the world-famous artists who lived here during this period were Henrik Ibsen, Edvard Munch, Knut Hamsun and Sigrid Undset (the latter two won the Nobel Prize for literature).
Oslo's centrality in the political, cultural and economical life of Norway continues to be a source of considerable controversy and friction. Numerous attempts at decentralization has not appreciably changed this during the last century. While continuing to be the main cause of the depopulation of the Norwegian countryside, the growth of a modern urban landscape has met with both popular and political resistance.
A marked reluctance to encourage the growth of the city for fear of causing further depletion of the traditional farming and fishing communities has led to several successive bursts of construction both in infrastructure and building mass, as the authorities kept waiting in vain for the stream of people to diminish. Neoclassical city apartments built in the 1850's to 1900's dotted with remnants of "Christian Quart"'s renaissance grid dominate the architecture around the city centre, except where slums were demolished in the 1960's to construct modernist concrete and glass towers, now generally regarded as embarrassing eyesores.
While most of the forests and lakes surrounding Oslo is on private hands, there is great public support for not developing it. Parts of Oslo suffer from congestion, but it is the only European capital where people live with the wilderness literally in their back yard, or with access to a suburban train line that allows the city's many hikers to simply step off the train and start walking.
The city was once referred to as Tigerstaden (City of Tigers) by the author Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson around 1870. This name has over the years achieved an almost official status, to the extent the 1000 year jubilee was celebrated by a row of tiger sculptures around the City Hall. A harsh picture of the city was drawn by Knut Hamsun in his novel Sult (Hunger) from 1890 (cinematized in 1966 by Henning Carlsen).
Some points of interest
Akershus Castle and Fortress
- Norsk Folkemuseum , the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History at Bygdøy, with a large open air museum
- The Armed Forces Museum
- The City Hall, where the annual Nobel Peace Prize ceremony is held
- The Holmenkollen ski jump, arena of the 1952 Winter Olympic Games, Holmenkollen
- The Holmenkollen Ski Museum, Holmenkollen
- The Kon-Tiki Museum, Bygdøy
- The Munch Museum, Tøyen
- The National Gallery
- The Norwegian Maritime Museum, including ships Fram and Gjøa, Bygdøy
- The Oslo City Museum , at Frogner Manor
- The Royal Palace
- The Henie-Onstad Art Centre, Høvikodden in Bærum
- The Storting, parliament building
- The Vigeland Park in the Frogner park (Frognerparken)
- The Viking Ship Museum, displaying the Oseberg and Gokstad ships, Bygdøy
Institutions of higher learning
There are daily ferry connections to:
Connections in the directions of: Trondheim, Bergen, Stavanger, Stockholm, Gothenburg and Copenhagen. Do not expect the meticulous punctuality of other northern European train services. During winter in particular, weather conditions such as snow and blizzards cause delays and cancellations on the routes crossing the central mountains.
Local public transport
All public transport within Oslo operate on a common ticket system, allowing free transfers within a period of one hour, if you buy a regular ticket. Tickets also transfer to the local and inter-city trains, which are operated by the state transportation company (NSB), but not if you intend to cross the county border. Oslo has the following public transportation systems: Bus, Tram, Metro (the T-bane), Ferries to Oslo islands and Train. Oslo's Tram- and Metro system is the largest in Europe compared to the number of inhabitants.
The city of Oslo constitutes a county of Norway. It is governed by a city government (Byråd) based on the principle of Parliamentarism. The government consists of 6 government members called commissioners (byråder, sing. byråd), and is appointed by the city council, which is the supreme authority of the city. The council consists of 59 popularly elected representatives.
Following the latest reform of January 1, 2004, the city is divided into 15 boroughs (bydel) that are to a considerable extent self governed. In addition, there is the main city centre and the rural/recreational areas (marka), not having an administration of their own.
The newspapers Aftenposten, Verdens Gang, Dagbladet, Dagsavisen, and Vårt Land are published in Oslo. The main office of the national broadcasting company NRK is also located at Marienlyst in Oslo, near Majorstuen.
Oslo was host city for the 1952 Winter Olympic Games. Except for the downhill skiing at Norefjell, all events took place within the city limits.
The Bislett Stadion was used for speed skating events at the Olympics, but in recent years it has been better known for its annual Bislett Games track and field event. The whole Bislett Stadion is now beeing re-built, prior to the Bislett Games 2005.
Two football teams from Oslo, Vålerenga I.F. Fotball and Lyn Fotball, play in the Norwegian premier league (2004).
- 1801: 9,500 inhabitants
- 1825: 15,400
- 1855: 31,700
- 1875: 76,900
- 1900: 227,700
- 1925: 255,700
- 1951: 434,365
- 1960: 471,511
- 1970: 487,363
- 1980: 454,872
- 1990: 458,364
- 2000: 507,467
- 2005: 529,407
- 1999: 763.957
- 2004: 801.028